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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Reading, writing and riflery.

JOHN SCHARDT (Santana High School student): (From videotape.) I heard the shots, and my teacher said, "No! It's real! There's a student on the ground! He's been shot!"

STUDENT (Santana High School): (From videotape.) All of a sudden I noticed the guy that they were crowding around wasn't getting up. And then finally, he got up and he had blood coming all down his face and everything. And he started running.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The week from Hell at America's schools. That's what it was. On Monday, 15-year-old Charles Andrew Williams of Santana High School near San Diego, killed two classmates, wounded 13.

Santana is but one of the school horrors this week. At least 30 other violent or threatening school incidents also scarred the week. Here's a sampling of three.

Also in California, in San Bernardino County, in a town called Twentynine Palms, two 17-year old boys were arrested on suspicion to commit murder. A 22-caliber rifle and a hit list, 16 students' names, were confiscated. In Pennsylvania, two gruesome incidents. Williamsport, in a parochial school, a 14-year-old girl in the cafeteria shot an eighth-grade girl in the back of the shoulder. The shooter was then talked out of committing suicide. In Philadelphia, an eight-year-old boy, eight years old, carried a backpack to his elementary school. In it, a pistol and bullets.

STUDENT (Henry C. Lea Elementary School): (From videotape.) He said he's going to shoot me and he said he's going to make it a bloodbath and throw me in the dumpster.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Despite this carnage, lawmakers have been almost completely silent.

Question: Whatever political reaction there is, it is focused on deeper internal causes like character weakness in children growing up and a failure to teach the meaning of character and the building of it in these children. President Bush spoke to this in his television address to the Congress and to the nation last month.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Values are important. So we've tripled funding for character education to teach our children not only reading and writing, but right from wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So, can classroom character education overcome the cultural tide of violence and immorality in the nation today? Michael Barone?

MR. BARONE: Well, can it overcome? I think it can help, John. I think that there's often been in the schools a sort of relativistic attitude, you know, that sort of says, well, Hitler had his way, we have our way; who's to say who's right?

I was fascinated that there wasn't a big call for gun control after this thing. California already has lots of gun control laws, which were, of course, violated here. And it's sort of the -- you know, I think people are coming to accept the National Rifle Association argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people.

I think one of the solutions here, though, John, is obvious. We're seeing copycat crimes. And when we had a rash of copycat crimes in the '70s, we got rid of them through metal detectors at the airports that stopped airport hijacking. They're expensive, they're intrusive, but I think it's time to get them up at these school buildings.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There hasn't been anything said about TV, video games, film, in conjunction with this issue by reason of portrayed aggression on those entertainment forms.

MS. CLIFT: Well, people are aware of the First Amendment restrictions, so that doesn't seem a promising avenue to go down. I don't think people even want to go down that. And they're tired of waiting for Congress to spend two or three years diddling over the gun-show loophole.

Look, I'm for character education. I'm for anything that compensates for what may be missing in some kids' lives. But the fact is the president called this an act of cowardice by this young boy; it was an act of desperation. And most of the kids who carry out these kinds of crimes talk about it ahead of time. They want to be caught. We need more awareness, we need more counseling, and we need to stop building these mammoth suburban high schools that warehouse these kids and turn them into anonymous numbers way too soon.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Look. Let's be realistic for a moment. The reason why the old issues of gun control and trying to blame television and video games wasn't raised is because it didn't work politically last time. The Democrats are now trying to get the white rural male vote, so they're not going to talk about gun control anymore.

As far as the fundamental problem is concerned, though, it strikes me that what we're talking about are people who are insane, because sane people don't go out and murder just because they've been bullied. And so the question is, can you educate sanity? And I don't think so. I think a certain percentage of our population is simply defective.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More kids die each week from alcohol, drug and inhalant abuse than anywhere near what happened this past week. So are we overreacting to this violence in the classroom?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I think Tony and I are not overreacting. Tony is, as usual, half right and half wrong. This is a story of insanity. Every one of these children who does this is mentally ill and, therefore, far beyond the grip of anything we're talking about here on some sort of character education.

And the other thing is a gun control story. One of these children got his guns from his father, who absolutely should not have owned guns -- we know that now -- because his son was going to take them and kill people with them. And yes, those guns -- that ownership of those guns should be banned. There is no political movement to do that in this country. As long as those guns are available, children will die this way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see any merit to character education?

