May 14, 2002

with guests Robert Weiner and Bob McGinnis

Hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson


Aired May 14, 2002 - 19:00   ET
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE tonight:

ANNOUNCER: This is your money. This is your money fighting drugs.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS (Rachel Lee Cook): This is your brain. This is heroin. This is what happens to your brain after snorting heroin.


ANNOUNCER: Any questions? We've got plenty about dopey ads, ahead on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Good evening, welcome to CROSSFIRE, coming to you live from the George Washington University. In the last five years, Washington has spent nearly $1 billion of your money on advertising to keep our kids off of drugs. Guess what? Our new drug czar now says it didn't work. Defenders of the war on drugs say otherwise. We're putting those controversial ads in the CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: new controversy over anti-drug ads. Are they teaching our kids to just say no or are they just blowing smoke?


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We are coming to you, as always, live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C. Now let's take advantage of our studio audience. A show of hands here from everybody. First, how many of you have seen the government's anti-drug ads? Howie, can we get a shot of this? OK. How many of them now think they're effective? No hands -- a few? OK, how many think they're a waste of money? You may be surprised -- maybe not surprised to learn our drug czar actually agrees with you.

John Walters, President Bush's new head of drug policy in the White House. And he claims that the 200 anti-drug advertisements that have been produced over the past five years have cost nearly $1 billion, but in today's "Wall Street Journal," Mr. Walters says that not only are the ads ineffective, that they may have tempted some youngsters to experiment with pot. So Walters is asking Congress for another $180 million for more ads. These, that he says he'll do his way.

To help us put this whole mess in perspective and in the crossfire, let's welcome Robert Weiner, former spokesman for the White House Drug Policy Office and Colonel Bob Mcginnis of the Family Research Council.

CARLSON: Thanks for joining us. You're intimidating me with your stack of paper there. All I have is a "Wall Street Journal" piece, but I think that's enough, because this has got to be the most perverse and yet not very surprising new story ever, that in fact, according to studies done by the drug czar's office, these spots actually make people want to do drugs. Girls age 12 to 13, who didn't already use drugs, were slightly more likely to want to smoke pot after watching the ads telling them not to. I mean, could they be more ineffective?

ROBERT WEINER, FMR. DIR. PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Well, it's an absurd statement. And it is untrue. And I don't know what the drug czar's been smoking when he makes a statement like that.

CARLSON: He did a study that showed this.

WEINER: He did no study of the ads that you showed. And by the way, how many people in the audience are 12 to 17? Any hands? None. That's who the ads are targeted at. And when you go to church groups or you go to YMCAs, and you ask those kids how many of you have seen the ads, the hands shoot up. My wife, who's in the audience with me here today, and I found out -- bout six out of eight, about 75 percent of the kids have seen the ads. And they say that that frying pan ad that you showed is very effective. And they say that the ad that the mother who talks to their kids about everything else and doesn't talk to their kids about drugs, very effective parenting ad.

The studies actually show that there's a 13 percent less proclivity (to use illegal drugs). That's what the testing shows, which the drug czar said didn't happen. There was testing, extensive testing. A 13 percent less proclivity after watching the kid in the ad smash the dishes.

BEGALA: Robert, let me show you Colonel Bob the ad that Robert's talking about. I think there were ads that ran that were very, very effective. And I want to start by showing you one of them. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is your brain. This is heroin. This is what happens to your brain after snorting heroin. It's not over yet. This is what your family goes through. And your friends. And your job and your self-respect and your future.


WEINER: The absurd part is they're not using that ad anymore.

BEGALA: In fact, let me show you what they are using now. They're using an ad that doesn't work.

WEINER: Right.

BEGALA: I mean, take a listen to this ad. I don't know if we can put it on the screen. Just listen.

I don't think that's technical difficulties. That's the ad that don't work. I mean, isn't that the problem?

BOB MAGINNIS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Yes, well, that certainly doesn't -- it confuses me as well. I think it's innteresting, Paul, that, you know, the report that's generated that apparently cited in "The Wall Street Journal," you know, was commissioned as a result of all of this great study in self worth. And I was there when they kicked it off. And I thought it was a great idea, but it's coming back. And it's bad news.

That doesn't mean, you know, we shouldn't do it in the future, but it means it's broken at this point. And we've got to evaluate. You know, and the data's going to keep coming in. I think what Tucker started with was, you know, a bit preliminary. We need to get the rest of the data to make a final decision. But I don't think that, you know, reaching out to kids with messages that are tailored to them is wrong.

