The McLaughlin Group
Host: John McLaughlin
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek/The Daily Beast;
Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report
Taped: Friday, September 20, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of September 21-22, 2013
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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: D.C. War Zone.
WITNESS TO NAVY YARD SHOOTINGS: (From videotape.) It was like pow, pow, pow. Then a few seconds it stopped, and then it's pow, pow, pow, pow.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Another day of horror in the United States of America. Twelve people were shot to death. A 34-year-old American citizen opened fire on Monday morning in the atrium of a military building in the Washington, D.C. Naval Yard, located less than three miles from the White House.
The dead were employees of the sprawling military complex, the oldest naval installation in the nation, dating from John Adams' presidency. The shooter, Aaron Alexis, was himself shot dead by the police.
As a civilian contractor, Alexis had legal access to the high- security military compound where he was working on a project upgrading computers. The Alexis family said that Aaron had a decade-long history of mental illness, and as a former Navy reservist had received treatment from the Veterans Administration, the VA.
Also Alexis had an arrest record for two shootings. In Seattle nine years ago, he shot out a man's tires, apparently in rage. In Texas three years ago, he shot a gun inside his apartment, reportedly at the ceiling. After this shooting, Alexis was arrested and discharged from the armed forces. But he then went to work as a subcontractor for Hewlett Packard, then servicing the military.
Last month Alexis experienced a disturbing episode in a Newport, Rhode Island hotel that drew the police. Alexis told officers, according to the Newport police report, he was, quote, "hearing voices," unquote, and that a kind of microwave machine was sending, quote-unquote, "vibrations" into his body.
The Newport police sergeant who officially reported the incident, Frank Rosa, said that given Alexis's ties to the Navy, Sergeant Rosa informed the local Newport Navy base that Alexis was hearing voices. But this information on Alexis was never passed up the chain of command, apparently. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says if red flags were raised, they were missed.
DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL: (From videotape.) Obviously when you go back in hindsight and look at all this, there were some red flags. Of course there were. And should we have picked them up? Why didn't we? How could we? All those questions need to be answered.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: There's a rap here. Who's going to take the rap or who's going to get the rap, or both? Pat.
PAT BUCHANAN: Wholesale incompetence up and down the line in the government in getting this guy in there. But John, there's a more important question here. This is another in a series of massacres, from Fort Hood to Tucson to Newtown and other things; Aurora, Colorado. What do they all have in common?
This individual wanted to end his life. He had real hatred. And he said I'm going to go out like those other people did, in a way that I become famous and notorious and people write about me and talk about me. And the way to do that is kill more people than anyone else.
And that is the draw and the attraction and the reward that he got for the way he ended his life, John. And when you get these psychotic people like that who want to end their lives, they're going to look at the examples before them, and they all go out and do the same thing or try to do worse.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, is that harsh?
ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, I don't know that he was in search of celebrity, because he sure didn't live long enough to see it. He clearly had mental problems. And he had haphazardly sought help, but there was no real follow-up.
I think the common thread between all of these mass shootings, there generally is some mental illness involved. And as a society, we're not very good at recognizing what turns violent. The Washington Post reports that he was having work problems, that his work was being reevaluated.
And it looks as though the first people that he shot at close range and in the head were people that he worked with. And so you had sort of a grudge, you know, bearing out in this violent way. So lots of people have grudges in the workplace. How do you tell when they're going to turn violent?
I think one clear breakdown here, though, is that he had a security clearance that carried on for, like, 10 years. It wasn't reevaluated. And, you know, that seems kind of obscene. And the same contractor that does the security, the background checks and the security clearances, also did Edward Snowden. So their practices are going to be evaluated.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, there seems to be a smell there, because that was subcontracted --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. But whether somebody's actually going to get fired, I strongly doubt that.
SUSAN FERRECHIO: Well, part of the problem, too, is the laws governing how we handle people with mental illnesses. They've changed over the years. We've closed a lot of the institutions that housed people with big problems. There's nowhere to put people who have big problems like this, so they're left to wander the streets. They're left up to their own devices. This was a common thread, as you say, with many of these mass shootings --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)
MS. FERRECHIO: -- and when people who were caring for these folks knew they had problems, but they had nowhere to turn.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MS. FERRECHIO: I think that's one area we should really look into.
