THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT,
BILL SAMMON, AND ROBERT THOMSON
TAPED FRIDAY, JUNE 4, 1999
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF JUNE 5-6, 1999
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: When the bombing stops.
Will Kosovo turn into another Bosnia? In two respects, yes. It will cost an arm and a leg, and we'll never get out.
One, cost: The Dayton peace accord was signed in November '95, ending the ethnic war in Bosnia. Since then the U.S. has spent on security in Bosnia almost $9 billion. Would Kosovo be similar? President Clinton promises not.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) (In progress) -- that when the peacekeeping force goes in there, the overwhelming majority of people will be Europeans, and that when the reconstruction begins, the overwhelming amount of investment will be European.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even so, the cost to U.S. taxpayers will be staggering.
Security: The U.S. commitment of 7,000 troops to the 50,000-strong security force will cost Americans over $2 billion per year.
Reconstruction: The cost of clearing the Danube and undoing the devastation caused by the massive incineration of NATO bombs will be minimally $80 billion. Even if Europeans pay an, quote, "overwhelming amount," unquote, the cost to U.S. taxpayers will be several billion dollars, and that's on top of the $2 billion per year in security costs. And that's on top of the 2.5 billion the U.S. has already spent, as a conservative figure, on the war.
Two, permanence: When President Clinton first sold Congress on the Bosnia deal, he promised that the troops would be home by Christmas '96. Christmas '99 is fast approaching. The troops are nowhere in sight, and the Clinton administration refuses to even talk about when they might come home. Kosovo could be the same.
So what are the overarching prospects for success in Kosovo? We can look to Bosnia. The killing has stopped in Bosnia, but the nation-building has failed miserably. The economy in Bosnia is still in shambles, totally dependent on billions of dollars in international aid yearly. And as for the population, ethnic tensions seethe beneath the surface.
Question: Will Kosovo be another Bosnia; namely, an economic sinkhole, an ethnic powder keg and a jittery peace?
I ask you, Bill Sammon.
MR. SAMMON: I think another Bosnia is probably the best they can hope for, because, as you know, in Bosnia all they really did was stop the killing. You don't have a multi-ethnic democracy, as Clinton likes to talk about. You basically have a partition nation, two sides on either side, neither of them willing to cross over. It's almost like two nations. The only difference here will be because most of the Serbs will be out, it may be predominantly Albanian instead of half and half, as in Bosnia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I think NATO's goals were pretty modest, and it is not to create Jeffersonian democracies and capitalist societies over there overnight. And I think if the Republican Congress next week, when they begin to debate the cost of this war, behave the same way they did when they withheld support for the air war, they're going to look pretty churlish.
Basically, NATO and the president stood up for a principle that was right, they stuck to a strategy that got a lot of criticism, and that strategy, in the end, prevailed with zero loss of American life in combat, and an important principle was made for the start of a new century.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of what we have learned from Bosnia and its application to Kosovo? And I would like you to take note of the fact that 45 percent of the refugees did not return yet, at least, to Bosnia.
MR. BLANKLEY: And that number, 45, is -- you know, a lot of that is fairly recent. In other words, until fairly recently, it was only 30 percent who had returned. So the return in Bosnia has been very slow for the refugees.
My hunch is that if in fact this agreement is honored by Milosevic and the Serbs are out, and that the Serbian residents of Kosovo run away back into Serbia for fear of retribution from the Kosovars as they return, and NATO comes in, that you may see a surprisingly high percentage of the refugees return because they've only been out a very short period of time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Robert Thomson, welcome. Would you care to report to us at all on anything you know about the deal?
MR. THOMSON: Well, it's -- the spin out of Britain, and probably out of Washington, will be that it was the change in tone on ground troops that made the difference. Frankly, the question is, was Washington or Moscow more the deliberator in this decision? Moscow more important.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you mean the total withdrawal of Serbian troops, with the assurance that about a thousand would be permitted to go back in at a later date to protect the shrines, is that what you're talking about; the give on that that was exhibited by Milosevic?
