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Letterman vs. Palin; Spies Hiding Among Us?
Aired June 11, 2009 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: (voice-over): Tonight, here are the questions we want answered.
Did David Letterman cross the line when he said this?
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": During the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.
BROWN: Who is laughing now?
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: Pretty pathetic, good old David Letterman.
BROWN: Is she right? Are her kids off-limits? It's Letterman vs. Palin.
Plus, espionage intrigue, spies busted at the State Department. We think it's all James Bond stuff, fast cars, hidden cameras, but the truth may be much scarier. Are spies hiding among us in plain sight?
And tonight's "Great Debate": Is the war on drugs a failure?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had 800,000 Americans arrested last year simply for possessing a joint.
BROWN: President Obama's drug czar says legalization is not on the table. But could it solve America's drug and crime crisis?
ANNOUNCER: This is your only source for news. CNN prime time begins now. Here's Campbell Brown.
BROWN: Hi, everybody.
Those questions, plus tonight's newsmaker. He is a decorated Iraq war veteran who was thrown out of the Army because of don't ask/don't tell. He is now running for Congress. We will talk to him in a moment.
But we start as we do every night with the "Mash-Up," our look at the stories making an impact right now, the must-see moments of the past 24 hours. We're watching it all, so you don't have to.
President Obama got up off the ropes today and swung back hard at critics of his health care reform plan, campaign Obama in full display at a Wisconsin town meeting, as he began to put his personal muscle behind his top domestic priority. Here's the CliffsNotes version point by point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some folks who say socialized medicine. You hear that all the time, socialized medicine.
Well, socialized medicine would mean that the government would basically run all of health care. Nobody is talking about doing that. So, what we're working on is the creation of something called the health insurance exchange, one-stop shop for a health care plan. Compare benefits and prices. Choose the plan that's best for you.
I also strongly believe that one of the options in the exchange should be a public insurance option. And if you can't afford one of these plans, we should provide you some assistance to make sure that you can. None of these plans, though, would be able to deny coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: In Washington, Republicans dug in, blasting the president's call for a public health care option, vowing that health care reform will not be a rush job.
Eighty-eight-year-old white supremacist James Von Brunn was charged with murder today in the Holocaust Museum shooting. CNN's cameras captured some heartbreaking footage of the crime scene, where security officer Stephen Johns was gunned down yesterday.
Today, Von Brunn's ex-wife spoke of his deep-seated racism and anti-Semitism. She didn't want to be identified or shown on camera. She talked by phone to FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, he would simply -- simply constantly berate the Jewish people and black people. And it was something that he -- it consumed him. It was all-consuming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever concerned that he might do something irrational, something violent?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no, no. In fact, as I said, I was shocked yesterday when I came home and saw it on the news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: A handwritten message found in Von Brunn's car read: "You want my weapons? This is how you will get them." In Italy tomorrow, 21-year-old American student Amanda Knox takes the stand in her murder trial. She's accused of collaborating with two men in the brutal sex slaying of her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher. The sensational case has made headlines around the world.
And this morning, Knox's father made the TV rounds, appearing on "The CBS Early Show" and ABC's "Good Morning America."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has having been in prison for 18 months now changed her at all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You know, I mean, she used to trust virtually everyone. And that trust has been lost.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are the final words you're going to say to your daughter before she takes the stand? What will your fatherly advice be?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just tell the truth. Be yourself. It's as simple as that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And if she does?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then I believe she will be found innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Amanda Knox maintains she is innocent.
And now a little Sarah Palin. The Alaska governor is in day four of her battle royal with David Letterman. And on "The View" this morning, the ladies were taking sides.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean when I first heard it, I thought, wow, you know, maybe I was wrong, because I thought he was just being a jerk when he said it. And then, when I realized that he wasn't -- he had the wrong daughter, I thought, he's not a jerk. He's just being an ignorant jerk to say something like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He should not get away, but he was right to apologize.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bristol has always got that baby in her arms. Maybe he thought it was...
(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe what he should have did was, whoever wrote the joke for him should have done -- because we always talk about doing research -- should have found out which daughter it was, because Bristol wasn't there. So, it was the 14-year-old.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: All right. So, what prompted all the chatter? We are going to have a lot more on Palin vs. Letterman in just a moment.
Now, here's one thing we never thought we would hear, a Supreme Court candidate talking about dating. But, yes, Judge Sonia Sotomayor goes there and many other personal places in the hours of old interviews and panel appearances that were released today. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I am a product of affirmative action. I am the perfect affirmative action baby.
I am a Puerto Rican born and raised in the South Bronx, and from what is traditionally described as a socioeconomically poor background.
My test scores were not comparable to that of my colleagues at Princeton or Yale, not so far off the mark that I wasn't able to succeed at those institutions.
I have found it difficult to maintain a relationship while I pursue my career.
I am very happy at where I am at this point in my life. But I think my expectations were greater in '76. I really expected to turn the world on fire, to be that comparable Nobel Prize winner by 23.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe we will have you all back in five years, and we will see what has happened at that point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, now that would be interesting.
