THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
CLARENCE PAGE, AND LAURA SILBER
TAPED FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 1999
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF JUNE 12-13, 1999
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Some victory.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) I can report to the American people that we have achieved a victory for a safer world, for our democratic values, and for a stronger America.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): (From videotape.) Here we are on the verge of a huge success, of restoring a million-plus people to their homes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Democrats have seized on Kosovo as a foreign policy win and an election year issue in the year 2000. Is this a legitimate victory for Clinton and his party, or is it more spin from the president and the Brussels-Pentagon axis? You be the judge.
One, humanitarian catastrophe. Between 1996 and early 1999, the Kosovo conflict had claimed 2,000 lives. That's fewer than 100 a month. Twenty-thousand refugees had fled the fierce fighting between the KLA, the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army, also called U-C-K, UCK, and Serbian troops. Then March 24th U.S.-NATO bombed and bombed and bombed. For 78 days U.S.-NATO bombed buses, oil refineries, hospitals, refugee convoys, sanitation systems, passenger trains, bunkers, bridges, prisons, power plants, embassies, tanks, TV stations. The death toll shot up 12,000 -- a 600 percent increase. The refugee flood surged up to almost a million -- a 5,000 percent increase, over half the country's population.
Two, China estranged. As if the Cox report and the rejection of Chinese WTO membership was not enough to create tension between the U.S. and China, U.S.-NATO bombed the newly erected Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese citizens. To make matters worse, the U.S. excuse was pathetic: reliance on a seven-year-old CIA map. Beijing erupted in protest.
Three, U.S.-Russia freeze. As the U.S.-NATO attacks grew more ferocious and the civilian death toll skyrocketed, Russia took overt action, sending military ships into the region for monitoring and shipping oil and supplies to Serbia. Russian negotiator Viktor Chernomyrdin said this, quote: "The world has never in this decade been so close as now to the brink of nuclear war."
Four, U.N. damage. U.S.-NATO circumvented the U.N., flaunted international law, violated the U.N. Charter, mounted an aggressive war against a sovereign nation, making the U.S. an international outlaw and breeding worldwide anti-Americanism.
"To initiate a war of aggression is, not only an international crime, it is a supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains, within itself, the accumulated evil of the whole," so said the Nuremburg court 54 years ago. Then Clinton calls on Russia and the U.N. to pull his chestnuts out of the fire.
Question: Did Clinton air war succeed? Or a different question: Can an arsonist really claim success for putting out his own fire?
MS. SILBER: Well, I think the air war succeeded in the sense of Clinton got what he set out to get in the sense of the peace deal is on the table; it is actually pretty much the same as it was in Rambouillet in the sense of wide autonomy for Kosovo. The price is very high but not for the Americans. The price is high for the Serbs, which saw their country bombed. And the price is high, obviously, in that we had a lot of people expelled from Kosovo after the bombing began.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think the illusion of victory has been enhanced by the excess of criticism of Clinton's policy during the pendency of the nonwar, for which he is now claiming a victory.
But as everyone said, the bombing won't -- (cross talk) -- everybody said bombing won't do it. Well, bombing did at least bring Milosevic to the table. Had everyone not set on idiotic levels to measure him by, he would not be able to claim as much political success, as he currently is.
Policy-wise, this is obviously a failure that is going to increase, over the years, as we stay there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it going to be a political plus or a minus for the Democrats?
MR. BLANKLEY: At this moment, it is a political plus, but we'll have to see.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. PAGE: At this moment, it is a plus. You know, John, this reminds of the old Chicago White Sox slogan, "winning ugly." It is a victory for Clinton.
Laura is right, that he set the goal of making Kosovo safe for the Kosovar Albanians to return to. And there is a good chance that a lot of them will.
However, we don't know yet if this may be another Somalia because the situation is still very unstable there. And this is not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What problems lie ahead, Michael?