MR. O'DONNELL: None. Absolutely not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe that the United States is overly secularized? You can't put the Ten Commandments on the wall of the office of a public building. You can't say a prayer in Georgia before a football game.

MR. O'DONNELL: If you want prayer ridiculed --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we overly secularized? Is Bush --

MR. O'DONNELL: John, if you want prayer ridiculed, make it mandatory in public schools.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. This isn't about --

MS. CLIFT: Character --

MR. O'DONNELL: Okay? If you want character education --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What prayer? What prayer?

MR. O'DONNELL: Any form of prayer. What kids in public school --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any appeal to a divine entity?

MR. O'DONNELL: What kids in school do is ridicule what is presented to them. If you want character --

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: But that's not entirely -- that's not entirely accurate.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- ridiculed, present it in the public schools.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. All right. I want to hear from you. But I want to make it clear, I'm not talking about Jesus here, I'm talking about what the Founding Fathers regarded as a divine entity from which come the prerogatives and the rights that we have as human beings.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look. The fact that character education isn't going to work with, unfortunately, insane people doesn't mean it's not vastly useful for people to learn a moral education. The purpose of education is not only to teach you to read and write, but to integrate you morally into your community.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you do that on the purely secular level?

MR. BLANKLEY: Of course you can.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you establish a purely secular morality?

MR. BARONE: John. Sure you can.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you argue, philosophically or through political science --

MR. BARONE: Oh, yes. John, James Q. --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Let me finish.

MR. BARONE: James Q. Wilson has done this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible) -- to fairness, social responsibility, honesty, truthfulness? Can you do it? It isn't easy.

MR. BARONE: I think it's possible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course it's possible.

MR. BARONE: Political scientist James Q. Wilson has written very persuasively that there is -- that we are hardwired for a certain kind of morality. Sometimes the wiring gets messed up in some individuals or it's not developed well. But I don't think you really have to get to these difficult issues --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you a question.

MR. BARONE: -- of the role of religion in public things to talk about serious morality and to get away from mindless moralizing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're not talking religion here; we're talking about character building. Does James Q. Wilson say that character comes with biology, that character comes with physiology, or does he say that character must be trained into, it must be developed, it must be grown?

MR. BARONE: He says some of both, John. He says we do seem to be hardwired in some way to want to care and nurture for children and do things --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you read "Lord of the Flies"? We would all be like the kids in the "Lord of the Flies" if there were no training, if there were no parental involvement. And right now --

MS. CLIFT: The truth is somewhere in between. I'm not going to go with Tony Blankley, who writes off a certain percent of the youthful population as defective and insane!

MR. O'DONNELL: Just the murderers. Just the murderers.

MS. CLIFT: I'm sorry. If you're sending your kid to a suburban high school, that's not a good enough answer. You've got to want some -- want to be able to do something --

MR. BLANKLEY: It may not be good enough, but it happens to be a reality.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, Tony. I get to finish.

MR. BLANKLEY: Why are you -- (inaudible)?

MS. CLIFT: And character education, character education is advocated by people across the political spectrum.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm in favor.

MS CLIFT: It's not going to hurt. But we're not talking about religion. It's not a panacea. But you need to do something to change the circumstances in these suburban schools.

MR. O'DONNELL: The best character education is math. You teach a kid math, you give that kid the self-satisfaction of learning and mastering math, and you have elevated that kid's self-image.

MR. BARONE: Well, but the problem --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long do you think the ACLU is going to sit idly by if there's any appeal to any deity? This is an organization that bans -- that gets okays for certain kinds of music --

MS. CLIFT: Character education is not about appeals --

MR. BARONE: John, we've got to get away from character miseducation.

MS. CLIFT: It's not about appeals to deities.

MR. BARONE: We're got to get away from character miseducation, this sort of mindless relativism that doesn't really understand --


MS. CLIFT: Well, your comment about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. We've got to get out.

MS. CLIFT: Your comment about it's widespread in schools that Hitler had one way, we had another, is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

You show me the schools where they say that.

MR. BARONE: I've encountered -- (off mike).

MS. CLIFT: That's nonsense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- all right, let's move on. Exit question: Will character education pick up momentum in the Congress for passage of the Domenici-Dodd character education bill? I will give you a gloss on that, because I'm getting my-eyes-glaze-over looks from all of you. (Laughter.)

