The McLaughlin Group

Issues: FDA E-Cigarette Regulations / Government Corruption / Invictus Games

John McLaughlin, Host
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
Clarence Page, The Chicago Tribune
Tom Rogan, National Review/Opportunity Lives

Taped: Friday, July 1, 2016
Broadcast: Weekend of July 1-3, 2016

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ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP, the American original. For over three decades, the sharpest minds, best sources, hardest talk.



MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that use a mix of nicotine and other chemicals to produce inhalable vapor.

The Food and Drug Administration, FDA, has just announced new regulations on e-cigarettes, as well as cigars and hookah pipes, affecting underage buyers, manufacturing, marketing, and ingredient labeling.

Protection from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine addiction is a public health priority. But the FDA has not banned selling designs or flavored e-cigarettes that are attractive to kids like Hello Kitty tutti frutti, Bugs Bunny cotton candy, or gummy bears vapers.

High schoolers vaping e-cigarettes increased usage by -- get this -- 900 percent between 2011 and 2015. Proponents of e-cigarettes say the regulations will increase purchase costs, thus discouraging those looking to quit addiction to traditional cigarettes. Also, that there is evidence that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful that combustible cigarettes.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is this good news, Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: You know, John, take a look at progress. When I was in high school, we were 13, 14 years old, almost everybody smokes cigarettes then. You had a smoking lounge. The annual meeting at Gonzaga High School is known as the smoker.


MCLAUGHLIN: Jesuit high school.

BUCHANAN: Jesuit high school, right down the street.

But the point here is, look, clearly, this is a health hazard. Smoking is directly related to cancer and emphysema and heart disease and to shortened life and all the rest of it. And the country ought to be given enormous amounts of information about this, and e-cigarettes, which Clarence is into, it’s his rotten habit, and he’ll produce one.

I mean, you ought to get all the information you can. But at some point, the government has got to step back and say, here it is. This is as far as we go. Now, you’re mature, even young people, you’re mature, it’s up to you in a free society to decide.

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: And I guess the government stepped in to interrupt the smokers’ lounge that you grew up in and I think that was entirely appropriate.

E-cigarettes perform a useful function for people who are smokers, because they are less lethal than tobacco. But kids buy them and they contain nicotine. So, you’re creating a generation of kids who are going to be addicted to nicotine and probably will graduate to smoking tobacco.

Also, who’s making these e-cigarettes? The tobacco company who are making them. They’ve diversified their product and I think it’s entirely appropriate for the FDA to step in with some regulations here.

MCLAUGHLIN: How many lives a year lost by smoking? Address that.

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/OPPORTUNITY LIVES: Four hundred and eighty thousand, according to the CDC and I appreciate you’re giving me prior guidance on that statistics.

MCLAUGHLIN: How many were lost --


ROGAN: How many -- 480,000.

MCLAUGHLIN: That much, that many lives a year?

ROGAN: The other statistic is $156 billion in productivity losses. So, I’m grateful that one time, the testing of the (INAUDIBLE), I got a hand up.

But I think -- you know, look, you do not want a situation in which young teenagers are smoking nicotine. That’s not good. So, in some degree, yes, it’s important that the FDA comes in and puts more restrictions in terms of you have to be 18 to buy it.

My concern, though, on the flip side is that if you see the productivity -- I mean, the productivity impact that this will have in terms of increasing cost and the production means that for the vast majority of all the users, it’s going to become more expensive. And also, things like packaging and specific requirements, those regulations, those impose costs, but they also I think put that sort of punitive impact in terms of the industry developing a product, and impinging on free choices of individuals.

I think there’s a more balanced approach could have been taken. But I think, unfortunately, the FDA has gone fully to one side.

MCLAUGHLIN: Should there be -- hold on for a minute, Clarence.


MCLAUGHLIN: Do we need to ban television advertising on e-cigarettes?