MR. BARONE: Well, there's all sorts of problems that lie ahead, John; I mean, if you listen to the president's full statement, there were weasel words in there. He said one of our goals in this enterprise was to restore the Kosovars to their home. When we started bombing on March 24th, they were in their homes. They were driven out by Milosevic, by the bad decisions of Bill Clinton not -- to rule out ground troops and to apply only pinprick bombing for 67 of the 79 days.
MS. SILBER: What was --
MR. BARONE: What lies ahead -- we've got a piece of paper now. We don't have facts on the ground. We've got the Kosovar Liberation Army in there. They may not be an entirely kosher force. We don't know -- one would --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BARONE: One would not want to take the risk of saying that they are purely devoted to human rights. They're into revenge.
We have got the Russians involved there. We did NATO expansion to get the Russians out of Eastern Europe. Now, in our straits that Bill Clinton got us into, we had to invite them back in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Laura Silber, you want to pick up what was just said about the KLA? Do you see the KLA as a formidable problem, in view of the fact that they are narco-terrorists, having laundered and continuing to launder $1.5 billion in heroin per year and possibly, if they are successful in the long haul or even in the medium haul, being able to set up a narco-terrorist state right there in Kosovo? What do you think about the KLA?
MS. SILBER: Well, I don't think that they're all necessarily "narco-terrorists." I think a lot of figures are being bandied about that we're not really sure about. But I do think that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Like the 1.5 billion?
MS. SILBER: I don't know. But I do think that the KLA is not going to want to demobilize. When we talk about disarmament, that's a bit of a misnomer, because they don't have very many heavy weapons. But what we're talking about is guns. We're not going to see the KLA want to hand in their guns. What they're going to want to do is become the regular army of Kosovo. And we know that they want an independent Kosovo --
MR. BARONE: So are we going to get caught in crossfire between Serbians and KLA people? You've been over there, Laura.
MS. SILBER: No, because I don't believe we're going to have many Serbs there, because I don't think the Serbs are going to feel that it is safe to stay. And I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Serbs are leaving.
MS. SILBER: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And in fact a lot of the Serb citizens who are leaving and traveling north into Serbia proper are burning their own homes because they don't want them occupied by the Albanians.
MS. SILBER: Well, that's a time-honored tradition that we saw in Bosnia just a few years back.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Serbs are terrified of the KLA, are they not?
MS. SILBER: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are some Albanians who are moderate Albanians, who support Ibrahim Rugova, who is the moderate president of Kosovo -- are those Albanians also living in terror because of the KLA?
MS. SILBER: Well, I'm not sure that we can say that Rugova is still the president in the eyes of the Albanians. I think after what's happened, I think Rugova has actually lost a lot of ground, because he negotiated with Milosevic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know, but those --
MS. SILBER: But I think that Albanians who stayed in Kosovo may be regarded with real suspicion. The KLA did kill Albanians who it thought were either cooperating with the Milosevic regime or were not on the side of the KLA. So we can expect retaliation not only against the Serbs --
MR. BARONE: But John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know that the KLA was using satellite telephones as guidance for NATO to drop its bombs with -- supplying coordinates, et cetera.
MS. SILBER: But I don't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So how does it -- how does NATO --
MR. PAGE: And not doing a very good job of it either.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. PAGE: And not doing a very good job of it, if you go on--
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they did a good job where they functioned, but they obviously didn't function. What they should have put over there was whales and toads on top of the hospitals and schools -- (laughter) -- and then NATO would never have struck them, right? (Laughter.)
But let me ask you this. Let me ask you this with regard to the KLA. How does NATO, how does the United States now divest itself and try to neutralize the KLA?
MS. SILBER: Well, I think we're just going to have to try and create a secure political environment. Unfortunately, it's up to the United Nations to do that.
