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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast;
Michelle Bernard, The Bernard Center;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, December 13, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of December 14-15, 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 a Deal.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI): (From videotape.) I am happy to report that Senator Murray and I have reached an agreement. We've been talking all year, and this week that hard work of the two of us sitting down and talking to each other all year has paid off.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): (From videotape.) We have broken through the partisanship and the gridlock and reached a bipartisan budget compromise that will prevent a government shutdown in January.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Done deal. Shutdown averted. A 29-member bipartisan House and Senate conference committee headed by Republican Representative Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray this week reached an agreement on the federal budget for the next two years.

Here's what's on the revenue side of the table.

Item: New fees for air travelers. Instead of tax hikes, revenue would be raised by airline ticket purchases. Travelers will see a hike for an average roundtrip ticket from $5 to $10.

Item: Federal workers pay more. Government employees hired after January 1, 2014 will make bigger contributions to their retirement funds, a 1.3 percent boost.

Here's what's on the spending side of the table.

Item: Spending caps. Overall spending is set at $1.012 trillion for the current fiscal year, up from $967 billion, slightly higher than what the House wanted and slightly lower than what the Senate wanted.

Item: Relief from sequestration; i.e., automatic spending cuts that affect both defense and domestic spending. They will be reduced by $62 billion over two years.

Item: No entitlement spending cuts. Medicare and Social Security are off limits.

Question: Does this budget dial -- deal -- spell the end of fiscal gridlock between now and October 2015? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: Well, it may deal it for two years, John, but this was a Republican capitulation. You've got increased fees on airline travelers. You've got the sequester broken. That sword has been given up. The caps have been lifted off 70 percent of the sequester. There's more spending, more taxes.

I think Ryan brought it home and the House stood by him because he's one of their own. But I can tell you, the Republicans in the Senate and the conservatives and everyone else feel this has been a capitulation. They've given up. They need not have done it. And I think Paul Ryan's presidential prospects have been hurt very badly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The support in the House was largely bipartisan, 169 Republicans and 162 Democrats. I presume you approve of that.

ELEANOR CLIFT: It was overwhelmingly bipartisan. And basically the empire is striking back. The Republican leaders in the House have finally said they've had enough of being driven around by the right- wing groups and by the tea party conservatives within the caucus.

And, you know, this is not a far-reaching deal. And, boy, they really should have closed some corporate loopholes instead of raising fees on travelers. But, having said that, it's compromise. And this Congress has been unable to do that for the last two years. And what you hear now is the sound of gridlock breaking up. And it opens the possibility that they can get immigration reform next year --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- and that they can do other things. I think it's a very positive development.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sometime between March and June, the level has to be lifted again. Are you aware of that?

MICHELLE BERNARD: The level --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The debt ceiling.

MS. BERNARD: The debt ceiling. Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And hopefully --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So, you know, it's a temporary fix.

MS. BERNARD: Well, it's an important fix. It looks like they have finally gotten the lessons that if they want to win elections, they actually have to govern and do something -- do the things that the American public has elected them to do.

It's not -- the fact that every supercommittee has failed and that we actually had to get a sequester because no one in Congress on the Democratic or the Republican side would do their job is pretty pathetic. And so I look at this as a very positive happening in Washington.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The airline ticket fee is going up 100 percent. What do you think of that?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: I think it's one of the few issues in which you would have an agreement, because the people who fly airplanes generally tend to be the wealthier part of the population.

But I also have to say I disagree with you, Pat. If the Republicans hadn't gone along with this, having had the experience of shutting down the Congress before, which was devastating to the Republicans, they never would have had a chance to do well in the next congressional election nor in the presidential election, in my judgment. They may have, shall we say, irritated the tea party right of the party. Fine; they have no other place to go. But they would never have held the center of America.

MR. BUCHANAN: We had a sequester, Mort. We had a -- and it did a great job for two years; painful, not the nicest way to do it. They gave it up. What did they get in return? They got a 5 percent increase in discretionary spending in the coming year, and fees; in other words, taxes and spending. We're going the wrong way.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They got something else, which is really important.

They actually showed that they could govern --

MS. BERNARD: Exactly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- which was not exactly the image that they had projected in the past.

MR. BUCHANAN: But we're governing in the wrong direction.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no. They're going in the direction --

MS. CLIFT: Actually --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- of the center of the country. And if they want to win major national elections, they've got to appeal to that part of the country.