PAGE: I think -- I can’t say it already is because I have seen some advertising for it on television, not nearly as much as I used to see of cigarette advertising. But I agree that -- it’s fine with me to ban them for young people, you know, under age 18, something like 85 percent of smokers start when they were teenagers like I did. What you’re referring to.

And what troubles me, of course, is that you’ve got a lot of kids who never smoked before, but they’re vaping, because it’s a craze. And we don’t really know how many of them are going to stay with it, will end up to be addicted to nicotine, because that’s my trouble now. I’m not smoking anymore, but I’m still addicted to nicotine, that’s why I’ll go with nicotine gum or this vape stick.

BUCHANAN: But, you know, it’s a tragic figure, but you talk about the enormous amounts of money lost from early deaths and all the rest of it. And we all of us have friends who died of cancer or heart disease is something directly related to two packs a day --

PAGE: Yes.

BUCHANAN: -- most of their lives.

But the truth is, folks who die young quite frankly die less expensively to society than folks who live 80 or 90 and on Medicare all those years afterwards.

So, I think the economic numbers I think are about how much it costs society are a little phony.

CLIFT: You want to go before the death panels to make the case that it’s better to have people smoking because it will save money? That’s a kind of a poor argument to make --


BUCHANAN: No, I’m just saying the total cost.


BUCHANAN: We’re all going to die, and if you die at 90, the last six months of your life is going to cost society a lot more than folks dying at 50.

CLIFT: That is not an appealing argument for even the tobacco industry to make.

ROGAN: I’m going to take it to the next step and kill off the rest of the panel, although my cost (INAUDIBLE)


MCLAUGHLIN: Let’s just make sure we hear everybody and everybody’s family, OK?

The new regulations for cigar-makers are some 400 pages long. What impact will they have on cigar manufacturers? I ask you.

BUCHANAN: It’s going to make it much more expensive to buy cigars and things like that. The more regulations you put --

ROGAN: Right.

BUCHANAN: -- they put it on the cost of the manufacturing and he transfers the cost to the customer.

ROGAN: Exactly.

BUCHANAN: People who love cigars, mainly folks, probably working class folks, are going to have to pay more and more of their income from what they enjoy, like Clarence.


BUCHANAN: You enjoy it and you can afford it. I mean, at some point, you got to stop with the regulation.

CLIFT: If you want less of it, you got to tax it more and you’ve got to have regulation. My father died of cancer. He smoked cigars. They’re just as lethal as cigarettes.

BUCHANAN: You’re just pricing working class people out of the market, where Clarence can afford his e-cigarettes.

PAGE: That’s what’s happened, though. That’s a big reason why smoking has gone down in America because of all the taxation. And the same time, though, like Eleanor said, tobacco companies are covering their losses by encouraging e-cigarettes.

BUCHANAN: The same thing with alcohol. Look, everybody knows alcohol also shortens life, the problem with alcohol, of course, is you can kill somebody else when you’re drunk in a car and had too much to drink.

PAGE: That’s right.

BUCHANAN: But you keep taxing it and all the rest of it, and that’s got a real problem attendant to it as well. Are we going to stop all that, too?


CLIFT: If we’re going to look at economic inequality in this country, I think there are other places to start than the fact that poorer people have to pay more in their alcohol.


BUCHANAN: Don’t go into your Bernie Sanders routine now.


ROGAN: Regulations have a really punitive impact and I think that is the debate.


ROGAN: And it’s obvious. You look at California. Construction of properties versus taxes. The exodus of wealth.

The regulations matter and they affect those lower rungs.

CLIFT: Well, there are some behaviors you want to encourage and some you want to discourage. These are public health issues and --

ROGAN: But we shouldn’t fetishize regulations.

CLIFT: -- and the regulations should discourage them.

MCLAUGHLIN: Is the Obama administration --

CLIFT: The idea is in very strong footing here.

MCLAUGHLIN: Is the Obama administration on a regulatory binge?


BUCHANAN: Yes. This is -- he’s de Blasio squared. Of course, he is.


