THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
ELEANOR CLIFT, JOHN FUND, RICH LOWRY
AND MORT ZUCKERMAN
TAPED FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15, 1999
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 16-17, 1999
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one -- Washington's nuclear reaction.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Yesterday, hardline Republicans irresponsibly forced a vote against the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This was partisan politics of the worst kind, because it was so blatant and because of the risks it poses to the safety of the American people and the world.
SENATOR TRENT LOTT (R-MS), Senate Majority Leader: (From videotape.) I don't want this to become, you know, a situation where we have talk about vendettas and blatant politics. They can't accuse me of that. I took the heat, I stood in the well of the Senate and I did what I thought was right on the chemical weapons treaty. I supported it and it passed. And I did what I thought was right yesterday, too.
And I thought this treaty should be defeated. It was not about President Clinton. It wasn't about Trent Lott. It was about my country and about my children and about the dangers involved, the risks involved. So I reject any suggestion of reckless partisanship. If there's any partisanship, it's on the other side.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For the first time in 80 years, the U.S. Senate rejected a treaty brought before it by the commander-in-chief, the president of the United States. And it was a massive rejection -- 67 votes needed, Clinton got 48; not even a simple majority. Clinton is furious and in a press conference Thursday, launched an open and searing partisan attack.
But Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott gave no quarter.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (From videotape.) The Senate majority has turned its back on 50 years of American leadership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. They are betting our children's future on the reckless proposition that we can go it alone; that at the height of our power and prosperity, we should bury our heads in the sand behind a wall.
SENATOR LOTT: (From videotape.) Nobody can be an isolationist in this world. It's physically impossible. It's irrational; and we're not. But also, we're not a rubber stamp. We're not a rubber stamp for the president of the United States on a treaty we think is flawed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Trent Lott right? Is the treaty so flawed that it deserved the massive rejection, repudiation, that it got? John Fund.
MR. FUND: John, if Bill Clinton had gotten half as mad with the Chinese as he did with the Republicans about their nuclear proliferation to Iran and Pakistan and their espionage of our nuclear secrets, maybe we'd get somewhere. The joke is now that we don't have to test our nuclear weapons -- we can just ask the Chinese how they're doing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, look, I think people of good will can disagree whether the lack of 100 percent verification built into this treaty was worth giving up or whether the signals that it sends in terms of putting a brake on nuclear proliferation were worth getting.
But that isn't what this was about. The Senate rejected the president's plea to have this sent -- have this vote held over, and Lott refused to allow the Senate to delay the treaty, which would have saved this country embarrassment. And it is the same behavior that the Republican leadership exercised in refusing to allow a third way in impeachment; they wouldn't allow a censure vote.
And it's going to come back. It's suicide politically because the country supports a test-ban; it is wildly popular --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it depends how --
MS. CLIFT: -- just like a lot of other things they are ignoring.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the question is put.
Now, Rich Lowry, do you want to gloss anything Eleanor said?
MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.) Of course, I do, John. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you want to begin?
MR. LOWRY: Well, first of all, you had five or six former defense secretaries saying this thing was a bad idea, then Henry Kissinger saying this thing was a bad idea. You had Richard Lugar, an arms-control advocate, saying this was a bad idea. And that's why you had almost all the Senate Republicans, moderates included, voting against this.
And if Republicans were playing politics with this, they would have gone with the polls, which shows superficial support of about 70 percent on this. They didn't do that, they voted on the merits, and that's why they rejected.
And if the Democrats didn't want to vote on it, they shouldn't have, in September, been demanding a vote on the Senate floor. They wanted to be thrown in this brier patch, and they got it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To pick up what Rich said, before I turn to you, Morton -- we are about to hang on your words -- this is the list of anti-treaty experts that was produced by the United States Senate Republicans: Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger, Carlucci, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Schlesinger; chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Moorer and Vessey; and CIA directors, both Democrats, Woolsey and Deutch. That's the list that Mr. Lowry is referring.
