THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2001
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 19-20, 2001
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Gas-tly summer.
GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D-CA): (From videotape.) We're doing our part to correct the situation.
The people that have dropped the ball are the federal government. They need to reimpose a price cap, because we're being obscenely gouged by price gougers out of Texas and the Southwest.
President Bush could solve this problem in five minutes by asking them to impose a price cap.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Governor Gray Davis expected relief from the federal government for California's bloating gas and electricity crisis, he did not get it from the Bush energy plan that the White House unveiled this week. The plan outlines a broad range of steps to increase energy production, plus incentives for conservation, plus anti-gouging features.
But one key measure that the Democrats are practically demanding is conspicuously missing: price controls.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) (In progress) -- call on the FTC to make sure that nobody in America gets illegally overcharged. And we're going to make sure FERC will monitor electricity suppliers to make sure that they charge rates that are fair and reasonable.
I will tell you there are some who advocate price controls. Price controls do not increase supply, nor do they affect demand.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Bush has other reasons for this absolute rejection of price caps.
Reason number one: Caps paralyze new investment. With the continuous fear that the government could change the caps at any time ithout warning, investment in new plants, new refineries, new pipelines is thus chilled --no new investment, no new production.
Reason number two: Caps paralyze new discoveries, because when energy prices drop due to an unexpected lowering of caps, companies spend less on oil and gas exploration. That halts new discoveries.
Reason number three: Caps paralyze conservation. With their imposed prices kept artificially low, businesses and consumers buy cheap and have no incentive to cut back on consumption.
Therefore, price caps are the worst of both worlds. They don't lower energy use, and they don't increase energy output.
Last week we asked our dot-comers, "Will federal price caps fix the problem in California?" Get this -- 77 percent, no; 23 percent, yes.
So let's assume that Bush has the price cap policy merits on his side. But are the political merits on his side? And what about the Strategic Petroleum Reserves? Shouldn't Bush be calling for their release, Michael?
MR. BARONE: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, Michael, congratulations on this latest triumph -- (displaying book) -- this new book, which I'm looking forward to reading, that I hear very good things about, "The New Americans: How the Melting Pot Can Work Again."
But this is no excuse for being late with the political almanac. Is it out yet?
MR. BARONE: It's not out yet, John. We're hoping for next month -- "Almanac of American Politics."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, get with it, please, Michael.
MR. BARONE: Okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We rely on that.
MR. BARONE: Okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now what's the answer to the question?
MR. BARONE: Well, John, the fact is, you could take a sort of cynical view of the politics and say Bush -- he lost California last time anyway, he's not -- there's not very many more seats that Republicans could lose out there in the Congress, and so therefore, you know, there's no political plus for him to set price caps to protect California consumers from price increases, which people in other states haven't gotten any protection from.
But I think there's a stronger political point here, and that is that if George W. Bush gives life and credibility to the idea that Americans of both parties, administrations, in the 1970s accepted, that we can price-cap our way out of any problem, that government controls can solve a problem, he is going to buy problems for himself down the road, because as we know from the '70s, they don't work; they don't increase supply.
The Westerners are now saying, the Californians are saying we only want temporary price caps. Guess what they're going to be saying if those were granted and the time for expiration comes? They'll want them forever.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I'm not going to buy the assumption that the Bush administration is right on the merits.
Republicans, specifically Gordon Smith, Republican from Oregon, has joined with California Senator Dianne Feinstein; they want temporary price caps till March 2003. The notion that this would not -- this would de-incentivize wanting to create more energy in California is totally phony because there are more than a dozen new plants coming on line. California has a problem this summer and next summer, and by then they will have 20 million more kilowatt hours, enough for 20 million homes.
And the Bush administration can stand on their ideology here and put up all of these phony arguments, but the point is, if the California economy goes down the drain, the Bush administration is going to suffer along with the rest of us.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look -- look, this isn't really an issue of supply; this is an issue of California finance. The cost of buying it at the open market right now and the wholesale price, is so extraordinarily high that the bond ratings of California is already going down; revenues to the state, because of business cutbacks, already going down. It's 17 percent of the national economy, and if they have to pay $70 billion this year for -- on the spot market, which is what will happen if you don't have the cap, you could end up having a national recession.
