The McLaughlin Group
Host: John McLaughlin
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast;
Guy Taylor, Washington Times;
Paul Glastris, Washington Monthly
Taped: Friday, January 3, 2014
Broadcast: Weekend of January 4-5, 2014
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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Everybody Must Get Stoned.
(Audio excerpt of Bob Dylan's "Everybody Must Get Stoned.")
BRIAN VICENTE (Colorado marijuana activist): Sales have taken place in our country for decades, and all that money goes into the hands of the underground market and cartels. Well, that stops today.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On January 1st, New Year's Day, Colorado became the first state in the country to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. Adults over 21 can now purchase pot at 24 stores around the state. Colorado residents can legally possess one ounce of the drug, and each adult has the right to grow six cannabis plants. Non- residents can possess one quarter of an ounce, but they can't legally take it across state lines.
This decriminalization of marijuana in Colorado is the result of a citizen referendum. And so, on opening day for pot sales, people in Denver waited in line for up to three hours.
Later this year another state, Washington, will follow suit with Colorado's pot legalization, but under a more restrictive regimen. Retail sales of the drug will be permitted, but subject to a statewide annual production limit of 40 metric tons of marijuana. But unlike in Colorado, Washington does not trust its citizens to grow their own pot.
Nationwide, supporters of legalization say pot sales will have positive effects, like, one, take money out of the hands of criminal organizations; two, create jobs; three, boost state revenues.
Colorado officials currently estimate sales may hit $400 million, generating $67 million in tax revenue. On the other hand, critics of pot legalization point out that federal law, U.S. law, still bans the cultivation and sale and possession of marijuana. On the federal level, the Obama administration's official position vis-a-vis, quote- unquote, "renegade states" is non-interference.
Question: Is the era of pot prohibition coming to an end, or are Colorado and Washington on a collision course with the federal government? Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN: I think it is, to a degree, coming to an end, which means there are going to be more potheads and more high school dropouts and more automobile accidents involving marijuana, John.
But there's no doubt there's a real trend in this country, a deeply libertarian trend, on the left that favors same-sex marriage and gambling, even prostitution, legalization of all of these things, which used to be considered vices, and because of the revenue involved and because of the belief that individuals should have autonomy. And on the right, there's a libertarianism as well. Everybody's got to have to have his AR-15 rifle and its 30-round clip.
But this is the sentiment in the country, I think, sort of the decline of community and the rise of the idea of the autonomous and privileged self. And this is a trend, and it's going to continue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, I think this is states' rights, the voice of the people, which is something that conservatives generally support. And I think you can list a lot of positive things that are going to come out of the legalization of a substance that's already being used and a substance that's far less harmful in terms of driving and everyday behavior than alcohol and less harmful than tobacco, which, over a long term, creates a huge public health issue because of lung cancer and such.
I think it was pretty dramatic when the Obama administration, when Eric Holder, the attorney general, actually called the governors of Colorado and Washington State and said the federal government would not interfere. But the federal government has issued a bunch of guidelines for U.S. attorneys around the country if drug lords start using legal marijuana as a cover for other business. And there are other examples where you would get federal interference.
But this is like gay marriage. This is a sentiment that is arising from the states. It is bubbling up and it's coming to Washington. Washington is playing catch-up. And I do think that the war on marijuana is over.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you move that non-interference of Washington, and telling Colorado that, where that could lead that would be antagonistic to sound public policy?
GUY TAYLOR: It could lead to wider legalization. But John, this issue has moved extremely slowly and incrementally. OK, you opened with Bob Dylan singing "Everybody Must Get Stoned." That song is not actually about getting high on marijuana. But, that aside, that was sung and popular 40, 50 years ago. And here we are now with one state that's legalizing marijuana and another that is about to, OK? And we have medical marijuana, which is kind of a legal limbo.