I think you must agree that it's a rather impressive list of very knowledgeable gentlemen, would you not, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think they are all very knowledgeable. But if you want to start putting together lists there are -- the five previous chairmen of the Joint Chiefs favored the treaty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they favored this go-around. But when they testified at the time the treaty was signed, they took an entirely different view. In other words, there was a little corralling going on.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know, we all learn over time, John. I mean, I know it's happened you; it's occasionally happened with me. I do think that if you thinking for example today -- but trying to control Iraq's nuclear proliferation -- our position is weakened. If you want to get the support of the allies to help contain Iran -- you are talking about Russia and Europe -- our position is weakened.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Richard. Go ahead.
MR. LOWRY: Mort, you think a piece of paper is going to have any influence whatsoever on Iran or Iraq or North Korea? It's absolute nonsense.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No --
MR. LOWRY: They will do what they want --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- it is not Iran and Iraq that I hope to influence; it's Russia and Europe, all of whom favor this treaty, because they are the ones supplying Iran.
MR. LOWRY: You are scared of France --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is also the -- yes, I am afraid that France will not have much less of an inhibition to help Iraq, which is exactly what they have been doing in the past and which we have managed --
MS. CLIFT: Well, the gentlemen that you all listed did not favor outright killing of the treaty.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: They wanted to postpone the vote. And Mr. Lott refused to allow any reservations to be attached to the treaty, as he did with the chemical treaty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we are going to go into that in a moment -- the process in a moment.
MS. CLIFT: So this was a threat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from John.
MR. FUND: The Chinese have been violating the proliferation agreements they have signed for a long time, along with their friends the North Koreans; namely, the list of measures that we have taken to corral them. They have broken agreements, Mort. You cannot trust these people in a post-Cold War world.
MS. CLIFT: But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all -- let me get --
MS. CLIFT: -- this treaty --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get in here, please! I'm not here just to broker your wonderful opinions! (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: Oh yes you are, John! (Laughs.) (More laughter.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: (Laughs.) We are really surprised!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to explain to our audience what is at stake here. What is at stake is deterrence.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We must preserve deterrence in order to have anything that we can call either equilibrium or, hopefully, peace.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, deterrence would be impaired because the aging of the stockpile -- the tritium, the split-second concurrence that has to occur.
MR. LOWRY: That's absolutely right. That's absolutely right, John. And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And in addition to that, we have to have people who know how to use this kind of sensitive, incredibly sensitive, super-powered bomb. That means that computers can't compute -- computers can't even handle it today. And computers, even if they could handle it, you would still have to have the live-shot testing. All six of the laboratories directors, the nuclear laboratory directors, said what I have just said now; if you don't have deterrence, then you don't have any kind of umbrella that we provide for the free world.
MS. CLIFT: Nobody --
MR. LOWRY: This treaty also will make it impossible to modernize our arsenal, and our nuclear arsenal is the greatest guarantor of peace and stability around the world. This thing is a relic of the nuclear freeze --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me! Not a single critic of this treat has stood up and said let's begin testing. Nobody has the courage to do that. Nobody --
MR. LOWRY: Well, I'll say it. We should be willing to test.
MS. CLIFT: Well, you don't have a vote, Mr. Lowry.
MR. LOWRY: Eventually we'll have to test again.
MS. CLIFT: Secondly, all this treaty did would codify what we are already doing, that is following a moratorium. And it would oblige other countries around the world to follow it --
MR. FUND: Oh, Eleanor! How?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no enforcement, no verification, and it's limited.
MS. CLIFT: It has -- it has verification built in, including intrusive teams that would go into the countries. And if a signatory --
MR. LOWRY: But when we did that with Iraq, it didn't work.
