Share

The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek;
Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, December 14, 2012
Broadcast: Weekend of December 15-16, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Federal News Service, LLC, 1120 G Street NW, Suite 990, Washington, DC 20005-3801 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, LLC. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Transcripts Database or any other FNS product, please email info@fednews.com or call 1-202-347-1400.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Newtown Nightmare.

At least 27 people, including 18 children, were killed on Friday at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. At least one shooter opened fire. Sandy Hook Elementary School teaches children from kindergarten through fourth grade, roughly ages five through 10.

Question: The federal assault weapons ban was a federal law in 1994. That law prohibited the manufacturing of semiautomatic firearms, so-called assault weapons, for civilian use. The ban was passed by Congress on September 13, 1994, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
The 10-year law expired on September 13th, 2004.

There have been multiple attempts to renew the weapons law ban, but no bill has been legislated. Will President Obama revive the federal assault weapons ban? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: John, the president had both houses of Congress with him in 2009 for two years, and he didn't do it then. I doubt if he will try it now, but he may do it.
But take a look at what happened up here. This individual came in and murdered his mother, who was a teacher, I believe, of the kindergarten kids, and may have murdered his father. You've got a demented or insane individual who shouldn't have had any gun at all.

But there were people that came to that school with assault weapons -- all the first responders, the SWAT team, the cops. The good guys had assault weapons, John. So I don't think you can blame this on the gun itself. You've got to blame it on the killer. And if, John, you really do go after guns and try to, quote, "disarm America," did you know on black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, 155,000 requests came to the FBI for clearances to buy guns?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Right. And that is the paranoia of people; that is, it's fueled by a lot of dark impulses, which I'm not going to go into here. But we live in a culture that is awash in guns, where people can have easy access to guns to wreak mayhem.

When I was a kid, we used to duck under the desk because we were afraid of the nuclear bomb coming. Kids today do drills in case a lone gunman comes into the classroom so they know what to do. I don't think we want to live in a society like that. And this horrific event may be the tipping point that injects some courage into our politicians.

This president, like the president before him, George W. Bush, say they will sign an assault weapons ban if it comes to their desk. But neither has done anything to make that happen. So I think if the president is looking for a second-term crusade, if you will, he should take this on. And maybe the parents of America will be riled up enough over what has happened here that the kind of grassroots energy that you need to change law will happen.

But, you know, Carolyn McCarthy, a member of Congress, whose husband was killed and whose son was grievously wounded 20 years ago in a shooting incident on the Long Island Railroad, she's trying to just get legislation through that would limit the size of assault weapon magazines to 10 rounds instead of 30 rounds, which apparently was used in this shooting. She can't get any interest in that in the Republican-controlled House; not that the Democrats are that eager either. But the politicians are standing in the way, and they're all in the pockets of the NRA.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

SUSAN FERRECHIO: Well, there have been -- I was just looking at the coalition to stop gun violence; supposedly 65 mass shootings in the past couple of years, one every three months, is the number they're putting out.
The interesting thing here, though, is -- you're right -- Congress rarely will do anything about it, because it divides them so bad. Even after a big shooting like Columbine, they really couldn't move anything. Only minor things can get through.

What I think might happen this time, though, is I honestly think there will be an effort to put gun-control legislation forward. In fact, I would be shocked if they didn't -- if something wasn't put forward after this. This really will give momentum to gun-control advocates.
I'm not sure they're going to move anything on banning semiautomatic or automatic weapons. I think what you're going to see is more likely some kind of control on who can get guns, because if you look at the connector between these big shootings -- Gabby Giffords in Arizona, Aurora, Colorado and today, Friday, what happened in Connecticut -- what you see is someone who is mentally deranged getting hold of a weapon and coming in and killing a lot of people. There are discussions about limiting who can get a gun based on whether they're mentally stable or not.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's already a law. Look, you've got mental illness --

MS. CLIFT: It's not working, obviously.

MS. FERRECHIO: It's a little bit loose, though. There are ways to tighten that law --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, if you've got a criminal record and you've got mental problems, you're not allowed to purchase a gun even in relatively loose gun states like Virginia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is that assuming?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: It's not just -- sorry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's assuming that the gun dealer is interrogating the gun presumed purchaser.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, the gun dealer --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the gun dealer says --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you -- I mean, I'm familiar with this. I go to -- I mean, I've got a collection. But you go to a gun dealer.

