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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP


HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN


 


JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,


ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL


 


TAPED FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 1999


AIRED THE WEEKEND OF JUNE 26-27, 1999


 


.STX


 


 


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ANNOUNCER: GE is proud to support the McLaughlin Group. From plastics to power generation, GE: We bring good things to life.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Doctors of the world, unite.


 


DR. RANDOLPH SMOAK (the American Medical Association): (From videotape.) We believe that if we use the techniques of collectively coming together, large groups of physicians, and sitting down, we can negotiate some things on behalf of our physicians -- patients.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look who's wearing the union label now. The American Medical Association, AMA, the nation's largest and oldest medical professional organization, has voted to allow doctors to unionize.


 


The health care industry has been racing towards managed care programs, like HMOs, that have cracked down on costs by regulating patient care and -- more ominously, to the AMA -- limiting the dollar amount doctors can charge their patients.


 


On average, doctors earn $200,000 per year and are accustomed to 10 percent annual salary hikes. Under managed care, doctors' salaries have stagnated. They are fighting back by forming unions. This draws new policy battle lines by reversing the AMA's formerly ironclad position that doctors are independent contractors.


 


But doctors insist that they will continue to put patients first and will shun hardball union tactics.


 


DR. SMOAK: (From videotape.) You know, the first thing that our House of Delegates, which is our governing body, passed yesterday was -- which has been traditional with us -- we will not strike. We will not harm our patients.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The new rule applies only to doctors employed directly by hospitals or HMOs, about 15 percent of all doctors. But Congress is considering a bill that would repeal the antitrust laws that regulate independent physicians, clearing the way for all doctors to unionize.


 


Question: If doctors do unionize, will patients be helped, or will patients be hurt, Michael Barone?


 


MR. BARONE: Well, the doctors claim that they'll be helped because they'll have more autonomy and can make the diagnoses and won't be as constrained by cost.


 


But John, this is part of a larger trend that we've seen, where unionization has gained strength in public employment and government-entangled areas, including public-sector employees, gambling, and so forth. It has lost strength in the private sector. And these doctors are basically looking for more money to come through the health care system and less financial accountability.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what do you think, Eleanor? Is it a net plus or net minus for patients?


 


MS. CLIFT: I'm sympathetic with the doctors. I think we need a counterweight to the managed care industry. And I think doctors are understandably frustrated that they are second-guessed all the time on medical treatments. And I believe this is more about getting control over medical decision than it is getting basketball-size contracts for doctors. But it's only thus for 20 percent of the physicians, by the way.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: This is a big event, because what's happening is by the doctors organizing and marshalling both their commercial and their political resources against the insurance companies, which means against managed care, which has been the trend which has brought down costs over the last several years, this may change the balance of power and move back towards increased costs, not because the doctors are going to get a lot more money themselves, but because they're going to be able to give more resources, more diagnostic tests, the kind of things that managed care restrains. Assuming they marshal their resources effectively, it could change the balance. So, yeah, patients will get more if they can afford it, but the cost of health care is going to go up.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's changing the nature of doctors in that it's not a professional association, the AMA, but it will become an economic force


 


MR. O'DONNELL: Well, John, doctors are already unionized. There's over 50,000 unionized doctors in America today. L.A. County has a very large number of them. And they're unionized within municipal unions that have been up and running for a very long time. What the AMA is saying is, we would like to be able to unionize sole practitioners. And that comes up against a congressional problem. And the reason they're promising not to strike is they want to get Republican congressional votes to allow them to form unions for entrepreneurs, these doctors, these individuals.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So are we going to see health costs rise if they do unionize, that doctors will be concerned about their workplace conditions, they will be concerned about their perks, they will be concerned about everything that other workers are. That means that medical costs will go up. As medical costs go up, there will be --


 


MR. BARONE: I think they will tend to, John, but --.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- an increased burden on you and me, and we will reach the point where --


 


MR. BARONE: Look. I think there are difficult arguments involved here. This puts more weight on the side of the see-saw that says spend more money and allow more care, but of course there are always arguments for that. There are serious arguments one way or another. One of the things we have a problem with in our medical care system is the balance between endless demand and between costs.