CLIFT: In a complicated society, you need to protect the public. That requires regulations. It’s not a binge. It’s appropriate.

PAGE: I remember when the Bush administration, they deregulated aviation too far and had to put a lot of the safety regulations back in. So, there’s a reason for these regulations, and we can reasonably debate what is most appropriate. I feel like stop me before I smoke again. I’m not against anti-smoking regulations.

ROGAN: But these regulatory obstacles -- and I think it has to be the great example for conservatives to take the lead and at the state level, federal ultimately, in terms of, say, no, look, these are regulations. Look at this regulation, look at the punitive impact that it’s having and this is why you want to repeal to it. You have to debate.

CLIFT: I think there’s not even going to be a conservative campaign against these regulations in the great scheme of things, okay.

ROGAN: Not the e-cigs, but broadly on regulations.

CLIFT: Well, that’s been the conservative song for a long time.

BUCHANAN: You don’t know Donald Trump.


PAGE: Let’s see what President Trump feels about this.

MCLAUGHLIN: Didn’t I quote the figure of how many American lives are lost per year by smoking?

ROGAN: It’s a lot.

PAGE: Tom did.

MCLAUGHLIN: Tom did. What did he do?

PAGE: Four hundred and eighty thousand.

BUCHANAN: Again, John, people -- everybody in America is going to die and what this says is, some are going to die earlier and if they do, it’s tragic. But in terms of economics, it is less expensive.


PAGE: I’m not so sure because those last months of life are the most expensive on average, no matter how old you are, right?

BUCHANAN: Those old folks that goes on and on. I mean, you’re on Medicare for decades, these days.

PAGE: Whether you smoked or not. I mean, it cuts both ways.

ROGAN: One other thing, though, we talked about. You know, the undercurrent here that throws you out is unfortunately, there isn’t enough personal responsibility. These parents should be paying more attention to what their kids are doing. Ground them. But also --


PAGE: When you become a parent, Tom, I can’t wait. I’m going to check in on you, I’ll tell you.


ROGAN: Clarence, I don’t have enough experience there.

But I also what to say, my generation for example, one big problem we have is the council will use, not so much in D.C. because of security clearances, but in other major American cities in terms of cocaine use, that it’s fashionable, that it’s OK.

The problem I think with that is instead of, you know, yes, it should be illegal, but at the same time, there needs to be much more of a public campaign of awareness to millennials in terms of where those people like FARC, and where those drugs are coming from and the horrific abuses and corruption and political distraction that that fight --


PAGE: You got to be very, very careful how you advertise to millennials when you start advertising the dangers, because a lot of the early anti-smoking commercials it turned out actually encouraged kids to go out and smoke, inadvertently. So --

BUCHANAN: The reason you have terrorists and criminals and cartels and all that is because you outlaw cocaine. If you didn’t, you’d have guys down the street selling it.

ROGAN: Well, here’s the question though --

BUCHANAN: The Libertarians would argue that.

ROGAN: Yes, I know. And I think it’s actually something you have to consider. But my concern is also, if you look at the statistics, that people on drugs are more predisposed to commit crime. So, there is a public protection element in terms of --

CLIFT: This has gone pretty far afield from vaping.


PAGE: You know, we have a problem now with prescription drugs leading to illegal consumption, like OxyContin, leading to heroin, because the same impact, but it’s a lot cheaper. So, it cuts both ways.

MCLAUGHLIN: Should Congress overturn this regulatory overreach, yes or no?

BUCHANAN: Congress can’t do anything, I don’t think, without a president.

CLIFT: Well --

BUCHANAN: They don’t have one now.

CLIFT: We do have a president, but the answer is no, regardless of who the president is. And we do have a president.

ROGAN: It should be illegal until you’re 18, but yes, they should overturn the majority of it.

PAGE: Yes, I don’t see any sympathy out there for the nicotine producers. I mean, some of the most hated people around, perhaps worse than the gun industry, it’s really -- I don’t think this is overreach. I think the government is --


PAGE: I wouldn’t put anybody in jail for it, though.

