<I>FTN</i> Transcript - Mar. 26

face the nation logo, 2009
Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face The Nation, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talks about the Middle East and Russia. Plus we'll have the latest on the tobacco wars. President Clinton is in Geneva today, meeting with the President of Syria, Hafez Al-Assad. Will there be a breakthrough in the Middle East? And with new elections today, can the U.S. administration deal with the man most likely to be the new president of Russia, Vladimir Putin? We'll have those questions and more for the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

Then we'll turn to the tobacco wars. The Supreme Court ruled last week that the FDA cannot regulate tobacco products. What does this mean for the foes of the industry on the Hill? And to the tobacco industry? We'll talk to both sides, Congressman Henry Waxman of California and the vice president of Philip Morris, Steven Parrish. I'll have a final word on the return of Senator McCain to the Senate. But first the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Face The Nation.

And we begin this morning with the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who joins us from Geneva. Madam Secretary, we meet and talk this morning just as President Clinton and you prepare to meet with Hafez Al-Assad of Syria for some of the most - I think everyone would agree, some of the most important talks on the Middle East in recent memory. Talks aimed at returning the Golan Heights to Syria in return for new security arrangements for Israel.

What has to happen at this meeting today Madam Secretary?

Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State: Well, the meeting is really the president's effort to try to access the needs and positions of the Syrians as he has of the positions of the Israelis. We've spent a lot of time speaking with Prime Minister Barak in various settings to try to determine what Israel really needs in order to go forward with this. The president has not met with President Assad in some time. They've spoken on the phone, but he felt it was important to have a face to face meeting to try to make an assessment of where things are.

Obviously, it's the parties themselves that have to make the hard decisions and the president can do what he can to assess where the differences are. And in a conversation yesterday, the president said the distance between them is short, but the walk is hard. These are some very tough decisions that they have to make and today is a meeting which will try to bring them closer together.

Schieffer: Well, I asked this question, because earlier this morning National Security Advisor Sandy Berger said the differences between Israel and Syria may not be reconcilable. That sounds like an awfully downbeat assessment for these two men to have come so far for this very unusual meeting.

Albright: Well, I think those are the kinds of things we have to assess and you know, I think sometimes people thinyou don't have meetings like this unless you know exactly what is going to happen. Here, the president has - feels that it's important to try to have a personal assessment and see where things are and to take somewhat of a risk, I think, to see whether there is a way to reconcile differences. He - what is so interesting is that I think that President Clinton has the confidence both of Prime Minister Barak and of President Assad and that he has a role that he can play here because of that.

But, you know, the differences may not be reconcilable. We have to try to figure out whether they are, though.

Schieffer: Would you envision that if there is some kind of a deal and there is some sort of an arrangement that Syria would eventually be taken off the State Department's terrorist list?

Albright: Well, again, I don't want to predict this. I think that if they - if there is peace and Syria is not supporting terrorist groups, then the various aspects that go into putting a country on a terrorist list obviously will be assessed. The point here is that we're going to take this one step at a time. Syria knows what it will have to do, what is important is that Israel, if it in fact does give up land, feels that it has a sense of security and it is entitled to that. Every country is. And that its borders are secure. So I think we'll just have to see how this progresses.

Schieffer: There have been rumors here that, number one, that the talks may be extended for another day; and number two, that you may possibly go to Jerusalem at the end of the talks. Can you tell us anything about that?

Albright: Again, all that is up in the air. We came here. The president thought on the back end of his South Asia trip that it made sense if President Assad was willing to meet in Geneva. And we'll see how it progresses.

I think - I tell you one thing I've learned, Bob, is to stop predicting about how the Middle East peace talks - their pace or their location. So we're just going to stay with it and do what we can.

Schieffer: Let's talk a little bit about Russia. The Russians are about to have a new president, Mr. Putin. Are you going to be able to work with him? And does it concern you, some of this talk we hear about restoring order there? Somehow it sounds a little scary in some ways.

Albright: Well, first of all, you know, the United States works with the leaders of every country that is very important to us, and Russia obviously is. And Acting and probably now President Putin is someone that has in many of his conversations with us indicated that there are lots of things to work with him, on economic form, on issues of arms control, on proliferation issues that need to be dealt with.