MR. THOMSON: Some give on that. But also, convincing Milosevic that the U.S. was going to send in ground troops, even though from here it looked unlikely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Milosevic can claim it was, in part, a win for him, because what Rambouillet stipulated, which was the de facto independence that would occur in three years, was nowhere to be seen in this agreement? In other words, he gets essential or substantial, depending how you translate, Serbian autonomy for Kosovo, but Kosovo still part of his territory.
MR. THOMSON: He gets autonomy for the time being, but who knows what Kosovo is going to be, where it's going to be in three years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are there other angles to the peace deal that you want to reflect on?
MS. CLIFT: Well, the Serbians are going to wake up overnight and realize that Mr. Milosevic has cost them large parts of their country. And I think the fact that he was indicted as a war criminal, instead of making these negotiations more difficult, I think made him see reality. And I think the Russian connection is really the important one here. We don't know what Chernomyrdin said behind closed doors, but I think Mr. Milosevic figured out he didn't have any friends in the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But your newspaper, the Financial Times, is about to report, is it not, that Milosevic, (A) is solid, meaning he's going to stick with the deal; and (B) he's got -- all of his people are solid behind him, and the popular support remains solid behind him. Is that not what you're going to be reporting?
MR. THOMSON: That's definitely what we're hearing. It's definitely what the U.S. hears. So any suggestion that there was an internal threat to Milosevic, absolutely wrong. The question is, in three years time, in two years time, will Milosevic be as solid when the nationalistic effects of war fade?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I don't think he will be.
MS. CLIFT: No! (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But also, right now NATO and everybody will be muting his war criminal indictment; is that not correct?
MR. SAMMON: I think so. And one of the interesting differences between this agreement and the Rambouillet is that the NATO forces are not allowed to go throughout Serbia, like they would have been under Rambouillet, which means now they won't be able to form a posse essentially and go up and get him out of Belgrade.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please give me a quick answer to this exit question. The litmus test of the success of the NATO operation is whether the ethnic Albanians go back to Kosovo. In Bosnia, 45 percent of refugees have not returned home. What percentage of Albanian refugees will not ultimately return to Kosovo?
I ask you, Bill Sammon. Let's say over a period of five or 10 years.
MR. SAMMON: I think you're going to have at least two-thirds of them return, because they've only been out 75 days, as opposed to three or four years in Bosnia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I completely agree. The overwhelming majority will go back.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, I think about 25 percent won't return, and the rest probably will, and fairly promptly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? What do you think?
MR. THOMSON: Eighty percent will return, and a lot of Serbs will leave.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I will say two-thirds will get back.
When we come back: Why is it that liberals and Democrats get us into so many messy wars, and then turn to conservatives and others to clean up their messes?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Now for the hard part, the KLA. NATO may have a peace plan at hand, but not everybody is happy with it. Notably the Kosovo Liberation Army, the KLA, also called the U-C-K, UCK, is a case in point. The KLA is a separatist, ethnic Albanian rebel group fighting, and often terrorizing, for Kosovo independence, not autonomy, and a greater Albania.
During NATO's bombing, the KLA was a close and helpful ally. KLA troops in Kosovo called NATO on their satellite cell phones with air target coordinates. But the UCK-NATO marriage ends at the peace plan's door. Why? Because the KLA must disarm, and the KLA does not want to disarm. This means that the new enemy of NATO could become the KLA.
Balkan experts chide the U.S. for cozying up to the KLA in the first place. After all, it was KLA terrorism, ambushes, murders, rapes, looting and fire bombing that prompted Serbian President Milosevic to put troops into Kosovo in the first place.
The KLA's M.O.: One, Albanians only. For two decades, the KLA has tried to drive minorities out of Kosovo, including Serbs, Montenegrins, Hungarians, Turks and gypsies. In 1987, 12 years ago, and two years before Milosevic became president, New York Times reporter David Binder described the M.O. of the incipient KLA. Quote: Last summer, 1986, the authorities in Kosovo said they documented 40 ethnic Albanian early KLA attacks on Slavs in two months. Serbian orthodox churches have been attacked and flags have been torn down. Wells have been poisoned and crops burned. Slavic boys have been knifed, and some young ethnic Albanians have been told by their elders to rape Serbian girls.
