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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast;
Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, November 15, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of November 16-17, 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: Issue One: It's Really Horrific.

TYPHOON HAIYAN VICTIM: (From videotape.) I don't have the words for it. It's really horrific.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The typhoon that hit the Philippines a week ago was arguably the most powerful storm on record. Typhoon Haiyan killed to date at least 2,357 people, and the death toll is expected to rise. Six hundred thousand people are now homeless, and at least 9.4 million people hurt by the storm. Survivors scavenged for food, water, shelter.
Nations have responded to their plight. The U.S. dispatched naval and aircraft vessels, including the George Washington aircraft carrier, as well as pledging $20 million in aid; the U.K., $22 million, plus naval ships; the European Commission, $17 million; the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Australia, $10 million each. Japan is also sending 1,000 troops to the scene in what is likely Tokyo's biggest post-World War II deployment. South Korea and Canada, $5 million each; Indonesia, $2 million; Mexico, $1 million. Lesser cash- rich nations are sending relief supplies.

But there was one notable exception in this international outpouring: China, a neighbor to the Philippines and the world's second-largest economy. China initially pledged only $100,000 in relief, plus another $100,000 through its Red Cross. The donation reflected China's soured relations with the Philippines. The two have been at loggerheads over disputed waters in the South China Sea, where Asian nations are vying to explore for energy.

China's typhoon donation in the Philippines was also noted within China by even its own nationalistic Global Times newspaper. Quote: "China, as a responsible power, should participate in relief operations to assist a disaster-stricken neighboring country, no matter whether it's friendly or not," unquote. China upped its donation from $100,000 to $1.6 million.

On Friday, the official death toll from the hurricane was reported to be 3,621 killed. And that number is expected to rise.

Question: Is China wise to temper its aid to the Philippines? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: John, the spirit of Mother Teresa does not permeate the politburo of the Chinese communist party, the spirit of basically are you your brother's keeper in helping your neighbor and all the rest of it. Frankly, the predominantly Christian West -- I would add Japan and I would add the social-gospel folks -- it's a tremendous tradition of the United States and the West, and especially the United States, that we go to the aid of these folks.
But this is a good thing that you brought up, because it's revelatory of character. It reveals what the Chinese leadership is all about. They've got a Marxist politics and they've got this ruthless capitalism over there. You know, let the devil take the hindmost.

And I think the fact that we see that -- now, the Chinese did something that's very stupid, because they would have helped themselves immensely if they had stepped in there. They might even have helped themselves in those negotiations over the South China Sea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president opened up his news conference with a reference to this disaster. Do you think he did the right thing?

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, I'm proud of the U.S. I think Defense Secretary Hagel immediately offered up our military. We're one of the top donors. And when you put an aircraft carrier in there and the military hardware that we have, we are very helpful. And we're in the forefront of these kind of disasters.

But it's not really just about character, Pat. There's geopolitical advantage to be held here. And not all these countries are going in simply because they feel this from the bottom of their heart. They understand there's political impact.

And that's where I think China is missing the boat, you might say. I mean, they're now being labeled an international laggard. Their contribution is about half what Ikea is giving, to put it in perspective. And their explanation, though, is that they give to development projects all around the world.

And those are not charitable contributions. Those are hard-nosed business decisions. So we can sit here and be critical of their reaction here, but they may have the last laugh, because they're funding all these infrastructure projects in developing parts of the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The winds over there were sustained 195 miles per hour. Isn't that incredible?

SUSAN FERRECHIO: Tragic, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That must be a world record. Is it not?

MR. BUCHANAN: Category one hurricane. And they're all low- lying, 7,000 islands -- total disaster.

MS. FERRECHIO: They said it's one of the strongest typhoons ever to hit the area. And one of the saddest parts is the vast majority or a huge portion of those killed are children and just really the most vulnerable people.

But I think, for China's sake, they did finally catch on at the last minute to think, well, if they were trying to increase their good will in the area and elevate their status in the area, which clearly they're trying to do with other countries in the region, thy can't make themselves look like total cheapskates in the wake of this big tragedy. The question is whether it's enough.

