The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast;
Ryan Grim, Huffington Post;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, January 17, 2014
Broadcast: Weekend of January 18-19, 2014

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Let the Debate Begin.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In a far-ranging speech addressing the National Security Agency's surveillance program, the challenges to individual privacy posed by technological change and the nature of intelligence in a post-9/11 world, President Obama on Friday made several concrete announcements.

Name one, Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: Well, one, there's the possibility that all this metadata that is out there with the National Security Agency may be left with AOL and the other telecommunications operations.

But, John, the national security state is alive and well. The president has responded to Mr. Snowden in the sense that we've got to find a greater balance between rights of privacy and national security. He's recommending that there be an advocate before the FISA court and things like that. But overall, this extraordinary capacity and capability the United States has, he wants that accessible to our security people, but he wants greater restrictions against its use against foreign leaders and others. I think he struck a pretty good balance.


ELEANOR CLIFT: I would agree with that. I think his main goal is to restore confidence in the government's ability to surveil and monitor communications of principally American citizens, but also foreign leaders. And he traced the history of intelligence gathering going back to Paul Revere on up through Harry Truman creating the NSA in the `50s, and then the challenges that the new world that we're living in, with its extraordinary technological ability, what that presents.

And so one of the concrete proposals was to create an advocacy board or a single advocate, someone who would be sort of looking over the shoulder of this court that OKs what the NSA wants to do. He would need, I think, congressional approval for that. So he's going to do some things on his own in terms of increasing accountability, you know, within the White House. But he's also looking to Congress to bear some of the burden here of going forward.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Big data and civil liberties. The president is concerned about that. He brought someone into the White House to monitor it and improve it, a man by the name of Podesta. What do you know about it?

RYAN GRIM: Well, I mean, we live in a new world here in the sense that things that might have been legal to collect on people in the past wouldn't have been collected by the state because they couldn't put it together and form much of a portrait. But today you can take all these little tiny bits of data and create this mosaic that allows you to know incredible amounts of things about the general population.

If the NSA, for instance, wanted to know who every gay person in the country was, you know, they could write a code and figure it out just by collecting of this metadata and analyzing all these communications.
So it's actually quite remarkable, I think, that the president stepped back, because it's very unusual for governments to take power and give some of it away. You know, they had this power -- they have this power right now to collect and search this metadata. He's saying that they're going to allow somebody else to hold it for them. We'll see if that actually happens. But merely suggesting that the state would step back from some of its power is unusual.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Government surveillance and civil liberties. This is what Snowden wanted. Has his dream been fulfilled?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know that it's his dream alone. I think what the president did when he talked about the nature of the threats facing the United States, he said they're really not nations any longer. So we have a very different issue when it's individuals or terrorist groups or some kind of radical groups that want to threaten us. And we don't have the kind of intelligence we once used to have about countries.

And so, in a sense, that's how this whole thing evolved and developed. And I think we're looking to find out, given the fact that you had something like 9/11, this kind of intelligence was simply not previously available. The technology made it possible. So we have to have some -- we have to have that kind of intelligence. I thought the balance that he spoke about, frankly, went over very well with me, anyhow.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you going to say in your editorial about the speech?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it's one of the best speeches that I think he has made.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Content too.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. There was content there. I thought he made an excellent speech.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it overdue?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know that you could say it was overdue. You could say it's overdue, but nobody anticipated what we have just been through. So, therefore, I don't think it was overdue. I had lunch this week with a man who lost 50 percent of his employees on 9/11. He had a very different view, because the one thing we must do is maintain the access to the kind of intelligence that might enable us to stop something like that.

MR. BUCHANAN: We're not going to go back --

MS. CLIFT: The excesses came when Chancellor Merkel revealed that the NSA had been monitoring her cell phone. Now, a lot of the communications in Europe -- they monitor ours. I was just in the White House for a briefing yesterday, and you have to leave your cell phone outside the Roosevelt Room because they know that those rooms are monitored, probably by our allies, and also by some of our enemies. So this is going on everywhere.

So there is that sort of Casablanca moment; you know, I'm shocked, shocked, shocked that gambling is going on.


MS. CLIFT: But that was an excess --


MS. CLIFT: -- that drove the president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, isn't it --

MS. CLIFT: -- to make some of these changes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't it really positive and helpful --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for other countries to know what other countries are doing?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you can't go home again.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We've been going after this for years.

