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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek/The Daily Beast;
Guy Taylor, Washington Times;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, September 27, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of September 28-29, 2013

Copyright © 2013 by Federal News Service, LLC, 1120 G Street NW, Suite 990, Washington, DC 20005-3801 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, LLC. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Transcripts Database or any other FNS product, please email info@fednews.com or call 1-202-347-1400.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Smile? Yes. Handshake? We'll See.

IRANIAN PRESIDENT HASAN ROUHANI: (From videotape, through interpreter.) Nuclear weapon and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions. Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At the U.N. this week, the new president of Iran, Hasan Rouhani, said that he was backing a new effort for diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program. Mr. Rouhani won a major election victory four months ago, in June, succeeding former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Some international observers are now daring to believe that, despite 35 years of estrangement and rancor, the new Iranian president can usher in an era of detente between the U.S. and Iran.

At the U.N., President Rouhani said that Iran was willing to, quote, "engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence," unquote, on Iran's nuclear program.

The new president also noted that Iranians had voted for, quote, "a discourse of hope, both home and abroad," unquote. They did so in June, when he was elected. Iran, says President Rouhani, would be willing to cooperate on a range of foreign policy issues, including Syria.

Question: Was new ground broken at the U.N. this week between the United States and Iran? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: Yeah, it certainly was, John. We have, in this fellow Rouhani, a tough, intelligent, wily Iranian diplomat, a hardliner, but someone who's been given the franchise by the ayatollah to negotiate with the Americans to get rid of the sanctions on Iran, because those are really hurting badly.

And I believe that this fellow Rouhani is basically committed to do that and get that accomplished. He knows what the Americans are going to demand and they're going to want. And there's a real possibility we could have a deal with this fellow.

Frankly, the opposition to this, him and Obama doing this, comes from Israel. It comes from the war party in the United States, the "McCainiacs," Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and all of those who don't want a detente between the United States and Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's this "McCainiacs" business?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it's McCain. Lindsey Graham has called for authorizing war on Iran right now, given --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's he got to do with McCain?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he and McCain are like one. But he's going to authorize war in Iran, and he wants to attack not simply the nuclear facilities, but the whole defense establishment of Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Rouhani campaigned on a promise that he would reengage with the West. He won a surprising upset. And the ayatollahs apparently got the message, because he does have running room. And the sanctions are crippling. The value of their money has been --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sanctions against Iran.

MS. CLIFT: The sanctions against Iran are crippling. And, yes, they want out from under them. And so they want a nuclear deal. He said we can get a nuclear deal in three months. That's a little ambitious, probably. But if they're willing to put a cap on the uranium that they enrich, if they let in inspectors, this is doable.

And in mid-October, their diplomats are going to meet with Catherine Ashton, the Europeans. John Kerry will probably be there. They've already put these confidence-building measures out. They're inviting proposals back. We're going to see pretty soon whether this is serious. And, you know, it sure looks serious to me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They use their nuclear energy for civilian purposes in cardiac equipment, and they want to sell their oil and they want to generate their own electricity over there. And therefore, they have --

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think they made a calculation --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what they're saying.

MS. CLIFT: Could I say one thing? I think they've made a calculation that if they go nuclear, they set off an arms race in that area that they cannot win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they want to sell their oil.

GUY TAYLOR: The number one difference this week at the United Nations General Assembly compared to past years is that Israel is now not sitting in between Tehran and Washington in a possible conversation about anything, including Iran's nuclear ambition.
Last year --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that mean? What does that mean?

MR. TAYLOR: If we roll it back one year, the United States -- when the General Assembly met a year ago, the United States was engaged in its presidential election, completely preoccupied, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized the stage of the world to give one of the more theatrical performances in U.N. history, using a red magic marker to show the world how close that Iran was to developing a nuclear weapon. That set the tenor of the entire conversation around an atmosphere of fear over the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons by Tehran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before I turn to you, Mort, for the definitive answer on this, Obama at the U.N. rostrum.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) But America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran's nuclear program peacefully, although we are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president also emphasized caution.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) The roadblocks may prove to be too great. But I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Rouhani was also cautious, and critical. At the U.N. he was sharply critical of U.S. foreign policy, including the use of sanctions on the Iranian economy. Quote: "These sanctions are violent, pure and simple. Whether called smart or otherwise, unilateral or multilateral, sanctions beyond any and all rhetoric cause belligerence, warmongering and human suffering," unquote.
Rouhani also criticized the use of U.S. drones. Quote: "Terrorism is a violent scourge and knows no country or national borders. But the violence and extreme actions, such as the use of drones against innocent people in the name of combating terrorism, should also be condemned," unquote.
The Israeli government told its diplomats to leave the hall before Mr. Rouhani spoke. There was no public handshake between Rouhani and Obama, something the Iranian president later explained in a Charlie Rose interview.