 


MS. CLIFT: This is about the younger doctors and the younger medical people, the people who are salaried, who work for the HMOs. And they are able under current law to organize, and they should bargain, and our medical care is going to benefit as a result of that. Independent contractors, doctors, will need the blessing of Congress. And Congress is in the pocket of the insurance industry. This is not going to happen. You're not going to see the doctors of this country link arms and shout "Solidarity forever." I mean, it's too big a cultural leap and it won't happen.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is also a problem for the doctors with the Department of Justice. This is what Joel Klein says, and we know who Joel Klein is. He's the antitrust chief at the Department of Justice. He says this. Quote: "There is no justification to accord special status to health care professionals under the antitrust laws, differentiating them from other professionals and independent contractors such as architects, engineers or lawyers.


 


So what do you think? Do you think this is going to make it?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: I do. I think the doctors are going to reach deep into their capacious pockets, and they are going to contribute vastly more than they already contribute, which is a lot, to both parties. And the Democrats, particularly who will be moving towards to the AMA in the last few years -- and my guess is enough Republicans will move also -- that they will get their legislation passed. That is my hunch.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If there is an inflation of medical costs and insurance goes up and insurance premiums cannot be paid by workers, then there will be demand on the part of workers for national health insurance. And then the doctors will really be in trouble, will they not?


 


MS. CLIFT: No.


 


MR. BLANKLEY: That is exactly the point I was making earlier, which is that what the doctors want is going to raise the cost and then create problems that we can't -- we don't yet know how to solve. The only way we know how to solve medical costs is managed care.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And that's why she likes the idea --


 


MS. CLIFT: It's a secret --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because ultimately she wants the "Hillary-ization" of health care in the United States.


 


MR. BLANKLEY: By George, I think you have got it.


 


MS. CLIFT: It's a secret --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have got to get out. Exit: Will Congress --


 


MS. CLIFT: -- it's a secret liberal plot, right? (Laughs.)


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- will Congress let self-employed doctors form unions, yes or no?


 


MR. BARONE: No, not this Congress. I don't think it is going to happen.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next year?


 


MR. BARONE: Next year? No.


 


MS. CLIFT: I don't think it is going to happen, either. (Laughs.)


 


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think it is going to. I am not sure when, but I think it will happen.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Within 12 months?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: It is difficult to say in this Congress.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Tony, no guts, no glory.


 


MS. CLIFT: Right.


 


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, no guts then. But it is going to happen, but within two years.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?


 


MR. O'DONNELL: Democrats will treat it like a health-care bill. They'll load it down with amendments that Republicans cannot accept, and it will die.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will die? It will not make it within the next 12 months?


 


Okay. "McLaughlin.com," this week, we asked, "Who will be ahead in the race for president in October 2000, Bush or Gore?" Get this; 75 percent say "Bush," 7 percent say "Gore," and 18 percent say "someone else."


 


When we come back, Internet gambling, the virtual casino. Should the Feds try to shut it down?


 


(Announcements.)


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: "Viva Las Vegas."


 


RICHARD LEONE (National Gambling Impact Study Commission): (From videotape.) The people with problems and pathological gambling are not acceptable casualties. They are not simply the price we pay for fun.


 


FRED COLLINS (Collins Entertainment Company): (From videotape.) Why stamp out a $2-billion-a-year industry? Why knock out something that can be utilized for education, tax rollbacks?


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is a legacy from Baby Face Al Capone. In 1931, Nevada became the first state with legal gambling. Chicago mobster Al Capone bribed Nevada state legislators. For the next 40 years, Nevada was the only state with legal casinos.


 


Today, 47 states and the District of Columbia have made some form of gambling legal. Revenues from state lotteries, Native American casinos, sports betting, convenience-store slot machines and luxury resort-style megacasinos top $50 billion a year. Americans now spend one of every $10 of disposable leisure income on gambling. Three years ago, Congress created the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, NGISC, to probe whether this $50 billion-a-year industry is good or bad for America. Last week the Commission issued its report.


