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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  January 19, 2011 12:00am-1:00am PST

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>> charlie: welcome to our program. tonight the u.s.-china relationship and the context of a state visit by the president of china. first, the chinese perspective. and then two journalists and an academic. they look at the relationship and what we might expect from the meetings in washington. we conclude this evening with the conversation with garry trudeau, the creator of doonesbury. the chinese visit to the united states and garry trudeau when we continue. maybe you want school kids to have more exposure to the arts. maybe you want to provide meals for the needy. or maybe you want to help when the unexpected happens. whatever you want to do, members project from american express can help you take the first step. vote, volunteer,
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or donate for the causes you believe in at membersproject.com. take charge of making a difference. additional funding provided by these funders: captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> charlie: hu jintao the president of china arrived in washington today for a very important four-day visit to the united states. he and president obama met earlier this evening at a very small meeting attended by the secretary of state and the national security advisor. tomorrow night there is a state dinner. in between there will be a
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number of bilateral meetings. china's economy, currency, north korea political reform are expected to be front and center at this meeting in the white house. american officials have addressed these concerns over the past week. if china does not allow the kurns tee to appreciate more rapidly, it will run the risk of seeing domestic inflation accelerate as you are already seeing and we'll face greater risk of a damaging rise in asset prices both of which will threaten future growth. we believe it's in china's interest to allow the currency to appreciate more rapidly in response to market forces. we believe china will do so because the alternative would be too costly both for china and for china's relations with the rest of the world. >> the longer china represss freedom the longer it will miss out on these opportunities and the longer that nobel prize winners, empty chairs in oslo will remain a symbol of a great nation's unrealized potential and unfulfilled promise. >> charlie: the state visit
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comes at a time of some tension between two of the world's most powerful nations. at the same time some opportunities for cooperation and resetting the relationship. joining me now from washington wu jinn minister who served as ambassador to france and a spokeman of china's ministry of former affairs. he is the former president china foreign university. i am pleased to have him on this program at this time. i start with this. you wrote and gave a lecture at the university of chicago in november called the china- u.s. relationship in a changing world. define the relationship today and where you think it can go in the next ten years. >> i think next ten years our relationships can grow much further. first, the world is changing rapidly. we can see a mega trend which
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is over there. the trend of the peace, cooperation and the development. these are three important subjects ton verged into a mega trend. that trend is so important for our time. this trend is quite new. it means a world war is unlikely. no major powers can afford a real world war and also there's no way can bear... can venture to brar responsibility to start a new world war. and then, you know, the inter-dependence is so deep. this is the inter-dependence
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is brought about by globalization. globalization is such a powerful force behind the change of the world is the choice about the future in your judgment more in beijing or more in washington? >> i think it takes two to tango. the choice is in the hands of both sides. as far as china is concerned, we like to hold on to the peaceful development because this is the only way which will lead china to prosperity. however, if on the u.s. side if people want to make china an enemy, then china will become an enemy. so that's why i believe it takes two to tango.
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today in u.s., some people pressuring china's strategic intention. please check china's record. we developed huge cooperation since 1979 since the establishment of the ties between the two countries. the two countries benefit. however, with the change which has occurred, some people question china's strategic intention. maybe china likes to challenge the u.s. no we like to stick to the peaceful past. when we do that, we need u.s. cooperation. the confrontation would derail china from globalization. we don't want it. the chinese are confronted for the first time with the best
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chance to modernize china since 1840s, since war. so on the chinese side, we like very much to develop much further cooperation with the u.s.. >> charlie: what do you fear the most for china and its growth and its increasing role in the world? >> what i fear most is two things. first, on the international front the rise of china, the rise of the last member of the developing countries. that change, that is going to change our world. how the western world is going to react to that if they still believe in zero sum game, then they believe that the rise for
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china means the u.s. would be lose. it's not true. so i think for china what we feel most is people to the cold war mentality. people still believe that zero sum game is forever. then they would like to keep china down. they don't want china to rise. then they will chart bilateral relationship on the confrontational course. that would make the two countries losers. >> charlie: should the secretary of defense gates be concerned about china's military growth, its aspirations to... for its military prowess? >> i think the united states should not be concerned about the chinese administration when china speaks to the