We also have to keep our eye on the kinds of things that are going on in Chechnya, where we've made quite clear to him that the Russian way of proceeding is of great concern to us. And I made that statemet when I came to Geneva a few days ago to talk to the Human Rights Commission.

But I have said, after I met with Acting President Putin several weeks ago in Moscow, that the Russians do want order. They have a Russian word for that - poiyaduk - but the question is whether it's order with a small or a capital "O." I think we - none of us would like to see order with a capital "O." But one can understand why the Russians, after a certain chaotic period, would like to see some greater order in their lives.

Schieffer: And I want to talk also today - there are always so many questions to ask you about, but it does seem to be more than usual this morning. Now China - the people of Taiwan have a new president. I was curious. Have you or anyone in the administration talked to the new leader of Taiwan?

Albright: I have not. And I think that there have been various contacts. In a private mode, former Congressman Hamilton has been over there. But as far as I know, Bob, we have not spoken to him. I don't know whether from the American Institute in Taiwan, which is the way that we carry on our relations under the Taiwan Relations Act, I'm sure that they have had some contact.

Schieffer: Well, how do you feel about that situation right now? Do you feel - are you less worried about it? Are you more worried about it, that something might happen between China and Taiwan?

Albright: Well, I think that in the last few days, some of the nervousness has gone out of it, because the statements that have been made by the president-elect, by Mr. Chen, have been fairly hopeful in terms of trying to say that he'd like to have dialogue.

And what we have been for is a "One China" policy, peaceful dialogue, and a resolution to this issue in a peaceful way.

So, again, I hate to keep always saying the same thing: We have to watch how these words are translated into actions and how in fact this dialogue can go forward. But it's very important that it be peaceful. We have our responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act and we have a "One China" policy, and we think that it's important for them to renew their dialogue.

Schieffer: Finally on Kosovo: It's been a year since the bombing. Do you think the people of Kosovo are better off or worse off than when that operation got under way?

Albright: I think I can unequivocally say they're better off. If you just think about what was going on a year ago. There were people up in, you know, hovered in the mountains, ethnic cleansing was taking place at a massive rate. We have since then been able to get 800,000 people or so back to Kosovo. Certain structures have been set up, police have been trained, the KLA has been disarmed, the UN is in there, KFOR is in there. So certainly better.

Perfect? No. There are problems that we read about and see all the time. There are provocations that happen. There are demonstrations, but I can honestly - I hve no qualms in answering your question just clearly that they're better off than they were a year ago.

Schieffer: Madam Secretary, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We'll let you get to work now.

Albright: Thanks.

Schieffer: When we come back, we'll talk about the tobacco wars. We'll talk about that with the leading critic of the tobacco industry and a representative of the tobacco industry. Thank you, Madam Secretary.


Schieffer: And as we said, we turn now to the tobacco story. As you are aware, the Supreme Court last week ruled that the Federal Drug Administration has no authority to regulate tobacco.

Well, here to talk about that this morning with us, California Congressman Henry Waxman and Steven Parrish, who is the vice president for Philip Morris. We're going to start with Congressman Waxman.

So the Supreme Court ruled, Congressman Waxman. Last week, you said you were going to introduce two bills actually in Congress, kind of a long version and a short version that will give the Federal Drug Administration to do just what the Supreme Court said it did not have the authority to do. Do you have any hope that the Republican leadership in the Congress will even let this come to a vote?

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA): I hope they will let it come to a vote. The Supreme Court, while they ruled 5-4 that the FDA couldn't regulate, all of them said it's in Congress' lap now. And it's almost a technicality they used to say that there couldn't be regulation. But they all agreed that there ought to be legislation to give the FDA this authority.

I think it's important. It shouldn't be a partisan issue. When you have 3,000 kids starting to smoke everyday, 400,000 people die each year from tobacco, it would be irresponsible for the Congress not to do our job.

Schieffer: Well, I tell you the reason I bring this up, because in a policy statement yesterday, one of the Republican leaders, J.C. Watts said that the FDA should concentrate on finding cures for diseases it had no cures yet and he said on this, he said they should follow Nancy Reagan's plan to "Just Say No." What would be your response to that?

