tv PBS News Hour PBS April 25, 2013 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: the brothers suspected in the boston bombings allegedly planned to use their remaining explosives to strike new york city's times square. good evening, i'm jeffrey brown. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight, we get the latest on the new york plot and discuss what u.s. intelligence knew about tamerlan tsarnaev in the months and years before the attack on boston. >> brown: then, the u.s. believes the syrian government has used chemical weapons. but it needs more conclusive proof before reaching the red line for military intervention. >> woodruff: all of the living men who've ever worked from the oval office gathered in dallas
today for the dedication of the george w. bush presidential library. we explore how these libraries shape our understanding of history. >> brown: and we close with a behind-the-scenes look at the lobbying fight over gun control. 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 by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century.
>> 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. >> woodruff: new york city was reportedly going to be the next target for the suspected boston marathon bombers. mayor michael bloomberg disclosed that information during a press conference today. bloomberg said f.b.i. officials learned from dzhokar tsarnaev that he and his brother, decided spontaneously to try to set off an attack times square last week police commissioner ray kelly filled in some of the details after bloomberg spoke. >> he told the f.b.i. apparently that he and his brother had
intended to drive to new york and detonate additional explosives in times square. they had built these additional explosives and we know they had the capacity to carry out these attacks. >> they discussed this while driving around in a mercedes s.u.v. that they hahijacked after they shot and killed an m.i.t. officer, dzhokhar said. that plan however fell apart when they realized the vehicle they hijacked was low on gas and ordered the driver to stop at a nearby gas station. the driver used the opportunity to escape and call the police. that eventually led to the shootout in watertown where the older brother was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police. up until that point the two brothers had at tir dposal six improvised explosive devices, one was a pressure cooker bomb similar to the two
that exploded at the marathon, the other five were pipe bombs. >> woodruff: for more now on what was reported and the continuing investigation, we are joined again by dina temple- raston of npr. test dina, welcome to the newshour again. just felt us-- fill us in on what investigators are learning that they're passing on. well, inhis particular case, when we're tking abouthe new york plot, what they learned actually happened in a 16 hour, a couple of marathon interrogation sessions that a special interrogation team had at dzhokhar tsarnaev's bedside. and it was during that time, before he was before he was read his rights that he provided some of these details about the spontaneous attack that they thought about having in new york. and they did have the capacity to do it, as commissioner kelly said. they had the bombs. it was a question of whether or not theyould actually geall the wa to flork.
and they had a gas problem and then ultimately the police surrounded them and ended up killing the elder brother tamerlan. >> woodruff: but this came out you said in the course of some 16 hours of interrogation over several sessions with the younger tsarnaev brother. so they were piecing the story together, is that the way it worked? >> well, basically what's going on now is exactly that, that the fbi is trying to piece together what happened in the days and months leading up to the attack. so forxamp, there are fbi agents who are now in asia who are interviewing tsarnaev's parents to try and find out, for example, what tamerlan who had been in russia for six months last year, what he was doing while he was there. they are looking for actual gaps in the schedule. for some sort of indication that perhaps he wasn't with his family or father. and might have trained at a terrorist training camp. and that would have given him the ca passit ot build these bombs.
they're curious to know whr oret the two young men coul do this on the owns, build these types of bombs an allegedly wreck this type of havoc just by use a recipe they may have found on the internecessary. >> woodruff: how does this new york angle square with what seemed to be coming out earlier that they didn't have any other attacks planned. for they were going to go to new york it was just to party. >> well, that's what we had heard, that the young man dzhokhar originally said. but you know, the way this works is he says something. and then they try and check it out. if it's inconsistent then they come become and talk to him again. and we did hear from the fbi earlyn that they wer tryi to rroborate a lot of what dzhokhar was telling them. and this was clearly something that they feel that he was holding back. and they were able to go a little bit further. i mean we do know that they interrogated the man whose suv they carjacked. and he said that they had discussed new york so i think that's how they put these two things together.