In fairness, most of the judge's videotaped comments were about the law. We will state that for the confirmation hearings. And that is the "Mash-Up."
And now to our first big question. And it is the one that has everybody talking. Palin vs. Letterman, who's right? She's been the target of his jokes pretty much ever since she got the Republican vice presidential nomination last August.
But Letterman took it up a notch on Monday night's show. Listen to this. This is from his top 10 list titled highlights of Sarah Palin's trip to New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Number two, bought makeup at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And that's not even the line that people are really upset about. It was, rather, this joke aimed at Sarah Palin's daughter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
LETTERMAN: One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Now, Todd Palin blasted Letterman on Facebook, saying -- quote -- "Any jokes about raping my 14-year-old are despicable."
And then Sarah Palin told "People" -- quote -- "Laughter incited by sexually perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity aimed at a 14-year-old girl is not only disgusting, but it reminds us some Hollywood/New York entertainers have a long way to go in understanding what the rest of America understands."
So, last night David Letterman expressed regret, sort of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
LETTERMAN: These are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl. I mean, look at my record. It has never happened. I don't think it's funny.
Were the jokes in question in questionable taste? Of course they were.
PAUL SHAFFER, BAND LEADER: Of course.
LETTERMAN: Do -- do I regret having told them? Well, I think probably I do. But you know what? There are thousands of jokes I regret telling on this program. (LAUGHTER)
LETTERMAN: Would I do anything to advocate or contribute to underage sexual abuse or misconduct? Absolutely not, not in a thousand years.
Look at me.
LETTERMAN: Do I look like I'm trying to make trouble?
LETTERMAN: No, no, no.
SHAFFER: Oh. Oh. No. No, you're right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Palin vs. Letterman. Who is right here?
Joining me now to talk about this, we have Jeff Toobin, CNN senior political analyst, Janell Snowden, VH-1 news correspondent, Sam Seder, co-host of Air America's "Break Room Live," and, in Washington, Susan Molinari, former Republican congresswoman from New York and senior principal in the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani.
Welcome to everybody.
Susan, Congresswoman, let me begin with you, because I know you have very strong feelings about this. Do you think he crossed the line?
SUSAN MOLINARI (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: I think he did. I don't think this was a funny joke. I think this was a mean joke.
And let me say I take him at his word that he thought this was a joke about an 18-year-old. But, still, this is an 18-year-old, who is 18 years old, who didn't say she wanted to run for office. Look, those of us who stand up and say I want to be vice president, I want to be congressman, you know, I want to have my own TV show, you understand that there's going to be a bit of a bullseye on you.
Here's an 18-year-old girl who has gone through hell and back by standing up with her family and -- and taking care of her child. And -- and I just -- I think, again, I don't understand how anybody thinks this was funny. I mean, I think it's just -- he's a late-night host. He crosses the line.
But when you cross the line with an 18-year-old, I just think we have gotten to the point where the jokes now are just really mean and have no impact.
BROWN: Well, Sam, Janell, let me get you both to comment on this. I mean, where do you -- where do you -- where is the line? Where do you draw the line between being provocative and being offensive when you're commentating, as these guys do, on the late- night talk shows?
SAM SEDER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I don't know if he's commentating. He's making a joke.
But, that said, I am a father. And if someone made a joke about Alex Rodriguez knocking up my daughter, I would take offense. But that's because I'm a Red Sox fan.
SEDER: I mean, in the final analysis -- I mean, it's a joke. People laugh. He told it again last night. And people laughed again. So, it is a funny joke. And he is. He is just a late-night comedian. And so it's not as if he's delivering political commentary. He's simply making a joke.
And he's done it for -- he's done it for years and years. And he's done it about all sorts of people, all different ages.
JANELL SNOWDEN, VH-1 NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I agree. Did he cross the line? Absolutely. Do we rely on him to? Absolutely. If he didn't, would we watch? Probably not.
However, any decent mother would defend her daughter's honor. And I think she's doing that. At the same time, of course, you have cynics who are like, oh, great, everybody is winning, because Dave is getting more and more fodder, and she's getting another 15 minutes.
BROWN: Every time she speaks out, he gives her -- or she gives him more to work with. And we know she's going on "The Today Show" tomorrow morning.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I have a different view.
I have a problem with the slutty line. I think that was in totally inappropriate. But let's remember, Bristol Palin has now become a national spokeswoman on this issue of unwed motherhood for teenagers. She has decided to become a public figure on this issue.
She's been on all the talk shows. So, I think a joke about Bristol Palin is actually fair game. You know, if you want to be private, fine. Be private. But she's not a private person anymore.
BROWN: Susan, that's a fair point that Jeff just made.
In addition to that, you have to know this, given the life you have had. I mean, kids are very much a part of the modern political campaign.
MOLINARI: Yes, they are. They are, in all -- Republicans and Democrats, yes.
And I get Jeff's point that she got out there and gave a few speeches. But I think we really to keep in mind that she's 18 years old. We have had other political families who have had their kids go out there and speak up on issues and take positions and campaign for their mothers and fathers, and we have never seen this be done before.