MS. CLIFT: If a signatory failed, then the other signatories could cut off trade. You had some proof. This way you have nothing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MR. LOWRY: (Can we do that ?) with China? No, of course not. It's impossible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. GOP rigs the process. Clinton accused the Republicans of unfairly delaying the treaty for months and pushing it forward without time for proper hearings. Clinton did not mention that Congress was immobilized by the Lewinsky-Clinton House impeachment and Senate trial, a 13-month ugly saga.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Until we were given eight or 10 days notice, we had no earthly idea there would ever be hearings, much less a vote on this. This whole thing came as a complete surprise to us.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS): (From videotape.) So when it's argued that this was precipitous, they didn't know it was coming, they didn't have enough time, there wasn't enough hearings, that is all baloney!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: So whom do you believe, Clinton or Lott?
MR. LOWRY: Surprise, surprise, Clinton is lying on this one. You had Byron Dorgan on the floor agitating day after day --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is he?
MR. LOWRY: The senator -- the Democratic senator from North Dakota -- day after day, arguing that this thing had to come to a vote, had to come to a vote. Republicans brought it to a vote, and Democrats didn't want to vote just because they were going to lose. Nothing in the Constitution says that the Senate must ratify every treaty that comes before it.
MS. CLIFT: They hurried -- they hurried up the vote --
MR. FUND: Twenty-one treaties --
MS. CLIFT: -- they didn't allow discussion and they didn't allow any reservations or amendments to be brought.
MR. FUND: Eleanor -- Eleanor --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me!
MR. FUND: We've had 21 treaties rejected by the U.S. Senate. There's no third way. The Senate, every 10 years, has normally rejected a treaty. It's not been a national security treaty for the last couple of generations --
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. FUND: -- because of the cold war. The cold war is over.
MS. CLIFT: No, John Fund, there is a third way.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The cold war may be over, but -- Look, on the --
MS. CLIFT: I think I'll say it today. If George W. Bush is elected --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?
MS. CLIFT: -- he will bring this treaty up. This treaty will get ratified.
MR. FUND: He opposed treaty.
MS. CLIFT: He won't when he's president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: On the politics of a hearing on the treaty, the Democrats were wrong and so were the Republicans. The Democrats clearly -- the senator may have brought that up over and over again, but nobody expected Lott to do what he did. In fact --
MR. LOWRY: You don't expect them to take him at his word?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, no, no, no. Come on. You know what happened, and that is they trapped -- they -- nobody expected them to go for an up-or-down vote without a lot more hearings.
MR. LOWRY: Mort, Republicans thought the treaty was bad on the merits, so they're perfectly within their rights to vote it down.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We're not saying that they aren't within their rights --
MR. LOWRY: There's nothing inherently wrong with Democrats losing.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- because if it was done procedurally correctly. But it did not give enough time for this treaty, and it's a very important treaty, to be properly aired in the Senate --
MR. FUND: (Inaudible) -- two years ago! Two years ago!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They couldn't get it going two years ago. That's exactly the problem on the Republican side.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort -- Mort --
MR. FUND: (Inaudible) -- covering of scandal --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to cool you off, Mort --
MR. FUND: -- because there's no trust anymore.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but I'm not sure this question will.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Change of subject, before we go to the exit question on this important issue. The stock market went down about 650 points this week.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we heading into a recession? And bear in mind that the employment figures are hidden in all those statistics, but they're considerably lower than they had been.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, and the retail sales were down. They were up only one-tenth of 1 percent. So I do think -- first place, the stock market, as we say, has predicted 17 of the last five recessions. Last year, we had a bigger drop in the stock market in September; we had no recession that came out of it. So it's not necessarily a predictor of what is going to happen economically.
But I do believe that the economy is slowing and that the economy is softening. I don't think this means by any means that we're heading in for a recession. I think our growth rate will slow, but we've been growing at a maximum of 4 percent per year. We may grow at 3 or 2.5 percent; that's still a very good level of growth, given where we are in our economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. So you're not going to head back to New York and jump off a ledge, right?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. (Laughter.) I want you to know, I'm going to make sure that all of your speculative stocks do well, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) I want to ask whether anyone else differs, and does anyone think we're heading into a recession?
I ask you, Fund.