 


Finding: up to 3 million Americans are pathological gamblers. Remedy: compel insurance companies to cover counseling to break their habit. Finding: Internet gambling is highly addictive. It is growing explosively and it is tough to regulate. Remedy: Ban Internet gambling, or "virtual casinos," as they are called. Finding: Gambling has too much political influence. Remedy: Ban political contributions to state legislators. Finding: Tribal casinos are poorly regulated. Remedy: The Feds, not the states, should continue to oversee Native American casinos.


 


The report pleased few.


 


SEN. RICHARD BRYAN (D-NV): (From videotape.) The Commission spent some $5 million, taxpayer dollars, to essentially reach a conclusion that most everybody knew in advance.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shortly before the report was issued, two well-known gaming executives in Las Vegas -- Chairman Steve Wynn of Mirage Resorts, which includes the Bellaggio, and MGM Grand Chairman Terrence Lanni -- signaled that they would like to see the Democrats regain the U.S. House of Representatives in the November, 2000 elections. Wynn put his money where his mouth is and handed over a $250,000 check in soft money to House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DCCC.


 


Question: Why do the Vegas moguls want the Democrats to take over the House of Representatives, Eleanor?


 


MS. CLIFT: Because they don't like the element of the social conservatives in the Republican Party who don't like gambling. But they've got lots of friends in the Republican Party, too. The majority leader, Trent Lott, tucked a nice little tax break into the budget bill for the casinos and he comes from a big gambling state, so --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, aren't you embarrassed that your party is pushing gambling in the United States?


 


MS. CLIFT: Government should not be promoting gambling, but it's no accident that gaming proliferated after all of the tax roll-backs of the '70s and '80s. It's the only way politicians dare to raise money in the no-new-taxes era --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) Well, give it to me straight, Eleanor --


 


MS. CLIFT: -- and it's the worst kind of tax.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you approve of gambling?


 


MS. CLIFT: I am not opposed to gambling. I don't like it when --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you gamble?


 


MS. CLIFT: Very rarely, but I don't like when it substitutes for public policy, which is what it does now; the poorest people are financing government through a backdoor way of gambling.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three million pathological gamblers in the United States, and the remedy from the report would have the insurance companies pay for their counseling. What do you think of that?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, I think that's silly. I mean --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why silly?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: I don't even know what pathological gamblers are, but --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These are compulsive, addicted gamblers.


 


MR. O'DONNELL: (Inaudible) -- losers, that's what pathological gambling is!


 


MR. BLANKLEY: There's a poll that's going to be coming out that's going to show 74 percent of regular church-going Americans, that's people who go to church once a week, think there's nothing wrong with going to a casino to gamble. So I think all of this moral debate is really largely beside the point.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you aware of the fact that both Wynn and Lanni, who own those big hotels -- MGM Grand and Bellaggio and Mirage Resorts -- are both, I believe, Republicans, are they not?


 


MR. BARONE: Well, John, they're betting on the come on this election. I think they think the Democrats are going to win it and they want to get on the winning side.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mitch McConnell has been there, but I don't think he's been there recently, I don't think he's gotten a figure like $250,000.


 


MR. BLANKLEY: The fact is, Wynn was a bigger contributor to Republicans last time.


 


MR. O'DONNELL: Steve Wynn has contributed to Republicans --


 


MR. BLANKLEY: A lot.


 


MR. O'DONNELL: -- and I guarantee you he will have a lot of money going to the Bush campaign and very quickly.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, the two most sensitive areas are Native American gambling, and that's really worrisome to the commission because those little -- they are almost sovereign reservations, and the only control the state has is something called compacts, which is kind of loosey-goosey and --


 


MR. O'DONNELL: Well, they are more worrisome to Atlantic City and to Las Vegas than they are to any politicians. It's the big casino operators in Vegas that are terrified by Indian casinos in California --


 


MR. BARONE: Yeah, because they're competition.


 


MR. O'DONNELL: -- closer to Los Angeles, closer to the population bases. And so that's where the real action is.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the results of an analysis of the month of February, from 1998 to 1997, show that the Vegas take is about 30 percent higher than it was then, 12 percent in Tahoe. Neither the Indian gambling nor the Internet gambling appears to be affecting the conventional establishment gambling sites.