They call up, while you're in there purchasing that gun, and say, does this guy have any record of mental illness or something like that? They call a central headquarters -- does he have a criminal record? -- before you're allowed to pick up the gun.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In New York, the number of murders has gone down from 2,400 a year 20 years ago to under 400 now. It's 300-odd. A big part of that, in my judgment, was what has been introduced in New York City, which is called stop and frisk, where the police are allowed to go ahead, look at somebody whom they consider suspicious, and check and see whether the man has a gun. And that has really made a difference in terms of what's happened in New York. It's not the only thing, but it's one of those factors.

Interestingly enough, 91 percent of the people who are shot are people from the minority communities. So they're the ones who are the most -- you know, sadly to say, the ones who get the worst of it, the brunt of it. So this is something that I think is absolutely critical in terms of getting gun control across the United States and diminishing the amount of murders.

MR. BUCHANAN: But you had the same gun law --

MS. CLIFT: Well, the --

MR. BUCHANAN: You had the same gun law, didn't you, when you had 2,400 killed --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, we did not.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- as 400 killed? You have a new gun law?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Stop and frisk did not exist --

MR. BUCHANAN: Not stop and frisk. I'm talking about the Sullivan law.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I'm not saying that -- I'm just saying stop and frisk is what has really --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's a good -- that's a good law.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: But the gun-show --

MS. FERRECHIO: But it doesn't stop the crazies, though.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Eleanor.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There are not just crazies --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Eleanor, then --

MS. CLIFT: The gun-show loophole allows people to sell guns at gun shows without doing the background checks. And there have been no efforts to -- or no successful efforts to close that. So Pat, you won't even get interrogated if you go --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MS. CLIFT: -- if you go add to your collection --

MS. FERRECHIO: But most of these --

MS. CLIFT: -- at a gun show.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- are people walking into stores and buying guns and walking out and using their legal weapons to go and kill a lot of people. I mean, the connection is there. What do you do about the mentally disabled who get hold of a gun? You just completely ban guns?

MR. BUCHANAN: But --

MS. FERRECHIO: These shootings are still --

MR. BUCHANAN: How do you know --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- (inaudible) -- rare events.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The ultimate justification for gun ownership is the Constitution of the United States, which permits a well-armed militia to have guns. Well-armed militia has been analyzed very carefully by the Supreme Court, and the court concludes that this does relate to individual --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- no militias, properly speaking.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, they've got judges --

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got judges --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But acting like someone in a militia --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible) -- in those circumstances to own guns.

MR. BUCHANAN: They are allowing -- judges are now knocking down laws which say you cannot have concealed carry, people carrying concealed weapons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the point is that the judges are interpreting the 2nd Amendment in a very pro-gun manner --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- is what these folks would say.

MS. CLIFT: But that doesn't mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why? Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: Because they believe that is what the history of the law is all about.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but that --

MR. BUCHANAN: It is for self --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Based in the unerring --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's for self-protection and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible) -- for self-defense.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- self-defense, home defense.

MS. CLIFT: It's not every judge. I don't believe these are 9-0 rulings. This is why the balance on the Supreme Court is very important.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you really think that the kind of gun control that you favor -- and we know that you tend to be stringent on this matter -- do you feel that kind of gun control is really going to effect any change in American behavior?

MS. CLIFT: This is the only country --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: -- in the world --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, absolutely.

MS. CLIFT: -- that is awash in handguns and assault weapons, under the guise that this is needed to shoot animals.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean to tell me that, for example, England is not?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, it is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course it's not. It's not like us at all. They're horrified at the fact that Americans have it.

MS. CLIFT: As well they should be.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, it is not an accident that in New York City, murders have gone down by almost 90 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's stop and frisk.

MR. BUCHANAN: Stop and frisk.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, but they take away the guns.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's more to it than that.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That spreads the kind of cloth over the environment that there's really an atmosphere -- in fact, a legal atmosphere -- we don't really want that many guns around.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know the mayor of New York doesn't want any guns in any --

MS. CLIFT: This is terrorism of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Except proper hunters, perhaps.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, half the --

MS. CLIFT: This is terrorism --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The evidence --

MS. CLIFT: This is terrorism of its own particular sort. Parents are afraid to put their -- send their children to school. You're afraid to go to a shopping mall.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me give you a fact --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can remember --

MS. CLIFT: Everybody you see in a ski cap is a danger.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a distinguished black --

MS. CLIFT: This is not the world we want.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- journalist in Washington, a columnist, who heard a fracas outside his front door -- thought he heard, at least --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- someone by the swimming pool.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he approached the door with a gun in his hand.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, half the men in America -- half the males in America own guns.

