THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, LAWRENCE KUDLOW,
AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2000
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 1-2, 2000
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: The Sovereign State of Miami-Dade.
MAYOR ALEX PENELAS (Miami-Dade County): (From videotape.) The Justice Department's handling of this matter -- if their continued provocation in the form of unjustified threats to revoke the boy's parole leads to civil unrest and violence, we are holding the federal government responsible and specifically Janet Reno. We will not lend our respective resources, whether they be in the form of police officers or any other resources, to assist the federal government in any way, shape, or form to inappropriately repatriate Elian Gonzalez to Cuba. (Applause.)
Mr. MCLAUGHLIN: That's Alex Penelas, Miami-Dade County mayor. That's right; the county has its own mayor.
Miami's city mayor, Joe Carollo, a fellow Cuban American, is also warning the feds against removing Elian Gonzalez from Miami. "The Miami Police Department will not participate in taking Elian Gonzalez away from his Miami family to be sent to Castro's hell."
Carollo's got plenty of support. Cuban Americans in Dade County number over 700,000, almost 40 percent of the county population, and one-half the Cuban Americans in the nation as a whole. And it's not the first time the powerful -- some say renegade -- constituency has flexed its political muscle.
Item: Ordinance discriminates against any person or entity doing business with Cuba. "Miami-Dade County shall not enter into a contract with any person or entity that does business with Cuba or that has traveled to Cuba." So reads in part a 1996 law -- illegal and unconstitutional, as seen by many scholars -- enacted by Miami Cuban Americans, that has kept art, music, sports festivals, all nonpartisan and highly respected, out of Miami, including the Latin Grammy Awards last summer, depriving Floridian merchants and others of $40 million in revenue, and the $130 million Pan-American Games -- all shut out of the hemisphere's capital of Latin culture. The total cost: at least a quarter of a billion dollars in the upcoming decades.
Item: Violent protests cripple city. Cuban America demonstrators have disrupted traffic and commerce, formed human chains, incited violent near-riot conditions throughout the city for a wide variety of political causes. Non-Cuban Americans are outraged at the violations of their rights, violations that Cuban American Mayor Penelas, observers say, has failed to prevent or punish.
Question: Is Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas inciting violence in this Elian matter, I ask you, Lawrence Kudlow?
MR. KUDLOW: No, I don't think he is inciting violence. I do think he is starting to run his own foreign policy. And given the sad state of American foreign policy, that's not such a bad idea.
But, you know, Miami itself, John -- one thing you neglected to mention in your excellent introduction -- is becoming the financial, banking and commercial center for all of Latin America. And it shows the benefits of free immigration makes this country even stronger.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Except what Penelas is doing by this law is he is driving the centrality of that position over to Texas, which wants to be the major springboard into Latin America.
MS. CLIFT: With Lawrence, it always comes back to the mighty dollar. Listen --
MR. KUDLOW: Hold that thought.
MS. CLIFT: -- not since George Wallace --
MR. KUDLOW: Hold that thought.
MS. CLIFT: -- not since George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door have elected officials so blatantly threatened to disregard U.S. law. If he didn't incite violence, he basically said he would condone violence.
And frankly, for a community which fled a dictatorship under Batista, they have come over here, and now they are trying to set up their own dictatorship. I think what they have done with this little boy, and the way they are blatantly defying immigration and child-custody law, I think it's outrageous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, can you improve on that?
MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.) I don't know.
Look, there is no doubt that his language gets pretty close to encouraging people not to obey the law. On the other hand, there is a long tradition in America of ethnic groups, when the immigrate and concentrate their population in an area -- we experienced this a hundred years ago in the Northeast -- that they take certain control, and it has the flavor of the homeland there. There is nothing new about this.
And specifically what the mayor said was he wasn't going to be party to trying to violently move the boy out. He wasn't telling people they could break the law. He was saying that he wouldn't join arm in arm with the "federales," when they come marching in to take this boy away from his family.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A couple of points. It is true that he distinguished between evicting -- doing the work of the INS and policing. However, what he is reductively saying is that he wants to thwart the action of the federal government.
