Transcripts: Traffic Screenwriter Stephen Gahagan

Transcripts: Traffic Screenwriter Stephen Gahagan
Posted by FoM on February 21, 2001 at 09:29:43 PT
This is an Unedited, Uncorrected Transcript
Source: ABCNews
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Stephen Gahagan kicks off the This Week Round Table discussion.COKIE ROBERTS The drug war is back in the news and not just because of President Bush’s trip to Mexico. Members of Congress are questioning drug policy because they’ve seen the movie “Traffic.” Just this week the screenwriter Stephen Gaghan was nominated for an Oscar, and our George Stephanopoulos sat down with him for a discussion about the growing drug epidemic in America.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABCNEWS (VO) Stephen Gaghan is wary of being a screenwriter on a soap box. But when it comes to the drug war, he can’t help sounding like a man on a mission.STEPHEN GAGHAN We’ve just filled up our prisons. I mean, they’re just full. We build more and we fill them up. And I hope that—I hope that we sort of turn the spotlight from the kind of sanctimonious voices that don’t have problems with addiction and don’t have problems with drugs. I hope we turn the spotlight sort of to the people who are actually suffering from the problem.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (VO) Until 1997, Gaghan was one of them. Like his character Caroline Wakefield, he was a smart student and star athlete from a private school who went from booze and pot to cocaine and heroin. To research “Traffic,” he also traveled from the drug war’s front lines along the Mexican border to its command centers back in the Capitol.STEPHEN GAGHAN I met very highly placed officials in Washington who basically said to me, ‘You know, off the record, this is B.S. It’s B.S. I’ve dedicated eight years of my life to this stuff and I feel like I disappeared down a rat hole. How did I get into this stupid war on drugs?’ I heard that 50—I heard it so many times I can’t even tell you from people who then have to go out and do a press conference and go, ‘Yeah, we’re winning the war on drugs, buddy.’ And I just felt for them. That felt like what it seemed like to be an addict. The same problems. You’re stuck in some system, you can’t get out of it, you don’t know what to do. You don’t know how you got there. You don’t know where retreat is.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (VO) That futility is “Traffic“‘s theme. The reality facing drug czar Robert Wakefield from his first days on the job.(Clip from “Traffic” shown courtesy of USA Films)STEPHEN GAGHAN You ask for new ideas. You—you’ve met with this just, I don’t know, you know?GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS But do they not know and don’t—or do they not say?STEPHEN GAGHAN You know, we have so polarized the semantics of this debate that to say legalization out loud brands you a revolutionary. It brand—even to try it, you know, let’s do a test case somewhere and see what happens. Take a small place, try decriminalizing it, making it legal, giving it to the addicts, see what happens, open a dialogue, tax it, use the money for the treatment programs. I...GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS But if you break the law while you’re on drugs, put the hammer...STEPHEN GAGHAN You break the law while you’re on drugs, throw the hammer down. You commit a violent crime on drugs, lock them up.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (VO) Gaghan also supports clean needle and methadone programs. In initiatives like California’s Proposition 36, to provide treatment instead of jail for drug offenders. ‘But more important than any single reform,’ he says, ‘is replacing the rhetoric of war with an ethic of compassion.’STEPHEN GAGHAN And it’s impossible to explain this to, you know, William Bennett. I know everybody thinks he’s, you know, he’s a great guy. He’s done right. You know, he set the tone for this thing, which was everybody’s a criminal. But the net effect of that, the real effect is that people who are marginal, people who could be saved, people who are crying out for help are afraid to, because they’re afraid they’ll be branded. I think these people stay in the dark shadows. When, if we had a sort of more accepting system, accepting rhetoric, ‘You’re not a criminal. You have a health care problem.’ It’s easy to raise your hand and say, ‘Hey, I have a health care problem. I need some help,’ than to say, ‘Hey, I’m a criminal. I need some jail.’This Week Round TableGEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Now Cokie, Bennett, the former drug czar and Gaghan were sparring for several weeks and Bennett actually comes back this morning in the Washington Post with his Op-Ed on the real lessons on the drug war. What he takes issue with is this idea that stigmatizing drug use makes it worse. And he says that sometimes having a criminal sanction will strike fear into the hearts of people who don’t want to get arrested. But I do think there’s some common ground here. And it’s around the idea of treatment, particularly the way it’s done in drug courts. First time offenders get treatment instead of prison, but the judges have this authority if the people don’t follow treatment to put them back in jail.COKIE ROBERTS Joining us here, of course, is George Will who, and I would suspect you don’t agree with all of that.GEORGE WILL, ABCNEWS Well, first of all, it should be pointed out that Mr. Gaghan, himself, says that he began to get straight when, on one weekend, his three primary de—drug dealers were arrested. So enforcement does matter in a case like this. Look, we all know that the lines have crossed in an ominous way. Drug seizures going up, but the street price of drug going down for 20 years, which indicates that fighting it on the supply side isn’t working and a $50 billion suction from this country is destabilizing Latin America.But where I disagree with Mr. Gaghan is in saying that this is a health care problem. One of the problems in our country is to medicalize moral failure. And in fact, this is not like the flu, this is a series of dangerous choices.COKIE ROBERTS But wait...GEORGE WILL And Bill...GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS George, it’s not fair, not for people who have a hard-core addiction problem, they cannot break it. It’s not by choice anymore. For most people it is, but not for everyone.GEORGE WILL Not anymore. But it all starts with the first time and the first time is apt to be prevented if you have a strong moral position against it, stigmatized by the law to paraphrase a famous slogan, “Just say no.”SAM DONALDSON But often moral failure can’t be enforced by the law. I know we do in some cases, but I walk the fence here. How we decriminalize for the user, it’s called recreational—apply anyway—but we should still try for the pushers, for the people who do prey on the user by bringing it in to make them criminals.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS And—and even those who have started the “Just Say No” program. Remember the big DARE education program, you go in, send police into—into elementary schools and tell them all the dangers of drug use. This week, everyone admits it doesn’t work. We have to shift to focusing on older kids and having just more discussion about the drug use, not lecturing.COKIE ROBERTS But—but we have found that drug education makes a difference.GEORGE WILL Yeah, it makes an enormous difference.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS The kind of education makes a difference though. You have to have people role-playing, not just the lecture too.GEORGE WILL But it’s moral education as well. And it’s moral education buttressed by a law that stigmatizes the use. There are two other points in which Mr.—Mr. Gaghan is just wrong. The first is, our prisons are not largely full of non-violent, small drug offenders, it’s just not true. Second, it is not true that it takes heroism to be a lonely dissenter and fav—favor decriminalization. A Nobel Prize economist does, Milton Friedman, a former secretary of state, George Schultz, does.SAM DONALDSON When it comes to a health problem...COKIE ROBERTS But, wait a second. On your first...SAM DONALDSON When it comes to a health problem, cigarettes cause more deaths in this country than drugs do. And of course, we still allow that and we don’t say that someone has a moral lapse, we try to use educational methods to get rid of the habit.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Just one point. Sixty to 70 percent of the people in prisons have evidence of drug use when they go in or when they’re committing a crime, it’s why we have to address it.GEORGE WILL But, that’s not why they’re in jail.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS And one of the reasons that everybody’s taking a look at it, cause even Republican are. Governor George Pataki of New York was saying we have to look at these Rockefeller drug laws that have just criminalized first-time offenders.GEORGE WILL They—there is one thing to say. There is drug involvement in many crimes. It’s another thing to say that the crime is drug involvement.COKIE ROBERTS OK, we’re not going to solve it today. And we’re going to have a lot of other issues to talk about as we continue our ROUNDTABLE when we come back.(Commercial break)ANNOUNCER This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts will continue in a moment, after this from our ABC stations.