THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT,
LAWRENCE KUDLOW, AND JAMES WARREN
TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2002
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 30-31, 2002
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Papers, please.
LT. ANNE MARIE SCHWARTZ: (From videotape.) Can I see your papers, please? And yours, Fraulein?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To Americans, that chilling request is the image long associated with national identity cards.
But the image may be changing, as a result of September 11th. A Harris Poll conducted immediately thereafter found that 68 percent of Americans favored a national I.D. system. Even renowned civil rights influentials support a national I.D. Quote, "We need to distinguish between a right to privacy, which I believe in, and a right to anonymity, which I no longer believe in," unquote.
But that 68 percent of late has slipped to 26 percent. Under review are so-called smart cards, especially biometric cards like scans of the retina and fingerprints. The scans are linked to databases. The Department of Defense is already issuing smart cards to more than 4 million service members.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, has introduced a bill to create a national standard for drivers' licenses, which could become a de facto national I.D. card. Representative Jim Moran, also a Democrat, will introduce a bill that carries it a step further, requiring biometric data.
What are the positives and negatives? First, the positives:
Crime stoppage, it being almost impossible to create a false identity or steal someone else's.
Travel security, enhanced by immediate identification of air travel ticket holders.
Uniformity nationwide, to lick the problem of state jurisdiction-shopping by miscreants, criminals, or terrorists.
What are the cons?
Slippery slope. It's one thing to track air travelers, but it's another for the government to know, by card usage computer tabulation, what library book you are reading, or how much liquor you are buying, or how much you are gambling in Vegas. Of course, no one says that biometric identifiers must be used for all transactions.
Bureaucratic bungles. The wrong data could deprive you of your identity, your credit, your reputation.
Cost -- hundreds of millions to sync all states' driver-licensing systems, and $3 billion for a national I.D. with biometric identification.
Question: Is a national identity card synonymous with a total loss of personal privacy, Lawrence Kudlow? Welcome back, Lawrence Kudlow. I'm delighted to see that we have launched another television star from this program. What's it called? "America Now"?
MR. KUDLOW: Yes, sir. On CNBC every weekday night at 8:00 to 9:00.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the ratings going to your head, Lawrence?
MR. KUDLOW: (Chuckles.) John, I'm just trying to work it through and help make a good show.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to my question?
MR. KUDLOW: I don't think that the cards would necessarily eliminate or reduce our freedom, but my own personal view at this point is that we don't need cards for everybody. We do need cards for all visitors, immigrants, visas, students and so forth. And those cards should have full biometrics. They should have full personal history profiling and background. As Jim Kallstrom, former head of New York FBI, who is now the head of New York state homeland security, has himself argued. And those cards should be used for people coming into the country; I hope their level is going to be substantially cut during this wartime period. Those cards should be used to force them to check in periodically so they don't disappear into the woodwork, where much terrorist mischief is percolating.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The government can't be prevented from building databases by law or by requirement, and access can be limited also. Correct?
MR. KUDLOW: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That would preserve privacy, would it not?
MR. KUDLOW: Yes. Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think the Big Brother fears are warranted, but we've already turned over much of our lives to credit-card companies, health-care companies, the Social Security Administration. So what if there's one more that's a universal card and that can give us some protection? And people who argue against it say, "Well, it can be counterfeited, and it won't do any good, anyway." Well, I think if you use the various technologies that have been talked about, you can stay a couple of steps ahead of the terrorists, and that's the whole point of the game. I think it's a good idea, and I think it's inevitable.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The privacy issue as presented is a chimera, is it not?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. I think it's legitimate, which is not to argue for the efficacy or lack of efficacy of the concept. But obviously, to the extent that the government has data on you, that's an intrusion into your privacy.
Now it's completely correct that the private sector is every day increasing more data, and we have very limited privacy from the private-sector data collectors. I disagree with Lawrence that you can have a national card just for immigrants, because they can then move into the general population and get the same phony Social Security cards, et cetera, that they've been doing for a long time. If it's going to work, it's got to be across the board. My personal taste is that the detriment coming from this intrusion is greater than the security benefit we get.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you argue that, you know, privacy is better secured by a tamper-proof security card, in as much as your Social Security card can be relatively easily accessed? And with that, you can find out all the personal information you want -- on your medical records, on your banking records, on any credit record. Therefore, if you had a tamper-proof card, your privacy would actually be enhanced because no one could get it.
