THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
DATE: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2002
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Desperate Democrats.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO): I have never been prouder or happier to be a member of the Democratic Party of the United States of America.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Mr. Gephardt, you may be proud of and happy with your party, but the American people are not quite so upbeat. The mid-term elections are eight months away, and the Democrats are scrambling for issues that will propel them into the majority, which they are now separated from by a net five Republican seats.
Democrats are salivating for majority status after seven years plus of minority imprisonment.
REP. GEPHARDT: (From videotape.) Our new speaker, the gentleman from Georgia, Newt Gingrich.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Their angst is unending, a living hell after having ruled the House of Representatives for 40 years straight, 1955 to 1995. But today's poll numbers are not in their favor.
Here's the survey picture: "Which party can do a better job handling major U.S. problems?" Republicans, 42 percent; Democrats 30 percent.
"Which party can do a better job combating terrorism?" Republicans, 52; Democrats, 16.
"Which do you prefer, a smaller government with fewer services or a larger government with many services?" Smaller government, 54 percent; larger government, 41 percent.
Now, get this: "Do you plan to vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate for Congress in November?" Republican, 50 percent; Democrat, 43 percent. This 7 percent edge is the biggest Republican advantage ever recorded.
So the Democrats are flailing, trying to get an issue for the next eight months that they can rally around, so as to outrun and outflank Bush and the GOP. Enron cuts across the board, whereas Global Crossing is unmistakably a Democrat scandal. The war, even with Bush's "evil axis" faux pas, is off limits.
What's left? The economy. But the economic picture is brightening, as a consensus of analysts concur.
Question: During the eight years of the Clinton presidency, the economy was on a roll. One year of Bush and it's in the tank. Why can't the Democrats get traction on this? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Two words: September 11th, John. The Democratic Party was doing exceedingly well up until then. When September 11th came along, the president took hold. He led the country to victory in Afghanistan, overthrew the Taliban. He's taken down al Qaeda.
And the bad news for the Democrats, John, is that Iraq is next on the list for the president of the United States. I think the buildup has already begun. And I think the president is going to go to war with Iraq before the time we get to November. And I don't see any way, even if the war is a very bloody mess, how you vote against the commander-in-chief in wartime.
I think the Democratic Party is in terrible shape. And Enron is not going to help them, despite the best efforts of the Post, the Times and Eleanor. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I might add that another reason why they're not getting traction is the dot-com disaster. I think that also -- in other words, people assign the blame, as Pat points out, to September 11th, but also to the dot-come fiasco.
MS. CLIFT: I don't think the dot-coms insulate the Republicans against the fallout from Enron, which is a story that is continuing. We don't know what else is out there. And I would also like to point out, Global Crossing isn't a Democratic scandal. It's probably a system scandal. But number 41, George Bush Sr., took stock options for a fairly large amount of money.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a Republican.
MS. CLIFT: And we don't know what he did with that. So, you know, just to get the facts out --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That spreads it around, Eleanor. Yeah, that really helps.
MS. CLIFT: And national polls, this far in advance of an election, are a little bit like weather forecasts. We don't really know what the political scene will be like in September. And, hey, Bill Clinton lobbed a few missiles and everybody was screaming, "Wag the Dog." Pat just virtually said that they're planning the war in Iraq in time for the November election.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's going to be --
MS. CLIFT: But there are issues. Democrats have Enron, prescription drugs and raiding Social Security. And they may break through yet.
MR. BLANKLEY: A couple of quick points. Just regarding President Bush Sr., he took the stock after he was out of office, and so he wasn't in a position to do any quid pro quo. He was paid that for a speech. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the relationship between Winnick, who is the head of Global Crossing, and Clinton and the $1 million that he gave, thanks to Terry McAuliffe --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, Terry McAuliffe arranged it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and then being awarded $400 million contracts from the government?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I mean, and then they played golf together, Clinton and Winnick. But I don't think -- look, I don't think scandal is playing out significantly at this point for either party.
Let me go back to the question of why Bush isn't getting blamed for the recession. The polling data shows that the majority of the public either accounts for the business cycle, September 11th and the war, and they don't blame the president for it. They don't blame either party for it. They don't blame the Democrats for it either.