>> woodruff: are you getting an understanding of how these interrogations are work? are they surrounding dzhokhar tsarnaev in his hospital bed and peppering him with questions? i mean how is this working? >> well, i thinkriginall the fit 16hou what they are trying to do is actually build a rapport with him to try to get him to talk. and once they had established that there were no-- there weren't any other coconspirators and that they didn't think that there would be any other bombs going off or any other attacks, they actually mir andized him so they had 16 hours of trying to establish whether or not there was a public safety concern. and once they had satisfied themselves that there wasn't, they mirandized him. >> woodruff: and asou said they are not taking what he sang a face value but th do se to be passing it along. >> well, i think after it's corroborated they are passing it aing loll. they aren't taking anything-- the parent the they an taking anything the parents in russia are saying at face value other.
they are saying the entire time tamerlan was in russia they knew of his where best. and they are saying the reason he went to russia was he needed to get a russian passport. that his passport was going to expire. he hadn't become a naturallized citizen here in america, so he needed a passport and that's why he went for six months to visit his father. i means that's not beyond the peal, it's not beyond the realm of possibility given that his father was living there and he was there for six months. >> woodruff: separately, what about these reports that the russians notified not only the fbi but now we learn today the cia with information, warnings about the older brother, tamerlan. what do we know, and what happened to those warnings? >> well, our understanding is that those warnings came into the fbi and the fbi took them seriously and actually-- actually interviewed tamerlan three timesnd interviewed his pents and did a rher extensive database on them. they were told by the russians in kind of vague terms our reporting is showing that he was somehow
connected to muslim extremists in russia. and he-- they were told that he was a threat to russia, not to the u.s. but to russia. so the fbi tried to run this to ground. they didn't find any derogatory evidence. they said as much. and they put him on something called the tide list which stands for terrorist identity terror morning database t is the lowest level database that they have, a so-call terrorist watch list. they have about three quarters of a million people on it. so it is a very low level database. and he was put on that. and then after the russians contacted the cia, the cia also suggested that he be put on the tide list and he was. so that, those things seem very consistent. >> woodruff: and rising now, criticism, from some republican senators that the administration, that the cia, the fbi didn't do enough to be on guard with tamerlan tsarnaev after they got these warnings. >> well, th is the big
question i think there is probably going end up being some sort of inquiry about that. but the fbi's line on this is that he wasn't doing anything illegal, and they did as much investigation as they could and they couldn't find anything, a predicate for them to go beyond just putting him on this list. and because of that, i think there is some criticism, why wasn't he, for example, put on the-- slightly higher list. there is a hierarchy of lists and a selectee list, there are about 14,000 people on that list, we think. and that would be someone o would be sellingary screened and perhaps-- secondarily screened and tracked a little more closely. and the famous no fly list. we all know about that one, it has about 10,000 people ton. and no one knows if they are on the no fly list until they get to the airport and then they're not allowed to fly. >> woodruff: well, the investigation continues. dina temple-raston, thank you. >> you're very welcome. >> brown: and beyond the news of the investigation there were powerful moments today from a severely
injured patient who spoke at a press conference at bringham and women's hospital. heather abbott, a 38-year-old woman from rhode island recounted her experience and her choice to have her lower leg amputated. doctors had tried to save her foot for nearly a week. abbott had come to boston on the day of the bombings to watch a red sox game. she was standing in line to get into a bar near where the second bomb went off >> it blew a bunch of us into the bar. i suppose it hit me because i was the last one. i was on the ground. everybody running to back of the bar. i felt like my foot was on fire. i knew i couldn't stand up. i didn't know what to do. i was just screaming somebody please help me. and i was thinking who is going to help me? i mean everybody else is running for their lives. and to my surprise and from what i'm learning, i'm kind of just learning how i was sort of rescued out of there, there were
two women and two men involved in helping me get out of bar and into an ambulance. you can't sit there and say what if. what if i arrived five minutes later or five minutes earlier, or what if i decided not to go to the game this year. i think i did that for a little while but you know this is the situation i'm faced with. it's not going to change. so for me to dwell on negative is sort of a waste of time for me. >> that was heather abbott a 38-year-old woman from rhode island who had one of her lower legs amputated at brigham and women's hospital. >> brown: still to come on the "newshour": the possibility of chemical weapons in syria; the dedication of the bush library and the lobbying fight over guns. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: the death toll from a collapsed building in bangladesh topped 230 today and rescue efforts continued throughout the day. officials said some 2,000 people
survived the disaster, but an unknown number were trapped. we have a report narrated by john sparks of "independent television news." >> reporter: in the rubble and dust, amidst the concrete slabs and toppled sewing machines, the search for survivors goes on, but time is running out in the remains of what they used to call rana plaza. it was home to garment factories and a shopping mall, but now it's the site of a national disaster. in dark spaces, deep within the ruins, voices are heard, people out of reach, begging for their lives. overnight, soldiers and firemen and local volunteers combed the site, removing bodies and bits of rubble by hand, but specialist tools and equipment were in short supply.
still, there were survivors and some were angry, claiming they'd been forced to work by factory bosses, despite the appearance of cracks in the building earlier in the week. >> reporter: t.v. broadcast the day before the building collapsed, does show cracks in the walls, and today the police said factory bosses ignored them when they ordered an evacuation of rana plaza disaster site. this disaster raises serious questions about the commitment of factory owners, governments and fashion brands to ensure safe working conditions. this afternoon in dhaka, workers made their own demands in front of the garment industry's offices. the call for better conditions and their anger boiled over. skirmishes with the police broke out and three factories were vadalized.
