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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek/The Daily Beast;
Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner;
Ryan Grim, Huffington Post

Broadcast: Weekend of July 6-7, 2013

Copyright © 2013 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: Nuclear Independence?

July 4th -- America again celebrates its independence, the 237th time that it has done so. For more than a century, Britain had imposed on the U.S. a monarchical rule. Since then, the U.S. has emerged as the world's leading superpower. That superpower status rests on our economy, arguably the best in the world, and our military strength, including our arsenal of nuclear weaponry.

This was addressed by President Obama on his late-June trip to Germany. As the leader of the free world, Mr. Obama renewed a call to work towards ridding the world of nuclear bombs.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) I've determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one third. And I intended to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This emphasis on cutting nuclear weapons is where the president has already had some success. In 2010, President Obama signed the New START agreement with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limiting the number of deployed warheads for each nation to 1,550 by the year 2018.
Three years later, President Obama chose Berlin, the epicenter of the Cold War standoff between East and West, to propose further cuts, another one third. The Russian reaction to Mr. Obama's proposal was restrained. Quote: "We cannot negotiate with the United States indefinitely on the reduction and limitation of nuclear weapons bilaterally while a number of other countries continue to expand their nuclear and missile potential. The process of disarmament should become multilateral," unquote. So said Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov.

The principal other country that concerns Russia is China. Russia and China share a lengthy and porous border. The two countries fought a border war with one another 52 years ago. While the U.S. believes China has as low as 250 nuclear warheads, the Russians believe the Chinese nuclear arsenal numbers 1,800 warheads.

Question: Should President Obama have given his nuclear arms reduction speech in Beijing instead of Berlin? Mort.

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, it would have helped, I think, but clearly we've had some good experience, more or less, with the Soviet Union in reducing our nuclear weapons and in their also going along with that reduction. Putin has no intention of doing that at this stage of the game because he feels threatened, in a sense, on some level, on both borders; A, on the Chinese side, and B, on the western side.
So I think, somehow or other, we have to get China involved in this dialogue if we're going to be able to make any progress and reduce the weapons, as he describes, by another third. That's just going to be a sine qua non of any future progress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- are you saying that Putin is afraid of Chinese aggression?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't know that he's afraid of Chinese aggression any more than he should be afraid of our aggression. But there are political benefits that come to him and to other countries to have that kind of nuclear capability, as we all know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, I think the president's initiative is really aimed at what I would call the overkill capacity. There are more than 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world, spread over nine countries. The U.S. has over 7,000 of them. The president has the authority; he can cut independently. Republican Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, both reduced the U.S. stockpile. It's expensive to maintain.
And so this is really going at the loose nukes in Russia as well. And with Richard Lugar no longer in the Senate, it's very difficult --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A United States senator.

MS. CLIFT: Right -- it's very difficult to get anything through the U.S. Senate. So the president is acting unilaterally here. And I think the Russians, with this introducing China, I think it's just a stalling tactic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

SUSAN FERRECHIO: They've got other problems too. The Russians don't like the fact that we're building defenses against their nuclear arsenal. They feel that's a reason to not really embrace what Obama talked about in Berlin. There's also the issue, I think, rightfully, looking around the world, as Eleanor was saying, Pakistan, what's happening there, what's happening in other parts of the world; in North Korea.

You know, you want to talk about reducing nuclear weapons. I think the idea of it having to include other countries is a smart one.

RYAN GRIM: But not only is Lugar gone, but Senator Jon Kyl is also gone. He's the one that pushed the -- he's the Republican that pushed the START treaty through last time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)

MR. GRIM: Arizona senator, replaced by Jeff Flake. So that means he can't really go to Congress with anything. Anything he can do is going to have to be done unilaterally by the president. And if he wants to do it, like Eleanor said, there are plenty of things he can do. He can reduce --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. GRIM: -- hundreds to thousands of nuclear weapons. He can take tactical weapons out of Europe. Do we really need three different ways to destroy the world? Maybe we could just go down to two --

MS. FERRECHIO: On the other hand --

MS. CLIFT: Right. This is -- and he has the backing of the military and the establishment, actually, in both parties, former Republican leaders. I mean, it doesn't make sense to have all these weapons lying around that are -- they're very expensive to maintain; $60 (million) or $70 million a year.

