THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
DATE: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2001
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Red alert.
ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT: (From videotape.) The administration has concluded, based on information developed, that there may be additional terrorist attacks within the United States and against United States interests over the next week.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With those words, Attorney General Ashcroft reiterated and strengthened the national alert he had called for three weeks earlier. The homeland security chief was asked why this new alert was needed.
TOM RIDGE (HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR): (From videotape.) Yesterday's announcement was occasioned by a -- the decibel level was louder, and the -- and there were more sources. Again, it was just a convergence of credible sources that occasioned the alert. More than usual is all I can tell you.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The new alert provoked criticism from some Democrats.
REP. JANE HARMAN (D-CA): (From videotape.) Everyone is already on alert. It makes no sense except for a bureaucratic cover-your-posterior reason to do this.
REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D-NY): (From videotape.) The real problem is that they are putting out a very mixed message, and the only thing they are accomplishing right now is creating a nation full of paranoid schizophrenic agoraphobics.
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL): (From videotape.) My concern about this second call for a higher level of threat is that the American people haven't been given any instructions as to what they are supposed to do about it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "It's crazy to make those kinds of statements. Imaginations run wild." So says Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut.
Question: Are the Democratic critics right? Should the administration put a cork on vague warnings? Michael Barone.
MR. BARONE: No, I don't think so, John. And with respect to those Democrats who spoke -- who have been very constructive during this war effort, I think, all of them that you quoted there -- the fact is that the government can't always provide us with exact instructions about what we need to do.
I mean, the fact is that this is unprecedented. And sometimes Americans have to be on the alert or even a somewhat greater alert and act for themselves. And we have, starting with the heroes of United Flight 93, who acted to bring down that flight short of its intended goal by the hijackers.
We have been acting in various ways. We are at war, and we are also on a front line in the home front. I remember Pamela Harriman telling me about when she was Winston Churchill's daughter-in-law, staying with him at 10 Downing Street in June 1940. And she said, "What should we do if the Germans come to London?" as seemed very possible them. And he said -- and I can't do her imitation of his accent very well -- she said, "You ladies will go to the kitchen and get a carving knife. You will take one dead German with you."
Well, the people on United 93 responded in that spirit, and we must be prepared to be alert and to respond as may be needed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: That was the most artful spin I've ever heard to get from these alerts, which are vague warnings that tell people to "Be afraid, be afraid, but we can't tell you of what," to comparing it to the way people behaved on Flight 93 or in World War II. That's quite a stretch.
Our government, putting out these warnings because they're hearing all sorts of intelligence, they can't really say that these are credible sources. They can't tell people how to respond. All they are doing is creating panic. And they are also, if the enemy out there is genuinely passing along these warnings, they may be testing to see who's listening to find out who our sources really are.
I mean, this is dangerous business. We pay our government officials to be a buffer, to absorb some of this stuff, to quietly increase the security at bridges and nuclear plants. You don't have to announce this sort of stuff.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And to assess it. Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: I spent some time this week talking with Israeli officials and what their policy over the last 30 years has been, and they told me that they routinely make these warnings in similar situations. Sometimes they say it's a general. Sometimes they say they think it's in the northern part of the country. And they've found, over time, that their citizens have appreciated that. They haven't panicked and they haven't thought that it's crying wolf. So the history of the country that's had to deal with this the most believes this is a useful way to communicate with their electorate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gerard Baker.
MR. BAKER: I don't think it's a useful deal with it. And the Israeli situation is rather different. That's a country that has been under constant siege for at least the last 30 or 40 years, and it's not the situation in the U.S.
The question you have to ask is, what are you going to actually achieve by this kind of warning? And the answer is, who knows? I mean, our people say, what are they actually supposed to do? Are they supposed not to take flights? Are they supposed not to go to shopping malls? Are they supposed not to go to sports stadiums? They don't know. And it just creates a sense of confusion and can be quite dangerous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it can be argued that the public has a right to know. This is not the government's war. This is the public's war. And it became the public's war because it hit us right on our own soil. Secondly, the public also has the opportunity to keep a special eye on suspicious occurrences, like terrorists have to buy gasoline. Terrorists have to go to restaurants sometimes to eat.