>> sreenivasan: in iraq, more than 40 people died today in the city of mosul as sunni militants battled police. elsewhere, gunmen seized control of a sunni town north of baghdad. there was no immediate word of casualties. today's violence marked the latest clashes between sunnis and government security forces that have killed more than 150 people in three days. last week's disaster at a texas fertilizer plant brought out hundreds of mourners today, including the president. they attended a memorial service for the 14 people killed. a long line of fire trucks made its way through waco, texas more than a week after an earth- shattering explosion leveled parts of the nearby small town of west. firemen and other rescue workers from around the state and country gathered in tribute to their ten volunteer comrades killed in the blast. they also hoped to demonstrate that west is not forgotten in president obama's words from last friday, amid the boston terror attack that garnered so much of the nation's attention.
>> ordinary individuals blessed with extraordinary courage. and a determination to do what they could to save lives. >> sreenivasan: the president attended and spoke at today's ceremony. >> today i see in the people of west, in your eyes, that what makes west special isn't going to go away. and instead of changing who you are, this tragedy has simply revealed who you've always been. >> sreenivasan: amid the mourning, though, many questions remain about what caused the explosion at the west chemical and fertilizer company just before 8:00 p.m. last wednesday. it struck with the force of a small earthquake, wiping out a five-block area and blasting a crater 93 feet wide and ten feet deep. the shock wave was felt more
than 50 miles away. chemical fertilizers were stored at the plant, but one is seen as the likely culprit: ammonium nitrate. it's been used in roadside bombs in afghanistan and the oklahoma city bomber tim mcveigh combined itith conventional explosives in his 1995 attack. that bomb contained about two and a quarter tons of the chemical. the plant in west had 270 tons and it is unclear whether federal, state and local guidelines for reporting and handling the material were followed. assistant state fire marshal kelly kistner spoke on monday. >> we are still working on inventorying all of those chemicals. part of that accounting process for all of those materials is this meodical investigation. we have to go through it. >> sreenivasan: at least seven state and federal agencies were responsible for oversight of the plant. among them, the federal occupational safety and health administration, which had not inspected the west plant in 28 years.
rhode island will become the tenth state to allow gay marriage. the state senate voted last night to approve a bill to legalize the practice. it had already passed the house. a final procedural vote will come next week, and governor lincoln chafee has said he will sign it into law. on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average gained 24 points to close at 14,700. the nasdaq rose 20 points to close near 3,290. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: the obama administration said today it believes the syrian government has used chemical weapons but stopped short of saying that the regime had crossed the so-called red line, which would trigger a u.s. response. margaret warner reports. >> warner: the disclosure came initially from defense secretary chuck hagel, traveling in abu dhabi. >> u.s. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the syrian regime has used chical weapons on a small scale in syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin. >> warner: at the same time, the white house released letters
using exactly the same words from legislative affairs director miguel rodriguez to senators carl levin and john mccain. in the letters, rodriguez added: but he said the u.s. would need more definitive evidence before deciding to act. >> given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experiences, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient. only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making. >> warner: at the capitol today, secretary of state john kerry said the u.s. belieives chemical weapons have been used in two instances, but did not specific when or where. for months, president obama has warned the syrian government against using chemical weapons, in terms he first used last august. >> we have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that's a red line for us and there would be enormous consequences if we
start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons. that would change my calculations significantly. >> warner: today's disclosure brought calls for a u.s. response from lawmakers in both parties. republican senator john mccain insisted the president must respond quickly. >> the president of the united state said that if bashar assad used chemical weapons that would be game changer, that it would cross red line. i think it's pretty obvious that red line has been crossed. now i hope the administration will consider what we have been recommending now for over two years of this blood letting and massacre and that is to provide a safe area for the opposition to operate, to establish a no >> warner: mccain urged the administration to impose a no- fly zone in syria and arm the rebels. and in a statement, democratic senator diane feinstein said: >> warner: until now, the administration has said it's
