tv PBS News Hour PBS July 24, 2012 12:00am-1:00am PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: the suspect in the colorado shootings appeared in court today, his hair dyed orange and his eyes drooping shut. so far, authorities say he's refused to cooperate. good evening. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, we have the latest on today's hearing and assess the nation's gun, assault weapon, and ammunition laws in the wake of the tragedy. >> ifill: then, ray suarez explores the fallout at penn state after the n.c.a.a. imposed fines and penalties that could cripple the school's storied football program. >> woodruff: i traveled to florida to see firsthand the challenges ahead for the obama campaign in that battleground state, ranging from the housing crisis to the health care reform law. >> now that people are really saying and saying to the president, what more can you do? what more do you have to offer
now? we're still with you, but you've got to continue to do more. >> ifill: we have two reports from syria on the rebel offensive in the city of aleppo, and the aftermath of the bombardment by government forces in the capital, damascus. >> woodruff: and on the bloodiest day in iraq in two years, margaret warner talks to jane arraf in baghdad about coordinated insurgent attacks that killed more than 100 people. hoe. >> the targets are pretty much the same as they have been. they're military police, shias, ordinary people. but essentially al qaeda says it is coming back. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> and the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: the world got a look today at the man who allegedly gunned down scores of people in aurora, colorado, on friday. he appeared at his initial court hearing as police pieced together what led up to the assault in a movie theater.
>> please be seatedded. ifill: it was the first time he had been seen publicly since friday's shootings, and james holmes cut a bizarre figure. his hair dyed bright orange, his eyes dazed. it was unclear if he was on medication, but the 24-year-old staredded blankly or not at all... or nodded off. and he never spoke as the judge explained the murder charges against him. afterward district attorney carol chambers said the state is considering asking for the death penalty. but she wants to hear from the victim's family. >> it's the... if death penalty is sought, that's a very long process that impacts their lives. for years. and so they will want to have and we will want to get their input before we make any kind of a decision on that. >> ifill: holmes is accused of opening fire inside aurora century 16 theater on friday. 12 people were killed and 58 wounded. seven remain in critical condition. police say holmes opened fire
with a semiautomatic rifle, but it jammed. so he used a shotgun and a pistol. a change that may have saved lives. minutes later he was arrested near his car behind the theater. the investigation so far shows holmes started buying guns at local stores two months before the shooting and purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online. over the weekend, authorities disarmed numerous booby traps they found in holmes' apartment. >> this apartment was designed to kill whoever entered it. >> ifill: the explosives and incendiary materials were later trucked away and destroyed officials at the university of colorado medical campus were checking if holmes used his graduate student status there to obtain the explosives. >> we have experienced a tragedy, but now is the time to grieve, now is the time to heal.
>> ifill: the morning began in earnest as hundreds attended a sunday vigil. president obama flew into aurora to visit with families of the victims at a hospital. >> most of the conversation was filled with memory. it was an opportunity for families to describe how wonderful their brother or their son or daughter was. and the lives that they had touched and the dreams that they held for the future. >> ifill: the dej range in age from a six-year-old girl to a 51-year-old father. one had been celebrating his birthday. another shielded his girlfriend from the gun fire. one navy veteran was killed along with two active service members. carpenter greg zandis traveled from aurora illinois to deliver 12 crosses he built, one for each person he died. >> the whole country needs to show them that we love them and we care about them. >> ifill: visitors to the makeshift memorial across from the theater struggled to hold back tears.
>> devastation. i mean really. look at these images. a strong little girl. you know. this is just horrible for colorado. for anyone. >> ifill: for now the accused gunman wasn't talking about the motive behind the killings or anything else. he's to be formally charged next monday. a trial could be a year away. there is much known and much unknown about the aurora shooting. but if james holmes indeed had as much weaponry in hand as prosecutors say, the questions remain the same. what was legal? what wasn't? and why? many of the answers boil down to policy, politics, and public opinion. joining us to sort through some of that: congresswoman jan schakowsky, a democrat from illinois. dave kopel, a constitutional law professor at the university of denver. he's also an associate policy analyst at the cato institute. and mike dimock, associate director at the pew research center.