MS. CLIFT: Actually, nobody likes the sequester. And you still have some defense hawks on the Republican --

MR. BUCHANAN: (You ?) like it.

MS. CLIFT: No. You have some defense hawks on the Republican side. They didn't want the Pentagon cut more. And you have a lot of people on the Democratic side, and some on the Republican side too --

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

MR. BUCHANAN: They both want more spending.

MS. CLIFT: -- who don't want slots of Head Start taken away from little kids.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a modest deal.

OK, Boehner's blast.

A feud between House Republicans and institutional conservatives -- many tea partiers -- exploded on Wednesday. Speaker John Boehner and outside conservative groups traded barbs over the Ryan-Murray budget deal. It escalated when the leader of the Republican Study Committee forced out its executive director for leaking strategy from private conversations.

Republican leaders have repeatedly criticized such unrealistic ultra-right groups -- Heritage Action, Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and others -- of having only one objective: To oppose Republican leaders. They call Speaker Boehner and the Republican leadership team, quote-unquote, "squishy," who have sacrificed principle for compromise, and they are unhappy with the new budget deal.

Speaker Boehner finally lashed out on camera.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): (From videotape.) They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous. Listen, if you're for more deficit reduction, you're for this agreement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What about Speaker Boehner's outburst? Why is he so irked at conservative groups? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I can understand why he's irked -- because he didn't like the whole shutdown. But he won this battle. And when you win a battle, you're magnanimous. Why didn't he just disregard the fact that these conservative groups and tea party groups were angry? He should have said, look, I know we've had disagreements, we think this is a necessary deal and a right deal, instead of going after them? And he's appealing to the Washington --

MS. CLIFT: Because this is a message --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Washington establishment's going to lacquer him all up for what he did.

MS. CLIFT: No. This is a message to these groups that their day is over and that --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's war.

MS. CLIFT: -- and that the Republican leadership is fighting back. And he wouldn't be doing that if the Republicans hadn't come to the conclusion that the tea party fever has finally broken.

MS. BERNARD: But also --

MS. CLIFT: You look at the challenges coming up in the Senate --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) This --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. You look at the challenges coming up in the Senate.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is his last term as speaker. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: You look at the challenges --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish this point. You look at the challenges coming up in the Senate races to these Republican incumbents. Maybe there's one or two serious. They're weak candidates.

MR. BUCHANAN: Watch how the Senate votes.

MS. CLIFT: And all they can do is damage the -- I will watch, definitely.

MS. BERNARD: I watched, and I think a large number of the American public was thinking where has this John Boehner been for the last two years. Thank you for actually being the speaker of the House and showing the American public who's --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Can I make --

MS. BERNARD: -- who's governing in the House. It shouldn't be Heritage. It shouldn't be FreedomWorks. It should be John Boehner corralling his people into doing what we saw this week, which is passing legislation on a bipartisan level --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but, you know --

MS. BERNARD: -- rather than --

MS. CLIFT: -- the House is acting like --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, can we --

MS. CLIFT: The House is acting like grownups, and the Senate isn't. And Pat makes a good point. The Senate still has to vote. And if Republicans can corral all the Pat Buchanan-Ted Cruz --

MR. BUCHANAN: There are about 45 of them. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't know. (Laughs.) (I'm afraid of ?) that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is Boehner so irked at the conservatives? The conservatives are mad because it's only a $17 billion deal, and they think that's puny.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, they may think it's puny, but I'm sure Boehner has a good feeling for what he could get. But he has another feel. If there is one big community that really supports the Republicans, it's the business community.

SEN. BAUCUS: And the Chamber of Commerce.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And the business community and the Chamber of Commerce and all of those groups that said thank God there's been some demonstration that the government functions, because it was affecting the whole economy.
And this is one of the few breakthroughs that indicates there may be a positive future --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- in making progress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. I'll tell you what else Boehner is thinking about. He's thinking about the primaries.

MS. BERNARD: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he knows that he's got to get independents --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and conservatives to win the primaries.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he thinks there's a real chance of taking over the Senate.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right. That's exactly right.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he's probably right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about this coming November.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: On a state level, the way the states break down, as distinct from the way individual congressional seats break down, you've got to get more people from the center to elect Republicans.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he started a war. He has started a war. Look, he won the battle up there. I didn't like it. But when you win, you're magnanimous to the people that lost. He stuck it to them. And he's going to get great press here in D.C. And you've got a war going on in the Republican Party. And a lot of those senators, they're going to vote the way I like because they've got challenges in primaries.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MS. BERNARD: He got smart. He wants to win elections.
(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: The war was already going on. The speaker just picked up some weapons and engaged them.