MS. CLIFT: They ought to get their manliness some other way, Pat. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: When In Doubt, Punt.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of more than 3 million businesses, small shops to large corporations. The 100-year-old Chamber has offices and staff in every major city girdling the globe.

Now, regarding the fiscal-cliff gridlock, what is the judgment of the Chamber? Answer: Don't do anything now. Punt. Instead of lawmakers racing in the 14 days left of their lame-duck session, with Christmas Day in the middle of it, to implement spending cuts and tax hikes, the Chamber says Congress and the president should simply and temporarily extend the Bush tax cuts across the board.
Punting will leave current tax policy and fiscal outlays unchanged, thereby wreaking no havoc on the economy and no gun-at- your-head settlements. The newly elected Congress comes in January, so any detente will have more legitimacy if it originates at the time of a new incoming Congress rather than a lame-duck departing one.

Question: What's the rational thing for our lawmakers to do? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The rational thing, the grownup thing --
which, of course, is entirely irrelevant in this process -- to do is to find some way to get the debts under control, to get our deficits under control, and also to deal with our tax code so that we broaden the base and have enough revenues to, shall we say, encourage control over the Medicare and Social Security costs, because this country is heading for a dramatic problem. I don't know exactly when. We're going to have deficits and debts that we cannot control.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the rational --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And there's going to be a break -- there's going to be a breakdown in the economy. There already is. There's no confidence in the administration, no confidence in the government. We are having people buying $500 billion of our debt -- China and Japan, for example -- who -- do you think they're going to do it under these circumstances? We are looking at a tremendously difficult long-term problem, short-term problem, and immediate problem.

MS. CLIFT: Actually, America is borrowing money at record low rates, and the rest of the world parks their money here. I think we're still in a very strong position. I think the rational thing to do is to pass the legislation that the Senate passed, which extends the tax cuts for 98 percent of the people, and then duke it out.

And the fact that the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable are all coming down on the president's side, saying that they agree that the top rate should go up, is a powerful shift in alliances. And I think the Republicans are going to fold.

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to say one thing.

MR. BUCHANAN: The ideal thing --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to say one thing. The people who are buying our debt is called the Federal Reserve Bank, OK?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Their balance sheet has almost quadrupled. They're by far and away -- they're buying at least 70 to 80 percent of our debt. And that's where the money is coming from. They're printing money and they're giving it to the federal government.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Chinese are not buying as much as they did before --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- because they're nervous.

Hey, John, the ideal thing to do, I think, would be to, you know, pass the Bush tax cuts over for one more year. But President Obama will not do that, because he's made a commitment that the taxes are going to go up on everybody over $250,000. And the Senate will veto the House if they send that bill.

MS. FERRECHIO: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: So I think the best bet, frankly, is the -- I mean, for the Republicans, who are negotiating, is probably to give up on the -- except they won't want to give up on the rates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan Ferrechio.

MS. CLIFT: It's still early.

MS. FERRECHIO: Part of the drama is the political side of this, that the president feels he needs to raise those top rates. And I will tell you, from talking to Republicans on Capitol Hill, they are willing to raise the rates. I've heard some of the most conservative members out there --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- saying we'll reconsider everything if, if Democrats are willing to meet us halfway on trying to straighten out the economy by making cuts and getting the budget on the path to fiscal health.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MS. FERRECHIO: And so far the Democrats have not budged on that. And I'm telling you, their backs are against the wall, and they're not going to move until they see the Democrats go further on the cuts. And then we'll see movement on the rates.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, this Congress ends in two weeks. And the cliff is still practically unmoved.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, it's like football time. You know, the games --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me --

MS. FERRECHIO: Each period really is longer, more time than you think. So there's time to solve this and at least get a two-tiered process where they --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I disagree. I think if you had a new Congress in a new year, two weeks away, that everything will be far more rational, well-conceived, survivable in Congress --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and made into law --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think you're right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- instead of rushing this thing at --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you're right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible) -- speeds.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, that may be what happens --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're right, John, but --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- (if ?) they feel like the people who aren't lame-duck members will have more of an investment in the outcome.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why --

MS. FERRECHIO: And that's a possibility.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama knows that if he does do that, the probability of his plan being modified, perhaps significantly, is greater than if he tries to force it through now.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you are right. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's not in the interest of the public to do -- for them to do that.

MS. FERRECHIO: No, because everybody's taxes will go up.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, everybody's taxes will go up --

MS. FERRECHIO: (Inaudible.) It's the fiscal cliff.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- and Obama -- Obama will not go along. Susan is exactly right. Obama will not go along with it if you get those tax -- if you don't have the tax increases for the rich. And even The Washington Post agrees with Susan, saying it is the Democrats who are now the problem.