The supply is going to get there. California is either going to go bankrupt for paying for it, or it's going to not quite go bankrupt. And so in this rare case, I believe that a temporary cap, or cost- plus, is justified not for the supply issue, but for the finances of California and the implications for the national economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a very interesting view.
Now, there's a political blame game going on here; we know that. Gray Davis does not want to advance any kind of a resolution of the energy problem because he knows there is no resolution in the short term. So therefore, he's calling on the federal government to engage in that impractical and dangerous action.
Bush, on the other hand, doesn't want to borrow trouble. And price caps on merits, he believes, and I think most of us believe, except Eleanor, are very bad economics --
MS. CLIFT: And Tony!
MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And in a very limited way, Tony.
MS. CLIFT: A major way, Tony.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Tony's been acting a little strangely lately on these issues. (Laughter.)
MR. O'DONNELL: No, it's a great Republican tradition, price caps. Richard Nixon was the last president to impose price controls.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and he regretted it. We were there. I was there.
MR. O'DONNELL: Price controls got us through World War II, John. Price controls can help in crisis situations, especially with public utilities and oligopolies that have unfair pricing power over the public. This kind of very limited production group of oligopolies that control the power sources are exactly where you'd impose price controls, in a situation like this. These price caps --
MR. BLANKLEY: But I'll tell you what will be terrible for investment in energy in California, and that's what Governor Gray Davis has been saying this week about threatening to confiscate an energy company --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- because he doesn't like their practices. This is the most dangerous thing. It's reckless and irresponsible, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you -- wait a minute. Wait a -- can you clear up a couple of things? Does Gray Davis want to be president?
MR. BLANKLEY: He used to want to be. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he still sees himself as a candidate in 2004?
MR. BLANKLEY: I've talked to some people in California, Democrats, who don't think he's any longer a contender because of this matter. So I don't think so.
MS. CLIFT: You know, I would disagree.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think he wants to be president?
MR. BARONE: Well, I think that he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he does.
MR. BARONE: I think that he understands that his chances of being president are not very great. Now, you know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because of this?
MR. BARONE: He used that phrase "could have solved the problem in five minutes" that we saw in this clip a little while ago, when he used it about President Bush. He used that phrase about himself. Last summer, the energy companies in California, utilities, came to Gray Davis and begged him to allow them to change the cockamamie scheme that they were -- so-called deregulation that they had -- and allow them to purchase power on long-term basis. Davis said no, because it would have ment a mild price increase, and Californians are so virtuous and wonderful they should never have to pay more.
MS. CLIFT: Davis --
MR. BARONE: The fact is the price increases --
MS. CLIFT: Ah, come on. (Laughs.)
MR. BARONE: -- that hey have now are much greater than they would have been if Gray Davis -- and Gray Davis said, "I could have solved the problem in five minutes if I allowed price increases."
MS. CLIFT: Davis -- Davis took too long to react. He's on the hot seat, but so is President Bush, and I think, in their dueling press conferences this week, Davis looked like he's fighting for people. He looked more presidential to me than George Bush, who looked quite corporate -- (laughter) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to move on. Let's take a look --
MS. CLIFT: -- quite corporate in the way he is lining the pockets of the oil companies and energy companies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's take a look at what measures Gray Davis, governor of California, what he can do and indeed what he maybe should do in California, that he's not doing now. Watch this.
(Videotape of Gov. Davis in background.) Davis exaggerates his dependence on Washington. The City of Los Angeles, for example, has no power crisis. Why? Because L.A. saw to it, wisely, that its department of water and power was exempted from selling its generating facilities, so it eluded California's disastrous '96 deregulation law which split apart utilities from their generating plants. With that in mind, step one -- let California's utilities own their own electricity generating plants. Step two, give California state aid immediately to those electricity generating plants. Currently these generators are idle. That's due to long-term contradicts that force those generating plants, under law, to sell electricity to utilities.