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defensive strategy. china is in the mod he werization process. for any country when it is in that process, defense is part of the modernization program. china is no exception. for china, if you put yourselves into china's shoes, what's the interest of china? all we need is peace abroad and the stability at home. we modernize our defense because the world is not safe. we had to prepare. that means that we are going to challenge the u.s. no, we will not do that. i don't know whether the
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people... whether people still remember what he say in 1974 before the u.n. assembly. you know, i was there. i was at the chinese mission to the united nations. i say china will never speak hegemony. should one day the chinese do that, i urge people around the world, i appeal to people around the world to unite and to defeat the chinese hegemony. i was in the united nations for many years. i heard many statesmen. none made such a statement. china is very serious. we'll not seek hegemony. we'll not challenge u.s. hegemony. what we want is to develop cooperation with the u.s. on
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the basics of equality and mutual benefits. and we did that in the past 30 years. on the chinese side, we'll keep doing that in the coming age. that was in china's best interest. >> charlie: there are three important areas in terms of foreign policy. i'll cite two of them that are a great concern to the united states. one is iran. the other is north korea. >> it seems to many people if china and the united states were cooperating more on those two areas, the results might be better and faster. >> i think on that one issue we enjoy some cooperation. people are seeing that. on north korea, china's goal
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is two-fold. one, to maintain peace and stability on the korean peninsula. two, the demill tarization of the korean peninsula. these two goals i think the chinese are consistent with these two goals. and the u.s. on the u.s. side you have the same goals. so we share some common interests on these two issues. so we did cooperate in the past. we have having cooperation now. i think provided that we pursue the same goal, provided we develop cooperation on the basis of mutual interests so we can move forward, that will
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be a good news for everybody. >> charlie: but the united states has had a difficult time convincing the chinese with respect to iran to vote for proposals in the security council. >> for china with regard to the nuclear issue, our position is when iran should not possess nuclear weapons. two, iran should enjoy the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy. these two points, you know, china consistently defends these two points in our position with regard to the iranian nuclear issue. and sometimes i think you have to put yourself into china's shoes.
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look, we need u.s. we need also to develop on the basis of the mutual interests cooperation with iran. respecting u.n. resolutions about iran. so this is also, i think, if we do that, that would be equally in the interest of everybody. i think it's not... it is in nobody's interest to drive iran into the corner. >> charlie: secretary kissinger wrote the following recently in the "washington post." he said, "most chinese i encounter outside of government and some in government seem convinced that the united states seeks to contain china, a point that i raised with you earlier, and to constrict its rise. american strategic thinkers are calling attention to china's increasing global economic reach which we referred to, and the growing
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capability of its military forces. care must be taken les both sides analyze themselves into self-fulfilling prophesies. how do you do that? >> i think first we have to increase communication, to talk to teach other about each other's strategic intention. right now my president is coming to this country, and the two leaders will talk to each other. that is the way that we are also having now the china-u.s. clean energy cooperation forum in washington d.c. this is to further develop our common interests, common ground. because energy is the key to the future.
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and should u.s. and china develop largely inter-dependent projects in this field that will further consolidate the basis of our relationship. that's good. i think we need also to increase people-to-people exchange. you have yours. the chinese leader also has their constituents. if people-to-people exchange increased, mutual understanding would be further developed. that would be good. that would be very conducive to strengthening the foundation of bilateral cooperation. >> charlie: thank you, ambassador. when we come back, more
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perspectives on the state visit of the president of china. >> charlie: joining me now from washington david leonhardt of the "new york times," and richard mcgregor of the financial times. he's also the author of the party, the secret world of china's communist rulers. i am pleased to have all of them here with me on this program especially on this day. welcome. let me.... >> thank you. >> charlie: richard mcgregor you were bureau chief as i remember also in beijing. what are the expectations for this and where do the two countries come to this meeting in looking at each other? >> i think they come at a meeting at a very frosty time in relations. when president obama came to town two years ago the u.s.