There's a possibility in the coming three years that this will expand, because the Obama administration is no longer going to be facing reelection and this is a less political issue. If you'll recall, in his first term the opposite occurred. The Obama administration's Justice Department called up Rhode Island, New England states that were talking about legalizing medical marijuana, and did the exact opposite. They said if you do it, we're going to crack down and start closing places. And in Rhode Island, the governor pulled back.
So what the federal government says does have an impact. And there's a possibility that if the administration has swung the other way now, that over the next two, three years we're going to see this change a little bit in support of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It undermines compliance with federal law.
True or false?
PAUL GLASTRIS: It does. And the fact right now is that you have dispensaries in California, medical marijuana dispensaries, where the people who run them can't have bank accounts because they run afoul of federal money laundering laws. So they're gathering cash and becoming prey to thugs, who know that they've got cash on them.
So this is going to have to be dealt with by the federal government at one point or another. And my hope -- and we're going to be writing about this in the Washington Monthly -- is that we're going to have federal legislation that makes sure that this is done in a way that minimizes the bad health outcomes, the public health outcomes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Paul, dream on. (Laughter.)
OK, Uruguay lead. We're talking about a country now, Uruguay in South America. Listen to this.
In December, the South American nation of Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Uruguay's senate voted to create a system to license private companies to grow marijuana for sales and distribution controlled by the state. Individuals may cultivate, possess and use limited quantities of the drug.
Uruguay's president, Jose Mujica, promoted legalization as the best way to curb the violence that has plagued Latin America in the decades-long war on drugs and to reduce the power and profits of criminal cartels. Other Latin American countries may soon follow suit, notably Belize, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
Question: If marijuana is legalized widely, where does that leave the notorious drug cartels? I ask you, Guy.
MR. TAYLOR: I think it presents challenges for drug cartels that make money trafficking marijuana into the United States. But I don't necessarily think that it affects the landscape of the illegal drug crime. I mean, look, this is marijuana. We're not talking about the biggest, most profitable thing for the cartels, which is cocaine, heroin, far harder drugs that aren't about to be legalized anytime soon.
A point on Uruguay, as well -- having been around Montevideo and down there covering the story in the last decade, look, the Uruguayans have led this narrative in Latin America that the U.S. policies in the war on drugs and Plan Colombia have created what they call El Efecto Global -- the balloon effect. And all it did was control Colombian cartels, but the problem of drug violence spread south.
MS. CLIFT: Uruguay had --
MR. TAYLOR: So their policies in Uruguay are --
MS. CLIFT: Uruguay had one of the lowest crime rates in Latin America.
MR. TAYLOR: Prior to --
MS. CLIFT: And in last -- and in recent years, those rates have been going up. And they attribute it to the drug trade. And so they basically are sidelining the business about marijuana, which was huge, because they want to get rid of the drug lords without going after them with guns. And their law has only been in effect for barely a month, so we don't know how --
MR. TAYLOR: They haven't implemented it yet either.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. We don't know how the experiment is going to play out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, Pat.
MS. CLIFT: The conversation is starting everywhere about legalization. And that's positive.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but this is -- John, this is a -- marijuana is a gateway drug. And you've got these powerful cartels. You've got marijuana legalized in one state. The cartels just say, look, let's pour our marijuana into the United States, undercut these guys. We've got a certain measure of legalization. I think it's going to be a real incentive for the cartels to get in the business of moving --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)
MR. BUCHANAN: -- marijuana and their other drugs here. The point is, what I think is going to happen is I do agree it's best that this be done state by state so that you can have a national backlash if it doesn't work out.
MR. GLASTRIS: You don't think --
MR. GLASTRIS: You don't think American drug producers could beat the Latin American drug producers --
MR. BUCHANAN: I know they --
MR. GLASTRIS: Come on. You're not a patriot.
MR. BUCHANAN: That's NAFTA. NAFTA is responsible for this. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat has stumbled into an interesting point, and it reminds me of young Kennedy, who is of the opinion that marijuana is an escalator drug. It's just opening the door to --
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- all types of --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's like beer before booze, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- cocaine, heroin, meth, Ecstasy, Spice, designer drugs synthesized from chemical compounds, and so forth.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you and I started drinking beer, didn't we, when we were 15 or 16?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And look at us today.