Bush wants $25 million for character education. Domenici and Dodd want 50 million. Domenici-Dodd in 1994 introduced a bill. It provided for a pilot program in one of the states. It then traveled to 28 other states. They want 50 million. Will there be any momentum for the passage of that and a comparable Clement-Smith bill in the House? I ask you, Michael Barone.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think so? Momentum?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: Education is the hottest political issue. You tack education onto anything, you can get it through Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: There's going to be a big fight for spending on education, as much as it can be increased on school construction. My guess is, they're going to get somewhere 25 and 50 (million), but it's not going to be 25 (million).

MR. O'DONNELL: Can you tell me exactly what public school teachers have been educated in character education? No one knows how to teach this thing. I want them to spend all the money on math.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, they'll get their 50 million.

When we come back: Why are the Russians making a big deal about the secret tunnel that the U.S. built that goes from a side street in an upscale neighborhood in central Washington, D.C., to the Russian embassy compound?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Unstoppable?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The American people -- the American people had a victory today. The American family had a victory today. The American entrepreneur had a victory today. One House down, and now the Senate to go! (Cheers, applause.)

I'm here to ask for you, if you like what you hear today, to maybe e-mail some of the good folks in the United States Senate from your state. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted 230 to 198, a 32-point margin, to pass the president's tax cut plan. Republicans voted unanimously yes, and 10 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote yes with them: Cramer, Condit, Bishop, Lucas, (Collin) Peterson, McIntyre, Traficant, Clement, Gordon, and (Ralph) Hall.

Question: How big a victory was this House vote for Bush, Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Were those 10 Democrats your "wall of heroes," John? (Laughter.)

Look, this was a victory that comes with a cost. First of all, he rammed it through without producing a budget first, without any hearings. He made enemies out of his natural allies in the House, the conservative Democrats.

Now he moves to the Senate, where the real fight is. And this bill is not going to get out of the Senate Finance Committee unless he puts some sort of a brake on the money that goes out in this tax cut.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Didn't you say that a maximum of six Democrats would vote in favor of this bill when -- and Bush has now practically doubled that number? (Laughter.) Isn't that what you said? You don't remember that?

MS. CLIFT: I don't think I said that. No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, we'll have to present you with a transcript.



MR. BLANKLEY: This is an important -- not unpredicted, but nonetheless a very important strategic move.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you say that, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Getting President Bush's full marginal rates into the conference report, which is what this is about -- the Senate is going to be a fight, but by moving it quickly in the House -- they didn't lose any Democrats; the Democrats are going to vote as a bloc anyway -- by moving it quickly, before it could get undercut in any way, and getting it in as half of the bill that's going to be negotiated in a few months, I think the House of Representatives has gotten a big win for Bush.

MR. O'DONNELL: He could have at least tripled the number of Democrats if he negotiated it in the Ways and Means Committee, if they negotiated with Democrats at all on the rates.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, that's not -- of course they have to negotiate --

MR. O'DONNELL: They know that there's no chance -- there's no chance -- of getting these rate cuts, as is, in the final bill.

And so what they did at an early stage of the process was alienate a bunch of House Democrats who were available to them. That helps solidify the Democrats in the Senate, and the Bush --

MR. BARONE: John. John.


MR. BARONE: John, I think on this one I think this was a useful victory for George W. Bush. There are going to be more House Democrats who will vote on the marriage penalty and estate tax repeal planks of his tax reform, and I assume they're going to ball this up into one big bill sooner later at some point after Senate action. The real question here is whether or not they're going to have this crazy idea of a trigger, which essentially means that if there's a recession, we're not going -- we're going to -- we're not going to have a tax cut in a recession, which is just the time when you need it. This is the politics of Herbert Hoover and, incidentally, of Al Gore in 2000. It's just wacky.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to buy a new car knowing that if you have to pay over time, that at some time the rug can be pulled out from underneath your investment?

I want to ask you this question, though. And I'm going to put it in this way. Okay. Chipper Cheney.

VICE PRESIDENT RICHARD CHENEY: (From videotape.) The stress level's a lot tougher when you're doing something you don't like -- like being a reporter or a journalist. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Vice President Dick Cheney was back at work this week, bantering with the press, two days after undergoing a cardiac balloon angioplasty.