You know, they've got these joint exercises coming up with the United States in Hawaii pretty soon. They're trying to clearly show they're a player on the world stage. But again, this kind of shines a spotlight on what a curious country they are as they try to elevate their status in the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember Hurricane Camille?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What were the sustained winds?

MR. BUCHANAN: The -- let's see -- 175 miles an hour?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no, no, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Come on.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. FERRECHIO: One fifty? One forty-five?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One ninety.

MS. FERRECHIO: One ninety. Wow.

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Really? Wow.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's a category one, I believe, anyhow.

MS. CLIFT: But we don't get the hugest storms on the East Coast because they can't generate that much power in the Atlantic. The Pacific is a much bigger body of water.

MR. BUCHANAN: We also get huge prior notice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This hurricane may exceed that speed by zero- point -- by .02 percent. And it probably is the -- it probably is an all-time world record.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it may be. But that whole area now is an area of great exposure to hurricanes. The nuclear plant in Japan -- I think it was --

MR. BUCHANAN: Fukushima?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah -- that was a huge weather system also that destroyed it. And that -- there was just a big scandal over that, because the leading nuclear scientists in Japan said the government had lied about the consequences.
There are God knows how many nuclear rods that are still charged in the water. And if there's a number seven hurricane in that part of the world, it'll permeate all of those waters, poison those waters. It'll affect not only Japan; the whole West Coast of the United States. So that part of the world now is really vulnerable. And we are vulnerable because of what's happening in Fukushima.

MR. BUCHANAN: What we got is what we didn't have 100 years ago when they had the Galveston storm that they killed 6,000 Americans. We get tremendous notice. These guys see them forming up over there in Africa and they tell people --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- where to go, if they're going to hit Texas. You get people hours ahead of time that have moved out to Houston.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: So we get very few deaths. These poor people --

MS. FERRECHIO: They had nowhere to go.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- sitting on the -- nowhere to go.

MS. FERRECHIO: Nowhere to go.

MR. BUCHANAN: And they're sitting -- their huts right there almost on the beach, and this tidal wave comes in and kills all those children.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the history of our relationship with the Philippines?

MR. BUCHANAN: We took over the Philippines between 1899 and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, took them over -- owned them?

MR. BUCHANAN: We took them from Spain and then we went in there and slaughtered a lot of folks --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a simple --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- imposed --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a simple and friendly transfer?

MR. BUCHANAN: It was not a simple -- we killed 200,000 Filipinos. What are you talking about? But MacArthur came back in `45 and liberated them from the Japanese. And MacArthur -- they've got statues to the great man all over the place.

MS. CLIFT: You had Ferdinand Marcos and his wife --

MR. BUCHANAN: We didn't put them in.

MS. CLIFT: -- and their shoe collection and all of that. But we've had recently, historically, a very friendly relationship.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MS. CLIFT: And we had a big naval base there, Subic Bay. And I think that's going to be coming back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We left Subic Bay because they wanted us out.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but they want us back now, I'll bet.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I know they do, but we ought not to go back --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I don't know about that.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- because why should we go back and undertake again the defense of these islands after they threw us out? You know, tell them --

MS. CLIFT: Because we're building a ring around China and we want a naval base there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many Filipino-Americans are in America today? You see, Pat, you're (folding ?).

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. It's about -- they're about third or fourth, I think, in terms of the numbers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think so.

MR. BUCHANAN: I would say, you know, sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll have to turn that over to the research assistants.

Issue Two: Obama's Fumble.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We fumbled the rollout on this health care law. There are a whole bunch of things about it that are working really well, which people didn't notice because they weren't controversial.
I am very frustrated, but I'm also somebody who, if I fumbled the ball, you know, I'm going to wait until I get the next play and then I'm going to try to run as hard as I can and do right by the team. So, you know, ultimately I'm the head of this team. We did fumble the ball on it. And what I'm going to do is make sure that we get it fixed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Can President Obama regain the ball? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, we have a tradition in America of people apologizing for their mistakes. But I would have to say that this administration kind of is abusing that particular process here. They've made a lot of mistakes. They try and say I'm sorry. A lot of people are sorry that they voted for him, as I've said before.