MR. BUCHANAN: And 17, you're drinking the hard whiskey. It's an entry drug. It's a gateway drug.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Now, where do we -- what are the cartels going to have left? The cartels are going to have what?
MR. BUCHANAN: Cocaine.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cocaine, heroin --
MR. GLASTRIS: Methamphetamine.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- meth, Ecstasy, Spice, and similar drugs --
MR. TAYLOR: I have to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- unless Kennedy is right, and that's going to be eaten away too.
MS. CLIFT: But the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the -- what is mankind going to become?
MS. CLIFT: You're draining some of the profits from a part of their business, and you're regulating something that's already being used. And states that are starved for cash are going to jump on this.
MR. GLASTRIS: That's the escalator drug, right? The states are going to want to have all this money, and that's why we're going to get national drug legislation.
MR. TAYLOR: John mentioned the fact that in areas of the United States where prescription drugs that have opioids in them are more available than marijuana. High school kids are far more likely to use drug opioids than they are to smoke marijuana.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go after the pharmacists?
MR. TAYLOR: Absolutely. So this idea that it's this gateway drug -- the possibility is that if you make marijuana --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.
MR. TAYLOR: -- if you make marijuana more available, then kids are more likely to --
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think that kids are going to say get me an opioid. I think do you have some pot is more likely to be the question.
MR. TAYLOR: And that might be a good thing.
MS. CLIFT: If they want it, they'll get it. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me the year where --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. TAYLOR: Would you rather have these kids addicted to opioids or smoking a little bit of marijuana?
MR. BUCHANAN: Do the beer and then the Jack Daniels later, all right?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will all 50 states --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pay attention, Pat. Will all 50 states --
MS. CLIFT: Pat, the `50s are over.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, all 50 states aren't going to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- legalize recreational marijuana? And if so, how many years will it take?
MR. BUCHANAN: First, the Republican --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many years will it take?
MR. BUCHANAN: It's not going to be all 50 states. It's going to be like same-sex marriage.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with that?
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many years? How many years?
MS. CLIFT: In Utah, where Mormonism is prevalent, they don't even allow caffeine, or they don't -- they don't permit caffeine in their religion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking only about recreational marijuana. How many states?
MS. CLIFT: Recreational -- how many states?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, not how many. How long will it take for all the states?
MS. CLIFT: I think a decade or so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. TAYLOR: Ten states in the next five years. It'll take more than a hundred years for everybody else.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For every state?
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think?
MR. GLASTRIS: I think you'll have the majority of states in 10 years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think -- what is that?
MR. BUCHANAN: Twenty-five it would be, John.
MR. GLASTRIS: Well, 26 -- at least 26.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got news for you. My information is, by the year 2025, recreational marijuana will be legal in all 50 states.
Issue Two: Whistleblower or Felon?
The editorial board of The New York Times has decisively weighed in on the case of Edward Snowden, the former NSA -- that's National Security Agency -- contractor who seven months ago leaked reams of information about NSA surveillance programs to the press, and, by proxy, to the world.
Mr. Snowden fled the U.S., first to Hong Kong, then to Moscow, where he has temporary asylum. The U.S. government has charged Mr. Snowden with espionage and theft.
This past Thursday, The New York Times described Mr. Snowden as a whistleblower, not a criminal. Quote: "Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistleblower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community," unquote.
In the editorial, The New York Times takes the NSA to task with details of its abuses and shaky legal reasoning, and concludes, quote, "When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That's why Rick Ledgett, who leads the NSA's task force on the Snowden leaks, recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks."
RICK LEDGETT (NSA leak task force leader): (From videotape.) It's worth having a conversation about. I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured. And my bar for those assurances would be very high.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Times continued, quote, "And it's why President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden's vilification and give him an incentive to return home," unquote.