So as a result, this is an interesting point. With the economy not working to the Democrats' -- a bad economy and the public still has more confidence in Bush and the Republicans. It's probably in the Democratic Party's interest for the economy to get better, because then the secondary issues -- education, health care, environment -- will become issues that the public will care about, and those are zones where the Democrats are more competitive.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's quite an insightful point Tony made, don't you think?
MR. O'DONNELL: Always insightful from Tony. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, the president is not getting any demerits for the recession, nor is he getting any demerits for the deficit.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, no, because we saw the recession coming from a distance prior to his election, for that matter. And also, all the coverage of the recession is saying, "Short-lived; won't be too harsh. We think we see signs of an upturn." That coverage is already there.
So it's not some really grim sort of recession that we're in, first of all. But this is the time for Democrats to take heart in Tip O'Neill's old saying that all politics is local. In what they call the generic ballot, which you showed -- "If you're running for Congress, do you want Democrat or Republican?" -- it looks very bad for Democrats. But that doesn't tell you about any local races.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it tell you about --
MR. O'DONNELL: The Democrats have to win one-on-one in congressional districts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. So forget Bush. Go after the local.
MR. O'DONNELL: Absolutely. It's absolutely --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Get on the issues, get on character --
MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second. There's a Democratic poll that's been partially released, done by the Democratic Campaign Committee, where they polled marginal districts to see how they were doing. And they were very bad news for the Democrats in those (districts ?) under a Democratic poll. Forty-five percent of Hispanics in those districts said it was possible they might vote for the Republican candidate. Sixty percent of the white Democratic base vote said they have a favorable view of Bush.
MS. CLIFT: Actually --
MR. BLANKLEY: So even --
MS. CLIFT: Actually, Democrats --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.
MS. CLIFT: Actually, Democrats feel better about the way the House is going. Redistricting didn't turn out to be a disaster. Fund-raising is okay. They've got a woman in a high position, Nancy Pelosi, who's got a drive, getting out the women's vote. The Senate is a much bigger problem for the Democrats.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you something, Pat. I know that you're a man of great discernment and you've been around the track. As a matter of fact, you've been around the track -- what was it -- you've been absent from this show, I think, on three distinct occasions.
MR. BUCHANAN: Four -- four leaves of absence.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four leaves. Okay. (Laughs.) Now, you want to point to the Bush tax cut passed last spring, and he signed it into law. It passed in the House, 230-198, and in the Senate it was 62-38. And it was signed into the law of the land by the president.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, oddly enough, there's a segment of the Democratic Party, notably Teddy Kennedy, and also, I guess, Tom Daschle, although he seems to be kind of moving around on this -- they want to roll it back. And yet Daschle says, "No, we don't want to roll it back. I'll have nothing to do with that crazy idea." Torricelli says the same thing.
MR. BUCHANAN: You know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they split? And is that also inhibiting them from getting any kind of an issue?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, what Teddy Kennedy did is insane. Basically he's saying that the reason the economy is in recession is because the government doesn't have enough of the people's money, and we've got to get more of it back from the people. But, I mean, none of these Democrats are going to follow that.
The key problem, John, is when the issue moves from Social Security to national security, it moves from Democrat to Republican. And Mr. Bush is going to keep it on national security, war, terrorism, right on through November.
MS. CLIFT: The --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor. I want to ask Lawrence an issue. He's an authority in this field. So what do you think the campaign is going to look like, local campaigns, during the upcoming year? Do you think that there's just going to be white-hot combat? Do you think there are going to be little tea room chats on television? Or do you think it's going to be nasty mudslinging and red-hot?
MR. O'DONNELL: In all the marginal districts that Tony was talking about before, you're going to see the most intense congressional campaigns that you've ever seen. Democrats will go back to what they've been winning on for half a century, which is Social Security. They're going to talk about it as if they've never talked about it before.
MS. CLIFT: Right. And --
MR. O'DONNELL: They're going to attack the Republican position on it and they're going to gain some ground on it.