MR. BLANKLEY: But somebody in the government is going to know that you, you know -- not just that you went to cancer rehab center or you bought some booze or maybe went to a brothel outside Vegas; they're going to know all this stuff about you.
I think the sad part of this is that the train is simply out of the station; the right to be left alone, the right to maintain your anonymity, absent real suspicion of wrong-doing is gone. As Eleanor said, whether you are, you know, renting a car, going to the airport, cashing a check, whether you are even going into your place of employment, people are asking you for a card.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now let me tell you this. There are 314,000 aliens in the United States who are awaiting deportation. You know what? They can't be found. You know why? Because they have falsified identity. If you have a biometric card it is, by definition, non-falsifiable.
MR. KUDLOW: You've also got about 35,000 guys on the lam who have fled from prisons, and if you had a national card, it would a lot easier to track them down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We control terrorism -- we control terrorism by being able to identify those who are legally here and those who are not legally here -- about 8 or 9 million.
MR. KUDLOW: John? John, the dimension --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you can do that, you therefore limit terrorism.
MR. KUDLOW: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can do it with a biometric card. You cannot do it without it because those cards can be readily falsified.
MS. CLIFT: And also --
MR. KUDLOW: The dimension of the problem is even greater than you described. That 300,000 number, which came from the INS, is a little bit of a phony, low-ball number. The Justice Department has its own investigatory area where they're saying it's close to 500,000. And Congressman George Gekas, who runs the subcommittee on this, says it could be close to a million.
But the "smart card" is the only way in this ID area that we can keep track of these people, and don't forget --
MS. CLIFT: And also, John, when you're flying first class, you can --
MR. KUDLOW: -- it has to go through the INS --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on!
What is it?
MR. KUDLOW: It has to go through -- this system, though, has to be coordinated with the INS, with the Border Security, and with Customs. And their management and their policies have to be completely overhauled. In other words, it's an integrated, homeland defense against terrorism program.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to admit capitulation now --
MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or do you just want to slowly die? (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: No, not at all. I want to slowly live as a free person.
The argument that you can give it only for some people and not for the entire population just doesn't hold water.
MR. KUDLOW: I don't see why not, Tony. The source is different.
MR. BLANKLEY: Because if I come in with -- as an immigrant, if I come in with my card and then I throw it away and pretend to be a citizen and get my own Social Security numbers and my own driver's license, I can then parade around as if I'm not an immigrant. So you've got to do it to everybody. You've got to do it to every citizen, if it's going to work at all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I agree with Tony. It's ludicrous to just have it for immigrants and not for the rest of the people. You know, we'll bring you and John over, if you want to fly first class and you've got this little card, you don't have to wait in a line. I mean --
MR. KUDLOW: I like that. I've always liked that.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you can do it now. You have an AmEx Century Card, do you not?
MR. KUDLOW: That's called -- that's called economic freedom. I like that a lot.
MS. CLIFT: Okay.
MR. KUDLOW: And I don't -- see, I think there is a separate -- look, you're right in some respects, that we're already well along on this system. I agree with you there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence, I don't think that last suggestion is helping the cause of the ID card. I think we should all have them.
MR. KUDLOW: Well, I would -- I'm just not quite there yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now if one is stolen, are we -- do we then have a problem, because someone would have an assumed identity? The answer is no, because it's biometric. You can't -- you have to have the retina that matches the card.
MR. WARREN: Yes. Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The exit question is this: Can the U.S. get control over illegal alien population without a national identity card? Lawrence Kudlow.
MR. KUDLOW: No, particularly one that is absolutely de rigueur for all of the immigrants --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It must have the card.
MR. KUDLOW: Must.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: It's inevitable. Yes --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's inevitable, and it must have it to get control.
