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AC 360 LATER
Chris Christie Ascendant; Toronto Mayor Under Fire; Legalizing Marijuana
Aired November 6, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everyone. Welcome to "AC360 Later."
Tonight: politics, pot and politics, crack and politics. It's that kind of show tonight.
We start, though, with presidential politics, newly reelected New Jersey Governor Chris Christie winning big enough at the polls and speaking big enough in his acceptance speech last night to make him GOP star of the moment. Tonight, how well he stands up to scrutiny.
Joining the conversation, blogger Andrew Sullivan from AndrewSullivan.com, chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, Republican Alex Castellanos. In our fifth chair tonight, legendary writer and humorist P.J. O'Rourke. He's written a metric ton of books. I don't understand metrics, but his newest is now available for preorder. It's "The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way and It Wasn't My Fault and I'll Never Do It Again." He's also contributing editor with "The Weekly Standard."
Thanks for joining us. It's great to have you here.
P.J. O'ROURKE, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Thank you. Thank you.
COOPER: What do you make of Chris Christie?
O'ROURKE: I think he's great. I'm a Republican. And his is a return to Republican common sense and art of the possible as we always say about politics.
And he understands that. I mean, he may be a little more liberal than I am, or maybe he's just governor of New Jersey. But I think he's great.
COOPER: How heartened are you, Alex, by sort of the breakdown of the vote that went out for Chris Christie?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's good to see that Republican governors -- he's not the open one by the way who's very popular in his own state. When you get out of Washington the Republican Party is not in bad shape.
Chris Christie has done a good, per for the people of New Jersey, sticking mostly to Republican principles. How much of the Chris Christie lesson, though, translates to Washington is yet to be determined, because a lot of it is personal. And this is a unique personality who conveys kind of a strength and a really strong leadership style that -- I mean, I think the next election is going to be about changing Washington.
It's the one thing everybody hates. You want to send somebody down there to bust up all the china in the Washington china shop. That's a Chris Christie. Who else could do that? It's not about message. It's about the man.
ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM: But at some point people are going to ask, what does he stand for? What issues is he in favor of? Is he going to dismantle Obamacare? Are we going to go re-invade Iraq? What is he about?
I think last night's speech was I think a terrific speech, as you said, P.J. He's a very likable guy. I instinctively think I could vote for this guy. He's terrific. But he said nothing about what he actually had done in New Jersey apart from Sandy. He said nothing about his own positions, which on some critical issues are really against the base.
This is a guy in favor of gun control. This is a guy that has just given medical marijuana to children. This is a guy who's really quite out there on many of these issues. And I think he's a guy that some people in the Republican base are going to say, we're not going to fall for this again. We want a true believer. We want a Ted Cruz. We want a Paul Ryan or we want a Rand Paul. We don't want to be bought off by this rich establishment's guy.
COOPER: I actually want to -- I just want to play what Rand Paul said kind of basically taking a jab at the Sandy recovery ads featuring the New Jersey governor. Let's play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Some of these ads, people running for office put their mug all over these ads while they're in the middle of a political campaign. In New Jersey, $25 million was spent on ads that included somebody running for political office. You think there might be a conflict of interest there.
That's a real problem. That's why when people who are trying to do good and trying to use taxpayers' money wisely, they're offended to see our money spent on political ads. That's just offensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Rand Paul talking to Shaun Donovan, who I actually went to high school with. Anyway...
O'ROURKE: In Massachusetts somebody running for governor, I don't remember the name, maybe you do, Andrew, who was actually busted on this. He was the head of the lottery in the state. And he ran his face on the lottery ads saying, I'm bringing you a great lottery.
And then when he went to run for governor, he was actually prosecuted for misappropriation of -- wrongly, I think, by Massachusetts standards.
CASTELLANOS: I'm shocked anybody was prosecuted. Yes.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're asking what he stands for, Chris Christie. And you're right, he didn't say all the things that he was going to do.
AMANPOUR: But doesn't he stand for pragmatism? Doesn't he stand for a perception that actually maybe there is a movement towards a pragmatic new road, particularly for the Republican Party?
And I just wanted to know from you and from all of you guys, in fact, do governor races predict what's going to happen in Congress next year, predict what's going to happen in the presidentials three years from now?
CASTELLANOS: They usually don't.
But one of the things you're seeing that is Washington is so dysfunctional that there's a very good chance that the next president of the United States is going to be a governor, whether -- not somebody from the Senate, I think to Hillary's misfortune.
It's going to be somebody who actually knows how to be an executive and get things done.
CASTELLANOS: In a world of phony politics, people are looking for authenticity. That's Chris Christie.
But here's one I think big challenge for him. I'm a Christie fan. He's the bulldog on your front lawn. You want him to bite the bad people, but you're afraid to let him in the house because he might bite you. And that's going to be his challenge. A president has to demonstrate a tremendous amount of stability, too.
