THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, LANNY DAVIS,
MAJOR GARRETT AND CHRISTINA HOFF SOMMERS
TAPED WEDNESDAY, JULY 28, 1999
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF (DATE)
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Truth or consequences? As the second millennium winds down, so also, lamentably, are many of our cherished values. Among them is truth. By common estimate, truth today is in short supply. Lying is fashionable. Truth reaches into every corner of our lives, and, perhaps most importantly, into academe, the classroom, the supposed sanctuary of truth. It, too, is abandoning intellectual honesty or truth as well.
Take the case of Rigoberta Menchu'. "My name is Rigoberta Menchu'. I am 23 years old. This is my testimony. My personal experience is the reality of a whole people." So begins Rigoberta Menchu''s heartbreaking 1983 autobiography, "I, Rigoberta Menchu.'" Menchu' tells the story of the struggle between Guatemala's Mayan descendants and the oppressive, light-skinned Guatemalan landowners. She fills her narrative with gut-wrenching tales of starvation, cruelty and murder at the hands of the Guatemalan military.
But there is one problem with Menchu''s story; it is a lie. This past January, anthropologist David Stoll (sp) demonstrated beyond question that Menchu's account is built on an astounding number of lies. In his 336-page study, Rigoberta Menchu' and the Story of all Poor Guatemalans," he exposes that fiction. In one particularly moving passage, Menchu' describes how one of her brothers was tortured, mutilated, doused with gasoline and set ablaze before her very eyes, along with 23 other prisoners. A lie. The immolation never occurred.
Menchu' says another brother died of malnutrition when she was only 10 years old. Another lie. That second brother is alive and well in Guatemala today. Menchu' even duped the Nobel Prize committee. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
But the most disturbing aspect of the Menchu' scandal is not her lying or the perversion of the Nobel Prize; it is the criticism that academia has unleashed on David Stoll (sp) for exposing her lies. Quote: "Stoll's (sp) book is an attempt to discredit one of the only spokespersons of Guatemala's indigenous movement," unquote. So says Joanna Rappaport (sp), president of the Society for Latin American Anthropology.
Here's another Stoll (sp) critic. "Even if she didn't watch her little brother being murdered, the military did murder people in Guatemala. Whether her book is true or not, I don't care. We should teach our students about the brutality of the Guatemalan Army and the U.S. financing of it." That's Wellesley College professor Marjorie Aggiston (ph).
And here's a third critic who castigates Stoll (sp) -- Stoll the truth-teller -- and exonerates Menchu' -- the liar. "We have a higher standard of truth for poor people, like Rigoberta Menchu'."
Question: Is Menchu''s book acceptable as a modern mythology of Guatemala, meaning although it is fiction, it reveals a deeper truth?
I ask you, Major Garrett.
MR. GARRETT: Not at all, John. The deeper truth was evident at the time of her book. It didn't need to be enlarged through mythology. She is representative of people who were murdered by the Guatemalan Army in part of an area that was beset by civil war. That did not need to be enlarged into a myth.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Christina?
MS. SOMMERS: Well, there's not a deeper truth and higher truth; there's truth and untruth. And "I Rigoberta Menchu'" is full of untruths. But there are many professors and high school teachers who use this book. It's one of the most commonly assigned books in the curriculum. And knowing the inaccuracies, they continue to use it, and this is shameful, because professors have got to be concerned with truth, reason and logic, and not politically correct fabrications.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would this kind of fabrication be called "propaganda" in an earlier time, and can it be called propaganda, classic Marxist propaganda, which was unleashed all throughout Central America during the Communist penetration in the '80s?
MR. BLANKLEY: You know, I mean, you don't have to start in the '80s. The Marxist concept -- there's no enemies to the left -- that, as Jean-Paul Sartre argued, you're not showing sufficient commitment to the cause if you let the truth get in the way of defending Stalinism. So, I mean, this is an old, old argument. It started with Nietzscheism and moral relativism, and this is simply the latest chapter.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lanny, what are your thoughts about Rigoberta?