MR. GRIM: Right. As of now, we can destroy the world -- right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Don't give him political cover. There's no doubt but that if he did it unilaterally here, at home, there would be a lot of political attacks on that, because they would feel --

MS. CLIFT: Well, both Bushes did it. I don't remember any attacks then.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's in a very different position --

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- in terms of national security than either President Bush. So I think that's his motivation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any possibility that the nuclear weapons could suffer from obsolescence?

MS. FERRECHIO: In terms of, like, chemical warfare, things like that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No.

MR. GRIM: They are obsolete. They deteriorate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I don't mean obsolete in the sense that they're dated. I mean that they lose their capacity to work.

MR. GRIM: No, they are. The tactical nuclear weapons in Europe right now basically don't work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MR. GRIM: That's kind of -- they're in shelves. They're technologically obsolete. They're decades old. They need to be -- if we wanted them to work, we would have to invest millions to refurbish them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's called fissile material. If they're not discharged, they lose their fissile material. And then what happens?

MR. GRIM: They become -- they become useless. You just start guarding them and putting them on shelves, and they become a political symbol.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then they have no power.

MR. GRIM: Right.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but this is -- it's a legacy issue for the president, as so many things are. But when he was first elected to the Senate, he went on a trip to Russia and the former Soviet Union countries with Richard Lugar, and he saw how loosely guarded this stuff is. And he really came back feeling like something has to be done about it. And, you know, you can laugh, but he got his Nobel peace prize --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Yes.

MS. CLIFT: -- because he made that speech in Prague in 2009.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. So now he's back in Germany --

MS. CLIFT: And so he's trying to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- justifying the prize? The prize came within two weeks after he was elected president, correct? Not elected, but took office.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it was the spring of `09, so I don't think it was two weeks. It was a couple of months, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it was surprising. It was a shock.

MS. CLIFT: And it was based on the expectations of what he could do as president. And he finds himself pretty hamstrung here --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So is he --

MS. CLIFT: -- with a Senate he's not going to be able to cooperate with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was shoring up --

MS. CLIFT: And so he's taking these steps on his own.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the justification for having received the Nobel peace prize prematurely.

MS. CLIFT: He cares about the issue, John. (Laughs.) I think that's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that why he cares about it?

MS. CLIFT: -- a more sincere way of saying what you just said.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'm -- there are various options. He's a politician, you know.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. GRIM: He's a child of the `80s. That's what the liberals cared about in the `80s, remember? You know, they took to the streets.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a point well taken.

OK, the Obama nuclear-free world vision.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) We will work to build support in the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and call on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Up to eight nations have nuclear weapons: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the U.S., and possibly, but doubtfully, North Korea. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the CTBT, would do exactly what its name states -- ban nuclear tests.
The U.S. signed the nuclear test ban treaty in 1996, 17 years ago, but the U.S. Congress has not yet ratified it. And beyond the CTBT, the president also wants a worldwide treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. If he could achieve any of these nuclear steps, President Obama could possibly cement his legacy as a nuclear nonproliferation president.

Question: If President Obama can achieve a test ban and a treaty to end the production of fissile material, is it the equivalent of nuclear disarmament? I ask you, Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: It's not going to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, forget that; if it were to happen.

