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Should Tom Ridge Testify Before Congress?; High School Drug Testing Generates Controversy

Aired March 19, 2002 - 19:30   ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He doesn't have to testify. He's a part of my staff, and that's part of the prerogative of the executive branch of government.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: What is it that he's doing that's so secret? What is it that he's doing that is -- that they don't want to share with us?


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Tonight, is it time for homeland security chief Tom Ridge to testify before Congress? And are the high school choir and math team the right targets in the war against drugs?

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak. In the crossfire, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California and Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida. And later, Graham Boy, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and Richard Samp of the Washington Legal Foundation.

NOVAK: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tom Ridge resigned as governor of Pennsylvania after the September 11th terrorist attacks and became President Bush's director of homeland security. Governor Ridge spent 12 years as a well-liked member of Congress, so he was not expected to be the focus of a power struggle between the executive and legislative branches. But he has.

Congress wants to grill Ridge about the $38 billion budget under his supervision. President Bush says, no, Tom Ridge is a presidential adviser, not a department head, and doesn't have to testify. Tension is rising. Yesterday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer accused Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of pushing for Ridge's testimony with too much vehemence. And Senator Daschle says that issuing a subpoena for Ridge's testimony is an option. Does Ridge have something to hide, as Daschle suggests? Or is the president just protecting the prerogatives of his office?

Bill Press?

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Congressman Mark Foley, fresh from presiding over the House of Representatives, where you looked, you know, positively, I don't know, speakerish up there.

REP. MARK FOLEY (R) FLORIDA: Thank you, Bill.

PRESS: But surely, you don't buy this White House spin that Tom Ridge is just another White House adviser. This is a guy who's responsible now for $38 billion in the president's budget. He gives news conferences every day, practically. He's got jurisdiction over 80 some government agencies. There are over 100 people on his staff. And then he says he doesn't want to talk to Congress and tell you how he's going to spend it. How can you defend that arrogance?

FOLEY: I don't think it's arrogant at all. He wants to be able to advise the president in a very close proximity to what he's learning while he goes through all of these delicate agencies: CIA, FBI and the various things that will bring a Homeland Security team together. He's well within the bounds of the law. The president said it. Janet Reno's opined in letters to Congress that you cannot subpoena a member, an adviser to the president. And so, I believe he's on firm ground.

PRESS: This is not just, I repeat, just an adviser to the president. He's a man -- there's $38 billion. Questions are going to come to him. Should that go to border patrol? Should that go to anti-bioterrorism? You know, should that go to the INS? He's deciding where the money is spent and you're letting him off the hook. Shame on you.

FOLEY: Well, I'm very proud of Tom Ridge, very proud of the job he's done. And of course, I'm ecstatic of the job President Bush has done. And if the Senate would back off a little bit and let him continue to do his work, I don't think there's a need for a Tom Daschle presidential campaign testimonial, if you will, on Capitol Hill.

NOVAK: On the question of Senator Daschle, Jane Harman, you're not known as a very partisan person. You're a loyal Democrat, but not a...

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Coming from you, Bob, that's a big compliment. Thank you.

NOVAK: Well, thank you. It was meant as a compliment. And so, I wonder if you would disassociate yourself from the suggestions by Senator Daschle, who is very partisan that because Tom Ridge doesn't want to testify, he probably has something to hide. You can disagree on whether he should, but you don't think he has something to hide, do you?

HARMAN: No, I don't. But let me say on behalf of California and the country. that we're going to miss Bill on this show after next week.

NOVAK: I will.

HARMAN: You've done a great job, Bill.

PRESS: You, too, Congressman, thank you.

HARMAN: On this point, we're having a fight because the concept of Ridge's job is flawed. That's what the problem is. Ridge has been named Director of the Office of Homeland Security, not just an adviser to the president. And if he's not the director, who is the director? Somebody needs to be accountable for the $38 billion Congress is being asked to spend on Homeland Security this year, twice what last year's budget was. That's what the problem is.

I don't think Ridge has anything to hide, but I want to know where the strategy is for Homeland Security. And if Ridge has it, I'd like to know what it is. And if someone else has it, I'd like that guy to come and tell us.

NOVAK: Well, now that you agree he has nothing to hide, I'd like to let you listen to very succinct explanation of why he shouldn't testify that was given on "THE CAPITAL GANG" program last night by the Deputy Democratic -- I'm sorry, the Deputy Republican leader of the Senate, Senator Don Nichols of Oklahoma. Let's listen to this.


SEN. DON NICHOLS (R), OKLAHOMA: Mr. Ridge is an adviser to the president. He's not cabinet secretary. Every cabinet secretary has been to the Hill many times. Actually, Mr. Ridge has been to the Hill many times. And I think the president's trying to say, wait a minute, there's a level you shouldn't be going here.