waiting for the results of an independent u.n. investigation into the allegations. britain and france said recently they think the assad regime has used chemical weapons. qatar and israel gave similar assessments last week. mo mark lander, white house correspondent for the "new york times." and amy smithson, a senior fellow at the james martin center for non-proliferation studies. mark beginning with you, the white house has up until now refused to say whether it believes the assad regime has used chemical weapons or they have been used. what's behind the wording of this letter, the rather explicit wording of this letter now? >> well, think part o i is nearly the sequence of event with the british and the french and the israelis, as you point out, coming out with more and more explicit statements that they believe chemical weapon approximates were used. there was also a coincidence of a briefing on the hill when secretary of state john
kerry was going to brief senators. the white house knew this question would come up. and white house officials say that in the last couple of days, the intelligence community has become much firmer ints asssment tht the weapon re used so i think there was an extent to which the white house was scrambling to catch up with events and try to get ahead of this by saying something that's now been said by many u.s. allies. > warner: and in the letter there was an interesting phrase which secretary hagel used too, which he said the intelligence community assessment was offered with quote varying degrees of confidence. that's that supposed to signal? >> well, i think what it signals is that this is not a unanimous, very hi leve certainty, assessment. we have been told that really what we are talking about is a range of assessments from medium to high. you know, which is to say that there's a reasonable degree of confidence in the
assessment but not a certainty. and remember, the administration is presenting this against the history of the bush administration and the iraq war. and something they lewded to obliquely in the letter to the senators today. so i think what they're trying to do is show an a bundance of caution and not use the intelligence to rea conclusions prematurely particularly in a case like this where president obama is on record as being extremely reluctant about being drawn into the conflict. >> warner: amy smithson what is sirin and what is known about the assad regime and whether they have a stock agent. >> it is a nerve agent, created during the world war ii era. the syrian government has long been thought to have an active offensive chemical weapons program that includes not onlyerv agents sirin and bx but also one that many may remember from the world war ier ar
mustard gas. >> woodruff: and when the president's letter or rather his legislative affairs director letter says that, especially, you know, there are a lot of questions to be answered before a determination could be made to act. >> what kind of evidence could there be that would actually corroborate, that would constitute credible, credible evidence. >> if this u.n. investigation team gets on the ground they'reikely to beooki for any number of types of samples, including from any devices that may have been used during these incidents to deliver a chemical agent. from food and water, from clothing, from animals, from humans, in fact, the announcement today eluded to physiological samples but they haven't provided clarity as to what those samples might be. >> mark, do you know what they're referring to when they said that this assessment is based on some physiological samples? >> yeah, we have an idea
th what theyre talking about is soil samples, and perhaps other physical samples from people who are injured in the attacks. so these are things, particularly if it was hair or blood or anything like that that would be very helpful in determining whether there was evidence of a chemical attack. >> warner: do they say what more they're looking for? >> well, i think the key thing the administration is now looking for is less evidence of the presence of chemicals than evidence of whsedhem and in what context were they used. and that goes to the second part of the letter. they need to establish with a certainty that it was the syrian regime and that the weapons were used deliberately, not accidentally. and that goes to that other important phrase in the letter that the chain of custody over the weapons was not clear. so these are the types of rather difficult conclusions
that the administration will now push for both on its own working with the brits and the israelis and also through this united nations investigation. >> warner: but amy smithson, 9 u.n. investigation which the u.s. has called for is completely stymied, as i understand it. the assad regime won't let the u.n. inspectors in, at least not so far. so is there any way to establish a credible chain of custody, as you described it, and marked it. that doesn't depend on what might be questionable or unclear, sort of agendas of the people who bring it to you. in other words, that are really from independent investigators. >> that would be a challenge. the investigation that the syrian government requested was of the incident at aleppo. but ban ki-moon also wants the inspectors to go to damascus and hom. in terms of establishing a chain of custody, what this means is the law enforcement term, is they are videoing
where they take the samples. bagging them and tagging them, and very clearly documenting throughout their journey back to a u.s. laboratory or a british laboratory, these samples, preserving them appropriately. th you have crible cha of cstody that would stand up even in a court of law. >> warner: finally, mark, beginning with you, what would it take or does the administration think it would take to, if the presence and use of chemical weapons has been established, to actually either neutralize or take control of assad's assets? that regard? >> well, there are a number of options that the pentagon has prepared for the president. the administration today has made it clear that whatever they decide to do they want to do it inoncert with other untrie so it's unkely t be unilateral. but the types of things that you hear about range from air strikes on syrian air kraflt-- aircraft and artillery, so they run able to deliver these weapons.