I think he's in deep trouble on this thing. I don't think he will escape the problem. I don't think he gets out of it for a long time. This is a program that has affected millions and millions of people. They completely misjudged not only the website, but how this program would rebound. Now he's finally given in to a lot of pressure, particularly from the Democrats in the Senate, who are going to be running in fear what the consequences are.

His popularity has just collapsed in the country. He's going to have a very tough time doing it because, as a writer, Todd Purdum in Vanity Fair, said about him, he's the only community organizer, he says, who doesn't like people. Obama does not come across anymore. I think he's lost whatever that image he had. And I think he's in deep political trouble.

MS. CLIFT: He likes people enough to want to make sure that everybody has affordable health care coverage that can't be dropped if you get sick or if you have a preexisting condition.

Look, he did what he had to do. He was facing a firestorm from congressional Democrats. And this is an administrative fix. And the hope is that the website will be fixed by the end of this year. This will smooth out. But in the meantime, he's got a struggle on his hands, and it's cost him in terms of his popularity. But I don't think -- he's not done yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --

MS. CLIFT: And that bite you just saw indicates he's not running away from this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, let's find out. OK, how about your website, sir?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I was not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn't be going out saying, boy, this is going to be great. You know, I'm accused of a lot of things, but I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity a week before the website opens if I thought that it wasn't going to work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Any theory on why President Obama didn't know why his website was not working? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Either his staff is uninformed and incompetent or his administration is uninformed or incompetent. And where Eleanor is wrong is the main problem, not this stupid website thing, which is a debacle. He is damaged and crippled his credibility and his -- the idea of the American people that this is a guy that tells us the truth, because he systematically deceived the country about whether or not they could keep their health care plan. And millions and millions of them have been knocked off. And how has he been responding? One day after another he tries to approach to say, in effect, I didn't tell you the truth.

MS. CLIFT: He's taken a hit --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan Ferrechio.

Hold on, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: He's taken a hit. But let's not lose sight of the fact --

MS. FERRECHIO: The first question --

MS. CLIFT: -- that health care is being extended. You're not going to get punished if you have a preexisting condition. He's taken on a complicated task.

MS. FERRECHIO: Right, if you can afford it. But back to your original question about him being -- him not knowing. There are reports that he is rather isolated from what's really happening in the administration and he is kept separated from what's happening on a day to day. I think this emphasizes the point that he's not a hands-on president. He wants other people to handle the details. He doesn't have time for the details.

But back to what Eleanor was saying, you're right; if it all turns out well and everyone gets affordable health care -- so far it's not looking that way. If it continues like it is now, his legacy, his presidency, will be rated as nothing short of a disaster. You can't argue any other way, unless it goes the way you're predicting.

MS. CLIFT: Unless it goes the way -- and --

MS. FERRECHIO: And you can't say it will, based on what's happening now.

MS. CLIFT: And you can't say it won't.

MS. FERRECHIO: How can you say that?

MS. CLIFT: And you can't say it won't.

MS. FERRECHIO: How can you --

MS. CLIFT: And you can't say it won't. And the thing is, the dye was cast on this when they did not name one single person to really oversee this project.

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

MS. CLIFT: When there's too many people and it's a committee effort, in the end nobody is in charge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this is a committee effort here.

MS. CLIFT: And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm the head of the committee.

MS. CLIFT: -- you said if --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm the head of the committee, so what am I doing?

OK, what about your oft-repeated promise, sir, that Americans can keep the insurance plans that they already have?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) My expectation was that for 98 percent of the American people, either it genuinely wouldn't change at all or they'd be pleasantly surprised with the options in the marketplace, and that the grandfather clause would cover the rest. That proved not to be the case. And that's on me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you make of that, Susan?