MCLAUGHLIN: But my question, Congress or the president?

BUCHANAN: Congress, but it --


PAGE: Congress or the president?

MCLAUGHLIN: But my question, Congress or the president?

BUCHANAN: This president --

PAGE: What did you actually ask?

MCLAUGHLIN: Rein in the FDA.

BUCHANAN: As I said, John, you’d have to have a president who would agree with what Congress did, and we don’t have that president.


MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: New York Rot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe in the justice system in this nation and (INAUDIBLE)

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): To many, it is America’s beacon state -- energetic, diverse, tough. But New York faces a corrosive problem: corruption.

Former speaker of the New York assembly, Sheldon Silver, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being found guilty on federal corruption charges. And Mr. Silver is the only tip of the iceberg. Investigators are also underway against two individuals with close links to Governor Andrew Cuomo and his so-called Buffalo Billion Plan to revitalize the city of Buffalo, and at least three prosecutors, state, local and city, are investigating New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for possible campaign finance misconduct.

And note this, a number of NYPD police officers are under investigation for potential illegal sales of gun licenses. And other NYPD officers are under investigation for possibly providing favors to city residents in return for expensive gifts.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: according to Gallup, 75 percent of Americans think corruption in government is widespread. Are they right? Eleanor Clift?

CLIFT: Well, first of all, you’re conflating some very different scandals in New York. Sheldon Silver was taking kickbacks for decades, and he should go to jail. Campaign finance violations concerning the mayor, that’s a lot different. You could go to almost every state in this country, Clarence’s home state of Illinois has had a lot of experience with state corruption.

PAGE: I’m shocked, shocked.

CLIFT: Alabama today, a couple of officials are indicted. But that’s not what the American people are really worked up about. What they’re worked up about is the kind of corruption that you see from the governor of Michigan, when you ignore a water crisis in Flint. People are worked up when they look at a Congress that doesn’t perform. They’re angry at Washington.

Maybe in these individual states, you have some angry populations. But corruption, unfortunately, has been part of politics for a long time. I don’t think it’s gone up. And I would point out that President Obama has had a scandal-free eight years. He’s been an absolute role model in terms of how a public official should conduct himself.

MCLAUGHLIN: The government is corrupt, Americans believe, some, has climbed almost 10 percent under Barack Obama. Is that a coincidence? And then you had Bernanke’s Wall Street bailout, the massive waste on subsidies like Solyndra, anger over special interests is building.

BUCHANAN: You know, John --

PAGE: But you’re talking about perceptions of corruption.


PAGE: As opposed to actual corruption. There’s a big difference there. I think big reason why people think that the government is more corrupt is because they’ve gotten more media now and more access to information, which is good. That’s a result of transparency, which I would submit has actually reduced corruption.

BUCHANAN: If you take government overall, state, federal, municipal level, all these spend $6 trillion a year. Now, some of that money is going to get stuck to certain people’s hands. I mean, that’s been endemic for a long, long time. You know, I don’t think there’s any worse corruption.

But I will say this, over-legislation and overregulation, take campaign finance laws. I’ve been in politics for years. It didn’t exist back there, when they had the 1960s Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon.

I mean, there are 10,000 ways you can violate those laws, not even knowing what you’re doing or making a mistake. Take McDonnell, the governor of Virginia, I mean, apparently, he had a buddy who gave him a watch and stuff, and he did a favor for the guy and all of a sudden, he’s in jail, things that were normal are now criminal.


PAGE: Well, the thing about Virginia is that kind of activity had been legal for so long.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

PAGE: In that gray area, whereas it’s illegal in other states.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

PAGE: So, again, you know, what do we mean by corruption?

CLIFT: Well, maybe Governor McDonnell shouldn’t go to -- be behind bars for a decade, but to portray what he said is, oh, just taking a watch and the next thing you knew, he was being indicted. He took tens of thousands of dollars for personal use. And I don’t think the taxpayers like that.