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frankly wasn't quite wanting... it was very weak. i think china sensed that and has been very unreceptive to the obama administration on a number of fronts but, you know, the u.s. in china is one of these relationships which is too big to fire if you like. of course maybe that's not a good analogy because like banks and insurers, some of them that were too big to file did file. but i think this summit, the medium is the message. you know, it's about the meeting. it's about the atmospherics and the personal connections. it's about restabilizing a relationship that is tremendously important to both countries not just the u.s. but to china as well. i think we'll see a tougher u.s. and not a china giving way. i think, you know, four days together is going to stabilize something that has been going downhill for about two years now. >> charlie: tell me how they were going to... what kinds of meetings will be taking place because as we speak, i think
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the president and of the two countries with a small group of people are getting together for their first sort of informal meeting. >> yes. people having dinner tonight and the president obama and president hu along with secretary clinton always again on the chinese side besides president hu i see the vice premiere, these are two people in charge of finance. and foreign policy. i think it's a very important meeting. they can create the kind of atmosphere to improve their trust and also respect for each other. >> charlie: the question that i would ask richard. i mean, what is it that you think the chinese are asking themselves about america? >> first of all that the last year was a very bad year in u.s.-china relations because despite the fact that the top
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leaders met each other for seven times. and why this perception in both countries are not conducive for good relationships. the united states would worry about the china threat. the possible currency war and the trade war and also military stress. from chinese side, the american-led conspiracy try to contend china particularly over the north korea issue. then two countries particularly the u.s.... emphasize the examiner sises in the seas near china made the chinese public very uncomfortable. they thought that this is a particular target of china. china's former policy made some mistakes in terms of the foreign policy, alienated with its neighboring countries whether south korea or japan or indonesia. so the leaders are a little bit frustrated. it is very, very important.
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the relationship was off track. this time they want to put it back on the track. >> charlie: david, put it in perspective, the economic question that they will address. >> well, i think there are a few things worth keeping in mind here. one is in many ways just how insecure americans are right now economically. there is a stunning poll that gallup had out showing that more americans consider china to be the world's leading economic power than consider the united states to be the world's leading economic power which is amazing both when you think about the history of americans being a fairly self-confident lot but it's also amazing just objectively. the per capita in the united states is sick times as high as in china. nunist leaders in the communist party talk with incredible admiration about the united states record of innovation. there are no global innovative chinese companies the way the u.s.... we could make a list of 20 companies. from the u.s. side there's a lot of insecurity toward china. from the chinese side one
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thing that is really important to remember is that china is not a monolith. there are very much competing factions in the communist party over questions like whether to revalue the currency. many people in china want to revalue the currency. there are competing factions over things like tariffs and how to deal with intellectual property. those are two things worth keeping in mind as we get these few days underway. >> charlie: if the chinese knew that they had developed a domestic market for their products that they now export, my assumption is they would be much more comfortable with letting the currency appreciate. >> i think that's right. i mean, when you know that not only do you have a per capita income that's one sixth as big as the americans' per capita income but that people are saving a very large portion of that income, often 20%, sometimes even 30% to pay for things like health care and education, you're dealing with a country that is actually punching blow below its weight in terms of consuming. we think of that as a new ipad
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or an extra phone or a second or third tv. in china it's much more like basics so there is a lot of insecurity about internal domestic spending. there's a lot of insecurity about that. quite frankly in the short term it's hard to tell the chinese that they're wrong to have that insecurity. even if in the long term it does seem as if it would be in their interest to have a higher one. >> charlie: is this one case where you might see some progress even though the chinese have often said we want to go slow on this? >> i think you'll see little con creed progress out of the four days of talks. china isn't going to turn around and suddenly say we're going to revalue our currency when their line is they've been reforming the currency system all along. in some respects i think the currency is wildly overrated as an issue. if china's currency revalued tomorrow by 10, 20, 30%, the u.s. trade deficit would not disappear. there's, you know, there's the
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u.s. has its own particular domestic problems which are driving the deficits here. it's not just the chinese currency. i think some in the administration actually, you know, have the same view on that. i think they would like to focus on different issues like intellectual property rights, like the sorts of subsidies given out to chinese companies like to all sorts of artificial trade barriers that affect foreign companies going into china like the technology transfer and the like. but when this meeting ends tomorrow, we're going to see a few headline deals. we're going to see a much better atmosphere. we're not going to see a big turn around in stated chinese policy. >> charlie: what did he mean when he called to an end to the zero sum cold war mentality? >>. >> it's a favorite chinese phrase which is much of a domestic consumption in china as much as it to the u.s. you must remember all politics is local.