MR. BARONE: Divestiture is not a prospect, John. I mean, I think we're looking at a situation which is probably going to be a permanent U.S. stationing there. We're going to be limited by the fact that it is technically a U.N. operation, which means that Russia and China, who, you know, have a veto, and we may be caught in cross-fire between these various groups. So it's going to be a tough assignment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Our highest-ranking official representing this government and the president, his name is Gelbard, in 1998, he said that this is a very, very unfortunate situation because the KLA are totally terrorists, I believe he said. He said they were terrorists.
MR. BARONE He characterized them as terrorists --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wasn't exaggerating; they are! We've known that since 1980 --
MR. PAGE: John -- John, I would question that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when the incipient KLA was emerging from the various rebel groups.
MR. PAGE: John, I warn you to characterize the KLA as totally anything; it is an alliance, a mixture of a lot of different entities. I would challenge that narcoterrorism --
MS. SILBER: Yeah.
MR. PAGE: -- figure of yours, for example. I would say that they are probably no more narcoterrorist than our own counterinsurgency action with the contras. As you know, there was something -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'll be glad to give you -- next week I'll give you an introduction of equal length to describe why and how the KLA are such narcoterrorists.
MR. PAGE: That will be the day, John. That will be the day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That will be your punishment.
MR. BLANKLEY: At the minimum, the KLA is going to be able to operate just over the Albanian border, which is essentially a no-man's land, a lawless area where they can do their organizing and then cross back in where they'll have to deal with whatever policies NATO's going to try to impose on them.
MR MCLAUGHLIN: You make a good point that the KLA is expansionist. It wants a slice of Macedonia. It wants a slice of Albania, it wants a slice of Serbia, even, and it wants a slice of even Greece. They're terribly expansionist. They're also mono-ethnic. They're the two ethnic cleansers. And oddly enough, the United States has allied itself with what will become the dominant ethnic cleanser in the very region --
MR. PAGE: We haven't allied ourself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that President Clinton will claim a victory for liberating --
MR. BARONE (?): We have allied ourselves.
MR. PAGE: Not really. We have not really allied ourselves.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are already -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MR. PAGE: Just because we have -- de facto, because we're on the same side against Milosevic, doesn't mean we're allies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the KLA is a true ethnic cleanser and a true expansionist force in that region.
Exit question: Which will be more difficult; winning the war or winning the peace? Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Winning the peace, John. It's a tough assignment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Laura?
MS. SILBER: Winning the peace. I think we also have a big problem in Belgrade. President Slobodan Milosevic is in power. We say there's no aid going there until he's removed. Serbia is going to be the next big problem.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Not only is it going to be harder to win the peace, but the cost of it is going to be at least $4 billion a year, and not counting reconstruction costs, which is, by the way, twice as much as the federal government spends on all cancer research in the United States. So it's going to be money very clearly spent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To rebuild all of Yugoslavia, it would be closer to $80 billion to $150 billion.
MR. BLANKLEY: Four billion just --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everything -- it's scorched earth over there. You know that.
MR. PAGE: Winning the peace is harder, just like it is with Saddam Hussein, but the American people just want to see it go away. As with Kuwait or with Iraq, the problem is still there, but it's not on the front burner.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The problem is still there and it's immensely exacerbated because the hatred that has been sown by the NATO bombing -- 80 days of it --
MR. PAGE (?): Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- has brought it to a level of intensity, detestation --
MR. PAGE: No aid -- no aid until Milosevic is removed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that will never die with the Albanians and the Serbs. Last week --
MR. PAGE: No aid until Milosevic is removed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Last week on McLaughlin.com we asked, "Will Kosovo be another Bosnia?" Namely, an economic sinkhole, an ethnic powderkeg and a jittery peace. The "yes" response was 96 percent. (Laughter.)
When we come back, who should be more upset about Hillary's brand-new start in New York, Republicans or Democrats?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Hillary does New York. (Plays excerpt from Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York.") First Lady Hillary Clinton is taking a cue from the "Chairman of the Board" -- she's going to make a brand new start of it in New York. Last week, Hillary announced an exploratory committee as a prelude formality to her run for New York's open U.S. Senate seat. But the question has got everyone in Washington scratching their heads -- why?
