tv Overheard With Evan Smith PBS July 9, 2016 4:30pm-5:01pm PDT
- [voiceover] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by mfi foundation, improving the quality of life within our community; also by hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy; and by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation. - i'm evan smith. he's one of the most famous political activist in american history, a former state lawmaker, a prolific author, and an occasional academic, who now serves as the director of the peace and justice resource center in culver city, california. he's tom hayden, this is overheard. let's be honest, to this value ability to learn, or is this about the experience of not having been taught properly? how have you avoided what has befallen other nations in africa? say that he made his own bed, but you caused him to sleep in it. now you saw a problem and over time took it on. let's start with the sizzle before we get to the steak. are you gonna run for president?
i just got an f from you. this is overheard. senator hayden, welcome. - thanks for having me here, evan. - [evan] very nice to be here. - nice to see all of you again. - well, good to have you here, sir. so, we're half a century from vietnam. we're more than 50 years from the port huron statement, the famous document that you authored or were principal author of. i'm tempted to ask you if we're better off today than we were back then. - that's a good question, i've chosen to believe in the permanence to the process, to the conflict process, the process of war, there's something permanent about it, some people say it's human nature, but it's very repetitive to me. i've been here before, i can see it coming again, we're gonna live under a war president no matter who is the president.
and the threat is gonna be to our domestic budgets, education, environment, and domestic spending, but it'll also cause another peace movement and justice movement to arise. - so you're looking for the silver lining at the end of that. - no, um, i'm just trying to concentrate on what's the play here. - yeah. - and where can we put our shoulders, where can we contribute? - do we fully appreciate or understand what happened in vietnam all these years later? - no, i'm here for a vietnam summit at the lbj school. and it's filled with veterans who are very interested in moving stories, and i think i was selected as the representative of peace voice. - you're the white sheep of the family, basically. - it could be or the black sheep, i don't know. - depending on how you look at it, right? - but anyway, there's a funny thing, you know, 70 or 80% of the people in this country say yes to whether vietnam was a mistake.
they always simplify it. they just say mistake. but it's like at 80. and the leadership of the antiwar movement was vietnam veterans, the ones i met, including senator and secretary john kerry. - john kerry - yeah, an old friend of mine. and so things come around and you know, i think among the vietnam veterans today, there's some that hate me and don't like the echo of the peace movement, but if you get them in their own chair and you're just talking to them, overwhelmingly they feel like the peace movement did, that they were lied to or misled or manipulated and great harm was done to the country, great harm was done to their families. so, it's a question of how you get that out and how you process it. - when you say that 80% of the country are some statistic believes the vietnam war was a mistake
and that's too simple, we have time for it to be more complicated than that. explain to me the more complicated version of that. so, if the concept of a mistake is too facile, what's the harder tell on it? - [tom] well, what they do, the pollsters do, they test opinion and then they choose the word, and they say, "was it a mistake or not?" and if you think, "well, maybe, maybe not," you're out of the poll. you have to say, "it was a mistake" or "it was not a mistake." you always feel that's too simple-minded, but that's the question, that's my answer. - let me ask it another way. is vietnam a black and white issue to you 50 years later or are there shades of gray? - i would say it's a systemic issue, not a mistake, because it started, of course, when we decided to arm the french after they lost at dien bien phu, we took it over and we lied about the fact
that the geneva agreements were binding, and the geneva agreements included a provision to elect a president nationwide in vietnam, and that would have been ho chi minh, and the rest would have been a different history. so, i think it's systematic and we need to figure out what is the system that creates false consciousness or drives fathers to drive their son to war or causes the mass media to perpetuate something that's simply not true. and i don't think it's as easy as capitalism or imperialism or racism or an ism, i think it's, it's in the dna of the united states of america, beginning with the first war against the native people. - so it's not about this war, it's about war. - something about the nature of america's tendency
to hurry to war. - yeah. has there been a war that we've been in, either one that you've read about in the history books or one that you've been alive and witnessed that you feel was in anyway justified? - yes, absolutely, as an irishman, the war against the british empire. - okay, i'll give you that one. - i would volunteer, i would join that war. - but in the spirit of my question. are there any wars that we-- - you can just make fun about irish people. - no, no, no, no, no. in the spirit of that question, true spirit, is there a war that we've been involved with that you feel like was a justified war? - in principle, obviously, world war ii was justified, and the justification was the nazis and the third reich and the gas chambers. the question has to be asked, was during that war, did other atrocities occur so badly that it became hard to tell on balance the overall cost was