MS. CLIFT: You can't limit it only to your allies, because al- Qaida and -- (inaudible) -- and those folks also know what you're doing if this is made too public.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's the problem. It's small terrorist groups that you --

MR. BUCHANAN: You can't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What, Pat? What? What? What?

MR. BUCHANAN: You can't go home again. I mean, we have this extraordinary capacity and capability, the NSA's got. You can bet the Chinese are very, very close behind us. The Europeans have their own capabilities. Everybody's going to develop it.

Once you develop all these things, people are going to use them. And you ought to expect that. And the best you can do, I think, is let the country and the people know and get the country to put reasonable limits upon it. But, look, we're moving forward into the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the president unapologetic?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was unapologetic.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they ought to be -- well, he believes he's doing it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He believes it. If he believes it, it's overdue.

MR. BUCHANAN: He believes it's in the national security interest of the United States to do what he's doing, and he's doing just what Bush did.

MS. CLIFT: And he also said that most of the excesses of the Bush era were corrected by the time he, President Obama, took office, which was a little bit of a bouquet to the Bush administration, I thought.

MR. GRIM: And we have Edward Snowden to thank for this. I think this speech was a vindication of him. You know, he has said that what he wanted was a debate about these issues. Not only did he get a debate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't you call up Ron Wyden and tell him that it was really a good speech and in the interest of --

MR. GRIM: Ron Wyden said that it was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Rand Paul.

MR. GRIM: -- a good step forward.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Rand Paul.

MR. GRIM: (Laughs.) Rand Paul had a good line. He said it sounded like if you like your privacy, you can keep it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Benghazi Blowback.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): (From videotape.) The intelligence was really ample. I had an opportunity to review it myself. It's the State Department that's responsible for the security of our missions and embassies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After a 15-month-long investigation into the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report this week that places the blame squarely on the State Department.

Quote: "The State Department should have increased its security posture more significantly in Benghazi, based on the deteriorating security situation on the ground and intelligence community threat reporting on the prior attacks against westerners in Benghazi," unquote.

In the months leading up to the deadly attack, there were 20 separate attacks on westerners in Benghazi, including a bomb attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission that blew a hole in an exterior wall. The Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency warned of more attacks ahead. Quote: "We expect more anti-U.S. terrorist attacks in eastern Libya," unquote.

In July, the CIA added its warning. Quote: "Al-Qaida-affiliated groups and their associates are exploring the permissive security environment in Libya," unquote. Ambassador Stevens sent multiple cables to the State Department, its headquarters in Washington, requesting additional diplomatic security, but was repeatedly rebuffed.

One week before his death, the Army's Africa Command warned about threats to Americans in northeast Libya, aka Benghazi. The bipartisan Intelligence Committee report casts fresh doubt on Hillary Clinton's management of the State Department and National Security Adviser Susan Rice's attempt to blame the violence on an anti-Islamic video.

Question: What impact will this report have on Hillary Clinton's presidential prospects? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I don't think it's going to have a great impact several years from now. The people that dislike Hillary are going to lay the blame on her very heavy. But you can remember, John, back in 1983, Ronald Reagan put those Marines in Beirut; 241 of them were killed. He always believed he had made a terrible mistake in doing that. But 11 or 12 months after that, he won 49 states.

I think Hillary Clinton is going to be under fire for a couple of years from Republicans because of this. She's going to bleed a bit. But it is a survivable wound.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think she'll use the Christie defense? Put the blame on the underlings.

MS. CLIFT: She has taken responsibility, but not the blame. And there is a distinction. And this report from the Senate, a bipartisan committee, basically validates what we already knew. The State Department's security was woefully insufficient. There was a CIA outpost which beefed up its security. But it really didn't tell the FBI and the State Department what it was doing.

And for the first time you have Ambassador Chris Stevens comes under some fire here because he turned down some security that was offered. He was kind of -- you know, he thought he knew the region. These people were his friends. And so there's -- you can't say this is Hillary Clinton's fault.

This was a tragedy that hopefully the State Department has learned to rebound from. But as a political issue, Republicans won't give it up. But it's not going to cost her --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's more than a political --

MS. CLIFT: -- any votes that she hasn't already lost.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a little more than a political issue. It cost four lives.

MS. CLIFT: Well, yes. But that's been investigated, and now we have a Senate report that's investigated it that basically validates all the previous reports. And it also exonerates Susan Rice, who basically was reading talking points provided by the CIA, which took out the word terrorist for whatever reason they did. And the attack was basically an opportunist attack that was sparked by the showing of this anti-Muslim video.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Christie's ineptitude cost traffic jams. What do you think of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Ineptitude. (Laughs.)