We have a serious problem in this country, especially if you go -- I used to talk to some folks up in Seattle. And I know you've been there, Bob, where they've had a dramatic increase in treatment for marijuana, first admissions. Because in part because we have a marijuana today that ain't like it was Woodstock. It has 15 to 20 percent. So we're getting more kids hooked. So we really need to get serious about it. And some of these ads, frankly, the report says they aren't working. So let's go back. Let's fix it. And that's what Walters is saying. He's been saying since 1997, and consistently, even Bob can tell us during the hearings he had at the Senate, he said there's a problem. And this just confirms that.

CARLSON: Now Mr. Weiner, I don't like any of these ads, I have to say. And good for Mr. Walters for attacking them. But hold on.

WEINER: They're not aimed at you.

CARLSON: But I tell you what, they're better than what you did in the Office of Drug Policy under Clinton, which was paying networks, entertainment networks, to sneak anti-drug propaganda into entertainment without the knowledge of the audience. Essentially propaganda and subverting art. I mean, is that -- I mean, aren't you ashamed of that?

WEINER: All right, first, I'm not letting the last point go, because there was a 34 percent reduction in youth drug use the last three years of the Clinton administration. And one of the main reasons was that 94 percent of parents and teens saw those ads seven times a week. So this was enormous bang for a tiny little buck of $180 million a year.

CARLSON: But what about the ads they didn't know they were seeing, that you paid networks to include in their programming.

WEINER: All right, now let's take that -- I actually am not bothered by doing everything legal to save the lives of our children. And that's what the office did. Now there was a huge hue and cry. And so, they changed the policy on that.

BEGALA: Let me come back to the content of the newer ads. Again, I am not the target audience. Bob has pointed that out.

MAGINNIS: Neither am I.

BEGALA: No, but it seems to me though, and I am a father of four kids. And so, I know something about kids.

MAGINNIS: You should be concerned.

BEGALA: I am very concerned. And when they started this new round of ads that President Bush's drug czar made, linking the anti- drug message to an anti-terrorism message, it was a reach too far. Most teenagers have a hard time even understanding and imagining the damage to their own bodies. And to tell them that somebody 10,000 miles away is going to get kidnapped, which while true, I think was far too attenuating. Wasn't that a mistake?

MAGINNIS: Keep in mind, Paul, the study only goes up to December. And John Walters didn't become drug czar until that time. So it didn't really apply.

What Bob said is interesting in numbers. Here's the monitoring the future. I know you're very familiar with it, Bob, in terms of eighth and tenth and twelfth graders. The numbers became flat about the time General McCaffrey went into office. And they've remained flat. So a 34 percent reduction, at least according to the government sponsored Monitoring the Future, that's disturbing. We were in the early '90s at about 5 percent for 5.7 percent for...

WEINER: You're disturbed by a third less kids using drugs?

MAGINNIS: I'm disturbed...

WEINER: That's a lot of crime down. That's a lot of drug use down. That's a lot of saved families.

MAGINNIS: It's increased over 100 percent since that time, Bob. And we've got to go back down to the lower level, when we were in the '80s. We have to get parents involved. We have to get the president obviously involved.

WEINER: It was twice the drug use in the '80s.

MAGINNIS: 1979, it was 25 million people...

WEINER: Oh, you're...

MAGINNIS: ...who were using drugs on a regular basis.

CARLSON: I'm going to have to cut this off. Very quickly, we're going to take a fast commercial break, and be back to argue about drugs. That's what we're talking about, money for drug ads. We're taking a hit with our guests in a just minute. And you never thought you'd see the day, but a Clinton era record is expected to fall tonight. And we'll explain when we return. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back. In the last five years, nearly one billion federal dollars have gone to producing anti-drug advertising. Or have they simply gone up in smoke? The new drug czar calls the ads ineffective and wants millions more to do it right. Your tax dollars on drugs, we're debating it with Robert Weiner, a former spokesman for the White House Drug Policy Office, and Colonel Bob Maginnis of the Family Research Council.

Mr. Weiner, you threw out some statistics a moment ago. And without offending you, like many Clinton era statistics, you know, they're open to debate. So let me throw some back at you. I think the same study you were citing, a different part of it, the long-term trends in drug use shows this. I'm going to throw you two numbers. In 1992, the year the Clinton people took office, 33 percent of American high school seniors had smoked pot. When the Clinton people left in 2000, the number was up to 49 percent. 32 percent in 1992, 49 percent in 2000. This is not a victory over marijuana use. This is a major failure.

BEGALA: There are always conflicting numbers in surveys.

WEINER: There are conflicting numbers. And you're right about that. 12 to 17-year-olds’ drug use went down 34 percent in the last three years according to the Household Survey. And cocaine use has gone down by 67 percent in the last 15 years. It's a huge victory when you consider all you have to do is look on street corners. Crime is way down at record lows. The American people are justifiably happy about crime being down. And we can all take pride, parents, teachers, coaches, religious leaders, business leaders, law enforcement, foreign policy people who are helping to stop supplies in Peru and Bolivia, which used to be huge and now they're not. Colombia is trying.