NOVAK: And isn't it a fact, Jane Harman, that Governor Ridge has testified with the Appropriations Committee in private. They just -- it's just that he doesn't want to have one of these public (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

HARMAN: Well, I'm against the circus atmosphere on the Hill. I'm not particularly partisan as you point out. But I think we need a strategy for Homeland Security. And I think the president is accountable for that. It is six months after September 11. The latest news is we may have this coordinated border agency, only because of the INS screwup last week, when it sent student visa notices for the dead pilots. That is outrageous. And I know Mark Foley agrees with me on that.

That flight school is right next to his district. But if it takes screwups in order to get action and we still have an ad hoc series of events called Homeland Security, that is inadequate. And that's the point I want to make. We need someone accountable, someone in charge.

I think that ought to be Tom Ridge. I think he needs cabinet status and the ability to move funds around, not just advise in which case after that, then he should come to the Hill and testify as a cabinet secretary.

PRESS: Congressman Foley, you know, I'm not going to let you get away with that parting cheap shot about Tom Daschle's presidential campaign.

FOLEY: Oh come on, Bill.

PRESS: Oh, I'm sorry, but it's not just Democrats who are saying that Tom Ridge should testify. I'd like you to listen, please, to one of the esteemed Republican members of the Senate from Nebraska. Here he is.


SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think it would be wise if the administration would allow Governor Ridge to come before the committee and talk. After all, the president has put an immense amount of responsibility in the hands of this man. And I think it would do well for our country, serve the purposes of the president to allow a very articulate, experienced Governor Ridge to explain what the president's mission is objective.


PRESS: So is that part of Chuck Hagel's presidential campaign, Mark?

FOLEY: It may be. And I...

PRESS: Oh, come on!

FOLEY: I appreciate Chuck Hagel's point. But let me just say this, Bill. It's very, very important in the early phases of what he's been charged to do is to kind of go through these agencies and find flaws, find weakness, make recommendations to the president. If he becomes a cabinet secretary, he's on par with the rest of them. He's no longer a special agent, if you will, for the president, trying to reform these agencies. So I just think it's important to give him a chance to do it. He's testified before individual senators.

HARMAN: Then let's name a new Director of Homeland Security. And let's put that person in a position to develop a strategy, do a national threat assessment, develop a strategy, and implement the strategy. My candidate for that position is Tom Ridge. He's very well qualified. I like the guy. He's got good relationships with the president and with Congress. And he's working his tail off, but he has no power. And this is a fight about a flawed concept of the job that he holds.

FOLEY: I disagree he has no power. I think he's got a lot of power. And it's been vested in him by the president. He's a senior member of the president's team. The president's dispatched him to look at the troubled spots in this nation. And I think Tom Ridge will report back. And ultimately, I bet Jane he will, in fact, come and testify at some point.

NOVAK: Congresswoman Harman, before we're almost out of time, but before we finish, I think we have to tell what this -- how this all started. Senator Robert Byrd was part of his whole plan to move the government from Washington, D.C. to West Virginia, wants to establish the Robert C. Byrd Anti-terrorist Training Center in Camp Dawson, West Virginia. They've been building a runway there. They've been putting money in quietly. And he wants to, as he can do, he wants to brow beat Tom Ridge. Tom Ridge has offered to go privately and talk to Senator Byrd, but he wants a public confrontation. Isn't that what's going on?

HARMAN: Well, I don't think Senator Byrd's running for president, Bob. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: He's running for king.

HARMAN: But Senator Stevens joined in the request to have, so far as I know, Ridge testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee to justify $38 billion. Somebody should be justifying that money. It's not just in the ether. These are real dollars, important at a time of deficit spending and important because our homeland is not yet secure. We're vulnerable to a second wave of attacks. And we need a Homeland Security strategy now.

PRESS: All right, we trust you both to watch our money. Congressman Jane Harman, thank you for being here.

HARMAN: You take care, Bill.

PRESS: I will, indeed. And Congressman Mark Foley, thank you so much for joining us.

FOLEY: Thanks, Bill.

PRESS: And we're going to shift. And when we come back, in some school districts, signing up for after-school activities forces you to get tested for drugs. Are we just punishing kids for being good students? Get into drugs, next.


PRESS: And now CROSSFIRE round two. High school students are expected to be full of spunk, but one Oklahoma high school district started demanding random drug tests to see if they're full of anything else. The tests, now suspended pending a court challenge, were sprung on all students who go out for extracurricular activities. And not just sports, even the marching band, the school choir, and Future Farmers of America.

Outraged at being forced to pee in a bottle for nothing, students today took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, only to discover that the Bush administration was on the principle side. The ACLU sided with the students.