MR. BUCHANAN: Watch those conservative senators who have tea party challengers, John. Watch how they vote on this deal. I'll bet, almost to a man, they vote against it.

MS. CLIFT: Well, for a budget --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The candidates could be too far right for the conservatives, and the conservatives wouldn't vote them in the primary. Don't you understand?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what he's irritated about, people like you.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- Senate campaigns?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the Murray-Ryan budget deal pass the Senate next week? Yes or no? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Eventually I think it's going to get by, but it's going to be a bloody mess.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MS. BERNARD: After a lot of discussions about cutting military pensions, yes, it will squeak by.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it will get by, by a little bit more than a squeak.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, it will get by.

Don't forget, the McLaughlin Group has its own website, McLaughlin.com. And you can watch us on the Web at any time from anywhere in the world at McLaughlin.com. Got the picture?

Issue Two: Cuba Libre.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) While still a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful land, and it stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities to others and to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba's example, he makes me want to be a better man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama addressed a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands who packed the stadium in South Africa at a memorial service for the nation's beloved former leader, Nelson Mandela. Mandela passed away last week at the age of 95.

But Mr. Obama's rousing speech was overshadowed by his simple gesture, a handshake, not with just anyone, but with the leader of Cuba, Raul Castro. The U.S. and Cuba have been estranged for 54 years, since Raul's brother Fidel, a communist, in 1959 overthrew the Batista regime, and the U.S. subsequently imposed sanctions on Cuba.

This Cold War embargo on Cuba remains in place, and many exiles in the Cuban community living in Miami, Florida were angered by Mr. Obama's handshake with the Cuban president, including U.S. representatives in Congress.

REPRESENTATIVE ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-FL): (From videotape.) When the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raul Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House says the Obama-Castro handshake was not planned. But observers have noted a thaw between the two countries in recent years of sorts.

Item: Travel restrictions eased. One year ago, Castro dropped the requirement that Cubans obtain exit permits before leaving Cuba. And the U.S. extended the duration of visas for Cubans from six months to five years, permitting return visitors from Cuba without visa reapplication.

Item: Direct mail service. Talks to resume the flow of letters and packages between the two countries resumed this year after a long stall.

Question: Was it only good fellowship that motivated President Obama to shake Cuban President Raul Castro's hand? I ask you, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, if you believe that, John, I have a bridge to sell you. Of course not. These things do not happen by accident. Besides that, he veered to the left to specifically shake hands with him. By the way, I support that. There's no point in continuing the kind of relationship with we have with Cuba. In my judgment it's counterproductive to the United States interest. So I don't think that's a problem. But you cannot -- these things do not happen by accident.

MS. CLIFT: Well, wait a second. He shook the hands of all of the speakers, the eulogists, who were all seated together as the president was making his way to the podium. And Mr. Castro was there.

So if he hadn't taken his hand, that would have sent a message much louder, and one that he didn't want --

MR. BUCHANAN: This is lousy --

MS. CLIFT: This administration has --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- lousy staff work.

MS. CLIFT: No, it isn't lousy staff work. It's fine. This president has shaken the hands of the Chinese leaders, who are communist too; the Vietnamese leader, who's communist too.

MR. BUCHANAN: OK.

MS. CLIFT: And the embargo is an anachronism.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is lousy staff work for this reason. White House staffers should know exactly who's sitting in what chair as the president goes to his chair. That's why I tend to agree with Mort. It must be deliberate or those guys were clueless in saying, look, there's a fellow named Castro who's sitting here as you go by. We were at the U.N. I think you remember it.

MS. CLIFT: It was all the eulogists. There were six of them, and they were all lined up.

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

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, we were at the U.N. -- I think you remember -- when Daniel Ortega -- Reagan had his reception for all the heads of state and government. And we were all blocking out Daniel Ortega so he wouldn't get to --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's more to the story here. There's more to the story.

MS. BERNARD: There's more to -- if you look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Bali -- let me make this point. In Bali, there was WTO trade talks in Bali. And Cuba softened its opposition to the globalization program that Obama wanted. Cuba softened its -- and it made it clear to Obama what it was doing.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think this was a mistake, though.

MS. BERNARD: And we have a development worker there now.

MR. BUCHANAN: If he wants to deal with Castro, fine. They want diplomats. They want behind-the-scenes dealing; fine. But I think to step up there and do that, I think, was a mistake by the president.

MS. CLIFT: He was at a funeral.

MS. BERNARD: Alan Gross, a U.S. development worker, has been in jail in Cuba for four years, and the U.S. government wants him out. And also, if you listened to the president's words when he was speaking about the life of Mandela, and he made a very poignant comment about all of the countries that believe in the symbolism that Nelson Mandela stood for and have horrible human rights records at home, he could very easily have been talking about Raul Castro and what's happening in Cuba. I don't think it's a big deal.

MS. CLIFT: It's ridiculous to criticize someone for shaking the hand at a memorial service for an icon who brought people together, who was supported by the Soviets and the then-Russia and the U.S. and who had his people he associated with at that funeral. That would not have been the place. So I think it was politeness.

But beyond that, I think it would be terrific if this administration did take steps to lift the embargo. I don't expect that to happen because it's a law. You would have to get Congress to go along with it.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: And with 218 votes in the House and 60 in the Senate, I don't see that happening.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Cubans are having trouble resolving their passport problems. And the president is facilitating gingerly a bank that will assist them and lawyers that will assist them. What do you think about that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, I think it's a positive step, my own view of this. This whole idea that we think we can isolate Cuba and not have anything to do with them, in my judgment, makes no sense. I haven't tried to make sense for many, many years. And there are many things --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- that we can do that are positive and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with you. And you are the soul of wisdom, Mort. (Laughter.)

OK, pure gibberish. At the Mandela funeral during President Obama's and other dignitaries' impassioned speeches, the sign-language interpreter on the stage seemed to be equally impassioned. There was only one problem. He wasn't communicating anything. It was pure gibberish.

Outraged deaf people in South Africa and around the world say the man was a fraud. A South African official now says his hiring was a mistake and has launched and investigation. The man has been identified, and he says he has schizophrenia.

Question: There's an acronym that is widely used in Africa for those times when things go wrong, inexplicably wrong. The acronym is AWA -- Africa Wins Again.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this was a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A foul-up.

MR. BUCHANAN: This was a clown act on the part of the South African government. But this is deadly serious. This guy's standing one foot away from the president of the United States. He could have had an underwear bomb or a shoe bomb. He could have had a vest on. He could have blown up that whole list of people there. Where was the Secret Service, quite frankly, to let somebody get that close to the president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where were they?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- who's -- that's just it. They should have vetted everybody near the president.

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, people are saying the Secret Service
did a fantastic job in view of the size --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, how --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of that audience.

MR. BUCHANAN: They don't let a guy like that get one step from the president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where were the advance men that didn't go down there to make sure before they arrived?

MR. BUCHANAN: It was a clown act all the way around.

MS. BERNARD: There were press reports that this person once had been arrested in South Africa on suspicion of murder charges, and he's one foot away from the president of the United States. It was horrible.

MS. CLIFT: There's more to this story. I'm sure the Secret Service will be investigating itself about it. And the South African government -- apparently they got him at a bargain rate from -- (laughter) --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.
)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, that explains it. Now I understand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that gossip?

MS. CLIFT: That's what the South African government said.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What are we talking about? It's a disaster for our security services.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Africa Wins Again. That's their way of kind of laughing at themselves; something else goes wrong.

MS. CLIFT: Nothing happened. Let's remember that.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the Secret Service ought to adopt something like that, Africa Wins Again?

MS. CLIFT: No. Let's hope they learn a lesson here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a political probability scale, zero to 100, zero meaning zero likelihood and 100 meaning metaphysical certitude, what's the likelihood that President Obama will attempt to lift the trade embargo on Cuban in 2014?

MR. BUCHANAN: Zero, 2014. But 2015, 2016, his last two years, I would see him trying a little bit of engagement.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I would agree with that. Let's see what kind of Congress we have after 2014. Again, you need to get 218 votes in the House and 60 votes in the Senate to lift the embargo.

MS. BERNARD: I agree with Pat and Eleanor, and I say zero percent. But `15 and `16, who knows?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. After the election in Florida, which is going to be in 2014, where there's a very large Cuban community, then I think this will be introduced, and my judgment will be passed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero possibility or probability. He's not going to do anything that's going to in any way (queer ?) the election.

Issue Three: Downbeat Millennials.

