'After Hours' for Feb. 2

Guest: Hugh Hewitt, Willie Brown


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Ladies and gentlemen.  With grateful hearts we honor freedoms defenders and our military families represented here this evening by SGT Norwood‘s mom and dad Janet and Bill Norwood.


RON REAGAN, MSNBC COMMENTATOR:  That‘s a moment you‘ll see again and again.  The mother of a marine killed in Iraq hugs an Iraqi woman as an emotional President Bush looks on.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC COMMENTATOR:  It was the show-stopping heart of this year‘s state of the union address.

REAGAN:  And on a somewhat lighter note, welcome back to MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the state of the union AFTER HOURS.  Joe Scarborough had to go.  I am Ron Reagan.

BUCHANAN:  And I‘m Pat Buchanan and we‘re going to be taking a closer look at what was a bold and optimistic speech.  One in which the president outlined a worldview built around expanded freedom around the world.


BUSH:  To make our economy stronger and more dynamic we must prepare a rising generation to fill the jobs of the 21st century.  Under the No Child Left Behind Act, standards are higher, test scores are on the rise and we are closing the achievement gap for minority students.  Now we must demand better results from our high schools so every high school diploma is a ticket to success.  We will help an additional 200,000 workers to get training for a better career by reforming our job training system and strengthening America‘s community colleges.  And we will make it easier for Americans to afford a college education by increasing the size of Pell grants.

To make our economy stronger and more productive we must make health care more affordable and give families greater access to good coverage and more control over health decisions.


I ask Congress to move forward on a comprehensive health care agenda with tax credits to help low income workers buy insurance, a community health center in every poor county.  Improved information technology to prevent medical error and needless costs, association health plans for small businesses and their employees.


Expanded health saving accounts.


And medical liability reform that will reduce health care costs and make sure patients have the doctors and care they need.


BUCHANAN:  On the panel, Mike Barnacle of the “Boston Herald,” actor and activist Ron Silver.  Kelly Anne Conway of the Polling Company and Sam Seder from Air America.

Sam, let me begin with you.  Were you as enthusiastic about the speech as some of this panel was in the earlier hour?

SAM SEDER, AIR AMERICA:  It‘s no surprise that I‘m afraid not.  I really had a big problem with George Bush‘s explanation of what‘s going on with Social Security.  I mean he really was borderline lying just out and out lying.  But I regret that he didn‘t say anything about the crisis in Medicare.  I regret that he didn‘t say anything about the crisis in the pension guarantee trust.  I regret he didn‘t say anything about the budget crisis.  In this country, I mean the General Accounting Office came out today with a report that - by the comptroller general that said by 2042 if we don‘t repeal Bush‘s tax cuts, if we don‘t allow the Sunset Provision to work, we will only be able to afford, our government will only be able to afford the interest on our debt.  Nothing but the interest on our debt.

I mean, this is a crisis but it has nothing to do with Social Security.  It‘s the government.

BUCHANAN:  I‘m inclined to agree in part with you.  I think - and Ron and I were talking about it - there is a fiscal - it‘s very close to a fiscal crisis in this country.  You collect 16 percent of GDP in revenue, spend 20 percent on all these programs, defense, Social Security, Medicaid, the others that are all going out.  That wasn‘t addressed, I think, by the president.  What did you think of the speech, what did you think of the Social Security part of it?

RON SILVER, ACTOR:  1:00 in the morning you‘re talking about GDP 16 percent, Social Security ...

BUCHANAN:  We didn‘t just come up with that at Cafe Milano.  We didn‘t come over ...

SILVER:  Let me tell you something.  I have a message to everybody.  Apologize.  The president‘s won.  He‘s done a great job.  Let‘s apologize and start again.  Come on, this was a very strong speech.  Had a lot of balls.  He was explicit about countries and what he has done is he has institutionalized something that hasn‘t happened in this country in my life time which is to merge our values with our vital interests and that‘s a big change ...

BUCHANAN:  Straight out of the inaugural.

MIKE BARNACLE, “BOSTON HERALD”:  Well that‘s a big change.  Liberty and ...

SILVER:  Well I wasn‘t here.  I was not here ...

BARNACLE:  Let me ask both of you guys a question.

SILVER:  Sure.

BARNACLE:  You‘re talking - throwing words around like crisis.  What‘s a larger economic crisis?  Social Security or the deficit?


BUCHANAN:  I think the immediate crisis - Social Security is a long-range grave problem.  Medicare is more serious than Social Security.  The deficit is, in my judgment, more serious, because, as I‘ve said, look, you‘re collecting 16 percent of GDP, you‘re spending 20 percent.  Defense is going up, interest is going up, Medicare is going up, Medicaid is going up.  That‘s about 85 percent of the budget.  They have not gotten to this thing and addressed it, I agree 100 percent with Sam on that one.