commando raids into the country to try to secure chemical weapons stockpiles. so these are the types of things you hear about. what you really don't hear about and what even people like senator mccain would not be advising would be any sort of a ground invasion of the country. there's no appetite for having american boots on the ground. so that'slmost ceain not to be an outcome of this. >> brief final word from you, amyñi smithson, how challenging is it to secure sites like this, in essentially a hostile country at war. >> tremendously challenging. we're probably talking about weapons that are man portable, if they are loaded already, if the agents are loaded already into rockets. and it could be as large as missiles. because they obviously have missile systems that are capable of delivering this. so it's going to be a big challenge to try to secure it. but there are some interim steps. and i would hope that somebody is considering geing defensive measures in the hands of syrian civilians and also the syrian opposition.
we're talking gas masks and clothing and detectors. >> warner: kind of basics. amy smithson and mark lander, thank you. >> thank you very much >> brown: now, a new library and a legacy on display, as five presidents gathered in texas. more than four years after leaving office, george w. bush returned to the spotlight today. all the living presidents past and present were on hand for the dedication of his presidential library and museum, along with numerous other dignitaries, family and friends. the 23-acre complex on the campus of southern methodist university in dallas also houses a policy institute. it will hold 70 million pages of paper records, four million digital photographs and 43,000 artifacts. and as former first lady laura bush pointed out, it designed to engage the public.
>> we welcome scholars and students and the community at large to gather here for generations to come. the center is designed to be human in scale, because like the white house, presidential libraries belong to all americans. >> brown: visitors will see exhibits highlighting key events in bush's presidency, including the iraq war, hurricane katrina and the financial bailout. a space devoted to the 9/11 attacks has steel beams from the world trade center. as presiden bush's response to those crises provoked strong political divisions, but none of that was in evidence today. instead, former president jimmy carter praised him for providing humanitarian aid to african nations. >> mr. president, let me say that i am filled with admiration for you and deep gratitude for you about the great contributions you've made to the most needy people on earth. >> brown: bush's father-- former
president george h.w. bush-- spoke from a wheelchair after a recent lengthy bout with bronchitis. >> what a beautiful dain dallas. it's a great pleasure to be here to honor our son, our oldest son. this is very special for barbara and me. and thank you all for coming. and to all those who made this marvelous museum possible, we thank you, especially. and we're glad to be here. god bless america and thank you very much. ( applause ) >> brown: former president bill clinton defeated the elder bush's bid for re-election in 1992, but they've had warm relations as the years passed. >> you know, starting with my work with president george h.w. bush on the tsunami and the aftermath of katrina, people began to joke that i was getting so close to the bush family that i had become the black sheep son.
my mother told me not to talk too long today. and barbara, i will not let you down. ( laughter ) >> brown: the former president commended the interactive approach of the bush center, some exhibitallow visirs t decide how they, would respond in a crisis. >> and debate and difference is an important part of every free society. by asking us to join him in the decisions he made and inviting us to make different ones if we choose, he has honored that deepest american tradition. >> brown: and president obama paid homage to his predecessor by extolling the down-to-earth bush persona. >> to know the man is to like the man. because he is comfortable in his own skin, he knows who he is. he doesn't put on any pretenses. he takes his job seriously, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. he is a good man. >> brown: and politics was not entirely absent from the day's proceedings, as the current
president pointed to mr. bush's unsuccessful push for immigration reform. >> seven years ago president bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the american people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. and even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, i am hopeful that this year, with the help of speaker boehner and some of the senators and members of congress who are here today, that we bring it home. and if we do that it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of president george w. bush. >> there is a large people
when i wouldn't have been found in a library. >> the polit wag kinds blow left and right, polls right and fall, supporters come and go. but in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold. and my deepest conviction, the guiding principles of the administration is that the united states of america must strife to expand the reach of freedom. as president i tried to act on these principleses every day. it wasn't always easy and it certainly wasn't always popular. one of the benefits of freedom is that people can disagree. its-- it's fair to say i created plenty of opportunities to exercise that right. but when future generations come to this library and study this administration, they're going to find out that we stayed true to our convictions. >> brown: in the end, mr. bush gave way to the emotions of the day. >> i dedicate this library with an unshakable faith in the
future of our country. it was the honor of a lifetime to lead a country as brave and as noble as the united states. whatever challenges come before us i will always believe our nation's best days lie ahead. god bless. ( applause ) >> brown: the george w. bush presidential library and museum cost $250 million to build, raised partly by the bush foundation. it will open to the public on may 1-- one of 13 presidential libraries operated under the auspices of the national archives. we look at libraries and legacies now with three historians: ellen fitzpatrick of the university of new hampshire, h.w. brands from the university of texas at austin and "newshour" regular michael beschloss. well, michael, let me start with you and with a general question. what's the purpose of these libraries? how much do they help shape