MS. CLIFT: Yes. Right. Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, that's an admission. What do you think of that?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I mean, you're right. The people who argue that they want to be tight on the border, but they want to have no I.D. cards, are inconsistent. If you want one, you've going to have to get the other. I'll guess I'll take neither.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about it, James?
MR. WARREN: Very sadly, that's about the only way. But just imagine a databank that also tells you that you walked into a building to do Lawrence's cable television show. Do we want that news spread around?
MS. CLIFT: Who's going to be interested in that? (Laughter.)
MR. KUDLOW: Listen, not only do I have nothing to hide, I have everything to share. (Laughter.)
MR. WARREN: Invasion of -- what a shocking invasion of privacy! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's CNBC, by the way.
The answer is, we must have the card. We've tried the other systems to establish, particularly in a hiring situation, whether a person is an illegal or a legal. That does not work. We must have the biometric card.
When we come back, who are the Democrats that want to be president in 2004?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Issue two: They hear the music.
(Music: "Hail to the Chief.")
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) As this new election season opens, I intend to rejoin the national debate.
The truth is that America's economic house is no longer in order. (Applause, shouts of "No" from audience members.) The policies are heading in the wrong direction.
Whatever everybody wants to say, I believe Bill Clinton and I did a good job on the U.S. economy. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Al Gore is newly shaven. Does that mean he's definitely running, Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: Well, we recently had this little flurry where it looked like Tipper Gore might go for the Senate seat in Tennessee, and really that was more about Al Gore's future than her future. I think some people saw it as a way for the Gores to mend their fences in Tennessee, and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Gore wants to run?
MS. CLIFT: I think Gore wants to run, yes. And he can't do it unless he gets his home base in Tennessee.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Joe Lieberman, senator from Connecticut, says he won't run if Gore runs, but he wants Gore to declare one way or the other by the end of year. And Lieberman has been visiting New Hampshire as of late. True? You want to speak to that?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Look, Gore's not going to announce by the end of this year, and Lieberman's request that he do that is not sincere. The fact is that Gore, although he's dropped from about 44 percent support in the Democratic Party down to about 27 percent, is still the leading choice of Democrats. Hillary is second --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary?
MR. BLANKLEY: Hillary is second, about 27 percent -- 22 percent, excuse me. But Gore --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean nationwide Democrats.
MR. BLANKLEY: Nationwide Democrats. But Gore is not supported by Democratic activists. They are angry at him for having lost --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But if he wants it, he'll get it.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm not sure. He's the giant, but I think he could be easily knocked over.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
The other 2004 Democratic probable contenders:
Richard Gephardt, who ran in '88 and will do so again even if Democrats take back the House in November and make him speaker.
Tom Daschle, ambitious but underfinanced, and from a small state.
John Edwards, North Carolina, the charm candidate. Very junior but very versatile.
John Kerry, the liberal candidate. Brainy and certainly not to be under-estimated.
California Governor Gray Davis, the terminator of 16 years of Republican governors, who will probably run if he's reelected governor this year, which at this juncture seems likely.
And Reverend Al Sharpton, leader of the New York-based National Action Network, and increasingly spokesman for liberal African Americans, who, when asked to gauge the probability of a presidential run, said this on a widely watched television program:
(Begin videotape segment.)
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: You want to make news on this program?
REV. AL SHARPTON: I want to see what the news is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me the percentage of probability, based on one to 10, 10 being certitude. Are you at the "five" point? Are you at the "nine" point? Or are you really at the "10" point but you're suppressing it?
REV. SHARPTON: I'm at the "eight" point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The "eight" point? You're going to run.
REV. SHARPTON: I'm at the "eight" point.
(End videotape segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why is Al Sharpton almost certain to run? I ask you, James Warren.
MR. WARREN: Because he's got nothing better to do with his life. He sees a void with Jesse Jackson getting older. And given his tradition, he'll figure out a way to make money off it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Jackson also a model for him in what happened in 1984? You remember how vigorously he opposed Walter Mondale? And he was a tough opponent. But then when Mondale got it, Jackson went completely behind him, and for 15 years he was the number-one black leader in the country.