But these utilities are now bankrupt, like PG&E. That same disastrous '96 law, as noted, split off generating plants from utilities. That has caused havoc. Give the aid to the generating plants, let California government-owed ISOs, independent service operators, do the accounting, not the bankrupt PG&Es. Leave them on their own.
Step three. Rein in Californian's notoriously draconian environmental protection agency. The bad regulations of that state EPA are more unrealistic, more ruinous than Washington's EPA at its worst. Get rid of those crazy regs. Then California will be able to build more plants more quickly.
Question: So, there are three options there. What is Davis waiting for? Also, Davis could do this -- he could ban SUVs. (Laughter.) That's what his fellow Democrats are calling for. They want the SUVs off the road. There are 3 million out there. The Democrats and the environmentalists believe that if you drive an SUV, you are selfish, you are unpatriotic. You should get rid of it; only 12-miles-gallon in the city -- sell it, trade it in.
MR. BARONE: Well, let's tar and feather the owners of SUVs while we're at it, John, and ride them out of town on a rail, a low-energy rail.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, have you heard the Democrats on this issue?
MR. BARONE: The fact is, Gray Davis does deserve credit for the fact that they are facilitating the process of putting power plants on line, and he has done a good job in that area. So he's following one of your recommendations here.
MS. CLIFT: You know, you're portraying environmentalists as cavemen, and that's not true. What the Democrats --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the SUVs?
MS. CLIFT: What the Democrats want is for SUVs to meet the same mileage standards as regular cars.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah!
MS. CLIFT: And that is very achievable, and that would save a million barrels of gas -- of oil a day.
MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor, when Dick Gephardt went to do his photo op on this issue, where he condemned the mileage of SUVs, he drove over in a Chevy Suburban.
This is all a phony issue. Americans have a right --
MS. CLIFT: It's not phony at all.
MR. BLANKLEY: Americans have a right to their standard of living, and if we allow the marketplace to work, we're going to have plenty of supply. And it's only the distortions of the marketplace, created by excessive regulation, that is going to deny us our standard of living.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute! Are you saying that SUV owners should not divest themselves of their SUVs? Is that what you're saying?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I have two myself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You have two?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you realize how unpatriotic you are?
MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say about --
MR. O'DONNELL: John, you left out two very important words in your set-up against Gray Davis there, and those two words are "Pete Wilson." Everything you're talking about happened under a Republican governor. Gray Davis --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that 1996 law?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes. Gray Davis has come in here now and is -- has the assignment of the mop-up of this horrible Republican governor.
MR. BLANKLEY: Gray Davis has failed, more than any other governor I can think of of a major state, in failing to act soon enough. He had plenty of warning. If he had acted a year ago, the prices would have adjusted, the supply --
MR. BARONE: He should have acted a year ago.
MS. CLIFT: And so --
MR. BLANKLEY: His failure to act is --
MR. BARONE: But Lawrence is right --
MS. CLIFT: So -- and so now Republicans will sit back and --
MR. BARONE: Lawrence is right. The Republican governor and all members of the legislature of both parties voted for that act. But Gray Davis should have acted last summer to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we can give a guilt trip to SUV owners that would be comparable --
MS. CLIFT: No, no --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to the guilt trip given to the smokers of tobacco in this country? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: No. We should get Congress to mandate --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, ho, ho!
MS. CLIFT: -- higher fuel standards, and Detroit is certainly able to do that, and that's going to happen at some point in the future. It is logical and it's not that hard.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the question now arises: Does Governor Gray Davis actually prefer playing this blame game? And the answer is, he may have a reason because he has allies.
Gray's cheering section. Here's a sampling from recent headlines in the press. "Bush Energy Stance Begins to Worry Some in GOP" -- Los Angeles Times. "Price of Gasoline May Pose Problem for White House" -- New York Times. "Energy Woes Could Harm Bush Politically" -- Charleston Gazette.