MR. BAKER: Right, but they're not going to be reporting --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Terrorists can rent a boat.
MR. BAKER: But every time someone goes and buys some gasoline -- and, you know, when you get this situation where you put people on alert, you get false warnings and you get false alarms. And it creates, over time -- actually, it creates more problems than it solves.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, as a matter of fact, the FBI discontinued its hotline for tips.
MR. BAKER: Sure. I don't see --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nevertheless, people can cease actions which -- if they see a Mideasterner, for example, trying to rent a boat --
MS. CLIFT: But we were already on high alert in this country. You cannot get on any higher alert.
MR. BLANKLEY: Wait --
MS. CLIFT: What these warnings -- hold on, Tony. What these warnings have achieved is political coverage for officials, so that if something does happen, they don't get --
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm so tired of --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. They want to get -- wait, I want to finish.
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm so tired of this cynicism.
MS. CLIFT: Tony, I want to finish my statement. They don't want to get called up before congressional committees and get grilled. "Why didn't you tell us something?"
MR. BLANKLEY: That's not what this is about.
MS. CLIFT: That is an element here.
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm tired of this journalistic cynicism. Gray Davis, a Democratic governor, did the right thing this week also. He alerted the California public that their suspension bridges were under threat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's --
MR. BLANKLEY: And it may or may not be true, but it's good to --
MR. BAKER: (Inaudible) -- specific warnings. And when you have very specific warnings, people can know what to do. And they know not to drive across those bridges.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Gray's red alert.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR GRAY DAVIS (D): (From videotape.) I want to refer to the threat you may be aware of against the suspension bridges in California. We believe there's a credible threat that there'll be an effort made between November 2nd and November 7th to destroy one of those bridges.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The California threat is specific, a suspension bridge, probably the Golden Gate Bridge, possibly the one in San Diego. Question: Does it help to alert the public? I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think it's useful. Look, on Friday, which was the first day of this, people used the bridge again, the Golden Gate Bridge, even though they'd been alerted. I assume some people probably chose not to. That's the right of free citizens to make that judgment as informed as they can. I think Gray Davis was right to do that. I think the FBI is right to give these warnings. And I don't think the American people are going to panic. But I'm --
MR. BAKER: They've generalized unspecific warnings that don't actually create any -- (inaudible). The mood they create in the public is a mood of lack of confidence, actually. And at the moment, we see the public --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Gerry finish. Gerry, go ahead.
MR. BAKER: The public's confidence in this administration, in its conduct of the war in Afghanistan, I think, is very high. It has to be said that the public's confidence in the conduct of this administration, the way it's behaved over the anthrax scare and the way it's behaved over the arrests of all these people that have been arrested on immigration charges, and now over these very vague and general, unspecific threats, creates -- all helps to create a sense of an administration --
MR. BLANKLEY: I couldn't disagree with you more.
MR. BAKER: -- (inaudible) -- the information it ought to have.
MR. BLANKLEY: The only people who have lost confidence are the journalists in this country.
MR. BARONE: Yeah, I think the fact is that people know -- Americans know -- they are not panicking, and they know that their public officials do not know the precise nature of other threats, that they haven't canvassed every possibility. I think people can take this and are taking this in an adult way. They're not concerned about who's going to take political blame afterwards and so forth.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: You say that people aren't panicking. You look around this country; people are panicking everywhere. They're not shopping. They're afraid to go to malls. They're afraid to fly. People are now getting up, and you have to get up -- instead of beating the traffic, you've got to get up in time to beat the bomb, because supposedly it's going to happen during rush hour.
So, you know, you can guard these facilities and resources in a reasoned, quiet way. And you don't have to throw people into this kind of panic. These kind of threats have been coming across our intelligence agencies for a long time. If September 11th hadn't happened, we wouldn't be hearing about every one of them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Eleanor, don't you think we can say that our ancestors endured the Civil War, they endured the frontier massacres by the Indians, they endured World War II? Isn't it likely that we can somehow muddle through this war against terrorism?