Two, drugs for arms. To afford Kalashnikovs, grenade launchers, machine guns, the KLA launders -- get this -- $1.5 billion per year in heroin sales. Kosovo Albanians hold the largest share of the heroin market in Switzerland, in Austria, in Belgium, in Germany, in Hungary, in the Czech Republic, in Norway and in Sweden. Unquote. So says Interpol.
Also, the KLA trains in camps of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire responsible for two U.S. embassy bombings in Africa last summer.
Well, Tony, what do you think of those Boy Scouts?
MR. BLANKLEY: They're sort of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the KLA voluntarily disarm, do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think you're being a little picky about our boys out there in the field. (Laughs.) Yes, it's true --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the air arm -- the KLA --
MR. BLANKLEY: The ground --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- NATO is the air arm of the KLA.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- the KLA army, yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I mean, yeah, it's true that originally the KLA was sort of half grandsons of fascists and half the sons of Stalinists. But keep in mind that over the last few months their numbers have gone from 3,000 to 15,000. These are young men who are now the heroes of the Albanian Kosovars. I don't think that the people there are going to want them to disarm, and the history of men who have gone into field, been bloodied, and have a victory to share are not -- is not to give up their guns.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they're going to become --
MR. BLANKLEY: They may make a gesture to it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're going to be terrible troublemakers there --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because they want a monoethnic state, only Albanians. They want slices of Macedonia and slices of Albania. And they want to create a greater Albania.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These guys are ruthless.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think freedom fighters, terrorists -- call them what you may -- are ruthless. I do think they are going to be trouble for NATO and for the United States. I don't think they're going to go away.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your take on the KLA?
MR. THOMSON: The trick is in the Rambouillet agreement. There's a clause there that says there will be a police force. Now this is going to be a police force with a lot of grenade launchers, but it's how you convert the KLA into a sort of civilian military police force that is going to be task --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you talking about our NATO protectorate force or our international peace-making presence? Is that the force you're talking about?
MR. THOMSON: No, no. This is actually a Kosovo police force -- is one of the conditions in the Rambouillet agreement. So how to convert --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that going to be populated by the KLA?
MR. THOMSON: That's the question. It's the only way you can allow the KLA to keep some of their arms, to maintain a certain military formation, but in a police kind of way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this unrealistic?
MR. THOMSON: Somewhat unrealistic. But at least it's a possibility. It's more a possibility than telling them to totally disarm.
MR. BLANKLEY: That sort of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have thoughts, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, the KLA -- the State Department was a getting ready to label them "terrorists." The administration has not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? Again?
MS. CLIFT: Not again; in the past. And the administration has never wanted to arm them and has resisted calls from some Republicans in Congress to arm the KLA. So they're well aware of the dangers. And it is difficult to extinguish the thirst for independence that they have.
But the NATO force is going to be well-armed. And they've got to keep their end of the bargain. And that means getting the arms away from the KLA. We'll see if they can do it.
MR. SAMMON: Sometimes you have to align yourself with unsavory groups in order to overcome a greater evil -- that is, the Milosevic regime. And I think that's what we did here, by basically becoming the air force of the KLA, whether the administration wants to admit that or not.
I think that they will disarm to the point where we can make this peace deal work, because we've gone to the wall for them, and if they are going to make this a sticking point, where they won't disarm, the whole peace deal unravels. They will come on board with the disarmament --
MS. CLIFT: They signed on to disarmament once before.