REAGAN:  Kellyanne, what do you think?  Social Security the bigger crisis or is it maybe the deficit or Medicare instead?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, THE POLLING COMPANY:  It‘s not a matter of degrees and I think so much of this is Beltway blather meaning we‘re all missing the point of what the president is trying to do.  If nobody has noticed in Washington, things don‘t get fixed immediately by Congress so the fact that we‘re going to tackle Social Security which is approaching crisis proportions and we‘re trying to approach it now so that we will resist that eventuality is important because we‘re at least giving Congress and people notice, look, the one currency that we all lost on 9/11 and continue to try to reclaim is control.  Everybody lost consistency and control and certainty that day.  What the president‘s theme tonight was was all about control.  Allowing you to control your Social Security investments.  Allowing small business owners to offer their employees and their self health security through AHPs and health security plans.  And I think tonight is a very legacy-building speech for the president because he hit so many high notes, it was a cluster of tangibles and intangibles.

The people still fighting the last election are calling him a liar.  I mean, that was a great rendition of the Democratic talking points by someone I assume is accustomed to reading a script because that‘s all that that was in my view.  Did you listen to the speech?  Did you ...

REAGAN:  Kellyanne, I was wondering.  As far as personal control of your Social Security account, the president made it clear that this would be tightly regulated in his mind and that in fact you wouldn‘t be able to just put it anywhere in the stock market, there would be certain mutual funds ...

CONWAY:  Which is a good thing.

REAGAN:  Well it might be but of course that takes it out of your control, a little bit, too, doesn‘t it?

CONWAY:  Not necessarily.  For example, my husband‘s law firm, partners of spouses are not allowed to own individual stocks.  You must invest in mutual funds so I think that there are different degrees of regulatory policy to allow people to responsibly invest but within some federally guaranteed money market and mutual funds and I think that‘s an important safeguard because without that safeguard, Ron, you would have the liberals screaming even louder and more defiantly than they are now saying that people are going to irresponsibly invest their money in stocks that are going to go boom we‘re going to have another dot com implosion and people will be all fluttered about that.  I think this is a very bold step because let me tell you something.  I have never met a young person who says, gee, if you gave me an extra $1,000 or 2 I‘d stick it under my mattress or I would reinvest it in the government.  They would put it almost anywhere but.

BUCHANAN:  Mike Barnacle?

BARNACLE:  This gets - what Kellyanne is saying is the generational point that we were talking about in the last hour.  That over the age of 55 the president says to us - all of us who are over the age of 55, don‘t worry, Social Security ...

BUCHANAN:  Silver is taken care of and you and me.

BARNACLE:  45 years of age ...

SILVER:  This is about generational fairness.

BUCHANAN:  But you know, I think Barnacle‘s point is well-taken.  Look, young people are now, as they were not 20 years - they know what an IRA is.  They‘ve got these little amounts of money and how they build up.  Their parents know it.  They‘ve heard about Social Security.  I do think if you ask a 20 or 25 year old rather than just have it go to the government would you like to have it in your account?  I think he‘s going to say, Yeah, I think maybe I ought to have it in my own account.

SILVER:  Let me tell you why the polls say that most 25 - more 25 year olds believe in UFOs than they‘ll believe that Social Security will pay them when they are ready to retire.  They just don‘t believe it‘s going to happen.

REAGAN:  Personal savings accounts, by the president‘s own admission, does nothing to address the long term fiscal problem.

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know, look.  That - I agree with you - Look, the - I think the president‘s got some ideas to address the long term situation but I think that does not moot Barnacle‘s point, which is basically that the young people are going to - Hey, this is a pretty good idea.

SILVER:  It is.

BUCHANAN:  And you get Republicans who have gotten to seniors and you start seeing them reach into the young people in this country and when the Democrats mm-mm and no, no, no, and what is it, just say no, Robert Reich ...

REAGAN:  You know what I‘m saying.  We‘re having a crisis in Social Security so I‘m going to do this thing over here, but that doesn‘t address ...

BUCHANAN:  It does address - down the road it does address the benefits some.  I‘m sure the benefits for those young people are going to be reduced if they get their personal accounts.

SILVER:  Ron, I was not here for the first hour of the program ...


SILVER:  I was dining but

BUCHANAN:  Started at 7 o‘clock ...

SILVER:  Social Security was a program developed in 1935 under very different circumstances and different context and if it does not need some serious discussion and reevaluation and some serious ...

REAGAN:  Light we did in ‘83, for instance.  Where we ...

SILVER:  Exactly.  So why isn‘t the conversation as opposed to the Democratic minority leader right now saying, no problem there‘s ...

BUCHANAN:  Ron was part of the conversation and he said - Ron said that, look, my idea is why don‘t we go with this, raise the payroll age - raise the number from 90,000 to - and that‘s an idea.  It‘s an idea.  But ...