MORT ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. And I think we should also look into how we approve people who are trying to buy guns. I mean, this is still what happens. People kill people with guns. We do not have enough control over the guns that are bought by people.
It's not going to be an easy thing to do. It's a very controversial thing to do.
MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- passed a federal and state background check to buy the shotgun, which was the weapon he took in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to get into that a little bit more deeply in a moment.
OK, all-points bulletin.
The mass shooting in the capital of the United States was front- page news around the world. The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. headlined "Massacre in D.C." La Stampa in Italy read, "Twelve Dead in Washington." Dusseldorf, Germany's Rheinische Post front-paged the story, "Bloodbath at U.S. Military Base."
Question: Is Europe exhibiting schadenfreude, or does it have its own similar horrors, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, they have it occasionally in Europe as well. I mean --
MS. CLIFT: Occasionally, though.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not saying it -- it's not an everyday occurrence. It's not an everyday occurrence here either.
MS. CLIFT: Almost every day here.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We do have too many murders with guns, without question, and killings with guns. But this is something that has been a part of our society to a degree that it has not existed in Europe, at least to the best of my understanding.
MS. FERRECHIO: But you can't make -- yeah.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: So I think that it's something -- I think it is something we have --
MS. FERRECHIO: You can't make the connection with the gun laws, though, because there was a shooting in Chicago, 13 people killed. You're not allowed to carry guns there. So Norway, 77 people killed -- no guns allowed there. I mean, you can't make that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point? Let her --
MS. FERRECHIO: The point is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor.
What's the point?
MS. FERRECHIO: You cannot make a correlation between strict gun laws and safety, if you just look at the evidence.
MS. CLIFT: I think you can, because Norway had one horrific shooting. Finland, I think, had two. We've had --
MS. FERRECHIO: What about Chicago?
MS. CLIFT: Chicago's part of the U.S.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.
MS. FERRECHIO: Well, but they still have very strict gun laws there.
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- easy availability --
MS. FERRECHIO: People are getting killed on a daily basis.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. The easy availability of these guns -- it's easier to buy guns than it is to get a driver's license.
MR. BUCHANAN: After Newtown --
MS. CLIFT: You don't have to register. You don't have to have a license.
MR. BUCHANAN: I know. I know. After the Newtown massacre --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MR. BUCHANAN: After the Newtown massacre up there at that Sandy Hook Elementary, in Newtown, liberal Newtown, gun sales doubled.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.
MR. BUCHANAN: People say better I can defend myself, because nobody else will.
MS. CLIFT: Sure. That's because the NRA --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to get to that list.
MS. CLIFT: -- strikes fear in the --
MS. FERRECHIO: Oh, I don't think the NRA was behind that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A sorry history. The shooting in Washington was the latest such horror in a long nationwide history of mass murder. The following list does not include all the U.S. killings over the past six years.
December 2012, Newtown, Connecticut elementary school -- 20 children and six adults shot to death.
August 2012, Oak Creek, Wisconsin Sikh temple -- six killed.
July 2012, Aurora, Colorado movie theater -- 12 killed, 58 wounded.
January 2011, Tucson, Arizona -- six killed, and U.S. House of Representatives member Gabby Giffords severely injured.
November 2009, Fort Hood Army base, Texas -- 13 killed, 29 wounded.
And April 2007, Virginia Tech -- 32 killed by one shooter, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Question: President Obama, in a Tuesday interview with TV network Telemundo, said that if voters want significant gun legislation to get passed in Congress in the wake of this latest mass shooting, they should focus their attention on Congress.
Is President Obama highlighting the composition of today's Congress in order to deflect attention away from Joe Biden's failure to address the mental health review, as he was directed to do by the president earlier?
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember that?
MS. FERRECHIO: I do remember that. But I think one point to make here is there are a lot of gun laws on the books right now that aren't being properly enforced.
So the idea of asking Congress to pass more laws when we're not even doing things to make sure that, you know, gun checks are taking into account people's mental illness history, past arrests --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MS. FERRECHIO: -- that stuff's not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember Joe Biden getting tasked with this by the president?
MS. CLIFT: Yes. Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did that evaporate?
MS. CLIFT: It didn't evaporate. There were -- a package of proposals went before the Senate, and a whole bunch of amendments. They were all voted down except one, and that had to do with mental health, beefing up mental --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did Obama let that go?