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that's case in china as well. all politics in china, real politics, is within the communist party. a lot of these statements which seem aggressive to us outside china i think are internally directed. i think the phrase about cold war mentality is really about not, you know, treating china as an enemy and putting china down and not letting china rise. you know, boxing it in. i think that's what it means. >> china has already appreciated currency for about 15 to 20% over the past three or four years. china is continuing to appreciate. 30% a year. this would create something. china is in the midst of a major economic structure change or what chinese call the change of the mood of economic growth to a domestic- driven, domestic consumption economy. in that regard the united
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states and china share the same interests. we want china to consume more. we still think that china is a big market. that's referred to as a win-win situation. >> charlie: and you see a lot of american businesses will say the same thing. the opening of chinese markets would be great for them. >> there are those who argue that the economic gap is that there's some emergence of a common framework on the economic gap while the security gap between and the attitude about security is widening. do you agree with that? >> well it's narrowing if you look at it from the chinese perspective. in other words, you know, china is building a formidable military. it won't be able to combat or match the u.s. by any means for the next 10, 20, years but it's building a capability which denies or restricts the u.s. in the pacific. now let's not forget through all of the sort of terrible things you can say' the u.s.
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it's effectively the u.s. military which has kept the peace in north asia second the world war. that's beeny normously beneficial. but china like any rising power like any country is not happy to have its security forever in the hands of the u.s., so economic cooperation in the two countries are veryoren meshed. you can't break that apart. i think watching where the two militaries can cooperate will be a much more interesting and flawed process in coming years. >> charlie: richard, my point was not so much so there is, you know, a narrowing of the gap between the military power but the attitude on security points. there's more of a disparity there than there is on economic points. do you accept that? >> absolutely. i think absolutely. there's less of a shared interest. china has, you know, immovable goals on taiwan. i think china wants to take responsibility for its own
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security in protecting its own oil coming through the straits. then china and u.s. has to sort of give up some power. that's a difficult process. >> charlie: what do we hear in terms of how the people who are in the region that china has the major influence feel about china's growing power? >> i think that china's foreign policy lasts a year. a neighboring country. the country realizes the importance of kind of allies or close relation with the united states. and also there will come u.s. back to the region and play a more important role. it will counterbalance china's ever-growing power and chinese leaders realize that the challenge... it is a part of american conspiracy against china. but on the other hand president obama said repeatedly that we don't want that the region, that the
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countries take a position to side with us or side with china. we have common interests with china. we hope that china will play a positive role in issues like north korea and iran and also some other important... the areas of conflict. but china at the moment whether the u.s. wants to talk to china use japan and et cetera. that trip is very important. to reassure china that we want to construct... build a constructive relationship with china. and the u.s. and china can and should and must find a way to improve the relationship. >> charlie: david, what are the economic concerns china has when you're looking at the kind of growth rate they have? >> well, they have a huge population that they need to employ. and the global downturn real
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he'll hurt exports. they enacted a massive stimulus program. there's a huge debate in this country about whether stimulus works. it's interesting to note that in china they have no question that it works tremendously well. they put in place a much larger program than we did in this country. it really made a big difference. but as we were talking about, they need relatively rapid growth. even absolutely rapid growth in order to get something that looks like a middle class country. there are a lot of people there who aspire to that. i think one of the real political worries is that you often see unrest when there's a gap between expectations and reality. be it political or economic. i think there's some concern that as they move into this period when the demographic wind will not be at their back as it has been when they won't be able to grab market share from the rest of the world that they are going to have a gap between reality and expectations. there's a term you may have
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heard called amp which is a reference to all the underemployed and unemployed recent college graduates in chinese cities. that's the kind of thing that is very disconcerting to leaders. >> charlie: richard, when you were there, did you feel like you understood how decisions were made in china because there's really no longer notwithstanding hu jintao, the kind of duncan moa, one person that had a pre-dominant impact on decision-making? >> in a word no. but i think, you know, if you follow things, you can, you know, you can get a sense of how decisions are made. the first point is obviously hu jintao even less so than the other doesn't have the revolutionary or the military credentials of a leader. he's the first amongst equals if you like in the politburo. it takes him a long time to get his people into top positions in the party hierarchy to back his policies.