REAGAN:  For instance we could do that.

BARNACLE:  You guys know, and Ron, you know why there‘s no conversation ...

SILVER:  That‘s Clintonian.

BARNACLE:  Why there‘s no conversation on Social Security.  There is no conversation at all in this town.  There‘s just polemics.

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s bring Sam back in because Sam, I think I heard you say, you know, the president lied.  I mean, come on, the president presented his point of view.  You might disagree with it but - and he obviously laid out the best case he could but was it really lying?

REAGAN:  Sorry, Sam, we can‘t hear from your right now but we want to hear from you the viewer.  Send us your e-mails.  The address at RReagan@MSNBC.COM.  We‘ll be sharing your comments later in the show so stick with us.  AFTER HOURS returns in just a minute.

SEDER:  Can I call in?

REAGAN:  Oh sure, why not.



BUSH:  Social Security was the great moral success of the 20th century and we must honor it‘s great purposes in this new century.  The system, however, on its current path is headed towards bankruptcy and so we must join together to strengthen and save Social Security.



BILL FITZGERALD, MSNBC ANCHOR:  MSNBC keeps you up to the minute every 15 minutes.  I am Bill Fitzgerald and here is the latest.  The Vatican says Pope John Paul is recovering well.  He is spending a second night in a Rome Hospital where he was taking in for treatment of flu and breathing problems.

Iraq‘s interim prime minister declares that Sunday‘s elections dealt a major blow to insurgents and predicted they will be defeated within months.

And nine tsunami survivors were found alive on a remote Indian island 38 days after disaster struck.  You‘re up to date let‘s go back to Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan.

REAGAN:  I am Ron Reagan.  Joe had to leave I am here with Pat Buchanan.  We are back to talk about the president‘s state of the union address with our all-star panel.  Sam, we cut you off before because we had to go to a break but you were - Pat was asking you about the possibility that the president lied and why you are calling him a liar.  Well let‘s get into the issue more, I think was his point.

SEDER:  It has to do with Social Security.  Here you have Social Security at its most solvent than its been in its 69 year history.  It has never been in fiscally better shape than now and the president goes in front of the American people and says it‘s bankrupt?  I mean, never mind the technical use of the word bankrupt is wrong, of course, but it‘s simply the most solvent it‘s ever been.

BUCHANAN:  Sam, can I get in here for a second?  Why did Clinton say it was in crisis in 1998 if it‘s phenomenal shape?

SEDER:  Because every year, Pat, as you know, the Social Security trustees and the CBO, they raise the point in which that solvency will hit and it has simply exceeded our expectations in part, frankly, because of Clinton‘s economy.

REAGAN:  Joining us now, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.  Mayor Brown, good to see you.

WILLIE BROWN, FORMER SF MAYOR:  Good to see you too, Ron.

REAGAN:  What did you think of the speech and in particular what did you think about the Social Security part of the speech?

BROWN:  Well, I think it‘s always on dangerous grounds to be toying around with Social Security.  I think the business of allowing individuals - encouraging individuals to do their own investing is very dangerous.  I know from my own personal experience it‘s very dangerous.  I lost a lot of money on the dot - so I need somebody to take me and hold on to me and believe me, with the number of women who end up being the major beneficiaries of the Social Security System, I think the president is on very dangerous grounds toying around with that system.  I think it could cause a major revolution thereby ousting Republicans all over this country if they embrace his leadership without addressing that need.

BUCHANAN:  And you‘d be concerned if all those Republicans lost their jobs.  Mayor Brown, let me ask you this.  Do you think we should just do nothing about Social Security?  It‘s fine?  Let‘s drop the subject and move on and Social Security will take care of itself?

BROWN:  Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  I don‘t think, Pat, that there are any things that are in place in government, anything in this delivery system that shouldn‘t be looked at an appropriately addressed.  I do believe, however, we ought to do so without reference to politics in mind and we ought to do so from the real concept that initially brought us Social Security some 70 years ago.  70 years ago or more when the concept of Social Security was put in place, it was because ordinary people go to work everyday, they go to work as cops, they go to work as firemen, they go to work as nurses.  They can‘t always spend all the time it takes to make the kind of decisions about what should be done with their money for the future.  And as a result of that I believe it‘s wrong to suddenly think we are sophisticated enough to abandon that process.

BARNACLE:  Mr. Mayor, this is Mike Barnacle.  You were the great mayor of a great city.  You‘re a Democrat.  I was at the convention in your city several years ago.  Do you worry at all that your party, the Democratic Party, will be thought of, out in the country, by people who might think there is a potential problem down the road with Social Security as being a party of people who just want to sit on their hands with regard to any issue, Social Security, Medicare, anything and say nothing rather than talk about it and get something done.  Does that worry you at all?  The negative perception about Democrats?