Again, I think the difference is the age of this young woman, who has had, you know, some pretty difficult moments in the glare of the camera. And, again, I mean, you know, I'm not saying he should be taken off the air. I'm just saying I don't think it was funny. I think it was mean and I think he does owe -- you know what?
I think he owes every young woman out there who has gone through this same situation or single people who have had babies on their own an apology. Is it just Bristol Palin who is allowed to have these jokes? I think he's kind of framing a whole group of people out there who have been through the same situation and have stood pretty strong about it. Not funny.
BROWN: All right. Let me also pick up on Jeff's other point, which is the comment that he found offensive, the slutty flight attendant comment. Is sexism, I guess, more acceptable than racism when you're making jokes like this, in a way?
SNOWDEN: I don't think either is particularly acceptable. I just think that David Letterman is a comedian. It's his job to make fun of people.
And when Sarah Palin, when running for the vice presidency, had a teenage daughter who became pregnant, I think she sort of became fair game for comedians everywhere.
BROWN: But she's always -- she's been an easy -- why is Sarah Palin such an easy target?
SEDER: Well, every time she opens her mouth, she helps the comedian. She goes halfway for the comedian there.
SEDER: I mean, she -- It's like T-ball with her. It's not even softball. I mean, she just literally holds it out there. And, frankly, I don't even think that joke was sexist, per se. Letterman has...
TOOBIN: Look, there are certain rules, I think. Look, we are talking about jokes. But I don't think it's fair to say it's just a joke.
You can have offensive jokes. It's not a free range. Just -- if you say, it's just a joke, you can say anything. It just seems to me that referring to a public figure, a woman, as a slut, it just -- you know, that's a line you shouldn't cross.
SEDER: But he -- but he didn't do that. He said -- he talked about her slutty makeup.
TOOBIN: Slutty flight attendant.
SEDER: Well, no, but he -- there is a big difference there, because he is talking about appearance.
TOOBIN: Nothing funnier than analyzing jokes word by word, you know?
SEDER: Well, exactly. Exactly.
BROWN: All right.
SNOWDEN: Is she or is she not the woman who posed in a bikini? I think she has, like Jeff said, sort of made herself fair game.
BROWN: That was a long time ago.
BROWN: All right, we have got to end it there. Many thanks to the panel. Some of you are sticking around for much more on the other side.
Tonight's newsmaker coming up next -- this is a West Point war vet who served two tours in Iraq and is willing to go back for a third, but he was kicked out of the military when he came back home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY WOODS (D), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I was extremely frustrated with the idea that I was going to have to continue to lie about who I was. And so I thought it was very important for people who disagree with the policy to take a stand and say that they're not going to lie anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Anthony Woods is our newsmaker tonight. He's now running for Congress and challenging President Obama to take a stand.
Plus, tonight's "Great Debate." The war on drugs, is it a failure?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: Our newsmaker tonight is running for Congress in California. But that is not what drew our attention to Anthony Woods.
After graduating West Point, he served two medal-earning tours of duty in Iraq and says he would gladly go back into harm's way for this country. But, instead, he's been kicked out of the service and left owing thousands of dollars in tuition, all because Woods revealed he is gay, in direct violation the military's don't ask/don't tell rule.
And he joined us from San Francisco.
BROWN: You decided to come out. You were forced to repay the military the cost of your tuition to Harvard. Explain for us how you made the decision to come out, why you made the decision, and -- and what followed.
WOODS: Well, it was an extremely tough decision for me.
Over the course of about six months, you know, I thought long and hard about it. I was extremely frustrated with the idea that I was going to have to continue to lie about who I was. And so I thought it was very important for people who disagree with the policy to take a stand and say that they're not going to lie anymore.
And I knew that it would cost me my career. I knew that it was going to cost me an opportunity to go and teach at West Point. And, unfortunately, I knew that it was going to cost me some friends. But, ultimately, I think it was the right decision to do, because it's -- it's definitely a time for us to get rid of the don't ask/don't tell policy, because it hurts our military and it is not good for our country.
BROWN: How -- you commanded, I read, two different units in Iraq when you did come out. What was the reaction of the people that you had served with?
WOODS: The overwhelming majority of the soldiers who I had served with responded very positively. They were -- they were proud that I made the decision to take a stand and do what was right.
Like I said, there were some who disagreed with it. But, overwhelmingly, I think the military is ready to get rid of this policy. And I have the proof, because the soldiers who I served with think that it was -- it's very sad thing that I had to leave the military.
BROWN: Anthony, are you disappointed President Obama hasn't made ending this policy a higher priority?
WOODS: Well, you know, just last week, I believe he reiterated his desire to get rid of the don't ask/don't tell policy. And so I take him at his word for it.
Right now, 70 percent of Americans think that the don't ask/don't tell policy should repealed and isn't good for our military. And so it's a matter of all of us standing up and letting the president know that we have his back and that the time is now to get rid of the policy.
BROWN: Are you frustrated, though, that he hasn't taken it on sooner?
WOODS: You know, we're a country at war right now. We're fighting in -- in two different countries.