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if he wants to do something he has to negotiate with other members of the politburo. he has to nova scotia write negotiate with the provinces and the like. he has not got a magic wand as some people overseas seem to think. it can take a long time to build a consensus. in fact it's being permanently built, falling apart and being put back together again. it's difficult and i think often impenetrable process. something like cheng li would be siting in beijing and i would ask him for help so dissecting it is not very easy. >> charlie: what do you make of the role of the army, cheng li? >> well, the army is a interest group. they are an important interest group. still i think if we can it who is in charge. but increasingly the military voices their demand for budget and also the concerns about the national security and
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foreign policy. to a certain extent they hijack public opinion, hijack the media. so that makes the leadership very difficult particularly the collective leadership. now the tensions between the leadership and also the next generation of leadership mainly study social scientists. technocrats. politicians. more leaders of the social sciences, economics and the law. but the military between increasingly technocratic those people who attended china's m.i.t., and got their ph.d.s and joined the military. they may challenge other civilian leadership knowledge and the competence. not now. it will take some time. i think the civilian leadership is still in charge. there's no heavyweight military figure in the chinese
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leadership. >> charlie: thank you all very much. it's an an exciting several days to watch and see what happens. thank you for coming. >> thank you. >> charlie: we'll be right back. stay with us. garry trudeau is here. he began his comic strip doonesbury on a whim for the college paper the yale daily news way back in 1968. two years later it was launched into national syndication. since then he has used his vast web of characters to comment on every major political and cultural happening. 40, a doonesbury retrospective collects a sampling of his work through the comic's life span. i am very pleased to have garry trudeau back at this table. welcome. >> you don't have like tables in rotation. >> charlie: i don't. >> this is "the" charlie rose table. >> charlie: 40 years. >> a big book. >> charlie: only 13% of the
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column. >> 14,000 columns. it's still a ten-pound behemoth. my friends point this out all the time. not only is it much too heavy but it's prohibitively priced. i've had to get out there and talk about it. >> charlie: the original idea was, some say, a generation coming of age. is that how you see it? >> certainly i didn't see it at the time. i do now. i realize that the animating idea behind it was to track a generation coming of age. at the time that would have been a much too grandiose notion to be honest about. it was framed by the syndicated ads as these dispatches from the front lines. that's how it was... that was basically how it was marketed. i don't think that, you know, a 22-year-old can be expected to have the perspective to know what this is going to be
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or what it will become. but i think that given the longevity of the 40 years it has indeed been a kind of chronicle of two successive generations. >> charlie: four decades. >> the foundational characters and their children. >> charlie: you love the characters. >> i loved writing them. i don't think much about them. when i'm not actually working with them. i don't take them home. i know that there are plenty of writers and artists who, you know, their work is oxygen for them. for me it's not. i need to get away from them. it's hard work to use them. >> charlie: where do you go to draw? >> i go to my studio. >> charlie: in your house. >> there is one in my house. there is a spillover sometimes but i try to get out of the house and go. >> charlie: you once thought about being a graphic designer. >> i didn't just think about it. i was a graphic designer. when i got out of grad school i set up a design studio in new haven. for the first three years of
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this trip i was wearing both hats. in the middle of watergate i found myself under so much pressure to, you know, to run these two different businesses that i had to make... i had to make a call. obviously the strip was coming to some prominence. it was an opportunity for me to do something special, a little different whereas my design work was okay but it wasn't really going anywhere. >> charlie: you think of yourself first and foremost as a writer. >> i guess that's right because that's where it starts and the art follows along. the art is a necessary... the comic strim writing is really... it's an art form of very small ambitions. you're trying to do a very small thing as well as i can day after day. but it does involve this connection of two different skill sets. of writing and in my case a
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particular kind of writing comedyic writing and then finding the art that makes those words actually turn into stories. i don't think too hard about what that mix is. but it does definitely start with scribbling ideas. >> charlie: 40 years, a doans bury retrospective. when you looked at it, what did it say to you in terms of what you have here? i mean is it dickens? without being grandiose? is it a great russian novelist. >> the world is... my friend chuck close. i know you've had him on this show. a great painter. he does wonderful oversized portraits. he will spend all day working on a pore of somebody's face. i do that. i'm working on a very small piece. this is only after 40 years we
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stand back and say does this add up? so to my great surprise it's actually coherent as a kind of novelistic story. it certainly... i was... i have never been in a position to think out where these stories are going so i tried to picture this book the most essential story arcs. with the foundational characters and the successor characters and i've tried to give a sense of what it felt like to live during those 40 years not so much all the sign posts and all the various things that happened during that 40-year period. more like what it was like to be alive during those four decades. >> charlie: if you can give that sense of these were the things that were squirreling around. >> right, right. i mean that political and social context is always there. that's always behind the stories, but i tried to goat out all the stuff that would