MS. CLIFT: OK, all right --

MR. BUCHANAN: They are not getting serious on --

MS. CLIFT: -- the other side for a minute here. (Laughs.)
The problem --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, you had plenty of time to talk earlier.

MS. CLIFT: Not on this issue. The problem is the entitlement cuts. And neither side wants to own --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: Neither side wants to own the entitlement cuts. And so the Democrats say we'll cut entitlements, but you Republicans are going to have to say what you want cut. And the Republicans know it's unpopular, so they want it to be like a virgin birth.

MR. BUCHANAN: (We need ?) Democratic heroism, Eleanor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As one guru said to me --

MS. CLIFT: Republican cowardice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One guru wrote to me, "If we hike taxes as much as Obama wants next year or cut spending as much as Boehner wants, the economy will relapse into recession."

Issue Three: 12/12/12 and the Fed.

12/12/12 -- a once-in-a-lifetime triple same-digit date, and the day the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke, announced an unprecedented strategy.

BEN BERNANKE (chairman, Federal Reserve Board of Governors): (From videotape.) A strategy that we believe will help support household and business confidence and spending.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For the first time in the Federal Reserve Board's 100-year history, the central bank is directly basing its interest rate on the state of the economy.
Interest rates are now low and will stay low, near zero, says the Fed, until unemployment, now at 7.7 percent, drops below 6.5 percent. This could be a tall order, one that takes years.

And there's more. During that time, for rates to stay low, the inflation rate must also stay low, below 2.5 percent. The principal reason for the Fed to keep interest rates low is to keep the cost of borrowing money low. The Fed hopes that new money will boost the confidence of businesses and investors.

MR. BERNANKE: (From videotape.) By tying future monetary policy more explicitly to economic conditions, this formulation of our policy guidance should also make monetary policy more transparent and predictable to the public.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictability is what the public needs, a steady anchor or a rope to hold onto should the U.S. economy plunge over the fiscal cliff, the looming $600 billion in tax rate hikes and government spending cuts that will hit in January 2013, days away, that we just discussed, that Mr. Bernanke says is already showing its negative effects.

Question: Is the Fed's new policy an enlightened departure from tradition or a dangerous departure from tradition? Pat Buchanan. By the way, I'm having second thoughts about --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. It is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the name of that journalist that I mentioned to you earlier.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was Carl Rowan, and he shot some kid in his pool --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was Carl Rowan.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- in D.C.

But, yeah, this is extremely risky business, in my judgment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, can you answer my question?

MS. FERRECHIO: I think we just artificially -- I think it's going to lead to inflation, and I think eventually we are going to see higher interest rates.

MS. CLIFT: I think Bernanke sees the light here. He's putting the emphasis on jobs and tying what the Fed does to getting unemployment down.

MS. FERRECHIO: It's just an artificial --

MS. CLIFT: It's very smart.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Bernanke has been the savior of this economy to date, because without that loose monetary policy, we would be in a terribly deeper recession. So he is the only person who's able to do it. We're not able to do that much on the fiscal side. He is the single most important player at this stage of the game going forward.

MS. FERRECHIO: It weakens the dollar, though.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it does weaken the dollar.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's destroying the dollar.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That expands -- it expands our trade, OK? That's exactly what it does. And that's why we need.

MR. BUCHANAN: By cheapening your currency?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it does, because our goods are cheaper. That's exactly what happens.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And therefore we are --
(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: The value --

MS. CLIFT: It's a good move.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- of pensions should go down.

MS. CLIFT: It's a good move.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's supposed to be over there, aloof and in his tower. And I don't think he communicates with the president, does he, except we're having very sunny weather lately, something like that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But I'll tell you what he does communicate. He communicates with the business community in a way that nobody else does. I happen to have been involved on one of the Federal Reserve bank boards. You get information there about particularly unemployment that doesn't -- nobody else has. And what he is saying is this economy is still very weak, and he's going to do whatever he can -- he can't do it all -- to --

MR. BUCHANAN: You guys all want a weak dollar.

MS. CLIFT: And he's very transparent with the press too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Forget Marijuana.

Think heroin, golden brown. Heroin consumption is rising. And worse, it's among high school students in the suburbs. In Maryland, 4.2 percent of high school students report trying heroin, says a 2011 statewide survey. This percentage has almost doubled in the past five years. In Maryland this year, 205 heroin-related overdose deaths occurred during the first seven months.

