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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 22, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of November 23-24, 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: Fifty Years Since Dallas.

If you were alive on that dreadful day, you'll never forget it. Fifty years ago, November 22, 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated by gunfire as he rode in his motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.

President Kennedy was 46 years old, the 35th president of the United States, and three years into his one and only presidential term.
President Kennedy's state funeral was modeled after that of another assassinated president, Abraham Lincoln. The funeral protocol was chosen by President Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline.

The president's flag-draped casket was drawn by horses down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol Building, where it had lain in state, to the White House, where Jackie and children Caroline and John Jr. were waiting. John Jr. famously saluted his father in a heartbreaking moment.

The family walked with the procession, including a military escort and a symbolic riderless horse to St. Matthew's Cathedral, where funeral services were held. President Kennedy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where an eternal flame burns at his gravesite.

Question: What is the legacy of the Kennedy presidency? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: Well, John F. Kennedy, John, was young. He was charismatic. He was made for the television age. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He was an inspirational figure. And I think what seared the soul of America was all of us, for those four days, watching the horrible way he died and the race to the hospital, the tasking of the casket to Washington, D.C., and then the whole funeral and the shooting of Oswald on that Sunday.

And what it did, I think, is that it impressed upon us what Kennedy was. There would not have been a Camelot had there not been Dallas. But after that, if you want to separate out the record of the man and the president, I think that's a different thing. And that has moved somewhat away from what we all recall and remember. But you can't see those films even again 50 years later without stirring up the same kinds of emotions you felt that terrible weekend.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have to also remember Vietnam's role in his presidency; Robert McNamara. Remember that?

ELEANOR CLIFT: Secretary of defense. And he basically got more notoriety during Lyndon Johnson's term in office, because when Kennedy was president, while he upped the number of advisers in Vietnam, he did not send any combat troops. That's one of the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mismanaged Vietnam.

MS. CLIFT: -- one of the -- mismanaged?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mismanaged it.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I don't know about that. I don't know that you have any evidence to say that.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Diem assassination.

MS. CLIFT: I think it's one of the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Diem assassination.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he was -- he was aware of that. I don't know if he gave -- if he was complicit in that, right. But, you know, I think the Kennedy presidency, however short it was, was a whole lot more than Vietnam.

First of all, he walked us back from the brink of nuclear war. Second, he inspired this country and inspired young people to public service and elevated the feelings about what government could do; at the same time the famous line in the inaugural speech, that he also asked much of the American people. The space program, the Peace Corps, I mean, these are all significant achievements that we remember him for today.

And so Pat is right. He's frozen in time. He'll always be young. He'll always be popular. But he certainly, you know, shows what a president can achieve, and against many odds too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Peace Corps was a big item.

SUSAN FERRECHIO: Two hundred thousand people, 139 countries. Certainly his most obvious legacy is creating the Peace Corps. But I think Pat's right. It's a presidency that was a lot about image. And there are a lot of unanswered questions. Would he have escalated the war in Vietnam? Would he have left the war -- left the conflict to the country to deal with? That's really just unknown. And a lot of it will never be known.

It's true that he was a president who won on charisma, won on the fact that he was very telegenic. And he reminds me a lot of our current president in terms of the way he won his presidency. So there are some similarities there too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Liberals see Kennedy as the apotheosis of liberalism. Conservatives see him as a supply sider and a clear cold warrior. What explains Kennedy's ability to be all things to all people?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know that he was all things to all people. I think in different parts of his presidency he had certain kinds of appeal to the liberals, mostly to that community, and sometimes on occasion to the conservatives, because he was a pragmatist. I mean, that's the thing that I think came through about him. He could govern the country in a different way. It wasn't just all ideological, to his credit.

And I think there's something else about him that I just have never gotten over. He just transformed the way the country felt about itself. He transformed the way we felt about him. He transformed the way we felt about ourselves. We saw this man come out. He was a television -- a telegenic president. But it was the first time that television was the dominant media, and he was magnificent on that media.