MR. WARREN: But in New York, in New York City in state elections, particularly in New York City, Sharpton plays a very mischievous role. Because he does oppose other Democrats who don't sign on to his charter, he actually helps Republicans. He helped Pataki, he helped Giuliani this way, and he helped Bloomberg this way. So he's a mischievous guy who helps Republicans.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This will be the first election, Eleanor, where there is no soft money involved. Now, we can assume with no soft money involved that the incumbents, those who have incumbencies are going to be helped by this. Daschle is going to be helped by it, Gephardt's going to be helped by it, Lieberman's going to be helped by it, Edwards will be helped by it, and also those who have a national reputation. Now, that would include who? Sharpton and Gore, I guess.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but message and style still count, and there's one candidate you left off the list, and that's Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who is a practicing physician, has been a practicing physician, has a very different message to bring, and has the McCain factor. He prides himself in kind of a blunt style of talking. He may be a long-shot candidacy that might succeed.
MR. KUDLOW: There is no message. There is no message, that's the problem. If you watch Daschle operate, if you watch John Kerry operate, and some of the others, the senator from North Carolina, the trial lawyer, they have no message. They're running on a recession, which is gone. They're running on budget deficits, which will be gone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They might be running on the war, and if that's the case, who is going to be helped --
MR. KUDLOW: The prosecution of the war has been excellent and will remain so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who are the two Democrats that are helped mostly if they run on a war platform?
MR. KUDLOW: If they what?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If they run on a war platform?
MS. CLIFT: John Kerry.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Kerry. Who else? Gray Davis was in Vietnam combat.
MR. KUDLOW: John? John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out.
Exit. Is there any --
MR. KUDLOW: John, you can't oppose the military and run on a war candidacy, as these guys are opposing the military.
MS. CLIFT: They're not opposing the military --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, that's not true.
MR. KUDLOW: Oh yes they are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You haven't heard Kerry's latest speech-making.
Exit: Is there any --
MR. KUDLOW: And they're also, John, down on environmentalism.
MS. CLIFT: Give it a rest, Lawrence! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any solid reason to believe at this early juncture that Bush will be politically vulnerable in 2004?
Lawrence Kudlow. Quickly.
MR. KUDLOW: No in 2004. And the big surprise is how strong the Bush Republicans are going to be in this year's mid-term elections on the war and the recovery.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, you've become more confrontational since you've been doing that show.
MR. KUDLOW: I can't help it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor. Quickly!
MS. CLIFT: He's become a pol party animal as well! (Laughter.)
We don't know what the political terrain will be like in 2004.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, what do you say?
MR. BLANKLEY: We don't know. But current signs show him to be pretty strong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?
MR. WARREN: Yes, potential war fatigue, a bad economy, and the fact that there's a guy -- Al Gore -- sitting out there who received more votes than the president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Incumbent presidents are almost impossible to defeat. Secondly, Bush has the Independent support. He is not vulnerable at all.
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: What Revolution?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) At my request, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has begun a comprehensive review of the United States military, the state of our strategy, the structure of our forces, the priorities of our budget. I have given him a broad mandate to challenge the status quo as we design a new architecture for the defense of America and our allies. We must extend our peace by advancing our technology. We are witnessing a revolution in the technology of war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was supposed to be the Pentagon budget of the future, the foundation of a 21st century fighting force. Last year, shortly after taking office, President Bush pointedly called the Joint Chiefs of Staff to a meeting in the White House, where he told them that despite his campaign rhetoric about increasing defense spending, they would have to wait a year until a fundamental review of the military's 21st century mission and requirements was complete.
That study, the Quadrennial Defense Review, was finished last summer, shortly before September 11th. The review finding: a $48 billion increase in defense spending, the largest in two decades, totaling $379 billion for the whole defense budget.
But critics are puzzling: Where's the revolution? The proposed $379 billion dollar defense budget -- over a billion dollars a day -- perpetuates every major weapon program in Bill Clinton's final defense budget -- from the troubled V-22 Osprey to the Crusader self-propelled Howitzer.