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. That passed, 95-2.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: And if I could finish before Pat jumps in, Ron Barber, who was injured when Gabby Giffords was shot -- he's a member of Congress --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: -- he has legislation on the mental health aspect. So does Senator Roy Blunt. There is some maneuvering on that one narrow area in Congress.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that's evaporated.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, let's get back to guns. Let's get back to guns. In Colorado, two people who voted for gun control after Newtown, they were recalled and defeated -- Democratic state senator. One of them was the majority leader.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: Secondly, Obama is frightened to death to go up to Congress.
Third, gun sales --
MS. CLIFT: He's not frightened to death.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- have boomed in this country, all over this country. People are voting their beliefs by going to the store and buying a gun.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's --
MS. CLIFT: They're voting their beliefs in certain areas of the country, funded by the Koch brothers and the NRA.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's nail it. Let's nail it. This will go to you. Exit question: In the wake of these murders, will Congress finally address the issues of violent mentally ill history and federal and state gun background checks? Yes or no, Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, John. We've got -- you know, the guy passed a federal and state background check to buy his shotgun.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Because of what?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The guy had psychotic problems.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, I mean, the background checks were passed -- the toughest gun laws in the country --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why aren't they enforced?
MR. BUCHANAN: D.C. --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean seriously enforced.
MR. BUCHANAN: D.C. --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The gun dealer wants to sell that gun.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a shotgun, John. And D.C. has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and that's where he used it.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but we live right next door to Virginia, which has some of the loosest gun laws.
MR. BUCHANAN: It didn't happen in Virginia.
MS. CLIFT: And they don't have borders -- and they don't have border checks when people come into D.C.
MS. FERRECHIO: Well, one of the common threads here, too, is -- are these shootings take place at institutions where guns aren't allowed. It's as though the people who come in with the intent to do a mass shooting know that no one is going to fire back at them.
MR. BUCHANAN: They don't walk into police stations.
MS. CLIFT: There were lots of guns at the Naval -- he took a revolver off one of the people at the door.
MS. FERRECHIO: You're not -- military bases, though, the rule change by President Clinton is you can't be on a military base with a gun.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does all of this really make America stink in terms of the way it looks to the international community, particularly Europe?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Certainly in terms of the way it appears to the international community. I think it is one of the real black marks on the way America is seen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't we really get tough on crime in this country?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think that is -- crime. But guns are one of the things that we should have some greater degree of control over, particularly when you recognize how many people have serious mental problems.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, then you're fighting the gun lobby.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you're going to be fighting the gun lobby.
MR. BUCHANAN: The gun lobby agrees mental illness --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree. Our criminal laws should be much tougher and our gun controls should be much stronger.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the enforcement mechanism to establish that you are worthy of carrying a gun, that that's where the action really ought to be? In other words, it was a Biden and Obama problem.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know whether it's Biden and Obama. It is something that's been around for a long time. It is absolutely something we must do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long do you think we're going to tolerate it the way that --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: God knows. We have had so many terrible episodes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You saw the list.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And yet we still tolerate it. I don't know how long it'll be. It is a disgrace that it has taken this long.
MR. BUCHANAN: But the NRA is in favor of, when you get mentally ill people, their not having guns.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know.
MR. BUCHANAN: The NRA is. Everybody is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why doesn't the NRA --
MS. FERRECHIO: It does boil down to the question of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- enforce the gun dealers' requirement or their requirement or the government's requirement to check out the purchaser more thoroughly?
MR. BUCHANAN: Every law is presumably enforced. Congress can't pass them because people don't believe guns are the problem. They believe nuts are the problem.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You saw that the man got the guns legally.
MR. BUCHANAN: He's a nut.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got the guns legally.
MR. BUCHANAN: It was one shotgun -- of course.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he bought that legally.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's all he needed. He only needed one.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back --
MR. BUCHANAN: You shouldn't be able --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he shouldn't have had it.
MR. BUCHANAN: You shouldn't be allowed to buy a shotgun.
MS. CLIFT: It shouldn't be easy --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You should be -- you should be if you're a nut case.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: The Fed Stays Its Course.
BEN BERNANKE (chairman, Federal Reserve Board of Governors): (From videotape.) It was a step -- a precautionary step, if you will.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. Federal Reserve sprang a surprise on markets this week by maintaining its asset purchases steady at $85 billion per month. This process is known as quantitative easing, an effort to prop up the nation's recovery with billions of dollars in stimulus, with the stock market soaring to record highs.