MS. FERRECHIO: And it will be on him. This is the biggest problem with the law. Glitches can be fixed. Unaffordable health care insurance can't be fixed if the law's set up in a way that people who are not upper middle class but are just middle class or upper lower class are paying for the very, very poor to get insurance.

What it is is not a health insurance plan for America, as the president sold on the campaign trail, but redistributing medical costs so that the very poor can finally get health insurance. If he sold it that way from the get-go, which is what it is, nobody would have supported it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, this is really a very damaging experience for him. He can say that it's on me, but he had the obligation to ask the right questions. You had 55 companies setting up this website.

They had a very good Web operation for his political campaign. How come he didn't make sure that this was happening here when this was critical to the success of his program?

So what it tells you, frankly -- and if you were in any other world other than politics, where you can just make speeches to try and cover it up, you would be fired from that job, OK?

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: He's not making --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's an Abbott -- excuse me -- it's an Abbott and Costello scene. You cannot buy the program that you're now obligated to buy because it's so screwed up.

MR. BUCHANAN: He is on a slippery --

MS. CLIFT: He's not making speeches and covering it up.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- slope, John.

MS. CLIFT: He's explaining what has gone wrong --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- in a very complicated market.

MR. BUCHANAN: And he has --

MS. CLIFT: And frankly, you can run a campaign because you can run ads.

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

MS. CLIFT: You can get lots of -- billions of dollars. You can get the IT people --

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: -- you can get when you're in the government. You go through procurement --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat wants to straighten you out, Eleanor. Pat wants to straighten you out.

Go ahead, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but I'm the only one here who's at all defending the plan --

MR. BUCHANAN: OK, let me just --

MS. CLIFT: -- for Americans to get health care.

MR. BUCHANAN: OK, we all want Americans to get health care. But he is on a slippery slope to a broken presidency right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Klein -- you know Ezra Klein.

MS. CLIFT: Let's reassess after the website is up and
running.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He did this program --

MS. FERRECHIO: That is true. She's right about that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- once or twice. He writes for The Washington Post. He says the insurance industry is furious. They've been working with the White House to get HealthCare.gov up and running. And now the Obama administration wants to make them into a scapegoat, unquote.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the only thing --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's always somebody else's fault.

MS. CLIFT: They are the ones who are making the decisions. And this is a jerry-built --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. It's a jerry-built plan to keep -- excuse me -- to keep the insurance companies --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- in the picture. They are the ones deciding to raise premiums, to cut --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the insurance companies have been ordered to make these changes --

MS. CLIFT: No. No.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- get rid of these programs. They did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --

MS. CLIFT: No, he cannot order. The president can't order them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear --

MR. BUCHANAN: The law -- the law orders them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Obama back in.

OK, friendly fireworks?

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitments the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In an exclusive interview this week with online magazine Ozy, former President Bill Clinton weighed in on the growing controversy over the cancellation of millions of health insurance policies. Mr. Clinton had some candid advice for President Obama: Keep your word, even if it means letting Congress revise the Affordable Care Act.
On the same day as the Clinton interview, the latest Quinnipiac University poll came out. Mr. Obama's approval rating has dropped to 39 percent, with 54 percent disapproving of the job he is doing as president. Among independents, 63 percent disapprove; 30 percent approve. Among women, 51 percent disapprove; 40 percent approve. Worse still, 52 percent of respondents say that Mr. Obama is not honest or trustworthy; 44 percent still trust Obama.
Question: What part did Bill Clinton's advice play in President Obama's decision to hold a news conference on Thursday to announce his fix for the insurance policy cancellation? Susan Ferrechio.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, White House officials told us in a conference call they've been working on this for a week. They made a point of saying that yesterday. But I think what the president said, the former president said, voiced all -- gave cover to all the other Democrats who really oppose what's going on. And it forced the president to do something to accommodate the Democrats who have already gone to the White House several times to say do something about this.
Then out came the dean of the Democratic Party, essentially, saying this thing is a mess; you've got to keep your promise.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This, I might add, is what the Republicans have been saying.