MR. FUND: A squishy landing. The business cycle has not been repealed. We will have a softer economy next year, I agree with Mort.
MS. CLIFT: Not enough to defeat Al Gore, John, which is what you're getting at.
(Cross talk, groans, laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's get to the exit on the main event. On a profile scale of zero to 10, zero meaning zero profile, flat as a pancake, 10 meaning a metaphysical profile -- the Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur on top of the Eiffel Tower -- (laughter) -- how much profile will this issue, the nuclear test ban treaty, have in the upcoming presidential election 13 months from now?
MR. FUND: Only a two, because it will simply mean that Bill Clinton will not have any legacy to build on for Al Gore to capitalize on.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: In an array of issues that matter particularly to women, the test ban will go in with campaign finance reform, education, health care -- I'll give it a 6.5.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. LOWRY: I think it's a goose egg. I don't think anyone will really care about this a year from now. We're lucky to be hearing about it two weeks from now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think the issue will not be that issue, but if the issue becomes --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tell me what the issue would be, Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: If the issue gets to be presented as the Republican Party being taken over by an extreme wing of the Republican Party, that will hurt the Republicans. I don't think that will happen. I don't think people will pay much attention to any foreign-policy issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This issue will factor itself out because the Republicans are going to present the reasons for their vote. And it will be seen that the Democrats are tearing up our national security. Got it?
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back: Is the Clinton doctrine actually what is spreading the bomb?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Clinton's nuclear arms race.
When he took office seven years ago, William Clinton introduced a radical new experiment in U.S. foreign policy: Clinton invoked the right of the United States and its allies, sometimes with U.N. sanctions, sometimes with NATO alone, to use military force against countries or political movements which failed to meet U.S. human-rights standards. This is a radical departure from a centuries-old practice of respecting the sovereignty of nations over their own domestic affairs.
Under the Clinton doctrine, U.S. troops have been sent to Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo especially, and most recently East Timor. By justifying military intervention on a universal moral criterion such as human rights, the Clinton doctrine extends the U.S. sphere of influence globally.
In reaction, countries which do not subscribe to Mr. Clinton's expansionist view of the U.S. right to intervene, have moved to shield themselves from superpower interference. How can a country shield itself from the U.S. military? Answer, the bomb.
Around the globe, nuclear powers and would-be nuclear powers, are beefing up their arsenals:
Item: China has begun an aggressive air, land and sea military buildup to thoroughly modernize its nuclear missile attack capability during Mr. Clinton's watch.
Item: Russia is building a new nuclear missile submarine fleet, despite its economic weakness.
Item: India has flexed its nuclear muscle, prompting a response in kind from Pakistan, also under Mr. Clinton's watch but unobserved by the CIA.
Item: North Korea is modernizing and testing its long-range missiles.
Item: Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya are all seeking the bomb.
Question: How do characterize the foreign policy, which on the one hand asserts an unlimited right to intervene in a military way in defense of human rights and on the other hand, urges treaties limiting the use of nuclear weapons? Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, look, wherever we intervene, we are not intervening with nuclear weapons, so I don't see that the two of them are necessarily inconsistent.
You could argue, and I think it's a legitimate case to argue, that we may intervene excessively on behalf of human rights. We don't have to be the world's policeman. I just don't see the connection to what these other countries are doing with respect to the nuclear weapons, and American policy in this regard.
MS. CLIFT: Right. India and Pakistan are testing for reasons that have nothing to do with Clinton policy; it's their long rivalry. And if we get involved in a conflict with North Korea, it's not going to be over human rights.
And China is modernizing its military because you can't maintain millions of people in an army in the Modern Age. And we don't have a secret plan to liberate Quebec, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me expand your view by giving you the view of two people who ought to know the impact of interventionism. These two men are Viktor Chernomyrdin and Yevgeni Primakov. And this is what they both say: "The U.S. battering of Serbia has been an inducement to other nations to acquire nuclear weapons."
Do you understand the logic of the position?