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need to be annotated because there are few things as funny or unfunny as humor explained. >> charlie: everybody says that. it's not comedy to talk about comedy. >> that's right. some of the strips that actually brought the doans bury to prominence are excluded simply on those grounds alone, that they would have to be explained. it was too long. >> charlie: if you have to explain it, it doesn't make the cut. >> right. >> charlie: how many of the strips now appear on the editorial page rather than... is it the majority. >> we're not sure about that. but an educated guess might be a third or a quarter. are on the editorial page. >> charlie: you feel what about that? >> we work hard to keep it off the editorial page because not where the readers are. the readers are on the tomics page by a factor of three or four. it's not a good place to be. it creates less headaches for
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editors to have it there because people expect edgeier more controversial material to be there. >> charlie: how much controversial material has it been in some papers saying this is going too far? >> the only case i can think of... oh, no, for the first 25 years or so it was a regular occurrence. one of the reasons i stepped out of the public arena as a personality was it was such an enormous distraction. i started writing defensively. i started second guessing myself thinking about how will this land instead of just doing the work? how am i going to defend it? that proves to be so disruptive that at some point fairly early on the first three or four years i said maybe it would be better if i don't honest all these requests that were coming in. it was not unreasonable for
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them to call up and say what's your reaction to losing six papers or being knocked out of this paper. >> charlie: how is it an expression of your politics? >> well, as you know there are dozens of characters. they go right across the political spectrum. there's i think the current count that we map out in the central... there's a center piece of the book where you see all the connections. this matrix of characters about 72 or 73. they represent pretty much every point of view you could imagine. obviously i can't be held responsible for all of them. clearly there is an overarching progressive sensibility that drives this strip forward. that's always been the case. i think most satirists have a pretty strong point of view. if you didn't you're not really a satirist. i think somebody who is even handed in their humor is more correctly called a humorist.
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>> charlie: where have you found the most push-back? >> politically? >> charlie: yeah. where have you touched the deepest nerve? >> well, interestingly on a personal level with the bush family although i don't, you know, the strip is written anything. it's just my job. so it was never personal with me. but particularly the first president bush, he would bring up the subject often in interviews. about how unfair and vicious and mean you thought the strip was. >> charlie: the two of you went to the same college. >> we did. >> i think he probably overdid it. it joined the list of many many things that his son vowed never to do. and one of the things. >> charlie: which was what? criticize.... >> dignify your critic by acknowledging his existence. the actual brief that was being made.
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i think you'll find that his son had an almost unblemished record in that respect, that he never, when he was president, actually identified by name any of his critics in the media. >> charlie: how will at the end... how will it end? >> i can't say. it will probably end whatever is going on at the strip at the time. it won't be something that i'll plan out months and weeks in advance. it will be an occasion when it will be time to turn out the lights. i'll see what's going on and i'll try to make an ending of that. >> charlie: how will you know when it's time to turn off the lights? >> i think probably that will be self-evident. and the choice may well be out of my hands. newspapers are in such shaky.... >> charlie: i was going to ask that. >> i think... it may well be that newspapers as a viable source of livelihood for
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cartoonists and other feature writers will disappear. >> charlie: i don't understand that because you can communicate cartoons electronically, can't you? >> you can. i have a website. >> charlie: why is the newspaper the end of tonight. >> the website doesn't pay for them. >> charlie: not enough. >> not enough, right. there are some websites that pay for doans bury but it is not a revenue stream that will encourage anyone to make a career. there are a few web comics that are viable but only because of the merchandising that is associated with it. not for the content itself. >> charlie: it is said by some that they suspect you like the new characters more than the old because they give you an opportunity to go different places. >> well, they give you an opportunity to track lives that are in the process of becoming. they're just inherently more dynamic.
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i look at my children, i look at their friends, and what i see is quite different than what it was the day before and what it will be tomorrow because they are in that very exciting time of life where they're constantly ziging and zaging and trying to find out who they're meant to be. whereas the older characters, we pretty much know how they're going to react at whatever is thrown at them. they're fairly set in their ways so it was pointed out to me again it was... it's not a deliberate artistic decision on my part that alex doans bury, the daughter of the main character has kind of stolen the show. >> charlie: she's the central character. at the core of the strip. >> right. she is an interesting character. she is, i think, you know, somewhat narcissistic and grandiose as was her mother. but she has a poor sense of decency.