MR. BLANKLEY: Right. I agree. I don't think second question --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, the second point is the point you made about control. The Miami Cuban American control is uniform, both on the Dade County level and on the city level. They control both commissions. In the city, I believe, it's about nine seats out of 13, and comparable on the Dade side. The mayor of the county is Cuban American. The mayor of the city is Cuban American. So that control is very tight. You could call it a machine, but let's bear in mind they were all duly elected. What do you think of that political situation?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, machines have succeeded in duly electing people before. This is, in effect, inciting to riot. It couldn't be worse. I mean, can you think of anything the mayor could have said that would be worse than this? Of course this is as bad as it can possibly be, and the suggestion that the federal government is somehow an evil power that is going to come down there and somehow do something violent with this boy is absolute madness.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's not madness. It's not madness.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, there is the political power, of course, that accrues to the kind of machine that is operating in Dade County, and that is, it controls the policies of the United States at large because of the significant number of electoral votes within Florida. And although there are only 700,000 in Miami, there are about 1 million, as I recall, in Florida itself. So that means they sent a message earlier to Al Gore that unless Al Gore remains firm on resisting the Clinton effort to move Elian back to Cuba, that Al Gore would have a problem.
MR. KUDLOW: Well, sure, because --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, what do you think of that? And so we know what Gore did this week.
MS. CLIFT: The fact that the machine reaches all the way up to the vice presidency is a little scary, but Al Gore is doing the same thing that Mayor Penelas is doing; he's ensuring his political survival. There are 25 electoral votes. If Al Gore wins Florida, he's president. I think what he did is pretty shameless, to inject himself into this highly sensitive situation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who, Al?
MS. CLIFT: Al Gore, yes. But he may have stumbled upon a possible compromise, and that is, if this boy goes back to Cuba, as I believe he will, if he gets some sort of guarantee that at age 18 that he could come here for residency. That may be a compromise --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know how worrisome the situation is, really worrisome, meaning that do we have an enclave in the United States that has effectively seceded from federal jurisdiction?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, they haven't seceded from federal jurisdiction. They are --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, the politicians are afraid of them on the federal level. Both parties are afraid of the Miami Cubans. Can they not, therefore, do whatever they wish?
MR. BLANKLEY: Now, look. You can't judge federal politicians by Al Gore. Al Gore is the most inexcusable, most egregious fawner to every possible political --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they have enacted law down there in restraint of legimate -- (cross talk) -- in violation of the constitutional free speech provision.
MR. KUDLOW: Look, the politics here are no different than the ward politics of the Irish in Boston or the Italians --
MR. O'DONNELL: That is absolutely not true!
MR. KUDLOW: I'm sorry, I have --
MR. O'DONNELL: The Irish never said, "Don't take this IRA prisoner back to Ireland." They've never said, "We will stand in your way if the federal authorities come to get him."
MR. KUDLOW: I disagree. There have been plenty of smaller actions, and this guy is not as incendiary as you've made him out to be.
MR. BLANKLEY: And Adam Clayton Powell was reelected from -- from -- from prison.
MR. KUDLOW: The key point here is Fidel Castro. Eleanor is wrong. The Cuban Americans of Miami fled Castro, not Batista, and that's the key point. And the only area of disagreement I have with the Cuban community is this, John: It's about overthrowing Castro. For 40 years we've had a trade embargo. I think we need to change our policy. Free trade, Internet access, will overthrow Fidel Castro --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, though -- they take -- right.
MR. KUDLOW: -- and succeed where everyone has failed for the past 40 years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You believe that!
MS. CLIFT: Yes, they fled Castro, but they seem to enjoy living under a dictatorship. And my point is they are establishing their own dictatorship in this country, and --
MR. KUDLOW: They are moving to the United States for freedom, Eleanor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish.
MR. KUDLOW: For freedom and wealth here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish.
MS. CLIFT: My disappointment is that there is no politician today who, if elected president, has the guts to end that ridiculous embargo with Cuba.
MR. KUDLOW: Well, I agree. The embargo should be ended.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you feel that way about the embargo, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: The embargo -- you can make an argument that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your -- where do you come down? We've got to get out.