And I think it's very clear that we need every single able-bodied American who is willing to serve their country to be allowed to do so. And that includes members of the LGBT community. So, I'm confident the president is going to recognize that it is hurting our military more to allow those folks to leave the military.
And, you know, he's going to get rid of this policy as soon as it's possible.
BROWN: And I know you have said that you would be willing to go back to Iraq and serve yet another tour, your third tour. Is that right?
WOODS: I certainly can say that it was one of the toughest things that I had to do, knowing that it would end my career, because I loved serving in the military. I really enjoyed leading soldiers.
And I thought with my previous two appointments, I had the skills to go back and continue to help and do good things overseas for our country. And, so, you know, I would gladly continue to serve, if I was going to be allowed to so in a way that is honorable and didn't ask -- and didn't require me to lie in order to abide by this policy.
BROWN: Anthony, it is your experience with don't ask/don't tell, is this primarily what is motivating you to run for Congress?
WOODS: I actually would say that it's not.
You know that my top three priorities when I hit the ground in Washington, D.C., are to pass universal health care, continue to spur economic recovery in my district and across this country, and to focus on national security issues.
But it is safe to say -- you know, I'm running to replace Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, who introduced the legislation to repeal don't ask/don't tell. So, as the only member of Congress who will have suffered as a result of this policy, it is safe to say that I will pick up that torch as well. And I would love to see this policy go away.
BROWN: All right, Anthony Woods with us tonight.
Anthony, good luck you to. Appreciate your time.
WOODS: Thanks so much, Campbell.
BROWN: Tomorrow night, our newsmaker is one of the heroes of last January's water landing that everyone refers to as the miracle on the Hudson.
But First Officer Jeff Skiles will tell us why he is worried about the next generation of pilots getting behind the controls.
Espionage, intrigue, a husband and wife busted at the State Department. The big question, how many more spies hiding in plain sight?
Also, tonight's briefing -- Chastity Bono decides to become a man.
And David Carradine's death ruled not a suicide.
BROWN: Time now to check out the other stories making news right now -- Erica Hill joining us with the very latest -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this could be some good news for families wondering if there is an end date for some of the U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq.
Almost all of the 16,000 Marines will be out by next spring. The Corps' top commander, General James Conway, says most of the Marine drawdown will take place after the Iraqi elections next January. President Obama wants all 133,000 troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
CIA agents, meantime, think they know where Osama bin Laden is: Northwest Pakistan. Agency Director Leon Panetta today said he is committed -- he has committed, rather, more agents to the region and also is recruiting locals to help in the manhunt. Panetta says he hopes Pakistan's recent crackdown on Taliban militants will help catch them al Qaeda's leader. Panetta says finding bin Laden remains a top CIA priority.
The H1N1 swine flu virus is now a global pandemic. It is the first declared in over 40 years. But we should point out here pandemic doesn't necessarily mean you should panic. The World Health Organization noting today it doesn't mean the strain is more dangerous or more deadly. The upgrade in status is simply a result of the virus showing up in more places -- 74 countries now have confirmed cases.
In the U.S., though, there is no change in dealing with the swine flu. The CDC says it's already been treating this outbreak like a pandemic.
An independent autopsy concludes David Carradine did not kill himself, that coming from the Associated Press today. But the doctor hired by the actor's family says he needs more information from Thai investigators to pinpoint an exact cause of death. Carradine's body was found a week ago hanging in a Bangkok hotel room closet. And Chastity Bono today announcing she plans to become a man. A spokesman for the gay rights activist and reality TV star says Bono has actually begun a gender transition. The child daughter of Cher and the late Congressman Sonny Bono came out 20 years ago. And, from now, on Chastity will be known as Chaz, Campbell.
BROWN: Well, if that's what makes her happy, we're happy for her.
HILL: And now it's him.
BROWN: Him. Of course.
Erica Hill with us tonight -- Erica, thanks.
Tonight's "Great Debate": Is the war on drugs a failure and would legalizing marijuana be a better solution? Former drug czar Bill Bennett and the head of the Drug Policy Alliance in a frank discussion about addiction, crime, and violence. We're looking for solutions.
Plus, Michelle Obama swears off fur -- the story that has PETA singing her praises.
BROWN: Time for our "Great Debate."
And tonight's premise: The war on drugs is a failure.
The Obama administration just announced a new strategy to fight drug trafficking at the U.S.-Mexican border, adding literally hundreds of agents in the field and new technology at ports of entry. But critics say it's all basically for a lost cause.
So, joining us to debate, CNN political contributor Bill Bennett, who is host of the national radio talk show "Morning in America." He was also the nation's drug czar under President George H.W. Bush. And, officially, that is the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. And he says we can win the war on drugs. On the other side of this, Ethan Nadelmann, who is founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which works to promote new drug policies and alternatives to the current battle that we're fighting, the war on drugs.
So, we want your opinion, too, we should add. Vote by calling the number on the bottom of your screen.
First, though, we're going to have option statements from each.
We have 30 seconds on the clock here, gentlemen.
