THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 10-11, 2009
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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Obama Honored.
President Obama has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Two sitting U.S. presidents have gained this honor: Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt won the prize five years into his presidency, Wilson six years into his; Obama after nine months.
The Nobel committee chose Barack Obama because of, quote, "his commitment to international diplomacy and his efforts to create a nuclear-free world," unquote.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel committee. I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We salute President Obama on this exceptional recognition.
Question: Was the award to Obama deserved, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is like giving the Heisman trophy to the freshman quarterback at Oklahoma right before the first game of the season. I mean, that's preposterous. But, look, look what Teddy Roosevelt did. He ended the Russo-Japanese war at Portsmouth with the treaty there. Woodrow Wilson, with his 14 points, ended World War I, the bloodiest war in history. That's when he got it.
What the Nobel prize is doing is giving this to Obama to stick it first to President Bush; secondly, to welcome Obama's policies of engagement and to encourage those policies. Third, I think the Nobel prize wants to get -- they want to get tremendous publicity and attention for themselves. They've given it to some folks nobody ever heard of recently. And this will certainly do that. And you will have television coverage worldwide of the president of the United States speaking there.
You do congratulate President Obama, but he would say himself it is not based on any accomplishment of his.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, he said himself he didn't feel like he deserved it, and he accepted it on behalf of American leadership in the world. And that's really what this is about. It expresses a confidence on behalf of this committee in his potential.
And it's also a way to stick it to President Bush. And I think it reminds us, while President Bush was not popular here in this country, he was really unpopular around the world. And the election of this new president was greeted with enormous relief across a range of issues -- war and peace and global warming and acceptance finally that climate change is a serious issue.
And I think, you know, the president is going to wear this lightly. But I must say, some of his critics who are trying to disparage it as though it was great that he was turned down on Chicago and now this is not merited is really an unattractive way to greet what is still a very prestigious honor that this man has gotten and that this country has gotten.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: Honors should be deserved and they should be earned. And the Nobel committee jumped the shark when they gave President Obama this award. This is theater of the absurd. And the Nobel committee did what the International Olympic Committee would not do, which is to give an award to President Obama just for being, well, President Obama.
Look, what this does is actually devalue the award and diminish the actual real world-changing accomplishments of those who've gotten the award before him; namely, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa. And it also shows an increasing politicization of the award. We've seen it go to Al Gore. We've seen it go to Jimmy Carter.
And so what the Nobel committee is really doing is saying, "Look, we'll give it to an American as long as it's the right kind of American, who shares our values," where America is essentially the root of all evil in the world. And when you have a president who is essentially acknowledging that or spending a good deal of his time apologizing for this country, it's no wonder that he got this.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to throw a lifeline to Obama?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, look, it's a great honor for him. It's actually an honor for the country. It's an acknowledgement, I think, of what they hope he will do. I do think that that is a group of people who really believe in engagement and in talking and in dialogue and in negotiations.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was it given for?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not quite sure what it is. I mean --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Peace efforts?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know, there are a lot of people -- I mean, I think it is the first time that they've given an award not so much for deeds but for talking about it, for --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he cut --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- expectations.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he cut any important peaceful deals? For example, he modified the position of the United States on the installations in Poland and the Czech Republic.
MR. BUCHANAN: That was after the prize deadline had passed. It's two weeks -- the prize is given as of what you'd done before February 1.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, it is?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it is.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of what year? MS. CLIFT: It's clearly --
MR. BUCHANAN: February 1 of this year, two weeks after he was inaugurated.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they also judge on the basis of perceived aspirations.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: It's aspirations, yes.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. So, nevertheless, something -- when was it actually awarded?
MR. BUCHANAN: The cutoff date is February 1.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: When did they make the judgment?
MS. CROWLEY: They put his name into the running right after the election --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: When was the judgment made?
MS. CROWLEY: -- when he had really done nothing.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How far after the February deadline?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you know, they might have made it last year.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you mind if I continue the exposition?
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. (Laughs.)