Republicans have been saying it's a mess. And the president, former President Bill Clinton, the icon of the Democratic Party, says the Republicans were right. So that whole argument loses itself, OK?

MR. BUCHANAN: That was the shot, John, that stampeded the herd of Democrats on Capitol Hill.

MS. FERRECHIO: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: It caused the guys to go into the Oval Office and say, Mr. President, you're going to have to move yourself a little further for taking responsibility for misleading the country. When Bill Clinton says you've got to let those folks have those programs in the health care system --

MS. CLIFT: Pat -- (inaudible).

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He gave his word.

MR. BUCHANAN: He gave his word.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he did give his word, and he knew about it.

MS. CLIFT: The guys and the gals were already in the Oval Office because they knew they had a big problem on their hands. Mary Landrieu, with her legislation in the Senate --

MR. BUCHANAN: And you don't think Bill poured water on a drowning man?

MS. CLIFT: Bill Clinton spoke the truth. The president should keep his promise.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me --

MS. CLIFT: I think it was fine what he said.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let me get a little bit more cryptic here. Crypticism -- you've into that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm into that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- certainly on this show.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here it is. Leading Democratic strategists, such as Doug Schoen, former Clinton's White House pollster, are warning that "Obamacare's" failings will cost the Democrats in 2014 and may fatally damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2016.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that why we have the -- (inaudible) -- of the president?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have a feeling --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you follow that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yep.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know this. I'm sure he was actually genuine, because he understands how critical it is for a president to keep his word. Somewhere in his calculation, probably in an unconscious part, he was thinking about the political campaign three years out. I don't know why I think that. Maybe --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doug Schoen. Doug Schoen.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I'm talking about Bill Clinton.

MR. BUCHANAN: Clinton.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

MS. CLIFT: Bill Clinton is a master triangulator. He was triangulating between Obama and Hillary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he take deliberate pleasure in it?

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the Democratic Party erupting into a civil war, with the Obama Democrats on the left flank and the Clinton Democrats on the right flank?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, they just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're just following Bill Clinton, who knows that when the water reaches the main deck, you follow the rats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: No civil war. The president is giving Bill Clinton the presidential medal of freedom next week. All is well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: Great. No, I don't think it's a civil war. I think everyone is panicked and scattering in different directions, not knowing what to do, to save their political skin. That's what it is.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The reason why it's not a civil war is that Obama is joining the other side, finally. They all knew it was wrong. They came to see him, as Eleanor said.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was a political disaster for the Democratic Party. It revived the Republican Party after the fiasco, the shutdown of the Congress. So this is a huge mistake for the Democrats, and they all know it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- the life boats too, huh? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to the question is that there is a civil war. The civil war is between Clinton centrists and Obama progressives. You got it?

MR. BUCHANAN: You're wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the war.

Issue Three: The Kerry Shuttle.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: (From videotape.) I'm very
happy to be back here today with my former colleagues, because I joined with them in putting these sanctions in place. And we put these sanctions in place in order to be able to negotiate.

And our hope is now that no new sanctions would be put in place for the simple reason that, if they are, it could be viewed as bad faith by our -- by the people we're negotiating with. It could destroy the ability to be able to get agreement. And it could actually wind up setting us back in dialogue that's taken 30 years to be able to achieve.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary of State John Kerry is shuttling between Geneva and Washington this week. He's trying to revive talks with Iran over Iran's nuclear program. Expectations were high that a breakthrough would be achieved last weekend in Switzerland, where the P5+1 -- Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, China and the United States -- met with Iran's negotiators. But hopes were dashed at this meeting when the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, objected to the terms being offered by the Obama administration.

He called them, quote-unquote, "a fool's game."

The French protest centered on the tentative agreement's failure to get Iran to surrender its stockpile of enriched uranium and halt construction of its nuclear reactor at Arak, which is seen by some as capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu echoed France's criticism.