O'ROURKE: This might be just the moment not to stand for anything. I mean, we really do have a country -- the reason Washington is so closely divided is the country is very closely divided. We have got half of the country wants expanded social services to be paid for by other people, and half the country's other people.
And, like, I can't even remember which half I'm in. Some days, I'm a Medicare Plan D beneficiary, and some days it's April 15. So I myself am confused about it.
(CROSSTALK) AMANPOUR: The polls show that the people want not divided government and they want people to work together and to get things done.
O'ROURKE: They are divided. At the same time that they want non-divided government, they themselves are divided. That's I think reflected in Washington.
SULLIVAN: But you're right I think about a general election. But we're not talking -- he's got to get through a primary. And last night, he sort of ducked a little bit of that altogether.
He's got to get through some pretty tough primary contests. I think what you saw in Virginia, for example, is the Tea Party is not going away. They believe very strongly in what they believe in. I think it will be very interesting to see what he says about Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act. Is he going to replace it? Is he going to just repeal it? Any deviation from the Tea Party orthodox will get him creamed.
AMANPOUR: Newt Gingrich said last night is it the time to maybe not pander so much to that...
COOPER: Gingrich was saying you could make an argument for him in New Hampshire, in some of the Eastern states, in California, and doing well.
CASTELLANOS: Even look at Iowa. Early primaries are going to be crowded primaries. It doesn't have to be unanimous, guys. All he's got to do, he doesn't have to outrun the bear, he has to outrun the other guys.
O'ROURKE: That's right.
CASTELLANOS: So I think there's a good case to be made that Chris Christie could weather some of the early primaries.
But here's what happens with candidates like Christie sometimes. They have such a tremendous personality that they weather the first attack. Oh, gun control. He's for gun control. They weather the second. The third begins to wear them down. After awhile, that first -- they begin to crumble a little bit. And then there's a debate.
CASTELLANOS: And at that debate, whoever can take down the big guy, the old king is dead, long live the new king, and that could be a kingmaker moment for someone.
SULLIVAN: And then there was also his speech last night, I, I, me, my, mine, me, I.
SULLIVAN: No, no, he's more of an egomaniac. He's less able to conceal his egomania than most politicians. And I think there's also an element of a slight bullying feature to his personality.
COOPER: Slight, really? A little bit, you think?
SULLIVAN: He's always jabbing some poor female teacher in the chest.
COOPER: Actually, he talks about ego today. This is him on presidential speculation. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have never seen it as a distraction. I never -- and I have said before, I don't see it as a burden, either. You got to have a huge ego, right to say, oh, please it's such a burden for you to be speculating about me being the leader of the free world. Stop. I'm so burdened.
I mean, you know that's a pretty huge ego to be complaining about that. It's complimentary. It's flattering. And I have no problem with it. But I'm going to be really clear about this. I have a job to do. I got reelected to do a job last night. That's the job I'm going to do. And I'm not worried about all this other stuff. If the time comes where I change my mind on that, and I decide I want to do something else, I will tell the people of New Jersey I want to do something else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'ROURKE: Charming egomaniac.
CASTELLANOS: That's why I like his slogan. I will bully Washington for you.
O'ROURKE: He's the guy I would have been scared of on the school playground, I can tell you that.
SULLIVAN: I'm not sure he wears well. That's the question, whether he is going to wear well.
COOPER: It would be a fascinating race to watch him against Hillary Clinton or really any of these other...
SULLIVAN: I want him against up Cruz and Paul. I think that's going to be the really interesting fight.
(CROSSTALK) CASTELLANOS: It will be on WWF.
COOPER: Yes. Yes.
We have got to take a quick break. When we come back, probably my favorite story, I just -- a story I find fascinating about the mayor who mistook his beer for a crack pipe. We're going to Toronto next.
COOPER: Hey. Welcome back. I'm certainly no Jon Stewart. So, I will let you write your own Rob Ford "too drunk to remember smoking the crack" joke. Or better still, let's let him tell it.
Here's Rob Ford, the mayor of America's fourth largest city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB FORD, MAYOR OF TORONTO, CANADA: Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine.
QUESTION: When, sir?
FORD: But no -- do I? Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: "Probably in one of my drunken stupors."
SULLIVAN: Come on, P.J., this is a man you must love, right?
O'ROURKE: I really do. This is what I live for. This is also how I make my living. And also every politician should have that good of an excuse.
O'ROURKE: Kathleen Sebelius, when she's in front of Congress, I'm sorry about the rollout on the Web site. I was drunk and smoking crack.
AMANPOUR: And the only thing is, he's not apologizing for anything. He's saying he's doing a great job. Torontoans are pretty bent out of shape. It's true his polls have gone up about five points, but there are signs all over the place. If I was this wall, I would resign. I'm a taxpayer. Get rid -- we need to get rid -- but they can't get rid of him. There's no mechanism to get rid of him.