michael, i want to start with you because we know that criminal violence is down. gun ownership is down. but gun control is also down. how do those things square? >> it has been a long-term trend. in the '90s most of the 90s as recently as '99 you had support for gun control exceeding support for maintaining gun rights by more than two to one. that eroded a bit in the early 2000s. we've seen a dramatic change in the last three or four years. our latest survey in april found 49% saying that the priority should be on protecting gun rights. 45% saying that the priority should be protecting gun control. the first time really those lines have crossed. >> ifill: i want to ask you this and turn to the other two and ask the question as well whether the debate is really about gun violence or about gun ownership. i mean, how does it break down? >> well, it's interesting because people react to these events very strongly. i mean, half the public said they followed this very closely this weekend. probably the biggest story of
the year as of right now. but many people attribute it to the act of ice rated individuals who really are kind of beyond the control of the system, so to speak, and that there's some skepticism that the gun laws or restricting access to guns would reduce that situation. only a handful attribute this to broader problems and even among them gun control is mentioned by fairly few. >> ifill: congresswoman schakowsky, what do you say about that? >> it seems to me we don't have to choose the rights of gun owners. legislation to protect public safety and public health don't have to restrict the rights of lawful gun owners, but who in america thinks it's necessary to buy 6,000 bullets online without any kind of restrictions whatsoever? the weapon that he had, with this high capacity magazine that held 100 bullets, who really needs that? what civilian needs to have that
kind of gun? so i think that we have... there are plenty of rights for gun owners. we're not trying to take away all the guns. but we're saying as eight years ago we all said as recently as eight years ago that those kinds of assault weapons, semi-assault weapons, are not necessary on the street. we should take them off. americans around the country have been traumatized, not just those in colorado who are involved in this situation. >> ifill: i'm sorry. i just wanted to bring dave into the conversation. what do you say to that? >> i would certainly agree with representative schakowsky's broadest point, which is that you can protect second amendment rights and have strong laws to protect those rights and at the same time you can also recognize that guns in the wrong hands are a real danger to everyone. you can enact laws that really complement second amendment rights by trying to keep guns outate wrong hands.
but i don't think anything that's come out of this horrible crime here, for which president obama really was a wonderful leader for the people of colorado yesterday with his unifying and apolitical speech, but we haven't seen anything from this that tells us realistically about what new laws could be enacted. for example, i understand that the people who don't have any familiarity with firearms or don't like them say 6,000 rounds, the fact is competitive target shooter can oofn go through 6,000 rounds of ammunition a month during practice. so if you had a law that said, oh, every time somebody buys 500 or 1,000 or whatever number you want to say of ammunition that the federal government has to get notified, well, you wouldn't find anything of interest because that's such a common kind of thing to do. also all the more so not just for competitive target shooters but because ammunition has gotten a lot more expensive over
the last 15 years it's fairly common now for people to buy in bulk, to buy a carton of 500 or 1,000 and save money in the long term. whether that's on the internet or in person from a big gun store. >> ifill: what do you say about congressman schakowsky's argument about whether competitive sports men or women need access to assault rifles? >> that issue has been around for a quarter century. the country fell for it for a while and has long since moved beyond it. the fact is... this is an issue where you're talking about the cosmetics of the gun as one of the gun prohibition strategists said people will think if it looks like a machine gun it is a machine gun. the fact is that the ar-15 is the most popular rifle in united states today. it fires just like every other gun. if you press the trigger once, you get one bullet. it's not a machine gun. and it's popular because it is a versatile rifle that is used by literally millions of law-abiding people for hunting.
it's only good for deer. it wouldn't be powerful enough for something larger. but for hunting, for self defense and for target shooting. >> ifill: congresswoman. what i wanted to say is the gentleman used the word apolitical. let's be real. this is one of the most political issues we have. the national rifle association in many ways owns the united states congress. spending over $7 million in the 2010 election cycle, close to $3 million on its lobbying activities. it says that it will score legislation, meaning it will rate legislators on how they vote. any kind of a crazy bill, even one that says in bankruptcy $3,000 worth of weapons will be protected, passed the house of representatives with over 300 votes. the threat that the national rifle association says that worked. any kind of rational debate about gun safety legislation... >> ifill: let me ask mike dimock
about that. i'm curious as to whether this debate boils down to two lobbying arms fighting with each other or or whether there is a common agreement among americans about what the agreement should be, what the middle ground should be. >> it's hard to say. i mean as with many issues, most americans have a gut reaction, whether it was health care, social security. they have an medicines of how they feel. but when you get into the details you'll find all sorts of gradations. you'll find very broad support for stricter background checks, for greater efforts to enforce existing laws, to try to make sure that people who have a history of any kind of mental illness are checked more carefully and so forth and so on. you'll find more support for banning so-called assault weapons than you will for banning handguns. you'll see a big shading of how people break this down. i think for many people, this is an area of a lot of confusion. many people don't know all of these details. >> ifill: also is this something