BROWN:  Well, I would hope that perception isn‘t out there.  I listened to Nancy Pelosi tonight and I listened to Harry Reid tonight.  Each of them made it very clear that they are prepared at all times to discuss every issue and to take whatever steps are necessary where there is overwhelming evidence or where there is any real evidence of a real committed need to do something.  They aren‘t going to be hoodwinked into doing what they did with reference to Iraq.  They were led to believe there were weapons of mass destruction.  They made their decision on that basis.  All they are doing now is saying we are never going to be misled again.  I think the public will get the impression that they simply want to stand pat.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Mr. Mayor, I think you have raised that subject so let‘s turn a moment to that other big topic in the president‘s speech, which was Iraq.


BUSH:  One of Iraq‘s leading democracy and human rights advocates is Savia Taleb al Suhail (ph).  She says of her country, we were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein.  That was the real occupation.  Thank you to the American people who paid the cost but most of all to the soldiers.  Eleven years ago Sophia‘s father was assassinated by Saddam‘s intelligence service.  Three days ago in Baghdad, Sophia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country and we are honored that she is with us tonight.



The terrorists and insurgents are violently opposed to democracy and will continue to attack it.  Yet the terrorists most powerful myth is being destroyed.  The whole world is seeing that the car bombers and assassins are not only fighting coalition forces, they are trying to destroy the hopes of Iraqis expressed in free elections.  And the whole world now knows that a small group of extremists will not overturn the will of the Iraqi people.

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Ron Silver.  One of the reasons that you backed George Bush as post 9/11, as you said this is a realist, this is a man that understands what we‘re up against and you don‘t come out of the old conservative wing of the Republican Party.  What did you think of the president tonight on Iraq and do you think - all of us think it was a tremendous event, those elections, those are courageous people.  Do you think we are over reading - we‘re getting overly optimistic about the situation in Iraq based on the fact that millions of people courageously voted.

SILVER:  No, no, no.  Look.  We‘re on the right side of history.  The president‘s rhetoric is being matched by his deeds.  His commitment.  What we‘ve seen tonight - you‘ve watched a lot of bad movies and we cry at bad movies that are very melodramatic.  We saw something very really tonight.  We saw a woman who raised a finger up.  Her ink-stained finger.  When we go to vote or we don‘t vote - these people went to vote, they‘re the true martyrs (ph).  We saw something.  We‘re nearing the middle of the tides of history turning and for those of us that cannot appreciate it that is too bad, but 10 years, 15 years down the line, we‘ll look back on this as perhaps a turning point, a lot of things have to happen.

BUCHANAN:  The president said, he said, look, there‘s no doubt about the election but he himself said, look, they have to eventually, they have got to win this war themselves and all the Americans are eventually coming home.  So the president is taking - I mean, he didn‘t say we‘re there for five or ten years and he didn‘t give any timeline but I mean ...

SILVER:  Nor should he, as you know.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think he should have.  I don‘t think he should have.  But I do think this - I mean, I can see 50,000 more troops going in there as McCain wants.  I think the president wants to turn this over to the Iraqis as soon as possible and given the courage of their - they went to the polls.  Are they able to take it over and take on an insurgency we haven‘t been able to think.

SILVER:  I think they are.  I think they are.  It‘s just going to take a lot of fortitude.  Its‘ going to take some cooperation.  I think the Europeans are coming around.  The Europeans now - you know, I just spent the last month - five weeks in London.  I was doing a picture over there so I read a lot of newspapers, talked to a lot of people in Brussels and all over Europe and all.  They are just becoming aware of their problem, a tremendous problem they are assimilating their immigrant populations.  Much more than we do.  People come to this country, they want to become Americans.  They want their kids to learn English.  They want to be American.  They really assimilate well here.  They don‘t do it that well in Europe.  They really don‘t.  They‘re having a big problem in the Netherlands, in France, in the U.K., etc.  And their laws are more draconian in some ways than ours because they don‘t have a written constitution, First Amendment rights, etc.

So they‘re all coming around slowly.  We are on the right side of history on this.

REAGAN:  Well, certainly democracy is the right side of history.

SILVER:  You know, it is.

REAGAN:  Nobody is going to argue with that.

BUCHANAN:  In the near term, I‘ll tell you, I‘ll be honest, I see all those regimes, I think they‘re going to be shaking.  Shia versus Sunni, I think democracy is going to shake them up, anti-Americanism is going to shake them up ...

SILVER:  Iraq is a little different because there is an Iraqi nationalism.  Those people in Iraq are a little different ...

BUCHANAN:  You think if the Saudi monarchy goes down, we‘re going to get a democracy?

SILVER:  Not necessarily.

BARNACLE:  We were discussing last hour, I mean, we well might be at one of those pivotal moments in history where the next 30 or 40 years will be shaped - we don‘t know that now.  What we do know, off of what you just said, and I - you‘re going to a break ...