So he inspired a lot of people, particularly to have a lot of people go into public service. He set an example that just had not existed before for a whole -- the baby-boomer generation. And he still is someone whom I think is missed in some way in this country, because there was something about him that made everybody feel so good. That doesn't exist today.

MS. CLIFT: Don't knock --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You must also note that Jackie contributed to the Camelot mystique.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, for sure, for sure. So did Jackie. So did John John, you know, and so did Caroline.

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

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, here's Caroline today who's our ambassador to Japan. And so we -- you know, we just still treasure the memory of that family.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, let's --

MS. CLIFT: Camelot was playing on Broadway then. I mean, people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: It was in the air. It wasn't as though Jackie just invented this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And his response to Jacqueline, when she said what would you like to do tonight, he said I'd love to see Camelot. Remember that?

MS. CLIFT: Right. Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I think they went to the movie in Washington, did they not?

MS. CLIFT: Well, and the whole, you know, myth of Camelot, if you will --

MR. BUCHANAN: She told Teddy White --

MS. CLIFT: -- was good for the country.

MR. BUCHANAN: She told Teddy White that this is something she wanted, I think, in the recollection of what happened and stuff. But, look, he was 30 years younger than Eisenhower. Television was just coming in.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was a whole new generation.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Those of us on the right, we were going to say we're going to get our Jack Kennedy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: We've got Goldwater. They've got Jack Kennedy. It was a whole new generation of real change from the postwar era.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's move on. We've lots to talk about.
Was it a conspiracy?

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: (From videotape.) I certainly have doubts that he was -- that he was motivated by himself. I mean, I'm not sure if anybody else was involved. I don't go down that road with respect to the grassy-knoll theory and all of that. But I have serious questions about whether they got to the bottom of Lee Harvey Oswald's time and influence from Cuba and Russia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary of State John Kerry isn't the only one to harbor questions about the motives of the assassin of President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, who also shot to death Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit and wounded Texas Governor John Connally.
Oswald himself was killed two days later as Oswald was being held in the Dallas city jail. The shooter was Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner. A Gallup poll taken immediately after the assassination found that 52 percent of the public thought Lee Harvey Oswald had not acted alone. Today 61 percent think Oswald had co-conspirators. That's down from a high of 81 percent who thought so in the 1990s, after Oliver Stone's film, "JFK."

True, the tragedy has all the makings of a conspiracy. Oswald was a former U.S. Marine with a medal for marksmanship. He had earlier defected to the Soviet Union. He lived in the Russian city of Minsk for several years and married a Soviet woman.

When he and his wife Marina returned to the United States, Oswald became politically involved in Cuba's politics, notably pro-Castro causes. On September 27, 1963, two months before the assassination, Oswald went to Mexico City, where he visited the Soviet consulate and the Cuban embassy. The official Warren Commission concluded that Oswald did act alone. But at the time, the commissioners were unaware of the plans of the U.S. CIA to oust Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, including assassination.

In the intervening years, a host of theories have been spawned that have implied, variously, that the KGB, Cuba, the Mafia, the CIA, and even Kennedy's vice president, Lyndon Johnson, were the assassins.
This has to be taken seriously, of course, when Kerry, our current secretary of state, says to this day I have serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

MR. BUCHANAN: Who does he think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I certainly have doubts that he was motivated by himself.

MR. BUCHANAN: Who does he -- John Kerry think shot at General Walker, fired right through his window, the head of the John Birch Society, the general who had been at Oxford, Mississippi, the right winger? He shot to kill him -- tried to kill him. The fact that he didn't -- if he had killed him, there would have been no Dallas. But did he have a conspiracy to help him kill General Walker?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who knows?

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, look, if there'd been a conspiracy, it would have been uncovered.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We had put out instructions to take Castro out.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bobby Kennedy was calling Helms, you heard every other day, saying what are we doing about Castro? There were reports of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why were the Kennedys concerned about Castro?

MR. BUCHANAN: After the Cuban missile crisis, they had -- the Kennedys had given a statement that they would not invade Cuba.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why was the Cuban missile event so serious in his thinking?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they put intermediate-range ballistic missiles into Cuba, which could have blown up Washington, D.C. or St. Louis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who put them in?