COOPER: Beyond the amazing spectacle of all this, there is a serious -- he says he's not an addict. But if he's having multiple drunken stupors while he's the mayor of this town, a great city, by the way, this is not as if he's some small-town mayor. SULLIVAN: Winston Churchill was blind drunk for most of the Second World War.
SULLIVAN: You walk into that House of Commons any day of the week, they have a bar attached to the Commons. It is not as if alcohol has ever -- has been a lubricant for many political careers. I think Toronto has got a fantastic image makeover. It had the most boring, tedious...
COOPER: I like Toronto. It's a great city.
SULLIVAN: No, it is a great city.
AMANPOUR: The Toronto Chamber of Commerce doesn't feel that way. They are absolutely freaking out. They think it's giving them a really bad reputation.
COOPER: I want to bring in the reporter who broke the story. Robyn Doolittle is a city hall reporter with "The Toronto Star," the author of a soon-to-be released book about Rob Ford called: "Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story."
Robyn, thanks very much for being with us.
You have actually -- unlike most people you have actually seen the video appearing to show Rob Ford smoking crack. Can you describe what it actually shows?
ROBYN DOOLITTLE, "THE TORONTO STAR": Sure. It's about a minute- and-a-half long.
The man who is obviously Rob Ford is sitting in kind of a button- up shirt. It's open at the top. He's sitting down in front of a white wall in the sunshine. He's jerking, bobbing around in his chair. He's slurring. He's mumbling. His eyes are fluttering. And he smokes from what looks like a crack pipe. And he also utters racist and homophobic slurs in the short clip.
COOPER: Who is he making slurs against?
DOOLITTLE: Right, the leader of the Federal Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, he calls him an fag.
AMANPOUR: So what's the rules that say you can't show this video? What's going on?
DOOLITTLE: Right. Well, it's important to note since "The Star" and Gawker reported on the video in May, all summer long, we have been connecting the dots between the mayor and Toronto's underworld, I guess you can say. But the video never surfaced. The people trying to sell it to us, a group of self-professed drug dealers, said that they wanted $100,000 for it. Especially in Canada, that does not happen. You have never heard of that happening before.
So "The Star" didn't buy the video. So for six months, the mayor has been calling us liars. Then last week, the chief of police said that the police service had recovered the video as part of a massive guns and gangs sweep in the north end of the city. They found the video in a deleted file on a computer.
And so since then, it's kind of been pandemonium. The police have it now. It's in connection to a friend of the mayor's who's been charged with extortion. He was trying to get the video back from these drug dealers after "The Star" reported on the story. And it's now part of that court case.
The police chief's hands are kind of tied with whether they can release it or not because it could impact the fairness of this trial.
COOPER: And can you explain to me, how popular does the mayor remain? He says he's staying in office. There's not a mechanism to remove him, correct?
There's no sort of impeachment process at council. It's also important to note that Toronto, unlike a city like Chicago or New York, it's a different system. It's not a strong mayor system. The mayor is really just one vote out of a council of 45. So he doesn't have veto power or anything like that.
The premier could remove the mayor, but she probably won't do that for political reasons I won't get into. So it's really up to him to step aside. It would be extremely against his character to do that.
CASTELLANOS: Do Canadians understand how resentful Americans are? Crack-smoking mayors are an American idea.
O'ROURKE: They are. They are.
CASTELLANOS: Marion Barry came up with this.
O'ROURKE: We have been totally ripped off.
(CROSSTALK) CASTELLANOS: And now we're outsourcing these jobs to Canada.
O'ROURKE: Toronto underworld?
SULLIVAN: The capital city of the United States was run by a crack smoker for a long time. And he was reelected in a landslide.
COOPER: To the city council, yes.
CASTELLANOS: Scandal hardly ever removes anyone from politics. We have very low standards for politicians.
AMANPOUR: No, I just wonder, how do you all feel having a mayor, crack-smoking, drunken stupor mayor?
SULLIVAN: Doesn't it make you feel really un-Canadian?
DOOLITTLE: Well, like you said, Toronto is a great city. So I think that we're all just kind of watching this unfold.
We realized earlier this year that this would be one of the biggest stories in, I guess, Canadian political history. And it was pretty unbelievable. The mayor is talking about being in drunken stupors now. But earlier this year, "The Star" reported about the mayor's drinking and the fact that he was asked to leave a military ball after showing up impaired. And he called us maggots and liars and completely denied having any sort of drinking problem whatsoever.
Even that is new. He's kind of been trying to say he has had a squeaky clean image this entire time. So I think the city and the country is still kind of coming to grips with this. This is all still very new. This is like six days old.
CASTELLANOS: Does the city work? Has he been a good mayor? The job he's done, is the city still working?
O'ROURKE: Do you think the city is?
The city is still working. Yes, like I said, he is just one vote on council. So there's kind of been this coalition of centrist councillors that have been moving the city forward. The mayor is a populist. He ran very much on this idea of keep the taxes low, forget arts funding, forget environmental funding, keep the water running, keep the roads paved. He has certainly been very aggressive with public sector unions, which has been -- in the wake of the recession, people liked him for that.