MS. FERRECHIO: There's just no way it can happen. You just -- if you read about this, it's not -- you're never going to get that kind of cooperation, because everybody feels like they're losing something. Pakistan wants it to be applied to the current stockpile, which would never happen. Otherwise it's going to feel like it's left vulnerable. Each country has its own vulnerabilities when it comes to eliminating this. And I just don't see it's going to happen.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the fissile ban treaty is still being negotiated, but the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was killed in the U.S. Senate when Clinton was president. We've had a moratorium anyway. We don't test. So basically --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- we're respecting that treaty. And Republicans are not going to ratify it. And they're making a mistake --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- because if a country can't test a weapon, they therefore can't have a weapon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ryan --

MS. CLIFT: And so it's good policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ryan, our nuclear weapons are old, and they're losing or they've lost their fissile capability. The Chinese nuclear weapons are new. What does that tell you?

MR. GRIM: Well, the good news -- and this is a little
macabre to call it good news -- is that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Macabre.

MR. GRIM: -- you don't need --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. Macabre? You mean sad?

MR. GRIM: You don't need --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or fearful?

MR. GRIM: Both. You don't need a lot of nuclear weaponry to destroy the world. We have enough, whether it's old, whether it's rusty, whether we need to knock the dust off it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What makes you so sure?

MR. GRIM: We're the United States of America. I'm confident in our ability to destroy the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah. Patriotism makes it true.

MR. GRIM: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, look, the fact is, we have 1,500 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When in doubt, become patriotic.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We have a lot of nuclear weapons in our arsenal, and they have a delivery capability. So we can do immense damage. You call it destruction. Call it immense damage. The world would never be the same if we got into that kind of a war. That's what we're all trying to avoid. That's what Obama's trying to avoid, and rightly so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many nuclear weapons would it take to make the world, the whole planet, an Armageddon?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I would say it would be a lot --

MS. CLIFT: John --

MS. FERRECHIO: Just a few big ones.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- it would be a lot less --

MS. CLIFT: What a --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- than the 1,500 that we have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- Eleanor, I'm cutting you off.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Should President Obama reset his nuclear-arms-cut proposal from bilateral, with the U.S. and Russia acting alone, to multilateral, involving all of the declared nuclear powers, including possibly, improbably, North Korea? Do you follow me?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I follow you, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the idea?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- I think you're not going very far, so I can follow you for the next three steps, John.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's just no way that's going to happen. There's no political way that you can imagine this happening, however much this would be wonderful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Germany doesn't have them.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it prohibited?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know whether it's prohibited under German law.

MS. CLIFT: Well, their own constitution --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's no doubt that they wouldn't do it.

MS. CLIFT: -- probably limits how militarily they can get involved.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to my question? Get everybody on board.

MS. CLIFT: No. Politics and diplomacy is the art of the possible. And the excess weapons that we're talking about are in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. And if you're going to start talking about denying other countries, limiting other countries' stockpiles, that's a whole other conversation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it would be probably dismissed on the basis of improbable -- the improbability of getting the exactitude of examination to verify that they have, in fact -- didn't we encounter this once before with Russia?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. There's just no way that this is going to happen at this stage of the game, certainly not in the case of China, for example. China's a power that is just resurging, OK, and they're just not going to give it up. That's period.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to that?

MS. FERRECHIO: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that an impossible dream, what I just
mentioned?

MS. FERRECHIO: It is. Look at --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everybody gets in the act together.

MS. FERRECHIO: Look what we just talked about now. We talked about Russia and the United States. And they can't even -- we're not even going to get the bilateral. It's too hard right now, because everybody, you know, is feeling threatened, and so they need to keep their nuclear stockpile -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would be wrong with Obama proposing the idea? Wouldn't that be part -- wouldn't that be a contribution to his legacy? Let's all jump in the tank together.

MR. GRIM: I'd say so. But American presidents hate to be left at the altar. It diminishes their power every time that they -- they feel like it diminishes their power. I don't think it would. But he's not going to propose something until he thinks he'll get a yes. And like she said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does the U.N. have any role to play here?