MR. BLANKLEY: These are the kind of --
MS. CLIFT: None other than Bob Dole went over there, basically, and spoke with them --
MR. BLANKLEY: These are the kind of problems the British had in the 19th century, when they were wandering around the Third World, expanding their empire. They had to deal with one sect and another, back and forth. One time they're with them. The next time they turn against them. They pay them off. They undercut them. Now we're getting into the same kind of humanitarian imperialism, and we're seeing the same kind of problems --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: The White House flacks are already spinning this peace deal as a victory for Clinton and a vindication of his bombing-only military strategy. Are they right, Bill Sammon?
MR. SAMMON: Broadly speaking, yes, they are. But there's a lot of scar tissue, and it didn't go the way Clinton wanted it to. A lot of people are dead and have been displaced from their homes. But he ultimately achieved his objective with air power alone.
MS. CLIFT: This is a big victory for President Clinton and NATO. And John, now that Mr. Milosevic has capitulated, maybe it's time for you to capitulate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, from the time the war started, I think Clinton has played this well. He's going to get a lot of credit, and he should get credit.
The question remains whether he should have started the war, and that's the debate that I don't think he has won or is he going to win.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he's going to get credit for a blunder. Is that it?
MR. BLANKLEY: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's --
MR. BLANKLEY: He has blundered into a political success.
MS. CLIFT: Well, if that's the best --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Boy, that's the incunabula logic. You want --
MS. CLIFT: -- if that's the best Tony can do, I think we'll take it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!
MR. THOMSON: I agree with that twisted logic. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that it is in no sense a victory for Clinton. He has destabilized gravely our relationship with Russia, likewise with China. He's created a narco-terrorist state in Kosovo -- because that's what the KLA will make it, especially with those huge transactions in heroin -- that's a small Colombia or a Cuba right in the middle of Europe. How can you call that a success?
MS. CLIFT: Cuba doesn't trade drugs. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Besides the large numbers that have been killed and the devastation of a little country that will take 20 years to recover, if it can do so. No victory there.
Issue three: The war party.
Is peace at hand? President Clinton better hope so. As his popularity plunges at home, and anti-Americanism soars abroad, Clinton realizes he needs a quick, smooth settlement in Kosovo. Clinton's own legacy and that of Al Gore and the Democratic Party in election 2000 are at stake.
Recent history shows that when Democratic presidents muck around overseas, with bloody and unsuccessful results, they pay a steep political price.
PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN (D): (From 1952 film footage.) I believe that we must try to limit the war to Korea.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Think Harry Truman in '52, losing the New Hampshire primary, mostly because of Korea, a protracted, unpopular war. Truman announced he would retire at the end of his term. Then Truman's hand-picked successor, Adlai Stevenson, lost the presidential election.
Think LBJ in '68 and his albatross, Vietnam. Almost defeated in the New Hampshire primary, Johnson announced he would step down.
PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON (D): (From 1968 film footage.) With American sons in the field far away, I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: LBJ's vice president, Hubert H. Humphrey, went down in defeat against Richard Nixon.
PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER (D): (From 1980 footage.) It was my decision to attempt the rescue operation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Think Jimmy Carter, '80. The humiliation of an unsuccessful mission to rescue American hostages held in Iran helped bring about his defeat at the polls after only one term.
"Liberal politicians invariably screw up when they resort to military action in foreign policy. The current fiasco in the Balkans is a classic example of a 20th century syndrome. Are conservative politicians better? The answer is, yes. Both the Falklands and Gulf conflicts were characterized by clear objectives." So writes Niall Ferguson in the Financial Times.
Question: Why do Democrats and liberals try to start wars so much? I ask you, Robert Thomson. And I hope you appreciated my quoting Niall Ferguson from your newspaper.
MR. THOMSON: Any quote will do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can put that check in the mail at any time, Robert.
MR. THOMSON: (Laughs.) It's on the way from London.
First of all, I guess you have to ask Is Bill Clinton a liberal? That's one we'll leave for later on.
Who is more dangerous: a liberal hawk or a hawkish liberal? I think hawkish liberals are more dangerous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you reflected on the fact that Lionel Jospin of France is a liberal, the chancellor of Germany is a liberal, Mr. Blair is a liberal? Arguably Clinton is a liberal on domestic -- maybe tilts a little bit to the left on domestic policy. But he's not a thorough-going liberal. Liberals really reek a lot of havoc when they stir up --
MS. CLIFT: You know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- these military situations. Am I right or wrong? Is this a Democrat war?