Mike Gimbel, a former heroin addict, says this about heroin dealers. "Instead of waiting for the suburban kids to come into the city, the dealers have gone out to the suburbs. It just blows away these parents in the middle-class communities. The last drug in the world they think their kids are going to use is heroin," unquote.

OK, the U.S. war on drugs. That war was first declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, with great public approval. Since then, $1 trillion have been spent. That's according to "Breaking the Taboo," a film made by Sam Branson, the son of Virgin Airways mogul Sir Richard Branson, which debuted this week on YouTube.

The stats in the Branson movie are really sobering. The U.S. tops the list worldwide as the number one illegal drug-user nation. I'll repeat that: The U.S. tops the list worldwide as the number one illegal drug-user nation. Half a million are in jail in the U.S. for breaking drug laws. On average, the U.S. spends $30,000 a year to imprison someone, according to a Pew survey. The film compares that to the $11,000 the U.S. spends a year to educate a public school student.

Two former American presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, have assessed the success of the war on drugs.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Obviously if the expected results was that we would have -- eliminate serious drug use in America and eliminate the narco-trafficking networks, it hasn't worked.

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: (From videotape.) When I was president, we had the same problems with drug production and distribution and consumption that we presently face.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The documentary's thrust is that the war on drugs has failed. Its remedy: End it or what?

Question: Why not treat illicit drugs as a health policy issue, not a legal one? Decriminalize it, in fact; regulate it, and take the money spent on police and prison and put it into education and treatment. Susan Ferrechio.

MS. FERRECHIO: There's a good argument for that, because if you end the war on drugs, which I don't think anyone here can argue that it's been a success. It's really just been a complete failure. All it's resulted in is millions of dollars being spent, very few people being helped, a lot of people getting incarcerated.

All for what?

And look what's happening in Mexico on the border of the United States and Mexico. Clearly this is reaching, like, a crisis level. The level of violence in Mexico is just -- is a tragedy.

So it does raise the question. This has been a miserable failure. So what do we do? Maybe just decriminalize marijuana or some other stuff so we can use those resources, as you say, to educate people. I mean, kids going after drugs, that's been going on for decades. They're using stronger drugs. They're getting more damaged by it.

What about kids who are using pills from their parents' prescription cabinets? That's an equally large epidemic. We're not spending enough time getting at the root of the problem, which is (sort of ?) the breakdown of the family, the breakdown of society. All these things are just making people go out there looking for the drugs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's something --

MS. FERRECHIO: That's part of the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's something you're missing. What is it? It would free up the police to use these resources to go after violent crime, the amount of money we're putting into it.

MS. FERRECHIO: Sure. They're spending a lot of time arresting people for petty drug crimes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's correct.

MS. FERRECHIO: And they're also filling up prison spaces --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, one of the reasons you're finding heroin now in suburbs and kids are using it is because it's hard to get OxyContin and -- what was the other one we were talking about?

MS. FERRECHIO: Vicodin or --

MS. CLIFT: The prescription drugs.

MS. FERRECHIO: Vicodin.

MS. CLIFT: Vicodin and OxyContin. It's even harder to get --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with Vicodin?

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's hard for kids to get enough of that to get high.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's a precursor to drugs.

MS. CLIFT: And we've clamped down on that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's a sleep-inducing agent.

MS. CLIFT: It's hard to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's a precursor to drug use.

MS. CLIFT: It's hard even --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the insomniacs? Should we leave them high and dry?

MS. CLIFT: Let me finish my point. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, there have to be other things that aren't precursors to drugs.

MS. CLIFT: It's hard to even get Sudafed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is not a precursor to drugs?

MS. CLIFT: It's easier to get heroin than it is to get Sudafed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's a precursor to drug usage?

MR. BUCHANAN: Gateway drug. Marijuana is usually the one that leads them into it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The firing of Scuds by Syrian dictator Bashar al- Assad is an indication that he is at the end of his tether.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: President Obama is not going to be able to change the gun culture on his own. It's going to require every American letting their voice be heard in opposition to the NRA.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: There will be a major effort to pass some kind of gun legislation in the next Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There'll be an agreement between the Congress and the president. There'll be a trillion dollars in tax cuts and a trillion -- tax increase, and a trillion dollars in cuts in spending.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that the year 2013, starting in two weeks, we'll experience during the year, of course, a recession.

The McLaughlin Group extends our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the Connecticut school shooting victims. May they rest in peace.

Bye-bye.

(C) 2012 Federal News Service

END