Everybody's working together as a team effort. And there's a lot more work to do. There's no question about it. You will have statistical anomalies, but I want to get back to the ads. When people say they haven't been tested, this was the most scientific program, social program in the history of the federal government. And the testing was done from every stage of it. (Displaying stack of books of testing results): And they were tested. Now if the drug czar isn't testing now, get back to it. Get back to doing the kind of testing we did.

BEGALA: In fact, let me tell you what the drug czar said. Colonel Maginnis, in our first segment, you said that Mr. Walters has been a consistent critic of these ads. And I was surprised to hear that, because I want to show you an interview he did with CNN's Paula Zahn three months ago, praising these ads. Here's -- look at what he was saying just three months ago.


JOHN WALTERS, WHITE HOUSE NAT'L DRUG CONTROL POLICY DIRECTOR: We know these ads will work, and that this message will have a great effect on people's thinking about drug use, and their thinking about talking to young people more directly, and forcefully about drug use. So while we think this will change behavior in the coming months.


BEGALA: I worked with General McCaffrey. He's no General McCaffrey.

MAGINNIS: No, well I worked with General McCaffrey in uniform, Paul. So I -- and I have a great deal of respect for the general. You know...

WEINER: He likes you too, by the way.

MAGINNIS: It's a mutual admiration club there, Bob.

BEGALA: Why didn't Bush keep him, by the way?

MAGINNIS: I can't answer that. You need to ask the president if he'll talk too to you, Paul. I don't know if he would.

BEGALA: He's not my best friend.

MAGINNIS: The -- you know, I am concerned that, you know, that seems to be inconsistent. However, John, during testimony, said he's opposed to it. And when he gets this report, this report was not his report. And rightfully so. You know, the Clinton administration put into process an evaluation system. This is what they got. National Institute of Drug Abuse said you're going to do a scientific accountability program, and you're going to have to live with it.

Well, they're living with it. And what they're doing, they're saying look, we're going to go out and we're going to find out what's broken. We're going to try to fix it. If the kids that are 12 to 17 aren't turning off on drugs, then we made a mistake. Let's go back and refit that, and try to fix the system. So you know, it's unfortunate.

WEINER: They're not asking kids 12 to 17 what they think about the ads. When they ask them about the frying pan ad, they liked it. I was in a briefing at ONDCP a year ago. And I raised that point...

BEGALA: Which is the Drug Czar's office, right.

WEINER: ...yes. And the answer was mumbo jumbo in terms of why they aren't asking the kids themselves what they think of the ads.

CARLSON: Wait, Mr. Weiner, very quickly, I mean, do you really believe that running these ads, many of which, frankly, kids laugh at. They laughed at them when I was in high school. They laugh at them now. Is this really the best way to spend a billion dollars on the inside drug market?

WEINER: First of all, it's $180 million a year. Are you going to tell McDonald's, by the way, that they shouldn't advertise or anybody else? Advertising works in America.

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) aren't McDonald's. There's a major difference.

WEINER: People are paying for your show, I think. And so, I think advertising works in America.

CARLSON: Big bucks, too.


CARLSON: But it hasn't worked here.

WEINER: It's less than one percent of the budget. And what's happening here is a fight over that minuscule piece of the dollar. There's a fight by the prevention side and the treatment side. They all want to get at the advertising little bit of money. But this is the biggest bang for the buck that we can do. It's less than 1 percent. And it's making a difference.

BEGALA: That is going to have to be the last word. Robert Weiner, the former spokesman for the National Drug Czar's Office and Colonel Bob Maginnis of the Family Research Office, thank you very much for joining us both.


CARLSON: All week we get to ask questions. (To audience): This is the time you get to ask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that the anti-drug campaign is like placing a Band Aid on a hemmorhage, completely inappropriate. Do you think the money should've been spent elsewhere?

CARLSON: I certainly don't think the money should be given to television networks to put propaganda messages and programs that viewers aren't aware of. I think that that's wrong.

BEGALA: No, I think that, you know, we spend so much on the supply side, interdiction, law enforcement. And while that's important, I don't think we'll ever win the war on the supply side. I think we've got to reduce demand, get Americans using less drugs. That's the way to...

CARLSON: Yes, but the bottom line is, if you don't want your kids to use drugs, tell them so. I'm not sure it's the role for federal government to constantly spew forth propaganda. There are a lot of other things. They could fix the road in front of my house, for one.

BEGALA: Well, from the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good-night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night, Wednesday night, for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.


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