people's views of former presidents? >> well, the muss seem part of the library is basically, and this is true of most of these libraries, an effort to give you the president's point of view on his own presidency, and that of his partisans. so people come to see those museum, it's stimulating. they learn a lot about the presidency. but i think they all accept it is like walking into the president's own memoir. the part exciting to us historians is the archives, letters, documents,ional security stuff is opened as time goes on, that's what really moves us to reconsider a president. >> brown: ellen fitzpatrick in the specific case of george w. bush, how fixed do you think his legacy and what, what will people be looking at in terms of him when they look at this library? >> i think that his legacy is actually very fluid. and it's poignant that this dedication occurs after this
terrible terrorist bombing that just took place in boston. because his presidency as the library and museum itself showcases, was deeply affected by the events of september 11. nd the terrleragedy that really overshadows his presidency. and in that sense i think there's a poignancy to the times of this dedication. his legacy is unfolding. and i think that in all likelihood over time as the opinion polls seem to suggest, there will be greater sympathy to the burden that he bother in trying to come to grips with the worst peacetime attack in american histry onhe homeland. >> brown: what do you think about that question about how fixed is his legacy and what are people look for in this library and museum?
>> i think there are two aspects of the legacy question. one is the affect of george bush's presidency on the united states. the other is the effect of his presidency on the world. the effect of his presidency on the world that is a long-term project and we won't know the outcome of that for 10 year, 20 years, 30 years. but his legacy in the united states, i think george bush is going to be remembered as the president, as the president who presided over the end of the america entury. at a time when the american century was when america kept guns and butter both. and during the bush years we discovered well, we're not going to be able to have guns and butter both and we might not be able to have either one. the invasion of iraq is already being seen as something that was unnecessary, and very expensive. and so presidents including the current president are going to go very slowly into anything like that in the future. and then on the domestic side there is the whole business of the tax cuts. and the republican party now, as a result of the bush years, has signed on to th idethayou cut txes first, and worry about the
deficit later. that's really a reversal of what republicans used to stand for. >> brown: well, michael, all of those things, of course, are still very much in play. and to that extent quite fluid. you i think had a chance to go to the library before it was completed, i understand, before all the exhi businesses were there. but did you have a sense of the portrait of george bush that it wants to present to us? >> absolutely. and the center piece, of course, is what he did to keep terrorism at bay and keep the country pretty safe. so that's at the centre of it they do have one thing that is sort of an innovation, growing innovation of some of these presidential libraries which is a theatre that you can go in and deal with some of the decisions that the president had to make. in this case, principles, do you go to war against iraq. i mean the arguments for both sides. so that does help, i think, educate the people who do come. in but i guess i would be a little bit more on the side that george bush's reputation is more fluid because at this think a
president's reputation doesn't really begin to gel until abo 40 or 50 years later because that's how long it really takes us to understand, for instance, in this case what the middle east looks like, what the war against terrorism looks like, what the economy looks like. and also we'll have all those documents that will enable to us see things from the inside. so in almost every presidency it looks very different later on. >> brown: what about the other aspect of this, ellen fitzpatrick, i will start this with you, that we saw today of all the presidents gathered. it's this very exclusive club. and you get to see them, listen to them, think about what theve done after their presidcy. george w. bush, for example, has taken himself largely out of the public eye for four years. >> well, it is an interesting point to see them all gathered together. i was thinking today that there is not a single one of these presidents who didn't have during the course of their administration some terribly difficult and often
very obvious and disappointing reversal that they had to come to terms with. and that in some sense or another, damage quote their legacy. bu i thinkichael's point is very important. which is you know george bush was quoted yesterday as saying that he will wait for the final verdict of history. he won't be around to hear what it is. the fact of the matter is there is no final verdict. that is, every generation rewrites and revisits history-- well, it's. >> we'll be put out of business, ellen. >> well, it's a good thing that it is undetermined. but historians themselves are not only scholars, they're citizens. and as they visit the past, ey come back with w questions. and so harry truman was a president who left office, not terribly popular. and who has been written about often since then, his reputation has improved. in the last couple of years
there have been several books about thomas jefferson. so we continue to revisit these presidents, we reevaluate, we reassess, we ask new questions, we have new evidence. and it's a very, very interesting part of history that it live it's a paradox. we sdy t past but it lives. >> i guess we shouldn't be surprised that a panel of historians finds history fluid, right, and legacies fluid. >> bill brant, come in on that, with a question of, especially about former presidents and how they, how they act after office and how they are later seen. >> i think that every president gets a positive bounce from the opening of his library. because this array of presidents is the closest thing we in the united states have to a panth on. anall of a sudden you are elevated to the realm of president. and it's a very small and select club. and in an odd way the best thing for a president's
historical reputation is to leave office under a cloud. because as michael and ellen pointed out, historians are invet rant revisionists, we always are asking new questions. and if a president leaves office unpopular sooner or later we'll find a way to challenge that conventional wisdom. so in the case of bush who left amid the financial crisis 2008 and 2009, real there's no place his reputation could go but up. >> well, michael, that is an interesting point. i mean i'm not sure that's the way they want to go out of office, right, but the suggestion is -- >> that they can move up in history, huh? >> they can. and you know you were talking about ex-presidents. lyndon johnson went back to texas in 1969. he was absolutely miserable, a because americans were so angry at him over vietnam and blamed him for it. and b because politics was his whole life. it was a very difficult withdrawal. one thing you can say about george w. bush, he's gone back to dallas.