MR. DAVIS: I think it's a disgrace that any academic could say it doesn't matter whether it's true. And I don't think it's a possible defense that there are deeper meanings to what's she described. If she wants to write fiction, let her write fiction. But of course it shouldn't be taught in schools, if it's a lie.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But fiction can, at the same time, reveal a deeper truth, can it not?
MR. DAVIS: Yes. Call it fiction.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But fiction masquerading as truth is propaganda.
MR. DAVIS: Correct. And it's got to be called fiction or it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Major?
MR. GARRETT: Masquerading as truth. But also part of a larger ideological aim, which is what the Marxist left wanted this to become, and in fact it became when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ahead of Nelson Mandela, for goodness sake.
MR. DAVIS: Before we get too carried away about calling propaganda just on the left, I think it also is similar on the right and in the middle. Propaganda and lies occur across the spectrum.
MS. SOMMERS: Not in a university, Lanny! Not in a university!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Tony.
MR. DAVIS: Clearly, in any university there are right-wing and left-wing people who lie.
MR. BLANKLEY: Lanny, if you look at the people who are defending deconstructionism, the whole set of people who argue against reality, and that's now a respected line of academic study, they're almost exclusively on the left. The right, which tends towards the religious, argue for absolute truth and can be accused of having divisions between of being black and white, but it's the right that argues for truth and lies and it's the left that argues for ambiguity and relativity.
MR. DAVIS: I'm not ideological on this subject. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have lied just as people on the left have lied. I think you diminish your argument -- (inaudible).
MR. BLANKLEY : No, they don't lie as a matter of the philosophy of the right. The left has a philosophy of misleading for the larger truth.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is true in the sciences, is it not? How many environment studies have you seen that have had to have been debunked that originated in colleges from environmental causists? Not -- I'm not saying that they're leftists, nor are you necessarily leftist, but they're causists and they're lumped primarily on the left side of the spectrum, nonetheless, are they not? (Laughter.)
MR. DAVIS: I don't think you can prove they're more on any side or the other.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look at this nonsense. Look at the nonsensical and, I think, pernicious if not poisonous exaggeration with regard to Thomas Jefferson of late with the alleged DNA when they have no DNA from any direct line from Thomas Jefferson.
MR. DAVIS: Again, I think we diminish a serious topic by trying to make an ideological argument out of it. Lies are lies on the right and the left.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let us take comfort from this poll which describes how the public wants the truth. The question is put, "It is acceptable if a public official lies as long as their overall motives are good." Agree, 14 percent. Disagree, 82 percent. Does that make you feel uneasy, Lanny?
MR. DAVIS: It makes me feel uneasy that anyone would justify a lie for any reason.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Academic lying. Now hear this: "This embarrassing episode is only the latest instance of epidemic lying in the Ivory Tower. From afrocentric claims of Cleopatra's being black to phony feminist statistics on rape, anorexia, and discriminatory treatment of girls, academia has in recent years been beset by revelations of fraudulent facts and spurious studies. University instructors who profess to devote their lives to the uncovering of truth and the promotion of critical thinking tolerate and even promote these untruths."
So says analyst Kenneth Lee (sp). Lee (sp) is quoted in American Enterprise magazine, which featured a full-length analysis on truth in its summer issue. Question: Is Lee (sp) exaggerating when he says that epidemic lying pervades higher education, Christina Hoff Sommers?
MS. SOMMERS: He's really not, and I'm sorry to say this as someone from the university, as a philosophy professor. But I have to report, in the sciences there are high levels of objectivity and probity. But in the humanities, there is egregiously false information which is routinely passed along to students, either in the form -- in women's studies, for examples, just false statistics, advocacy research -- or, in the humanities and in the social sciences --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stemming from political correctness?