that changes depending on whether there was an event. if you asked someone right after virginia tech, they might have a more emotional answer than they do in the long term. let me mr. dimock and i'll come back to you, congresswoman. >> very little effect of these events. while they have an enormous social impact on people, we didn't see the balance of opinion on gun control or gun rights change before an and after the shooting in tucson last year or before and after the virginia tech shooting so the events themselves have not really been that pivotal. >> ifill: i want to ask the two of you what final larger question here, which is whether people when they think about public safety -- and i'll start with you, mr. kopei -- when people talk about public safety, do they think that gun ownership enhances it or do they feel that gun ownership or gun use threatens it? >> well, the compromise we've come to in colorado and really nationally -- it's why the national rifle association has 68% approval among the american public according to a reuters
poll -- is that both of those things you said are right. that guns in the right hands enhance public safety. so it's important to have laws to protect the right of people to carry handguns for lawful protection so you don't ban guns just based on cosmetics. of course guns in the wrong hands really harm public safety. that's why we have... we regulate guns more strictly than anything else in this country. guns are the only consumer product in the united states where if you walk into a store to buy the product, the store owner has to call the police. the f.b.i. or its state counterpart to get permission for every single sale. the reason ms. schakowsky's agenda is not advancing further in congress is that this country after 40 years of intense gun debate has come to a consensus that where we have strong regulation and we have strong rights protection. >> ifill: congresswoman, you get the final word. >> i disagree. i think most americans do think that sensible gun safety legislation is is important. but can you all just imagine if
those who were holding guns legally in that theater stood up, as some have suggested they should, and started shooting at this shooter? we would have had a real shootout at the neighborhood theater? i mean, these kinds of situations are real because of the proliferation of guns. i think that these tragedies should -- shame on us for not using these as opportunities to lookate at ways that we can make our streets and our movie theaters and everywhere that people gather safer. >> ifill: congresswoman schakowsky, dave kopei and mike dimock, thank you all very much. you can watch today's full court appearance by james holmes and the comments made after that by the district attorney on our web site. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour, the penalties for penn state; the campaign challenges for president obama in florida; the battles in syria; and a deadly day in iraq. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan.
>> sreenivasan: president obama and republican mitt romney returned to campaigning in earnest today for the first time since the colorado shootings. romney spoke to a small business roundtable in irvine, california, and he charged again that the president doesn't understand business. >> i happen to think that for people who have their spent whole livelihood working in government that they sometimes don't appreciate just how hard it is to have a business, grow a business, maintain a business, so that you can maintain employees and pay them better wages and better benefits. and there's a sense that somehow you're the bad guys. i see you as the good guys. if you're employing people and hiring people, i want to see you do better. >> sreenivasan: later, mr. obama addressed the veterans of foreign wars convention in reno, nevada. he warned that major defense cuts are looming at year's end, if congress can't agree on deficit cuts. and he said the blame lies with republicans. >> they would rather protect tax cuts for some of the wealthiest americans even if it risks big cuts in our military.
i've got to tell you, v.f.w., i disagree. if the choice is between tax cuts that the wealthiest americans don't need and funding our troops that they definitely need to keep our country strong, i will stand with our troops every single time. ( applause ) >> sreenivasan: romney will speak to the v.f.w. tomorrow. markets around the world were jumpy today on fears that spain is sliding ever closer to a bailout. spanish banks already have a deal for international aid, but the government may need one, too, as it struggles to deal with its debts. worries about the situation pushed wall street lower. the dow jones industrial average lost 101 points to close at 12,721. the nasdaq fell 35 points to close at 2890. the u.s. stepped up its commitment today to the effort to stop the spread of aids. secretary of state hillary clinton addressed an international conference in washington, and said the obama administration is pledging an extra $150 million to poor nations. >> the united states is committed and will remain committed to achieving an
aids-free generation. we will not back off. we will not back down. we will fight for the resources necessary to achieve this historic milestone. >> sreenivasan: more than 34 million people are living with the aids virus. there were two and a half million new infections last year. it was a deadly weekend in afghanistan for nato troops. five were killed in roadside bombings in multiple attacks in the east and south. and two american contractors and a briton died in the western unifm turned his gun on them at a training site. sally ride servedded as a mission specialist aboard the shuttle challenger and made history when she blasted off from kennedy space center in june of 1983. later she went on to find sally ride science to encourage young people especially girls to stick with their interest in science. sally ride was 61 years old.