MR. LOWRY: Well no, I don't, John. Of course --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If a country wants to defend itself --
MR. LOWRY: John, of course they're going to say that because they opposed the bombing. I think you take the humanitarian intervention much, much too seriously. The Clinton administration is not willing to put any lives really on line for this. Even in Kosovo we had to fly at 15,000 feet so no one would get hurt. He'll intervene in a humanitarian way when he can send people to build roads in Haiti, but not much more than that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. But you're not getting the logic of the position. The position is if you were a leader of a country and you feared that NATO and/or the United States, in combination or individually, were going to intervene in your country, what's the first thing you would do?
MR. FUND: If I'm a sociopath, I would acquire chemical or other biological weapons and threaten that way. Nuclear weapons --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or you would get the bomb.
MR. FUND: That probably is third on the list.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you wouldn't have to be a sociopath to do that. You could be perfectly lucid, perfectly rational, and perfectly enlightened to do it. And that's the point of this.
MR. LOWRY: But, John -- John, nations --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This type of action on Clinton's part, the unshackled interventionism, breeds a climate in which leaders think about strengthening and developing or creating a nuclear --
MR. FUND: This CNN foreign policy is short-lived; it ends with Clinton's term.
MS. CLIFT: Any --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to move on.
Issue three: Bradley has unshackled me.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) I think that we ought to have debates on a regular basis. (Cheers, applause.) What about it, Bill? (Cheers.) If the answer is yes, stand up and wave your hand.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's Vice President Al Gore baiting a bemused Bill Bradley, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. The invitation to debate is both taunting and serious. But it's also more than that. Gore is trying to shed his button-down wonkish image, and also the constrictions imposed on him by being vice president.
"If you are loyal, if you want to fulfill your constitutional role as vice president, you have to use that split second; you have to ask yourself how you can do your duty for the administration and still express your views. The closeness of the race with Bradley has unshackled me because it has pushed me to get rid of all that vice presidential restraint."
The "new" Gore is attempting to be more natural, more relaxed, and more sloganeering.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: (From videotape.) When Newt Gingrich took over the Congress and tried to reinforce Reganomnics, some walked away. I decided to stay and fight.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gore is also becoming more pointed and deal-making.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: (From videotape.) I am pro-working family and I always will be. (Cheers.) You can write it down and count on it! And if you elect me president, I will veto any anti-union bill that comes across my desk! I "guaran-damn-tee" it!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The bad news for Al Gore's makeover? Bradley's momentum appears unslowed. Gore now leads Bradley by 12 points, down from 33 points just one month ago. But there's good news for Gore: AFL-CIO unions, represenBut there's good news for Gore: AFL-CIO unions, representing over 13 million workers, voted on Wednesday to endorse him for president. The endorsement carries with it millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers. The endorsement carries with it millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers.
A quick round-robin: Is Gore's refashioning himself an improvement, I ask you, John Fund?
MR. FUND: Oh, absolutely, he's animated; although I must admit I have seen some of his recent appearances where batteries have not been included, so he can revert. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: He has definitely got a new battery pack. And frankly, he has come down from Mount Olympus, and he is fighting for the nomination. And I think it underscores what an uphill battle that Bill Bradley has. Gore only gets beaten if Gore self-destructs; he's stopped the damage.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Richard?
MR. LOWRY: I agree with that. I think in the last couple weeks, the most important thing is Bradley has lost the element of surprise. I think the AFL-CIO's calculation was right. Gore is most likely to be the nominee and also will be the strongest candidate against George W.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And certainly then the support of the AFL-CIO is going to give him a lot of volunteers and workers that he desperately needs, particularly in some of the key primary states. So it's a big plus for Gore.
But he has got a long way to go. It's way to early to tell, and he hasn't -- (shone ?); I mean, he started out as prince; he has been a frog for a while. And I think he has got a long way to come back.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gore has recovered a little momentum. We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions: John Fund?