MS. SOMMERS: Yes, and I always thought it was a sacred commandment of college teaching that you would give both sides of the argument. But we have many professors who use the classroom as a forum for their own point of view.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If a conservative had written a supposedly nonfiction account of politically charged events which later turned out to be lies -- I address this to you, Lanny -- would any academic rise to that conservative author's defense?
MR. DAVIS: They'd better denounce lying. If it's a conservative lying or a liberal lying, they'd better do that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see the import of my question, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A conservative -- if a conservative instead of a Roberta (sic) -- a Rigoberta Menchu were to have contrived a supposedly nonfiction account of politically charged events --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, now look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which later turned out to be lies, would any academic rise to the defense of that phony author?
MR. BLANKLEY: Of course not, because the academics are overwhelmingly of the left -- (laughter) -- and they're pushing their -- I mean, Lanny, you don't actually disagree with that, do you?
MR. DAVIS: I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You disagreed earlier in the program.
MR. DAVIS: I disagree with the worldwide conspiracy, whether you say it or whether my side --
MR. GARRETT: It's not a -- it's a predilection, Lanny; it's not a conspiracy --
MR. DAVIS: There are people on the right and there are people on the left who lie in academics, and you want to make it exclusively the left.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MR. GARRETT: You can't give us one example of a right-wing --
MS. SOMMERS: Lanny's in denial. Let's just move on. (Laughter.)
MR. DAVIS: (Inaudible due to cross talk.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: If intellectual honesty or truth-seeking and truth-telling is the cornerstone of true education, is it fair to say that the epidemic lying in higher education today means that American universities are deeply anti-intellectual? I ask you, Major.
MR. GARRETT: They're anti-intellectual. They're pro-leftist. And that's why more and more Americans are sending their kids to smaller universities, where they have a better idea of what the faculty is really all about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Christina?
MS. SOMMERS: Yeah, there's -- again, not to overstate it, but in the humanities there is a serious problem of politicized scholarship, of students not hearing both sides of the argument, and professors using the classroom as a forum for politics. It's very serious in English departments, history departments, philosophy departments, and women's studies is simply completely anti-intellectual by now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you notice how those conservatives largely who are -- who punch holes in the global warming excesses are ridiculed by academia today?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Professor Singer (sp) particularly, who's been writing a lot of very good pieces.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the answer to my question?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. The answer is yes.
But let me point out that somebody once observed that these people who believe in the relativity of truth would be hypocrites if they said that when they're flying in an airplane at 30,000 feet, because the absolute truth of how an airplane flies has to be accepted.
MS. SOMMERS: (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lanny?
MR. DAVIS: There is now a vast left-wing conspiracy that this -- my fine colleagues are propagating here. And I see a vast conspiracy of people who ignore the importance of telling the truth on the left and the right, and if I could hear criticism from my colleagues about the Christian right and their proselytizing absent the truth, I would then think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to my question is --
MR. DAVIS: -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- then you're less than honest.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the answer to my question is because there is a lot of lying in academic higher education, there's a lot of anti-intellectualism.
When we come back, jury nullification: Is it permissible for jurors to willfully ignore the law and the facts in a civil or criminal trial because of racial or political motivation?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Courtroom lying.
JURY FOREMAN (O.J. Simpson murder trial): (From videotape.) We the jury in the above-entitled action, find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For a year and a half, Americans watched spellbound. From the white Bronco chase to the cliffhanger verdict, the O.J. trial was a media circus like no other. Entire cable networks were spawned by that Superbowl of lawyer punditry. A whole class of legal analysts sprouted up and then vanished, only to be resurrected by last year's Clinton impeachment debacle.
But the O.J. trial deeply scarred the American legal system. When Johnnie Cochran transformed the trial from a murder case to a forum on racism, millions of people saw the truth take second place to racial politics. An overwhelming majority, 72 percent of the American people, believe that the court was wrong, that O.J. was guilty.