Ethan Nadelmann, the premise once again, is: The war on drugs is a failure. Make your case.
ETHAN NADELMANN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE: Yes, I mean, there's no question about that.
I mean, drug use continues to be high. But, worse than that, people are dying of drug overdoses. The prisons are filled up. The United States leads the world in per capita incarceration. We have 5 percent of the world's population, 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population.
We rank first in the world in per capita incarceration of fellow citizens.
The drug war is what's driving this. Then look at Mexico, Colombia, look at Afghanistan. This is just like Chicago during prohibition or Al Capone times fifty. What's happening there is not a problem about drugs primarily. It's about the failure of prohibition strategies. These policies cannot work and putting criminal justice system front and center is the wrong way to do this.
BROWN: All right, Bill, 30 seconds.
WILLIAM BENNETT, FMR. DRUG POLICY DIRECTOR: The right strategies work when they are tried and used. We haven't done much in the last few years but we should. We had 24 million, 25 million drug users in 1979. In 1992, we had that number down to 11 million. That's more than a 50 percent reduction because the country fought back and fought strong.
If you want more people in prison, if you want more crime, if you want more trouble, you want more destroyed families, make drugs more available, make them legal and you'll have more of that.
BROWN: Let me have you address that, Ethan, because you laid out what you think the problems are here. Is legalization the answer in your view?
NADELMANN: Well, I'll tell you, I think that Bill's focused on the wrong bottom line. He points to the reduction in the number of people who told a pollster they were using marijuana or cocaine through the 1980s. But what he leaves out is that in 1980, there was no such thing as crack cocaine. By the time Bill Bennett became drug czar, it was a national epidemic.
1980, there was no such thing as drug-related HIV or AIDS, but by the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people were dying of that. 1980, we had 50,000 people behind bars on drug charges. Now we have half a million people behind bars tonight on a nonviolent drug charge. And in 1980, taxpayers were spending a few billions dollars for a drug war. Now, they're spending tens and tens of billions of dollars.
So the point is let's focus on the real bottom line. I want to reduce both the harms of drugs and I want to reduce the harms of our failed policies. And the best way to do that is not by doing more of the drug war that Bill Bennett initiated some years ago, it's by pursuing a different strategy that focuses on reducing the death, disease, crime and suffering associated both with drug use and with our failed drug control policies.
BROWN: Bill, let me let you respond to that.
BENNETT: Yes. Well, there's a lot there. But there's a huge -- at the heart of it is a huge non sequitur because Ethan is saying we didn't have crack cocaine in the '80s and other problems till the late '80s. That's precisely the time when this country got most alarmed and pushed back the hardest and had the most success.
Now, there's all sorts of harm from drugs. There's the harm from drugs that comes from the violence, of course, the cartels. There is the harm from drugs that comes from people committing crimes in order to buy drugs. But there's also the harm from drugs that primary and largest part which comes from drug use itself.
Eighty-seven percent, a recent study by Barack Obama's ONDCP, the office I used to run, 87 percent of people tested who were arrested for crimes were on drugs. Another study shows 60 to 70 percent in the major cities of major crime, people are either on drugs or alcohol.
By the way, the drugs or alcohol don't care whether they are legal or not. You put more of this stuff into the system, you're going to have more dysfunction and more crime. And I think everybody can see -- I think Ethan Nadelmann will concede that if you have legalization, decriminalization, you're going to have more drug use. If you have more drug use, you will have more dysfunction, more crime, more disaster.
NADELMANN: Yes. Well, I'll say let's just focus on the one area where I and Bill are clearly in disagreement and where I and my organization are clearly in favor of treating an illegal drug more like a legal drug, and that's with respect to marijuana.
Right now, you know, 40 percent of Americans say it should be legal, 50 percent of Democrats, independents, people under the age of 30, and a growing number of people out west in this country. Right? We have 800,000 Americans arrested last year simply for possessing a joint. That's almost 40 percent of all drug arrests.
We're spending $10 billion to $20 billion a year to enforce marijuana laws when instead we could be earning $10 billion to $20 billion in tax revenue. When people say that if you make marijuana legal, is going to make it more available to kids, I say look at the evidence.
Three national polls consistently show that young people say it's easier to buy marijuana today than it is to buy alcohol. So if we make marijuana legal, we'll reduce by hundreds of thousands the unnecessary arrests. We'll reduce taxpayer money down the drain by tens of billions. We'll bring in much needed revenue. Young people will not be at risk because the laws that failed so far seems to me is a win-win-win all around.
BROWN: But, Bill, let me have you respond to that narrowly because he's only talking about legalizing marijuana, not all drugs. BENNETT: Yes, the argument shifts. It usually tends to shift in these debates. But let's remember that marijuana is the most abused drug by young people.
Now, the argument that because some of your people and some neighborhoods find marijuana more available than alcohol, therefore, let's make it even more available, I just don't see the logic of that. People, by the way, get in an awful lot of trouble with alcohol. Now, we can double or triple that trouble.
You know, I have been in these forums all over the country, Campbell. You go to the universities, you talk to some of the intellectuals, they want to talk about the legalization of marijuana.