MS. CLIFT: And you've got the White House already beginning into the political game. They've got TV ads in five states who have vulnerable senators, three of whom voted for the Bush tax cut. But the White House --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Incumbent Democratic senators.
MR. BLANKLEY: One of the problems the Democrats have is the problem that every congressional party has when the president is of the other party. It's hard to have one message at a national level, particularly when you've got a number of different of your leaders all aspiring to run for president. The Republicans have experienced that in the past. The Democrats are currently experiencing that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think Bush has to be careful in these attack ads in order not to get off the pedestal? If he gets off the pedestal --
MR. BUCHANAN: The president --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if he gets down there with them, then they'll treat him as one of theirs.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the president is in an ideal position. As I said, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's got to stay up there.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- the "axis of evil" speech he gave has committed him basically -- he's not going to do Korea; he's not going to do Iran. He has got to do Iraq, and they're going to do it. They've set that up. And it's going to take months for the buildup. And when that happens, John, if he stays up there as war leader, this is an issue -- and all the Republicans are behind him. The Democrats are going to have no issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this the Karl Rove strategy?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think they decided on grounds -- they finally made the decision, "We've got to do Iraq. We've got to get rid of Saddam Hussein." I think it's been made. Cheney is going to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know who ordered the decision, don't you?
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I mean, I don't think the president should have made that speech, but he locked himself in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no tie to al Qaeda, and the authorizing -- the authority from the Congress requires that there be a tie.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, he's got to go to Congress and get their authorization. But I think -- I look at these guys. They have made the call and they are going.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MS. CLIFT: And they're going to have a big problem doing it logistically if they don't get cooperation from Saudi Arabia. And the Kurds are going to sit this one out. This is not a done deal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from O'Donnell. What do you think about a potential Iraq move by this administration?
MR. O'DONNELL: It's very hard to disagree with Pat Buchanan's reading of this Republican administration on this war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you approve or deplore?
MR. BUCHANAN: Why don't we leave it at that, John? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm not ready to go to Iraq, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're not? Exit question: Time warp to 2004. Will the eight years of Clinton-Gore economic growth look like the good old days or look like an era of wretched excess -- the golden '90s or the phony '90s? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm afraid that Clinton's personal problems are going to dominate people's perception of the '90s, even though they were good times.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They were good times.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, they were. They started out --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were they pseudo-good times?
MR. BUCHANAN: They were -- I mean, the second term was some of the best times of economic growth in American history.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I hope you're not forgetting the suffering and pain caused by the dot-com collapse.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's right at the end.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the dot-com collapse is a bubble that burst, but people weren't hurt the way they have been hurt through Enron and other Enrons that may follow.
The Clinton years economically were a period of good management of the economy, responsible management. The Bush people are just blowing the lid. They're buying everything in terms of military spending. They are making no choices. And what the Democrats have to do is argue that in wartime especially, you have to make hard choices. And the Bush administration has made none.
MR. BLANKLEY: The Democrats don't want to make any hard choices. They're going to support the president on his defense budget. They're not going to vote to roll back tax cuts. And they're going to call for more domestic spending.
But, to answer your question, I think it will be remembered as good times because, unlike the '80s, which were also good times, you won't have the media, which is predominantly liberal, characterizing it as an age of greed. They're going to remember it, as is accurately done, as good economic times.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Usually I commend you for the depth in your reflection. However, this exhibits a primitive stage of reflection. You know that Enron reaches back to the early '90s, and you know that after two more years of Enron and Global Crossing and Andersen, there is going to be a throwback feeling that people want the slow, the steady, not the fast and the phony. Am I right or wrong?
MR. O'DONNELL: And there is no feeling that will change the fact that the Clinton administration -- I will not say presided over, but coincided with the greatest economic expansion in the history of economic record-keeping. It doesn't get better than that. It will be very unlikely to ever get better than that.
MR. BLANKLEY: It was during the Gingrich speakership, actually. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It doesn't get better, but it doesn't get phonier. Right?
MR. O'DONNELL: There's nothing phony about the economy growing in consecutive quarters, the biggest record in history.