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead.

BARNACLE:  In terms of what the president said and you just said, we‘re going to leave Iraq, we‘re not going to stay there forever.  Part of the problem is institutional memory here and can all remember another president in 1965 saying, in the final analysis it‘s the Vietnamese‘s war to win and we were there another 10 years at great cost.

REAGAN:  Got to say good night to Willie Brown.  Thank you so much, appreciate it.

BROWN:  All right, thank you very much, Ron.

REAGAN:  OK.  We‘re going to be back in just a few minutes.  Stick around.


BUCHANAN:   We‘re going to be reading your e-mails and taking your phone calls in 60 seconds, as AFTER HOURS continues.


REAGAN:  Welcome back to AFTER HOURS here on MSNBC.  I‘m Ron Reagan, here with Pat Buchanan, with our all-star panel of guests: Kellyanne Conway, Sam Sader, Mike Barnicle and Ron Silver, of course.  Wouldn‘t be AFTER HOURS without Ron.

And joining us, MSNBC contributor Flavia Colgan.  And blogger and nationally syndicated talk-show host Hugh Hewitt.

Welcome, you guys.

Hugh, what did you think of the speech?

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I thought it was great, Ron.

I thought that the energy is on the president‘s side.  He‘s positioned the Democrats deep in a corner of reactionism to everything he said.  Innovation has always been an American way, and I think the Democrats are feeling like the Republicans of 1933 right now, looking up there at the podium and seeing a colossus on the international stage, a leader of free peoples across the globe.  And someone who‘s saying to them, hey, let‘s work together and the American saw Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, No, we don‘t want to change anything.  We don‘t want to work with you. 

I think it was rather disastrous for the Democrats.  Another great showing for the president.

REAGAN:  That wasn‘t a direct quote, though, from them, was it?  I don‘t think they actually said, We don‘t want to work with you and we don‘t want to change anything.


BUCHANAN:  Flavia, we had David Shuster.  He said, off the floor of the Senate and the House and - that he talked to Democrats and off the floor they were saying the president had delivered an excellent and very effective speech.

What‘s your take?


As a Philadelphian, I‘m hoping - sorry, Mike - but I‘m hoping the New England Patriots lay as quite a big an egg as Bush did tonight.

But I was listening to the conversation as I was getting ready to come on, everyone talking about what 20-somethings want in terms of privatization.  And as a 27 year old, I can say that I‘m not in favor of Social Security privatization.  Not only is Ron Reagan in terms of it not solving the problem, but I think there are lots of common sense solutions, one that Ron brought up.  Certainly a lot of Americans are in favor of having tax-free savings account separate from Social Security.  Or we can start paying back the money that President Bush raided from - the Social Security trust fund - to pay for his huge tax cuts and to pay for a lot of mismanagement of money.  Now we find $9 billion of it still missing in Iraq.

So I think that using that much political capital on Social Security - I really don‘t - I really don‘t see him getting the support, not only from the Senate - especially those Republicans that are up for re-election in 2005 - but I really think that a lot of people my age, even young people, had a lot of friends who lost their shirts in the dot-com era, saw what the stock market did, and they‘re very close to their grandparents, as I am, and know that their friends pay for their food and their property taxes and a lot of things with a guaranteed insurance that Social Security is instead of gambling is.


COLGAN:  I didn‘t think it was wise to use that much - I didn‘t think it was - and look, the other thing is....


BUCHANAN:  My understanding - I thought that the grandparents would be taken care of.


BUCHANAN:  How old are these grandparents?

COLGAN:  I know - I know, Pat - that‘s the part you were listening to because it applies to you.

But what I‘m saying, I‘ve seen how the program - I‘ve seen how the program has worked, and if it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it.  It‘s going to be solvent for quite some time, and there are ways to tinker without jeopardizing a program that has kept seniors out of abject poverty.

REAGAN:  Kellyanne Con - Kellyanne, you‘re an Eagles fan too.

CONWAY:  Yes, thanks for knowing that.  Oh boy, how did you know that?  I am indeed.  I‘m obsessed and..

REAGAN:  Oh, well, we know all here.

CONWAY:  And I‘m en route to the game.

But aside from that, I‘m going to come through all those clich’s, metaphors and double entendres to get back to what the president actually...

REAGAN:   And come up with some of your own?

CONWAY:  ...said - get back to what the president actually said, that people who are 55 years of age and older will be grandfathered in, if you will, from - you know, into Social Security.  They won‘t be touched.  And he - he actually even warned people - he anticipated the Flavias of the world by saying, Don‘t let other people mislead you and scare you because he full well knows that folks aren‘t going to - if they hate the messenger as much as they hate the president, they are impervious to this message.