(Commercial break)SAM DONALDSON Well, we’re back with more of our ROUNDTABLE, and as you’ve heard, we give our strong opinions here. Take them for whatever you think they’re worth.So George Will, you are a superior submarine driver?GEORGE WILL Yes, I am. Several submarines.COKIE ROBERTS Several submarines?GEORGE WILL Didn’t hit any boats either.SAM DONALDSON Well, that’s a good thing. All right. Let’s got to the topic of the morning. President Clinton has defended his pardon, explained his pardon, you’ve read the Op-Ed piece.What do you think, George?GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS It’s the best he can do, but it’s not good enough. I mean, he still can’t answer the fundamental question. Even if you say he had a legitimate case, well, if he had a legit—gitimate case, why didn’t Marc Rich come back and face the indictment and beat it in court? Secondly, it’s interesting, you know, President Clinton’s getting a lot of advice from advisers to go even farther than he went in the—in the Op-Ed today and basically said, ‘Listen, I made a mistake. It was bad judgment, but it was not trading—trading a pardon for money.’ But he wasn’t going to go that far, he figured it would—it wouldn’t end it, and all he could do was take responsibility.GEORGE WILL Well, as a fully paid up, card carrying member of the vast right wing conspiracy, let me say this, I believe the president on one point and that is that this was not for past favors. I think it’s reasonable to suppose that there was a payment made for this in particular, and we’ll just wait and see if it ever comes out.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Well, how—how would you ever know...SAM DONALDSON Payment, what do you mean, payment for what? Future favors?GEORGE WILL That’s very difficult. I mean, the president says you’ll never find any evidence of wrongdoing. I believe that finding the evidence will be very difficult.SAM DONALDSON Well, we’d have to have a tape recording or a videotape of someone saying, ‘Here’s the money for the pardon.’ And someone saying, ‘Here’s the pardon for the money.’GEORGE WILL What I’m say—I’m disagreeing with Joe Biden. Joe Biden—Senator Biden says, ‘The president must have been brain dead to have done this.’ No, I think the president was in regular form.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Of course, you have no evidence of that. You have no evidence that he had any expectation to get something later.GEORGE WILL The only evidence...COKIE ROBERTS But that’s why investigation makes a certain amount of sense, is to look for evidence. That’s what investigations do and that’s what congressional inquiries do.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Well, con...COKIE ROBERTS It says to look for evidence. Well, obviously, congressional inquiries...GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS I don’t know about congressional inquiries.COKIE ROBERTS ...also look for headlines, but the—but that is the point of pursuing it. It’s not to persecute Bill Clinton.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS You have no argument from me on that.GEORGE WILL The same Op-Ed piece this morning, he says ‘this was the result of extensive weighing, but I do wish we hadn’t asked Mr. Holder to do this at the last moment.’GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS All of his actions here betray—show that he knew he was doing something wrong. That’s why he didn’t call Mary Jo White.COKIE ROBERTS Right.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS That’s why he went around the staff, he knows it.SAM DONALDSON What about this Israeli connection. I mean, the president never has said it was a—something had to do with the peace process, but he stepped up very close to saying it was a foreign policy consideration before today’s Op-Ed piece, when he doesn’t say that. Well, was there any foreign policy...COKIE ROBERTS Well, if they’re going to do that, why not Jonathan Pollard? If—if—if he was going to really please the Israelis, wouldn’t he do—done better with Pollard?GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Well, that’s part of it. He couldn’t do Jonathan Pollard, Barak was asking for both. He was asking for Rich, he was asking for Pollard. Rich has given away a lot of money for philanthropic organizations in Israel, maybe even to the (unintelligible) party.SAM DONALDSON But—but, the president...GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS So this is consolation prize.SAM DONALDSON But the president did, importantly, was that this appeal from Israel. They didn’t appeal for Pincus Green apparently. I mean, what was the Pincus Green part of it?GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Well, they’re tied together.SAM DONALDSON OK, tied together. What does this do for the Democratic Party? I mean the Democrats are...COKIE ROBERTS For the Democratic Party?SAM DONALDSON The Democrats...COKIE ROBERTS Against the Democratic Party, a good bid.SAM DONALDSON The Democrats are trying to move ahead, obviously. Get themselves together after the election. And—and at first, Mr. Clinton’s rules ought to be very big and very important. What about now, George?GEORGE WILL I think it’s still very big and very important.SAM DONALDSON But in what way?GEORGE WILL Well, I—I think they’re having trouble getting out from under the shadow of that great tree, and in the shadow of that great tree, nothing’s going to grow.