those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: penn state was hit with some of the toughest penalties in decades today for its role in the jerry sandusky scandal. it's a decision that could affect the university and its storied sports program for years. ray suarez has the story. >> football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people. >> suarez: with that, n.c.a.a. president mark emert announced sweeping sanctions that all but leveled penn state's football program for failing to stop a pedophile ex-coach. among the measures a $60 million fine, equivalent to one year's revenue from the football program and a four-year ban on bowl games plus five years' probation. in addition, the school will for fit $13 million in bowl revenues earned by other members of the big ten conference. penn state will also be cut from 85 scholarship players to 65 for four years. and the sanctions will cancel 112 wins, going back to 1998.
that's alleged when a cover-up of the scandal began. n.c.a.a. president spoke today in indianapolis. no price the n.c.a.a. can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by jerry sandusky on his victims. however, we can make clear that the culture, actions and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics. >> suarez: last month the 68-year-old sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. sometimes on university grounds. the n.c.a.a. based its decision on findings commissioned by penn state and released by former f.b.i. director luis free earlier this month. the scathing report charged that legendary coach joe paterno, university president graham spaniard and other top school officials concealed what they knew about sandusky to protect the football program's
reputation. coach paterno was fired last fall. and he died of lung cancer in january. the penalties mean he'll no longer be recognized as the winningest coach ever in major college football. early sunday construction workers premove... removed his bronze statue from in front of beaver stadium at state college drawing a divided response >> even though he made mistakes we still need to remember him the right way >> if he had stood up and said my assistant coach is a pedophile he should not be in the program he should be turned over to the authorities he would have become a hero. >> suarez: this morning, students and others gathered to find out whether the football program would be abolished outright. the last team to receive the n.c.a.a. so-called death penalty was southern methodist university in 1986. but in the end emert said it was not the right punishment for penn state >> we concluded that the sanctions needed to reflect our goals of driving cultural change
as much as apply punitive actions. suspension of the football program would bring with it significant unintended harm to many who had nothing to do with this case. >> suarez: in competing statements today the paterno family called the sanctions a panic response, but penn state president rodney erickson accepted the penalties. he said with the announcement the university takes a significant step forward. we take a closer look at the sanctions levied by the n.c.a.a. against penn state now with kevin blackistone, a professor of journalism at the university of maryland and a commentator on espn. and scott rosner, associate director of the wharton sports business initiative at the university of pennsylvania business school. professor black stone, the n.c.a.a. called its decision a mix of corrective and punitive measures. did they get it right? >> i don't know if they got it all right. you know, i much would have preferred to hear today that
mark emert and his executive committee weren't making a unilateral decision and instead were taking a more sweeping move and only fining the university but also suspending its membership and forcing a vote by the entire convention of the n.c.a.a. in january. and also forcing person state to... penn state to come forward even more publicly before all of its members and make a plea for its case to remain. i think that would have spoken more to the cultural change that mark emert spoke of in terms of athletics overriding athletics and how he wanted to see that reversed. this way i think it's still a little bit too myoptic for my taste. >> suarez: professor, what do you make of the decision >> i think it was a swift and appropriate response by the n.c.a.a. which i think everyone who follows the sports industry is well aware of, whether fan or insider is often and fairly
criticized, this is by many including myself i think this is one where they came as close as you can to getting it right given the circumstances. >> suarez: but in this case, professor, the n.c.a.a. moved fast every than it normally does. it decided to forego a long, investigative process and went on the strength of the freeh report. why was it necessary to do that? >> well, i think it's correct in this situation to at least look at the much different circumstances than what is typically faced. there was no real question as to any allegations of fact contained in the freeh report. penn state accepted that as being the truth. and decided not to challenge that. and given that and the fact that the n.c.a.a. is not a legal body, they don't have any subpoena power and oftentimes do rely on testimony and internal investigations that yield these kinds of findings.
>> suarez: professor blackstone you talked about penn state having to defend its right to play football. but did the punishment fit the crime? does it actually hurt those who committed the offenses at this point? >> well i think those who committed the offenses as far as we know have already been hurt by this. i mean jerry sandusky is in jail, convicted on 45 counts of child molestation and awaiting sentencing that carries a minimum of 60 years in prison. we have some others who are due to show up in court. so i think a lot of that has been done. but i'm just still concerned that this message is not going to get through. i mean, you know, one of the things that we did here today that we thought we might hear is that this team was going to be taken off of television. apparently that was going to affect the television contracts that are already in place and affect the money flow and the income and the revenue and all of that. so, we didn't hear about that.