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. So he cuts a deal which effectively lured Russia back into the fold, because the relationship between the United States and Russia was strained at the time.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Russia then comes through for us in a big way in Iran. For the first time it expressed the view that there could be a place for sanctions. The Iranians gave in. Furthermore, the Russians said, "We'll take the uranium away from Iran so that they cannot make it into a bomb." Not bad, wouldn't you say?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: If that all happens, it would be very good. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the Iranian problem a big problem?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it is a critical problem, without question.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he defuse it?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has it gone away for him?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it has not gone away. He's going down a path that may work. So far you've heard Medvedev say one thing. You've heard Putin say another. You've heard the Iranians both say, "Yes, we will do it," "No, we didn't quite mean it." Let's hope that it all happens.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Do you think --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And, by the way, I think that would be a great accomplishment if it happened.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was a meeting in Brussels afterwards. Iran showed a different take. Instead of being confrontational, it was mediational. Correct?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that's an achievement of Obama?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I do think it is an achievement.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think it's an important achievement, representing --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it's an important --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the aspirations --
MS. CROWLEY: Come on, John.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is an aspirational achievement, John. It has not happened yet.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's got nothing to do --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We have --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's got nothing to do with the Nobel --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We now have a problem with China in trade.
MR. BUCHANAN: But John -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see any developments with China? He spends 90 minutes, longer than any other face time with a leader. Do you think that there's a trade deal in the works so that we're not going to be at war over tire treads, et cetera?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think the protectionist sentiments are good, and they're moving in the right direction.
MS. CLIFT: What this is based on is the fact that he is putting America out on the world stage now as reinvigorating relationships with allies and reaching out to enemies. And that, much of the world approves of, just as they approve of his reaching out --
MS. CROWLEY: They have --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was there, as Obama tells us --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: In fairness --
MS. CROWLEY: -- this award based on hope. But hope is neither a strategy nor an achievement. And so far he's out there engaging our adversaries and throwing our allies under the bus. For what? He has very little tangible results to show for this. And now our Nobel Peace Prize winner is about to introduce perhaps up to 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. Look at the reaction of the Muslim world to this Nobel Peace Prize.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was there --
MS. CROWLEY: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan -- they're flipping their lid, because this guy is continuing to --
MS. CLIFT: So what? So what?
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Let her finish.
MS. CROWLEY: Eleanor, let me finish. His whole campaign was built around improving relations, particularly with the Islamic world. This Nobel prize has backfired on him, because every single Muslim leader has been quoted as saying that this is an embarrassing joke.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's go back on his achievement, all right? Was there a worldwide fixed anti-Americanism around the globe when he took office?
MR. BUCHANAN: But John --
MS. CROWLEY: Yes. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was there?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes. Yes. And do you want to know why?
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has he reversed that? Has he reversed that?
MS. CROWLEY: Do you want to know why?
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has he put a different face on it? Has he?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. Look, there's no doubt --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that an achievement in nine months?
MR. BUCHANAN: There's no doubt about it --
MS. CLIFT: I think Obama is a fine choice because it expresses the world's hope that he will live up to the expectations they have set.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Stimulus Reality Check.
SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): (From videotape.
) We don't see any evidence whatsoever that the stimulus package is having an impact.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Boehner.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): (From videotape.) The administration's trillion-dollar stimulus plan clearly is not working.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cornyn.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): (From videotape.) I think the stimulus so far has been unsuccessful.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pawlenty.
MINNESOTA GOVERNOR TIM PAWLENTY (R): (From videotape.) Stop spending the country into bankruptcy.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Steele.
MICHAEL STEELE (Republican National Committee chairman): (From videotape.) We've got to realize that the bigger problem is that people are still losing their jobs.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: A jobless recovery. That's the lament of this Republican dirge. When President Obama took office nine months ago, the U.S. unemployment rate was 7.6 percent. It is now 9.8 percent, the highest in over a quarter of a century and climbing, say the economists.
The number of Americans without any work is 15 million. That 15 million rises to 26 million if you include the underemployed with the jobless. Another 260,000 people were added to that jobless number in September, last month.
Question: Why are Republicans harping on the failure -- a putative failure, by the way -- of the stimulus package? Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, because they think they've got a good political issue that all this money has been spent and the president hasn't delivered on his promise to save or create three and a half million jobs. In actuality, I think the stimulus prevented us from sinking into the abyss and prevented the great depression. Secondly, 60 percent of it has not been spent. It was designed to go over a period, really, of two years. And I'm glad there's still more coming.