The precedence-making of the trial was not lost on American lawyers. Incredibly, some welcomed it. Paul Butler, a George Washington University law professor, recommends that what he sees as a racist court system should be fixed by jury manipulation, often called jury nullification, quote: "The black juror ought to use her power to emancipate the brother, even if he is absolutely 100 percent guilty," unquote.
It is a dangerous and poisonous trend, many believe. "What happens in law schools unfortunately affects the rest of society," so says author and legal analyst Max Booth (sp).
Question: How widespread and how worrisome is jury nullification, Lanny Davis?
MR. DAVIS: It is worrisome. I don't think it's widespread.
That Professor Butler ought to be ashamed of himself. In the civil rights movement, there were days when blacks were being lynched because his mentality was operating with white juries. And it's a disgusting statement by any academic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, do you have reason to believe, particularly on the basis of James Rose (sp), an excellent piece some years ago, a couple of years ago in the New Republic, that law schools are encouraging, to some extent, jury nullification as a legitimate -- not only a maneuver, but a philosophy of jurisprudence?
MR. BLANKLEY: There is some of that going on. I think, to make a slightly broader point and maybe a surprising one, the jury is one of the pillars of democracy, not because it's always right but because it's representative of the people.
Now, in these cases you have cited, there is a very ugly piece of -- the reality of the people or some segment of the people. But the ability of a jury to sometimes go over the law -- I had one of the last prosecutions for awhile in Southern California of simple marijuana possession in the early '70s because middle-class juries wouldn't convict middle-class kids and send them to jail. So there is this role that traditionally has been there of nullifying for reasons of --
MR. DAVIS: That's dangerous, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: But it's a very dangerous slope, but it's not new, it's been there for a long time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could the Justice Department prosecute jurors who demonstrably do nullify?
MR. BLANKLEY: Prosecute them?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Prosecute them, yes, on behalf of the victims in criminal cases.
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think so --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that inconceivable?
MR. BLANKLEY: -- unless they've been tampered with outside of the jury. A lawyer's argument, however scurrilous, I don't think would be grounds for a prosecution of either the lawyer or the jurors, not under existing law.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But if they willfully ignore law and fact to reach a conclusion --
MR. DAVIS: No.
MR. BLANKLEY: No. But if --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- don't you think a bit of realism ought to be injected into the jury system today?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. No. I think that what you need is a much better educational system so that the pool of jurors are not easily tainted by this kind of activity.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what do we do, we live with the O.J. cancer in our midst, is that what we do?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. But in forums like this, and many others, you speak out against it. But no, I don't think you can use a bludgeon as to the jury system.
MR. GARRETT: John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Major?
MR. GARRETT: There's a broader context to this O.J. poison you just referred to. Picking up on Lanny Davis' case, I mean, remember the case of the three civil rights workers slain in Mississippi in 1964. A white Mississippi jury, looking at all the facts of that case, nullified the verdict and found them innocent, not guilty. What happened? Federal civil charges were brought against them and they were then convicted federally.
What happened to O.J.? He was found to be guilty in a civil procedure. Oftentimes civil procedures are the remedies for obvious cases in a criminal context where a jury has nullified the truth.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Christina?
MS. SOMMERS: I still think we are suffering from the -- you know, aftereffects of that case. This was a direct attack at the heart of our legal system, and for many people, it was the most-watched case in history. For them it was just evidence that the American legal system doesn't work. Those lawyers, Johnnie Cochran and F. Lee Bailey, they made a mockery of our system, they exploited a vulnerability --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And left us with a grisly collective recollection.
Exit: On a judicial damage scale of zero to 10, zero meaning zero damage to the justice system, 10 meaning metaphysical damage, catastrophic, "Apocalypse Now" damage, how much damage does jury nullification do to the justice system?
MR. GARRETT: In its purest form? Ten -- the worst.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Christina?
MS. SOMMERS: Well, it depends on how much it's practiced. I would say at this point it's a three or a four.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When it is practiced, how much damage is it?
MS. SOMMERS: Oh, when it's -- it's a 10.