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Well, but—except, this probably helps Bush more than it hurts the Democrats. I mean, the Democrats have been in lockstep against the pardon, but look at what happened this week. This week, Rod Paige, Bush’s education secretary, gets—goes to the committee, gets pasted up because he doesn’t have the funding for his education plan. Model Republicans, Jeffords, Chafee, Specter, Snow, all question the Bush tax plan. Charles Grassley says his Medicare plan is dead. It gets no attention because Clinton’s on the cover of both magazines.COKIE ROBERTS Well, that’s true. But on the other hand, his attempts to push his tax bill and all that get no attention either and there is also...GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Not a bad trade-off.COKIE ROBERTS ...the possibility that people are now going to look even more closely at the question—(to George Will) your favorite issue—money in politics, which neither party wants very much of. And particularly, I think that there—that’s just something that’s a total distraction for George Bush.SAM DONALDSON President Bush says publicly, ‘Let’s move on,’ talking about Mr. Clinton. And a lot of people suspect he says that as good cop publicly, whereas the bad cop would be very pleased with it.COKIE ROBERTS I actually don’t believe that. I think that—I think—and he did later clarify and say, ‘I certainly don’t mean the Justice Department and all that.’SAM DONALDSON Yeah.COKIE ROBERTS The—the—the US attorney should do what she wants to do. But, I think that he learned during the campaign that there really was this upset with Washington.SAM DONALDSON Mm-hmm.COKIE ROBERTS And that seeing Arlen Specter and Dan Burton starting to hold hearings again is exactly what makes people crazy...GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS But that...COKIE ROBERTS ...and I think that he—he does want to stop that.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS That may be for him, personally, but there are an awful lot of Republicans fueling this. And they—they—in fact, Bush went—had to backtrack a little the last few days because early on they were pushing the vandalism stories. They were pushing that people robbed stuff from on the last trip from Air Force One. And now they’ve backed away from that.SAM DONALDSON What about the VRWC, vast right wing conspiracy, of which you claim to be a chartered member, are you pushing this?GEORGE WILL Not personally, no. And—and I really do believe Cokie’s right, that the president feels that the best thing he can do, that will earn the most gratitude from the American people is to have a more civil Washington. Ninety-nine percent of the damage that’s been done to president—that is going to be done, has been done by the president. Now that—we can move on.SAM DONALDSON All right. Two presidents met in Mexico in the city of Leon, Bush and Vicente Fox, but the subject was the bombing of radar and missile—not missile, but radar and aircraft sites around Baghdad. What about the bombing? And what about the location for announcing it?GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Well, it—it wasn’t routine. It was the first one authorized by President Bush, and the first one of this kind, really, in two years. But it’s—it’s not a new strategy. And I think that it really is time, I would say, to lift the economic sanctions. Yes, Saddam manipulates them, yes, he siphons money off, but it’s clear that they don’t work and it’s clear that the people who have been punished most are the Iraqi children. Lift the economic sanctions, tighten the military ones.GEORGE WILL But sanctions are hopelessly porous, the inspections for weapons of mass destruction are hopeless, particularly if—if they send in the people they’re now thinking of sending in. We have to understand we have two great problems over the horizon. One is the emergence of China, and the other is the emergence of Iran or Iraq or both as nuclear powers. I happen to think the latter is more important than the emergence of China because it’s more proximate as a real menace to the United States. We have to now start thinking in terms of nuclear deterrence in the Middle East.