Let me tell you where you don't hear this argument hopefully (ph). You don't hear it in the rehabilitation wards. You don't hear it in the inner cities. I never heard this argument in 110 inner cities I visited, and you don't hear it from parents and families where they've had to deal with this problem.
Marijuana is the single most prevalent drug that is involved in drug treatment right now. More kids are screwed up because of marijuana than any other drug. I see no reason to make it more accessible, to give it more permission and to make it cheaper and increase use.
NADELMANN: Oh, yes.
BROWN: Ethan, very quickly.
NADELMANN: Campbell, I just have to say, Bill is wildly out of date when 40 percent of Americans say that it should be legal right now. That's among all groups of population including --
BENNETT: That's a poll. That's a poll.
NADELMANN: Including people in recovery, Bill.
BENNETT: That's a poll. That's a poll.
NADELMANN: Bill, I did not interrupt you. Please, be so polite.
BENNETT: That's a poll.
NADELMANN: Please allow me to speak.
BENNETT: OK. Of course.
NADELMANN: In this case, marijuana is popular. We had the current and last past presidents use this at this time. So I think the notion that marijuana is a wildly dangerous drug, Bill is wildly out of touch in this regard and so our young people are laughing at the message we heard being stated by people like William Bennett and his successors.
BENNETT: Right. BROWN: OK. Let me take --
BENNETT: Well, you can laugh all you want but talk to the parents.
NADELMANN: Yes, Bill, I talk to the parents every single day, Bill.
BROWN: All right.
NADELMANN: The parents don't want their kids being arrested for marijuana.
BROWN: OK. I think on this point --
BENNETT: Parents' opinion is not your opinion either.
NADELMANN: And the parents don't want their kids being arrested for marijuana.
BROWN: All right, guys. On this point, I think we can agree that you both clearly disagree. But what we're going to try to do is what we do on this program every night, try to find a little common ground, an area or policy that you can agree on as we move forward.
We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back with common ground.
BROWN: And we are back with tonight's "Great Debate" premise, the war on drugs is a failure. CNN political contributor and former national drug czar Bill Bennett says no, there is still hope there. Ethan Nadelmann from the Drug Policy Alliance says yes.
We are looking now for common ground between the two of you. Ethan, where do you think that you and Bill Bennett can agree on this issue?
NADELMANN: Well, I'm encouraged that Bill is having this debate right now. And that makes me wonder whether he'd agree that it will be important to have a serious national debate around the issue, at least of ending marijuana prohibition.
BROWN: Bill, what do you think?
BENNETT: Yes. Sure. We can have that debate. We've had it for a while. It's actually been going on for a long time.
NADELMANN: No, no, Bill. I mean at another level.
BENNETT: I would hope that --
NADELMANN: I mean at another level.
BENNETT: I would hope -- I didn't -- don't interrupt me. BROWN: All right. All right. Let him make his point, Ethan.
BENNETT: I respect -- I respect -- come on, Ethan. I respected your request not to interrupt.
The other thing I hope we could agree, Ethan would agree with me, we do not want young people using marijuana. Wouldn't you agree with that?
NADELMANN: I would agree with that, Bill. I don't think young people should be using these drugs.
NADELMANN: Particularly, look, any drug including marijuana can be dangerous. And when you see young people waking and baking, getting up in the morning getting high before they go to school, that's a real problem.
BROWN: All right.
NADELMANN: On the other hand, let's also acknowledge that the vast majority of people --
BENNETT: There's common ground.
BROWN: All right.
NADELMANN: Let's acknowledge that the vast majority of people have used marijuana never went on to have a real problem.
BENNETT: Let's end on common ground while we can.
BROWN: OK. I would, Bill. I do like to end on -- I'm absolutely in agreement I do like to end on a common ground.
OK. Bill Bennett, as always, thank you, Bill. And Ethan Nadelmann, a very good debate.
BENNETT: Thank you.
NADELMANN: Thank you.
BROWN: Thanks, guys. Have a good one.
And here's how you voted in tonight's "Great Debate." Eighty-six percent agree the war on drugs is a failure. Fourteen percent disagree. As always, this is not a scientific poll, just a snapshot from our viewers who called in. Many thanks for that.
Every night a new "Great Debate" on the show. Tomorrow's premise, President Obama turned his back on the gay community. Agree or disagree? We'll talk about that tomorrow.
And coming up, the spies next door. A husband and wife caught in the middle of espionage intrigue. The big question, how many other spies are hiding out there in plain sight? The danger to this country.
And a new ally in the White House for animal rights activists. The first lady says no to fur.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MR. & MRS. SMITH")
BRAD PITT, PLAYING MR. SMITH: Come on, honey. Come to daddy.
ANGELINA JOLIE, PLAYING MRS. SMITH: Who's your daddy now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: That was from 2005 spy movie "Mr. And Mrs. Smith," that Hollywood spying is a heart pounding, high stakes game complete with gadgets and gunfire. But in real life, spies may look more like this.