REAGAN:  He‘s trying to scare us a little though too, isn‘t he?  I mean...

CONWAY:  No, he‘s not.

REAGAN:  ...he‘s using the word crisis, or has been at least.  So he‘s fear mongering just a bit himself, isn‘t he?


CONWAY:  Was Bob Kerrey wrong - was Democrat Senator Bob Kerrey wrong?  Was Bill Clinton wrong?  Were they all wrong that Social Security is in crisis mode, that we need to do something about it?

COLGAN:  Was Newt Gingrich wrong when he said it wasn‘t in a crisis?


CONWAY:  Flavia, if you don‘t want - Flavia, if you don‘t want control over your money - what really cracks me up is that, pro-choice, pro-control Democratic Party, left-wing party...

REAGAN:  Oh, man.

CONWAY:  ...is now saying, You should have no right to control your own finances - I mean, Willie Brown was on this program saying things tantamount to the fact that women who - who benefit from Social Security the most don‘t know how to invest their money...


REAGAN:  We have a famous Bostonian here who says that Bob Kerrey is right.

BARNICLE:  Yes.  The other day, Ron and I just agreed, right?

SILVER:  Absolutely.

BARNACLE:  “The Wall Street Journal” op-ed page piece the other day, Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska is absolutely right about Social Security: that it is - that it‘s not in critical condition.  It needs some tinkering; it needs to be looked at.  And Medicare, as you pointed out Pat, is as large a problem as Social Security. 

But if you talk to Senator Bob Kerrey or any other number of senators and congressmen, it‘s clear that no one in Washington, on either side of the aisle - or at least a majority - they‘re not going to have the courage to do anything with regard Social Security, no matter what.

BUCHANAN:  Well, it‘s just - this is why I think the president, even if he loses is going to win, because an awful lot of people know it is a serious problem.  We‘ve been talking about it for years.  We mentioned the books and everything.

Here‘s a president - and I thought he was responsible.  He identified five Democrats who put out ideas to solve it and says, All these are on the table.  The only thing he took off - and I think wisely - is the payroll talk.

You‘re right.  I get it.  Maybe they ought to cancel any cost-of-living increase and top it off for wealthy folks and stuff like that, and re-index it.  And that‘s - you know, that‘s going to affect me.  But if that‘s going to help save it, what is the matter with putting these things out?

SILVER:  But where does the confidence come from for Flavia and for Harry Reid, the minority leader, to say, No problem.

BUCHANAN:  But I think it‘s a big political issue, as it has been.  You know, it‘s...

SILVER:  It is a political issue.

BUCHANAN:  It‘s the gift that keeps on giving for the Democratic Party.

SILVER:  Where does the confidence come from?  No problem.

REAGAN:  Well, on a serious note...

COLGAN:  ...words in my mouth.  I did not say - I did not say that there wasn‘t a problem.  What I said was, by taking up suggestions like Robert Reich‘s, which Ron Reagan alluded to earlier - by coming up with ideas for tax-free savings accounts that are separate from Social Security, by paying back some of the money we took up - and another thing, of course, that President Bush didn‘t mention is that this program will cost $2 trillion in transition costs.  Two trillion dollars, adding to our deficit.  And who - and what countries, you know, have a third of our trade deficit right now?  People like China.

So while he‘s up there talking about spreading democracy and liberty around the world, he wants to add another $2 trillion to our deficit so that, you know, foreign countries can own us even more.  It‘s absurd.  And it‘s not going to solve the problem...


SILVER:  So there was a problem, and we disagree on what to do about the program.  That‘s all.  OK.

REAGAN:  On AFTER HOURS, we occasionally like to go to the phones, and we will do so now.  Mike Barnicle‘s favorite thing.


REAGAN:  And Tim from Rexford, New York, wants to talk less about political theater, as he puts it, and more about how to fix the country.

Tim, are you there?

CALLER:  I am, thanks.

REAGAN:  Well...

CALLER:  I just think that for a lot of people in the country, what President Bush said really doesn‘t resonate.  And, I mean, I live in upstate New York, where the economy is pretty terrible, lots of people are underemployed or unemployed, and we really need to focus on things like infrastructure.  You know, things like that.

REAGAN:  And did you hear anything in the president‘ speech that you really liked or agreed with?

CALLER:  I would probably say no.

REAGAN:  Don‘t feel an obligation to.

BUCHANAN:  Upper New York‘s been devastated by the loss of manufacturing...


BUCHANAN:  ...trade and the jobs going to China and Mexico and everywhere and out of New York State. They denuded the place of manufacturing virtually.

REAGAN: We have another caller.  Jeff from Madison, Wisconsin, on Social Security.

Jeff?  Jeff are you there?

CALLER:  Yes, I am here.  And how are you doing tonight, gentlemen?

REAGAN:  Good, good.

Jeff, what do you have to say about Social Security and the president‘s speech?