The announcement was unexpected. Chairman Bernanke said, quote, "The Federal Reserve is avoiding a tightening until we can be comfortable that the economy is, in fact, growing the way we want it to be growing," unquote.
Question: Is the American economy able to stand on its own now, or is it now an addict and it must have its QE fix periodically? Mort Zuckerman.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, what this says -- what this action says is that we are not growing enough to create the jobs that this country needs. We have had a very, very weak recovery, the weakest recovery of any recession we've ever been in, and this -- with all of this stimulus, OK. That's what this is about.
What he is saying -- he said we overestimated. We were overoptimistic about how the economy would go. And that shows up in a terrible jobs picture in this country, with 24 million people who are either out of work or have given up looking for work or can't find the jobs they want, and with almost 25 percent of the people who are working are people who are working on a part-time basis.
Sixty-three percent of the last job numbers were part-time jobs. That is a terrible way, because a job is the most important family program, the most important economic program, and the most important social program in this country. And that is something that our government must find a way to participate in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Growth this year was 1.8 percent. It was projected a few years ago that it would be this year 3.5 percent. Is that a disappointment?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's a major disappointment, considering the fact that we have now the largest stimulus program we've ever had in this country. The average rate of growth in a recovery of a recession in the four years after a recession in all previous recessions is 4.1 percent. Now it's 1.8 percent. So it's the weakest recovery we've ever had. And nobody quite understands about that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the performance of the market? Do you have any good news for us?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, the market does well because interest rates are low. So that's a separate thing, OK. I'm --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's part of the economy, isn't it?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is part of the economy. But for the average American, a job is the most important part of the economy. That's where we're hurting.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the market getting jitters because of Syria?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, sure. That was one of the things the market was getting --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that's kind of gone away.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's gone away. No, but the real thing that the market is concerned about, frankly -- and the market has done a little bit better because interest rates now will stay lower for longer -- but they are concerned about the economy. Ultimately, the market reflects what's going on in the economy.
MS. CLIFT: Well, Bernanke in his scholarly work was a student of the Depression. And so he believes in what you could call the Keynesian theory that you have to pump money into the economy. He's done the right thing here. He steps down in January. The president hasn't yet named the successor. It looks like --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yellen, Janet Yellen.
MS. CLIFT: -- Bernanke's deputy, Janet Yellen, is the odds-on person to succeed him.
MR. BUCHANAN: When Larry Summers went down the tubes, John, the market shot up. And when QE3 came --
MS. CLIFT: Well, because he was a skeptic of QE3.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- the markets shot up again. You've got a big bubble in that market right now, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's 15,500. And one of these days it's going to pop.
MS. FERRECHIO: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When are we going to get back to the 2007 employment levels?
MS. FERRECHIO: Well, it depends what kind of employment you're talking about. As Mort was saying, you know, part-time work isn't enough. And a lot of people have dropped out of the workforce. You know, in New Jersey, for example, unemployment ticked down a little bit to about 8.5 percent, but they lost thousands of jobs that same month. So it's sort of an artificial number when we're looking at the unemployment number coming down. It's not come down enough. And a lot of the reason it's come down is people aren't even trying --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: All of the --
MS. FERRECHIO: -- to find jobs.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: All of the decline in the unemployment numbers is because people have left the labor force --
MS. FERRECHIO: That's right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- not because we've created enough jobs, given the number --
MS. FERRECHIO: (Inaudible.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- who went to the labor --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they can't find a decent job.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right. They cannot.
MS. CLIFT: First of all, this particular recession was not just an ordinary business cycle. It was caused by a lot of deregulation, greed, a collapse of the regular order.
MR. BUCHANAN: Greed --
MS. CLIFT: So it's taken a long -- yeah, greed.
MR. BUCHANAN: Greed is fairly universal. (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Greed on Wall Street got really excessive. So it's taken a long time to climb out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: And the nature of work is changing because of the Internet. A lot of people are being replaced by automation and globalization. So there are big forces out there --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: -- that this president --
MR. BUCHANAN: The economy, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're sure the president is going to pull us through, right, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: No. No, he's not, because he can't.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the economy --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His hands are tied. Oh, OK.
