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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  September 13, 2017 6:30am-7:01am PDT

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goo good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. 16 years ago today, the terrorist attacks on september 11th set in motion a series of' response that reshaped the world as we know it. among those was the usa patriot act rushed through congress less than six weeks after the attacks and passed overwhelmingly as you might recall. the establishment of our modern surveillance tape was opposed by just one u.s. senator. russ feingold from wisconsin. tonight, we'll talk with the progressive democrat about his historic vote, and his new organization, legit action. then, memphis blues quintet southern avenue joins us, and a performance from their debut album. we're glad you joined us. russ feingold and southern avenue coming up in just a moment.
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penned by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. pleased to welcome russ feingold back to this program. 16 years ago he was the lone senate vote against the patriot act, just a few weeks after 911.
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former wisconsin senator is a visiting professor at yale law school and founder of a new voting rights group called legit action. he joins us from yale studio in new haven, connecticut. senator feingold, good to have you back on this program, my friend. >> tavis, great to be back on, thank you. >> take me back all those years ago now, describe for me as best you can what it felt like being the lone vote against that patriot act. >> well, it's really something doing this show on the anniversary 16 years ago. i can't help but think all day about what it was like to be across the street from the capitol and to see people fleeing and wondering if the capitol was going it be hit. what i do remember more than anything else, because i was able to attend the singing of the song "god bless america" on the steps of the capitol, republicans, democrats alike that night. i recall the feeling of unity that lasted for a little while. i mean, it really was impressive. at this time in our country,
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there is so much disunity. we really have forgotten what it is to come together to try to solve our problems. so obviously the main thing is remembering those who were killed and hurt on 9/11, but also to rededicate ourselves to try to get back together to some kind of sense of community in this country. we've got to do that. >> does it -- does it always require, will it always take something as disastrous as 9/11 to bring us together as americans? why is it we can't seem to do that around something that doesn't seem to literally take lives? >> that's really troubling because, of course, in the past with the depression and world war ii, there were moments when people came together. and we've got to learn the lesson that you have to be ready for those kinds of disasters and problems by having strong institutions. and what's happening. frankly, it started even before donald trump. a lot of our basic institutions
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from voting rights to our campaign finance system, to the way we elect a president, to our supreme court, you name it, all of these are being attacked and they're being delegitimized. the reason i created this group, legit action, is to say, remember, these attacks started in about 2009, 2010, before donald trump and tavis, they're going to keep going after donald trump even though, frankly, donald trump couldn't be much worse. these attacks on democracy, and on unity, started before him and we've got to be very vigilant about that in addition to all things he's trying to pull. >> i want to come back to the democracy being under threat, if i can put it that way in, just a second. let me go back to the question i asked a moment ago which is what you recall and what kind of response you received 16 years ago when you were the lone guy standing against this patriot act. >> i voted for the afghanistan invasion after we were able to
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narrow the use of military force provision there so it wasn't abused as much as it might have been, although some abused it. they tried to jam through this bill and named it the usa patriot act. i was chairman of the constitution subcommittee, i thought maybe i better read it. so i read it. i found out it was real lnly an attempt to do a lot of things depriving americans of freedom, had to do with drug cases than terrorism. bob novak, late conservative commentator, tavis, said it was an old wish list of the fbi. i tried to sound the alarm this thing was basically taking advantage of a terrorist attack to get other agendas taken care of. i decided to protest by voting no. i wasn't able to stop it but it did help galvanize a national opposition to this that was, frankly, even stronger sometimes than some of the most conservative states in the union like montana or idaho or alaska as well as the more liberal
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areas because people sometimes get unified on not wanting the government intruding onto completely innocent behavior. >> a moment like that, how many times were you labeled anti-american for that vote? >> well, you get called a lot of things and i remember the bush administration started saying that some of us had a pre-9/11 mindset or world view and i responded by saying, well, actually, they have a pre-17. 1776 mindset, they don't realize this was an attack on the fundamental principles of our constitution. george will when he saw the surveillance program the bush administration put in, despite the fact he's a conservative, he had the integrity to say, look, this is monarchical, what the revolution was all about. there were names flying at us but in the long run i think it was very exciting thing to remind people the importance of