MR. GRIM: It could. I mean, theoretically, that would be the way to handle these sorts of problems.

MS. FERRECHIO: No.

MS. CLIFT: He's getting enough push-back for what he's put on the table. Let's see if he can get that. I think it's within reach.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a great idea, but it's an impossible dream.

Issue Two: Obesity the Disease.

DR. LOU ARONNE (obesity expert): (From videotape.) Well, we know, as obesity researchers, that obesity is a disease. But the fact that the American Medical Association has recognized it will have tremendous impact on legislation in Washington, with insurance companies. It carries a lot of weight.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The medical community is relieved by the recent ruling of the influential and prestigious AMA, the American Medical Association, that declared obesity a disease. The AMA represents more doctors than any other association.

Here's their mid-June language. Quote: "Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans," unquote.

OK, that's over 78 million fat adult Americans. Who are these overweight people? Answer: A person who has a body mass index, BMI, of 30 or higher, compared to a normal BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. Memorize these stats. BMI, body mass index, does not measure body fat directly, but is a reliable method to determine body fatness, calculated from the ratio of a person's height to a person's weight.

So, using that measure, 35 percent of U.S. adults, one third, are considered obese. And 17 percent of children are obese. Obesity has long been associated with health risks, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and various cancers.

By designating obesity a disease, the door is now open to insurance companies, enabling them to more accurately reimburse for health problems associated with obesity. This disease designation for obesity, by the way, reaches into addictions that are now treated as diseases, like alcoholism.

The Obesity Action Coalition in Tampa says that the AMA designation obesity is a disease, quote, "puts obesity on the same path as treatments for addictions to alcohol or tobacco and mental health problems such as depression," unquote.

So far, so good. But not everyone is happy with calling obesity a disease or that one third of the U.S. population is diseased. The N double-A, F as in Frank, A -- the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance -- spokeswoman Peggy Howell says this. Quote: "We don't see ourselves as diseased. To label a whole segment of society as diseased, without any knowledge of their health, is unacceptable. It directly fuels discrimination," unquote.
Question: What are the social costs of severe obesity? And what did you think of that lady's argument?

MS. FERRECHIO: I think her argument is the least of the problems here. If you're a declaring it a disease, I think it's going to increase the price tag for Americans. You know, it's going to increase health insurance costs because we're going to be paying for lifestyle choices that lead to the disease. And it's also going to cost -- you know, people get on disability easily, more easily, using obesity as the cause. And that's going to really increase the cost of -- the absolutely exploding cost of that program, which is already skyrocketing.

You know, on the one hand, if it's going to lead people to get more bariatric surgery, get more treatment to reduce it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that, bariatric?

MS. FERRECHIO: Bariatric surgery, where you're getting a lap band or some kind of surgery to reduce your appetite and lose weight; a lot of people. It's becoming very popular, but it's not for everybody. That's becoming more of a thing to reduce obesity.

If it's going to make people reduce their weight, then you can see something positive about it. But I just see it as another way to really explode the cost of health care for really what's become a lifestyle choice.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MS. FERRECHIO: I mean, people who smoke -- are we going to call smoking a disease too?
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's made an excellent point here about bariatric surgery. But it's expensive, and insurance companies have been reluctant, I believe, to undertake the cost of bariatric surgery. Should that be changed? And, if so, does the government play a role in having it changed? And is that what is designed here by saying it's a disease? Do you follow me?

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, I'm wondering if bariatric surgery is really what they're aiming at, because it's not -- that's probably only going to include a fraction of the people out there with obesity. Very few people get that surgery on the whole when you consider, what, 35 percent of the population is obese.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The governor of New Jersey apparently just had bariatric surgery. Is that right?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The governor has, yes. And he needed it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that what it's called, whatever he got?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, whatever he got --

MS. CLIFT: Lap band.

MS. FERRECHIO: Lap band.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lap band. Now, what's a lap band?