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she's constantly, in part because of her new boyfriend, she's constantly struggling to edit. she knows she needs to edit. so every day is a surprise for her. >> charlie: how did you will create her? i mean, how did she come into being and how does she sustain herself? what is it in your.... >> i don't know. she started out as this little blob. she's this baby in the strip who can't talk. and then piece by piece you start trying to figure out who she is. >> charlie: she almost defines herself. her relationships and everything else. more so than you think i know what she'll be like when she's 20. >> i had no clue. >> charlie: did you say to me that you had to figure out or did somebody else figure out she was a central character. >> i had a reader call, wrote a post and made that argument. i'm like, boy, she's right.
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alex has taken on that kind of importance in the strip. >> charlie: when you stopped doing it for a while, what was that about? >> well it was about taking advantage of the opportunity to stop doing it. i'd been doing it for 12 years. my contract ran out. i had always wanted to work in the theater. so i had a chance to do a broadway show in an off broadway show. i thought what's the point of having the success if you can't leverage it to do things that you care about. i was called out on the carpate and called out to kansas city where my syndicate is. and everybody teamed up and said you can't do this. no one has done this before. you're in 600 papers now. you'll be lucky if you're in 100 when you come back. so i just calmly made the argument that i just made to you that this was a great opportunity for me personally to do something else. >> charlie: did you have any
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internal fear that maybe he was right. >> no. i perhaps was maybe a little bit overly cocky on that point. but i thought i would bons back. about two weeks after... they worked me over for three days. about two weeks later i call my editor. he's not in his office. he's always there. where is he? in england. he decided to go study shakespeare at oxford for the summer. we all started together. and the same argument began i think kind of making its way through his mind. he was thinking what, you know what? he's right. i can do the same thing. that's when i knew things had turned and the syndicate would support it. they did it. i did a broadway show about the strip. i moved all the characters forward in realtime. up until then they had been in suspended animation.
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and it was an excuse to move them all forward and get them synchronized with the other characters outside who were aging. after that i did a political review, a satirical review. i think followed around the country for the next four years. they kept changing. >> charlie: how did you come to be so connected to and rally to the cause? >> well, in the first part of the war, the second year of the war in iraq, we were in a particularly bloody conflict in fallujah. it was the first battle of fallujah and the marines were getting pretty chewed up. this went on week after week in april of 2003. or 2004. i had a character in place.
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he was public affairs officer. and i was watching this, this mayhem. i was thinking we're paying or our citizens who were there in our name are paying a pretty heavy price for this war. how can i show that in some way that is dramatic. the first thing that came to me was to have him lose his life. i thought, well, that smells like a stunt. that seems like something that will cause a sensation. after all i'll be killing off a principal character who has been in the strip for 32 years. and there might be some reaction. it won't last about a week or two and the people will on to something else. what about coming up short of that and giving him... following the consequences of that downstream. track that. track his journey. as he battles back to full recovery and tries to find a
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normalized life. i'm ready to take on that commitment. and it was the first time i had ever committed to a story of that gravity and of that duration. i did it all within a day or two. so i drew the opening panels which were of b.d.on the battlefield going in and out of reality. you hear the dialogue fragments. you see him trying to hold on to con usness as his teammate ray. there's a golden hour the battlefield where it's very important to keep somebody conscious. after three days there's a reveal where the camera pulls back and we see b.d.not only missing a leg but missing his helmet which was perhaps startling to many readers because he had never taken his helmet off. >> charlie: modeled after a
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yale quarterback. >> at the time i started the sports strip about him. so when i wounded him, i heard within days from the d.o.d., and the pentagon said we see what you're doing. i had a lot of friends there from the previous war. they said let us help you. i think the sub text was so you'll get it right. and they brought me down to walter reed and in the years that followed i have worked my way through that... through the healing, the very steps that b.d.would have taken as he found this new life for himself. in therapy, being separated out. the va. i threw everything at him. he had ptsd. it turns out that he had some
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astonishingly horrible memories of having ordered the vehicle he was in to make its way through a crowded bazaar. he had to deal with all of that. so in the course of my education in trying to get all that right, i had become drawn in to wounded warrior issues. i've made quite a few friends in that world and have tried to engage them. >> charlie: visited hospitals and done the whole thing. >> sure, and gone to afghanistan to iraq on u.s. tours. >> charlie: congratulations. here it is. 40 years, the doans bury retrospective.
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