MR. BUCHANAN: Khrushchev did. And they could have done it in 15 minutes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did Kennedy escape from that net?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he ordered them out. He gave a secret deal to take out all missiles from Italy and Turkey -- Thor and Jupiter missiles.

MS. CLIFT: And he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So a deal was cut.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, a deal was cut.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there was a time when there was serious concern about Castro. And was there concern about eliminating him in a more --

MR. BUCHANAN: Castro wanted to fire the missiles, and there was -- there's been talk that the CIA, pushed by the Kennedys, were out to kill Castro, get his beard falling out, all these other --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was the head of the CIA?

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: After Dulles, it was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it Desmond Fitzgerald?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think it was -- was it Helms?

MS. CLIFT: John McCone, wasn't it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Was it Helms or McCone?

MS. CLIFT: I thought it was McCone.

MR. BUCHANAN: Helms was the director of operations, I think.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he had a problem. The Kennedys had a problem --

MR. BUCHANAN: With Castro.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with Castro. And it was a serious problem --

MR. BUCHANAN: And he had a problem --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because there was a question of putting long- range missiles in Cuba.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was after that.

MS. CLIFT: Kennedy was at odds with the joint chiefs and with the military and with the CIA. Part of it grew out of the Bay of Pigs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: Part of it grew out of the fact that he didn't want to respond militarily to the Cuban missile crisis. He alone basically --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- walked us back diplomatically.

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

MS. CLIFT: So I think there was some concern, even in the Kennedy family, that this could have been an internal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we can agree with Kerry that --

MS. CLIFT: No evidence has ever surfaced; to the contrary, that nobody has put together the wider conspiracy. But it is hard to accept that this one lone guy, loser guy with a $19 rifle, could disrupt American history to that extent. So people are going to keep losing. And not all the records have been released. They won't be released for another three years from the FBI and the CIA.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone -- to this day I have serious doubts about that, said John Kerry. That's good enough for me.

OK, Kennedy's inkling. Consider this item from The Wall Street Journal about the start of JFK's Texas trip, during which he made a public appearance in Fort Worth, Texas. Quote: "On the morning of the 22nd, the president gazed from the window of that hotel room prior to his brief talk in the parking lot below, and remarked to his aide, Kenneth O'Donnell, 'Just look at that platform. With all those buildings around it, the Secret Service couldn't stop someone who really wanted to get you,'" unquote.

Question: Did JFK have an inkling of his vulnerability? Had he been told something? Or might he have had specific reason to believe he was targeted?

MS. FERRECHIO: He knew he was going to be driving along in an open car with -- I mean, it's just so obvious. To me, I still can't believe they allowed him to ride down the street like that, just given that --

MS. CLIFT: It wasn't so obvious back then. It wasn't so obvious.

MS. FERRECHIO: Other presidents had been shot. There had been other assassination attempts. It just seems really not very practical --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The waters were not -- the waters were not calm until then. We had problems -- we had problems with Cuba.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's for sure.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but they did not anticipate --

MR. BUCHANAN: They had problems with Russia.

MS. CLIFT: -- assassination. And the bubble top of the limousine was not --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was taken off.

MS. CLIFT: But it was not bulletproof either. It was only there for weather.

MR. BUCHANAN: It would have stopped it. But they took it off at the airport. It stopped raining, so they took the bubble off the limo. But Kennedy was clearly enjoying himself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- wanted the top off.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get out.

MS. CLIFT: He wanted people to be able to --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I haven't heard enough from Mort here, but I want to get out now.

Exit question: Is Secretary of State Kerry's hunch right? Does the answer to the riddle of JFK's assassination lie with Cuba and with Russia? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: No. But I do have a problem with the second bullet. It's hard for me to see -- we tested it in St. Louis at the time -- that you could fire those three bullets in that short a time. We took a guy from the Marines who was a marksman and he couldn't do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, fast, please. We have to get out.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. I think if there was something really there, we would know it by now. But I am looking to the release of the rest of those FBI and CIA files. And a lot has been destroyed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about that?