he's painting, playing golf, he spends a lot of time with his friends and family this is not someone who shows the signs of having gone into an emotional tailspin. >> an bill brands, you're there in texas. he is a son of texas, of course. >> it's very interesting how little presence he has had even in texas. and i am with michael in saying this seems to me somebody who is very well adjusted. the presidency was an important part of his life, but politics wasn't the sum of his life. and i think he's moved on to the next phase. i think he's been very smart in staying out of the limelight because presidents who can't figure out what to do with themselves after they leave office generally get themselves into trouble of one sort or another. >> brown: hw bill brand, ellen fitzpatrick and michael beschloss, thank you all three, very much. >> thank you. >> thanks, jeff. >> my pleasure. >> woodruff: you can watch the speeches from today in-full on our youtube page.
>> woodruff: finally tonight, we turn to the political debate over guns in this country, and the decades-long evolution of lobbying tactics on both sides of the controversial issue. >> the amendment is not agreed to. >> woodruff: last week's defeat of a bipartisan effort to expand background checks for gun buyers was cheered by gun rights advocates and denounced by president obama. >> this was a pretty shameful day for washington. >> woodruff: it was also a shocking loss for loved ones of the 20 children and six adults murdered at sandy hook elementary school in newtown, connecticut. these parents and relatives were part of a determined effort to influence political change for most, it was, the first time. traveling to washington and directly lobbying members of congress. >> never in my wildest dreams did i think that i'd be forced into a situation that i would
have to be roaming the halls of the senate building looking to talk to any person who will listen to me. >> woodruff: erica lafferty lost her mother, dawn hprung, who was therincal at sandy hook. >> she was a leader and an inspiration to everyone, her parents at the schools, the kids, and definitely most important to my sister and myself. >> woodruff: the legislative failure was made more stinging by public opinion polls showing as many as 90% of americans supported the proposal. in addition, millions of dollars had been poured into tv ads by gun control proponents like new york city mayor michael blomberg and his oanization mayors against illegal guns. >> demand action to fight gun violence. >> woodruff: also leading the advocacy were gunshot victim and former congresswoman gabrielle giffords and her husba mark kelly. the couple formed the political
action committee americans for responsible solutions. >> congress must act. let's get this done. >> president obama and mayor bloomberg are pushing gun control. >> wdruf allhis wasn't enough to beat the power of the gun lobby led by the national rifle association. >> we're free already. and as long as we have the 2nd amendment we always will be. >> woodruff: they argued that even a limited expansion of background checks to include gun show and online sales could lead to a national gun data base. something the president said was part of a pattern of spreading untruths. >> the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. they claimed that it would create some sort of big brother gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. >> woodruff: n.r.a. president david keene disputed that interpretation.
>> our credibility is the most important thing we have, when we say something, it's because we believe it to be true, and we think the facts and the evidence supports it. >> woodruff: keene insists the proposed language would have given the federal government broad new powers. >> so an expansion of the system was seen as a way of increasing the database that they could go to instantaneously, if they wanted to and most of the senators and obviously our members and a lot of our supporters felt that if they took that step, they were coming much closer to the national registry that a lot of people, including the justice department, have said they want. >> woodruff: john gramlich is the legal affairs reporter for "c.q. roll call." he says even with an increased spotlight, gun control proponents face an uphill battle. >> they're still emerging. they're still new faces here. they've been vastly outspent over the years in terms of fundraising, in terms of direct lobbying in congress. and so they're still learning the ropes here.