According to blue collar columnist Mike Barnicle, Hillary told one prominent politician, quote, "I need this for me." It's about her, stupid. It's about a perpetual sense of entitlement. I mean, think about it: What has she ever done, and who is she? Nearly everything Hillary Clinton touched has turned lousy. Whitewater, Webb Hubbell, quick commodities profits, Bernard Nussbaum, Janet Reno, lost billing records, the vast right-wing conspiracy. Yet now, Hillary Clinton seems to want some sort of sympathy vote as she takes the initial step towards her own run for the White House in 2004.
Question: As the Washington Post asked this week, is Hillary genuinely committed to serving New Yorkers, or is her quest for the Senate opportunism tinged with chutzpah? Michael Barone.
MR. BARONE: Well, John, look. Every politician is some mixture of ambition and idealism, and I think people pretty well have decided which combination they think Hillary Rodham Clinton is. I mean, let's be adult about this. New York is a means to an end for her. She was looking -- she wants her own career, she wants to run for president, she can't run in California, another Democratic state, because Dianne Feinstein's running. She can't run in Massachusetts because Ted Kennedy's running. She can't go to Rhode Island because it would be just too implausible to put on the cap of the Rhode Island baseball team and say that you always rooted for them. That would just be stretching credulity a little too far. So hey, Pat Moynihan was retiring, and it's New York.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is a school --
MR. PAGE: She could have run in Chicago, which she cannot do now that she's been photographed wearing that New York Yankees' cap.
MR. BARONE: But no race this year --
MR. PAGE: She'd have to wait a mere two years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What -- were was --
MR. PAGE: The question is, why this lack of patience?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She will do well in Manhattan and Queens and the Bronx. She will do maybe okay on Long Island. She will not do well in upstate New York, which is where the incumbent does well, Senator Moynihan.
But addition to that, there is a school of thought that she will not even contain her base. It was questioned this week in the Wall Street Journal by none other than a woman by the name of Noonan -- and I think you know her --
MR. PAGE: Peggy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Peggy Noonan. This is what she had to say: "'To think of all they've put us through, and now they won't even go away. Who are these people, and why do they think they are necessary to us?' unquote. So said a nice liberal Democrat from Manhattan, colorfully indignant at Hillary Clinton's intention to become a senator from the state of New York" -- a Democrat, note, a liberal Democrat. "Most of the women I know feel the same way. One, a writer and reporter who votes Democratic, told me, 'This is how I feel: "Lady, keep your hands off my state."'" (Laughter.) "These people are Mrs. Clinton's base."
Do you believe that she doesn't have her base right now?
MR. PAGE: I didn't think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you following this?
MS. SILBER: Yes, I am.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You live in New York.
MS. SILBER: I live in New York, and I am a woman voter. I think that Hillary could face a delayed Clinton backlash. I've had people ask me if she's a "carpetbaggette" instead of a carpetbagger. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have thoughts on this?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I mean, one, I think Peggy Noonan's selection of some matron who agrees with Peggy doesn't necessarily prove anything. (Laughter.) In fact, Hillary's getting 60 percent in polls in downtown Manhattan. She needs 75 percent to win. So there's quantifiable evidence at this point that she's not getting enough of her base to be able to win. But the campaign itself will determine this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Let me ask you this profound question about Hillary. Exit question: Based on what we know of her, her personality, her leadership style, and her political acumen, rate Hillary's prospects for a powerful Senate career on a scale of zero to 10, 10 meaning as powerful as, say, Senator William Fulbright was; zero meaning as powerful as Senator Alan Bible (sp). Nobody remembers him, not even you, Barone, right?
MR. BARONE: No, Alan Bible (sp) was from Nevada. He actually was pretty important. (Cross talk, laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was?
MR. BARONE: Yes, that's right.
MR. PAGE: Barone knows everybody who ever served~, John! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For purposes --
MR. BARONE: When he retired -- he retired --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For purposes of the scale, let's say that nobody knew him, all right?