six or eight million jews and gypsies and 20 million russians, not to mention hiroshima and nagasaki. could any of those been mitigated or avoided? and there's a lot of good discussion about that even among vets of world war ii. - so you're willing to question whether our actions and even whether the war itselfr ii. was prosecuted in any way that you feel like was justified. - it was justified in principle, but the way it was implemented could have been implemented with, i mean the reason we did hiroshima and nagasaki was allegedly because we were afraid of the russians getting in, or having to send our boys to fight on pacific islands against the japanese. there's other evidence that the japanese were prepared to surrender. who knows? but it's worth discussing that without any doubt about what the,
the good outcome had to have been. - what about korea? - korea, no, i think korea was a disaster and it divided that peninsula forever. and i've been to south korea, i like south korea, i'd actually like to move to south korea because they have cell phones that work. they have television sets. and i'm serious. and, yes, there was a chinese invasion-- - but nothing that was in our national interest? - i don't know what the national interest was. i think at the time, and that's what this summit is about, most of the speakers with military or academic backgrounds so far have said that they, they question the necessity of the vietnam war and certainly the korean war,
because what you now have is a nuclear armed korea. i've been there at the dmz, and they're pointing actual weapons at each other. and i thought there was a spectacular movement for democracy in the 80s, and i visited the graves at kwangju, and some of these other cities nobody remembers. but there was no ability to negotiate an end to the korean war, or nobody wanted to do it hard enough. - right, but, of course, senator, that's consequence, that's the consequence of the war, i'm really speaking more about the impetus. i mean, obviously you can have a good impetus and a bad consequence. - how many people were killed? - but again, that's consequence. my question is, was there a national interest in our getting involved before a single person was killed, or before a single consequence was known to us or known to history? - um, no, the question is whether it could have been avoided. - right. - it could have been avoided, i think, but that's another story. - well, let me ask you this, let me ask you a hard question,
one that very few people would answer in a way that i suspect you're gonna answer it. after we're hit on 9/11, would you say that there was a justification for our doing anything militarily? - yes. - but we did it in the wrong way or in the wrong place. - war sets off this spiral. i mean, some of it is revenge and honor, and 3,000 people are being killed and you've seen their ashes falling from the sky. from a political standpoint you can not respond. - you understand the impulse. - yeah, i mean, i was there with people whose daughter watched the second hit by the second plane from her rooftop in greenwich village, and she fell backward and went blind. it took a couple of years for therapy to work on, it was all trauma, it was all like the same kind of shock that hits a soldier.
she just went blind for a long time. so, yeah. - and you spend a lot of your time-- - but if you say revenge, you better be very careful, because who are you taking revenge against, can lead to another spiral and another attack, and now we see. that seems to be a pattern that we haven't figured out a solution to. - so you believe that we might have been justified in going in, but executed poorly and the result was a situation that we now can't get out of. - gotta get out of it. all wars end sometime. - you spent a fair amount of the last decade or more protesting, arguing, kind of activated against the iraq and afghanistan involvement. - we got very close. i was always against those wars. i've traveled there. the, what i thought, what i smelled at the beginning was that this is not gonna be exactly vietnam, but this is gonna be unwinnable. that's my first criteria.
unaffordable, it's gonna cost trillions, not $200,000, which they initially promised, and unpopular, because people are gonna be against it, 'cause americans have a short temper. and, so it's going to get politicians in real trouble, because we won't be able to get out, because then they'll be blamed by the voters, so it's a cycle. and you're opposed by an enemy that's incomprehensible from an american or a western cultural point of view, so you're sending men into battle for a cause they don't really understand. it seems to me i taught several courses on iraq. that it's a several-century-old religious war. and it's not a good idea to, you know, send people into a new version of the middle ages. it's impossible. how they settle is the big question. how the hell do you get these people
to see they have an interest in conflict resolution or reduction. i think from having studied it, that you can't stop it. they are absolutely armageddon. they hate each other more than they hate the americans. they wanna use the americans for one side or the other. - so had you been president hayden at that point, with the power to either not go in, or the power at some point in the last 13 years to get out, what would you have done differently? - i would not have, if i was gonna get in, i would stop at the first gulf war and avoid at all costs the mission creep. - the first gulf war meaning that we-- - we sent 500,000 troops there in a very small battle space against a very small enemy, and bombed the hell out of baghdad. so bush declared, bush one declared we won. he had prudence.