Question: Will President Obama relent and offer Mr. Snowden some form of clemency? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: He might. The NSA official that you just showed on the screen told "60 Minutes" that he would consider a plea bargain or clemency in exchange for assurances that the data that's been captured by Snowden is now secure.
What's fascinating is the government really has no idea of exactly what he has. And they're worried what else might be out there. And I think if you look at most people, they regard Snowden maybe not a heroic whistleblower, but not a traitor who should spend the rest of his life in jail.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the guy --
MS. CLIFT: So I think there's plenty of room there for negotiation. And there's three more years before the president leaves office.
MR. BUCHANAN: The guy broke the law. He broke faith with the American people, with the nation. He committed a crime and he ought to do the time.
But let me say this. If the president gave clemency or a pardon to Snowden right now, you'd have resignations, I believe, all through the National Security Agency and some of these other people --
MS. CLIFT: Nobody's talking about a pardon.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- (inaudible) -- through that. And I think you'd have a firestorm in this country, and among some grassroots Democrats as well. And you would put at real risk the Democratic candidate in 2016 if Hillary Clinton approved of any kind of pardon for Snowden right now.
MS. CLIFT: Nobody's talking about a pardon.
MR. BUCHANAN: This is a very volatile issue right now, more so than Eleanor realizes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Repeat what you said about Hillary.
MR. BUCHANAN: I said if Hillary approved of Obama's pardon of Snowden, she would have real problems in 2016, because grassroots Democrats, many of whom might lean to her, would be deeply offended. They're very patriotic folks.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I think it's a very hot issue, but I think it's on the other side. I think you see more people advocating on behalf of what he said and angry at the government, as opposed to the other way around.
MR. BUCHANAN: The ones who want to legalize marijuana too.
MS. CLIFT: But again, you kept using the word pardon. Nobody's talking about a pardon. They're talking about a plea bargain, which is routine in criminal cases. And, you know, he could serve a length of time. It doesn't have to be 50 years of his life. It could be, you know, 10.
MR. TAYLOR: Edward Snowden is -- made these massive revelations. And it's almost a sea shift in the U.S. intelligence community. But he is just the latest now who is leaking this information. And we can debate whether he's a traitor or a whistleblower. This issue transcends ideological positions, because it's new and it involves the evolution of communications and the evolution of concepts of secrecy, OK.
Edward Snowden falls into the camp of Julian Assange. And there will be another Edward Snowden within the coming two years. And this whole discussion about whether or not we trust, as Americans, our government --
MR. BUCHANAN: There will be more, will there not?
MR. TAYLOR: -- to (partake ?) in spying activities of this scale is the bigger question.
MS. CLIFT: The self-interest --
MR. BUCHANAN: Will there not --
MS. CLIFT: The self-interest of the U.S. government is to get under control what he has. And if that involves negotiations and a plea bargain, I don't think that's such a bad deal; you know, all of the politics aside.
MR. BUCHANAN: But clemency for Snowden --
MR. TAYLOR: What I'm saying is --
MR. BUCHANAN: Clemency for Snowden --
MS. CLIFT: The self-interest of the country should be --
MR. BUCHANAN: Clemency for Snowden and you will get more Snowdens.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it in President Obama's character to reverse course under pressure?
MS. CLIFT: You know, reverse course -- I don't know that he has said absolutely -- he hasn't closed the door. And, you know, I think he has said that Snowden broke the law and should come back and face charges. He can come back and face charges --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What more do you want? He said he broke the law.
MS. CLIFT: -- and then you can have -- and then you can have -- again, plea bargains go on every day in courtrooms.
MR. TAYLOR: It is absolutely in President Obama's political nature to change course, as it is with most politicians. And there's a big problem with our government right now, as it was with the Bush administration before it. Obama already changed course. He came out in California, when this story was first blowing up, and basically said we weren't -- we're not doing this; as far as I know, it wasn't of that scale.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, Obama --
MR. TAYLOR: Then the leaks come out, and all of a sudden he's going to put a panel together --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who has --
MR. TAYLOR: -- to investigate how deep it was.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who has stuck his or her neck out in defending the behavior of the NSA in trying to get control of this situation?