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balance even at one of the most difficult times in our modern history. >> and what do you make, senator feingold, of, my word here, not yours, the attacks and the increase, i should say, in those attacks, on what many of us regard as civil liberties that need to be protected? if 16 years ago was, you know, a first strike against those civil liberties, what do you make of where we are 16 years later? >> well, there's always been strikes against civil liberties throughout our history we've had to push back, from the alien sedition acts under john adams way back at the beginning of the country, to the detention of japanese-americans and, of course, the abuses during the bush years. but now we have a president who seems reckless in this regard. if some of these civil liberties get in his way, he just uses a very extreme rhetoric, such as his travel ban, and his attempts to try to prevent people to come in from this country in an ill
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lit sit way. we have a chief of the country wrote country seem to respect this. the congress has been weak kneed on this. they're not likely to stand up to him as much as they should so we're in a dangerous point in terms of the repair that was attempted at least in some cases under the obama administration. >> i used a phrase a moment ago that our democracy is under attack. i don't want to put words in your mouth. you wouldn't let me do that, anyway. you certainly have a mind of your own. how would you describe the fragile nature of our democracy, how would you frame what's happening to our democracy these days in your own words? >> you know, i don't think i have to edit what you said. i just might add the word, extreme attack. i consider a political movement in this country, the conservative-republican movement's attack on people's right to vote, from gerrymandering to not letting felons vote, to the citizens united decision which has created a monstrosity of our campaign finance system, to
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having two out of our three last presidents elected who weren't really the people who got the most votes, to essentially stealing the supreme court by taking president obama's seat that he was entitled to fill when justice scalia died. this is severe attack. in addition to the obvious problems that occurred during the election with russian interference. i can't imagine a time when more aspects of our democracy have been directly under attack internally by our own government, by our own president in the oval office as well as the members of congress and politicians who are trying to repress the votes of blacks, latinos, and others by using very nasty tactics so they can win elections. >> so what happens, then, if the loyal opposition, in this case, that would be the democrats, can't seem to get their act together? what happens? what is -- how far does this story go? >> we already found out what happens. with somebody like donald trump.
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you know, even though obviously he didn't get the most votes and so on. >> right. >> we have got to -- we have got to come forward, tavis, with a principled progressive agenda that takes on the big interests, takes on big money, takes on the people that control this system. but when we do, the reason i created this group called legit action, let's appeal to those things that used to not be partisan. nobody used to mess around with people's right to vote in the last 2030 ye, 30 years in any ss way. nobody thought corporations should be able to spend all they could on elections. so these are things we want to see if we can persuade people in the middle, maybe a number of republicans to say, wait a minute, let's get back to where we can at least gragree on comm institutions, common norms and common traditions. i'd say coupling that with a strong progressive unified message against the dangers of powerful big interests in our country and around the world is the way to go. we can't do it by going sort of semi-republican or half republican.
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>> right. >> so i think, let me take the two points, senator feingold, i think we could make progress on getting the unified progressive message. i think bernie sanders showed it can happen, can raise a lot of money from donors, that people do care. a lot of us on the left aren't completely wrapped around the finger of the democratic party of who the standardbearer might be who they're putting in problem of us. i think you can get a legitimate, if i can use your word, progressive response. what concerns me, though, is the other point you raise about getting some republicans to take a look at this again. i just don't see those moderate republicans that were in the senate when you were there, moderate republicans in the senate prior to your being there, you're either on one extreme or you're on the other extreme. how many moderate republican senators do you know? >> well, you know, a few of them are sticking their heads up a little bit. i'm a little bit encouraged with senator collins and senator murkowski did along with senator mccain on the health bill was encouraging. on some civil liberties issues.