ROGAN: Well, I think the unique thing about the United States is that if you look at, for example, New York City, you know, greatest city in the world, I would say that. But Moscow for example, can you imagine corruption in Moscow? Corruption in London, Paris, it’s far greater and far less scrutiny, both in terms of media, because there’s a lack of ability in terms of lawsuits.

BUCHANAN: Was it your prime minister’s father found out to have an account down in the Panama Papers?

ROGAN: Pat, I’m going to tell you, I’m American. I’m going to tell you again.



ROGAN: But look, you know, because of the NYPD internal affairs, FBI, there’s that opportunity. But, yes, wherever it happens, it is outrageous, it is a betrayal, and I think the juxtaposition is the young 18-year-old, 19-year-old soldier, female, male, who makes that oath, and the person in Congress, or the assembly who makes their oath and that betrayal. That’s where it becomes foul and that’s why it requires very robust --

MCLAUGHLIN: Have scandals like the IRS targeting of conservatives and the Justice Department Operation Fast and Furious played a role?


BUCHANAN: That’s ideological. It’s a left-wing administration going after the right. And, you know, obviously, quite frankly, when the conservatives get in, I’m sure they’ll respond.

PAGE: Yes. Well, Pat, when you hit on it before, when you got this much money and that much access, somebody’s going to have sticky fingers and that’s why we need to have more transparency, so people can really know what’s going on.

BUCHANAN: So, you mentioned the media, all kinds you got 24-hour day media, you got 10 year old doing research into politics, digging up all this stuff, putting it alone web, and all the rest of it. It’s not twice a day newspaper coming out, or a big investigative report.



MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

BUCHANAN: This, John, one point.

MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, exit question: by lying to Americans about being able to keep their health insurance to get his legislation passed, did President Obama contribute to distrust of Washington?

PAGE: You still got that burning --


BUCHANAN: He contributed to distrust of himself. He contributed to distrust of himself, but not of government, John.

PAGE: Well, most people have kept their health insurance and that’s better than most of the lying I hear--


BUCHANAN: Take what we’re talking about. I do think it explains why confidence in the whole idea of democracy is sinking rapidly.


CLIFT: Well, the president delivered on a pledge to expand health insurance for a lot of people in this country who didn’t have it. There were some mistakes made along the way, yes. But the end product is historic and something that he should take credit.

BUCHANAN: Mistakes were made.


CLIFT: But very, very few people actually lost their health care.

ROGAN: Yes, I think what Pat says destruction of trust, I want to come back to Obamacare on another day.

MCLAUGHLIN: Didn’t you say something to me outside in connection with this? Like the Greeks say, the fish rots from the head down.

BUCHANAN: Head first.

ROGAN: I’ll take it. I detest it, but I wouldn’t say he’s a rotting fish, the president.


MCLAUGHLIN: You want to bring that back to Chicago?

PAGE: Al Capone said that.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Warrior Olympics.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Like Prince Harry, I am so incredibly inspired by all of you. I’m inspired by your courage, by your love of country.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Gathering in Orlando, Florida, wounded U.S. military personnel and veterans and their allied counterparts competed at the 2016 Invictus Games. Established in 2014 by Britain’s Prince Henry of Wales, also known as Prince Harry, the Invictus Games is a sporting event for wounded, sick, or ill active duty personnel and veterans. These include paralympic track and field archery, paralympic swimming, wheelchair basketball and tennis, and triathlon.

This year, warrior athletes from 15 nations including Australia, Afghanistan, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Iraq and New Zealand. But the Invictus Games have another purpose alongside sporting competition, bringing attention to the challenges faced by wounded warriors and their families and to care giving efforts to support them.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What does Orlando show us? I ask you Clarence Page.

PAGE: Well, it shows us what skill, stamina and determination can bring to some very courageous and just terrific wounded warriors there, and how all the rest of us can show our appreciation.