The rest of his record is kind of spotty and his attendance is spotty at city hall. But he's popular. Well, he was at least before this. We will have to wait for a big poll to see what the city's feeling.
COOPER: The other surreal thing about all this is today was actually bring your child to work day at city hall. You actually saw the mayor giving tours to children at city hall today, correct?
O'ROURKE: Kids, don't take drugs. Bring them up here and give them to me.
COOPER: Sorry, Robyn. Go ahead.
O'ROURKE: I didn't mean to interrupt.
DOOLITTLE: Yesterday, he -- yes. He made this very somber apology yesterday saying, this will never happen again. I have made mistakes. I want to move on. I'm taking this seriously. I was elected to do a job. And I'm going to do that job.
And he appeared emotional. And then today he had these kids coming through and the media was watching him and he blew everyone a kiss. And that made a lot of traction on Twitter, too. It seemed a little in contrast to what he'd been saying yesterday.
AMANPOUR: Robyn, the only way to get him out is to charge him, for him to be convicted, et cetera. Do you think he will be charged? What is the mood? Do you think the authorities will do that?
COOPER: There's a lot of wiretaps against him, correct?
So the -- after the story about the video -- we reported on the story about the video, the Toronto police launched a huge investigation into the mayor's activities called Project Brazen 2. And that's been going on all summer, something like 500 pages of search warrants. There's been planes and wiretaps and following the mayor around.
And they didn't end up charging him. They charged people close with him, but not the man himself. So I think that's an indication that might be it.
CASTELLANOS: Would you like to borrow our NSA? I hear they're pretty good at that.
CASTELLANOS: The other story here though is the death of shame in Western culture. Freedom without rules is anarchy. There's a reason that we used to be embarrassed about these things. It kind of kept us from driving our lives into the ditch. AMANPOUR: I'm embarrassed about it.
CASTELLANOS: But in politics, that doesn't exist anymore. If it's not illegal, it's OK.
SULLIVAN: Let's be honest. Politicians weren't squeaky clean forever.
AMANPOUR: This is crack in city hall and bringing the kids through.
CASTELLANOS: But if it was exposed, the honorable thing to do was to resign, not to drag your family, your constituents through it.
SULLIVAN: The press was never to report on this stuff. These people got away with it and you had the illusion of propriety.
AMANPOUR: Winston Churchill having a couple of drinks of brandy is not a crack smoking...
SULLIVAN: He drank a bottle of whiskey a day.
AMANPOUR: Well, whatever. He won a war.
COOPER: But there's also an arrogance that you are so important that only you in office can do this, even if you have repeated drunken stupors.
COOPER: In this day and age, to have repeated drunken stupors? The knowledge of alcoholism back in World War II was not so great. Now it's...
O'ROURKE: And hypocrisy is not to be undervalued. After all, it shows that we know what we should be doing at least. This kind of behavior...
SULLIVAN: ... to virtue, right?
O'ROURKE: That's right. SULLIVAN: Look, I'm more of a libertarian kind of guy. I think he's a colorful figure. I think if he does his job OK, I'm not going to get censorious about this.
COOPER: You think people can do their job if they're having multiple drunken stupors?
CASTELLANOS: I will drink to that.
SULLIVAN: Absolutely, yes. It depends if they're doing it -- if they are doing it in the daytime, yes. I understand that he was smoking crack in the sunlight.
COOPER: But the fact that the definition of alcoholism is -- well, I actually don't even know what the official definition is, but it's that it has an impact on your day-to-day life, on the perception that of you that you are impaired.
You can't say that he can still do his -- it's like saying someone who's a crack-smoking alcoholic can be a great parent. You know what, you're impaired.
CASTELLANOS: No, but just think of the great campaign you could run with this. You have seen what the other guys have done sober. Give me a shot.
O'ROURKE: Maybe it does tell us something about the nature of politics and just how hard this is to do, which apparently is not very if you can do it while you're drunk and smoking crack.
COOPER: Listen, Robyn Doolittle, I appreciate your reporting. I appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you very much.
Everyone else, stay with us.
When we come back, we're going to shift from crack to pot, from coast to cast, more evidence that recreational marijuana has a new image. What lessons can we take from Election Day? We will be right back.
COOPER: Hey. Welcome back.
Marijuana was on the ballot in several states on Election Day. Colorado voters approved a 25 percent tax on recreational marijuana which the state recently legalized. Voters in Portland, Maine, passed a measure to legalize recreational amounts of pass. And three Michigan cities passed proposals giving some legal protection to users of small amounts of marijuana.
With 58 percent of Americans now in favor of legalizing pot according to a recent Gallup poll, is it fair to declare it's this weed's moment?
We're back with the panel. I also want to bring in actor and author Hill Harper. You know him from his roles in "Covert Affairs" and "CSI: New York." He's also a best-selling author. His new book, "Letters to an Incarcerated Brother," is out this month.
It's good to have you here.