Walter Kendall Myers and Gwendolyn Myers, former State Department employee and his wife both in their 70s charged for spying for Cuba for nearly 30 years. They weren't using those high-tech gadgets, but they may have caused still a very serious national security breach, leaving us to our question tonight. Are real spies hiding in plain sight?
We have a lot of interesting stuff to tell you about. Joining us from Washington with this, Peter Earnest, executive director of the International Spy Museum. In Boston, Daily Beast contributor and author, Joseph Finder, is with us. And his latest thriller "Vanished," we should mention, comes out in August. Also, CNN senior analyst Jeff Toobin back with me right here in New York.
Peter, let me start with you on this. You spent 25 years running covert operations at the CIA. And when you look at this detail -- look at the details of this case this is really a sort of low tech spy craft, I guess. Explain to us how they were operating.
PETER EARNEST, INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM: Well, first of all, the fact it was low tech doesn't mean anything if it worked for 30 years. That's the mark of success. And we've seen this case as we've seen in other Cuban cases where they received their instructions often by short wave radio that's right out of World War II.
And the other thing is when the wife often provided information to the Cuban intelligence officers in a grocery store using her shopping cart, she would move along with her cart. The Cuban handler would come up alongside her and at some point he would move off with hers and she would move off with his. Beautiful, simple, and it worked for 30 years.
BROWN: Let me ask you, Joseph, I guess what the concern here is not -- is sort of less that they were spying for Cuba but the fact that Cuba traffics intelligence. So where could that information have ended up whatever it is that they were able to get?
JOSEPH FINDER, AUTHOR, "VANISHED": Right. The Cubans like to make deals. The Chinese, for example, are very interested in electronic surveillance on us. The Cubans have a radar base outside of Havana, and Fidel Castro is known to have approached the Chinese to make a deal.
So the Cubans actually are -- they like to sell information to the highest bidder. I think that's one of the big concerns here. Not the only one, but one of them.
BROWN: Well, what do you think, Jeff? I mean, we look at this in terms of the threat, I guess, how many people are out there. How many -- we don't know, or do we know? Do we have an assessment of the extent to which all of this is going on?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know what the current number is, but what's so striking about this story is that it's a real throwback to the Cold War era in the sense that these were ideological spies. They were doing this not for money because they were committed for whatever bizarre reason to Castro's Cuba.
You had that kind of commitment in the Rosenberg case, in the famous spies in the Cambridge cell in England, Burgess and Maclean. It seems now you have much more spies motivated by money, Aldrich Ames, people who are involved in the commercial flow of ideas and information as opposed to ideology which seems much less of a motivation in recent years.
BROWN: And, Peter and Joseph --
FINDER: And yet -- and yet --
BROWN: Yes, go ahead.
FINDER: I was going to say, yes, there are cases which we've uncovered very recently of people who still have an ideological attachment whether it be to North Korea, to China, to Iran, maybe a patriotic attachment and that can be combined with financial incentives.
So I think that -- what Jeff is saying is right. The old fashioned Rosenberg type spy stuff, it's old hat. But the espionage, in fact, my sources tell me that espionage in the U.S. by Russia is probably at Cold War levels, surprisingly enough. We just don't know anything about it. We don't care much about it.
TOOBIN: But they're not looking for missile silo information anymore. They're looking for how to run their businesses and technology. Isn't that generally right?
EARNEST: Partly right --
FINDER: Well, I think -- when I wrote --
I'm sorry, Peter. Go ahead.
BROWN: Go ahead, Peter.
EARNEST: No, I would also throw in here, let's not overlook Al Qaeda and its allies. And they are recruiting people who are highly ideologically motivated with a religious twist to it. And that makes them fanatics.
BROWN: And is that where the danger truly lies?
FINDER: And, Campbell --
BROWN: I mean, it's not the Cold War anymore. It's not necessarily the Russian spies or the Cuban spies. I mean, who is the greatest threat to this country?
EARNEST: Well, they think --
FINDER: The countries that are spying the most...
FINDER: ... are China, Russia and Cuba. I'm sorry, Peter.
EARNEST: No. No, I was simply going to say the only -- we're at war right now with a non-state and that's Al Qaeda. But various people have come up in support of Al Qaeda or affiliated with Al Qaeda. And what you're dealing with are people who are motivated by either they've been drawn to the organization because without it they're nothing or out of those religious fundamental -- this fundamentalism.
BROWN: Joseph, go ahead.
FINDER: But, Campbell, I want to make a point if I could, a very important point which I think is often overlooked about this -- the Kendall Myers case.
The Cuban handlers wanted Kendall Myers to work for the CIA. He said, no. I'm not a good enough liar. He was afraid of the polygraph.
What we've learned in this case is that if you work at the highest levels in the State Department, INR, he had a top security, top secret SCI clearance. He was never once polygraphed. So I think that's a concern. He had information of the same intelligence that we have at NSA, CIA and DIA but without the security procedures. That's a real concern.
BROWN: All right.
EARNEST: Yes. And as you know, Joe, the State Department has held off on that for years.