MS. CLIFT: What's phony is the argument we're making here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't know whether Enron --
MS. CLIFT: It's extremely phony. And saying it's advanced by a liberal press is ludicrous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't know whether Enronitis is going to affect others. And then how will the '90s look? When we come back --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- affect others in Texas.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- what's wrong about giving pilots guns in the cockpit? Right, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Give Pilots Guns.
CAPT. HERB HUNTER (UNITED AIRLINES PILOT): (From videotape.) He tried to ram his shoulder through the door three times and the bar held. So it did keep him out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The door that Captain Hunter is referring to is the reinforced door of the cockpit, which was stormed by a deranged passenger on a United Airlines Miami-to-Buenos Aires flight last week. The door held, but the bottom vent gave way and permitted penetration. The 29-year old intruder, a bank employee, squeezed his head through the vent and was promptly clubbed by the co-pilot with the blunt end of a small axe; more precisely, a hatchet.
This raises the question again of why pilots are not armed with guns. A fire extinguisher and a hatchet are currently the only cockpit defense at hand. Pilots want guns. After all, if inspectors from the Agriculture Department and the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency can carry their guns on planes, why not the pilot and his first officer, trained professionals, mostly military background, responsible for the safekeeping of hundreds of lives with about a million dollars of liability on each, plus a $60 million to $00 million dollar aircraft, and preserving aviation from the financial and social devastation consequent upon a crash?
DUANE WOERTH (AIRLINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION): (From videotape.) At the end of the day, there'll be law enforcement officers with weapons that are airline pilots to defend their cockpits.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush says okay to guns for pilots if, first, the new Transportation Security Administration, the TSA, approves. It's still looking at it. Second, the airlines themselves individually approve. Thus far, airlines have been silent.
United, last fall, favored stun guns for pilots. That idea appears flawed. If misfired, stun guns can kill all cockpit electronics, leaving pilots powerless. ALPA, the Airline Pilots Association, strongly favors guns with bullets -- maybe aluminum. It says pilots will be trained and tested, including psychological tests, before guns are issued.
Question: Why is the idea of arming pilots with guns so controversial? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Introducing weapons at 30,000 feet is going to give anybody pause. And I might have felt differently on September 12th, but the cockpit doors have now been fortified. This fellow rammed through, got his head through.
The axe and the fire extinguisher are protection enough. I don't think that we need to have pilots acting as marshals for the plane. It's hard for me to envision the kind of circumstance where a gun would be positive. And I think, just like guns kept in homes, there are more accidents caused by weapons than tragedies averted.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think it's pretty obvious that we're sort of transposing the old gun debate domestically into the airplanes now, because we heard that from Eleanor. That's basically how she's going right back to danger in the home. In fact --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they can't -- the anti-gun lobby cannot afford to tolerate it, because if that's the case and it brings security and safety to the airplanes, how can they then argue against guns in the home?
MR. BLANKLEY: They're deeply invested in anti-gun rhetoric. The fact is that there is some danger to shooting a bullet that goes through the aluminum skin of the plane.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, hold on right there.
MR. BLANKLEY: But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on right there.
MR. BLANKLEY: But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. I happen to know, as a matter of research fact, that not one, not two, not three, but four windows -- you know those windows right next to where you sit?
MR. BLANKLEY: I've seen them, yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You blow four out and that plane keeps right on traveling along, because there's such power in the air propulsion and air-conditioning units. What do you think of that?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, there are other --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?
MR. BLANKLEY: Because there are other things going through the walls of the plane, like electronics, so I think that's different from a window. Notwithstanding that, I think the judgment of pilots and engineers is that it's worth the risk, that they should have the gun available.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's not only worth the risk. Look, but you ought to make sure the bullets are unable to penetrate the skin of the plane. However, if you know pilots up there are both armed, how many guys are going to come through that door?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly.