>> woodruff: whatever the specifics, the gun control fight was familiar to advocates of another era. also fresh from a tragedy that captured the nations attention: the 1981 attempted assassination of president ronald reagan. his press secretary james brady was critically wounded in the attack. 12 years later, president bill clinton signed the brady handgun violence prevention act into law, helping create the national instant criminal background check system that remains in use today. less than a year later after that the federal assault weapons ban was enacted. it would expire in 2004. 32 years after being shot in the head, jim brady remains bound to a wheelchair and has difficulties with his vision. he lives with his wife sarah in alexandria, virginia. jim, why does it matter whether
gun control legislation passes or not? >> well, we want to stop the carnage. all the killing that's going on. >> woodruff: how do you compare the lobbying that you faced in the 1980s with the passage of the brady handgun bill with the kind of lobbying that you see going on today? >> we did it much more politically, i would guess, than they're trying to do now. i mean we actually went in to every district that needed going into and got editorial board meetings and visited different groups. it was a lot of footwork and individual lobbying in the districts. >> woodruff: do you think they should have done that this time? >> well, there wasn't time. it's strange because you hear some people will say, oh they should have passed it right away, but that is naivete. it wasn't going to be able to be passed right away. >> woodruff: sarah brady also said she's seen a difference in
the pro-gun lobby itself. >> they have entrenched themselves more deeply, i will say that. and are much bolder today than they we 20, 25 years ago. >> woodruff: reporter john gramlich points to the center of the gun lobby's political force- - the n.r.a. and its more than four million members. >> i mean they got pretty much everything that they wanted and successfully opposed everything they didn't want in this current debate. and if they were able to do that after something as horrific as newtown, then it really raises questions of if anyone is able to defeat to them. >> woodruff: but at the state level, the gun lobby has experienced some defeats. democratic governors in new york, connecticut and colorado have all signed tough new gun laws since newtown. legislation n.r.a. president david keene says hasn't gone unnoticed.
>> the biggest threats that we perceive coming against second amendment rights are in the states. we've been dividing our focus, shall we say, between the congress and state legislatures for the last few months. >> woodruff: the n.r.a. has also worked to strengthen gun rights in some states. despite their loss on capitol hill, backers of gun control like james and sarah brady insist they're not giving up. >> discouragement is a temporary thing. you just saddle up and get back into the fight. >> woodruff: get back into the fight. >> yeah, i think you hardly ever win something without a defeat first. >> woodruff: last week senate majority leader harry reid put consideration of the measure on hold but said it's only a matter of time before it's brought back for another vote. opponents like keene say it will be a long time before that happens. >> i think it's dead for this session, probably dead for the next few years in the senate. >> woodruff: whenever it comes
up, any measure would face potentially tougher odds in the republican-controlled house of representatives with both sides promising another round of fierce lobbying. >> brown: find our comprehensive coverage of the gun debate on our home page newshour.pbs.org. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: authorities said the alleged boston bombers planned to use their remaining explosives to strike times square in new york city. the white house disclosed the u.s. intelligence community now thinks syria's government has used chemical weapons, but it said more definitive proof is still needed. and the death toll from a collapsed building in bangladesh topped 230, as rescue workers labored to reach those still trapped in the ruins. >> brown: online, how cell phones are helping fight disease in africa. hari sreenivasan tells us more. >> sreenivasan: on world malaria day, we look at how community health workers in zambia are using mobile phones and text messages to improve malaria detection, treatment and prevention.
that's on our health page. and offering one voice in the immigration policy debate, former i.n.s. chief doris meissner says highly skilled foreign-born workers are a lifeline to the american economy. watch that conversation on our politics page. all that and more is on our website newshour.pbs.org. >> woodruff: and again to our honor roll of american service personnel killed in the afghanistan conflict. we add them as their deaths are made official and photographs become availle. here, in silence, are 11 more.
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>> rose: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with the question of the syrian use of chemical weapons and we talk to representative mike rogers, she chairman of the house intelligence committee. >> this, my fear is, charlie, if we let this go and it widens in use, that chaos, the refugee problem, the humanitarian crisis that it causes, the sheer deaths outhere, horrible violent debt of chemical weapons all further destabilizes a region where we have lots of al his and lots of responsibilities, and we can do small, and effective now and prevent big and ugly later and we ought to do that in a way again this is not a military operation, i want to make that very clear, but we do need to step up to the plate when it