EARNEST: And after the Ames case, you had it introduced into the FBI. They now polygraph more regularly.
BROWN: All right. Gentlemen, we got to end it there.
FINDER: Well, George Shultz --
BROWN: Go ahead. Quickly, make your point, Joseph.
FINDER: George Shultz refused to take a polygraph when Ronald Reagan was -- he said I'm up to my keister in leaks. Shultz refused. And ever since then, the State Department has been resistant to adopting the polygraph even at the highest levels of security. That's the concern here I think.
BROWN: It will be interesting to see if that changes. A fascinating discussion. Many thanks to all of you. Peter Earnest, Joseph Finder, and, of course, Jeffrey Toobin here with me in New York. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.
In tonight's "Political Daily Briefing," the Reverend Jeremiah Wright speaking out again and that's not necessarily good news for the White House.
Plus, tonight's "Money and Main Street" report even the Little League is in trouble in this economy. We're going to tell you how they are rallying at the bottom of the ninth.
BROWN: Now "Money and Main Street." Every week this time we look at how ordinary people are finding ways to hit home runs even in this challenging economy. Tonight, Ted Rowlands takes us out to the ball game.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This field of dreams has been hit by an economic nightmare.
DANNY RUIZ, COACH: We've had some sponsorships that we used to get every year to get us nice -- nice substantial check to help out the league. This year, they just couldn't. There's no extra funds from them to help us out.
ROWLANDS: What used to be $45,000 in sponsorship every year has shrunk to just $3,000.
RUIZ: It's been difficult this year. We had a couple of kids that have signed up and, you know, the parents don't have the funds to support them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I grew up here in this league, played in this league. And these are people I've known for 30-some years. And we're on the same boat. ROWLANDS: The same boat means more than just trouble on the field. This part of San Bernardino County consistently ranks in the top five for highest foreclosure rates in the country. The county's unemployment rate is 12.5 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, life was good. Work was good. The economy was good. And then all of a sudden, you know, bills come due. Also, there's not enough money and it just -- it happens really fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my outlet. You know, this is where I come, you know, to be with the kids because it's not about me. It's about them.
But I could tell you that even Little League we're seeing a punch in the Little League with the way the economy is and the slowdown and everything else just by the lack of kids that are signing up. You know? So it's hard all the way around. Then I'm trying to find work. It's not like I'm sitting at home doing nothing, but there's just nothing out there.
ROWLANDS: The families and the league had no choice but to rally around each other.
RUIZ: We got to ask some of the parents to gather up some of their, you know, cleats that maybe their kids have outgrown or some used gloves. And we had to supply some of the kids with used equipment so they can play.
JANIS STRONG, LITTLE LEAGUE PRESIDENT: We did a candle sale. We go candle (ph) to candle. We had parents bring water and Gatorade. And then we sold the water and the Gatorade. And then we also had a pancake breakfast. And we wash cars for the first time.
We have 17 teams, and the kids are in uniform and everyone is having a great time. And that's what it's all about.
ROWLANDS: With everybody pitching in, not a single game has been missed because of hard times. A life lesson these players can take to the bank.
Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.
BROWN: The man whose words nearly derailed President Obama's campaign is speaking out again. Wait until you here what the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is saying now.
BROWN: Time for the "PDB," our "Political Daily Briefing." Erica Hill is back. And we all, of course, remember Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the president's former pastor. And he is back in the news now. What is going on?
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For a little while, he's back. I should try to clarify some comments from an interview that he gave earlier this week when he was asked whether or not he had contact with the president. The reverend's reply, "Them Jews" were keeping him from seeing Mr. Obama.
Well, today, as part of that effort to clarify, Reverend Wright told Sirius XM Radio he wasn't talking about all Jewish people, Campbell. He was only talking about Zionists. Clear as mud now.
BROWN: Oh, yes. OK. So that probably didn't help things.
HILL: Probably not.
BROWN: Clarification. Moving on, though, the president at a health care town hall today. A funny little thing happened.
HILL: Funny little thing, a good day for a certain young lady. One field trip that's definitely going to go down in history. Just take a listen to this exchange at the town hall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm fortunate enough to be here with my 10- year-old daughter who is missing her last day of school for this. I hope she doesn't get in trouble.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
OBAMA: Do you need me to write a note?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take you up on that, actually, Mr. President.
OBAMA: No, no, I'm serious. What's your daughter's name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her name --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her name is Kennedy.
OBAMA: Kennedy, all right. That's a cool name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: And that dad was asking the actual question, Mr. Obama making good on his promise there, as you can see. And he's walking over to deliver the freshly written excuse note to Kennedy which reads, "To Kennedy's teacher, please excuse Kennedy's absence. She's with me, Barack Obama.
BROWN: Lucky day for Miss Kennedy. Meantime, finally, some clarification about a fashionista first lady about her wardrobe, huh?
HILL: Yes, the short story here is both France and Michelle Obama -- France's first lady and Michelle Obama saying they don't wear fur. PETA is very happy.
BROWN: I'm sure they are. Erica Hill -- we're out on time on that one, but we'll see you tomorrow night.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starting right now.