Issue Three: A Home --
MS. CLIFT: You've got to have Congress's help, and he doesn't have that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A Home for All?
OK, on Thursday, Pope Francis sent an electric jolt through the world when an interview with the pontiff was published. In it, Pope Francis stated the church was, quote, "obsessed," unquote, with abortion, gay marriage and contraception. Instead the pontiff wants a more inclusive church, a, quote-unquote, "home for all."
Question: Is this pope getting off to a good start? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, for himself he's getting off to a good start. He has not changed anything doctrinally, John. But there's no doubt he has moved leftward in terms of his public perception. And if the cardinals had known this, he would not be pope, if they knew this was what he was going to say.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow. Now, they kind of applauded when he got that job, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, they did not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A lot of them --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- feel he was going to say this, quite frankly. But I'll tell you, he is storing up trouble for himself, especially on the abortion issue; 53 million unborn children destroyed and murdered in the church's eyes and in Catholics' eyes in the United States since Roe v. Wade. Does he not think that is a deadly serious matter?
MS. FERRECHIO: I'll add to that.
MS. CLIFT: He's looking at his flock. He's looking at his flock --
MS. FERRECHIO: Right.
MS. CLIFT: -- around the world and how many people actually obey all of the very rigid doctrines. And he is saying the pastoral mission of the church is much broader than to simply lecture on these particular issues. It's social justice, a lot of other things.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.
MS. CLIFT: He ought to -- he ought to give this interview to the Republican Party next. (Laughs.)
MS. FERRECHIO: Well, you know, there's 1.2 billion Catholics, and not all of them are thrilled with the new take with this pope. Don't forget, their doctrine for decades and decades has been, you know, no enemies to the right. But now they are taking it in the opposite direction. And there are people on the right, conservative Catholics, who really don't like what he's talking about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about when he says he wants the church to be, quote, "a house for all, not a small chapel for a few"? What do you think of that, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think that's quite eloquent. And I have to say, I happen to share his sentiments. I'm not Catholic, so I'm not going to comment on the doctrine of it. But I think he reached out to a lot of people when he said what he just said. And I think he will inspire a lot of people as a result of it.
MR. BUCHANAN: You know, but the trouble is, when you move -- the Episcopal church moved in this direction, John, a number of years ago, and look what has happened to it -- total collapse. But it is true, the largest religion in the United States is Catholicism. Second- largest is fallen-away Catholics.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the fact that he's an opera buff? What do you think of the fact that he -- among the other authors he likes is Dostoyevsky?
MS. CLIFT: He's a --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the --
MR. BUCHANAN: Dostoyevsky? That's outstanding.
MS. CLIFT: He's a renaissance man.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the fact that he likes Fellini? Remember "La Dolce Vita"?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, it was a good movie. What it talked about was the decline and fall of the West, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't mention --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- a theme familiar to me. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't mention -- these are Italians, of course. Fellini's an Italian.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The pope is --
MR. BUCHANAN: The pope is an Italian from Argentina.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's correct.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he also -- I presume he likes Antonioni and "Red Desert" with Monica Vitti.
MR. BUCHANAN: And Joe DiMaggio. (You don't know ?) about all this, John. (Laughs.)
MS. FERRECHIO: Well, you know, the Catholic Church has been decimated by scandal, shrinking parishes, running out of priests and nuns.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you --
MS. FERRECHIO: In a way, it's not surprising that a pope would come along and say we need to do something to keep more people included in the church.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From an economic perspective, keeping priests celibate -- that is, unmarried -- is -- works for the economic benefit because you can put them all in one rectory. You don't have families and so forth, and that costs a lot more money. I mean, that's one perspective.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, John, if they --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he would probably -- it looks like he's going to possibly lift the celibacy requirement for becoming a priest.
MR. BUCHANAN: I doubt it. I doubt it.
MS. FERRECHIO: I'd be shocked. I'd be shocked.
MR. BUCHANAN: But Anglican priests, who come across, bring their wives and families with them. The eastern rite of the church says --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he were to do that, would that leave the door open for a pope to marry?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think St. Peter was married, John.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: St. Peter was married.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. Didn't you know that?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The first pope -- yeah, because he complained about his mother-in-law.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he not? You remember that.
MR. BUCHANAN: I've read his epistles, but I didn't see that in there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Government Shutdown?