MR. BLANKLEY: I want to keep the embargo.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?
MR. BLANKLEY: For a little while longer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you want to do?
MR. O'DONNELL: Our Cuba policy is insane. We deserve this problem. It's the result of our policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Every American businessman, every American who goes into Cuba today reduces the length of time that Castro will stay in power.
MR. KUDLOW: Right. Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And conversely, the more we have that embargo, the hand them a club to maintain their position.
MR. KUDLOW: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Was it a net-plus or a net-minus for Gore to have gone his own way on Elian, apart from Clinton? A political net-plus or net-minus?
MR. KUDLOW: I think it's a net-minus. It makes him look like flip-flopper and opportunist.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.) Sadly, it's a net-plus.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's probably a net-plus. It'll probably force Bush to spend $3 (million) or $4 million defending Florida.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Bush will carry Florida?
MR. BLANKLEY: Probably.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. O'DONNELL: It's a big net-minus; comes as close to the vice president violating his oath of office as you could imagine.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it contributes to the appearance of his being both an opportunist and somewhat less than candid and sincere.
Okay, last week on "mclaughlin.com" we asked how much impact will John McCain's actions during the next six months have on the general elections? On a zero to 10 scale, get this: 76 percent picked a number between zero and five, low. Only 24 percent said higher than five.
When we come back, Bill Clinton in another legal jam? Is that going to be a problem for Hillary's Senate campaign?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Billy and Willey, part two.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) When the decision was made to release those letters, I didn't even have any conversations with anybody about the Privacy Act. I never thought about it, never thought about whether to apply it or not. And decided to do it, reluctantly, only because it was the only way I knew to refute allegations that were made against me that were untrue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In 1998, President Clinton and senior aides committed a crime when they publicly released correspondence from Kathleen Willey to the president. So ruled federal judge Royce Lamberth on Wednesday. And the judge doesn't buy Clinton's excuses. "The White House and the president were aware that they were subject to the Privacy Act, and yet chose to violate its provisions," Judge Lamberth declared.
For background, we go to the McLaughlin archive, March 20, 1998, almost two years ago to the day.
KATHLEEN WILLEY (former White House volunteer): (From "60 Minutes" videotape.) I just could not believe that that had happened in that office. I just could not believe the recklessness of that act. I just remember thinking: "What in the world is he doing?" I just thought: "What is he doing? Maybe I ought to just give him a good slap across the face." And then I thought: "Well, you know, I don't think you can slap the president of the United States like that."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What President Clinton was doing to deserve a good slap across the face, according to former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey, was kissing and groping her, and putting her hand on his genitals in the Oval Office study on November 29, '93.
Within minutes of Kathleen Willey's "60 Minutes" testament, the engine of the White House counterattack roared to full throttle, under the direction of Bill Clinton himself. First, the letters. The White House quickly released records of every note, letter, and telephone call from Willey to the president, including 16 notes and letters written after the November 29th Oval Office grope.
How do the president's remarks on Katherine (sic) Willey at this press conference this week, on that episode -- how do they articulate with the rest of that press conference? I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, of course, it was remarkable, because two questions before, talking about obeying the law in some other context -- I pulled this up, just amazing -- he said, "We have to obey the law. We all have to. Whatever the law is, whatever the decision, we must obey the law." And here's a man --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then you see some inconsistency --
MR. BLANKLEY: And then, about three minutes later in the press conference, he said -- basically, he said, "I broke the law because I had to."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "I had to."
MR. BLANKLEY: To get her. I mean, that's what he said. I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was my only reputation --
MR. BLANKLEY: Only way I could get her was to do that. And of course, he lied, as we know, about not knowing about the Privacy Act, because --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't believe that the Privacy Act -- never crossed his mind, or the minds of his three lawyers?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't. I don't, and the federal judge said that the president knew at the time.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I'm sure you boys are having great fun getting your jollies out of reliving the Kathleen Willey episode. (Laughter.) This is a lawyerly dispute --
MR. BLANKLEY: It's an unlawyerly dispute.
MS. CLIFT: -- excuse me, Tony; my turn --
MR. BLANKLEY: It's an unlawyerly --
MS. CLIFT: -- excuse me; it's my turn --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish, Tony.