Tonight as a public service, we've agreed to help the court reach its decision by debating the issue first. For the school district and testing, Richard Samp, chief counsel of The Washington Legal Foundation for the students. And against testing, Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU's Drug Litigation Project.

Bob Novak? NOVAK: Graham Boyd, you were actually a lawyer, arguing the case before the Supreme Court today. And I don't know if you noticed in court, a woman named Sharon Smith whose daughter OD'd, died on a drug overdose of drugs. Let's listen to what Sharon Smith had to say.


SHARON SMITH, LOST CHILD TO DRUG ABUSE: And it's a deterrent, it's a positive deterrent. And parents need to know this. There are not signs. You can't tell. You can't tell. And a lot of times, you cannot tell until it's too late. And this is a tool that's effective for parents.


NOVAK: Isn't a mother's anguish a little more convincing than a liberal lawyer's arguments before the court?

GRAHAM BOYD, ACLU ATTORNEY: You know, I actually met her outside. And I've met other mothers in her situation. And this is what I would say. Drug abuse is a serious problem. And what we need to do is to be smart about it. It's not the ACLU saying this, it's the National Group of Pediatricians, teachers, social workers, drug treatment providers. They all say the best way to keep kids from dying from drugs is to get them involved in the choir or the marching band.

If you set up drug testing as a barrier, they're not going to do those activities. In Tecumseh, several kids quit. And that's the thing that can save them. That's the most effective way we can keep kids away from drugs is get them into those activities.

NOVAK: You know, Mr. Boyd, when you talk to the kids themselves, they very often -- I don't know if you ever talk to kids, but they very often say the only kids who really object strenuously to drug testing are the kids who are taking drugs. It's not the kids who aren't taking drugs. Isn't that a fact?

BOYD: You should have had Lindsay Earls on here, because you would've met her and would've seen, she's not a kid who takes drugs. She's a kid whose never used drugs, but who is very sincere about saying I want to be in these activities. She's at Dartmouth now because she was able to do the choir and the band and these other activities. And she said, why make me feel like a criminal? Why treat me like a criminal when I've done nothing wrong?

PRESS: Actually, let's bring Lindsay Earls on here right now. because to refute the absurd notion that kids who don't take -- that the only kids who don't want to be tested are those taking drugs. Here is Lindsay Earls in her own words.


LINDSAY EARLS, PLAINTIFF: Just because we're going to school doesn't give them the right to be able to just come in and take things from our bodies and make us prove that we're innocent of something before, you know, that we're not doing anyway.


PRESS: Why should this kid be forced the embarrassment of going into the bathroom with a teacher standing outside of the stall and having to pass urine, when she's done nothing wrong?

RICHARD SAMP, WASHINGTON LEGAL FOUNDATION: She has done nothing wrong. And if she doesn't do anything wrong, she continues to be participate in school. But the fact is, this is what the local parents and teachers in Oklahoma have decided is the best way to deal with what's a very serious problem. And who are the federal courts or the federal government to tell them that they can't do it? We hear from Mr. Boyd that there are experts in other parts of the country who would do it a different way. But this is Oklahoma's choice. And why shouldn't they be allowed to do it?

PRESS: Well, may I be so bold to suggest that there is a law that's higher than the Oklahoma school board or the principal. I'd like to refer you to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. I'm sure you've read it, which says, the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches.

Again, these are good students, no problems, no history of drug abuse, no reason to believe they're on drugs. If that's not an unreasonable search, what is?

SAMP: Reasonable is generally determined based on what goes on elsewhere. One of the plaintiffs in this case got a job. And to get her job, she had to have a drug test.

PRESS: It's not the government, sir. There's a big difference. That's not the government doing that test.

SAMP: That determines what is reasonable and what's not. If it's something that goes on all the time in your own doctor's office, why is it so unreasonable to do it in the schools, particularly if it's going to deter drug use?

NOVAK: Graham Boyd, Ted Olson, the Solicitor General of the United States arguing in court today, gave some startling statistics. You say that it's a big problem, but I want to emphasize, I knew what a big problem it is. This is the usage by students of drugs. We'll put it up on the screen; 54 percent of 12th graders have used illicit drugs, 46 percent of 10th graders, and 27 percent of 8th graders. Those are terrific figures.

And you know, over 20 years ago, Mr. Boyd, John Lamen, the Secretary of the Navy, faced enormous problem of illicit drug use in the Navy. He instituted mandatory testing and he wiped it out.