MR. GRIM: Well, I'm glad I wasn't in -- I'm glad I wasn't in one of those traffic jams. And this actually happened over the period of 9/11. You saw people on Twitter complaining that they were supposed to be getting, you know, to the events of that day. You know, school was just starting; just a complete debacle. So, you know, Hillary Clinton had a good week if these are the two things that happened.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it wasn't ineptitude.

MS. CLIFT: And Christie had a bad week.

MR. BUCHANAN: It wasn't ineptitude, John. That was pure malice -- (laughs) -- that shut down the bridge out at Fort Lee; pure malice on somebody's part.

MS. CLIFT: Political retribution ordered by someone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Political malice?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, whoever did it and ordered it, it was malice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, didn't you work for --

MR. BUCHANAN: I worked for three of them, John.

MS. CLIFT: Richard Nixon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Richard Nixon?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. Sometimes he had a sense that he ought to get even with his enemies at some time. (Laughs.)

MR. GRIM: What would he think of this?

MS. CLIFT: It caught up with him too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Fried Rice. You know Rice? What's Rice's first name?

MS. CLIFT: Susan Rice.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan Rice. Fried Rice. Is that clever, or is it a little bit anemic?

MR. BUCHANAN: A little bit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is what the Intelligence Committee had to say about blaming mob violence for the attack. Quote: "Intelligence analysts inaccurately referred to the presence of a protest at the U.S. mission facility before the attack based on open-source information and limited intelligence, but without sufficient intelligence or eyewitness statements to corroborate that assertion," unquote.

Question: Does this exonerate Susan Rice, or does it get her deeper into the mire? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: I already exonerated her in my previous remarks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to qualify the exoneration?

MS. CLIFT: No, no. She's totally exonerated. She was reading talking points provided her by the CIA. So I would give it a rest when it comes to fried Rice. (Laughs.)

MR. GRIM: But she can't be made secretary of state retroactively.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did the Intelligence Community conclude regarding whether al-Qaida planned or coordinated the attack? Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think they thought that that was the case. A lot of that was just hyperbole. I mean, there was just much more -- it was clear that there was a lot of hostility and a lot of dangers at that point, and that had been brewing at some point. I don't think it came out in the way that you're trying to, I think, suggest here.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, al-Qaida -- (it's interesting ?). Al- Qaida -- people are beginning to ask or question, look, is this really Zawahiri's al-Qaida and bin Laden's al-Qaida, or is it this group that says, you know, call us a franchise of al-Qaida and we can use your name, because it's proliferated all over Africa, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen. And is this all really organized and run by Zawahiri? I don't think so. I think it might be a lot of isolated groups that say they're al-Qaida.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The fact that the CIA strengthened their own compound while the State Department somehow or other never got around to it, there's some kind of bureaucratic lapse there. But it's not -- I don't think it has all these sort of great big dimensions to it. It's just -- it's not surprising; administrative incompetence.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. And because of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, when you toss out the name al-Qaida, you inspire fear in people. But al- Qaida central has been pretty well decimated. But there are lots of people and groups that are inspired by this, and there are lots of freelancing terrorists all around the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is clearly universal absolution of Hillary. What about you? Are you going to absolve her?

MR. GRIM; I mean, like Pat said, people who hate her --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As Pat said.

MR. GRIM: -- are still going to hate her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As Pat says.

MR. GRIM: Yeah. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, I don't -- she's in charge and has got to take responsibility. It was under her. But it was the security part of State that was responsible.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, and the president --


MR. BUCHANAN: -- you know, takes responsibility for a lot of things that he wasn't responsible for.

MS. CLIFT: Well, and she did. But there is a difference between taking responsibility and taking direct blame.

And so far there's no evidence that shows the line of requests led into her office and she turned them down. To the contrary, we find the ambassador himself turned down some of the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Gates Rates.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has produced headlines with his unsparing look at the Obama White House in his newly published book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War."

Mr. Gates' political career spans that of eight presidents. USA Today asked him to rate all eight. Here are Secretary Gates' rates, in a few words.

Lyndon B. Johnson: A tragic figure.

Richard Nixon: America's strangest president.

Gerald Ford: Greatly underestimated.

Jimmy Carter: Too unfocused, too many priorities.

Ronald Reagan: Visionary leader.

George H.W. Bush: Another greatly underestimated president.