MR. TAYLOR: Well, the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dianne Feinstein.
MR. BUCHANAN: OK, exactly. But you know something here? The New York Times, John -- there is an inherent conflict of interest between journalists and so-called whistleblowers or guys who put out secrets. Take Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. He could have gone to jail for 35 years, and The New York Times gets a Pulitzer prize for printing this stuff. There's a real conflict of interest in terms of what is best for the country.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think what Daniel Ellsberg did was best for the country. And as I recall --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: -- that all came out right around the time that Watergate was emerging, maybe --
MR. BUCHANAN: It was the year before Watergate. It was 1971.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but the --
MR. GLASTRIS: The problem with Edward Snowden --
MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible) -- caught in the context of Watergate.
MR. GLASTRIS: -- is it's kind of a mixed bag here. Undoubtedly, some of his leaks about the metadata and the internal surveillance caught the government red-handed in its inability to oversee what the NSA was doing. And a lot of good will come of that.
On the other hand, these revelations about some of the NSA foreign spying, like spying on foreign governments --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)
MR. GLASTRIS: -- is perfectly constitutional, did significant diplomatic damage to the State Department, to the president's standing. None of that was necessarily patriotic or helpful. And I think it really hurts his case for some kind of clemency or plea bargain.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do the polls show? Do the polls show a percentage of the public that still think Snowden betrayed the country?
MS. CLIFT: No, a majority think he's a whistleblower, I believe.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, that's not true. Half the public still thinks he betrayed the country.
MS. CLIFT: Well, half and half, OK.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, is it -- is this something that Obama is going to turn around by a pardon?
MR. GLASTRIS: I honestly can't imagine him --
MS. CLIFT: No pardon. Nobody's talking about a pardon.
MR. GLASTRIS: -- (giving ?) any kind of clemency.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't imagine him doing that.
MR. GLASTRIS: I don't think there'll be a plea bargain. I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can't imagine him doing that either.
MR. GLASTRIS: This is the guy who's gone after a lot of whistleblowers.
MS. CLIFT: But I can't imagine --
MR. GLASTRIS: He's not going to -- he's not going to --
MR. BUCHANAN: Why would he do it, John?
MS. CLIFT: I can imagine Snowden serving 10 years --
MR. GLASTRIS: He hasn't let Jonathan Pollard out of prison.
MS. CLIFT: -- instead of 50.
MR. GLASTRIS: He's not going to --
MR. BUCHANAN: Why would he do it, John? What is it in for Obama --
MR. GLASTRIS: I don't see it.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- to give clemency or a pardon to Snowden?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Merit. Merit. Merit. The arguments (have been ?) --
MS. CLIFT: To secure the data that he stole.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- very, very cogently and persuasively in that long, long editorial from The New York Times.
MR. BUCHANAN: The president is going to ask, what is in it for me if I do this?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's the right thing to do. The Times makes it the right thing to do. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: To secure the data --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you understand? Can you appreciate that?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: To secure the data that he has and that the government does not know how much more he has. That's what's in it for -- I mean, that's why you would want to make some sort of a plea bargain with him to get him back to this country, so you can secure that data.
MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MS. CLIFT: The NSA official has said that. That's not -- I didn't invent that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, I know. The NSA person said that on television this week --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that he would consider pardon.
MS. CLIFT: Not pardon. Everybody keeps using pardon. Nobody's going to pardon him. He's going to serve time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- pardon.
MS. CLIFT: He's going to serve time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Non-prosecution.
MS. CLIFT: If he comes back, he's going to serve time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about non-prosecution.
MS. CLIFT: The question is, is somebody 30 years old going to serve 10 years, 20 years, 50 years? You know, there's a lot of leeway there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Final question: Will Obama cut any slack for Snowden as you see this developing? Yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. GLASTRIS: No.