 


MR. BARONE: John, Las Vegas has marketed itself very well with this sort of more family-friendly casinos. Some of these --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean a theme park?


 


MR. BARONE: Yeah. And some of these casinos as terrific, interesting places to be. But one of the points that we're missing here, and it was made by two of the Democratic members of the commission, Leo McCarthy, former lieutenant governor of California, and Dick Leone, whom he had on TV, who was New Jersey Democratic leader for many years, is that one of the things that gambling tends to do is it tends to sever or fray the connection between effort and reward; tends to teach the lesson that striking a jackpot is the way you get ahead in life instead of hard work. If people --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, you're getting pretty serious here!


 


MR. BARONE: Half the people --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, gambling is a pastime for a lot of people, like 80 percent of the people in the country who gamble.


 


MR. BARONE: Let me get some facts in here, John. The fact is that 5 percent of the people who play the lottery account for about 51 percent of the lottery things that -- lottery spending, according to the commission. These people, if they are -- tend to be down-scale, low-income -- if they could put their money in an individual retirement account, as many Democrats and Republicans have called for, in an adjunct to Social Security, with the miracle of compound interest and tax exemptions, they would be doing much better.


 


MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah --


 


(Cross talk.)


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and if they all went to -- if they went to church every Sunday, they'd be better, too, but they happen to prefer a pastime. So what?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: Look --


 


MR. BARONE: But the question is, should the state be sending messages --


 


MS. CLIFT: Should the state --


 


MR. BARONE: -- should the state be targeting their advertising on low-income communities, as they do for the lottery?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: Michael, Michael --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's the same argument that we used against alcohol when we banned alcohol. It's ridiculous. You know that.


 


(Cross talk.)


 


MR. BARONE: Yeah, we limit alcohol advertising.


 


MR. O'DONNELL: The government has never sold alcohol, John.


 


MS. CLIFT: Right.


 


MR. O'DONNELL: And it never will.


 


MS. CLIFT: Yeah. The government --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the -- the thing that really bothers the politicians in this city is Internet gambling. And I don't know whether it's due to the fact that they're the recipients of big money from Vegas, and Vegas doesn't like Internet gambling because it -- they think it will eat into their profits. But in this city, the politicians in Washington are really opposed to Internet gambling because they think it's extraordinarily addictive. They want to ban it.


 


MR. O'DONNELL: Because it would be very difficult to regulate --


 


MR. BARONE: Well, it's also a great danger for children. It would be the same thing as Internet alcohol sales. You'd get children involved in this in large measure, and that's also one reason they're concerned.


 


MS. CLIFT: There's one positive thing to say about lotteries, and that's the Georgia lottery and Zell Miller, and the money is dedicated to education and Hope scholarships. It's one redeeming good I see.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: CIA: Central Incompetence Agency?


 


PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) And I want to say, to the Chinese people and to the leaders of China, I apologize. I regret this.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The tragic bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which claimed the lives of three Chinese citizens, exploded onto the front pages a month and a half ago. Now it's back in the headlines.


 


Here's the story: Before the bombing of the Chinese embassy, a mid-level CIA analyst repeatedly warned colleagues that the targeted structure was not the allegedly intended Serbian arms procurement agency. But the bombing went forward anyway, and the Chinese don't believe that it was a mistake. They think U.S.-NATO carefully targeted their embassy.


 


Question: One, the CIA ignored warning of its own internal analyst that that building was not (sic) an embassy of the Chinese. Two, the U.S. haphazardly targeted the wrong building -- you know about the Internet and the pathetic 7-year-old maps and not -- and working with a street address that they get out of the Internet. My God, who relies on the Internet? Three, the military foolishly delivered the massive multi-ton payload of a stealth bomber. This all adds up to more than irresponsible incompetence. It was criminal negligence, many believe. Are the many right, Tony Blankley?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: Now, first of all, you can't possibly know, none of us can know, what the truth or the facts are. When the CIA starts getting into the business of releasing information to the Washington Post, disinformation may well be in play. If you looked at the leaks this week, what they were suggesting was that the high official didn't know anything. So I don't want to rely on the information we know so far, publicly, as to what really happened.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?