those are some areas that i just think that the n.c.a.a. came up short on >> suarez: professor rosner, not taken off television but also not allowed to escape with their business model intact ear. are they >> this is going to have a dramatic impact on the business of penn state football. when you look at it as an individual sport, the athletic department as a whole. indeed i think across the entire university. when you look at the impact it's going to have on gate receipts, it that will probably be the least impacted area but certainly you can expect to see a decline in gate receipts as the performance of the team as they are expected to decline over time. i think you'll see sponsorship certainly be impacted by this and those dollars as the number of companies seek to remove themselves from the taint associated with the program. i think to a certain degree fund raising to the athletic department itself can be negatively impacted as those who would typically give to penn state and indeed did give to
penn state over the past year according to penn state's own study and own research. i think there's going to be a pullback. again as team performance coffey creases. >> suarez: professor blackstone, explain how this particular set of sanctions on the way the program operates, on recruiting, on scholarships on the money flow percolates through a program. you have, whatever, some 85 young men who are going to show up in the fall and practice and start to play. the countdown is even on the penn state website. 38 days until they start to play. >> right. well, you know, it affects it in a lot of ways. for the future going forward one of the heaviest penalties they got is the fact they're going to lose 20 scholarships each year for the next four years. it will be very difficult for penn state to field the type of football team that penn state fans and alums have come to expect during joe paterno's reign. they're also going to lose other initial scholarships.
they won't be able to share in the revenue from the bowl games. they won't be able to appear in bowl games. the 85 guys who are on the team now all have an opportunity immediately to depart this program and find another one to play in, if playing for big bowl stakes is that important to them. so the football team certainly for the next half decade is going to take a pretty major hit in terms of its ability to perform at a really high level. >> suarez: professor rosner given what professor blackstone just described, are we going to in four years, five years just inevitably see a penn state where football is less of a factor in the daily life of the college, where it's less of what n.c.a.a. president called too big to fail, too big to challenge? >> i think the nature of the sanctions as kevin pointed out is such that in and as many
pundits have pointed out today as well, is such that the expected decline in football will lead to in a sense a bit of a culture change. students coming to the university won't expect there to be a winning club put out on the field. they know what they're getting into. i think they could actually have an impact on enrollment at penn state outside of... from those coming why outside the state of pennsylvania who otherwise may seek out penn state because they wanted to be associated with a school who has a winning football program and the school spirit that goes with that >> suarez: gentlemen, thank you both. online, we've posted video from this morning's n.c.a.a. press conference. >> woodruff: and we turn to politics. we decided to travel to florida late last week when president obama headed there for a couple of days of campaigning.
as we know now, events in colorado led him to cancel part of the trip, but we were there long enough to do some reporting on just how tough his challenge is to win reelection in that critical battleground. what was supposed to be a chance for the president to make the case for himself in voter-rich florida was abruptly cut short by last friday's mass shooting. >> i am so moved by your support, but there are going to be other days for politics. this, i think, is a day for prayer and reflection >> woodruff: left behind is a campaign with its work more than cut out for it. in the state he won by just over 2 percentage points in 2008. and which has since been pounded by persistent job losses and one of the nation's worst foreclosures crises. as if that weren't enough, confusion over his health care reform plan has led to mixed reaction among many voters in
the sunshine state. obama supporter wendy fallon who worked for years in a doctor's office says she saw up close why the law is needed. >> so many of them are uninsured. they had jobs that didn't provide insurance. they can't afford it on their own. and here they have a desperately injured child that has to be cared for. it was heart breaking. >> how about 1, 2, 3. do you like that? >> woodruff: but a few hours away on florida's atlantic coast canesta playing friends were skeptical >> i don't care for his health plan >> woodruff: what bothers you about the health plan? >> i'm not quite sure to be honest with you. it's just something about it that i don't care for it >> woodruff: florida atlantic university political science prove professor kevin wagner said that sentiment is widespread in florida >> he can't change his record. he has to live or die with the
affordable care act. that's going to be something that he has to try and change the perception of especially among older voters >> woodruff: the president did defend his plan before an audience of seniors in palm beach last week. >> imagine if you had been unlucky and ended up getting laid off at the age of 55 or 57 and you lose your health insurance. or because of a preexisting condition you can't get it. or it costs so much you could never even afford it. that's not right. that's not who we are. so that's why we passed the affordable care act. it was the right thing to do. >> woodruff: if it were only health care the president's team had to explain, they would have their hands full. but as in much of the rest of the country, mr. obama is being held responsible, fairly or unfairly, for the ongoing housing crisis. even as it shows signs of abating here. >> i'm in the real estate business.