Bill Clinton: The only president Mr. Gates did not serve. Quote:
"Probably the best politician as president since Franklin Roosevelt," unquote.

George W. Bush: Committed.

Barack Obama: Courageous.

Question: Is Secretary Gates right about Nixon? Was he truly America's strangest president? Or do you think that belongs to Warren Harding, who --

MR. BUCHANAN: There's nothing strange about Warren Harding. He was right up front.

But, look, Richard Nixon, John, came back from the dead to create a new majority, won 49 states; extraordinarily talented, knowledgeable individual; had flaws and made mistakes. I wouldn't consider him -- I wouldn't consider him strange, but he had some character flaws.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it would have been -- it belongs to Warren Harding, the distinction. He used confiscated booze during Prohibition to keep his White House poker party fueled.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Nothing strange about that. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He only ran for president --

MS. CLIFT: Nothing strange about that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He only ran for president because his wife Florence pushed him into it. And he got caught in a world-class scandal, like the Teapot Dome looting of oil reserves.

MS. CLIFT: I actually think --

MR. GRIM: I think he was also the one who said that he wanted to vote for suffrage but he didn't because he was worried that women would outlaw booze if they gave them the vote.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I actually think strange is actually a rather flattering adjective for President Nixon when you think he was forced out of office, forced to resign, because of, you know, illegally --

MR. BUCHANAN: Coup d'etat.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: Coup d'etat.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I don't think so; illegally using the FBI and --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, look, I just finished reading a book about FDR. He used it against America first prodigiously.

MS. CLIFT: Pat, you're going to have a long, hard road to convince people that FDR and Richard Nixon --

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not trying to convince them. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- belong anywhere in the same category on anything. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Jimmy Carter's downfall was multitasking?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. Well, that's one of the problems he had. One of the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was the economy, stupid -- 21 percent interest rates and a 13 percent inflation rate.

MR. BUCHANAN: The economy was horrible; the hostage crisis and Teddy Kennedy's challenge, which tore his party apart. And the left wing abandoned the guy. He had a very, very tough time, and it was a very, very tough period.

MS. CLIFT: Carter's going to look a lot better in history. He warned us about the oil crisis that we're finally facing. And the fact that he didn't --

MR. BUCHANAN: He killed a rabbit. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You remember that?

MS. CLIFT: He didn't use military courts during his presidency. It was a peaceful time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember that helicopter, that horror story?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It crashed in the desert over there -- (inaudible).

MR. BUCHANAN: Jimmy Carter's desert classic, they called it in The New Republic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was Reagan a visionary, or was he a man of action?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I'll tell you, Reagan, to my mind, was the most surprising president that I've ever had the chance to work with. Our Moscow bureau chief, Nick Daniloff, was jumped by the KGB, and I ended up going -- trying to arrange for his release. And when I came back, I was asked to talk to the president about what I found out about it.

And I have to tell you, I not only had conversations with him; I had the chance to sit in on a number of national security meetings. He was amazingly good. He was right on point. He got the right issues. He had the right questions. He followed the questions to a conclusion if he wasn't happy with the answers. I think he was terrific.

MR. BUCHANAN: He was a great president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was a great president. Also he had vision, and his vision was to eliminate social engineering and ideological do- gooders, get them out of government --

MR. BUCHANAN: And also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- out of the way, and let free people make their own choices.

MS. CLIFT: You can also --

MR. BUCHANAN: Eliminate --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He was also fundamentally --

MR. BUCHANAN: Eliminate nuclear weapons.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- a very decent man.

MS. CLIFT: You can also --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Everybody in the Congress liked working with him. They all got the best of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was magic, really.

MS. CLIFT: Before we fall too much in love with Ronald Reagan, the inequality that we see --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's --

MS. CLIFT: -- and disparity, a lot of that goes back to his presidency --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's squeeze this in --

MS. CLIFT: -- and his policies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and see whether Grim can do any better with it.

Exit question: If the shoe were on the other foot and the presidents Gates served under were to rate him, what adjectives would they likely use to rate him?

MR. BUCHANAN: They would use a noun, John, not an adjective, after this book, I'm afraid. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Like what?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's a very talented guy, able guy. I like him. I think he was an outstanding secretary of defense. And he's a great public servant.

MS. CLIFT: He did a breakfast with reporters this morning. He's clearly hurting from the fact that people see his book as an act of disloyalty. He made a point of saying he never leaked, not once, and that he feels that he was more loyal to President Obama than many people in the administration.