 


MR. O'DONNELL: It reads like a pretty standard bureaucratic mix-up. There is one guy in the mix of this whole story who says, "I have doubts" -- doubts about that location. He doesn't say, "This is what that location is"; he doesn't say, "Absolutely don't do it," even when he is given the chance to say, "Absolutely don't do it."


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me give you --


 


MR. O'DONNELL: This kind of thing happens all the time.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you know that that embassy was loaded with an electronic nerve-center gear, highly sophisticated surveillance satellite connections? They had broken our code -- Aldrich Ames and others -- they broke our encryption. They could hear the conversations transporting across the United States, all these 19 members. They could probably learn about our military placement over there. And more than that, they had to find out how long 19 nations of NATO would hang together.


 


It was perfect. It reads like a Tom Clancy novel. Do you mean to tell me -- (cross talk, laughter) -- you think it is intrinsically implausible that this was deliberate, especially when Wesley Clark said, to a group of congressmen who asked him what he was going to do if the Russians tried to interfere with a proposed oil embargo in the Adriatic, Wesley Clark said, "I'd bomb them"?


 


MR. O'DONNELL: It all takes the possibility that this was deliberate from about a 5 percent chance to a 6 percent chance.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.


 


Issue four: Where is the party?


 


(Begin video clip.)


 


TINA BROWN (editor, Talk magazine): Party planners have been there for many days. We have already met many times.


 


Q And it changed when, when -- (inaudible) -- the idea to put Hillary on the cover?


 


MS. BROWN: Yes. Yes.


 


(End of clip.)


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tina Brown has no place to party. The former editor of the New Yorker magazine was all set to throw a launch party for Talk, her new magazine backed by Miramax movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The party was slated for the New York City-owned Brooklyn Navy Yard. But rumors flew that the premier cover of Talk would feature First Lady and Senate candidate Hillary Clinton, and the city cancelled the party, citing rules against political events on public property. Democrats think that New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Hillary's probable Senate opponent, yanked the party, but Giuliani denies it.


 


NEW YORK CITY MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI: (From videotape.) It's up to the Navy Yard. And I think the Navy Yard would have treated me the same way, even though I'm from Brooklyn.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rudy had his defenders.


 


JERRY NACHMAN (former editor, New York Post): (From videotape.) I think it was a perfectly reasonable position to take. This is kicking off a new magazine that was apparently putting his putative opponent for the Senate on the cover. Thus, it was political. Thus, he has every right to get in a snit.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tina Brown has her defenders, too.


 


FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR ED KOCH: (From videotape.) I mean, isn't the magazine allowed to discuss political background affairs? It's ridiculous. It is dumb, dumb, dumb.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you this question, Lawrence O'Donnell. By trashing Tina Brown's party, do you think that Rudy Giuliani helped or hurt his own senatorial ambitions?


 


MR. O'DONNELL: He hurt himself. This was not a political event, it was a magazine event. And Rudy's problem I think he has to be very careful of is to not look like he's piling on Hillary, being cruel, being mean, stepping on her everywhere she tries to go.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence, it's a big help to Rudy. No New Yorker likes their leader to be a doormat. He picked up 500,000 votes from doing this. Am I right or wrong?


 


MR. BARONE: Well, you're -- 500,000, John? I mean, the fact is this whole lugubrious thing -- Tina Brown doesn't have a place to give her party? There's a lot of places to give a party in New York, John. For sure --


 


MS. CLIFT: You're wrong, John. It reveals Giuliani's weakness as a candidate. He's petulant. He's dictatorial. And it reveals Tina Brown's strengths as an editor. She got the buzz.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.


 

MR. BLANKLEY: It shows he's decisive. It will have no consequence on the election, though.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No consequence?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: No consequence.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.


 


(Announcements.)


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Fast. Michael.


 


MR. BARONE: There's going to be a move to limit the tobacco lawyers' fees to $4,000 an hour.


 


MS. CLIFT: Indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, the butcher of Bosnia, will be apprehended before the end of the year.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? Where?