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senator murkowski of alaska has shown willingness to work. i noticed the other day that senator mccain actually intervened in the united states supreme court case on reapportionment that actually is based on wisconsin's malapporti malapportionment. that was a surprise. you don't need 20 republicans. all you noeed is two or three. that changes the entire dynamic because the senate is very close. i think you're going to even find some conservatives who are very uncomfortable with some of the things donald trump is doing, this appeal to race, appeal to anti-semitism and all the different things he's been involved with, unwilling to condemn. i think you're going to find a number of republicans who aren't even liberals coming -- or mod ra moderates coming to help on some of these issues. i'm a cup half full kind of guy, tavis, even in the middle of the worst time i can remember, i see little flickers of hope and got to encourage those kind of
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republic cans to work in us. >> that's the wisconsin in you being hopeful and optimistic. let me close on this note tonight as we have the conversation commemorating the anniversary of 9/11,s what say you, senator feingold, is the message all these years later about remaining vigilant, about how to make america better from within as well as avoiding and being aware of those attacks come from outside our borders? >> yeah, i don't think we have got it completely right on either the international or domestic side after 9/11. internationally we got into this idea you kind of go after an organization like one country at a time, iraq, afghanistan, yemen, a failure to sort of sustain an understanding of how this kind of an organization works. or the various organizations that have succeeded it. so that has to improve. our foreign policy has to be a little smarter and a little more comprehensive. on the domestic side,s we made a
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lot of mistakes. including the attacks on civil liberties we were just talking about. sometimes not standing up for muslim-americans, asian-americans, south asians and others. who have been stereotyped and made to feel uncomfortable in this country. that is no way to counter these kinds of problems so we need to reinvigorate a sense of inclusion and the idea that america is a country for everybody and that just about everybody here is patriotic and we welcome each other with open arms as americans. instead of trying to divide us against each other as our current president has tried to do. >> students at yale law school are fortunate to hear your insights and wisdom for the time that you were there. thank you for your vote 16 years ago. as always, thank you for being on this program, once again to share your insights senator feingold. >> great to be with you, tavis, thanks. up next, blues quintet, southern avenue. stay with us.
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pleased to welcome members of the blues quintet to this program, blues quintet southern avenue, out of memphis, tennessee. their self-titled debut reached number six on the billboard blues chart, has been receiving all kind of critical praise. good to you for the first time on this program. >> thank you. good to be here. >> thank you. >> glad to have you. your story is fascinating. let me start with you. you were born in israel. >> yes. >> how did you -- how did you end up in memphis? >> it's not that different. >> okay. not that different, okay. yeah. i've been to israel. yeah. >> it's -- it's a small town. >> yeah. >> in a big area. >> yeah. >> right? and has a lot of history and it's about the music and the food. i are relarelate to all of that. >> yeah. >> i didn't come here because i wasn't having fun or i wasn't doing well in israel, you know, i had everything going pretty good. i just took this opportunity to
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represent my country, this challenge in memphis, because i wanted -- i always dreamed about memphis. >> a musical challenge. >> yeah. i wanted to become a better musici musician. i think, you know, with all due respect to cities like l.a., new york, chicago, that are big, they represent a lot of options and opportunities, but to be a better musician, places like memphis and new orleans, you know, i think make you a better musician in all aspects. >> right. >> and, you know, we -- my career took me to l.a. from memphis even. so i knew that, you know, it's still going to work. i still can make all my dreams come true even though it's a small town. for me, memphis is huge. bigger than tel aviv. i don't anymore. >> what did you fall in love with when you got to memphis other than the music, i assume? >> well, it's a very -- in memphis, there's a feeling of us against everybody. you know? and that feeling is something
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that, you know, there's only 14 million jewish people around the world. around the world. you know, israel is such a small country. >> sure. >> and we, you know, and that feeling of a day-to-day basis has -- the people in memphis and the people in israel have the same. whether it's from two different -- it's the same thing. >> sure. >> and people, you know, it's just real. and -- >> the hustle l. >> yeah. i relate to that. i can't be in a place where i s itit' it's, you know, there is some laziness, but also in the -- >> also in tel aviv. yeah. >> right amount of -- the right amount of it. >> yeah. so memphis is home for you. >> yeah. >> how did you all, like, end up hooking up as a group? >> he had a -- this wonderful drummer that he hired for his solo band and he was looking to replace his singer, his lead singer. >> yeah. >> so through the music community, he found me through his drummer. >> yeah. >> yeah. the rest was history. it was, so, like, together.