Do you understand this as an issue? Is the press setting Bush up for the fall? I ask you, Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Bush is setting himself up, and all you have to do is go up to Capitol Hill and you find a lot of Republicans who say there is nothing in this energy plan for the short term. And politicians run in the short term. They're scared to death about 2002. This isn't a press fiction.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the winter of 1999, heating oil prices skyrocketed. Did you see any headlines out there saying it might hurt Gore's campaign? Not one!
MR. O'DONNELL: You saw real political pressure on a Democratic administration, and they immediately started talking about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve --
MS. CLIFT: They went into it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: During --
MR. O'DONNELL: They immediately responded to the short-term political pressure.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. BARONE: Well, they didn't -- (off mike).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: During Gore's campaign, he called for raising the price of a gallon of gasoline by $3, through taxation, in order to discourage the use of fossil fuels. Did you see one negative headline?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, look -- look, obviously --
MS. CLIFT: I don't believe Gore called for that during --
MR. O'DONNELL: He never did it. He never called for that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he did.
MR. O'DONNELL: No.
MS. CLIFT: He never called for that.
MR. BARONE: "Earth in the Balance."
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, he did in "Earth in the Balance."
MR. BARONE: It's "Earth in the Balance," which he has said specifically that he's still totally for.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, the press -- look, obviously the press is liberal. They're pro-environmentalist.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, yes.
MR. BLANKLEY: They don't understand the issues, and they're going to bash Bush.
MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)
MR. BLANKLEY: On the other hand, Bush and Cheney are doing a highly courageous act. They're actually recommending rational policy for America, and --
MS. CLIFT: Oh, this is -- they are --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the workhorses of oil and gas?
MR. BLANKLEY: And nuclear energy. And it may be that this in the long term will be the best politics. Americans are getting --
MS. CLIFT: Every penny more in gas tax is a billion dollars for the oil companies.
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh --
MS. CLIFT: This is a new California gold rush, and those energy companies are headquartered in Texas, and they're all big Bush contributors. That is not a rational policy; that is pandering to his supporters.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you --
MR. BLANKLEY: The marketplace works, and this may be a policy that will end up --
MR. BARONE: The marketplace works. Controls don't work. We should have learned that from the 1970s.
MS. CLIFT: Tony and I support temporary control -- (laughs) --
MR. BARONE: And the idea that you can wave a magic wand and tell this -- like King Canute and tell the ocean to stop coming up is just ridiculous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: The liberal press -- (laughs) --
MR. BARONE: It will not work.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Now she shouldn't criticize the oil -- the sainted oil companies that way. (Laughter.) They build refineries. They explore. They drill.
MS. CLIFT: They --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And a lot of the profits that they've made, that she condemns, during this recent crisis, have gone back into doing precisely that, which they would not have been able to do without those profits.
MR. BLANKLEY: And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Assign a letter grade to Bush for his energy plan, considering how balanced it is, et cetera. A to F. One grade for policy and one grade for politics, in that order. Just the grade, please.
MR. BARONE: I'll give him a B for both.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A B for both.
MS. CLIFT: F on substance, D on politics, because the market may fix itself, and he may proclaim victory in two years, when his policy had nothing to do with it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're way over.
MR. BLANKLEY: A minus on policy. The minus is because he put a little bit of fluff on conservation. It's not necessary.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. BLANKLEY: I'd say a potential A minus on politics, but right now it looks like a C.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. O'DONNELL: A C plus on the policy and about a C minus on the politics.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I give him an A plus for the policy.
MS. CLIFT: (Off mike.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought it was very balanced, and he wasn't afraid to hit the hard notes. And I would give him a B for politics.
When we come back, does the FBI need radical surgery, cosmetic surgery, or both?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Troubled Freeh.