But, you know, the unemployment figures are serious. And you're going to see the White House, once they get a health-care bill signed, they're going to make a really sharp turn to focusing more obsessively on job creation, extending unemployment benefits, perhaps even a tax credit for businesses who hire. I mean, it's a serious problem, not just politically for Obama; for the country and for the people who are suffering.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the stimulus package is 6 percent of gross national product. Obviously it's going to have a dramatic impact. And it certainly has on the stock market, which is up probably 40 percent since maybe March or something like that. On the other hand, you've got to either borrow the money or print money. And that's the down side to the stimulus package.
Secondly, Eleanor's right. It really wasn't a stimulus package in this sense. So much of it is left unspent. So I think, on balance, the very fact, John, that they're looking at another stimulus package and that unemployment is 9.8 percent -- if you take underemployment and folks who've dropped out of the force, it's at 17 percent. It has not worked as promised.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a positive impact from the stimulus, and it's political. Forty-three percent of the American people want the Democrats to retain congress, but 40 percent want the Republicans to do it -- a terrific upsurge in Republican support. So this is a boon for the Republicans, is it not?
MS. CROWLEY: Well, it depends on how you come at this question. If we're talking about job creation -- and, look, there's a reason why the old standard line goes "Jobs, jobs, jobs," because that is the politically most toxic element to this whole economic mess, particularly for the Democrats, which is the question that you're getting at.
Look, the economic stimulus was sold as an economic package that would keep unemployment to 8 percent. Here we are at 9.8. It's actually a more staggering 17 percent when you factor in those who have stopped looking for work or who are underemployed and only working part-time.
You have states around the country, John, like Michigan, with a 15 percent unemployment rate; Detroit, 28 percent unemployment. So when the Democrats are making noises now about a second stimulus, we haven't had a first stimulus, because that first stimulus was a political act and not an economic one. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Mr. Obama, is the Republican criticism a bum rap?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I have to say that some folks seem to have forgotten just how bad things were when I took office. The next time some of these folks come up asking you what the recovery act has done, you tell them it has prevented us from going into a much worse place.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president says his stimulus stopped the bleeding. It saved and partially created 1 million jobs, and the stimulus's full impact has not been felt yet. Eighty percent of the stimulus funds have not been paid out.
Question: Economists say that unemployment is a lagging indicator. But in politics, is it a leading indicator? I ask you, Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. And it's not a lagging indicator even in economics, because the consequences of unemployment, which include foreclosures on homes, credit-card defaults, are paralyzing the banking system, and the lack of consumption is in part reflecting not only the people who are unemployed, but the people who fear they're going to be unemployed, and that fear is pervasive.
I disagree with the way you're describing this stimulus program. It was perhaps well-intentioned, completely badly conceived. It did not focus on unemployment. It did not focus on those kinds of activities that, in fact, create jobs.
I'm just going to remind you of one example. When you have Harry Reid, the majority leader in the Senate, getting a $350 million grant for a unirail to go from Las Vegas to Disneyland, you know where a lot of this money went. It's almost a farce. And unemployment is much worse than those numbers, and it's going to be worse. It'll be higher next year at this time than it is this year.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And the Republicans are going to -- 34 percent of all people have had either a family member or close friend unemployed.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you had designed the stimulus, how would you have changed what the stimulus is?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I would have put a heck of a lot more money into infrastructure development and focused on that. A lot of the money went in for a lot of pet programs for the Democratic Party that had virtually no effect in terms of stimulating the economy and having a multiplier effect.
MR. BUCHANAN: John -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think anything can be done with the expenditure of the remaining stimulus that has not been spent, which is about 80 percent of the stimulus?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not 80 percent, I'm sorry to say, because --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eighty percent has not reached the --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, no, but -- no, the way it was focused, as I say, so little of it was focused on the infrastructure part of it. That's the only one that has a multiplier effect on the economy, and it's still going to take a long time before it gets there.
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's the multiplier effect. Turn it into -- look, the clunkers program was good. It should have been focused on American cars, however, and it should have been much bigger. Secondly, the stimulus part of this thing for buying houses is excellent, John -- $8,000 credit. Double that. When you buy a house, you buy carpets, drapes, cleaning, all this other stuff.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: If unemployment rises to above 10 percent and does not come down below 10 percent by next November, will the Democrats lose the House of Representatives? Yes or no, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Ten percent and they're toast.