MR. BARONE: My point is that we need --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- that our officials don't have to make it worse than it is.
MR. BARONE: We need an alert citizenry. Our officials need to let us know --
MS. CLIFT: We have that.
MR. BARONE: -- to keep our eyes out. We have it.
MS. CLIFT: We have that.
MR. BARONE: I think we should continue --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there indication that bin Laden has an infrastructure in California? Take note of the fact that several of the 9/11 terrorists stayed over in San Diego.
MR. BARONE: The answer is we don't know, John, but it's obviously possible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I think in 1993, the sheik involved in the World Trade Center bombing conducted a fund-raiser in a mosque in Stockton, California. Am I not right on that?
MR. BARONE: I don't recall, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Anthrax update: Four deaths, all from inhalation. This week, Kathy Nguyen in New York, following two postal workers in Washington, DC last week, and four weeks ago, the first case, in Florida. Other inhalation cases: Six under treatment; two New Jersey postal workers, two postal workers and a State Department mail handler, Washington, DC, and a mailroom worker, Florida. Skin-type, readily curable: Six, three people affiliated with New York media and three postal workers in New Jersey.
The geography of the attacks spread this week as well. Spores were found in postal facilities in Missouri and Indiana. Also, U.S. embassies in Peru and Lithuania found spores in their diplomatic pouches sent from the State Department in Washington.
Some senior FBI officials speculated last week that the anthrax letters might be the work of domestic anti-government activists. Question: Does this still seem plausible? Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's plausible, depending on how you define it. What they are determining so far is there's no specific evidence of the chemicals used by the Iraqis or the methods used by the Russians, who are the other two foreign countries that have produced anthrax. And so, by process of elimination, it may not have come from those sources.
But keep in mind, of course, that even people domestic may not be citizens. They may be from foreign countries who have acquired something in a lab here. So the truth is they don't yet know. We're still at the beginning of the process of trying to figure out who's distributing it and what they're distributing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does this look to you like home-grown microbiology?
MR. BAKER: I think, as Tony says, it's plausible. And the answer is they simply don't know. I mean, as you say, the spread seems to have been widening in the last week. We've had reports of all these spores being found all around the world, and that does certainly point to the probability that there is something more international to it.
But the truth is -- and here I have some sympathy with the administration and with all those who are trying to investigate it -- this is a completely new situation. They haven't been able to find out. They can't even investigate half these letters that may have anthrax because they still haven't been properly decontaminated. It's very hard to figure out where this stuff is coming from.
MS. CLIFT: If they can figure out where the woman in New York picked it up --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They haven't yet.
MS. CLIFT: No, if they could, because she is outside of the circle of the people who apparently were targeted. And maybe that can crack the case. But what we don't know about anthrax -- some people apparently are susceptible to a handful of spores, while other people it takes, you know, 10,000. So how this disease behaves is a learning process as we go along.
MR. BARONE: Yeah. But John, on the question of whether or not this is domestic terrorists, it seems to me that that is possible but very unlikely. Remember that the first postmark on the first anthrax envelope that we know of at this point is September 18th. That's seven days after the September 11th attack. It is possible that some group of nutty domestic people got together and said, "Well, we're going to gin up some anthrax and we're going to wait till somebody crashes planes into the Twin Towers and into the Pentagon, and then we're going to release it." I think the overwhelming likelihood is this is connected with al Qaeda.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is a special problem of cross-contamination, meaning that letters that have had anthrax inserted in them might contaminate letters next to them, cross-contamination. I would like to ask John Nolan, deputy postmaster general, do we have to worry about mail cross-contamination?
JOHN NOLAN (DEPUTY POSTMASTER GENERAL): We've delivered in excess of 25 billion pieces of mail since the first letters hit the mail stream. And so I would have to say that compared to almost anything else you do in life, handling the mail is among the safest things you could possibly do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that put your mind at ease, Gerard Nolan (sic), when you receive your mail in the United States? Twenty-five billion pieces of mail, and we saw from that recent record how few there are who are suffering any kind of anthrax disorder.