voters now here in florida are voting because of housing. the foreclosure, the short sales, the banks. it's really a problem not just hear in south florida but all throughout florida >> reporter: and of course the economy. florida's unemployment rate stood at 8.6% in june. stable but stubbornly high. this may be the biggest mountain the president has to climb to persuade voters he's doing enough to encourage job creation. >> he came in trying to give businesses monies and all kinds of things that he did. people were excited about that. i think now that people are really seeing and saying to the president, what more can you do? i think they're really saying, mr. president, what do you have to offer now? we're still with you. but you have to continue to do more. >> woodruff: those words from strong obama supporter and the mayor of rivera beach tom masters are echoed by the group of women at century village. the well known retirement center
in palm beach which is normally a stronghold for democratic candidates. >> i'm concerned about the money i've put away for the college fund for my grandchildren. i mean i worked hard to be able to make a better life for them, hoping that the government would stand behind me. i'm looking for the right person who is going to do this for us. >> woodruff: to underscore how complex the florida political challenge is, it helps to look at the newshour's vote 2012 map center. it highlights the big counties democrats need to win overwhelmingly to have a chance to repeat the president's success four years ago. he needs large margins of victory in the southeast counties of miami dade forth lauder dale and palm beach as well as strong showings for orlando and tampa the famous i-4 corridor. but jewish, african-american and young people now need tending.
>> the first african-american president we've had in the community. people are excited about it. i do feel that the president has got to come back to his base and make those visits to the inner cities. i do think that african-americans and other minorities and his base will continue to stay with him >> woodruff: but political scientist kevin wagner says that is exactly what the obama campaign has to worry about >> there's a enthusiasm difference this time around. last time he had a very enthusiastic democratic base. he had a lot of youth voters out. he did very well among the standard democratic groups. so his turnout among those numbers was very, very good. this time around he has a real problem with enthusiasm. among the democratic base >> i think we have to really shuffle them a little bit >> woodruff: of the three canasta players who voted for obama in 2008 two said they may not vote for him again. >> i thought he would be good for the people. especially the elderly people.
i thought he would be terrific for medicare. and i thought he'd visit israel but he hasn't in the years he's been in office. that bothered me. >> woodruff: at a charity race, we met young home builder rick sebastien who says business is picking up. he plans to vote for obama again not with great excitement but because he doesn't like his other choice. is there something about him that gives you confidence that the next four years will be... >> just more confidence than the other competitor. it's not like he's a home run. two sandwiches. one has salami and the other one has no meat. you'll take at least the one with the piece of meat a it >> reporter: the campaign strategist say they know they have a lot of work to do in florida to win back former supporters. they also point to potential new voters among immigrants to is state and the new independent voters not aligned with either
party >> we'll change our mailings a little bit >> reporter: democratic congressional candidate jim roach lives on the southwest coach traditionally a strong republican area. but that's changing. >> since 1995 when the republicans had nearly 60% of the voters in this area, that has dropped steadily every year to where lee county is now about 44% republican. the democrats have held fairly steady at around 30%. but this huge group of voters, 26% of our voters are no party affiliation. they're the ones that decide the election. they're the ones asking the harder questions. i believe we're getting to them this year. >> woodruff: but the independent voters we found strolling around fort myers on a friday night were not ready to jump on anyone's bandwagon. is there something president obama could say or do that would make you feel more comfortable >> he seems to be all over the map. i'm going to get my hands in health care, in the taxes.
it's sort of like he's spreading himself very thin. i understand you want to please everybody all the time. we know that can't happen. that's not realistic. if you're going to champion something, pick one thing. see it through to the end and do it right. if i saw that out of either candidate, that would persuade me. >> woodruff: political independent shannon densham said the candidates haven't talked enough about issue s. the platforms have yet to be really outlined well in my opinion. until they really get down to the issues and what they stand for and what they believe in, my vote is still up in the air. >> woodruff: her friend paul, a republican who wishes there was a viable third-party option, said neither candidate impresses him >> neither candidate has come out and said what they can do for us. they just keep wanting to say, the other guy can't do it for us. >> woodruff: the reality is,
however, that criticizing the other guy is what florida voters can expect for much of the next three-and-a-half months as long as both campaigns think that gives their guy the best shot at winning. >> woodruff: most >> woodruff: most polls show the race in that state is very close. you can explore how florida's vote changes electoral college scenarios for each candidate in the newshour's vote 2012 map center. play around with the numbers there, and share your predictions with your friends using facebook and twitter. >> ifill: syria acknowledged for the first time that it has chemical and biological weapons. but as fierce fighting there continued, the syrian foreign minister said the weapons would not be used to crush the rebels. president obama said syrian leader bashir al-assad would be held accountable if his regime did use chemical weapons. we have two reports about the war in syria from independent television news, beginning with
john irvine on the shelling in the country's second largest city, aleppo. he filed his story from beirut, lebanon. reporter: syrian army tanks used to be an irresistible force but not anymore. this is an ambush in the streets of aleppo. one tank, the rebels commandeer. at least two others are destroyed. a burning hulk becomes the back drop for a triumphant group photograph. as the war escalates, the syrian armed forces are digging deeper into their arsenal. jets are now being used for bombing runs.