MS. CLIFT: -- lawyerly dispute that will be appealed. And the fact that this is a violation of privacy will be news to a lot of public officials, who now -- every private correspondence they get is now a matter of public record.
MR. O'DONNELL: No, that's not --
MS. CLIFT: But this law is very unsettled. And in fact, Antonin Scalia, a member of the Supreme Court, has argued on the other side for a much narrower interpretation.
MR. O'DONNELL: No, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where was the --
MS. CLIFT: This is a legal nothing for --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- where was this misdemeanor, when the House managers really needed a misdemeanor, as in "high crimes and misdemeanors"? (Chuckles.)
MR. O'DONNELL: This wouldn't have gotten them across the finish line.
Look, I find it highly credible that the president doesn't think about the law before he breaks the law; I have no problem believing him on that. But this is a highly technical point. In fact, if the correspondence had been kept by him privately, he would have had every right, every legal right, to make it public. And so this is a very --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he worry --
MR. O'DONNELL: -- yeah -- it's a very technical point. This privacy stuff applies only to these government documents involving employees and that sort of thing. And I don't think it has been a great harm done --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know that at that time, he was fighting for his political survival, whether he would live or die.
MR. O'DONNELL: But what is the net harm to the nation in those letters or --
MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, I want to take a different --
MR. O'DONNELL: -- (inaudible) -- in those letters haven't been released?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, her rights have been violated. Furthermore, his construction that he put on it, we know it doesn't hold water because the letters prove nothing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She was broke, and she was looking for a job. That's why she wrote him letters after the groping.
MR. KUDLOW: Furthermore, that lawsuit was brought in part, by a bunch of Reagan administration alumni, who are making a crucial legal point; and that is, that people who occupy the White House cannot willy-nilly start releasing private correspondence, which is the institutional property of the Office of the President --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. KUDLOW: -- not the individual in the office.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. KUDLOW: And the other point I'd make on lawlessness, John, is I still, to this day, don't know how you can lose e-mails without nuking the infrastructure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you have got the e-mails --
MS. CLIFT: Of course, you're ---
MR. KUDLOW: So that is still an issue that is out there.
MS. CLIFT: -- you're so concerned about privacy rights. How do you feel about Mayor Giuliani releasing the sealed juvenile records of a man who was wrongfully killed?
MR. BLANKLEY: He was dead.
MS. CLIFT: Does that --
MR. BLANKLEY: He was dead.
MS. CLIFT: Oh?
MR. BLANKLEY: And privilege ends at death.
MS. CLIFT: That's the legal point.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's the legal point.
MS. CLIFT: But does that make you feel --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think --
MR. BLANKLEY: That's not a federal privacy --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- what do you think about the 900 personal files that were found in the White House? What do you think of the Pentagon releasing --
MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.) John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the material on Linda Tripp?
MS. CLIFT: John, I believe --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This administration --
MS. CLIFT: -- that Filegate has been dismissed as a fluke, and nobody abused anything.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. But that doesn't mean that it was not totally unethical --
MS. CLIFT: You lost on that one. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or improper.
Exit: What is the impact of the revival of the Kathleen Willey matter on Hillary Clinton's senatorial bid? She could be asked a question: "What do you think of this? Did your husband invade the privacy rights, according go the Privacy Act?" Will it help her to have no impact? Quickly.
MR. KUDLOW: I think it's going to hurt. It's more Clinton fatigue and more Clinton talking. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Help her to have impact?
MS. CLIFT: Zero impact. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Help her to have no impact?
MR. BLANKLEY: It won't hurt because the New York press are pussycats in front of her.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, the New York press won't ask about it because this story will only last a couple of days. She ducks the press for a couple of days, and it's over.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Lawrence is right once again.
Issue three: Headmaster Bush.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) This, I believe, is the next advance in the cause of equality, the next frontier of civil rights.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas; that's where Governor Bush cemented his image as a crusading reformer with his cornerstone of that reform, education. The setting on Clinton's turf was loaded with symbolism, as Bush was likening his frontier battle for quality education to the historic racial-frontier battle for civil rights. Forty-three years ago, in 1957, Central High School in Little Rock was at the center of a vortex. It was three years after the Supreme Court had ended public school segregation. Nine African American students were trying to attend Central High School. The Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus, defied the court. He called in the Arkansas National Guard to stop the students from entering.