he said you don't send our ground troops into urban battlefields, in a country that is unknown to them, where the languages are incomprehensible. - do you think that the peace movement that has risen up around these wars over the last 10 to 15 years looks anything like the movement that you led or that you participated in back in the 60s? - not much. well, during the iraq war, i think there was a familiar pattern where we had large demonstrations and we lobbied congress district by district to get them to cast votes. and we were successful in electing, not only an african american, but the first peace candidate to be elected president. so that was kind of a huge success despite the casualties. i thought we were getting out. what happened is the malignancy on the ground grew into isis. there was always this
elite feeling among our national security class who, unfortunately, never seem to fight in these wars, but want to spend money and blood on them, that the war was winnable and the fever took over, i guess, and they wanted to go further. and they wanted to, then, to occupy iraq, divide it like korea, and they thought that they could triangulate or stabilize the sunni-shia split as if it was a temporary factional dispute between-- - as opposed to historical matter-- - historical matter going back 800 years. - do you blame president obama, who you supported in 2008 for president - [tom] i did. - do you blame president obama for not taking action to end this sooner or at all? - and which sooner when? which war are we talking about? - you pick. do you blame, you know, president obama came in as someone who had been opposed to the iraq war,
he was in the state senate in illinois at the time, but he, nonetheless, said, "i was opposed at the time "to going in, i believe it was the wrong thing to do," he comes into the white house and he confronts the reality of the situation we found ourselves in, and as much as he believes he brought us closer to ending-- - well, he got close to ending iraq, but then, well, the saudis, the iranians, they have proxies there. and isis was a spawn of all that. - so you don't begrudge him for discovering that the circumstances on the ground were different than appeared to be the case when he was campaigning. - no. what could he have? presidents have certain limits beyond which they're simply impeached. and there's bigger players in washington than the president of the united states. there's the military industrial complex, there's the cia. when you get in that office, you meet these people, they come at dawn and they tell you how many threats there are around the world last night
and how many people were abducted or shot or killed. they get you ready for a day which might include pulling a trigger. and it does get to you, especially if the congress is filled with people who never fought anyway. and they're afraid, more afraid of voters than isis. - right, they're afraid of-- - am i going too far? - no, no, well, you know, you've had a long time of going very far, so it's not a big. - all right, i'll take that back. - no, it's a. - but they really are unwilling, that can't vote for an authorization. - well, let me come back-- - they're afraid to vote for an authorization for war against isis. - let me come back to you, because you actually, in a similar way, you were a peace activist, you were a student activist, you were a student leader, and then you eventually became an elected official, you became a member of the state legislature, both chambers in california, you eventually ran for, unsuccessfully, mayor, you ran for, unsuccessfully, governor. you attempted to be in high elective office in california
after many years of being, and i guess at that time, probably still being something of an outsider, of an activist. would you have discovered or did you discover in elective office, that the reality of the world, much like we're talking about president obama, you think on the outside it's gonna be one way, you get in and you go, "aha, reality." - yeah, it's great. you finally meet the devil and get to ask questions. (people laugh) - that's one way to think of it. - i don't know any activist who understands it, because they've never been through the process. they have just an outside view of it. but yeah, no, i, i made compromises, but above all-- - you walk up to the edge of becoming the thing you despised, right? - yeah, but i achieved so many things-- - [evan] from the inside. - you don't know what the power of a state official can be. - [evan] so you wouldn't go back-- - the malibu pier, the pier goes down in a winter storm, i need a million dollars to fix the pier, governor. here's the million dollars. yeah, i did 100 or 200 things like that,
but then i, people don't understand, if i get the million dollars for the pier, whoever gives it to me, considers that i'm in their debt. - [evan] right, then they need something from you. - and the clock is running and they'll be waiting, they have memories like crocodiles, or is it who-- - elephants. - elephants. - i'm sure crocodiles remember things, too. - and they'll come up at an unsuspecting time, republican or democrat. - and you would not have-- - they'll remind you of the favor they did you. - and you would not have imagined back in your days outside of elective office that you would never be in that situation. - i heard about it, but i didn't feel it. - right. - it's a daily process. it's like being in a gambling debt. with a lot of orators and a lot of information. tremendous thing about, i don't know about the state here, but we have a library just in sacramento, you know, the university library. and the legislature has a library.