the regime that is thrown almost everything it has against its own people but it apparently draws the line of chemical weapons >> any talks of w.m.d. or any unconventional weapon that the syrian army possesses would never be used against the syrian people in this crisis >> reporter: what he said next amounted to a warning to the outside world not to get involved >> these weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression against the syrian republic >> what is actually happening is their own people are rising up against a brutal police state that has nothing to do with any aggression from anywhere else in the world >> reporter: this conflict is 16 months old, but still both sides share an ability to live to fight another day. >> ifill: damascus has been the scene of pitched battles between rebel and government troops
since the bomb attack that killed four of assad's closest security officials last week. there have been ongoing clashes in a neighborhood in the capital known as mee-dan. alex thomson reports on the devastation there. >> reporter: the benality of normality. traffic jams is a feature of life here. the gains claimed by the rebels in the capital appear exaggerated. the regimes boast that they pushed the fighters out of some districts altogether is ever more credible. but independent reportings, near impossible. we're heading for midan where fighting has been prolonged and intense in recent days. an army check point seals off the district. you film covertly and fast and move on in a game of cat-and-mouse to try to get into the area and our guide who stays anonymous says, "we're here." look around. he hardly needs to. government forces turnedded helicopter gunships, tanks,
mortars, rockets, heavy machine guns on this district for three days. the government says in two days' time families can begin moving back into midan. but just take a look at what the family will find when they move back to this house. people say, yes, of course, the rebel fighters have been pushed out but they'll fight another day and in another way. there is no chance that president assad will win this civil war. a shop keeper who fled the fighting comes back to find his business has disintegrated. in theory the government will pay but all around us, they're talking now off camera of a massacre here. finally one man will tell us anonymously everything he knows. >> because this is the only family who stays in the district during that time. they want to leave in a peaceful way. >> reporter: channel 4 news spoke to seven residents independently of each other who all either named the family has the victims or the figure of 16
being killed. we were sent this video to show the scene of the killings. the details of the family shot through the head can't be shown. you do see the poignant sight of an unfinished family meal. house after house trashed. everyone here said soldiers went on an orgy of looting here. they know syrians keep large amounts of cash at home. this man said the militias stole 18,000 pounds from his place. outside the remains of rebel barricades, few tile against organized ground and air assault. the tank tracks of a departed government army. weirdly, the authorities have as if tid usely painted over most of the anti-assad graffiti which covered the walls around here and left their own, the soldiers of god were here. president assad has won the battle for damascus and won it convincingly, but everyone knows
winning the battle is not the same as winning the war. >> woodruff: east of syria, iraq, too, was the scene of bloody violence today. dozens of attacks in multiple cities left scores dead. margaret warner has that story. >> warner: the bombings and shootings tore through iraq on the fourth day of the muslim holy month of ramadan. i was the worst day of violence there in two years. suspicion fell on the sunni insurgent group al qaeda and iraq known for mounting closely coordinated strikes. in recent days, the group's leader was said to have used the group's website to announce a new offensive, code named breaking the wall. >> at the top your priorities regarding targets is to chase and liquidate the judges, the
investigators and guards. >> warner: today saw 37 separate attacks in 15 cities. most hit government, military and police targets. >> i am asking, where are the authorities? where is the police? about 15 houses were level to the ground. >> warner: the deadliest strike was north of baghdad where more than 40 were killed. also on the tark it list, baghdad's sadr city and sectors. baqouba and ballard northeast of the capital and others. mosul in the north and five towns around kirkuk including the city itself were also head. today's were just the latest in what has been a steady increase in attacks since u.s. forces left in december. and the shiite-dominated government of prime minister nouri al-maliki has been nearly particle liesed by sectarian
divisions, but in washington state department spokesperson victoria newland argued iraqis are more than capable of securing their country >> we have seen terrorist exploit the holy mounts, exploit the peaceful efforts by iraqis to worship, to commit acts of terror. but we continue to believe that iraqi security forces are up to the task, that the security situation over the last couple of years has improved in iraq as has the capability of iraqi forces. >> warner: al qaeda and iraq played a major role in fomenting brutal sectarian warfare in 2006 and 2007. for more on all of this i spoke to a reporter in baghdad. welcome, jane. what do today's attacks, the targets the locations tell us about the reemergence of this sunni insurnlent group