President Eisenhower then ordered the governor to let the black teenagers in and to use the National Guard to protect them. Instead, Faubus dismissed the Guard and left the students vulnerable to an angry white mob outside the school. Then Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne Division paratroopers to gain control of the National Guard and force the Guard to protect the black students. The Guard yielded. Under their protection, the nine students finished the school year.
Against this backdrop, Bush outlined his education beliefs and his plan.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) All can enter our schools, but unfortunately, all are not learning. There is a tremendous gap of achievement between rich and poor, between white and minority. Now we have a system of excessive regulation and no standards. In my administration, we will have minimal regulation and high standards. We'll have local control of schools, with one national goal: excellence for every single child.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Later in the week, Bush moved his other education programs further along, pledging $5 billion for fighting illiteracy and $2.9 billion for improving teacher quality.
My question is, is this a politically winning policy on Bush's part? And I ask you, Lawrence Kudlow.
MR. KUDLOW: Yeah, it's a kinder and gentler education policy than Republicans have been producing, but it's got a lot of political --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it have appeal to women?
MR. KUDLOW: I think it will. I mean, I think the compassionate conservatism is really unleased in this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And their children.
MR. KUDLOW: And their children. And you know what else I like about it, John? George Bush is in favor of the Ten Commandments in schools, and I think that's going to play well. And you know, I think it was the sixth or seventh of the Ten Commandments that says, "Thou shalt also cut tax rates as we reform education."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is more credible -- this is an exit question -- Bush on education reform, or Gore on campaign finance reform? I ask you, quickly.
MR. KUDLOW: I think Bush is much more credible.
MS. CLIFT: Gore has serious proposals; Bush is mostly glossy rhetoric.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think Gore has more credibility.
MS. CLIFT: On actually doing something if he gets elected president, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who has the moral credibility, Bush on education, Gore on campaign finance?
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, clearly, this is an issue, education, where Bush has spent most of his governorship on. He has real credibility on it. And the only way Gore could be credible on campaign finance reform is to turn himself in. (Laughter.)
MR. O'DONNELL: Gore has more credibility than Bush on the education stuff now, but Bush might be able to build that credibility. Gore has virtually no credibility on campaign finance reform.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it would be wise for Gore to get off campaign finance reform, like getting away from a hot potato?
MR. O'DONNELL: Absolutely.
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, because it allows Bush to keep going after Gore on scandal, scandal, scandal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is right now, Bush has gotten his hands on that issue, I think he's co-opted it --
MR. O'DONNELL (?): Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and I think he looks far more credible and far more sincere than Bush -- excuse me -- than Gore. (Light laughter.)
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Lawrence Kudlow?
MR. KUDLOW: Senator Slade Gorton is set to introduce a drug price control bill that would be based on Canadian drug prices. It is doomed to failure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Gore will eviscerate Bush's plans on education the same way he did Bradley's health care plan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Clinton will refuse to agree with Congress on prescription drugs. He wants the issue rather than the law.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?
MR. KUDLOW: The Senate might vote to suspend the 4.3-cent gasoline tax increase of -- (inaudible) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What kind of a prediction is that?
MR. KUDLOW: -- but they will not repeal it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Currently in the U.S. Senate there are 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats. After the election there will be 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, a net loss of two seats for the GOP.
®FC¯END REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Supreme Court cover-up. The Supreme Court this week ruled that unclothed dancers can be forced by their local government to cover up. The case arose from an Erie, Pennsylvania, law that bans public nudity. The city argued that that ban permits Erie to require strategically placed clothing accessories on dancers at clubs.
MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Supreme Court cover-up. The Supreme Court this week ruled that unclothed dancers can be forced by their local government to cover up. The case arose from an Erie, Pennsylvania, law that bans public nudity. The city argued that that ban permits Erie to require strategically placed clothing accessories on dancers at clubs.