CALLER:  Well, I wanted to go back to something Mike Barnicle said to Mayor Brown.  He said something of, Are you afraid of the backlash?

And I was wondering the reverse.  Like, George Bush has picked out a few state that he‘s going to start going to tomorrow.  Correct - North Dakota....

REAGAN:  Right.

CALLER:  Well, I‘m just wondering, Remember Tom Daschle - I‘m just wondering if maybe there might be some kind of a backlash on the Social Security that Bush does have the upper hand, and what I heard from Harry Reid and Pelosi was they‘re drawing a line in the sand.  And I heard Bush say, Everything‘s on the table.  Give me something.

And I - I‘m just wondering, is this backlash going to happen?  And do you also think - I think - that George Bush has actually won the debate already. 

I love your show tonight.  You guys just talking about it - doesn‘t that show that George Bush has won the issue?  Thank you.

REAGAN:  Just us having a conversation about it gives him points?

BUCHANAN:  Look, he‘s tabled the issue.  There‘s no question...


BUCHANAN:  We‘re all talking about it here...


BUCHANAN:  And I think the point the caller made - when you start a dialogue, and we‘re all putting out ideas and somebody is saying, No, there‘s no problem, no we‘re not going to do anything, and no I don‘t want to talk about it - I don‘t know that you win something like that, you know?  And the Democratic Party - if all they give the president is no, no, no - you know, I think he‘d win this thing.

REAGAN:  And it‘s especially insane and it incenses me because it isn‘t in crisis.  Yes, long term, there‘s a problem.  But it could be easily fixed now with, as you said, a little bit of tinkering.

So let‘s come up with the tinkering then.

SILVER:  And you‘ve already discussed the numbers.  And when you‘ve discussed the numbers, how can you say it‘s not in crisis?  I mean, I missed the first hour, so I don‘t want to be repetitive.  But it was 41-1, it was 16-1, it was 3-1.  Right now we‘re going 2-1.  Thirty-five, 41 workers were supporting one....


SILVER:  And we know all the numbers...

REAGAN:  2018...


SILVER:  How can you just look at the numbers and not say, We‘re going to have a big problem.

My son was 26 years old today....


SILVER:  Not 50 years from now...


SILVER: ....that‘s not a problem?

REAGAN:  2018 we start dipping into the trust fund.

SILVER:  It‘s a problem, not a crisis.


SILVER:  We‘re getting toward crisis time.

BARNICLE:  You know what‘s a bigger crisis for the Democrats is that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi look like a 21st century remake of “Father Knows Best.”



REAGAN:  By the way, Kellyanne, Sam, thank you both for staying up AFTER HOURS with us tonight.  It‘s been fun.

And there‘s still more fun ahead, because we‘ll be taking more of your phone calls, 888-MSNBC-USA, when AFTER HOURS continues live from the nation‘s capital.  So don‘t go anywhere.



REAGAN:  This is AFTER HOURS.  I‘m Ron Reagan, along with Pat Buchanan and our all-star panel, Mike Barnicle, Flavia Colgan - sorry.  I‘ll get your name right eventually.  Hug Hewitt, and, of course, Ron Silver, without whom it just couldn‘t be AFTER HOURS.

Let‘s take a look at some of the e-mail coming in tonight.  You knew we had to do it, Mike.  Come on.

Todd from Louisiana says...

BARNICLE:  I don‘t have a computer.

REAGAN:  “Why can‘t the Democrats” - you always make fun of people, and then we get in trouble - “Why can‘t the Democrats understand that you can‘t get rid of terrorism unless you change the entire Middle East?  If you stop now, it‘s all been for nothing.”

So we have to pretty much change the entire Middle East, which is a tall order, I think we‘d agree.

BUCHANAN:  And which is a non sequitir.

BARNICLE:  Yes.  You have to change the control.  You have - you definitely have to change the culture.

I mean, one thing the president didn‘t mention tonight is the war on terrorism.  It‘s going to be with us for many, many years.


BARNICLE:  Long after his presidency...

BUCHANAN:  Where I disagree with the president though - and it‘s - the inaugural, State of the Union - he keeps saying - he said, “when freedom was under attack,” 9/11.

They didn‘t come over here to attack the Bill of Rights or freedom.  They came over here to attack us. Why?  Because we are over there.  They were attack - they want our presence and our policies out of the Middle East because they want to take over Saudi Arabia to begin with.  They‘ve got a clear, cold objective...


BUCHANAN:  Whether we got a Bill of Rights, they don‘t care about it.

SILVER:  Look at what Zarqawi said.  He talked about evil democracy and all like that.  People deciding for themselves, women being educated and liberating - the type of values that we represent: tolerance and pluralism and diversity and all like that is a dagger at the heart of a regime that they would like to sell.