 


MS. CLIFT: Yes. Where? He's in Bosnia now. I'm tracking his movements.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, Karadzic, yeah.


 


MS. CLIFT: Right.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they won't go near him.


 


MR. BLANKLEY: The Senate --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They won't go near Mladic, either.


 


MR. BLANKLEY: The Senate, on a surprisingly bipartisan basis, will pass a tax cut before the August break.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? That's good news.


 


MR. O'DONNELL: Bill Bradley will campaign harder on campaign finance reform than any other candidate, including John McCain.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he going to win the nomination?


 


MR. O'DONNELL: He will scare Gore right -- certainly through the New York primary.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Gore will win the nomination?


 


MR. O'DONNELL: I'll bet on Bradley now, if I have to.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?


 


MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow. Take note, world.


 


The flag desecration amendment to the U.S. Constitution which passed the House with the necessary two-thirds majority will fail the two-thirds Senate threshold by two votes.


 


Next week: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak comes to Washington.


 


Bye bye!


 


®FCEND REGULAR SEGMENT


PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS


 


®FLPBS SEGMENT


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue five: Police "bull-tality." New Yorkers know all about Wall Street bull markets, but a live bull stampeding through city streets ain't a familiar sight. That's what happened last Sunday in Queens after police shut down an illegal Mexican rodeo. A 1,700-pound bull, nicknamed "Narco" because of his crazed, drug-addict-like behavior, bolted as he was being loaded onto a flatbed truck. Narco careened through busy streets for nearly a mile. Police cars gave chase and pedestrians scurried for cover. Finally, poor Narco was cornered outside a housing project and made mincemeat of by New York's finest, who pumped 40 bullets into the creature. Job well done, right? Wrong, say some. You be the judge.


 


Why didn't the police wait for the emergency services unit that tranquilizes dangerous animals on the loose with dart guns? That's how a loose moose was brought down in Boston after racing down Boylston Street and beyond, back in 1996. That nomadic animal was sedated, not shot. Furthermore, say witnesses, the cops were shooting from a moving squad car, endangering citizens and in violation of NYPD policy.


 


But New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani stands by his men in blue. "Do we have to second-guess the police all the time? Was there another way to do it? Not when you're on the streets facing a dangerous animal."


 


Narco's final resting place, by the way, is the Staten Island "Fresh Kills" landfill, so named, along with old tires and rusting refrigerators.


 


Question: So you be the judge, Lawrence O'Donnell. Do you think, Lawrence, that there's a double standard at play here between the moose and the bull, between wildlife, which is the moose, treated like Bambi in Boston by those cops, and the domestic critter, the bull, which doesn't get the same treatment? Do we have a question of discrimination between animals here?


 


MR. O'DONNELL: You have simply an illustration of the wisdom of the rule book. The Boston police did it by the rule book; the New York City police made it up as they went along. Firing bullets from a moving vehicle is the craziest thing a police officer can do. It is against the rules in New York. It's against the rules in every major police department in America.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know the cops involved have refused to talk and taking the 48 hours to --


 


MR. O'DONNELL: They know they violated the rules.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the same person who judges these situations with humans is judging it in this situation, too.


 


But what about what Giuliani said? We have to get serious about this to some extent, do we not? A bull is a bull.


 


MR. BARONE: Well --


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A bull is a killer.


 


MR. BARONE: And it was -- it presented them with an emergency, which they probably didn't handle in the best way, but I think could be defensible. I mean, the fact is that, you know, these -- this could have been a very dangerous animal. You had a housing project there, a lot of kids running around.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about my question of animal discrimination? I ask you, Tony. (Laughter.) Didn't you have a birth in the family this week?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, we had -- three peacock chicks came to us, and we're hoping that they'll do well.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We've only got five seconds. You want to get my point? Any discrimination here?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: It was. I feel very badly for the bull.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you?


 


MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, Tony.


 


MS. CLIFT: It took 41 shots to bring down an unarmed, slight man in New York, and they took 40 shots to bring down the bull. So maybe that's progress for Rudy Giuliani's police.


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh!


 


MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)


 


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, how could you?


 


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