LOUIS FREEH (director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation): (From videotape.) As director, I'm accountable and responsible for that failure, and I accept that responsibility.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What responsibility? Three thousand pages of evidence wrongly withheld from Timothy McVeigh's lawyers. That's the latest debacle in a decade-long string of embarrassments and stains on the once-gloried Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Item: Ruby Ridge, that locale in northern Idaho in 1992 where the FBI laid siege to the home of Randy Weaver, killing his wife and killing his 14-year-old son.
Item: Waco and its Branch Davidians, stormed in '93 by the FBI, killing 80 people, including at least 18 children.
Item: Filegate, during which over 900 ultra-confidential FBI raw files were turned over to operatives at the Clinton White House, "a Clinton victimization," quote, unquote, Director Freeh calls it.
Item: Atlanta Olympic park bombing, where the Bureau's heavy- handed tactics singled out an innocent man, Richard Jewell, leaving the lead suspect, Eric Rudolph, at large, and still so.
Item: FBI labs, once tops in the world, cited repeatedly over the last five years for sloppy work, scanty oversight, and later disqualified evidence.
Item: China spy, that botched investigation into Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, jailed for nearly a year for mishandling sensitive nuclear data, then released with an apology from the courts.
Item: Double agents in the very heart of the Bureau -- undiscovered for more than a decade, Robert Hanssen, with top-level security clearance, coughing up countless secrets to the Communists and post-Communist Russians.
Question: What kind of surgery does the FBI need? A, radical; B, deep; C, major; D, moderate; E, minor; F, out-of-patient -- outpatient clinic; G, doctor's home office. Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: The --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want it again?
MS. CLIFT: Who's paying? Medicare or an HMO? (Laughter continues.)
I'd say between moderate and major. I think they're farming out more activities. They're bringing in more professionals to oversee various aspects of the operations. They're going to bring in some sort of a record-keeper. They've got somebody from IBM looking at their computers. And Congress is going to mandate an inspector general within the FBI. So I think there are changes under way.
And I would not personalize it for Louis Freeh.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: Nobody's been able to control the FBI -- not since Hoover, and he controlled it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Tony, you want to do your weekly whitewash of Louis Freeh? (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: I'd be glad to, and I think you've overcharged him. But look, what they need is a management augmentation surgery. This organization has grown so much over the last several years that it needs a hired system of management. And it's going to be very hard to find someone that has both the law enforcement skills necessary to make the law enforcement judgments and at the same time the management skills. A former judge is not going to cut it anymore.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that Louis Freeh should not be overblamed, especially when you read statistics like in the Oklahoma investigation, in which 3,500 documents were unfortunately withheld, 1 billion pieces of information was reviewed, 3.5 tons of evidence. And on an ongoing basis, the FBI must maintain 6 billion pieces of paper dealing with their various projects. Also, they had to request from the field office 16 times to get them to file their reports. Now, obviously something's wrong. Maybe it's too big to manage. Maybe it should be broken down, as Louis is trying to do, or tried to do, into a management division.
Anyway, I want to cut back on what may be the impression that Louis Freeh has established a bad record.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, that's a fair thing to cut back on. Look, the positive side of this is you just listed every public mistake of the FBI that we know of in the last decade and it took, you know, 30 seconds. So this is a very, very big police agency that makes a lot of mistakes; they make many thousands more mistakes than we're ever going to know about. What they need more than surgery is just a psychiatrist. They need to face the fact that they are human, that they error, and they should admit their weaknesses and their errors quickly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, the culpability can be divided, and that's the exit question. Who deserves the most blame for the present condition of the FBI: A, Reno; B, Freeh; C, Clinton?
MR. BARONE: Well, which Clinton? Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized the FBI for not being able to find files. Remember, she lost the Rose Law Firm files. They were up in the personal quarters of the White House. I guess they were used to line Sox's litter box.
Anyway, I think you have to say the man that headed the agency, Louis Freeh.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he deserves the culpability.
MS. CLIFT: He, himself, went up to Capitol Hill and very forthrightly took the blame. And he deserves credit for being responsible. He is responsible, and that's where it belongs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he took the responsibility.