On Capitol Hill, Senator John McCain, a proponent of even tougher sanctions against Iran, tweeted, "Vive la France" when he heard that France had scuttled the deal.
Secretary Kerry must now forge unity on three fronts: One, to persuade Congress not to impose new sanctions; two, maintain the six- nation P5+1 unity around a new tougher set of terms; and three, persuade Iran to agree to these terms before talks resume.

Question: Why do the U.S. congressional hawks and the French and the Israelis reject this approach? I ask you, Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, because it's not worked in the past with other countries or with Iran. We keep talking and talking and talking. And while we're talking, they're working on building nuclear weapons. So it's -- the talks are futile, and you're just allowing them more time and giving them more space.

However, there are many people who back the president and back Kerry on this. And Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of the key Democrats on this issue in the Senate, just announced on Friday that she does not support the idea of any kind of amendment to any Senate bill that would provide new sanctions for Iran. So I think that kind of scuttles that possibility, and it keeps Congress out of it for now and gives Kerry more time to work this plan, even though some people think it's foolish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was that a wise move on her part?

MS. FERRECHIO: It depends. A lot of people think, again, this is just buying more time for Iran to build nuclear weapons and that the talks will be futile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think there is no question about where Iran was heading. And there's also no question (but till ?) you look at the Arak reactor, which is, as you say, plutonium-based. The problem is, if it continues construction, it'll be impossible to destroy it because of the nature of the beast. If there is any bombing of it, it'll spread nuclear fissionable material all around. So it's actually impossible.

So what Iran has a chance of doing in a weak agreement -- and bear in mind, the French foreign minister went public on this thing, to the astonishment of almost everybody, and the French have the most sophisticated understanding of Iran. They have a big Iranian community. They have experts --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What'd he say?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He said it's a sucker's job, basically. This is a terrible deal, he said. You didn't accomplish what we have to accomplish. It doesn't take back any of the centrifuges. And he was very, very critical of it.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me enter a dissent here. The reason the Israelis and the neocons and McCain and the Saudis and all the rest of them -- they don't want a deal. They don't want a detente. They want the United States to maintain sanctions on them, to break the regime, and possibly go to war and finish off Iran. That's what they want.
You mentioned Arak. The Iranians -- on Friday we learned the Iranians have stopped moving on Arak. The Iranians have taken most of their --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- 20 percent uranium and cut back. The Iranians want a deal, John, and I don't think they want a nuclear weapon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. We've only got a few seconds, Eleanor. Hold off. I want to know what -- on a scale from zero to 100, what is the likelihood that the two sides will reach an interim agreement when the talks resume, if they resume in Geneva next week?

MS. CLIFT: I think there's a good chance that basically it would freeze things --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a figure.

MR. BUCHANAN: Better than 50 percent.

MS. CLIFT: Six -- OK. All right, I'll go with Pat. I'm with
Pat on this issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're -- it's zero to 100.

MS. CLIFT: I think they will reach a deal, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You give it 100.

MS. CLIFT: It'll freeze things where they are and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you give it? Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: -- and give some relief on sanctions.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it's less than 50.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BUCHANAN: More than 50.
Go ahead.

MS. FERRECHIO: I'm going on less than 50 with Mort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is 75. That's pretty clear.
Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama will get nothing on cap and trade, nothing on immigration, nothing on gun control. I think his legislative agenda is certainly dead until the election of 2014.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I disagree. After the Republicans get through the primary season early next year, immigration reform has a chance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: I have no idea how you can predict that. But I will say that there will be no sanctions on Iran that come out of Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The current weakness in the economy, especially on retail sales, means that the Federal Reserve Board will not introduce what they used to call -- what they called tapering for quite a long time; not only through the end of this year, but through most of next year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Joe --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hallelujah. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I get in now --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hallelujah. Go ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with a prediction? Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married around the `60s and they went to Tokyo, and they got a tremendous reception.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The reception of our new ambassador to Tokyo will be even bigger than the earlier company.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who am I speaking of?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Caroline Kennedy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Caroline Kennedy.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was the 1950s.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The 1950s.

Bye-bye.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service

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