MR. SAMMON: Let me say this: I don't think Clinton got into this war because he's a Democrat. I think he got into this war because it was the morally right thing to do.
Now, once he got into it, he ran the war like a Democrat ran the war. In other words, he wanted to approve the bombing targets, he wanted to circumscribe the military in certain ways, like in other wars like that. So I don't think it was an ideological question getting into the war.
MS. CLIFT: Are you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You give him a lot of credit for that noble motivation. But liberals tend to be very self-righteous, and that makes them very quarrelsome and very inclined, very prone to impose their concept of what is good for you on you. Let me finish --
MS. CLIFT: Yes. As opposed to you, John McLaughlin? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me finish. They want to impose it on you. And you'd better heel to that, because they will see to it one way or another that you do it their way. Am I right or wrong?
MS. CLIFT: John! John, you're the one who preaches through half the program! (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point. You know, Republicans have started a few wars: the Civil War, the Spanish-American. But I think the point you make now is brought up by Vaclav Havel's speech to the Canadian parliament, when he talked about Kosovo and the justification for violating sovereignty because nation-states and patriotism don't matter any more. And I think the Clinton and Blair have bought into that, and that's why it's a dangerous precedent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a poisonous doctrine, that Havel -- doctrine. And you know it. Correct?
MR. BLANKLEY: I read my --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll talk about that in a future show.
Okay, the cardinal and the war, Eleanor. Pay attention.
New York Cardinal John O'Connor, a Navy admiral with over 30 years service in the Pacific and Atlantic fleets -- Okinawa, Vietnam -- and at the U.S. Naval Academy ripped the U.S.-NATO war.
JOHN CARDINAL O'CONNOR: (From videotape) -- that it is exceedingly difficult if not impossible to justify the way in which this war is being waged. I have not been able to see how it is justified morally in accordance with the principles of just war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was this an immoral war?
I ask you, Bill Sammon. Briefly, please.
MR. SAMMON: I think it would have been more immoral to let the ethnic cleansing go on. So, yes, it was a moral war.
MS. CLIFT: Right. This is the last war of this century, and it was a very moral war. And it sets a standard for the future that we can all be proud of, even if we despise the president, like so many people do, who don't want to give him credit for this clear victory that he deserves.
MR. BLANKLEY: Between the Christian doctrine of a just war and the Nuremburg precedent of crime against humanity, is where most wars are morally situated. This one is one of those in the middle.
MR. THOMSON: It was moral, but it was the high moral ground at 20,000 feet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The war was deeply, deeply immoral.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, predictions.
MR. SAMMON: I think the press will try to take Governor Bush down a major peg once he starts to go to Iowa and New Hampshire next week.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: Once the tick-tock of the war diplomacy emerges, it will become clear that Al Gore played a major role in keeping the Russian envoy, Chernomyrdin, on track.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: By next spring, I think Milosevic will try to churn up ethnic strife in other parts of the former Yugoslavia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Robert?
MR. THOMSON: Will Hillary rent or buy in New York? Rent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will what?
MR. THOMSON: Will Hillary rent or buy in New York? Rent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rent. That's the answer?
MR. THOMSON: That's the answer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you sure it's not going to be Westchester County?
No strategic partnership with China. Rather, by Thanksgiving, a cold war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hutchinson had him in his office, and he said, "Will you repudiate it?" And he said, "No."
MR. BLANKLEY: He said people should have the right to do whatever they want. Now, I happen to have met the chap at a reception. He seemed like ambassador-grade material, a pleasant fellow with no particular qualifications; that's -- who paid a lot of money to his party. That's the standard requirement of an ambassador. (Laughter.)
MS. SILBER: That's how you get Luxembourg. He's right.