CLIFT: I’m thinking Prince Harry’s mother must be looking from above and she was so involved in going after all the landmines all over, in war-torn areas. And, you know, Harry had a kind of playboy reputation not so long ago. So, he’s really matured, and I think this is a wonderful thing he’s doing.

And I give a shout-out to Michelle Obama and also Jill Biden, who have really work over these last eight years on behalf of veterans causes because there’s a lot of need out there, as those images showed us.

BUCHANAN: I think Harry, John, was a pilot, helicopter pilot in Afghanistan --

ROGAN: Then a forward air controller

BUCHANAN: Yes. I mean, it really shows the old British tradition, going all the way back to Harry at Agincourt


BUCHANAN: But really that the royalty fights alongside the troops is a great tradition. I think Prince Andrew who is -- Prince Andrew I think was down in the Falkland Islands when they brought to close that. But it’s a great tradition and this young guy who’s been to a lot of antics and clown acts out in Las Vegas is doing a wonderful thing here. But it also shows something else, John.

See all these fellows now, we saved so many more wounded and injured in combat. I think World War II, one died and two were saved. But now, with the helicopters coming in and medevacs, all these things right on top of it, removing, you save an awful lot more folks and so, you have a lot more folks to take care of.

CLIFT: And thanks to a lot of government regulations, people with all kinds of disabilities are not hidden away. They’re out and very much part of life and I think those gains are showing now.

ROGAN: Well, but it also requires things that -- innovation, a lot of it, is military culture, rightly. You predominantly have young men, increasingly young women, who’ve also served in the frontlines very courageously. But showing these individuals who’ve served the country, that just because they have had a serious injury, or they’ve been wounded seriously, that psychologically or physically, nothing is over.

It’s a change and that warrior spirit, hyper competitive. It’s not a fun game smiling. They want to win, and it’s making that reality important and showing people that their path going forward, the country values them in tangible ways as well. You know --


ROGAN: Instead of hand around someone.

MCLAUGHLIN: You could not be more right. What motivated Prince Harry to become involved in the games was that after sharing a helicopter ride with three seriously injured soldiers returning from Afghanistan, he felt a sense of comradeship and a calling to participate in their recovery.


BUCHANAN: I think that’s why I’m sure a lot of vets admire him, because he went out there right there with him.

ROGAN: And I think they probably admire him for his Las Vegas antics.


PAGE: He’s redeemed himself, I would say, after all that.

CLIFT: With both ends of the spectrum.

PAGE: It’s really true, though. I used to live near Walter Reed Hospital and, you know, every wounded warrior I’ve run into just wants to get back into service again. That’s the thing. It just doesn’t stop. And that’s really one of the great lessons of my life.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, I’ve been out there and I know what you’re talking about.

Exit question: do the Invictus Games achieve their purpose, yes or no? Quickly.


CLIFT: Oh, yes, yes.

ROGAN: Absolutely. Keep going.

PAGE: That’s right. Keep doing it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?

BUCHANAN: The conflict between the United States and China and the Philippines over the islands in the -- disputed islands in the South China Sea is going to deepen, and I think it’s going to come one of these days to shooting.

CLIFT: George W. Bush got 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Mitt Romney got 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Donald Trump will be lucky to get half of what Mitt Romney got, which will doom him as a winner in November.

ROGAN: Yes, I think the debate over Obamacare is going to be a really tough one for Hillary Clinton coming to November increasingly, because it’s an economic touchstone issue and I would say, it poses issues of inequality that are troubling for her.

PAGE: I predict that vaping will be banned because it’s just too good to last.

CLIFT: Right.


PAGE: Yes. They’re going to find something wrong with it.

MCLAUGHIN: We’re going to check about vaping right along.


PAGE: They’re going to find something wrong with it.

MCLAUGHLIN: I predict gold will boom in price this year as investors come to realize that central banks the world over, including our own Federal Reserve, have no clue how to return the economy to normal.