MR. BLANKLEY: When it's practiced, it nullifies the law and it's a 10. But in fact, it's about a .5 right now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. DAVIS: Yes, I agree. It's very, very rare, enough though when it happens, it's a 10. It's terrible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's poisonous, and when it happens, it's a 10.
Issue three: Clintonian lying.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) I did not have sexual relations with that woman -- Ms. Lewinsky.
(Separate video clip) Indeed, I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was the lie of the decade, maybe the lie of the century. Despite months of spin, legal hair-splitting, redefinition, weasel-wording, microscopic word parsing, the American people knew it was a lie. And the Senate, despite their historic vote, knew it was a lie. Even the courts know it was a lie. They slapped Clinton with a contempt of court citation.
And, like most lies, this one did damage; real damage. For 13 months the nation was immobilized by the Lewinsky saga, and the collateral damage is even worse. The presidency was tarnished, the American people were given another reason to distrust their politicians and the Congress became bitterly divided. And children, when they lie, use the president as an excuse.
President Clinton, his wife and his staff, played the victim to the hilt, blaming the "vast right wing conspiracy," they attacked Starr, the media, Republicans and anyone who dared condemn Clinton. This rabid onslaught ushered in an unprecedented era of bitter partisanship and seriously damaged the relationship between Congress and the president.
Question: Is Clinton's conduct defensible on the grounds that he did not lie, he just has his own private language when it comes to the meaning of phrases like "sexual relations"? Christina Hoff Sommers?
MS. SOMMERS: Well, I'm reminded of the famous observation of Sir Walter Scott, "O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." I mean, this was just an incredible example of the complexities of fabrication and deception. And what it did to his life and his family's life -- I mean, it's an egregious example of the harms of lies. This isn't a personal foible; this was a very serious transgression.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we conclude that deceit is a lie and that Clinton is a deceiver, private language or not? Would you not say, Major?
MR. GARRETT: I would say in this case he's clearly a deceiver and in other cases, and with policy implications. I mean, the president has used, on repeated occasions, exaggerated language to spin policy debates. And it will be interesting now, in the aftermath of the Lewinsky scandal, to see how much effect those types of deceptions have on the current political debate. We'll see how it plays out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about the factor of trust? To what extent has Clinton diminished trust in everything he says and does, since all of this transpired over such a long period?
MR. : Well, I mean, clearly --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not the office, but Clinton himself.
MR. : Yeah, I know. Clearly, for Clinton himself, he does not have much credibility either with reporters or members of the public. You see his polling numbers going down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-three percent.
MR. : Negative.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Personal.
MR. : But on the point of is deception a lie, no it's not. I think we need to keep gradations. Clinton has made --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I said deceit is a lie.
MR. : Yeah. Deceit is not a lie. Deceit is deceit. It's misleading, intended to misunderstand, but it's something other than a lie.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You sound like Lanny Davis, for God's sake.
MR. : No, I -- I believe in the English language.
MR. DAVIS: I'll speak for myself --
MR. : Clinton has lied. He's also separately -- acts of deceit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got 10 seconds.
MR. DAVIS: Look, I didn't defend President Clinton on his personal behavior. I share the views of a majority of the American people that his performance in office, he is trusted and supported on performance. On a personal level, his conduct was indefensible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Major.
MR. GARRETT: Drought plus plunging commodity prices equals $10 billion in farm aid. The time, this fall.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Christina.
MS. SOMMERS: In the new millennium, we're going to begin to repair the hole in the moral ozone. More commitment to integrity, honor, character.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Hillary is going to feel compelled to apologize for Bill Clinton's lies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lanny.
MR. DAVIS: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defeats Giuliani, not only because she's good, but because he's so-o-o-o nasty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Catholic swing vote will be more critical to the 2000 presidential election than gender, age or race. And it will elect G.W. Bush.
That doesn't disappoint you, does it, Lanny?
MR. DAVIS: It does.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It does? You know that it's going to be a close race in New York.