MS. CLIFT: I think it'll come down. It'll go up to 10 percent, but it will come down. But the public doesn't have any confidence in Republicans either, and Republicans have not offered an alternative plan. And a lot of this money in the stimulus package is being pushed out through the states, which is how Republicans wanted it designed, because they believe in states' rights. So we live in a political world.
Politics plays --
MS. CROWLEY: Actually --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to my question? Will they lose control of the House?
MS. CLIFT: If it stays above 10 percent, they'll lose a lot of seats.
MS. CROWLEY: Actually, the Republicans did offer an alternative based on tax cuts, which, if they had been put in place for small businesses and for individuals, instead of this porkfest extravaganza we got in February, you would actually see a much more interesting rebound on this economy than we've had.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the 10 --
MS. CROWLEY: And if it's 10 percent --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think your point is well-taken on a tax cut.
MS. CROWLEY: Yes.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what's the 10 percent?
MS. CROWLEY: Ten percent? If unemployment is that high, they will go with the alternative, which is the Republicans.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: As I say, I think it'll be above 10 percent, and that doesn't really reflect the damage of it. I think the Democrats (sic/means Republicans) will get between 25 and 40 seats, and therefore come very close to taking over the House.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it will, in fact, be 10 percent or above next November.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I do. I think it'll be above 10 percent next November.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with Mort. I think -- as I predicted earlier, I think they're going to lose the House; the Democrats, that is. Issue Three: Afghanistan. Is it a foreign entanglement?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) You don't make determinations about sending young men and women into battle without having absolute clarity.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Absolute clarity. That's the baseline for President Obama's judgment on sending thousands of soldiers into battle in Afghanistan, with its potential loss of life or limb or mind. That clarity, of course, includes strategic clarity, meaning military clarity.
The president has held meetings with his counselors over the past two weeks to decide on a strategy for the Afghanistan war, which entered its ninth year this week, particularly on whether to send 40,000 new troops.
But the commander in chief's absolute clarity also includes ethical clarity, moral clarity. To determine whether a war is ethical -- that is, moral and just -- has typically been defined by four criteria.
One, gravity. The damage by an aggressor must be grave, lasting and certain.
Two, winnability. Troops sent into battle must have substantial probability of success.
Three, indispensability. No other way exists to subdue the enemy except physical defense and, as needed, war.
Four, proportionality. The military response to aggression must be enough to take down the enemy, but not to impose vengeance. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, says that sending Americans to fight in Afghanistan does not necessarily mean that they will win, or can win, the war.
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan): (From videotape.) We could do good things in Afghanistan for the next 100 years and fail, because we're doing a lot of good things and it just doesn't add up to success.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have an orthodoxy of continuous war, it seems. Do you think that if you bring moral principles into play, ethical principles, there's no way we can send American troops into Afghanistan in that theater at this time?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think, John, you're correct on the winnability issue. I think you're correct on the indispensability issue. And I don't think we should have tried to build this nation. Our problem is we are there. And if you pull out dramatically and rapidly -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't have to do that.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- there will be horrendous consequences for the people of Afghanistan and for America's position in the world.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't have to quite do that, pull out.
MS. CLIFT: We have 68,000 troops there, and the president said he has no plans to draw down. The question is, we're fighting al Qaeda. Al Qaeda drifts across the border and waits us out in Pakistan. To what extent are we going to commit more lives to prop up a corrupt government in Afghanistan? That is the balance he's weighing, and he's looking for --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he --
MS. CLIFT: -- a way to do it without more troops.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Obama frozen? He says it's a necessary war, not a war of choice.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: But should he reduce our troops and plan this thing out by technology? You know, drone planes.
MS. CROWLEY: No, I don't think he should do that, because you're dealing with, on the other border, Pakistan, which is a nuclear-armed country. If you try to do this --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want to expose American men and women into that battle, with that prospect as laid out, or that possibility, by McChrystal?
MS. CROWLEY: But this is why McChrystal is saying, "If you want me to win this war, you have to give me the resources in order to do it."