MS. CLIFT: So I think he's trying to adjust the message coming out of those early comments about his book.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. We've got to squeeze you in.

MR. GRIM: Competent. I mean, you know, he's been a competent bureaucrat.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He was a grownup. He was a serious man who knew how to run things and knew how to deal with people. He was very competent and very effective. And frankly, he wasn't looking for any kind of public recognition. I thought he was a great public servant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: George Bush would say he was loyal.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sure he was loyal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: An Iran Opportunity?

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: (From videotape.) The negotiations will be very difficult, but they are the best chance that we have to be able to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully and durably.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One week ago, the P5+1 world powers -- that's Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- completed the terms for an historic agreement with the nation of Iran. In exchange for the lifting of some western financial sanctions on Iran, the Iranians would halt part of its nuclear program. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy use. But Washington and others fear that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons.

Within a six-month framework, beginning January 20, this coming Monday, the following will take place.

One, Iran's uranium enrichment; no more production of 20 percent enriched uranium. It's considered too close to weapons grade.

Two, neutralize existing stockpiles. Iran's already over- enriched uranium will be degraded.

Three, transparency. International inspectors will have access to Iran's nuclear site and then issue a report.

Four, sanctions eased. Roughly $7 billion in trade dollars will thus be freed up.

But the White House may have a problem on its hands; namely, the U.S. Congress. Many in Congress are skeptical that Iran will keep its side of the deal. Republican Senator Mark Kirk and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez are both ardent skeptics. They have a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran, which Iranians warn could be a deal breaker.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is sitting on the bill, although the bill has significant bipartisan support. President Obama is urging U.S. senators to give this interim agreement with Iran a chance.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) My preference is for peace and diplomacy. And this is one of the reasons why I've sent a message to Congress that now is not the time for us to impose new sanctions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why do 59 senators, Republicans and Democrats, support the nuclear weapon free Iran act and its contingent sanctions on Iran? I ask you, Ryan.

MR. GRIM: Well, you know, they're being accused of supporting it because they want to scuttle these negotiations. The White House has gone on the record and said that, quote-unquote, certain senators ought to be up front if they want war with Iran, because the argument that they're making is that unilateral sanctions from the United States at this point would allow the hard-liners in Iran to play the victim card and say, look, the United States isn't dealing fairly with us.

The international community would broadly agree with that assessment. And we would have managed somehow to turn Iran into a sympathetic figure on the global stage, which would be just an embarrassing accomplishment.

MR. BUCHANAN: You'd have a collapse of the talks as well.
John, clearly behind this -- Israel's behind this. AIPAC, the Israeli lobby, is behind it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Behind what?

MR. BUCHANAN: Behind this S. 1881, the Senate bill. You get the Republican hawks. The McCain folks are behind it; probably evangelical Christians, the Saudis -- an enormous coalition. But I agree with Ryan that if the Republicans succeed somehow in passing this, overriding the president's veto, these talks will collapse. The United States will be blamed. Our coalition will break apart. Many of them will start violating the sanctions. And the United States will be on the road straight down to more sanctions. And at the end of that road is war.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I think the president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they don't know -- I mean, these people, Republicans, don't know what they are doing.

MS. CLIFT: I think the president is going to win this one. I mean, it's a big difference between 59 and the 67 that it would be required to override a veto. And, you know, basically senators, especially senators facing reelection, they don't want to be seen as soft on Iran.
Israel is opposed to this deal. They feel it poses -- dealing with Iran under these circumstances poses an existential threat to them. And so, you know, this is a political vote. But I think, in the end, the president's going to prevail with his argument that this is a unique opportunity that we finally got Iran to the negotiating table --


MS. CLIFT: -- and we can't let that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you congratulate the president on taking this position on vetoing sanctions? Quickly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think -- I think, frankly, the fact that there might be more sanctions was one of the reasons why they were able to reach this agreement with Iran. At this stage of the game, now that we've reached this agreement, we have to go through with it, it seems to me, and find out if Iran lives up to it and if, in fact, they do terminate or --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- dramatically constrain their nuclear weapons program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well stated. And you've had the last word, Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, with a name like Zuckerman, I understand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) How would Reagan rate Gates?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he'd rate him A as a public servant.

MS. CLIFT: Highly.

MR. GRIM: F for disloyalty.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, I think he'd do better than that, but I do think that the idea of talking about the person of the president you work for while he's still in office was a no-no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is loyal.

Happy 50th, Madam First Lady.


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