MR. BAKER: Of course, it does. It does look as though it's very hard for this cross-contamination to occur. But again, the problem is -- and again, everybody is acknowledging this, and the case of the woman in New York is a good example, because nobody knows where it came from -- is all we are discovering at the moment is what we don't know and the depths of what we don't know, which is what is worrying people. And that's perfectly understandable, because it's really very -- because what we don't know is really very dangerous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But do you think the Brits would behave this way? Do you think we're getting to be nervous nellies?
MR. BAKER: No, not at all. I think the Americans are behaving, actually, exactly as the British would behave. To be fair, the Americans are -- this is a form of terrorism that nobody's been exposed to before. First of all, you have people on suicide missions, which only has happened in Israel in particular and one or two other countries. This is a completely new form of terrorism which completely changes the equation. It's entirely understandable if people will be nervous when they know that there are people out there who are willing to kill themselves to kill other people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MR. BAKER: Plus you have the anthrax problem. This is a totally new form of terrorism, and it's perfectly understandable.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, maybe this should be our attitude. Tuesday, World Series game three, Yankee Stadium.
(Videotape clip of President Bush throwing out the first pitch in World Series game.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Recall the scene: The Bronx, 12 miles from ground zero, 56,000 people in the stadium, 1,200 security force, a national red alert declared and active, new anthrax cases and places found, widespread anxiety, and the president goes there.
Question: In this environment, was the president's valiant action, while a morale booster, was it also ill-advised?
MR. BAKER: No, it wasn't. It was a very good thing to do. Not only was it a good thing to do --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the degree of peril?
MR. BAKER: Not only was it -- no, Yankee Stadium --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He could have been shot through the head.
MR. BAKER: Well, Yankee Stadium would have been a pretty safe place to be, I would guess, the other night. And not only was he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-six thousand people?
MR. BAKER: Not only was it a sensible thing to do. I think if the Diamondbacks had their way, the way he pitched that last one, they would have actually had him pitching closing the innings for them in games four or five rather than the pitcher they had.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were advising him and he said to you, "Gerry, should I do it or should I not?" you would have said, "Go out there, sir."
MR. BAKER: Yeah, I'd say it's a good morale booster. And I think --
MS. CLIFT: It was exactly --
MR. BAKER: -- they must have taken all the precautions that were necessary.
MS. CLIFT: It was exactly the right thing. And with all of the security around the president, any time he wants me in his entourage, I'm willing, because I think it's the safest place to be. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with all of this?
MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with half of it. I think it was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you have said yes to him if he had asked you?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, I think it was an act of leadership. But I do think there was some danger. I don't think you can secure 56,000 people entirely. I think he took some courage to go out there and showed some coolness to throw a strike. I think that kind of leadership is exactly what we need.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Your impressions? Do you think he looked a little nervous walking out?
MR. BARONE: No, I think he looked just fine. I think we were all proud of him. I'm with Eleanor on this one. I think he did the right thing. I think it was a good idea. The president takes some risks any time he is anywhere, as we know from September 11th. The fact is that we cannot have perfect safety and perfect knowledge in this crisis. We must act and go on and do our jobs. That's what the president was doing. It was in the spirit of President Roosevelt, who kept major-league baseball going during World War II. I think it was the right thing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think what he should be congratulated for is, under those circumstances, it was an unerring pitch.
Exit: Red alerts, such as we got this week -- let's nail this down -- should they be repeated under similar circumstances? Yes or no. Michael.
MR. BARONE: I'll say yes.
MS. CLIFT: I'll say no.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, of course. It's useful for the public to know it.
MR. BAKER: No. The public is on alert as it is. They don't need to be scared.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes. I think that if the government really wanted to manipulate the public, as you suggest could be behind this, they would say nothing, let the terrorist act occur, and then there would be a groundswell for retaliation supporting the government's view. Do you follow me? That would be the real manipulation. I favor what they did this week -- all parties, including Gray Davis.
When we come back, is Bush waging war with too much deference to the wishes of Muslim allies, European editorialists like Gerry Baker, and our own braying press corps?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Afghan front woes.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS (CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF): (From videotape.) We are in the driver's seat. We are proceeding at our pace. We are not proceeding at the Taliban's pace or al Qaeda's pace.
DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) As we've said from the start of the campaign, this will not happen overnight. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It will be years, not weeks or months.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: U.S. leaders of the military offensive in Afghanistan are now on the defensive, responding to criticism that the military campaign is bogged down. The U.S. bombardment is ending its fourth week and the Taliban shows no signs of folding.
REAR ADM. JOHN STUFFLEBEEM (PENTAGON SPOKESMAN): (From videotape.) They are proving to be tough warriors.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Osama bin Laden is nowhere to be found, and he may stay that way. "It's a big world. There are lots of countries. He's got a lot of money. He's got a lot of people who support him. And I just don't know whether we'll be successful." So says Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
So what are the critics saying? One, Taliban strength underestimated. They dig in and disperse like the Viet Cong. Bombing is not that effective against a technically unsophisticated, highly-motivated army, as one commentator notes. So the large-scale defections from the Taliban military have not materialized.
Two, Northern Alliance strength overestimated. It was thought that once the U.S. strikes began, opposition forces and our new-found allies, the Northern Alliance, would aggressively attack the Taliban on the ground. But this rebel group is failing, barely holding their positions, because of a lack of supplies -- food, fuel, and ammunition -- and demoralized by the Taliban execution of rebel commander Abdul Haq. But General Tommy Franks, commander of the operation, is not discouraged.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS (OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM COMMANDER): (From videotape.) In my view, it is not at all stalemated. I believe that we're on the time line that we established, which essentially is the time line that we exercise at our initiative.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gerry Baker, do you think that General Franks ought to feel the way he does, that things are going along fine?
MR. BAKER: Look, we're four weeks into this military campaign. It is way too early for people to start saying, "Oh, things aren't going very well." Four weeks after Pearl Harbor, you know, people didn't start saying, "Actually, we're not doing the right stuff." Four weeks after D-Day, people weren't saying, "The campaign's going all wrong." This is going to take time.
However, I do also think that there have been some ways in which some expectations have been built up that is just not realistic. And we did see some -- I think there was some talk, and I particularly think some unfortunate phrases from some of the military, including that phrase that the Taliban's military comeback capabilities had been "eviscerated." That did raise expectations and was a mistake. This is going to take time. We're going to have to be prepared for the long haul. And, you know, for all the critics, that's what the administration is committed to.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, the real question now is whether we're going to have sufficient intelligence and covert activity to be able to put together a coalition of Afghanis to fight or whether we're going to have to send in our own troops in large numbers. That requires American intelligence. Right now the CIA has so far fallen down on the job, the death of Haq being a perfect example of that. But that's the big challenge.
As far as the bombing is going, it's fine. I don't think you're going to see ground troops in large numbers until the springtime probably in any event. But the big test for us is our intelligence.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When is the Afghanistan offensive going to end? Quickly.
MR. BARONE: Oh, I don't think it will until sometime next year, calendar year next year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, this is going to be a long haul. They hoped it would be done by winter. Now they're saying winter's actually good for Americans, because American soldiers have good thermal underwear and nice high-protein rations. That's really trying to put a gloss on a picture that does not look very happy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor -- or excuse me.
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm glad they --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did I make that mistake?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: I dress differently. But --
MS. CLIFT: More sensibly.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, nobody knows. I'm glad our men have the right equipment. I wouldn't denigrate the equipment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But next year?
MR. BLANKLEY: I said on this show last month --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: July, August?
MR. BLANKLEY: -- it could be at least six months, and I think it still looks good.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Gerry?
MR. BAKER: Many months, possibly more than a year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gerry's right. We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A forced answer: Which will crumble first, the international coalition or the Taliban?
MR. BARONE: I think the Taliban, but we've got many coalitions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I'm going to opt out on that one.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're going to opt out?
MS. CLIFT: I don't know. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, Eleanor's chicken.
MR. BLANKLEY: The Taliban, because the Brits and America will stick together forever.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Muslim contingent?
MR. BLANKLEY: Question mark.
MR. BAKER: The Taliban will crumble first. It'll take a long time, but I think the international coalition, even many of those Muslims, will stay on-site.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Europeans are whining.