The Pentagon has preserved its old priorities. Moreover, Rumsfeld has cancelled no Clinton weapons programs -- even the ones Bush himself questioned in campaign 2000, including the F-22 fighter, the Joint Strike Fighter, and the Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter-bomber.
Some priorities are different: $14 billion of the increase, military pay and rising health costs; $1 billion, unmanned drones, like the CIA's armed Predator reconnaissance craft; Two-and-a-half billion dollars, battlefield computer systems.
But about half of the increase pays for the war on terrorism: $20 billion, ongoing operations; $1.2 billion, combat air patrols over our cities; $900 million, more precision bombs to replenish stockpiles depleted by Afghanistan.
MR. KUDLOW: Oh, love it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Should Pentagon planners be faulted for forgetting that their job is to equip the troops with today's best technology, not tomorrow's dream technology?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think they should be faulted. Keep in mind, the plan that Bush had was to try to jump a generation --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- which may make sense in a time of peace. We're in a time of war now. We need to take the weapon systems that are now in development and get 'em on line, rather than to -- we can't afford to wait 12 years for development.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In a sense, we're always at war.
MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who would've thought we -- you always got to be on the ready. Look at what happened on September the 11th. You want to speak to this?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, I think that Tony's right. Plus I think that it's all happening at the same time. And the interesting thing is the defense budget refinancing is going to be much greater than anyone is talking about. It's up 50 percent now in the next five years, John. I think it's going to be up another 50 percent when it's all said and done because of the war needs.
MR. WARREN: The fact is, $379 billion is more than the next nine or 10 countries combined.
MR. KUDLOW: This is irrelevant!
MR. WARREN: The fact is, we got the best, most capable --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish!
MR. WARREN: We got the best, most --
MR. KUDLOW: Those countries don't matter, James.
MR. WARREN: We got the best --
MR. KUDLOW: Only the U.S. matters.
MR. WARREN: Mr. cable TV host, we've got the best, most capable military in the world. The real problem here -- because they have not made any tough choices. The real problem here is outrageous overcapacity in this country. We could save billions if we could shut down a lot of facilities.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you may feel that way, but this budget is actually light.
MR. KUDLOW: Right!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's light on the Navy.
MR. KUDLOW: Right!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We need more ships.
MR. KUDLOW: Right!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're in the Philippines.
MR. KUDLOW: Right!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We may go into Indonesia. We need a heavy budget!
MS. CLIFT: It's a budget that has shown no restraint. It's just put up the white flag of surrender to the defense contractors --
MS. CLIFT: Why are we --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is one word -- let's tie it down with only one word --
MS. CLIFT: -- exploiting the feelings about the law.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One-word answer on merits: Is this a good defense budget? Yes or no.
MR. KUDLOW: Basically, yes. Needs more. Needs more.
MS. CLIFT: It's a terrible budget.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Terrible budget.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's not large enough, but it's adequate, given --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's $379 billion.
MR. KUDLOW: It's not enough.
MR. BLANKLEY: They've got shortages of radios in Afghanistan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That means a no or a yes?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, we need more money. Yes --
MR. WARREN: That poor, spineless budget.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes; it's a good budget.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions: Lawrence.
MR. KUDLOW: John, U.S. troops are going into Pakistan to clean out the terrorists and to knock down the Pakistan secret service imminently.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Whitewater prosecutor Robert Ray will not get the Republican nomination for the Senate in New Jersey.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: There'll be increase in the number of uniformed personnel in this country some time in the next 18 months.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.
MR. WARREN: You'll be happy to know bipartisan moves in the Senate to do away with slinky Cayman Islands and Bermuda tax havens will die in the week-kneed House.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In June of '94, North Korea was threatening South Korea with a nuclear strike that would convert its capital, Seoul, into a lake of fire. President Jimmy Carter brokered a deal -- a swap whereby the U.S. would build nuclear power plants, and Pyongyang would stop building nuclear weapons. That deal will be dead within three months. Bad news.
Happy Easter. Bye-bye.