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>> you got together. you just gelled. >> just gelled. i knew it was good. >> your sister is also in the group. >> yes, she is. >> yeah. i have to let that drummer go and hire her sister. >> is that part of the deal? was that part of the deal? >> she didn't know me. i have an accent, you know? i mean, might as well, you know, have her sister there. i'm kidding. she has a talent. >> i offered my brother first. he said no. >> when i heard -- >> my sister. >> she plays too, huh? >> he's like, okay. >> how would you describe your music? >> i just describe it -- i mean, in general, we describe it as memphis music. i just describe it as soul music, you know? >> yeah. >> something you can feel. whether it's -- whether it's the rock 'n' roll in it or the blues in it or the r&b. >> the gospel in it. >> the gospel in it. it's all music to me. we generalize it as memphis music because memphis has so
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much. memphis music has so many different influences. >> sure. >> in it. it melts in a certain way that it just feels real memphisy. that's not a word. memphis-like. >> i read somewhere you and your sister grew up in a church. >> yes. >> in memphis. >> yes. >> yeah. how did -- how did you -- i don't want to say make the crossover, but i know that -- >> i ran. >> you ran. >> kidding. >> that might be the answer. because if you were raised the way i was raised, you're in an environment where they only want you to sing gospel music. >> only allowed to sing gospel. only allowed to, you know, do the church thing, but, like, music to me has been my life. it's been, like, my outlet for -- since i was writing songs before i could spell mind brother would find them and make fun of me. music to me is music. >> right. >> i don't know what they call church music or gospel music. like i said, music to me is soul music. if i can feel it, if i lived it, i'm going to sing it. there's not going to be anybody to tell me no, you know? because the honesty is what
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reaches the masses. and so breaking away from the church scene, like, there wasn't, like, an internal battle or anything because it was just -- i just do what i feel. but, yeah, it was kind of -- because my family's such a church-oriented family, my grandparents were the founders, my parents were the ministers. you know what i mean? so because it was a family church, everybody just decided to be involved as far as, like, not supporting and giving their opinions and why they're not supporting. you know what i mean? but that's just life. it happens. i'm not the first. i'm not the first. i understood that going public with myself as an artist would -- i would hit those walls. it's okay. >> yeah. >> church made me. i won't take it away. >> there you go. you all are making it work. as i said earlier, near the tops of the charts. when it first came out. tonight you get a chance to judge for yourself because closing us out tonight is southern avenue performing their song, "don't give up" from this
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self-titled debut. good to have you on the program. thanks for coming on. i'm going to shut up now so you all can perform. thanks for watching. keep the faith. here they come. southern avenue. stay with us. ♪ ♪ when it hurts real bad don't give up ♪ ♪ when it hurts real bad don't give up ♪ ♪ when it hurts real bad don't give up ♪ ♪ when it hurts real bad don't give up ♪ ♪ i said don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ no don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ oh don't give up
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♪ don't give up ♪ no don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ when you feel there's no hope ♪ ♪ don't give up ♪ when you feel there's no hope ♪ ♪ don't give up ♪ when you feel there's no hope ♪ ♪ don't give up ♪ oh when you feel there's no hope ♪ ♪ don't give up ♪ i said don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ no don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ oh don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ no don't give up hey! ♪ ♪ yeah hey!
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♪ when it hurts real mad don't give up ♪ ♪ oh when it hurts real bad don't give up ♪ ♪ when it hurts real bad ♪ don't give up ♪ oh when it hurts real bad ♪ don't give up ♪ i said don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ no don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ oh don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ oh don't give up ♪ ♪ oh, yeah ♪ ♪
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♪ yeah ♪ when you feel there's no hope ♪ ♪ don't give up ♪ when you feel there's no hope ♪ ♪ don't give up ♪ when you feel there's no hope ♪ ♪ don't give up ♪ oh when you feel there's no hope ♪ ♪ don't give up ♪ i said ♪ don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ don't trust yourself ♪ don't give up ♪ just trust yourself ♪ i said don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ don't give up ♪ don't give up
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♪ don't give up ♪ yeah [ applause ] >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley@pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley, join me next time for a conversation with a labor leader about the documentary of her life. that's next time. we'll see you then.
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penned by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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