MS. CLIFT: Possibly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Possibly?
MR. TAYLOR: Maybe.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe? What is this? (Inaudible.)
MR. TAYLOR: I don't know. That's why I --
MR. GLASTRIS: I don't see it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: War Against the Olympics.
Two bombings rocked the Russian city of Volgograd this week, killing more than 30 people and wounding dozens. Suicide bombers targeted Russian commuters, attacking a busy train station and a bus.
While no group has claimed responsibility, Russian authorities suspect a man called Doku Umarov, the self-styled emir of the Caucasus. Last July, in a four-minute video published by the radical website Kavkaz Center, Umarov told his fighters that attacking civilians was justified in preventing the Winter Olympic Games.
Quote: "They," Russia, "plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims buried on the territory of our land on the Black Sea, and we, as mujahideen, are obliged not to permit that, using any methods allowed us by the almighty Allah," unquote.
Umarov claims that the Olympic host city of Sochi is part of his Caucasus emirate. He denounced the Games as a, quote, "satanic dance on the bones of our ancestors," unquote.
With the Olympic opening ceremony scheduled in little more than a month, the bombings look as if Umarov is making good on his threat. The Obama administration officially designated the Caucasus emirate a terrorist organization in 2011 and put a $5 million bounty on Umarov's capture.
In the wake of this week's Volgograd attack, President Obama was quick to offer intelligence assistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Question: Will Putin accept Obama's offer? And, if so, will cooperation on Olympic security reverse the downward spiral in U.S.- Russian relations? Guy Taylor.
MR. TAYLOR: I think privately, John, Putin and the government in Moscow already has accepted Obama's offer.
And there's quite a bit of secretive back-channel communication on terrorism between Moscow and Washington.
Publicly, it's anybody's guess here. It's not politically viable for Vladimir Putin, who's gained a lot of political traction out of trashing the Obama administration and trying to run a kind of propaganda war where he makes Obama look bad. It's also not politically viable for Obama to now reach out during this period and be friends with Vladimir Putin.
MR. BUCHANAN: I disagree.
MR. TAYLOR: But I do think that, behind the scenes, both nations see a player like Doku Umarov as a very charismatic regional leader of an al-Qaida-style movement, even though it's rooted in Chechnya.
Let me remind you, how many of us had heard of Chechnya outside the news media or the intelligence community prior to April of last year when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred? It involved two young Chechen immigrants who are believed by our intelligence community to have drawn inspiration from Doku Umarov. So this guy's a player, and Moscow and Washington are communicating behind the scenes.
MR. BUCHANAN: But John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he worried about it?
MR. TAYLOR: I think he needs -- we need to watch it, because I would imagine if he sent out an Ayman al-Zawahiri-style video message six months ago that is being picked up on by cells with inside Russia that are -- and whether they're directly in communication with him right now or not, there are probably --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right. But John --
MR. TAYLOR: -- more plots on the horizon between now and the start of the Olympics --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me get into this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. has the means to identify a lot of people all over the world. We can do that, a lot of that. Satellites are a huge help.
MR. BUCHANAN: But John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: People don't realize the extent to which they are so good. Do you understand?
MR. TAYLOR: So you're suggesting that we already know where this guy is hiding?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No. I'm suggesting that we should offer to help.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't want those games to go sour because of --
MS. CLIFT: No, Guy is right.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me talk.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What? What? What?
MR. BUCHANAN: What Obama should do with this threat to us and with this second act of terrorism, he should say I've changed my mind and I'm going to go to Sochi, to the Games, in solidarity with the Russian people, who are under the gun for this terrorism, because we're all in this together.
It would be a big, magnanimous gesture. Putin would have no alternative but to welcome him. And I think it would break the boycott. It would be a big gesture. And we've got to get on with the Russians --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would Putin welcome that, or would he --
MR. BUCHANAN: I believe --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- be afraid of that?
MR. BUCHANAN: -- it would make a huge success out of his Sochi games, which is what he wants.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.
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