MS. FERRECHIO: I agree with Eleanor. Somebody would have talked by now. If there's a conspiracy and more people are involved, somebody would have said something at this point.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, there's enough strange information here to perpetually raise these questions. But with nothing that has come out, I just have to say no. I just don't see that this is a conspiracy until there's much, much more evidence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with the secretary of state. I don't believe in the single theory of --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That may be the only thing which you agree with him on, but at least you have something to agree with him on.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let this be a matter of record.

Don't forget the McLaughlin Group has its own website, and you can watch us on any day of the week from anywhere in the world at McLaughlin.com.

Issue Two: Tehran's Torpedo.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We do not want Iran having nuclear weapons. And it would be not only dangerous to us and our allies, but it would be destabilizing to the entire region and could trigger a nuclear arms race that would make life much more dangerous for all of us. So our policy is Iran cannot have nuclear weapons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Talks in Geneva between the P5+1 -- France, Great Britain, Germany, Russia, China, the United States and Iran -- were jarred this week after a scathing speech by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Speaking to a gathering of the Basij, Iran's paramilitary militia, Khamenei accused the United States of war crimes extending from Iraq to World War II Japan, when the U.S. became the first nation to use nuclear weapons.

In a swipe at Israel, Khamenei characterized the Jewish state as, quote, "dirty, rabid dog," unquote. Khamenei called Israel an evil power, and went on to say, quote, "The Zionist regime is doomed to destruction," unquote.

Most ominously in terms of prospects for an interim agreement on Iran's nuclear program, whereby Iran would suspend uranium enrichment for six months while talks continue on a final deal, Khamenei declared, with regards to Iran's right to develop a peaceful nuclear industry that, quote, "I insist not one step backward should be taken with regard to the Iranian nation's rights. Some red lines and limits exist which must be respected," unquote.

Question: Whether or not there is an interim agreement is reached now, what are the implications of Khamenei's, quote, "red lines" on prospects for a final agreement with Iran's nuclear program? What about that?

MS. FERRECHIO: I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what do we know about Iran's nuclear program?

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, I don't think this is going to destroy the possibility of a deal. It sounds like they're on the verge of getting something, because Secretary of State John Kerry is going to be joining these talks, and that means they're on the verge of having an agreement. It'll be, I think, a six-month holding off on nuclear development.

But it sounds like Iran wants the ability to just keep enriching uranium during that time. There's a little bit of a disagreement there. But there's some talks on Capitol Hill. From what I'm hearing and what we're reading about Secretary of State Kerry, it sounds like they're getting close, closer than we've ever been. And that's promising. And so I don't think these comments are going to kill that deal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is a holding action by Khamenei with the old guard.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The young guard --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's trying to tamp them down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, who's in the young guard? Who's calling the shots?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the new guys, Rouhani and the other guys, they --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rouhani, right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- they were just elected, and they are moderates. And they want a deal, in my judgment. And the point is, John, the bottom line for Khamenei is a very simple one: We retain the right to enrich, having signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

And candidly, the P5+1 is willing to do the deal. And how they're going to (conquer ?) it, I think, is they're not going to say anything about it. They're going to put limits on what they can enrich, where they can enrich, how much, how much they've got to give up. The makings of a deal are there, I think, because I don't believe Iran wants an atom bomb and I think they want to get out from under these sanctions.

MS. CLIFT: Well, they want to retain the right to enrich, but they were let in in sectors so that they can show that they're not really enriching --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: -- at the --

MS. FERRECHIO: And in return --

MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible) -- that would lead them to a bomb.

MS. FERRECHIO: They're getting out of this too. They could -- they can lose -- the U.S. is going to lighten up on a lot of these sanctions now in return. And Iran has been really hurt by them. So I think it's a very appealing deal for them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So Khamenei was really setting up the deal, throwing big bones to the old guard.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What this administration is prepared to do is a wonderful deal for Iran. I don't believe it is a wonderful deal for the United States or for the Middle East. All the Sunni Arab countries are totally opposed to this deal because they understand where Iran is coming from.