BUCHANAN:  But that‘s the - but that‘s just it.  They want to throw over the Middle Eastern monarchs and all the others and take that over.  The reason they‘re attacking us is because we‘re - the same reason they attacked the Brits when they were there - get out.  We want to take this over.

SILVER:  And what kind of secular Arab regime...

BUCHANAN:  Menachem Begin blew up the King David Hotel.  Why?  Get the Brits out.  We want our own country.

This - I mean, bin Laden, quite frankly - bin Laden and Bush both want the regimes all over the Middle East dumped over.  Bin Laden thinks they‘re going his way, and he may be right about Saudi Arabia.  Bush thinks it‘s coming our way, and I think he‘s right about Iran.  That regime goes down.

But I‘ll tell you, you wipe them all out, all over in that region, and I don‘t think what‘s going to come up is democracy.

REAGAN:  That‘s right.  You‘re going to have Islamists governments in charge of the bomb and oil.

SILVER:  Well I think - you know what?  I side with the president on that because some people could read that as somewhat racist.  They could read it that there are people in the world - particularly in the Middle East or Arab cultures of Muslim cultures - that don‘t aspire to the same things that we aspire to.

BUCHANAN:  Listen, Ron, let me tell you where you‘re wrong.  Everybody aspires to that in a majority.  But the people who take over countries are minorities with guns.

Now, whatever you say about the Iraqis - I have no use for the insurgents.  When you got guys who are willing to do suicide bombs daily, they are willing to fight and die to get us out of here.

Now, what we need is we need Iraqis with the same kind of courage and perseverance and willingness to fight.  Otherwise, the bad guys are going to win.  Not that they‘re a majority...

SILVER:  You know, I would suggest to you, Pat, on Sunday we saw men, women and children...

BUCHANAN:  Voting.

SILVER: ...that martyred themselves in a way to go out to vote.  They went to a place that was bombed so they can cast a vote.

BUCHANAN:  They have shown me with votes.  They have shown me with vote.  Are they willing - let‘s get Hugh Hewitt in here.  I know he disagrees with me on this.

They have shown me would vote for freedom.  But, as the president said - go ahead, Hugh.

HEWITT:  Yes, Pat, the Ukraine and Iraq share in common with Afghanistan a human spirit that embraces the desire to rule themselves.

I am not a pessimist like you.  Ron is absolutely right.  The president is right, and he‘s put it out there.  He has confidence in individual human beings fighting for the freedom - just like Americans fought for 240 years ago, just like Europe fought back against the Nazis in the 40s, just like Afghanistan and the Iraq are seizing freedom.  And he served notice tonight on the Syrians and the Iranians, and he spoke directly to the Iranian people that freedom is on the march there as well. 

And I just simply can‘t agree with you that I‘m a pessimist about this sort of thing because we‘ve seen it demonstrated in the face of extraordinary adversity.  And tonight, when Sergeant Norwood‘s parents, who embraced the Iraqi woman - I think that cheering that went up in the Congress was resonating across the United States, cheering and understanding the sacrifice that had been made, but honoring the fact that these people are brave and they want to be free.

REAGAN:  Flavia, you‘ve been left out here.  Can you - do you want to jump in real quick?  We only have a little time.  Flavia?

COLGAN:  No, I mean, I think it would - yes, I think it would be churlish, obviously, to not applaud the women like we saw at the State of the Union, who obviously showed courage, as well as our men and women in uniform over there.

But I think that Pat brings up a lot of points - I‘m always excited on the rare occasions I get to agree with him.

REAGAN:  Me too.

COLGAN:  I think that we have to look back...

BUCHANAN:  It always concerns me, Flavia.

COLGAN:  And it concerns me too, Pat.  Trust me.

But we have to look back - I mean, we have to look back at the sobering experience of Mosul, of Fallujah, the times where we thought the Iraqi police were ready.  And when - and when it came to it, you know, a lot of them joined the insurgency or couldn‘t do it.

Look, they went out and voted.  They were able to keep the security problem under some control.  But it was with a complete lockdown. It - you know, there was no traffic on the streets.  And we have to look at the other issues still plaguing Iraq.  They were counting ballots by candlelight.  There is huge unemployment.  There‘s no electricity.  And I...

BUCHANAN:  I think that‘s what we‘re - that‘s it.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Flavia, thanks very much.  We got your view there.

Hugh Hewitt, I hope your optimism is correct. 

Thank you both for being with us tonight.

Some final thoughts right after this.


REAGAN:  Well, that just about wraps it up here for us, AFTER HOURS.  I want to thank my estimable co-host, Pat Buchanan.

BUCHANAN:  Brought in late from the bullpen.

REAGAN:  That‘s right.

And, of course...

BARNICLE:  The old right hand.

REAGAN:  Mike Barnicle and Ron Silver.

Good night, everybody.



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