HILL HARPER, ACTOR: Great to be here.
COOPER: Do you think a tipping point has been reached in all this?
HARPER: I wouldn't say a tipping point. But to me, I'm more interested in the idea of decriminalization of marijuana than legalization, per se, the idea that don't need to -- we already have a mass incarceration crisis in this country.
We don't need to be locking people up, nonviolent drug offenders, for carrying small amounts of marijuana, just like to me we -- but do we want to legalize it? I'm not so sure about that. To me, it's akin to we don't want to put people in jail for running a red light, but we do want to put them in jail for DUIs.
And so it's about how much you're growing it, what type of institutions you're funding, for instance, organized crime with that type of drug activity vs. somebody on the street who gets stopped and frisked with five grams, 10 grams, whatever they're carrying of marijuana.
COOPER: I was just talking to a parent today who was saying, with all the talk of legalization, she's having trouble knowing what to say to her teenage kids...
SULLIVAN: The point of legalization is to keep this from kids. That's the critical point.
COOPER: But you think that makes it harder for kids to get it?
SULLIVAN: Yes, because right now it's very easy.
O'ROURKE: I have two teenage kids. SULLIVAN: And it puts them in touch with criminal elements in ways they don't have to be. It should be regulated, just like alcohol. And we should make a real effort to keep it from kids.
The only harm this drug does to anybody is to a developing adolescent brain. Right now, it is easy to get. A really good regulatory machine for legal marijuana will keep kids safe.
COOPER: Let me just also bring in CNN political commentator David Frum to the discussion. He's also a contributor for The Daily Beast and "Newsweek."
David, do you think kids will be targeted?
DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I agree completely with what Hill Harper just said about the importance of keeping people out of prison.
But, of course, the emerging marijuana industry -- and it will be an industry -- will, of course, target children, the same way that the cigarette industry did for many years, and in the same way that certain segments of the alcohol industry did.
Marijuana is one of those things no one is going to start doing when they're 30. If you don't start when you're 17, you're not going to start.
SULLIVAN: That's not true.
FRUM: The marijuana industry is going to know that and is going to act accordingly.
SULLIVAN: It's not true. Plenty of time use marijuana later in life to deal with a whole variety of illnesses, to deal with nausea, to deal with a whole variety of complaints that people have. So it's perfectly possible for an adult not to have smoked this in college but to go on in life and to decide it's going to help them get through a particularly vicious bout of chemo or it's going to help them with glaucoma or it's going to help them...
FRUM: Medical marijuana is different than legalization.
SULLIVAN: If it isn't legal you can't even experiment on it. You can't do tests on it. You can't actually find out its properties.
FRUM: There are a lot of folks who would disagree.
AMANPOUR: In Portugal, for instance, it's been -- marijuana has been decriminalized. Not legalized but decriminalized since 2001. And as a result, it is no longer there a major social issue. They treat it as a health issue, not a criminal issue, and it's become much more manageable.
In England, the U.K., which has pretty strict, you know, criminal laws, they are now almost never picking up people with small amounts of marijuana on them. The idea of arresting and prosecuting them is vanishing.
In Uruguay here in Latin America they've legalized it for years and years. Individuals can buy a certain amount, can grow a certain amount. But it's -- as an issue it has really gone down.
SULLIVAN: Where is the harm?
AMANPOUR: That's what I'm saying.
SULLIVAN: There's no social harm.
CASTELLANOS: Let's not go quite that far. There are a lot of -- a lot of folks in rehab. And their gateway drug was marijuana. It does happen. But I think the other...
CASTELLANOS: It's true. It's out there. But the other part of it is prohibition generally doesn't work.
AMANPOUR: Nor does the war on drugs work.
CASTELLANOS: Just because you want to leave that decision up to families and that responsibility to families doesn't mean you can give your 17-year-old...
O'ROURKE: Let's not forget we're talking about a drug that makes teenage boys drive slow. You know? There is an upside.
SULLIVAN: There are huge upsides. There's creativity. There's relaxation.
COOPER: The adolescent brain is -- that is a serious thing.
AMANPOUR: You have to be careful.
O'ROURKE: That's what I tell my kids.
AMANPOUR: There's no way, as a parent, I'm going to say, "Hey, you know, sweetheart, have a toke." I'm not going to say that to my teenager, whether it's decriminalized or not.
SULLIVAN: I said to my nephew, who asked me about this, I said, "Look, wait until you're out of college. Then enjoy it like you enjoy wine, like you enjoy all sorts of other things that make your life better."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should be very clear that more people die from tobacco and will continue to die from tobacco than they ever will from marijuana.
SULLIVAN: And alcohol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we're talking about health and safety...
SULLIVAN: Alcohol is far worse for people than marijuana. COOPER: David -- David, I know you want to come in.