PRESIDENT ROUHANI: (From videotape, through interpreter.) Well, after all, we're speaking of two countries who have had no relations for 35 years. So it's clear that to begin talks requires some preparation work. And whenever the prep work is completed, I believe that it's possible to have a meeting. Perhaps if we had more time here in New York, we may have been able to coordinate what was necessary for that meeting to take place.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How are you impressed by this new leader of Iran?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Just let's start remembering the fact that this is a man who said that we were able to create a calm environment in order for us to complete Isfahan, which was one of their major nuclear facilities. This is a man who is an expert at creating calm environments. That's what he does. He does it very well. He's very sophisticated.

But his basic policies, in my judgment, are just the same as they were for Ahmadinejad. So as far as I'm concerned, this is just a pretense as far as what these people are coming forth with.

This is a very, very dangerous time for the world, because if we let Iran get -- go forward with their nuclear program -- and they're not very far from completing it; they've got hundreds of -- 3,000 centrifuges. What do they need it for? They're a country that's swimming in oil and energy. They don't need nuclear energy. The only reason they are doing it, of course, is to develop nuclear weapons at some point or another.

MR. BUCHANAN: The national intelligence estimate of the United States --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me. Let me just finish, if you don't mind.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- is that they're not going for a bomb.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just -- all I'm saying to you is it makes no sense to believe that these people, who have energy on every level, are building for nuclear electricity. This is preposterous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ahmadinejad burlesqued the Holocaust; said it didn't exist. This man didn't do anything like that. He did not do that. You understand?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. He made other different comments. We don't have to go into all of his comments vis-a-vis Israel. That's not the point. I'm really concerned here about what this country can do and what threat they represent. And from the Israeli point of view, there's an old theory. You never take the slightest risk of a catastrophic outcome. If they ever develop nuclear weapons, they could destroy Israel within a matter of minutes.

MR. BUCHANAN: And what would happen to them?

MS. CLIFT: And alternative --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's not -- Israel has --

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got 80 atom bombs --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment. Let him finish.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Israel has to defend itself against an attack.

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with that, but --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: On the second level, after Israel gets bombed, I'm sure Iran will get bombed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But that's too late for Israel.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- Israel's got 80 to 100 bombs. Ahmadinejad -- you may not like him -- he said what do you think I am, nuts? We're going to build one bomb, and the Americans have got 5,000? Any intelligent man knows that is stupid.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, not everyone was impressed with Hasan Rouhani, including the outgoing Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren.

MICHAEL OREN (Israeli ambassador to the United States): (From videotape.) What in his speech was peaceful or dove-like? We don't get it. He called the United States a warmonger. He made no concessions on his nuclear program. He talked about Israel as -- didn't even mention Israel, but mentioned that Palestine was occupied, meaning that Israel has no right to exist.

I saw no elements of peace in that speech at all. The Iranian regime has a more than 30-year history of supporting terrorists around the world. They've suppressed the Iranian people who've protested for democracy. This is not a regime you want to see get its hands on a nuclear weapon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to comment on that, Guy?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, what I want to say is that one of the key things that happened this week in President Obama's own speech at the U.N. was he basically said outright that Iran, as a signatory of the nonproliferation nuclear treaty, could continue to create nuclear energy for electricity.
The Israelis are not a signatory to that treaty. They're finding themselves now up against the wall with how they can deliver rhetoric that puts pressure on the situation.

MS. CLIFT: The Israelis don't want Iran to even have a peaceful nuclear program.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: And there's a debate among their leadership and in their public that's every bit as contentious as the one between Pat and Mort. And you do have some members of the Israeli cabinet saying, look, we're going to have to find a moment here where we have to say yes. They are entrenched in an argument they have made for the last 10 years. And now there's an opening, and the president of the United States is taking it.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a fundamental --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just to clear something up, both nations have nuclear reactors. I've visited -- well, I didn't visit --

MR. BUCHANAN: Dimona.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the one in Israel, because you can't get near it.