MR. BLANKLEY: And I don't see why he should miss it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have 75 --
MR. BARONE: John -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- handled Luxembourg in 1949. He can probably handle it now.
MR. PAGE: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are 75 million Catholics in the United States. They constitute almost one-third of the American population. Clearly, the president should recognize that before he appoints a religious bigot as ambassador, yes or no?
MR. BARONE: Well, you're -- you're moralizing, and there's a better one, John. (Cross talk.) We should not have derision against any religion, regardless of how large or small it is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he should not exhibit any species of religious intolerance.
MS. SILBER: I think you're jumping --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Michael?
MR. BARONE: Problems in the run-up to the June 30 deadline in Northern Ireland on decommissioning guns.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Laura?
MS. SILBER: The long-stalled nomination confirmation of Richard Holbrooke for the U.N. ambassador we'll see go through now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow. Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Republicans will pass this year legislation reducing the costs of prescription drugs --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, real fast.
MR. PAGE: Watch for Jesse Jackson to go back to Yugoslavia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Federal Reserve Board will raise interest rates by one-quarter percentage points when it meets next June 30th.
®FC¯END REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Roads or toads?
SCOTT MOSER (off-highway vehicle user): (From videotape.) I don't I feel like squashing one, but I -- I could see they need their area, but we still need our area.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an OHVer -- an off-highway vehicle user, and he's hopping mad. The problem? Bufo microscaphus californicus. The, quote, "Arroyo Southwestern Toad," unquote. That's right -- toad. Found in southern California and Baja, the Arroyo has been endangered since 1994. One threat to these toads: pedestrians. Also vehicles roving over its territory. The Arroyo buries itself in moist sand, but not deep enough to escape being crushed by tires and hiking boots.
In California parks, it's virtual toadicide, so the U.S. Forest Service has been closing off acres of toad territory to the public. Rangers then attach transmitters to captured toads to track movement, thus learning what areas of parkland are toadful and what areas toad-free.
But this past January, Angeles National Park went over the top in providing toad havens. Authorities shut off 3,000 acres of land all year round -- that's nearly 5 square miles -- until -- get this -- February of 2003 -- no camping, no wading, no picnicking, no driving on off-road trails for the next three and a half years.
Small business owners in the area are also angry. They say closures kill their livelihoods.
KEN PEERY (Little Rock Dam Cafe): (From videotape.) This is a push to get people out of the forest, turn the forest over to NATO for controlled --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Are havens for toads a good idea? And if so, should these havens be protected by NATO peacekeepers? I ask you, Laura Silber.
MS. SILBER: I'm -- on the favor of the toads, I'm a daughter of a biology teacher. I think we got the old spotted owl controversy --
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, boy --
MS. SILBER: We got to go biodiversity. We need it. Sorry.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I used --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a serious show here.
MS. SILBER: I know a serious --
MR. BLANKLEY: I used --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's a serious opinion.
MS. SILBER: I think we've got to back the toads --
MR. BLANKLEY: I used to shoot my .22 out in Angeles (sp) National Forest, and I'm for the roads, not for the toads. I think by the chance we may improve the breed, because the smart toads will get out of the way and breed with each other. (Laughter.) So maybe we'll have a few other --smarter toads.
MR. PAGE: Is this toad euthanasia or something? (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Once these -- once this 5-mile-square enclosure is enacted, as it is now, is always renewed, it is always extended, and it's made permanent.
MR. BARONE: Well, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's because the Forest Service is doing such a lousy job.
MR. BARONE: Well, John, I think that -- look, I think the goals of the Endangered Species Act are a good idea. There's something terrible and unhappy about losing these species. It --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?
MR. BARONE: There's a lot of evidence that there's a lot of zealotry on the part of the people that enforce this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BARONE: -- and they've caused --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Fanaticism.
MR. BARONE: -- and when we watch the salmon being endangered species --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fanaticism was what's at play here.
MS. SILBER: Biodiversity.
MR. BARONE: When we --
MR. PAGE: Save the toads, John, warts and all. (Laughter.)