The deadline for a federal government shutdown is now fewer than 10 days away. House Speaker John Boehner was faced with a familiar choice: Either embrace something which, on its face, seemed to be a compromise with Democrats, that would infuriate conservatives in his own party, or surrender to conservative demands, thus guaranteeing a showdown with President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats.
Well, at midweek, Speaker Boehner announced that he had made up his mind. He would not antagonize the conservatives in his own party. Instead he would confront President Obama and Democrats in the Senate. He scheduled an early vote that will simultaneously grant money to keep the government open, and at the same time eliminate money to underwrite much of the Obama health care law.
The speaker also announced that Republicans will challenge the administration further by demanding a one-year delay of all features of the health care law, "Obamacare."
Within minutes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid denounced Boehner's GOP strategy, describing Republicans as, quote-unquote, "anarchists" tying up the upper chamber by demanding Senate votes to either stall or deep-six the Obama health care law, tactics Reid scorned. Quote:
"Bipartisanship is a thing of the past." So sputtered Reid.
So the current status quo is this. If there is no action by September the 30th, a week from Monday, almost every agency of the federal government will be shut down, at least partially. And a few weeks later, in mid-October, there looms an even more perilous deadline: Raise the federal debt limit beyond the current monstrosity of $17 trillion.
Question: On Friday, the House of Representatives voted yes to continue funding the government through mid-December. The vote was 230 to 189. Two Democrats joined the Republican majority. The bill also defunds "Obamacare." Got it?
The question now is, are there enough votes in the Senate to defund "Obamacare"? Susan Ferrechio.
MS. FERRECHIO: No, there are not, because the Democrats have a majority there. And I think what's going to happen is they're going to send it back to the House minus this controversial provision that takes out the health care law.
But the one big question here is how far Republicans in the House are willing to go in battling to keep this out of the law. They'll get the bill back on their side. What are they going to do? What kind of -- you know, what are they going to put in the bill that the Democrats may not be able to say no to that might take out at least part of the law?
So right now Democrats are going to take that out, send it back to the House with just the budget number and nothing else in it. The House Republicans then are going to make their next move. So this could go on for another week or two.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this progress?
MS. FERRECHIO: It depends who you ask. I mean, for the Republicans, who have been real eager to stop this law, which is becoming -- you know, it's being implemented in October and fully implemented by January. They feel like this is their last chance to stop this before a major entitlement is implemented.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do the gurus say about "Obamacare," just gurus, general gurus?
MS. FERRECHIO: It depends who you ask. People who favor it, it's going to, you know, bring more people in who weren't able to get on health insurance. But other people --
MR. BUCHANAN: Overwhelmingly the country --
MS. FERRECHIO: -- (inaudible) -- raise rates.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- is against it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?
MS. FERRECHIO: People think it could raise rates.
MS. CLIFT: Not overwhelmingly --
MS. FERRECHIO: It may hurt their access to doctors. It may force hospitals to lay off. Cleveland Clinic is laying off thousands of workers, they've announced, in part because of this new health care law. It's not clear if people are really going to benefit from it yet. It's unpopular in the polls.
MS. CLIFT: "Obamacare" is not going anywhere. And the Republicans are terrified that once it begins getting implemented --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that mean, it's not going anywhere?
MS. CLIFT: They're not going to repeal it. They're -- it's the law of the land. It's passed two houses of Congress. The Supreme Court said it was constitutional. The exchanges open on the 1st of October. It's a done deal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think people are going to make --
MS. CLIFT: It's a done deal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the deadline, October 1?
MS. CLIFT: Yes. Yes. There's going to be some bumps along the way, but they're going to make the deadline.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MS. CLIFT: And the Republicans are stumbling into a potential government shutdown --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've only got five seconds.
MS. CLIFT: -- and they're fighting among themselves.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has anybody got an explosive point, quickly?
MR. BUCHANAN: The Republicans are doing the right thing, fighting. I'm not sure they're organized strategically right.
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, quickly.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree with Pat. I think this is a big issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: There is a growing unpopularity of this legislation. That gives the Republicans a slight opening.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama will meet with Iran's Rouhani at the U.N. and they will make big news. Yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: Baked in the cake.
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MS. FERRECHIO: Yes.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We hope.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
(C) 2013 Federal News Service