MR. BUCHANAN: The deterrent effect will be dramatic. Look, you know, when we were growing up, Eleanor, we had a candidate that says that battlefield officers should be allowed to have nuclear weapons -- Barry Goldwater. I think pilots can be trusted in the cockpit. They're trusted with your lives. They can be trusted with a weapon.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are a couple of questions here. One, pilots are not respected for their status the way captains of a ship are, but just as much is at stake, if not more. Why is that? Why are they regarded as kind of taxi cab drivers in the air?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I think it's partially what's become of air travel. It's become a little bit like bus travel, and so we've started to think of them more in that way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they were always thought of that way.
MR. O'DONNELL: No, they weren't. Thirty, 40 years ago they had great prestige. And they actually, in real terms, made a lot more money in those days.
MR. BUCHANAN: There were far fewer of them. There were far fewer of them.
MR. O'DONNELL: And there were far fewer of them. That's true.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the other point --
MR. O'DONNELL: Pat has the controlling point on this. All you need do is announce that pilots can have weapons in the cockpit if they choose to. No one will ever seek to gain entry to a cockpit again, even if there is no gun; they're just going to think there is.
MS. CLIFT: There is no --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me make a point with regard to research, too.
MS. CLIFT: The notion that that kind of deterrent is going to serve the kind of people who would bring guns on a plane, who might try to bring a plane down, I think that's ludicrous.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well they're not going to get guns on the plane. They won't have guns. The pilots will. They're not going through that door.
MR. BUCHANAN: They're not coming through with box cutters if you've got a gun in there.
MS. CLIFT: The point is, the gun is there in case --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it is sometimes said, Eleanor, just to try to help you along, because you're --
MS. CLIFT: I'm doing fine if people would let me speak. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm going to help you along.
MS. CLIFT: Okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is said sometimes that a pilot might go psycho and -- since the pilots want the co-pilots to have guns too, the co-pilot might pull a gun on the pilot and shoot the pilot because he wants to take the plane somewhere.
MR. O'DONNELL: When is the last time an American pilot went psycho in the cockpit? (Laughter.) Give me one case in the history of American aviation.
MS. CLIFT: Well, maybe you don't know about it, Lawrence. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Either one of the pilots could surreptitiously take the axe, and they could conceivably hit the other pilot in this absurd scenario.
MS. CLIFT: They've to the axe. They've to the axe.
MR. BUCHANAN: This is like the Egyptian pilot --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So why don't we accept the fact that counterterrorism measures have shown and the history of counterterrorism is that when you harden the target, the terrorism disappears? This is true with --
MS. CLIFT: Well, we've hardened the target. We've hardened the cockpit. I don't think we need guns on a plane.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You will know we have --
MS. CLIFT: And it's not because I'm on that side of the gun fight --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, we have very --
MS. CLIFT: -- because there are people who feel like I do about guns -- (inaudible) -- who probably favor guns in airplanes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have very few airplane hijackings today because we now have SWAT teams. The Germans have them. We have them. The FBI and the other departments of the government have them. And that has defeated, because we've hardened the targets.
MR. O'DONNELL: I think Eleanor and Pat are right. I think we don't need guns on the plane. We just need people to think there are guns in the cockpit, and no one's going to go through that door.
MS. CLIFT: Well, we did that with the air marshals.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will pilots get guns within 18 months? Yes or no -- one word.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.
MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think they will.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes. We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think that Governor Gray Davis is going to be re-elected, John, but I don't think he is going to be a real candidate in the year 2004, as you have suggested.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What polls are you reading, Pat, about Davis? Eleanor.
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm just --
MS. CLIFT: The GAO will finally issue its report on the White House -- the vandalizing of the White House in between the Clinton-Gore administration -- Clinton and Bush administrations. (Laughter.) Well, it should have been the Gore administration.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's going to be a whitewash?
MS. CLIFT: Neither side is going to be completely happy.
MR. BLANKLEY: Congress is going to pass a defense budget even higher than the one the president submitted to them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's $387 (billion). What's it going to be?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know, but it may be $15 billion or $20 billion more.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. O'DONNELL: I believe that Gray Davis will not make it onto a national ticket because of the way the energy crisis --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he win or lose in his re-election bid?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, that I don't know. I have to watch Pat Buchanan for that one.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that after 28 years of conflict and partition, the Turkish and Greek sectors of the island of Cyprus will reach a full political settlement by the 4th of July this year. Bye bye.