Waxman: I don't know how you respond to it. Nancy Reagan was a great moral voice to give up drugs, but we still have a drug problem. And we need the FDA to regulate tobacco as it relates particularly to the targeting of our children at 12, 13, 14 years of age. It's not impossible for us to work out the differences that have separated some Democrats and some Republicans, although we've had bipartisan support for legislation.

Two years ago, Congressman Tom Bliley - who is from Richmond, Virginia, has a very different opinion on this issue than I do - he and I got together on a comprehensive and effective package. The only problem we had is we couldn't get the leadership to take the bill up. If we put aside partisan diferences, if we recognize that we can't look to the Supreme Court, we can't look to the states, we can't look to the FDA, we've got to do our job, then I'm hopeful that we'll pass legislation.

Well, is what you're saying here is if you can get this to the floor for a vote, you think it can pass.

Waxman: Oh, I'm sure it would pass if it came to the House floor. There's no question. And even, you'll hear from Mr. Parrish. Even some - Mr. Parrish and other spokesmen for the tobacco industry are saying very different things than they did in the past.

I think it's in everyone's interest to have a regulatory scheme in place so that the tobacco industry knows the rules and that we recognize that we've got to do something about a very real problem of children smoking.

Schieffer: And I'm going to ask Mr. Parrish about this in a minute, but I want to ask you because, while Mr. Parrish has said they would now like to see in the industry some kind of regulation. David Kessler, who used to run the FDA, says that that gives some pause. He told CBS in an interview yesterday. He said we have to be sure that we don't create social respectability for this product by regulating with the FDA. Do you worry about something like that?

Waxman: I always worry about the details of legislation. And I wouldn't take at face value what the tobacco industry says at any point because of their long record of saying things on the one hand and doing other things to the contrary.

But we need to do something to regulate cigarettes, and the FDA is a logical place for it. We have to go back to the kind of overall comprehensive approach that we had worked on in a bipartisan basis in our committee and see if we can move it forward.

Schieffer: Is it your purpose to run the tobacco companies out of business?
Waxman: It's not my purpose to run them out of business. If at some point people don't smoke and they go into some of other line of business, so be it. But I don't think that's going to happen. My hope is that we can stop kids from smoking. Because most adults wouldn't take up that habit. And if we can do that, that would be an enormous contribution to the health of this country. There is no single issue that's more important to public health than reducing cigarette smoking.

Schieffer: Well, let's see what Mr. Parrish says in response to that. Could you support the kind of legislation that Henry Waxman is talking about?

Steven Parrish, Philip Morris: Well, I haven't had a chance to read Congressman Waxman's bill. But I do think that as a result of the Supreme Court decision we do have a historic opportunity here to try to forge, as Congressman Waxman said, a regulatory system for tobacco products that can really advance the ball. I think there is a lot of common ground.

Schieffer: Well, what are you talking about? You say you want some regulation. What kind of regulatioare you talking about?

Parrish: Well, I think, what I'd like to do is spend some time with members of Congress getting their ideas.

My ideas are that, for example, we could focus on regulation of our manufacturing processes, what we're doing in our plants, the kinds of ingredients that we're using in our products. And also try to come up with some sort of a collaborative effort between the industry and the federal government in terms of what are the parameters for a safer cigarette, improved products arch what is the right public policy in terms of communicating improvements in the products to the public without sending mixed messages.

Schieffer: Correct me if I'm wrong, but have you yourself said you believe that cigarettes are a drug.

Parrish: I do. I've said nicotine is a drug. And I've said that I think cigarette smoking is addictive. So to me, we have a lot of common ground here. And as Congressman Waxman just said, I believe there's always going to be a market for adult smoking in this country, but what we ought to do is forge a regulatory system which makes sure that adults are very well informed, that the federal government is playing an appropriate regulatory role in how we conduct our business and that we're doing everything we can to keep kids from smoking.

Schieffer: Well, if you think it's a drug, then I take it you yourself would favor having the Federal Drug Administration do the regulating?