MR. BAKER: They're always whining. But, you know, that's what you expect.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think the Muslim coalition will hold? Pakistan?
MR. BAKER: It will hold for as long as it takes to defeat the Taliban.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Saudis? So you're saying the Taliban crumbles first.
MR. BAKER: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're right again, Gerry.
Next week, will Congress crack down on the states to tighten the requirements for driver's licenses? Bye bye.
(End of regular program.)
(Begin PBS segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: London goes to pot. It's high times in London. The British government announced plans last week to relax marijuana laws. Cannabis will be reclassified as a Class C drug, putting it in the same category as steroids and anti-depressants. The drug will still be illegal to possess or smoke, but police will not arrest violators. Instead users will be issued a warning, and in extreme cases a court summons. The rationale? Free the police to concentrate on more dangerous and harder drugs, and violent street crime and terrorism.
Question: Tony Blair's new Britain has made the use of marijuana quasi-legal. Should America follow suit? I ask you, Gerry Baker.
MR. BAKER: No. You know, I don't know what the British government had been smoking when it came up with this decision, but I think it's a bad one. And I think the evidence still continues to be that marijuana use -- and it's not just the fact that if it's criminalized, then, you know, people fall into a whole kind of pattern of criminal activity. It does lead on to the use of harder drugs. And this is going to open that up much more. I think at a time when there is so much alcohol-related and drug-related violence and crime in Britain and in the United States, I think it would be incredibly --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, don't you think the recreational use of marijuana is harmless, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: We're talking about the decriminalization of marijuana here. And lots of studies have shown that it is not necessarily a gateway drug. But here in this country, you have our drug enforcement people raiding a medical-marijuana clinic in Los Angeles, medical marijuana having been voted on by the voters of California, and the federal government trying to overrule that.
Decriminalizing marijuana is something this country started to do a couple of years ago before some hotheads, including some in the Clinton administration, tried to reverse that. The Brits are doing exactly the right thing, and it is the inevitable future when it comes to this rather harmless drug.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By gateway drug, you mean that smoking marijuana creates an automatic pharmacological escalation to a higher form of addiction.
MS. CLIFT: That's highly disputed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you say that does not --
MS. CLIFT: I say that does not happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's all I'm saying. You're saying that does not happen.
MR. BARONE: It may create --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the recreational use of marijuana is harmless?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. And I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think that the whole culture of drug use is damaging to civilization. And I didn't think this 30 years ago, but I'm older and wiser. And, in fact, we send a mixed signal when we say that certain drugs are legal and others aren't. I understand alcohol is there. We've had that. That's part of our culture.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you regret that, too.
MR. BLANKLEY: A glass of wine can be pretty nice.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because thou art virtuous, shall there be no more cake and ale?
MR. BARONE: John, it does show --
MR. BLANKLEY: This is not cakes and ale. This goes to some very unfortunate experiences in life.
MR. BARONE: John, there are --
MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- not just in England.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think marijuana can actually be therapeutic?
MR. BARONE: There is some evidence that it can be, John, under some circumstances.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but the people advocating it are trying to get it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should it be subject to the same kind of controls that we subject alcohol to?
MR. BARONE: Well, I don't think it's as appropriate, because, A, it does have some of the same problems as alcohol. It can impair driving ability and things like that. So, therefore, it's undesirable in that regard. There's also evidence that you get brain damage over heavy use over a lifetime, and people really --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I haven't seen that.
MS. CLIFT: I've seen it here on the set. (Laughs.)
MR. BARONE: People become less able to work and things.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you take milk in excessive doses, you can get all kinds of --
MR. BARONE: Society should have as few euphoriacs as it can get away with, I think, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Queen Victoria used hemp to relieve her stomach cramps that appeared monthly.
MR. BARONE: Queen Victoria drank scotch whiskey in her red wine, John. That doesn't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The queen herself drinks what? The current queen mother, she has her glass of gin every day, does she not?
MR. BAKER: I'm not going there, John. There are still laws of treason in my country, and I'm not actually going to touch any of that stuff. (Laughter.)