What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: The computer system that needed to be replaced -- Freeh had been asking for it for years -- was blocked by the head of the Civil Division of the Justice Department, Al Gore's brother-in- law.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. O'DONNELL: The blame does to D, J. Edgar Hoover, who created a phony, mythological notion of perfection in a human police organization that makes mistakes every single day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that Freeh was hamstrung and he had no where to go. And I would divide the blame equally between Reno and Clinton, the dominant blame.
When we come back, we'll bring you our predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush is demanding that his tax cut be signed on Memorial Day or before. Will he get it on his desk by then?
MR. BARONE: Yes.
MS. CLIFT: Not till June, because they'll haggle over the top rate.
MR. BLANKLEY: Before July 4th.
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, he will get it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before Memorial Day, in one week?
MR. O'DONNELL: Before Memorial Day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.
END REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: In Dixieland, they'll take their stand. ("Dixie" plays.) Atlanta, Georgia -- this New South city has been the site of stunning growth over the past decade. Buildings have gone up, the population has swelled, and cars multiplied. Consequently, the Atlanta area has some of the worst traffic and the worst congestion in the world, but no new roads, no new highways, to ease that congestion. Why? Because environmentalists, "greens," are blocking construction of those feeder roads and highways.
Greens want road funds to be spent instead on mass transits, bike paths, and sidewalks. Furthermore, the greens are fervently anti- suburban sprawl. Three lawsuits have been filed in the past year alone by greens to stop $400 million worth of new roads. But road builders are fighting back, with ads like this one that features a Korean War veteran:
KOREAN WAR VETERAN: (From videotaped ad.) Environmentalists are telling us how to live our lives, preventing us from driving cars and forcing us to live downtown. In America, these are still personal choices. Tyranny didn't win in South Korea. Don't let it get a foothold here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the first advertising campaign of the Georgia Highway Contractors Association, but it's not unique. In other U.S. cities and states, road builders there are also fighting back with TV campaigns to derail lawsuits filed by the greens.
Question: Environmentalists, the greens, they counter that if you build more roads you just get more traffic, more sprawl, more suburbs, so it's self-defeating. Don't they have a point, I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell?
MR. O'DONNELL: They do have a point. You get more pollution from those automobiles, too. And, you know, the road builders, as a lobby, they're just vulgarians when it comes to public policy discussions. They will say anything, they will make the most extreme characterizations of conservationists, just to pour more concrete. That's all they want to do, and that's what they will do as long as they are allowed to.
MS. CLIFT: And Atlanta, a once-lovely, graceful Southern city, has been just paved over with concrete. Barely a tree can exist there anymore. And to do that to the rest of the state, which is what I assume they want to do, would deteriorate the quality of life, and they want to help everybody, not just those who want to spend three hours a day commuting in their Lexuses.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think --
MR. BARONE: Well, John, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think of Lawrence's harsh criticism?
MR. BARONE: Well, there is something to what he says, I think. I mean --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Those vulgarians? How about the environmentalists being like Marxist tyrants? Instead of the dictatorship of the proletariat, we have the dictatorship of the greens.
MR. BARONE: Well, I think you have -- you know, the fact is, metropolitan Atlanta, the 20-county area in North Georgia, had an increase in population of something like 26, 36 percent --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Immigrants?
MR. BARONE: No, in the last 10 years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Immigrants?
MR. BARONE: Coming from around the world --
MS. CLIFT: Yankees!
MR. BARONE: -- from around the United States and so forth. Yankees, Southerners, blacks who grew up in the North and now moving to the South.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MR. BARONE: The fact is that no, you should not totally pave these things over, and some of the things the highway people are talking about are vulgar. But yes, you do need some more roads. Most people are not going to live in apartments.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a road-building problem or is it an immigration problem? We don't have too many roads, we have too many people.
MR. BARONE: It's called free market working. It's called a booming metropolitan area where people are making a good living and where they want to come to make their way in life. And you have to have an intelligent accommodation between the environment, which you don't want to totally wreck, and between the idea that you're going to force everybody to live in a high-rise.