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got one in Dimona.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But, you know, with the eyeglasses and up on the side of the mountain, you can see it fully functioning.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But I've visited Isfahan. Go ahead.

MR. BUCHANAN: The basic point here is the United States' bottom line is Iran can have a peaceful nuclear program under -- because it signed the NPT, as all the other nations can; no bomb. The Israeli position is no nuclear program at all. They've got to stop enriching uranium. They've got to shut down --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- (inaudible). They've got to get it all out of there; no capability. The truth is, the Iranians -- I'll agree with Mort on this -- they have a capability to build a bomb. They just have not taken the steps --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they don't. They haven't reached that level of refinement of uranium.

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got the capability. They just haven't --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They have 3,000 --

MR. BUCHANAN: They haven't done the work.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They have 3,000 fast centrifuges that they've just brought in. They'll be able to develop the requisite amount of nuclear fissionable material --

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- within a very short period of time.

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got 20 percent uranium, not enough of 20 percent for one bomb.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, they do not. That's what I'm saying. That's why they're doing -- that's why they've got the 3,000 new centrifuges.

MR. BUCHANAN: So they can really rush and break out?

MS. CLIFT: But it's unrealistic to tell them they can't have a peaceful nuclear program just because they have a lot of oil. That's like saying to the U.S. you can't have renewable energy because you've still got a lot of coal. I mean, they're looking to the future, as every country should.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Friday, The New York Times had an excellent piece of journalistic coverage which I think the audience would find satisfying. We'll be back to this issue repeatedly, I'm sure.

Exit question: If the U.N. was round one of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the stage setting, who came out ahead, Rouhani or Obama? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Rouhani. And one reason he did is he refused to take that meeting as though he were some guy sitting on a rope line shaking hands with the president of the United States.

MS. CLIFT: Well, there was a lot of behind-the-scenes groundwork laid for the meeting that didn't happen. And the Iranians in the end decided it was a bridge too far for their domestic politics. The same thing happened in 1995 when Clinton was in office and there was a new diplomat and they were trying to do it. To read a lot into that is ridiculous. Both of these leaders won, because they're finally getting together after 35 years of a stalemate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Guy.

MR. TAYLOR: I think Rouhani comes out ahead because we need discussion. And Obama admitted that -- in his own speech that Iran can proceed forth with peaceful nuclear power-generating facilities and that Israel is now sidelined, out of the conversation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I mean, I don't think this was the kind of gesture that, frankly, inspires confidence that he wouldn't meet with the president. It wasn't a big issue one way or the other, so I don't give it that much weight. But I do think that we are in a very, very delicate situation vis-a-vis Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll represent the point of view of Rouhani. He has hardliners at home.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Therefore, he did not want to shake the hand now. That will come later.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't disagree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It seems to me this man has a great deal of diplomatic cunning, which is precisely what is needed in order to maintain constituencies at home so that they will be reasonably somnolent during these proceedings.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But I think you feel we're on the edge of something that's very important. Is that correct?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I would agree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Cruz Talk-a-Thon.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX): (From videotape.) I intend to speak in support of defunding "Obamacare" until I am no longer able to stand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas, did speak on defunding "Obamacare" extensively.

SEN. CRUZ: (From videotape.) When you have a law that is causing more and more people to lose their health insurance, you have a law that's not working.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he spoke, occasionally veering off target.

SEN. CRUZ: (From videotape.) "I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he spoke, comparing opponents of "Obamacare" defunding to Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis.

SEN. CRUZ: (From videotape.) Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people accept the Nazis. Yes, they'll dominate the continent of Europe. But that's not our problem. Let's appease them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he spoke and admitted fatigue.

SEN. CRUZ: (From videotape.) I will confess, as we sit here, a few minutes before 7:00 a.m., I'm a little bit tired.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the end, Senator Cruz spoke for 21 hours and 19 minutes on the floor of the Senate, a marathon speech that began at 2:41 p.m. Tuesday and ended the next day, Wednesday, at noon.

As he stated, Senator Cruz wanted to bring attention to the Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare," the legislation that the senator considers a job killer and not affordable. This is directly from the Republican majority in the House of Representatives' playbook. The GOP House voted last week to defund "Obamacare." But the U.S. Senate is predominantly Democratic. That majority does not want to defund "Obamacare."

President Obama's health care act is the law of the land since 2010, three years ago, and requires everyone to be covered by health insurance.