Harvard University's Institute of Politics released a poll of 2,089 young adults that has sobering news for the Obama presidency. Among the survey's major findings, 54 percent of young people disapprove of President Obama's job performance. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of President Obama's signature domestic policy initiative, "Obamacare." Sixty-one percent disapprove of his handling of the economy.
Get this: If the U.S. Constitution allowed voters to recall the president, 47 percent said they would vote to oust Obama. Among those aged 18 to 24, the percentage who would vote to recall Obama is even higher, 52 percent. In 2008 and again in 2012, young people were a critical component of President Obama's electoral coalition. Today those same voters are deeply disillusioned, according to the Harvard poll.

Question: Is the defection of young voters a serious problem for the Democratic Party? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, I think they all have to learn how to pronounce Harvard correctly. (Laughs.) Secondly, I think the second term has gotten bogged down. I think we would all agree with that. But things are looking up here at the end of the year -- the budget deal, the potential of getting some things done with Congress, a minimum-wage movement that has the possibility of exciting young people on college campuses. So I think that number is going to go up. And also all of the folks who said that young people wouldn't show up in 2012 because they were disappointed in the president, they showed up.

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

MS. CLIFT: And it's compared to what? Let's see what the Republicans produce in 2016 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

MS. CLIFT: -- if he or she can excite young people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's right; see what the opposition is.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Young blacks say they are far less likely to vote in 2014 than in 2012. What do you think of that?

MS. BERNARD: I think that we see that not just with African- Americans, but with a lot of people that are left of center don't vote in midterm elections. It takes a lot to get that demographic out. There's nothing to be excited about. Obama's not on the ticket in 2014. So that doesn't surprise me at all.

I don't think any of this is problematic. If you look at how African-Americans are talking in this poll, how young people are talking in this poll, they're just catching up with the rest of the country. They don't like Democrats. They don't like Republicans. More and more are self-identifying as independents.

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

MS. BERNARD: And they want the country to work. What I found more interesting about the poll is the number of people between the ages of 18 and 24 that are calling themselves conservatives. And although they believe in public service, they don't think that government is the way to solve a vast majority of the country's problems.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, more presidential polling.

The steep decline in President Obama's support among young people in the Harvard poll was amplified this week by a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. In addition to showing sharp drops in support from young people and Hispanics, Mr. Obama's disapproval rating has hit a record high of 54 percent. Only 37 percent say Mr. Obama is honest and straightforward.

Question: Will the White House staff revamp, bringing in John Podesta and bringing back Phil Schilirio (sic) -- Schiliro, excuse me -- as senior advisers reverse Obama's decline in the polls? Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know that it'll reverse his decline in the polls. It might help a bit, because his White House staff has frankly just not served him well enough as the president of the United States. But I think there are much, much deeper issues than who is his chief of staff.
Podesta is a first-rate talent as a politician. He's been very effective in the Clinton administration and other administrations. But this Obama administration is facing a very weak economy, which in my judgment is going to continue. He's going to be held responsible for it.

What he's lost is something that is absolutely unretrievable. They don't believe him any longer after they felt he lied about what was going on on the "Obamacare" program, not just when he was trying to get the bill passed, but in a dozen-plus speeches earlier on, it was never checked out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he kept on repeating it, and it didn't help.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me throw this at you, Pat. Millennials have buyer's remorse over voting for Obama in office. According to the poll, 55 percent said they voted for Obama in 2012, and only 46 percent said they would do so again. That means 9 percent have buyer's remorse.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, he's at his nadir. Two months ago, at the end of September, say, the Republicans would have been completely wiped out in an election. They probably would have lost the House.

MS. CLIFT: "Obamacare" is going to rebound, and so is the president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll leave it there.

Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Thirty-year-old North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has just murdered his mentor and uncle. And he is moving ships and planes to an area disputed with South Korea. I think we could have real problems on the Korean peninsula.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Republican House will come back after the holidays and vote an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, retroactively.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle.

MS. BERNARD: I'm turning back to Cuba, and I'm going to say our development worker who finds himself jailed in Cuba is going to find himself released and back in the good old U.S. of A.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting.
Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: To follow up on yours, in the second -- in `15 and `16, this administration is going to completely reorganize and recognize our relations with Cuba, full-time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well stated.
I predict that next year's sticker shock over health insurance premium price hikes will move President Obama's job-approval rating to below 35 percent.
Eleanor, do you agree with me on that?

MS. CLIFT: I certainly don't, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, cheers to --

MS. CLIFT: I demand equal time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cheers to E.L. Doctorow's essay in the current issue of The Nation magazine.

Bye-bye.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service

END