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS We...SAM DONALDSON As far as the bombing goes, you say it’s routine and, yet, the Bush administration is happy to have it said that—that a message is being sent to Saddam. That this is a tighter policy than the previous administration.COKIE ROBERTS Well, and it’s—it’s there in Baghdad. It is, you know, even though—they say the planes didn’t go out of the no-fly zone, the weapons did. I do think they want to send a signal to Saddam, certainly. Bush is a new president. You always have testings of new presidents. And they want to send a signal, but the question of the long-term policy is the real question, and I think it’s going to start being discussed.GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS It also comes at a perilous time. What happened Friday night in the West Bank in Israel? Hundreds of Palestinians go to the street inflamed by the retaliation. There no reason—that’s not a reason not to do it, but right now the tensions have been rising in the Middle East. It’s dangerous.SAM DONALDSON You had the last word, George. See you all next week. Thank you very much, everyone.And Cokie and I will be back in just a moment.(Commercial break)COKIE ROBERTS Now, here’s a look at what’s coming up from ABCNEWS.ANNOUNCER From ABCNEWS. Tonight on “World News Tonight Sunday,” are you all washed up at work at 40? Some Hollywood writers say it happened to them. Is there ageism behind the camera? And tomorrow on “Good Morning America,” millions have them, but what happens when a medical device is recalled and it’s in your body? Why thousands of patients may have to go back to the OR. And on “World News Tonight” with Peter Jennings, if experience comes one day at a time, then why should you be forced to retire? Stay with ABCNEWS, now always on.COKIE ROBERTS Always on the Internet, but, Sam, my friends and relatives tell me they can’t always find you.SAM DONALDSON It’s tough. Read my lips, folks, You plug that into the World Wide Web and up will come a show on genetically engineered foods. Are they good for us? Hey, you’ll find out. Note: Prepared by Burrelle’s Information Services, which takes sole responsibility for accuracy of transcription. Source: ABC NewsTranscripts: Sunday, February 18, 2001 Copyright: 2001 ABC News Internet Ventures. Website: Articles - Traffic
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Comment #3 posted by nl5x on February 21, 2001 at 15:42:29 PT
some people just don't get it
First let me address the main ant argument that has been popping up lately.GEORGE WILL, ABCNEWS "Well, first of all, it should be pointed out that Mr. Gaghan, himself, says that he began to get straight when, on one weekend, his three primary de—drug dealers were arrested. So enforcement does matter in a case like this." bennet used the same line in his op-ed.What I think that gaghan was saying was if he was not stigmatized as a drug criminal and not threatened with jail he would have sought treatment (if he could get in) long before he got so deep into addiction and long before his dealers got busted, but he was scared of being labeled a drug criminal and facing jail if he was to fail a drug test etc..The above argument reminds me of the cops/narcs saying that they will not be able to fight drug's if we take the asset forfeiture money from them and give it all to treatment.More treatment = less drug's = less cops/narks.In other words if we spend the money on treatment we will not need as many cops running around arresting people and violating their rights.
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Comment #2 posted by schmeff c. on February 21, 2001 at 11:58:04 PT
Drug Use Immoral
Notice that GW had no comeback for Sam's comment about not considering tobacco smokers immoral. I can't figure out where George W's stance that drug use is immoral comes from. Obviously, it is not true just because he says it is true. What is the higher authority that proves his point?I can hardly believe that the Catholic Church would install such an immoral act as a sacrament. But of course, they do use alcohol as part of their religeous practice.
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on February 21, 2001 at 10:00:36 PT:
George Will
I don't consider George Will's opinion on the morality vs. illness issue too important. After all, this is the guy that has spent 35 years vilifying the '60's and everything that it represents. He also thinks that baseball is the ultimate culmination of Western philosophy and ideals. Here's the truth: Drugs are a medical issue, and should not be a political or legal issue unless second parties are harmed.
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