Enrollment for the still uninsured begins on October 1, Tuesday of next week. All U.S. citizens of all ages will have a six-month window until the end of March 2014 to buy health insurance if they do not already have it. If uninsured people do not buy in during the six- month window, they will face penalties from the IRS.

Question: Republican leaders have questioned Cruz's strategy. Why is that true, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, the "Obamacare" passes out of existence on September 30th. And if the House doesn't renew "Obamacare" by spending, it doesn't exist. What Cruz is doing -- can't do it in the Senate -- they're trying to get the House to hold firm, because it's a House majority, and not renew "Obamacare."

But the problem is, Obama and the rest of them and Reid will say they're shutting down the government if they don't renew "Obamacare." And so I've argued that what they ought to do in the House is pass bill by bill, Pentagon, State, continuing resolutions for each department.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: And they're not going to listen to you any more than they're listening to their own leaders in the House.

MR. BUCHANAN: They might.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) I'm grateful for that. Why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that slurring Buchanan?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) No, it's just suggesting that --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think I take it that way. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: It's just suggesting that his idea is really far off on the fringe, even fringier than what Ted Cruz is doing.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I mean, Ted Cruz called it a filibuster. It really wasn't. And it was against a bill he eventually voted for, after he taunted the House into passing this bill that would defund "Obamacare." And then he announced it was going nowhere in the Senate, which is true. And then they got mad at him, so then he decided he would have to stand on the Senate floor and prove his manhood, or whatever it was.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, more Cruz on "Obamacare."

SEN. CRUZ: (From videotape.) When you have a law that is killing jobs, when you have a law that is hammering small businesses, when you have a law that is forcing people into part-time work, into working 29 hours a week, when you have a law that is causing skyrocketing insurance premiums, when you have a law that is causing more and more people to lose their health insurance, you have a law that's not working. You have a train wreck.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Mort Zuckerman, is Cruz right?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I checked with the Bureau of Labor Statistics just this very day, and they said that 88 percent of the jobs that have been created this year are part-time jobs. A large part of the reason for that number of part-time jobs, which is unprecedented in American history, is because people are apprehensive about the impact of "Obamacare" on -- and the costs of "Obamacare" on full-time jobs. If they're part-time jobs, they don't qualify under "Obamacare."

Now, I happen to support national medical service -- national medical care. But we have to do something about its effect on the job market, because this is a disaster for the average American family.

MS. CLIFT: First of all, the White House is back with a whole different set of statistics and saying this is not correct, that "Obamacare" is causing --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Bureau of Labor Statistics --

MS. CLIFT: -- the creation of part-time jobs. Maybe there's a fix that you have to work 40 hours a week to be eligible for health insurance instead of 30 hours. But I have never seen the sort of -- the subversion of a law that has passed both houses, been signed by the president, approved by the Supreme Court, and a minority of a minority basically is acting like they did back in the days of school desegregation, that there's just massive resistance.
And what Cruz is mostly worried about --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

MS. CLIFT: -- is that, once this goes into effect, people are going to love it. He even said they'll be hooked on it. It'll be like crack.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Let me ask you this question, Guy. Then you can say what you want to say, maybe. If anything, should -- what about the GOP and "Obamacare"? The answer to that is Boehner should pass two amendments: One, delay the individual mandate for one year; two, strip Congress and its staff from their exemption from buying insurance on the exchanges. You follow me?

MR. TAYLOR: I do. This would require, though, the Republican leadership to focus on fixing a law that has now been in place for -- and upheld by the Supreme Court, and not clinging to the sinking ship politically of trying to defund this law. This is -- so the problem here is that the GOP is -- and Eleanor just said it -- clinging to a minority within a minority. They've lost sight of 2016 here and the fact that Barack Obama --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear Mort's comments earlier about the impact --

MR. TAYLOR: -- won two terms.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of some of this on the economy?

MR. TAYLOR: Let's look at this -- let's turn it 180 degrees. From the perspective of the left, the equivalent on the left would be if President Obama would have invited the leadership of Occupy Wall Street to camp out in the Rose Garden for two or three weeks.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MR. TAYLOR: OK, the liberal left -- the liberal base would have been highly entertained by it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right, but the last --

MR. TAYLOR: But it would have pushed people from the center off the party --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. TAYLOR: -- which is what's dangerous here.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the one chance they've got to stop this, the House has got to defund this thing. And that's legitimate. It's within its power. But look at Cruz and Paul. They don't have four years between them in the Senate, and both are being talked of as presidential candidates. Why? Because they're speaking for an enormous segment of this country.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have health insurance?