MS. CLIFT: Well, they band off part of your stomach so you get full quicker.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah.

MS. FERRECHIO: I think it's removable.

MS. CLIFT: First of all, the AMA has no official power here to make anybody do anything.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: I think it does put some pressure on insurance companies --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Insurance.

MS. CLIFT: -- to recognize that overweight is not simply a product of lack of will power or a lifestyle choice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the --

MS. CLIFT: This is a lot more -- excuse me. This is a lot more complicated than we know. We're just really learning --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's also --

MS. CLIFT: -- about this. And I would -- you know, it's a chicken-and-egg thing. The health care costs are exploding because of the health problems related with obesity. And so you want to treat them in order to reduce those weights. So I'm all for treating people seriously and taking this condition seriously.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the National Institutes of Health, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the National Institutes of Health?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, let me just say this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could I give you just a figure here? Twelve thousand dollars to $35,000 for the kind of surgery we're talking about.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And insurance companies have been not seeing it, I believe --

MS. CLIFT: They do cover some --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Some of it?

MS. CLIFT: -- of it. Yes, they do.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is -- fat -- obesity has exploded over the last several decades. Why? Because lifestyles have changed. People eat more food. They eat a lot of junk food. They don't have as much exercise. They don't continue exercise. They don't walk to places. They get transported one way or another. So this is a change of lifestyle. It's not a disease. It's a change of lifestyle. And a lot of people yield to it, OK, which is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yield to what, the change?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Damn right. A lot of people do that. A lot of people are eating the kinds of food that accumulate the calories in your body. Fat is what exactly the result of all of that. And that, it seems --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, I'm not satisfied with this, because I think we're talking about stigma here. And the exit question focuses on that. Does the designation of obesity as a disease stigmatize obesity, or does it destigmatize fatness?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I think it destigmatizes it on some level, because people can say, well, it's not me.

MS. FERRECHIO: It's not my fault.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not my fault. It's not my lifestyle. I have this disease. And, by the way --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, does that induce them to continue eating excessively --

MS. FERRECHIO: Yes, because it takes away ownership.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and to not exercising?

MS. FERRECHIO: It takes away ownership.

MR. GRIM: No, no --

MS. FERRECHIO: We'll pay for your problem now because it's a disease. It's not your fault.

MR. GRIM: Well, we also created your problem in this sense. There's no fundamental difference between the will power that exists among people today and people 50 years ago. It's the same human race. It's the same American people. But all of a sudden obesity has soared. Now, what's happened?

MS. FERRECHIO: I disagree with you.

MR. GRIM: You have a food --

MS. FERRECHIO: Will power has changed.

MR. GRIM: You have a food industry that has increased portion sizes --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're a younger man, or you have some physical appearance that leads one to be young -- the impression you're young. Have you ever heard of --

MR. GRIM: A few gray hairs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Weight Watchers?

MR. GRIM: I've heard of Weight Watchers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Weight Watchers do what they want to do? Do you know what they do?

MR. GRIM: It works for some people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They teach you to count calories.

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

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And calories are ingredient, I guess, to this whole overweight issue.

MR. GRIM: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it works.

MR. GRIM: For some people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Almost all.

MR. GRIM: -- a point system like that will work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would say almost all. Men and women?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. GRIM: But look at obesity among under-10-year-olds? You know, are we saying that people 10 and under are so radically different than they were 30 years ago, that these --

MS. FERRECHIO: Yes.

MR. GRIM: -- nine-year-olds don't have will power, that six- year-olds don't have will power?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?
(Cross talk.)

MR. GRIM: The point is something has changed in society.

MS. FERRECHIO: Just blame the food?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, society is more sedentary. We've become more -- we watch a lot of TV.

MR. GRIM: OK, we have different four-year-olds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know what we do? We play with that computer all day.

Issue Three: Warrantless DNA Swabs.