Question: What's wrong with Cheney staying on the job even if the stress means that he has a heart attack and it takes his life? Follow your bliss. Like Dale Earnhardt. Sometimes you go out early with your boots on, doing something you love. We wish him good health and a long life. But if you have to choose between going out doing something you love or sitting in your rocker and wishing you hadn't quit so young, by all means follow your bliss.

Is that true or false?

MR. O'DONNELL: That is true. My father, who is having his 80th birthday this weekend, is still an extremely active trial attorney litigating actively every day. He's had quadruple bypass surgery. There's no telling how long Dick Cheney can go in his current situation without any trouble. And, to take the worst possible scenario here, we do know how to replace vice presidents. We've done it recently twice, and it's not a difficult thing to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But can you resolve this issue only in terms of what the mental attitude and emotional attitude of Cheney himself is, or is there a larger consideration that you have to take into view? Is it in the public interest to let him go the long haul, with the possibility that, especially if he's traveling and away, and he can't get the service, the angioplasty he needs, the balloon -- do you follow me? In other words --

MR. O'DONNELL: What's the problem? What is the problem?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The problem is that we might not have a vice president.

MR. O'DONNELL: We have one. We know exactly how to replace one. When we lost Spiro Agnew, we replaced him immediately.

MS. CLIFT: They're expendable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, so no big deal.

MR. O'DONNELL: We had to replace Jerry Ford immediately.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can Bush function without Cheney? I ask you.

MR. BLANKLEY: Of course he can. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can or cannot?

MR. BLANKLEY: Of course he can. He's the president. He can function without any other individual. But Cheney right now is an extremely valuable piece of the team. I agree with you completely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can anybody replace Cheney?

MR. BLANKLEY: Ultimately, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is no.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, everybody --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no, no, no, no. You're not listening to me.

MR. BLANKLEY: I am. I'm listening to you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is something, there is a bond between those two men, and there's a way that Cheney conducts himself in relation to --

MR. BLANKLEY: Look. I don't want to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Bush. The chemistry is just perfect. He will never find another Cheney.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, but look.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No one will ever be as good. Is there anybody who will be near as good? Not Don Rumsfeld. Forget that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Now, wait a second.


MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second.


MR. O'DONNELL: Baker will be just as good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, then you have the Montagues and the what?

MR. BARONE: Oh, John.

MS. CLIFT: Everybody is replaceable, but there is a sense that Dick Cheney is the prime minister of this government, or we would not be at the edge of our chairs watching the reports of his medical condition.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is overblown.

MS. CLIFT: But he's not going to be on the ticket four years from now, regardless.

MR. BLANKLEY: We all know -- wait, we all know that.

MS. CLIFT: Dead or alive. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: This is overblown.

MR. BARONE: John, give me a second. I think there's --


MR. BLANKLEY: Cheney's a wonderful man, but he is replaceable. And it's the liberal Democratic argument that says, "Can he undercut Bush?"

MR. BARONE: John, your --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's replaceable, but he won't be -- he can't be replaced with another, can he?

MR. BARONE: John, your set of alternatives is awfully macabre and, I think, unrealistic. The fact is, as those of us with relatives -- my parents have gone through some of these procedures -- this is something that can be managed, and people can live a full, productive life.

Death is unpredictable. Last Congress, we had a senator die. He was 61 years old -- Paul Coverdell. No one expected that to happen.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. BARONE: So the fact is, I think we're getting much too macabre --

MS. CLIFT: Well, we're not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, thank you for that chastening thought. And that gives me much comfort.

Exit: To the entire issue, does this solid Republican vote in the House mean that the U.S. Senate, which presumably will have their courageous screwed to the sticking place on the Republican side, notably two possible wanderers -- who?

MR. BARONE: What? Well, there's the question of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Jeffords and Chafee --

MR. BARONE: -- and Chafee --

MR. O'DONNELL: More than that!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in April or May, and will they say yes to the Bush proposal, as it is, on this rate cut? Yes or no? No commentary. Michael?

MR. BARONE: Not exactly. It'll be somewhat different.


MS. CLIFT: That's an easy no.



MR. BLANKLEY: Not exactly, but I think it's going to be surprisingly good for Bush, in the end.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the marginal rate will come down just a little -- the highest rate? Yes?

MR. O'DONNELL: No chance of the Bush rates passing as is. And the tragedy is, there will be no discussion of raising the top tax rates, which is what we should be doing --

MR. BLANKLEY: You old socialist, you! (Laughter.)