(End of regular program.)
(Begin PBS segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Smile, You're On Camera.
JUDGE RONALD STYN (SAN DIEGO SUPERIOR COURT): (From videotape.) The red-light cameras will not be admitted.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The San Diego judge, Ronald Styn, called the tickets issued by cameras set up to catch motorists running red lights evidence "so untrustworthy and unreliable that it should not be admitted." He threw out 300 tickets of drivers caught by the red-light cameras.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (From videotape.) Quite frankly, I think it's Big Brother.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The police chief of San Diego says the spy cameras work.
CHIEF DAVID BEJARANO (SAN DIEGO POLICE DEPARTMENT): (From videotape.) We do have 19 intersections with the red-light camera program. We have seen a reduction in violations at each one of the intersections.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But lawyers for the 300 plaintiffs studied those 19 intersections and found otherwise.
COLEEN CUSACK (PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY): (From videotape.) The red-light collisions did not decrease and rear-end collisions increased.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Judge Styn's ruling surfaced in the Republican-led general assembly of Virginia recently, which is moving to eliminate red-light cameras. Motorists hate them because they must fight to prove their innocence rather than their innocence being presumed at the start, as is traditional in American jurisprudence.
Then there's another wrinkle -- profiteering. Over 60 cities nationwide now use the controversial cameras, where private companies who run the systems receive a percentage of the fines. One of these companies, Affiliated Computer Services, Inc., has gained $2.1 million from the District of Columbia and its 160,000 tickets issued in the last six months alone. That's 40 percent of the take.
Question: Why do otherwise law-abiding citizens become rampant outlaws when they get behind the wheel? I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, it's in our blood, I guess. I've been photographed twice on these machines, once just last week on Sunset Boulevard. They seem to work very well in Los Angeles.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do --
MR. O'DONNELL: There I was, right in the middle of the intersection, and this giant flash goes off -- (laughter) -- on a pole, and I realize I have been photographed exactly where I don't want to be. And it was right. And, you know, I think it's actually a very good system, that we do need to slow down jumping over these lines. And we simply do not have the manpower to be out there at every intersection enforcing these laws. This technology is doing a pretty good job.
MS. CLIFT: I mean, we have cameras in retail establishments so that we don't shoplift, and I don't think that's an intrusion of privacy. And if you run a red light, you can kill somebody. So, I mean, I don't have any problem with it at all. It's technology, it's not Big Brother.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The roads are lawless, Pat. Anyone who drives today knows that. You have some homicidal maniacs behind the wheel. They weave in and out of traffic.
MR. BUCHANAN: You know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They try to make it across the red light to save three seconds so they can get home earlier from work.
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me hold off my libertarian brother here. I'm inclined to agree. I mean, if you're speeding, say, 10 miles over the limit or you're running red lights, you're in danger of killing somebody. And so I think if they get them down to the point where they get a scofflaw like our brother O'Donnell here -- (laughter) -- that's come through twice, I think they're okay.
MR. BLANKLEY: I would just remind you that Robespierre ran the Committee on Public Safety during the reign of terror. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. Was he mayor of St. Louis, Robespierre?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, he was dictator of France briefly. Look, there's always an argument for safety versus freedom, security versus freedom. The idea of our whole public lives being photographed by armed bureaucrats is offensive to the American spirit. And even if they're accurate, and even if they catch us once in a while -- I haven't yet been caught, by the way --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have two points to make.
MS. CLIFT: Armed bureaucrats? The cameras have guns, too, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, the policemen who go out and collect the revenues.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look, about 50,000 people are killed every year. It's worse than the murder rate. It is the most serious public safety issue in the country. If you rule out technology, how do you propose to stop this phenomenon?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think a combination of education and the policemen we always have doing their work.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, more police patrol.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know -- you know how subjective, I'm sure, you being a lawyer and probably able to defend yourself, how subjective the policeman is when he gives you a speeding ticket.
MR. BLANKLEY: I have great confidence in the average policeman to do his job.