BOYD: Well, let me tell you about those numbers. They did the same survey -- to get those numbers, they did a survey nationally. The Tecumseh, Oklahoma results showed not 54 percent drug use, but 5 percent drug use. And when they talked to the teachers in this school, guess what they said about who was using the drugs? It's not the band. It's not the choir. It's not the students they're testing. This drug test -- let me tell you why they did do it. They said we have a little bit of a problem with the athletes. And the school board said we feel bad stigmatizing these poor athletes. Who else can we rope in?

And they said well, let's get the band, too. We think -- our lawyers tell us we might be able to get away with it. Now that's not a reason to say the Fourth Amendment doesn't matter.

NOVAK: Well, you know, I would say this. I don't really understand what -- why it is you say that it's okay for a football player to have to take a drug test and not for somebody in the choir? That's a privilege, too, being in the choir. Do you want drug users in the choir?

BOYD: Well, let me tell you this. I worked in the federal government in a job that wasn't safety sensitive at all. Now if I were a trained driver, an airplane pilot, doing something safety sensitive, you might drug test me. But something that involves filing papers, you shouldn't. The same thing is true...

NOVAK: Why not? What imposition is that on you?

BOYD: Because that is a principle of this democracy is that we are innocent until proven guilty and that we can't be searched. I mean, think of the people out there today. Do you want the police knocking on your door saying we hear there's some drug users here? We'd like you to put something in this cup.

NOVAK: Wouldn't bother me. Wouldn't bother me a bit. I don't use drugs.

PRESS: Here's what (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Mr. Samp. You know, I tell you, I was one of those goody-goody students in high school, all right. Solaziana (ph) High School, Wilmington, Delaware. I was editor of the school paper. I sang in the school musicals.

NOVAK: What happened?

PRESS: I was president of the student council. I was a member of the Debate Club. Yeah, all downhill since then. But you know, students like me, with this program, you're punishing them for being good. You're punishing them for giving up their time to take part in these extracurricular activities. Instead of going out and smoking drugs, they're doing this stuff. And they're the ones you go after. You're targeting the wrong people.

SAMP: You're rewarding them. You're saying to them, if...

PRESS: Wait a minute! Rewarding them?

SAMP: You can go out and participate in all these activities. All you need to do is go through a drug test. Now the fact is...


SAMP: Because we saw the figures up on the screen just a moment ago. It is a serious problem everywhere in this country, including in Oklahoma. And if you really came down to it, what people object to is the war on drugs. They don't mind all the other intrusive searches that we do in schools, searching for guns. But if you tell them to search for drugs, no.

PRESS: Well, as it pertains to the war on drugs, you're right about that.

NOVAK: OK. We're out of time, Graham Boyd, thank you very much. Mr. Samp, thank you very much.

Coming up next, a governor uses taxpayer money to fence in his new wife's tiny dogs. That and other bizarre little stories on CROSSFIRE news alert.


NOVAK: And now CROSSFIRE news alert, our look at the stranger side of the news. Maryland's Governor Parris Glendening has less than a year remaining of his eight years in office, and he is not wasting time. After getting rid of his wife of many years, Governor Glendening married his 35-year-old pregnant former aide. But her two little dogs kept slipping through the wrought iron fence surrounding the governor's mansion, so he used $5,000 in taxpayer funds to build a new fence. Maryland state spending is being slashed, with the budget nearly $1 billion in deficit, but I can appreciate Governor Glendening trying to keep his new wife happy.

PRESS: Oh. Well, not a good week for the Yates family. First, mother Andrea is found guilty of murdering her five children. And now father Rusty Yates is in trouble for not showing up for jury duty. Yes, he skipped town on Monday, not to attend his wife's formal sentencing, but to fly to New York to appear on the "Today" show and then fly to L.A. to yak with Larry King. Those who accuse Yates of not doing more to protect his kids from a troubled mother say that missing jury duty is not the first time Mr. Yates wasn't where he was supposed to be.

NOVAK: "The Washington Post" reported today on the reaction by teenagers of all backgrounds to the tragedy of September 11. They've adopted the terrorist attacks on America as comic slang, as in saying Osama, yo mama as an insult. Other examples: a messy bedroom is called ground zero. A mean teacher is referred to as such a terrorist. And if a student is disciplined, it was total jihad. Aren't we proud of the youth of America?

PRESS: Is that a burka you're wearing? And have you heard there's been another Boston massacre? This one, bloodless. It happened in the Republican primary for governor. Yesterday as expected, Salt Lake Olympics Chief Mit Romney said he was coming home to Massachusetts to run for governor, talk about political muscle, even before he announced his opponent, acting Governor Jane Swift, pulled a swift retreat and dropped out of the race. Her spin is she didn't want to divide state Republicans. The truth is, trailing Romney in the polls 75 to 12, she just didn't want to run and lose. For Jane Swift, back home to the kids. And for us, from the left, I'm Bill Press. Good-night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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