FRUM: I wanted to suggest comparison here is not to alcohol but to the casino gambling industry. You know, it was the day before yesterday, the late '80s, when casino gambling was -- unless you were in Atlantic City or the state of Nevada, you couldn't do it. And now casino gambling has spread to, I think, the majority of the states. We take it for granted as a normal part of American society. And it's had huge social effects. Mostly concentrated, of course, on the bottom third of society.
When you think -- people assume marijuana of the future is going to be a handicraft industry. It is not. There are huge economies of scale. There are big profits. It is going to be a gigantic issue -- industry. It's going to look like -- it's going to look like the tobacco industry of the past.
SULLIVAN: What's wrong with that, David?
FRUM: Of course, it is going to target kids. Because Andrew, except for the two out of 100 people who may use it for medical reasons for a short period of their time, the profit, the value of this industry is going to be getting people to start when they're 17 and continue through life.
SULLIVAN: But why can't we regulate appeals to kids through advertising the way we do with tobacco and alcohol? Why are you treating this in a separate category when it really should be in the same general category except it's much more -- it's much more beneficial to people than alcohol or tobacco?
FRUM: Well, because one of the reasons it's going to be difficult to regulate is because there will be people on television saying things like it's beneficial to people. And that...
SULLIVAN: It is.
FRUM: It's just not.
SULLIVAN: It is extraordinary -- it's extraordinary for creativity. Relaxation.
AMANPOUR: The problem is the current stuff is pretty bad.
FRUM: Where is it in the hierarchy of harms? It may not -- it may not be as harmful as tobacco. It may not be as harmful as heroin. But it -- it's clearly harmful. As you said it impairs the development of the teenage brain. And...
COOPER: Let David finish.
FRUM: We're going to have -- the question we all are going to have -- we're going to discover in ten years or 12 when this industry takes place, it is going to be like the casinos. We do not now look back at the harm that legalized casino gambling, slot machines have done, but they've done enormous harm concentrated on the bottom third of society. And because we're very good at ignoring the bottom third of society...
SULLIVAN: What harm does marijuana do to the adult brain, David? What harm?
FRUM: We are going to see people smoking marijuana heavily, becoming dependent on it, having traffic accidents.
SULLIVAN: You still haven't said what harm. Tell me the harm.
FRUM: It's a -- it's a psychotropic drug. It affects the processes of the brain.
SULLIVAN: Yes. Why shouldn't that be a good thing? Don't people -- haven't people throughout history enjoyed a glass of wine that has a similar kind of effect on the brain, because it relaxes them?
FRUM: It's not a glass of wine.
SULLIVAN: How many -- how many jazz musicians have created beautiful music through this drug?
AMANPOUR: Andrew, some of the modern stuff, some of the stuff that's out there now is much worse than what you and I knew about when we were younger.
SULLIVAN: It is much stronger. What's the matter?
AMANPOUR: It's much stronger.
COOPER: Let's take a quick break. We'll continue the discussion about marijuana when we come back. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Welcome back. Like any conversation involving marijuana it tends to spread out a little. We're back with the panel: P.J. O'Rourke, Hill Harper, Andrew Sullivan, Christiane Amanpour, Alex Castellanos. Also David Frum is joining us, political commentator.
CASTELLANOS: Are we off track?
COOPER: I mean, this -- if it is more accessible, if it is legalized, more adults are able to use it. Doesn't -- by extension won't it spread down to kids? If more adults have access to it.
SULLIVAN: Right now it's spreading out from kids to adults. Better for it to be controlled in a legal, regulated regimen like alcohol, in which the adults can use it responsibly and tell their kids, "Wait until you're grown up to do this." And after you have really strong laws to prevent use by teenagers. And you can do that, and they are doing that in Colorado. And they're making real progress.
COOPER: That's like adults saying to kids, "Wait; don't drink alcohol." You know, we're drinking wine every night at dinner, having beers or vodkas when we get home, but don't do it yourselves. That's a hard message to tell kids.
SULLIVAN: That's what parents told kids forever.
COOPER: Did it work? Did you listen?
O'ROURKE: I listened. My parents...
AMANPOUR: What do you talk about? What do you tell your teenagers?
O'ROURKE: I actually did -- I actually went through -- no, I said, "Oh, daddy, that picture of daddy with his hair? He was in a folk music. We did a lot of folk masses. He was in a band."
AMANPOUR: What do you tell them about their brain chemistry?
O'ROURKE: I lie.
AMANPOUR: But what do you tell them about their brain chemistry?
O'ROURKE: Oh, no, but I do. My two teenage daughters, as far as I know they've actually listened to me, maybe for the first time ever. I said, "We really don't know. We are very concerned about what psychotropic drugs do to developing brain chemistry. And we do know the brain chemistry isn't developed until early 20s, perhaps." So I said, "I'd really like you to stay away from that." I mean I didn't go quite so far as to say, "If you have to sneak a beer OK." But I said, "I'd really like you to say away from anything psychoactive."
COOPER: As a kid, though, when you were a teenager when an adult told you that your brain was still developing and you can't make decisions the way adults can, did you buy that? Do any kids buy that?