>> basically, margaret, it tells us they have a pretty good reach. if you lookate at those targets and the sheer scope of them, the number of them, the fact that they do appear to have some organizational ability to coordinate, it tells us that they are indeed still there. now the targets are pretty much the same as they have been. their military, their police, their shias, ordinary people. but essentially al qaeda said it is coming back. it says it's coming back in those areas where some of the attacks were today. those include areas outside of baghdad in what was called the baghdad belt which was traditionally an al qaeda stronghold and a life line for al qaeda for attacks in the capital. others were in kirkuk part of the disputed territory. what they really seem to be doing is taking advantage of the chaos that still exists in a lot of places in iraq. >> warner: what are its aims, its objectives? >> it aims to launch, to create an islamic state. the center of the... and one of
the capitals would be in baghdad. it repeats that again in the latest statement that we've heard. it also wants to take advantage of this sectarian tension that still exists. while iraq is nowhere near the sectarian violence that it was a few years ago, it's really evolved quite a lot since then. there still is tension there. it wants to foster civil war again. the targets have been predominantly shia targets apart from the security forces. they do aim at shias. they aim at pilgrims. they're hoping to restart the sectarian violence by provoking shia militias to colonel out and fight them against in the streets. the same way they do a few years ago >> warner: what is the latest state of play in the government among the rival groups, the shiites and sunnies and kurds? is this uptick in violence related to that >> the people in the street believe it. even more disturbing than believing that the chaos that exists in government helps
foster this climate where al qaeda can flourish, they actually believe that political parties are behind some of the violence. but certainly the political paralysis doesn't help. we're talking about a government that has no defense minister. it has no interior minister. the main leaders don't even talk to each other. there's an active campaign to unseat the prime minister. i recently spoke with the kurdish president, and he held out very little hope for reconciliation with prime minister maliki. in fact, they are talking on both sides about an escalation of tension. there are a lot of problems here. it certainly doesn't help to create the climate where security is flourishing >> warner: and how capable are the iraqi security forces now with the u.s. gone? i mean, if al qaeda and iraq delivers on its threat to keep increasing the level of attacks can iraqi forces handle it? >> that is really the question. when we're talking about handling things like car bombs or suicide bombs, it's
impossible to actually prevent them. so really the way that they've been able to make gains against al qaeda has been through intelligence gathering. about finding out how these networks are operate and taking down some of the main operators, cutting off their finances, disrupting their communications. that was one of the things that iraqi forces were able to do quite well when the american forces were here. when the americans left, they left. they took away their technology. they took away their help and intelligence gathering. and iraq seems to have paid a price for it. they've lost a lot of their ability to basically gather and assess intelligence. that has been one of the main ways that they've had to fight al qaeda. >> warner: finally, how is the turmoil in syria affecting iraq's security. >> officials here are very worried. now that was part of the reasons that they essentially closed the border to syrian refugees. they said they couldn't handle refugees coming across the
western border because they couldn't care for them but also according to the government spokesmen they were worried about the security implications. when there's security vacuums along the borders, you open up those borders and you don't know what will happen. syria itself has said that al qaeda exists there. we've seen some evidence of the hallmarks of the kind of operations that they normally engage in. it does seem clear that al qaeda has relocated in some sense to syria. the iraqis are afraid that they'll come back across the border and create the kind of conflict and dissension and sectarian fighting that they managed to do so well just a few years ago. >> warner: thank you for joining us >> thank you. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day. the suspect in the colorado shootings appeared in court for the first time. james holmes had a dazed expression and his hair was dyed orange.
the n.c.a.a. imposed crippling penalties on penn state football over a scandal involving sexual abuse of children. the government of syria said it would use chemical weapons only if it's attacked by foreign forces, as fighting spread to the country's largest city. and more than 100 people died in a string of attacks across iraq. how are spain's citizens coping with economic instability? we explore that online. hari sreenivasan explains. >> sreenivasan: paul solman goes inside spain's slump, where interest rates have soared to record high levels. and he has posted a personal take on the crisis from an economist and a producer, both out of work. we have live coverage of the international aids conference, and each evening we wrap up the events with jackie judd of the kaiser family foundation and jon cohen of "science" magazine. that's all on our health page. and on marketplace tonight, the next "food for nine billion" radio story examines the ultimate growth industry: fish farms to supply a hungry world. reporter sam eaton looks at vietnam's moves to develop a sustainable industry. that story and links to previous reports on our home page.
find that plus video of the astronaut sally ride on our science page. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. >> ifill: and that's the newshour for tonight. on tuesday, i'll talk with singer-songwriter sir elton john about his new book, "love is the cure," and his mission to stop the spread of aids. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy, productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting.