tv PBS News Hour PBS September 6, 2013 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: president obama ran into stiff opposition from key world leaders to his plan for a military strike on syria. good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the newshour tonight, we get an update on the fight for support abroad, and votes here at home, as the senate formally introduced a bill to use military force. >> woodruff: then, the worrying side of the jobs picture in the u.s. paul solman digs into today's employment figures. >> brown: your emails, online
bank transactions and more-- privacy tools keep all of that data secure. but hari sreenivasan dissects new revelations saying the n.s.a. can crack those codes. >> woodruff: and we return to syria, starting with two looks at its impact on the middle east. ray suarez reports on the flood of refugees in neighboring jordan. >> brown: and margaret warner is on the ground in egypt. >> woodruff: plus, mark shields and david brooks analyze the debate over military action. >> brown: and gwen ifill gets historical perspective on how past presidents flexed their war powers. >> if we go through american history, presidents, even to this day, have an amazing ability to change americas' minds on foreign policy when they have to. >> woodruff: that'all ahead on tonight's newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
>> support also comes from carnegie corporation of new york, a foundation created to do what andrew carnegie called "real and permanent good." celebrating 100 years of philanthropy at carnegie.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and friends of the newshour. 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. >> brown: the world's 20 leading economic powers wound up their summit in st. petersburg, russia today, deeply divided over how to punish syria for using chemical weapons. it was a setback to president obama's campaign for military strikes, but he played up what support there was, just the same. >> i've been encouraged by discussions with my fellow leaders this week.
there is a growing recognition that the world cannot stand idly by. >> brown: the president came away from the summit saying there'd been a "full airing of views" on syria and that most of the g- 20 nations agreed on a central point. >> here in st petersburg, leaders from europe, asia, and the middle east have come together to say that the international norm against chemical weapons must be upheld, and that the assad regime used these weapons on its own people. and that as a consequence, there needs to be a strong response. >> brown: in all, ten nations -- plus the u.s.-- signed a joint statement accusing syria of attacking civilians with chemical weapons last month. but they notably stopped short of directly urging military action as punishment. russia remained firmly opposed to any strike. president obama did meet today with russian president vladimir putin, but failed to make any headway. >> listen, i don't expect us to agree on this issue of chemical
weapons use, although it is possible that after the u.n. inspectors' report, it may be more difficult for mr. putin to maintain his current position about the evidence. >> reporter: at his own news conference, putin argued it's not only russia that opposes military intervention in syria. >> ( translated ): who was condemning and opposing that way of action? russian federation, india, china, indonesia, argentina, brazil, south africa, italy. and the secretary general of the united nations also voiced his protest against the military intervention. >> brown: president obama also acknowledged today that he faces a "heavy lift" in getting the u.s. congress to go along. >> it's conceivable at the end of the day i don't persuade a majority of the american people that it's the right thing to do.
and then each member of congress is going to have to decide if i think it's the right thing to do for america's national security. the president said he plans to address the nation tuesday night to make his case. he would not say whether he would still order an attack against syria if congress rejects the use of force. >> i think it would be a mistake for me to jump the gun and speculate because right now i'm working to get as much support as possible out of congress. but i'll repeat something that i said in sweden when i was asked a similar question: i did not put this before congress just as a political ploy or as symbolism. >> brown: in washington today, in a session that lasted five minutes, senate majority leader, harry reid formally began the process of bringing the issue to a vote next week. meanwhile, security was
tightened at u.s. diplomatic posts in lebanon and turkey. and the state department ordered non-essential personnel at the u.s. embassy in beirut to leave the country amid rising security concerns in the region. the "wall street journal" reported that iran has directed shiite militants in iraq to attack the u.s. embassy in baghdad if there's a military strike on syria. and russia announced it is sending more warships into the eastern mediterranean. one was said to be carrying a "special cargo". the statement gave no details, but insisted russia's beefed-up naval presence is meant to ensure security. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour: disappointing jobs numbers; cracking online privacy tools; refugees fleeing syria for jordan; margaret warner in egypt; shields and brooks; and a historical look at war powers. but first, the other news of the day. here's kwame holman. >> holman: the new foreign minister of iran has confirmed he sent a message on twitter yesterday, celebrating the
jewish new year. the tweet said "happy rosh hashanna", and came from the account of mohammad javad zarif. he said it was aimed at iran's small jewish community. the gesture came amid continuing tensions between iran and israel over iran's nuclear program. many of the striking gold miners in south africa accepted a new wage offer today. tens of thousands walked off the job late tuesday, dng di to a 60% increase in pay. today, a spokesman for the mineworkers' union said most have now agreed to salary increases of up to 8%. south africa's gold industry is one of the biggest in the world, but it's been plagued by falling gold prices. the last surviving witness to adolf hitler's final days is dead. rochus misch passed away thursday at his home in berlin. misch was in hitler's berlin bunker, working as his s.s. bodyguard as the battle for berlin raged in april 1945. he said he did not hear the
gunshot when hitler committed suicide. rochus misch was 96 years old. there are signs the u.s. birth rate may be stabilizing after falling sharply four straight years during the recent recession. the centers for disease control and prevention reported today that nearly four million babies were born in 2012. that was only a few hundred short of the year before. at the same time, the birth rate among women in their early 30s was up for the first time since 2007. wall street finished out the week on a disappointing note. the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 15 points to close at 14,922. the nasdaq rose one point to close at 3,660. for the week, the dow gained less than 1%; the nasdaq rose 2%. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: and we turn to today's report on jobs and unemployment in the u.s., one that's raising concerns again about sluggish hiring and the pace of economic growth. the newshour's economics
correspondent, paul solman, has the story, part of his ongoing coverage of making sense of financial news. >> reporter: today's headline numbers-- employers added 169,000 new jobs last month-- the official unemployment rate slid from 7.4% to 7.3%. but what to make of the numbers. we enlisted "newshour" regular lisa lynch, a former labor department chief economist, now at brandeis university. >> in today's report, we have a little bit of something for everyone. we saw the unemployment rate drop, jobs were added to the economy. that's good news. but when we go deeper into the numbers, we see a more mixed picture. >> reporter: while the quantity of jobs added looked okay-- though lower than average tbain over the past year-- lynch questioned their quality because, continuing a trend throughout the recovery, most of the added jobs were low paying.
>> we saw a lot of jobs added in the retail sector, in stores. that's good news, consumers are shopping, but those jobs tend to be lower wage jobs. and we saw jobs added in restaurants and hotels. again, that means people are spending money. they're going out. but those jobs themselves are not high-paying jobs. >> reporter: by contrast, well-paying finance and information jobs shrank. also vexing-- a sharp 74,000 downward revision in jobs already counted as having been added earlier this summer. >> in fact, the newly revised figure for july sthaiz we only add a little more than 100,000 jobs to the economy. now, if we were told in july when the report was first released that we had only added 100,000 jobs to the economy, people would have put their arms up in the air and said, "oh, my goodness. we're going into a recession."
there would have been a lot of doom and gloom. so those downward revisions give one pause. >> reporter: and there may be another cause for pause, says lynch-- a trop in the percentage of americans who are either working or looking for work. >> we're down to a labor force participation rate that we haven't seen since the 1978. >> reporter: but is the drop the result of the baby boomers finally retiring? >> i think we saw in today's report some of that. but we're also seeing young people either not going into the labor market or delaying entry into the labor market. so you're seeing it on that end. and then you are seeing the impact of an aging population while more older people are work than in the past. they still have much lower participation rates. >> reporter: meanwhile, markets will be digesting the numbers in advance of the federal reserve whose open market committee will meet later this month to decide whether or not to pare back the fed's $85
billion-a-month bond-buying stimulus program, which depends on how well the economy is doing, and depends in turn on how to interpret today's unemployment numbers. > >> woodruff: if you want to know more about different theories that can explain why the workforce participation rate is dropping, paul takes a deeper dive on his "making sense" page. >> brown: next, new revelations about the government's ability to crack through important internet privacy safeguards. hari sreenivasan has the story from our new york studio. >> sreenivasan: like other surveillance stories of recent weeks, the government's efforts are being led by the national security agency or n.s.a. and like other disclosures, the latest information comes from documents provided by former n.s.a. contractor edward snowden. in this case, the reporting was
done by a partnership of "the new york times," pro-publica and "the guardian."
reporters found the n.s.a. is able to crack through encryption or protective encoding tools that are used by businesses, banks, social media and other kinds of online commerce. for example, it's often assumed that when you purchase a product online or bank online with a secured and locked h.t.t.p.s. connection, you have protected your password and financial information. but the news reports say the n.s.a. can unlock that information. nicole perlroth is a cybersecurity reporter with "the new york times." she joins us from san franciso. so, nicole, how significant is this? >> this is huge. this was the last bastion of privacy on the internet and what we've discovered is that the last few decades, the n.s.a. has been actively working to crack or circumvent the incontraception technologies we all use, not just for internet banking and to protect medical records and electronic voting
systems, but that we actually, as you pointed out, use for everyday internet communications like e-mail or internet chats, et cetera. >> how does the n.s.a. do this? we're talking about
a set of locks and keys we think we have to protect things. do they have another set of keys or have they poked holes in the locks? >> all of the above. when we've learned is that there's been a sustained, multipronged effort to break or circumvent many of the encryption technologies that have been developed over the last two decades. in some cases, the n.s.a. is using its power and influence as the world's best code maker to set standards that only it knows how to break. in other cases, it's getting into servers and taking encryption keys. it's using secret court orders, in some cases through its intermeadaries, to grab encryption keys from private companies and in some cases, it's working hand in hand with
companies to embed itself into encryption chips that scramble information for much of the world's businesses and governments or working with companies to build in custom solutions that give it preencrimented access to communications. this has all been done in secret. so as we point out in our article, two decades
ago, we as a nation had a big conversation around the clipper chip, which was the clinton administration's way of putting in a backdoor to all encryption technologies. and as a nation, we decided that this was fundamentally unacceptable, that we wanted some things to remain secret. what we found out yesterday and what we said today in tower article is that the n.s.a. has gotten around that-- effectively done the same thing in secret. >> what's their justification? that they want to be able to pick the locks of communications from the bad guys? >> exactly. that their effort depend on the
ability to read terrorist communications, and to track where the money is going and that the only way that they can do that is to break this encryption. the problem is now it's no longer targeted. so during world war ii, the u.k. and u.s. broke the encryption surrounded the enigma machine and that was hugely influential in determining the end of that war. the problem now is it is not just the enigma machine. it's everyday communications. it's u.s. technologies, basically assure their users that they can trust these companies that their communications are private and what's been happening is in the background the n.s.a. has been finding ways inside. >> have u.s. technologies been explicit in this? have they been enabling the n.s.a. with backdoor keys or access? >> it's difficult to say how much of this is voluntary and how much of it is coerced. if you look at the documents
that we got from edward snowden, there are multiple mentions of cooperative partnerships and voluntary relationships, which would insigneuate that the partnerships are voluntary. but then i spoke with a number of technology companies that said off the record that they were compelled by court order, facing in some cases contempt of court, if they did not hand the government their encryption keys or build out these custom solutions and they're not able to talk about this because they are under gag order or secret court orders forbid them from talking about exactly what these relationships look like. >> and this sort of influence by government is something we've accused chinese companies of, putting in backdoors into american technologies. >> that's right. what we found out is all these accusations
that american lawmakers have leveled against wawa and cte in china, basically
american lawmakers accused those companies of planting backdoors in their systems allowing the p.l.a. to spy on american corporations and what we have found out in our report is the u.s. government has been doing the exact same thing. it definitely puts american lawmakers in a bind and it puts american companies in a bind in terms of their global market share. it will be interesting to see
what happens over the next coming months. >> so your report tomorrow morning-- in tomorrow morning's paper is going to be about the reaction to all of this. how are government agencies or people that are in the technology community reacting? >> well, the n.s.a. put out a statement said that effectively said that this was a huge setback for them, and that they didn't believe that the story should have been published, that there was-- that national security concerns outweighed the public's need to know and debate about this topic. everyone else i've spoken with,
however, is very glad we made these disclosures. people in the cryptography community dmoount thought they had won this war with encryption two decades
ago are heartbroken. american companies are extremely frustrated that they continue to make assurance thoz their customers that their systems have not been breached or compromised and are not handing the government their encryption keys, but i think the public no longer can trust those assurances any more. so i think what we're seeing now say fundamental lack of trust. >> all right, nicole perlroth, from the "new york times," thanks so much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: and we come back to syria with two takes on reaction to the conflict in the arab world. we begin with a look at how the crisis has spilled beyond syria's borders. earlier this week, the united nations refugee agency announced that more than two million
people have fled the fighting. newshour foreign affairs producer dan sagalyn was in neighboring jordan recently on a trip sponsored by care, the development and humanitarian organization. his story begins in the remote, far eastern corner of the country. ray suarez narrates our report. >> suarez: these syrian men, women and children are stepping into safe territory in jordan. some are carrying all their possessions in one suitcase. these refugees are just a few of the now more than two million who have poured out of their homeland since fighting began in syria more than two years ago. jordanian soldiers provided them with food and water, and also stood guard, ready to protect them if syrian forces opened fire. their journey out of war was dangerous and often deadly. this group drove for two days to
southeastern syria to find a safe crossing point. then, they walked seven kilometers through a buffer zone before reaching jordanian soldiers. >> ( translated ): the armed forces will take us from here. on the other side is more danger. this is better. the armed forces will come this way. they give us good services. we thank them so much we are very grateful for them. >> suarez: the deputy commander of jordanian military forces in >> suarez: these refugees were helped onto a truck and taken for medical treatment. they'll be handed over to the united nations and taken to a refugee camp where they will be registered. all the countries surrounding jordan have taken in significant numbers of refugees. jordan has sheltered an estimated 515,000; lebanon is now home to over 700,000 syrians. turkey has 460,000 refugees, and egypt, 110,000. iraq, which has had a surge in recent weeks of incoming syrian refugees, now has more than 168,000. the civil war has also displaced
another 4,250,000 inside syria's borders. >> this is a devastation with no end in sight. i don't think anyone in the region has seen on this scale a conflict for decades, for probably over the last century. >> suarez: andrew harper is the u.n. refugee agency's representative in jordan. we spoke with him after he met with a delegation of americans, including a member of congress and foreign assistance experts. despite a high number of refugees flooding into jordan earlier this year-- 50,000 to 70,000 per month between january and april-- the flow into the hashemite kingdom has slowed to a trickle recently. >> so we went from about 2,500 to 3,000 per night to about 1,500 to 500 to 100 to basically no one coming across the western border at the moment. >> suarez: over the summer, there were media reports that the jordanian government was not allowing new refugees in. a number of the humanitarian
workers told us the military has closed the border in the western part of the country and have turned refugees back because the country can't handle the vast number it already has. they didn't want to say this on camera because they feared that it would compromise their ability to help refugees already in jordan. >> from the geography of syria, the main roads are toward the west, the main cities are toward the west. the main trade routes are toward the west. so if you go east, you have to go through desert, you have to go. its a real, real struggle to actually make it across the border. >> suarez: julian schopp is the director of humanitarian practice at interaction, the umbrella group of non- governmental organizations that perform relief and development work throughout the world. >> so one can assume that all the refugees that are actually walking through the desert are doing so because they cannot find refuge or asylum in any other routes or roads that are
most traveled. >> suarez: jordanian officials, however, deny the military is turning refugees away. mohammad al momani is the government's spokesman. he too met with the delegation of visiting americans in amman. >> our policy when it comes to refugees remains the same. those who reach our borders are actually allowed in. in accordance to international law, international humanitarian any fluxuation with the numbers any flucuation with the numbers has to do with the situation inside syria. >> suarez: al momani said the large number of syrian refugees, in addition to palestinian and iraqi refugees who came in earlier waves, is straining his country. >> this country is a country with limited resources actually, and with this large number of refugees, it's really putting tremendous, tremendous amount of pressure on our infrastructure, on our economic situation, security forces.
>> suarez: jordan's zaatari refugee camp, the worlds second largest with more than 120,000 syrians packed into a few square miles of desert, has become a poster child of sorts for the harsh conditions facing refugees who have fled syria. less known to the world, however, are the struggles facing syrians who live outside the camps in jordan. they make up 70% of syrian refugee population in the country. as in the camps, children are in many ways being hit the hardest. fatima hamdi is the mother of a family of nine living in a tent next to an orchard. she's barely hanging on. hamdi and her 21-year-old son ahmad said they cant afford the basics, including schooling for the younger children in the family. >> ( translated ): they used to be in school in syria, but in the past two years, they stopped going to school. >> ( translated ): even if they
wanted to go to the school, given the situation, its difficult. >> ( translated ): we don't have the means. >> suarez: khaldwoon khadh, who escaped from syria this past april, lives in an apartment building. his children spend their days at home, instead of getting an education. >> ( translated ): we visited so many schools and some of them are so far away, and some said there is no place for our kids. if the schools will be so far away from my house, we will not register them because i have no money. >> suarez: there are 250,000 syrian children now living in jordan. only 30,000 to 40,000 of them are in school. since it's illegal for syrian refugees in jordan to work, there's often no money for education and other basics. 1tr for the past two months, i >> ( translated ): for the past two months, i had not work. i worked in piping and electricity in jordan. but for the past two months, i have no work. i'm not allowed to work, they will take me to jail. >> suarez: khadh was asked how he pays for food and rent. >> ( translated ): i leave it to god.
whoever has will help the person who doesn't have. >> suarez: this family of 12 can only afford to rent one room, and a kitchen. they are supported by their 17- year-old son, who works at farm. >> ( translated ): he gets five or six dinars per day. >> suarez: five or six jordanian dinars-- that's $7 or $8 a day. >> suarez: the international community has tried to ease the burden of refugees, and their host countries. $500 million has been given to jordan alone. the united states has provided $100 million and committed another $200 million to help with such things as coping with water shortages and building schools. in addition, the us has committed over one billion dollars to help with the humanitarian response to the syrian crisis throughout the region. as the conflict in syria
continues, the u.n.'s andrew harper stresses the need help jordan withstand the onslaught of refugees. >> syria is being destroyed, egypt is probably going similar. iraq is going down the drain. so what we need to do is to have sustainable programs which will ensure that people fleeing conflict can be protected and assisted for as long as possible. and we need to make sure that jordan is maintained as that hub of stability within the region as long as possible. >> woodruff: online, we've added even more information to our easily accessed syria cheat sheet. it's a graphic showing the staggering flow of refugees to neighboring countries in the region. >> brown: and to our second take on how syria is impacting the wider region. margaret warner is in egypt; i spoke with her earlier today. >> the president is out seeking support from the global community. what are you hearing from officials and key players there? >> warner: jeff, let's take the major players, starting with the egyptian government. they're clearly opposed, as they made clear in the arab league
this week. the deputy prime minister said to me yesterday, the egyptian government simply does not believe significantly affect assad's behavior. they don't think it will help the syrian people. intelligence, especially after what happened over the iraq war intelligence. he said, finally, people in this region, our constituents are very weary of war after the last two years. then i went to see a figure in the muslim brotherhood and he said much the same thing. he said it's not logical-- is the way he put it-- for president obama to be so concerned about 1,000 people killed in the chemical weapons attack when 100,000 have been killed, have been slaughtered by assad in the last two years. and basically, people, jeff, here, do not accept this distinction this the president's trying to make between the use of chemical weapons and the wholesale killing of syrian civilians by aerial bombardment and artillery. they see it as an esoteric argument about some international weapons convention treaty that just has no relevance to their lives. >> brown: on the streets, what
are you hearing about syria? >> warner: jeff, to a man or woman here, i am hearing the same kind of investment opposition. we interviewed the cofounder of one of the youth movements that helped lead to the ouster of military ouster of president morsi. and he was violently opposed. he said why is president obama supporting the terrorists in the ranks of the rebels? and i can also tell you american officials here are braced for the poivelt a violent reaction from the streets if and when a strike occurs. and they're counting on the egyptian security forces this time to do a better job of protecting the american embassy here than they did last 9/11 when in fact mobs stormed the american embassy and some even got over the wall. >> brown: give us a brief preview of what you're working on for next week. >> warner: jeff, we're working on whether egypt which seemed to
have a successful arab spring revolution, seemed to make an evolution to democracy, has seen it go up in smoke and whether they're going to be able to resolve their differences here without resorting to the kind of violence between the two really fiercely opposing camps that we've seen in syria. >> brown: we'll look ford that. margaret warnener cairo, thanks so much. >> woodruff: and to the analysis of shields and brooks-- syndicated columnist mark shields and "new york times" columnist david brooks. gentlemen, welcome. the president, mark, went to the group of 20 meeting over the last few days, hoping they would support the call for military action. they didn't. how much of an embarrassment is it? >> it's certainly not encouraging for the president. i mean, he did get a statement "we'll hold your coat" and we quietly will be with you but we won't participate. so i mean, it's still basically
a very, very small coalition at this point. >> woodruff: how much of an embarrassment and what does it look like in congress? >> well, first, internationally tlooks a little more unilateral, so it looks a little more bush-like to be honest. before, russia seemed isolated. now we're look-- not isolated but way smaller coalition, as mark said. in concerning i think it's bad. i think the decision to go to congress was a very unfortunate decision because it made it much bigger than syria itself. now it's a test case for obama's credibility, credibility around the world, and credibility at home. there is a common assumption that he can rally public opinion. he can lean on congress, and ultimately they'll force democrats-- they don't like the policy but they'll say you can't let obama go down and have his credibility destroyed. i'm really dubious that that's going to be the case. i think republicans are going to be largely against it. that's really clear. the democrats in their hearts they're against. the noise from their districts is going to be solidly against. pelosi is very good at rallying votes. but i think this is a-- going to
be an uphill fight for them, and if he loses it will be really bad for the administration. >> woodruff: you agree it was a mistake to go to congress? >> no, i don't think it was a mistake to go to congress. i have never seen any president on the eve of initiating military action-- that is war action, that is hitting another country-- with less popular support, less public support, less political support, and less international support than the president hay week ago when we met. the idea of doing it then-- i don't-- i mean, it just amazes me-- and with all respect to david-- people on the left who say, "oh, ignore the congress. the congress is lousy." i mean, would they have the same attitude if president ted crudz were there? it is the constitutional order for a president to do that. and when you make a decision, there's none more grievous than to go to war. to involve the congress and the country in that decision, i think is absolutely imperative. it's the only way there's going to be any sense of national
support, let alone unity, for this action, which is controversial. >> woodruff: you don't degree? >> no, i don't. i certainly agree with syria was the main thing. i think had you go to war-- if syria was the main thing we were worried about and if we actually had a plan to materially for the good in syria, then going to congress would be fine and that would be a good thing to do to getthingst would be fine. this really isn't about syria. polie is not going to do anything materially to affect syria. the real issue is the broader credibility of the president, the international credibility, the viewers, especially vis-a-vis iran-- this is really about iran more than syria. and by going to congress and potentially getting slapped down, then our credibility vis-a-vis iran is in shatters. and the president's credibility at home is in shatters. and so i just-- on substantive grounds, i think mark is right. on machiavellian grounds, i think it was a mistake. >> judy, i just look at this and i think the president made the case himself in which he sailed a president can go and take
military action. let's be honest-- tomahawk missile weighs 2900 pounds. this is enormous armtaments you're delivering upon a country. and we're talking about shooting them in patches of 40. and i think the president was right. he said a president can act if the national security of the country is at threat. he said i couldn't make the case that the immediate national survival of the united states was at-- at peril unless i did act. so it made sense to go to the congress. it may not make political-- but let's find out. there is in this country a great great resistance-- and the president's counter didn't begin with him and it didn't begin with syria-- there is less trust, less confidence exprveg less enthusiasm for military intervention. it has not-- it cannot knock a despot out. does not bring peace. it does not bring democracy. it does not establish a civil
state. we have lost confidence in military intervention as a solution, especially in the middle east. margaret just reported from egypt-- if that's the best we've produce afterward billions and billions of aid and support, and 30 years, i mean, that's a tragedy. >> it's important to remember, the president is now locked into a major, major effort to champion a policy he doesn't really believe in, in a region he wants to get out of. >> woodruff: how did he get into that situation? >> a whole series of mistakes. the red line mistake. the going to congress mistake, in my view-- again, i'm speaking politically. i understand mark's case on substantive ground if syria was the real case-- a whole series of mistakes he made where he wasn't thinking more than one step ahead. now we're having a big debate about syria, which is derailing immigration, when his whole policy was get out of the middle east. my point of view, if i'm the president, get myself out of the box. do whatever you have to do in syria. it won't do any good, probably,
but at least it won't destroy the credibility of the office. now he has raised the stakes and made the downside just tremendous. >> it's going to be a big struggle. >> woodruff: you mean to get through to congress. >> no question. but part of the problem we saw in paul's piece with lisa lynch on the economy. the u.s. household median income has gone down every year since 2007. you heard them say there are fewer-- smaller percentage of americans in the workforce today than any year since 1978. and so americans are understandably turning inward. and saying, look, we've got problems here. we've got problems that haven't been solved. we don't need to go, whether it's to syria or egypt or afghanistan or-- bad reports every day from iraq. >> woodruff: mark, what about the the president's argument, this would be a targeted, narrow strike, that it's all about the chemical weapons? >> well, i mean, the from-- >> woodruff: and reaching international-- >> i think the president has high moral ground there, but he's got-- he's got to make the
case. he's not-- to the country, judy. it's a skeptical country. the people who have made up their mind are against it. he's speaking to a congress that is skittish. we're talking right now, there are 200 democrat nptz house of representatives-- the real fight, the both of us agree, is in the house of representatives-- >> woodruff: you think it will pass the senate? >> i think the chances of it passing the senate-- if it doesn't pass the senate then the whole thing is over. judy, there are 200 democrats in the house. and they're counting right now-- they need at least 85% of them. now, that's 170 democrats out of 200. that's saying that 30 people who have years-- only 30 who voted against every military intervention, are going to come over-- many of them will have to come over. and then you've only got the republicans delivering something like 48 out of twof 33 with the speaker and the majority leader for it. y i mean, it's going to be a tough slog. >> woodruff: and what happens
if he doesn't get the vote? can he go ahead? that was what-- he was asked that three times today at a news conference, and he said,"i'm not going to answer that." >> i don't think he can go ahead. i don't know, and then what does he do?" n rawp, in the middle east, the region, the chinese will be watching. the iranians will be watching. the whole world will be watching this and they'll see he couldn't even rally a majority for this and they will have noticed that. the americans will be watching republican the republican party, by the way. it's already happened within the republican party, the opponents, the noninterventionists are on the offensive against the establishment, which wants to support this thing. and they're already probably going to crush the establishment establishment. if they win on this, that will further tilt things in the republican party. >> woodruff: where does that leave the president-- i know i'm asking you to speculate. >> i think it the affect the second term significantly. >> i don't recall a president losing a national security vote in my lifetime. when bill clinton had his
economic package in 1993, the key to his entire first term, to his domestic program that raised taxes and cut the deficit, the day they voted, jeweledy, they were 18 votes short? the-in-the-house. sometimes you just have to roll the dice and say, okay, we're going to take a chance and people are going to come over. this is going to be a tough one to get because a war vote sticks with you for the rest of your career. make no mistake about it. in 2008, the out-party nomination for president was fought, and the winners' campaign was energized, barack obama, because joe biden and chris dodd and john edwards and hillary clinton all voted in 2002 to go to war against iraq. and it was unpopular. now, if you vote with barack obama in 2013, will it be the kiss of death in 2016 for the republicans? so i mean, it's a very, very politically-- politically it's incredibly thorny. >> historically, presidents have been able to rally public opinion and congressional opinion. i think that's much less true
today, especially in washington. this is not that washington anymore where you had a whole bunch of republicans, especially, who are basically national security whrons are going to support an intervention. those republicans are really a very small number here. the democrats have-- >> woodruff: iraq changed that. >> before iraq, on the democratic side, you had a number of democrats who would support intervention for human rights and humanitarian. but now, iraq has changed that. so that number is smaller. and so on both republican and dpaement side, you have less instinctual support for a presidential interengz. >> woodruff: but, mark, you're arguing he should have gone to congress to get authorization, but it's very unlikely-- >> i don't think it's unlikely. i would not bet against the president. he has hay tough job tuesday night, judy. >> woodruff: what does he need to say-- >> what he needs to do-- we just had story after story of trillions of dollars we're spending on all this national security stuff. we could tell whether david's credit card was used. if he can't present graphic evidence, compelling evidence to the country about what has gone
on in syria, and the suffering that's happened, i mean, i just think he's knot to make that case. do you remember when adlai stevenson stood in the u.n. and showed the pictures of the soaf missiles in cuba? i mean, that-- you've got to do something-- >> woodruff: actually, i don't remember that, but i'll take your word for it. >> it was persuasive. and at the same time hes that to reestablish his congressional as the antiwar candidate. >> woodruff: do you think they're going to have more evidence to show? >> no, my understanding from speaking to him is they don't have more evidence. and my understanding is that i wouldn't emphasize syria all that much particularly. i think there's some evidence that the regime did it. i don't think there's much strong argument that whatever we do in syria is going to make some fundamental difference in syria. so you have a policy that's kind of ineffective, even for those of us who believe in it, and we believe in it not because it's a great policy but because the alternative is much worse. that would be my case. if we don't do this, the
credibility with iran is very bad. and the second thing i'd say-- to go back to mark's argument about the economy-- i do think the president should make a case yes the economy needs to be refurbished and we need to invest at home but america can't withdrawal wrau from the world and the world becomes a much more dangerous place unless we're an aggressive force in the world, and that aggressiviveness and assertiveness will be gone, at leaf for a time. >> woodruff: is that an argument that will win votes? >> >> it may win votes in the congress. i'm not sure it will win votes in the country. >> woodruff: we haven't even talked about that. >> congress has to hear from them. let's be very blunt about this-- there are people in congress in the republican party who would not vote for barack obama if he voted-- if he initiated support for the fire department in a time of arson. if he pushed for a mother's day resolution. i mean, there is-- and there were, you recall when bill clt was president-- kosovo and bosnia-- there was a large body of republicans in the house--
tom delay leading him-- who would not support the president. this is partisan and polarized, but it's not the first time. >> woodruff: and the polls are overwhelmingly against. >> yes. >> woodruff: we shall see tuesday night, he speaks to the nation. mark shields, david brooks, thank you. >> and mark and david keep up the talk on the double header that's recorded in our newsroom at the top of the rundown later tonight. >> brown: finally tonight, as we've heard, the president will make his case about syria to the nation next week. gwen ifill gets some historical perspective on the war powers act and a commander-in-chief's ability to sway public opinion. >> ifill: as the white house and congress debate how the u.s. should handle the situation in syria, what can past military engagements teach us about what we face today? for that, we turn to presidential historians and "newshour" regulars michael
beschloss and richard norton smith. welcome, gentlemen. >> thank you. >> ifill: the most common comparison we have heard in the run-upon to this-- whatever is gog happen next to syria-- is a comparison to iraq. michael, how much is this like that and how much is this not? well, one way of comparing it to iraq was the 1980s, iraq was using chemical weapons against its own people and against iranians, and the united states did not do a thing. the problem wi thethar in iraq for a president like president obama nowadays is everyone has in his or her memory the fact that we went to a very costly war, both in terms of lives, treasure, and years, that was fought, at least ostensibly, to rild the world of iraqi weapons of mass destruction that did not turn out to exist. >> ifill: one of the things that's that we all remember in our muscle memories is there have been great debate debate ar and peace in congress. and now we see a debate about to unfold that is rooted in the war
powers act or not? >> it is an out-growth of the war powers act which is itself an expression of a tug-of-war-- that is, basically older than the republic between the executive and congress. literally, one of the real points of debate at the constitutional convention was over a president wa war-making powers. george mason, of my names sake university, did not sign the final document because of his objections. you talk about iraq, for example, one of the real big differences, it seems to me is, clearly iraq was about regime change. i mean, there was the just-- a justification. sphwhriefl they're making a point that's precisely what this is not about. >> exactly, yeah. >> ifill: when you think about the war powers act, the president has never really had to go to congress-- this president said i don't have to go but i'll go anyway. >> the war powers act was passed in '73 and virtually every president since then has said i don't think this is constitutional. but at the same time, they plan
these military engagements so it doesn't kick in, something as grand as the gulf war in 1991, that was to some extent designed so it would not last longer than the 60 days that would bring congress in to say whether this was a good idea or not. >> remember, the war powers act is, again, very much a creation of its time. it was passed by both houses, literally, the week that spiro agnew resigned as priept vice pt and it was vetoed by a greatly weakened richard nixon, the same week as the saturday night massacre. it represented the nadir of executive authority following vietnam and watergate. and for 40 years, as michael says, presidents-- and congresses, for that matter-- have been dancing around the constitutionality of act. >> ifill: how is this different, however, from not only iraq but say kosovo. say, grenada? say the nicaraguan contras? say, rwanda? >> different from all of them. kosovos the most recent and
big example. 78 days of nato bombing to make sure that atrocityes were not committed any more by serbs, and that succeeded and wound up in a peace treaty. that was a great success. but bill clinton was not able to get congress to agree to this with the exception of financing it. if that was the case where he was able to do good without congress declaring itself involved. >> and kosovo, in many ways, was a reaction to the fact that the world had done nothing in rewanda. this is-- this is exactly flipped. >> the idea to the contrary is chemical weapons is something that civilized nations of the world have felt strongly against ever sinceusrd gas in the tremps in world war i. >> ifill: including congress in 2003. >> absolutely. expho nobody was doing anything about it. if franklin roosevelt was here he would say that's why i created the united nations, they would pass a resolution and make sure chemical weapons were not
used. the u.n. never northbound up to what he expected. >> what this debate about is the meaning of the term american exceptionalism. the president is taking an almost wilsonian view. america's greatest weapons are not tanks. they are moral weapons sphwhriefl is the president taking a view when you define the national interest that it's broader than someone could attack us here? >> sure, he is. although with the cynical time we're in, with the great public skepticism-- it's no longer the vietnam syndrome, we're dealing with the iraq syndrome-- he has to cloak that in language even if very contrived tie ties thats possible to american national interest as possible without getting into false claims that, you know, the syrians about to invade chicago. >> ifill: let me ask you about that. we are in the middle of a persuasion period where the president and his allies are trying to persuade not only
congress but also the american people that this is something worth doing. is that something-- have we seen presidents who have been able to change the public's mind about an international intervention in the past? >> no question. after assume invaded kuwait, how many americans were worried about the fact that the government of with youicate was dominated by the iraqis pfs george h.w. bush, quickly in the wake of vietnam-- it hadn't been that many years-- who said i want to send 500,000 americans around the world and i think this is in the american interest. in september of 1991, most americans would have said this is ridiculous, we're not doing this. in a few months he was able to use the power of the presidency to move congress and the people. and that's the key thing. to go through american history, presidents, even to this day, van amazing ability to change americans' miebdz on foreign policy when they have to. >> overnight ronald reagan transformed the mood of the country-- and the kitchen,
needless to say, around the water cooler-- following the terrible explosion in lebanon where over 200 american marines were killed. and what was it, within 48 mowers-- 72 hours-- american troops were in grenade aliberating american medical students and preventing an alleged communist takeover of that island. sometimes it isn't words but deedz. >> ifill: and images. do images change people's mind? we've seen pictures not only of apparently poisoned children, victimes of chemicavictimes of t we've seen picturees of rebels appearing to line up and assassinate government forces after stripping them. do those images change minds, too? >> they do. bill clinton-- we were in somalia on a humanitarian mission. americans in 1993 saw an image of a dead american being dragged through the streets. people said, "we want no more of this," and he wasn't able to sustain it.
>> i think it's hardener this day where we are suffused with images-- and the internet say significant part of this-- you can get any truth you want. and i think it's harder for a president-- plus, we haven't even mentioned the president is trying to do this at a time of continuing polarization in the country. >> ifill: richard norton smith, michael beschloss-- >> stay tuned. >> ifill: stay tuned, thank you. >> you bet. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day: the world's economic powers wound up a summit in russia, deeply divided over u.s. calls for military strikes on syria. and hiring in the united states in august was lackluster. the economy added 169,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate dropped to 7.3%, mostly as people stopped looking for work. >> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight.
but before we go, a reminder-- the news doesn't stop on friday, and now, neither does the newshour. join us tomorrow for the pbs newshour weekend, anchored by our own hari sreenivasan. the pbs newshour weekend takes a 30-minute look at the top news stories, along with the kind of in-depth coverage and interviews you can only find on the newshour. hari's on the set now, with a preview of what's to come on the premiere episodes. hari? >> we're pretty excited about program. coming up tomorrow we have a an where u.n. officials andn aid agencies are preparing for another potential flood of people if there are military strikes. we're also going to check this with margaret warn frer egypt, and martin fletcher is going to bring us a piece from israel about the natural gas discoveries offshore. what that means for israel and possibly the entire region. on sunday we have a fascinating profile of steven sondheim, the that jeff brown filed, and kristina ball tony is going to
give us a look ahead at a very busy week on capitol hill. >> brown: and to help you watch all those stories, we have a "newshour weekend" user guide with tips on how to dvr the show, and ways you can watch live streaming online; plus, a link to find when it airs on your local station. that's on our homepage. >> woodruff: on monday, tune in or the news and analysis you've come to trust, but with a different look and a bit of history from gwen and me, side by side, as the new co-anchors of the weekday newshour. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. "washington week" can be seen later this evening on most pbs stations. we'll see you online, and again here monday evening. have a nice weekend. thanks for joining us. good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪
♪ ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> 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. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
>> rose: welcome to the program. we begin with this week's news on syria and my colleague inñi washington, al hunt. >> i think without being hyperbolic aboutñi it, this is n extraordinarily -- an extraordinary moment for the president politically. his heart niece the right place. he's approached this like the lawyer he is. he's thought through what he thinks the right thing to do is& and it's left him today, one week after secretary kerry's impassioned statement, in a verr perilous position because people on the hill in both parties think he has badly, badly mishandled this. >> rose: we continue with billy jean kinghe