And I am very skeptical. If you looked at the kind of deal that this administration was prepared to make before, it was a disgrace. It did not protect us at all, so I think this is -- in terms of what we wanted to prevent. So I'm very, very anxious about what they're talking about now.

MS. CLIFT: Well, freezing their nuclear program for six months is not a disgrace. It opens a window for potentially more negotiations. And it seems to me the only alternative that the critics have is some sort of military action --

MR. BUCHANAN: No deal --

MS. CLIFT: -- which most scenarios suggest would be very unhelpful.

MR. BUCHANAN: No deal, Mort, and we've got a war. It's either a deal or a war.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the question is, what do you have if you have a deal that prevents -- that does not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons?

MR. BUCHANAN: You've got it. You freeze every single one of those programs and you put inspectors all over every single nuclear site they've got.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They're not freezing them. They're not freezing them. They were not --

MR. BUCHANAN: They will in the final deal or we won't sign it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We will see what's in the final deal. If it's the deal that they were prepared to make before, it is not that kind of a deal.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's an interim six-month deal, which is a freeze.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not a freeze. They can continue the construction, for example, of their --

MR. BUCHANAN: They're far away from completion, and they've got -- you're talking about Arak.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They're going to be six months closer at Arak.

MR. BUCHANAN: Heavy water plant.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's the plutonium plant.

MR. BUCHANAN: They need an auxiliary plant, even after Arak is built, to turn the plutonium into weapons grade.

MS. CLIFT: And you can ratchet those sanctions back up instantaneously.

MR. BUCHANAN: Frankly, if you want, Mort, at the end, and you don't like it --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- on and off.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- you can bomb them.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If he thinks it's like a spigot that you can turn on and off, he knows even less about this issue than I think he knows.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he has probably less ideological bias than some of the critics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we ready for the exit question? Here it comes.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.) (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's the exit question. Is Ayatollah Khamenei's speech exhibit A for why we should pursue all avenues, from dialogue to the military option, to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon? Yes or no. Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: We should ignore his insults and do what is in our national interest, which is a deal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's Rouhani. That's what you want the Rouhani deal, and the Rouhani deal is --

MR. BUCHANAN: I want a better deal than they're going to offer --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is cover --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- (inaudible) -- and I think we can get it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is cover for Rouhani, cover with the old guard.

MR. BUCHANAN: Cover with the Revolutionary Guard.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, don't take the bait from the old guard. Keep on pressing ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. FERRECHIO: Sticks and stones. You just work out the deal and avoid a war.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If we can work out the right deal, exactly. If we don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we will? Yes or no.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I do.

Issue Three: Tempus Fugit.

Even though there are five and a half more weeks to calendar year 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives has only eight more days in session in Washington. That's eight days in session in December for the House to get things done before members depart the nation's capital for the rest of the year to attend to constituent business in their regional offices, sandwiched with holiday vacation time. This means that ambitious legislation that had been passed in the Senate this year will not be passed by the House, like the overhaul of U.S. immigration laws.

This is not to say that the House under Republican control won't be busy over its eight final days. The GOP is taking on the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare," the president's landmark legislative accomplishment. And a House and Senate conference committee is trying to hammer out a budget deal.

The Senate will be busier in its final days than the House. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has said so. But the irony is that even if the Senate passes a slew of bills, they stand no chance of becoming law in 2013, thanks to the Republican House, home for the holidays.

Question: Is Congress done for the year, or do you foresee anything coming out of the 113th before December 31st? Susan Ferrechio. And don't forget to tell us about the news about the filibuster.

MS. FERRECHIO: The most important thing we'll probably see is a deal on spending for the next year or two. And it will not involve entitlement reform, but it'll involve raising revenues through fees and other means and moving around this so-called sequester that we've been operating under for the past year. That will be the big thing that comes out. So it's not nothing.