O'ROURKE: No, our parents were so -- I can't speak for yours, but my parents were such liars about everything. Sex, drugs, rock and roll.
SULLIVAN: What makes marijuana uncool for kids is their parents smoking it. Or...
O'ROURKE: Good plan, actually.
SULLIVAN: It's the one thing that will kill off its allure, if that's what you care about.
HARPER: I want to say something. This is somewhat of kind of an elitist discussion about this topic. Because, you know, let's be very clear. If you legalize marijuana in the way that alcohol is and you make it basically a for-profit industry that companies can go for, what they will do is first of all, just like malt liquor, they will target the lowest-income urban areas. Target them and try to get them hooked.
And what they will continue to do is -- I mean, you know, drive through certain communities, there are no ads for Colt 45. Drive through certain communities, there's a billboard on every corner. So we can talk about it from we teach our kids this and we do this. But the real harm will happen to the poorest among us.
HARPER: The bottom one-third.
HARPER: And it will harm.
SULLIVAN: What harm?
HARPER: What harm is getting people addicted to a drug?
SULLIVAN: It's not addictive.
HARPER: It is. It is addictive.
You're advertised to and you're told what's the harm.
COOPER: Will that affect people's initiative? It doesn't just have people sitting around being bored?
CASTELLANOS: Makes you lazy.
SULLIVAN: Well, makes you lazy. That's a very puritanical version of where we should live. I mean, I don't think, if it helps you to listen to music well, if it helps people appreciate nature. If it helps people chill out.
HARPER: Does it help people get a job in areas where it's 30, 40 percent unemployment? That's the question. Does it help people pay the rent? Does it help people feed their children in these communities where they're locking up 60 to 70 percent...
FRUM: Andrew, it's not like this has not been studied massively. I mean, we know young people, and older people, too, who smoke a lot of marijuana do worse in school, do worse at work.
And Hill is exactly right. That is exactly the point of view we need to take on this.
COOPER: Let him finish.
FRUM: What -- we don't want to send more people to jail. We especially don't want to send young more minority people to jail. We want to find other paths and other methods to divert people away from drugs.
But we cannot say, especially at a time when unemployment -- unemployment is so high, we can't give you a job. We can't give you a start in life, but here, we've got legal pot and, oh, by the way, slot machines, too. It's like a last scene -- it's like the last scene of "It's a Wonderful Life," this dystopian version. We ought to be offering people the possibility of work and life, not zone out with drugs and gambling.
SULLIVAN: But it's not either or. No one is saying zone out on pot and gambling and drink. No one's saying that. They're saying that this can be part of a balanced life and that those people are capable of making their own decisions about their lives.
I find the way in which we're condescending to people, as if they can't make their own choices about this, if they haven't made those choices and have lived with it.
HARPER: It's very difficult to have a balanced life if you can't get a job, if you live in an area where the public school system is defunct, when the fact that you have a 60 to 70 percent dropout rate of African-American and Latino young men and almost a matching incarceration rate in those same communities.
And so we can sit back and say, you know, let these people make choices. And you're right. Give them options of actually having a good school system. Give them options of actually having opportunity to be employed, rather than saying, we -- you don't have opportunities for that stuff, but you've got a great option for great weed on the corner.
SULLIVAN: That's a straw man.
AMANPOUR: Why is it a straw man?
SULLIVAN: It is totally a straw man. Of course we should emphasize public education. And of course we should invest in jobs. Of course we should do those things.
AMANPOUR: That's not happening.
SULLIVAN: There is nothing wrong with occasional pleasure. What is wrong with pleasure?
HARPER: I agree with you. There's nothing wrong with pleasure. But the best pleasure I think is getting a paycheck and feeding your family.
SULLIVAN: I'm sorry. But that is a great thing.
O'ROURKE: There is a middle way here. With you too, David, I think we have to legalize it. Because really, it has become so pervasive in our society it's a moot point. And this is ridiculous to be jailing people for it.
FRUM: Completely agree. O'ROURKE: But I also think we have to face up to the fact that legalization or indeed decriminalization or even extensive medical marijuana, I've got a bumper sticker idea. "Medical marijuana makes me sick."
Any undertaking, there will be social costs. We will have to pay social costs for removing the taboos, whether they're legal or social or whatever, against these drugs.
FRUM: But P.J., you and I are not going to pay those social costs. We're going to get the social benefit.
O'ROURKE: No, we're not. Depending on what our kids do we might actually.
FRUM: Here's the plan. The plan is states struggling with the costs of Medicaid, who find it impossible to raise taxes on people like you and me, are going to, just as they raised revenues from gambling, are going to now raise -- some of them are looking at very positively at marijuana as a source of revenue.
O'ROURKE: Colorado obviously.
FRUM: That's right. And who's going to pay those taxes? If you can't -- it is going to be another one of the examples of an increasingly regressive turn in local state finance.