MR. TAYLOR: Barack Obama was --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's called Medicare.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: And I think the government provides it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bleeding the government, Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Written Off.

LAUREN AULD (Indiana Department of Education): (From videotape.) There's no requirement for cursive writing. That transition is being made into teaching keyboarding skills for students. And obviously, as technology becomes more important, keyboarding skills are going to be critical for our students to learn.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The kids are back in school and learning reading and arithmetic, but maybe not writing, as in script, or sometimes called cursive writing. Script or cursive writing is traditionally taught after pupils learn how to print. But get this. Cursive writing is no longer part of what is called, quote-unquote, "the common core state standard," the benchmark national list of skills that schools use when adopting curricula. This means that cursive is no longer considered a core skill that youngsters must learn.

So, at the local level, individual school districts are deciding whether to bother to teach their students cursive writing anymore. In fact, many schools instead are opting to teach kids how to type. Many schools today are equipped with computers. Teaching kids how to use a keyboard is a priority, thus subordinating handwriting. In fact, only 11 of the 50 states actually mandate cursive being taught in schools.

The students themselves don't seem to miss cursive. Listen to this.

GIRL STUDENT: (From videotape.) I absolutely hate it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or this.

GIRL STUDENT: (From videotape.) All you really need to know is your name, your last name, and you really don't really need to know anything else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is stopping the teaching of cursive writing -- i.e., handwriting -- the first step down the slippery slope of producing a culture in which literacy disappears altogether? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think there's an argument for that, John. There's no doubt an enormous part of the population right now deals with these computers and texting and all these other things, where they get their alphabet and they learn it all.

But I'll tell you, there's a huge segment of the American population raised on writing and cursive writing, especially the old generation. You can see some of these letters you get from older women are beautifully scripted and everything. I think it's a tremendous loss. And I do think, in terms of literature, I think what we're doing is we're programming and putting people into boxes for a future economy where they know this thing how to do but they don't know a great deal else.

MS. CLIFT: I think it's nice to have. It's a nice skill to have. But I don't think it has anything to do with literacy. And thinking back over the last week or even month, the only time that I've used cursive is when I sign my name. I don't use it anymore. And I think it's going to just fade away like --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MS. CLIFT: -- a vestigial organ, if you will. I mean, I think that forcing kids to go through all the flourishes and everything to learn cursive --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What vestigial organs are you talking about?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, what does the evidence point to so far?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) Is technology fostering evolution?

MS. CLIFT: I have some others in mind, but I won't go into them right now. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it fostering evolution, like a third eye, or devolution? Do you understand the question? You, Guy.

MR. TAYLOR: I understand the question. But, look, what I want to tell you is that my nine-year-old and my five-year-old sons love cursive. I agree with you on the lost art form part of it, but I also don't think it has much to do with literacy, because they could move a lot faster in the world of information right now if they knew how to type.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose you have software that hears you give it an instruction, and then it writes out, in whatever form you like, cursive writing, exactly what you're saying? I mean, where does that go if it reaches a further extension of technology? You follow me?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, I think I follow you. But all I can say is that I agree with what Guy has just said. You know, you look at the younger generation; never mind the younger generation, but anybody who's involved in reading now. They're all reading off of a platform. And that is a whole different kind of -- they communicate with those platforms. And that -- it's just where the whole world of technology has gone. I'd love to have everybody learn how to read and write in the old style, but this is the new style. And believe me, as somebody who's involved in print journalism, I've felt that.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, I get notes. And there are some of them from some young people and stuff, and it's see Spot run. I mean, it's just printed out and it's terrible. You wonder, you know, there's something really lost in that. And it was something I think -- also, John, in terms of spelling, is everybody -- they've got spell checks. They don't know how to spell, you know.

And I think -- and I shouldn't say, you know, not being able to read and write and all that. Sure, you can. But in terms of literary value, how are they going to read some of these older -- are they going to be able to read some of these documents that are written that way?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, here's one possibility, maybe pretty far down the line. One thermonuclear atmospheric blast, perhaps even one giant meteor or asteroid strike, and we could have an electromagnetic pulse wave that destroys all electronics on the planet. It will plunge us straight back into the preliterate stage of 2,500 B.C. if our minds lack the tools and means of literacy. You understand.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I can do cursive writing. I'm going to be just fine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Sorry. Bye-bye.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service

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