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, I think we are in a very difficult position, in part because of the overpromising of Obama, where he said they had done the strategic review and they were definitely going to go forward with it. They said it's a war of necessity. I happen to be opposed to sending in a lot of additional troops. I just don't think it is a winnable situation. But Pakistan is a critical -- we don't call it Af-Pak for nothing. It's a connection.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: No new troops? No new troops?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I would be opposed to it. I think we've just got to refashion a strategy, because that is not a winnable strategy. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he's got to freeze the situation, reduce the troops, bring them down to a minimum level, and use technology to continue our efforts to help the Afghan people.
Out of time. Bye-bye.
Issue Four: Text Menacing.
TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD: (From videotape.) To put it plainly, distracting driving is a menace to society. Distracted driving is an epidemic.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has distracted driving in his sights. And what is the principal distraction? Text messaging. Distractions are lethal. The government estimates that 25 percent, one out of four, of all traffic crashes are caused by distracted drivers. That includes cell-phone chatting and e-mailing, as well as texting, of course.
Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia already have texting bans on the books. President Obama this month took action against text messaging. He signed an executive order banning all 3 million federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles or their own vehicles on government business. And Secretary LaHood says these rules can be enforced, and they are only the beginning.
SEC. LAHOOD: (From videotape.
) We've done it with seat belts, where enforcement is very strong now. And I think we'll get to it with texting also.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is distracted driving mainly a generational problem? I ask you, Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, I think at this point it generally is, although people of all ages now are using hand-held devices. So I think it's across the board. But when you look at deaths, when you look at accidents, it's a far greater percentage that's happening to teenagers and folks in their 20s than it is happening to folks in their 50s and 60s.
But there are a lot of things that people should not be doing in their cars and they're doing in their cars -- women putting on makeup -- you see it every day -- women brushing their hair. I have seen men with laptop computers in their laps while they're driving. So I don't think it's just strictly limited to hand-held devices, although it is a very serious issue.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many deaths a year from distracted driving? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, if there's 40-some thousand, probably 10,000.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Six thousand, Pat. Close, but you don't get the jackpot.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's because overall traffic deaths are down, which is a good thing. But I do agree with Monica. This is a terribly stupid thing to do to be fooling around text messaging. I mean, cell phones are bad enough, John, when you're in a car. Also a lot of folks sit there and work on sandwiches and eat them when you're driving on the road and stuff like that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And smoking, lighting cigarettes and smoking.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many -- yeah. Mort, how many are injured from distracted driving?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know the answer to that, but it's got to be in the tens of thousands. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five hundred thousand -- half a million injured.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is amazing.
MS. CLIFT: I don't think we're going to outlaw people combing their hair, and probably people eating, although I did hear someone say they saw a car weaving, and when they drove up beside them, the person was eating Chinese food with chopsticks. (Laughter.) But we can pass laws, have some fines, in terms of texting. And cell-phone use is also not allowed unless you don't have a hand-held. And I must -- look, I do it. I think it goes across the generations. But I don't do it on the Beltway. That's nuts.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's the problem with the law. As a matter of fact, there's an executive order, as noted there, on anti-text messaging in the car. And that is that there are no parameters. For example, if you're stuck on traffic in Route 66 leaving the District of Columbia and there's a three-mile backup and you've got to wait in a motionless automobile for close to an hour before you can begin moving, you can't take out that text-messaging device, because the law says while you're in the car you cannot do it. In other words, it could be motionless or not motionless for any length of time. If you're behind the wheel, you're prohibited from doing it and the cops could come up and arrest you.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's a slippery slope, though, as you know, John. I mean, we're --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you nanny government all the way?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Me, nanny government? First of all, I believe in nannies. I've got to tell you, I've got a young daughter and I need those nannies. But this is something very serious, because how are you going to know? I mean, you either do it or you don't do it.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the cops --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look, this is a democracy, all right? We ought to limit the number of laws to an absolute minimum -- a minimum.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want maximum law, too, I understand.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't. But I think you're right. But if you're a cop, you use judgment. If you see the people sitting there and they're dead stopped and they're on the phone, leave them alone. If they're driving and doing it, then arrest them.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, then they'll do it at a stop sign. The car is motionless. You can't build in that kind of a -- MR. BUCHANAN: You've got to trust the police.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Trust the police or trust the driver?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: If you do it at a stop sign, then the guy behind you is going to be blowing his horn because you're not moving fast enough. And I think there you're legitimately vulnerable to getting a ticket.