MR. O'DONNELL: -- on anything over 10 million, over 100 million. There should be higher rates.

MR. BLANKLEY: YOU pay the higher rates!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Too close to call.

Issue three: To Russia, with Love.

James Bond would have been proud -- a tunnel, two football fields in length, from a side street in upscale Northwest Washington, D.C., to and under the then-Soviet and now-Russian embassy.

Robert Hanssen, the 25-year FBI counterintelligence veteran arrested as a double agent three weeks ago, reportedly blew the cover of the U.S.. top-secret eavesdropping tunnel to the Russians.

The brick home in an affluent neighborhood just north of the stone wall that surrounds the 12-acre embassy complex has attracted suspicion for years, called the "FBI house" by neighbors, who have eyed the unusual comings and goings of transient visitors with their black briefcases. Motion detectors and unusual power lines feed into the house from above. And unlike adjoining properties, the backyard of the FBI counterintelligence dwelling has been cleared, providing a straight-line shot to the Russian embassy, itself bristling with eavesdropping devices.

Here you see the McLaughlin surveillance video tracking the probable route of the underground passageway -- under this slope, under the concrete and iron fence wall, and under the embassy, to the left of the parked black vehicle.

The tunnel was an engineering nightmare. First, the problem of all tunnelers: Where do we put the vast volume of excavated dirt? Other problems were more complex, like how to align laser beams, directed into the building from inside the tunnel below, through the steel undergirding vertically above. Then there was the constant problem with water, seepage into the tunnel.

The Russians are furious, and not only those Russian diplomats in Washington, but in Moscow, too, where they summoned the ranking U.S. diplomat in Moscow -- the ambassador is not yet in place -- and demanded an explanation. After that visit, the Russians called the tunnel, quote, "a blatant violation of the recognized norms of international law," unquote.

U.S. officials shot back, accusing the Russians of "blatant hypocrisy."

Moscow built similar tunnels under the U.S. embassy in Moscow and riddled the entire structure with bugs.

Question: The Russians made a big show this week about how they upbraided American diplomats in Moscow over the U.S. -- over the tunnel. Why should that strike us as posturing? Do you think it was? I ask you.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, of course, because our new embassy, which was being built in Moscow at about the same time this embassy was being built in Washington, was completely destroyed by their listening devices. And there was a huge fight in Congress about whether to build extra stories on it in order to be able to have some room in the building where we could possibly talk in private.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. But can you turn that around? I remember that occasion, and I remember the hue and cry, and I remember how we were holding up the huge -- you know, these pictures of bugs that the Russians were installing in that building. And we turn around, and here we construct a tunnel for hundreds of millions of dollars.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the Congress --

MR. O'DONNELL: That's because our spy stories are almost always stories of incompetence, as this one is, on both sides. I mean, each attempt to bug the other one's embassy was crazy.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Congress voted 414 to 0 not to let the American diplomats occupy the embassy in Moscow until Ronald Reagan could personally assure them that it was bug-free.

Look, stop the presses! Spies spy.

MR. BARONE: Spies spy. I live --

MS. CLIFT: It's a game that goes on, on both sides of the ocean.

MR. BARONE: John, I live in this neighborhood across Wisconsin Avenue. I've walked my dog past this house. I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've probably walked over the tunnel.

MR. BARONE: Well, I'm not going --

MR. BLANKLEY: Did you walk your mole?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. What's your point?

MR. BARONE: My point is that the Russians obviously knew something was fishy going on here, if the neighbors knew. And this is "Spy versus Spy." Mad magazine used to run this sort of thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what we're really talking about here is that the diplomatic posturing is entirely that, and this is a game.

MR. BARONE: This is Kabuki theater.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be --

MR. O'DONNELL: A very badly played -- (off mike) -- incompetence.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.


MR. O'DONNELL: An incompetent --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Michael?

MR. BARONE: McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill will crash and burn.


MS. CLIFT: Bush budget cuts will hit Clinton's 100,000 cops program.


MR. BLANKLEY: State Department's policy on Iraq is premised on expecting Saddam Hussein to die, and there will be a power struggle between the relatives thereafter.


MR. O'DONNELL: New official estimates of the estate tax repeal will show it to be much higher than the current estimate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Robert Hanssen, FBI counterintelligence agent arrested three weeks ago for spying for the KGB and the SVR over a 15- year period, when tried, if convicted, will not receive the death penalty.