Issue four: Everyone gets a cup. The U.S. Supreme Court has said it's okay for school districts to test its athletes for drug use. Athletes face a greater risk of hurting themselves or others if they're playing while high on drugs. Also, athletes are held up as role models.
But what about the "math-letes," the mathematic whiz kids? What about the chess club and the marching band? Do school administrators really need a urine sample from them, too? Apparently, the school board in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, thinks that they do. They're randomly testing students in all kinds of clubs and activities. Students are furious.
LINDSAY EARLS (student): (From videotape.) I felt like they were accusing us of, you know, being drug users and being potheads when I wasn't, and my friends weren't.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lindsay Earls tested negative, her parents sued, and the case has made it all the way through the lower courts and is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Earls' lawyers claim the test amounts to an illegal search, a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and therefore is unconstitutional.
The school district claims that students in extracurricular activities should not be treated differently from those playing sports. They are all eligible, though not all are necessarily tested. "Random tests could deter kids from ever doing drugs" is the argument in favor.
JULIE UNDERWOOD (National School Boards Association): (From videotape.) If you wait until there's a severe drug problem, then the logic of deterrence doesn't play out. We want to deter students from using drugs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If the high court rules in favor of the Oklahoma school district, then all school districts would be empowered to so administer tests, depending, of course, on the exact language of the high court's ruling.
Question: Does the Tecumseh School Board have a point? Namely, that if athletes must be drug-tested, so must students in other extracurricular activities. I ask you, James Warren.
MR. WARREN: Absolutely not. That was a discrete particular group. They're different than most of the others. You can make the case that they're role models. You can make the case that because they're involved in these physical activities, they can injure themselves and injure others.
The road you're now going down to, which is a sharp rollback of privacy, is once the court rules, as it probably will in this case, that now you can test the kids involved in extracurricular -- other extracurricular activities, then there's absolutely no distinction between those kids and the rest of the kids in the high school and the middle school, and that is a big mistake. And on this one, the two justices who are correct are Souter and Ginsburg.
MR. KUDLOW: You know, I think, John, if the good, God-fearing parents and denizens of Tecumseh, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, along with their school board -- hopefully the parents run the school board -- if they want drug testing for different activities around the school, they have every right to do it, they should do it, and it will act as a deterrent to drugs.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it seems to me that the minimal threshold for invading somebody's privacy is probable cause, or at least some suspicion that this is going on. There is virtually no suspicion here that any of these kids who are participating in the extracurricular activities are doing drugs. We spent the whole earlier part of this show screaming about privacy --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, but --
MS. CLIFT: -- and you know, you know -- (inaudible) --
MR. BLANKLEY: The difference --
MS. CLIFT: This is an extraordinary invasion -- (inaudible) -- with no --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is isn't just probable cause, because in the instance where performance, physical performance, is at issue --
MS. CLIFT: Well, show me the evidence --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there you have a clear basis for drug testing.
MS. CLIFT: Show me the evidence that the chess players take drugs.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look -- yeah. Look, also, the difference is between adults and minors. The school stands in loco parentis.
MR. KUDLOW: Thank you.
MR. BLANKLEY: They have parental responsibility over the children.
MR. KUDLOW: Right. Right.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think it's a wonderful policy.
MR. KUDLOW: Right.
MR. BLANKLEY: The question is whether it passes constitutional muster. My guess is, the Supreme Court will find it does. It's probably a close call. But there's no doubt, given the problem with drugs, that testing kids -- it's a minimal -- it's a minor intrusion. My only concern would be false positives. You got to make sure the system works well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, my concern is the way you want to spread this over to the schools. There are thousands of social ills, and if you want to fob those social ills off on the schools --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to correct, you are going to invade the parents' rights.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are going to continue reducing the parental control and the responsibility that the parents should --
MR. BLANKLEY: If society has an interest in not having a bunch of drug-infected adults --
MR. KUDLOW: Right.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- and if the parents have shown -- the parents show that they have failed --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, they should -- they need the money for education.
MR. KUDLOW: If the parents say yes, the answer is yes, these kids do not have independent status. It's a parental decision, pure and simple.