Parrish: What I have said is that if Congress decides that the Food and Drug Administration is the appropriate body to regulate us, I have no problem with that. I do think - feel very strongly that it is a mistake for the FDA to regulate cigarettes as medical devices or pharmaceutical products, which was the proposal that the Supreme Court struck down.

Schieffer: Are the cigarette companies about to go bankrupt?

Parrish: We certainly have no intention of going bankrupt. As I said before, we think that there will beÂ…

Schieffer: But you've got all these lawsuits out there, a big one down in Florida, that billions of dollars are at stake here. How do you survive that?

Parrish: Well, unfortunately there's a very strict gag order in place in the case in Florida which prohibits me from talking about that case.

Schieffer: I understand that.

Parrish: This regulation that I'm talking about has nothing to do with the litigation. We're going to have to deal with the litigation in the courtroom. We don't like litigation. I don't think anybody likes to be involved in litigation. So we're going to have to work that out in the courtroom. But I do think at the same time that we do have an opportunity to try to advance the ball in terms of an appropriate regulatory system for cigarettes.

Schieffer: Do you think there is, in fact, any chance that you could develop a safe cigarette because in the interview that I jut quoted to Mr. Waxman, Mr. Kessler said, the former head of the FDA, he at this point sees no data to indicate that you could develop a safe cigarette.

Parrish: I haven't seen any data that would indicate you could develop a safe cigarette. I think working together with the government, there might be things we can do to make an improved product or a safer product. But we've got a long way to go before we get there. And then there's the added problem of how do you communicate those reduced risks to the American public without sending a mixed message? And you don't want to discourage people from quitting because quitting is clearly safer than continuing to smoke.

Schieffer: Is there any reason for anyone to smoke a cigarette? What would be the benefits of smoking a cigarette?

Parrish: We have traditionally - and I don't see any change in this policy - been very clear that we do not talk about what we perceive to be the benefits of smoking. That's a decision for individual adults to make. Do they think that there are benefits there for them? Then they, I believe, should be allowed to make that decision and use a legal product. But we are not going to talk about benefits of smoking because we don't want to be seen as encouraging anybody - adult or child - to start smoking.

Schieffer: Let me just go through this one more time. You say you are willing to accept some kind of regulation. Would that be a regulation that says what?

Parrish: Well, I'm not trying to evade your question because one of the mistakes we made a couple of years ago is we came up - the industry and some others outside the Congress - came up with a very detailed proposal and sort of dumped it in the lap of Congress. And Congress understandably wasn't crazy about that notion.

What I think we need to do is do it the right way: sit down with members of Congress, try to address their concerns, fashion a regulatory approach with Members of Congress, and then move forward with it. So if we can start with looking at manufacturing processes, ingredients, ingredient disclosure and regulation, safer cigarettes and then move, if there are other areas, then I think that's the way we ought to go.

Schieffer: Mr. Parrish, thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Waxman.

Parrish: Thank you.

Schieffer: We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.


Schieffer: Finally today, John McCain returned to the Senate last week and a cartoon in a local newspaper told it best. His trademark bus was seen pulling on to the Senate floor and one Senator whispered to another, "No, you tell him he can't drive it in here."

Yes, John McCain was back, wisecracking, playing to the tourists and to the annoyance of some Senators, hundreds of reporters showed up to cover it. Because let's face it, Senate happenings lately have been very tedious.

The Senate was once the place f giants. But most modern senators get to Washington because they are experts at raising money, a valuable skill but not one that others necessarily find admirable or even interesting. So with a few rare exceptions, the Senate has become a congregation of unknowns: men and women little recognized outside their home states who spend their weekends raising money and their weekdays making speeches that go largely unnoticed in an empty Senate chamber.

McCain was no more well known than most of them when he left to run for president. But he found a huge following on the campaign trail and even though he lost, he returned to the Senate a national figure. His Republican colleagues never liked his maverick ways, so they gave him no more than a perfunctory welcome back. But they all understand power so they all recognize that the millions of new people he got interested in politics gives him new clout. They know it. He knows they know it. So all sides will act accordingly, which means very carefully.

But you do wonder if they yet recognize how much he has changed the face of their party and how much he probably helped them.

Well, that's our broadcast.