The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens from, quote-unquote, "unreasonable searches and seizures." This means that the FBI or the police cannot search someone for evidence of a crime without that person being suspected of the crime, within the framework of, quote- unquote, "probable cause."

But in an unusual five-to-four split, the Supreme Court ruled that the police can take a sample of your DNA if you have been arrested for a serious crime. And if the DNA matches DNA found in other crime scenes, it could implicate you.

The case of Maryland versus King upholds the conviction of Alonzo Jay King Jr. He was found guilty of a 2003 major assault on the eastern shore of Maryland. A DNA sample was taken from him when he was arrested on another crime in 2009, an assault charge unrelated to the 2003 rape crime. The DNA matched.

The Supreme Court ruling treats cheek swaps of an arrestee's DNA like a standard booking procedure, like fingerprinting. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the majority. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito.

OK, Justice Antonin Scalia joined the three women on the court to disagree with the ruling. Scalia and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan ruled against the decision.

Here's what Justice Scalia said about his dissent. Quote: "The court has cast aside a bedrock rule of our Fourth Amendment law that the government may not search its citizens for evidence of crime unless there is a reasonable cause to believe that such evidence will be found."

Question: Will the Supreme Court decision prompt a national standard for the collection of DNA? Ryan Grim.

MR. GRIM: Eventually, it probably will. And here's what you need to know to see which direction the country's going in. In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that somebody convicted of a crime does not have the right to have access to their own DNA, even if it would prove them innocent. So we had a Bill of Rights set up to protect people. Instead, people don't have access to their own DNA but the government does have the access. And that will lead eventually to -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's DNA?

MR. GRIM: Well, it's your internal fingerprint, in some ways.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. What does it stand for, DNA?

MR. GRIM: Oh, boy. Dio (sic) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Come on, struggle.

MR. GRIM: No, I don't know. I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nucleic.

MS. FERRECHIO: Nucleic acid.

MR. GRIM: Acid is the A. I know that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the best we can do here?

MR. GRIM: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Looks like it. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it give your whole genetic material, as does nothing else, and it should not be compared to a fingerprint, which is relatively primitive as compared to the detail that exists in the DNA that can be procured from a swabbing of a cheek?

MR. GRIM: It can tell you all sorts of stuff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All sorts of stuff.

MR. GRIM: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And your father's and mother's stuff and their predecessors, correct?

MR. GRIM: It can tell you what diseases you're predisposed to.

MS. CLIFT: Right. But I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that becomes --

MS. CLIFT: They're not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a matter of permanent record if it's taken.

MR. GRIM: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please continue.

MS. CLIFT: I generally side with the liberal members of the court. On this one, it was the conservative majority, but joined by Stephen Breyer, who is a noted liberal. And I basically buy his thinking that this is the court catching up with the modern world, just as the fingerprints -- I'm sure some people thought that was invasive. This is how we identify people.

And in the particular case in Maryland, they discovered that he was guilty of a rape that he had done several years before. So it had a good outcome. But I don't think you can just argue the case to get to that good outcome. But this is not invasive at all. And more than half the states already -
-

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: -- have this, are already doing this. So to answer the question, I think we will have a national standard at some point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's have a round robin on this. Should any collection of DNA be first preceded by voluntary permission to do it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words -- you understand?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I understand exactly. I don't think it has to be voluntary for it to be able to be used. I support Eleanor's view of this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To be able to be taken?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: To be taken and used.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, really?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Too liberal. Yes.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) No, I don't support, you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A what? A what?

MS. CLIFT: -- a warrant for every time you're going to collect DNA.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm saying voluntary on the part of the person from whom it's to be taken. Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: No. No.

MS. FERRECHIO: I think it should be voluntary. I don't like it. I also don't like --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- blood and breathalyzer. It's all very invasive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're correct.
Go ahead.

MR. GRIM: I'm with her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We three are correct.

Out of time. Happy Fourth Weekend. Bye-bye.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service

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