MR. FUND: The Democratic machine in Philadelphia is going to be shocked next month when feisty reformer Sam Katz wins the mayor's race.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: The Teamsters will endorse Gore in December.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rich Lowry?
MR. LOWRY: Steve Forbes' much anticipated anti-Bush ads will be much softer than expected and will probably feature Forbes talking directly into the camera.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort Zuckerman?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The prime minister of Russia, Putin, whose popularity has been soaring because of his involvement in the war in Chechen (sic), is going to launch a major effort to expand the war in Chechen (sic). He is going to be a contender for the presidency, and he'll win if that battle is successful.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't have to worry about the United States intervening on the side of the Chechnyans because the Russians have the bomb and we never intervene where there is a bomb.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And because human rights --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The 66-year-old Glass-Steagall Bank Act that outlawed banks doing anything but banking, will be repealed by the U.S. Congress this coming week -- and the watershed enactment of the Financial Services Modernization Act. Banks, insurance companies and brokerage houses will then be able to do each other's businesses, one-stop financial shopping.
The new bigger New York banks will show their gratitude to Bill Clinton signing the legislation by making contributions to Hillary's senate race.
®FC¯END OF REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Brown and Williamson Tobacco on the line.
ANNOUNCER: (From videotape.) We, the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation, are in love with you. Yep, you heard right. Brown and Williamson Tobacco is in love. We are a giant corporation, and you make us feel like a little kid. Thank you, lover.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is the greeting one hears when calling Brown and Williamson's toll-free number. Really? Yes.
The tobacco industry is a "lover," a lover scorned by the American public. But no more, it hopes. Big Tobacco is trying to abate the scorn of a health-conscious population. Big Tobacco continues to face massive lawsuits from ex-smokers and from federal and state governments. So -- the new soft-touch PR.
Another tobacco company -- in fact, Phillip Morris -- recently admitted on its Internet site that tobacco is addictive and that smoking causes cancer, emphysema, other diseases.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (From videotape.) This formal acknowledgement comes far too late, but still, we must all welcome it. It can be the beginning of clearing the air.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To clear the air and to revamp their images, tobacco companies are not only airing phone messages, but are also airing touchy-feely television ads. But it may be too late. After years of legal and public relations wars, the tobacco industry is beyond love, at least President Clinton thinks so.
Well, question on that. Is Clinton adamantly opposed to tobacco, or is it just cigarettes? He's obviously got an interest in cigars, wouldn't you say? (Laughter.)
MR. FUND: Bill Clinton recognizes that the biggest pot of money for his friends the trial lawyers, who will turn over some of it in the form of campaign contributions, is tobacco, and obviously, this latest PR offensive is going to bomb. Part of it is demented -- that Brown & Williamson ad.
The real problem here is, you remember those tobacco executives standing there and saying tobacco wasn't addictive? Well, now they've retreated from that, but now they're going to be hit with more litigation. That was the reason they denied it originally. Their lawyers told them they were going to be sued, and now Clinton is saying, "We're going to sue you again for being honest."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's okay for politicians now, in the light of this new ad campaign, to accept donations, political donations from tobacco companies, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think -- they -- they are radioactive, the cigarette companies.
MR. FUND: The trial lawyers are fine.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They're going to have a long, long way to go before they can rehabilitate themselves.
MS. CLIFT: Well, a lot of Republicans have no trouble accepting those donations, and so do some Democrats, but the Brown & Williamson ad, the original ad, read, "We love you to death," and somebody caught it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No! Two hundred and forty-six billion --
MS. CLIFT: A joke not a joke.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- $246 billion in settlements paid by big tobacco. Isn't that enough?
MR. LOWRY: Well, John, the dirty secret here now is Joe Camel works for the government. The government makes about five times as much off a pack of cigarettes, the sale of pack of cigarettes, than the tobacco companies. So the strategy is clear -- they're going to bleed the tobacco companies dry and get as much money out of them until they can put them out of business.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, can I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where's the justice in that?
MR. LOWRY: There's no justice, and this is no news. Everyone's known it for 30 years.