MR. BARONE: He retired in -- he was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where will she come in and why?
MR. BARONE: I think she's going to come in at zero, John, because the fact is, the other 99 senators are going to resent her. They can put holds and all sorts of processes in the Senate to see that her legislation gets no role --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's incredible. He gives her a zero in terms of how powerful she would be.
What were you say?
MS. SILBER: On a scale of zero to 100?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No --
MS. SILBER: On a scale of zero to 10, I'll give her a seven.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A seven?
MS. SILBER: I'm a former Fulbright scholar. I'll give her a seven.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. What do you say?
MR. BLANKLEY: She's not going to be there long enough to be higher than a six. But she does have the capacity to bring media and have a political impact. And enough senators are going to be interested in hovering around her to gain their objectives. And I think I can give her maybe a four, assuming she stays for a term or two.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think she wants to run for the presidency in 2004?
MR. BLANKLEY: Of course, she does. Of course.
MR. PAGE: Right. Now, as long as you have a Republican Senate, I agree. But a Democratic Senate, she may have a chance to actually achieve some stature.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the answer is three. (Laughter.) Hillary Clinton has a lot of gifts. But she is also far, far too polarizing. She will not be able to build the consensus that a powerful senator needs.
Issue three -- use that in your column if you want -- (laughter) -- issue three: Unprocessed Hormel.
"Sending Hormel to Luxembourg, a 97 percent Catholic country, is like sending Louis Farrakhan to Israel," so says Republican Senator Bob Smith. Smith is referring to James C. Hormel, philanthropist, Democratic Party donor, heir to the Hormel meat-packing fortune, gay activist; and now, U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.
Last week, President Clinton quietly, he thought, appointed Hormel while Congress was out of town, a recess appointment -- no Senate confirmation process. Well, Hormel created a furor.
Why? In 1997, Hormel emceed a gay pride parade in San Francisco. There he joked about a group of transvestites dressed as Roman Catholic nuns, satirizing the sisterhood.
When Arkansas Senator Tim Hutchinson asked Hormel to explain himself, Hormel instead defended the transvestites, who call themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Hormel said that, while he himself would not cross-dress and satirize nuns, he supports those who do and would never stop them.
His response is seen as anti-Catholic bigotry. The U.S. should not send, as its ambassador to another country, a religious bigot, many believe. This flies in the face of our constitutional history and tradition.
Question: Today we condemn speech that is anti-Semitic, speech that is anti-Native American, speech that is anti-Asian. Why don't we condemn Hormel for mocking Roman Catholicism? I ask you.
MR. PAGE: Who, me? (Laughter.) "Moi?" (Laughter.) You don't give me -- (inaudible) -- John.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Yeah, you, John.
MR. PAGE: I am not so sure that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you Roman Catholic?
MR. PAGE: -- I am not clear -- no, I am not, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you care to say which denomination?
MR. PAGE: I understand Hormel used to be, but I'll let him defend himself on that. It is not clear to me that Hormel is a religious bigot. If this is such a serious issue, then bring him forth to the hearing, question him on it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look --
MR. PAGE: But I don't see this as a reason to hold up an appointment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- religious bigotry, especially where the derision is targeted at Roman Catholics, is quite popular among the lefties in this country, is it not?
MR. BARONE: Well, John, I find the sort of derision of people because of their religion, or for that matter because of their sexual practices, to be an unhappy thing, something you don't want to see. I -- you know, too many of us have indulged at one time or another in this, and we should regret it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think that the president of the United States, whose personal emissary is the ambassador that he sends around the world, should be one who has mocked Roman Catholicism? I ask you.
MR. BLANKLEY: If he has, in fact, mocked it, then I think that's certainly a mark against him. My understanding is he laughed at a gay pride activity and -- and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, then he -- then he -- you didn't hear the rest of it.
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, no, I did.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You should pay attention during those brilliant setups.
MR. BLANKLEY: And then he refused and he --
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.)