The other big development, of course, was the filibuster reform this week in the Senate, where they changed the rules on what's required for ending the filibuster. It was 60 votes. It's now 51 for all judicial nominees and executive branch nominees -- really monumental move in the Senate, highly criticized by the minority Republicans. But Democrats felt they needed it to move and end the gridlock. It's something that may come back to haunt them, though.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the filibuster?

MS. FERRECHIO: Filibuster is -- it's -- a senator can talk and talk and talk and prevent moving forward on legislation without 60 votes to end debate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who holds the record?

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Who holds the record?

MS. FERRECHIO: Strom Thurmond.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's Strom Thurmond.

MS. FERRECHIO: Strom Thurmond.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Strom Thurmond. How long did he talk?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think 23 hours.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More. More.

MR. BUCHANAN: 1957 civil rights bill, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: But they don't talk anymore. They just threaten a filibuster,
and then they just go --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, now what happened -- what happened with the filibuster, and how --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

MS. FERRECHIO: OK. First of all, the Democrats felt that Republicans were blocking the president's judicial nominees. They wanted to stop Republicans from blocking them with the 60 votes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Talk about --

MS. FERRECHIO: They only control 55 of those.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, tell me about Harry Reid and how he did this.

MS. FERRECHIO: He did this through a procedure that the Republicans felt was parliamentarily illegal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What'd he do?

MS. FERRECHIO: He did it with a 51-vote change of the rules, which normally they're only supposed to be allowed to do in the first opening day of the session. However, they violated their own rule and did it, according to the Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why have we -- have they waited so long to get rid of the filibuster?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you why.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, right now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MS. FERRECHIO: They need to do it now because they're running out of time to get these judges through. Democrats see the writing on the wall. They may lose the Senate majority in the coming election in 2014. This will give them a chance to usher through many nominees that the president chooses before they're in the minority, and then they have no say over what --

MR. BUCHANAN: What it's done is turned the Senate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MS. FERRECHIO: It also excites their base, who have been, you know, not exactly thrilled with the Democratic presidency and the Democratic Party of late. This is going to help them move some much more liberal folks through the Senate that ordinarily they would have never been able to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got 10 seconds. Give us what you can in 10 seconds.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's turned the U.S. Senate into another version of the House. You've got small "d" democracy, which is a corruption of the republic. This stuff is going to whistle through. In the future, you're going to get -- the Senate's going to look just like the House.

MS. CLIFT: First of all, the Republicans have over-abused and abused the filibuster. The D.C. district court has three vacancies they've been -- refused to fill. They knocked down three appointees. They have perfectly credible records. One of them worked in the George W. Bush administration. They just don't want Obama to have any more leverage.

The courts -- the federal courts are divided, 390 Republican appointments, 390 Democratic appointments. There are 93 vacancies. The Democrats are moving now, because if they didn't take advantage of the next three years of this administration, the Republicans are going to come in and make this move.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

MS. CLIFT: They've been talking about it for years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The filibuster is intended to prevent the majority from running the show and taking it away completely from the minority.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And now we've lost that. Is that a bad thing?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Given the way the filibuster has been abused, I don't think it's such a bad thing, to be honest with you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do not.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: On the other hand, I would preserve some piece of it, because I think the part that we have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long has it been in place? How long has it been in place?

MS. FERRECHIO: This particular one since 1918. It's not -- Jefferson didn't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: 1918.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I --

MS. FERRECHIO: This particular use of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to take something that's been solid in our history and throw it right out the front door?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know that I want to change it. I want to -- I mean, to eliminate it. I would like to moderate it, because it has been abused as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Israeli peace talks with Palestinians collapse.

MS. CLIFT: Democratic rule change on filibuster gives the president three years to get judges in place. And the Republicans are going to -- would have changed the rules anyway when they get power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: The farm bill is not going to be passed this year because they can't come to agreement on food stamps.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There goes the farm vote.

Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: To the extent that congressional approval is necessary for any of the agreements with Iran, it will not be approved.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Republicans will win the Senate next year, 2014.

Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service

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