it's kind of like a university with special interests or something, but you can go to the library and say, "i need everything to know about secessionists, "i need everything i can know about the gold rush, "i need every," and they supply these young people who are not corrupt at all. - they just provide it. - they're just hoping some politician will ask them for information. so there's many aspects to, some of them are like a university, some of them are the devil's lair. - so i want to ask you about this whole idea of what it's like from the outside versus the reality of governing. this has been a constant theme in the democratic race for president here in 2016, where senator sanders has electrified a number of people, including a lot of young people, the kind of young people who would've been a part of your movement more than 50 years ago. but the charge against senator sanders, levied not for the inside of his campaign, but from the outside, is it's all fine and good to talk, but the reality of governing, and the reality
of having to follow through on these promises would be very different than what we're hearing right now. is that legitimate? - well, that's little, i think it's a cliche if you're really on the inside, you can make it a little more subtle. the outside pressure causes the inside result would be a simpler way to put it. bernie, who's a friend of mine, and hillary is an old friend, and i concluded that i was gonna support hillary. - right, he wrote a column for the nation not long ago that was cast, i don't know if it was perfectly done, so factually, but i used to be for bernie, but i've switched. is that exactly right? - that's what the title they put on, 'cause they thought that would get eyeballs, that's what they call it today, you know, eyeballs. - but you were not for bernie as far as it went before. - no, i was one of the people at the beginning when bernie announced in los angeles, who thought that it was very healthy for him to put all those issues into a campaign
and move hillary in a more progressive direction. and then it got real, it took off. and we've had this phenomenon in other campaigns where suddenly an outsider has rallies of 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 people. remember ralph nader. - fellow named trump. - trump currently, and so when it got serious, i had to evaluate and the decision was not that uncomfortable for me, although it's uncomfortable to make a decision against a friend, always uncomfortable, friends of a lifetime. but the decision was basically, i'm a race person. i came to austin during the sit-ins and moved to atlanta. i was a freedom writer-- - you've been a civil rights activist forever. - i got beaten many times, i went to jail many times, i went to newark, i was a community organizer before barack obama was a community organizer in the black community.
i have a black daughter-in-law. i have a an african american son. i'm in an interracial world, and i really like it, and i advise all white people to do some race mixing yourselves. it'll all work out, 'cause that's the only thing, the only thing that will ever end it, is enough-- - we've had a lot of calls to action on this show, i'm not sure that's ever been one before. - no, i recommend, i mean, you can try laws, you can put people in jail, you can start mass marchers, but only the interracial mixing of human beings makes it possible. - [evan] can you believe secretary, but whatever, do you believe secretary clinton better on the issue of race and civil rights? - well, when i went to my friends in the congressional black caucus, and in the latino caucus in the california legislature, they told me
that they were gonna be for hillary. and they gave me their reasons. and i was not going to look in the mirror and say, "oh, you are so wrong, "you don't understand electoral politics." these are people who come out of centuries of slavery and serfdom and they're all in elective office, and they make tough decisions, and they said, "we're not going for bernie." and the reason was, it's not bernie's fault that he's from vermont, not at all. but all of his states and all of his caucuses are white or majority white or all white. we live in a, the obama coalition is a multi-racial coalition including many white people. and it's here to stay, i don't think it's gonna change. so, the republicans have to adjust, they can't stand it, and i think bernie's advisors told him, "go white, "go south, you'll get the college towns,
"and then you'll show you're doing so well, "black people will wake up and say, "'oh, we're going for that guy.'" but it's too late, it's just too late, and he's gonna lose the nomination. - so you're really certain clinton, hard to imagine the tom hayden of the porch-run state. - one of my facts, can you start with facts, please? - no, i get it. - yeah, i concluded after nevada that she would win. it was impossible for him, because he could not put together a multiracial coalition. if you can't do it in nevada, how's south carolina gonna go? - where could you do it. we need to stop here, senator hayden, what a treat to get to spend some time with you. - i love to talk to you and hope that we see you again. - [evan] thank you, come back. - i hope that we win the supreme court, and that we live another decade, thanks so much. - tom hayden, thank you very much. (audience applauds) we'd love to have you join us in the studio. visit our website at klru.org/overheard. to find invitations to interviews,
q & a's with our audience and guests and an archive of past episodes. - you have to read the philosophy, greek philosophy. you have to take a couple of years doing political science and philosophy. and even then, what i recommend is you must read your whole life, because you enter a universe that is incredible. - [voiceover] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by mfi foundation, improving the quality of life within our community; also by hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy; and by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation. (electronic music)