I hate to sound like a lefty about this. I'm not a lefty. But this is one of those things that could make you a lefty. because it is an example of everything that is wrong with our American society works in the 20th century.
O'ROURKE: These are taxes that are regressive taxes. They are taxes on the poor.
SULLIVAN: The truth, David, is that marijuana is now used by the middle classes en masse.
FRUM: Not often. Not regularly.
SULLIVAN: You're wrong. It is very widespread. The president -- current president of the United States smoked more pot in his teenage years than any human being.
O'ROURKE: That explains it.
SULLIVAN: He was the head of the chew gang. So was the last president. It's true. So is Michael -- it's true. Just read David Maris's book. Or Michael Phelps, for example, the Olympic swimmer, who's also -- the truth is all these things are myths about the harms of this drug. And...
FRUM: You're double messaging. If this thing is so positive, by all means -- you want to control it, and yet one of problems we're going to have is we have marijuana advocates who are not describing it as a necessary evil or something that's difficult to regulate but more like you, they're celebrating it.
SULLIVAN: I am.
FRUM: Now you're going to turn around and tell people don't do it?
SULLIVAN: No. I'm saying kids should not do it.
FRUM: You're celebrating that you're going to have a lot of people doing it.
SULLIVAN: Kids should not do it. But other people should have that choice like they have a choice to drink, like they have the choice to listen to music, they have the choice to chill out, they have the choice to binge watch Netflix. Any number of things could lead to sitting on the couch all day. We don't ban them or make them illegal.
This thing, which is also a prompt for creative thinking, for extraordinary lives, for saving people's lives, should not be put in a different category than the other things.
COOPER: We've got to stop it there. It's a good discussion, and we'll have it again. David Frum, appreciate it.
Up next, stories you might have missed. I'll ask the panel "What's Your Story?" We'll be right back.
COOPER: Time now for "What's Your Story?" where the panel shares a news item that caught their eye. Andrew, what's your story?
SULLIVAN: I just think it's remarkable that yesterday Illinois became another state to have marriage equality, and almost no one noticed. A huge state. This question is over.
O'ROURKE: I agree. I agree.
COOPER: Hill, what's your story?
HARPER: At the beginning of this show you guys were talking about the politics of division. And how divided we are. And I'm reminded of Dr. King's quote, one of my favorite. He said, "We are all tied together in a garment of mutual destiny," and that's all of us, no matter gay, straight, black, white, rich, poor.
And we have to figure out a way the Constitution is one of the greatest documents of compromise in history. We have to find a way to work together or we'll continue to see our country just start to crumble in a way that we don't want that to happen. All of us are in this together. Let's solve some -- let's get some solutions.
COOPER: You don't hear that very much in D.C. these days.
HARPER: No. Not at all. COOPER: Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Well, in that vein, I was struck by a picture of Pope Francis I in the weekly audience today. He's traveling around in his Popemobile. He gets out, because he sees a horribly disfigured person. I mean, look at the picture. I hope we have it. He hugs the person. All these boils all over his face.
COOPER: Picture is on there now.
AMANPOUR: Unbelievable. And he goes and kisses him. And it reminded me immediately of the gospels when they talk about Jesus cleansing the leper. And I just couldn't really believe what I was seeing.
And Pope Francis is pretty amazing. He's even put out a new survey. We've been talking about all the social issues tonight. He's asking Roman Catholics around the world on their views on marriage or other issues, homosexuality, same-sex unions, all these social issues. I mean, it really is an amazing human moment that the Catholic Church hasn't seen for a long time.
SULLIVAN: St. Francis was known by going and kissing a leper.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. Exactly.
CASTELLANOS: Servant leadership would be such a great lesson in Washington.
COOPER: Alex, what's your story?
CASTELLANOS: Oh, gosh. On a less serious note, Joe Biden, the always amusing vice president, calls up the new mayor of Boston. Martin Walsh, I think it is. "Marty, congratulations." And it's the wrong Marty. It's Marty the consultant, not Marty the mayor.
However, Joe Biden, the most -- whether you laugh at him on occasion; I think we all have -- the most loyal guy in Washington. Loyal to this president. And this week we read "Double Down," the book where they considered yanking the rug out from Joe Biden. His loyalty was not paid in kind.
COOPER: P.J., what's your story?
O'ROURKE: I've just been watching John Kerry wander around the Middle East sort of sending mixed personal relationship messages to everybody. He's been like the bad boyfriend for the entire Middle East. You know? "No, really, we're in a committed relationship. We just have some few issues. I'm not criticizing you as a person. I'm just criticizing certain behaviors that you have."
AMANPOUR: In Saudi Arabia.
O'ROURKE: And Egypt. I don't know what's going on with him.
COOPER: We've got to end it there. It's great to have you both as guests on the program. You've got to come back.
O'ROURKE: Thank you. Love to.
COOPER: Thank you very much. To all my panel, thank you very much.
That does it for this edition of AC 360 LATER. Thanks for watching. We'll see you tomorrow night.