tv The News Hour With Jim Lehrer PBS August 14, 2009 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> lehrer: good evening. i'm jim lehrer. on the newshour this friday, the lead story is new signs of economic unease as consumers cut spending. then, the other news of the day: reports from grand junction, colorado, and overseas in britain, about the on-going u.s. debate over health care reform; a look at a report on how budget constraints may ground u.s. manned space flight;
a rare inside view of the taliban as american military operations expand in afghanistan; the analysis of mark shields and david brooks; and excerpts from an 11-year-old reporter's white house interview with president obama. major funding for the newshour with jim lehrer is provided by: >> what the world needs now is energy. the energy to get the economy humming again. the energy to tackle challenges like climate change. what is that energy came from aç energy company? everyday, chevron invests $62 million in people, in ideas-- seeking, teaching, building. fueling growth around the world to move us all ahead. this is the power of human energy. chevron. intel. supporting math and science education for tomorrow's innovators.
the atlantic philanthropies. 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. >> talk of the recession ran into new doubts today. a new survey found consumer sentiment fell in early august for the second month in a row. reuters and the university of michigan reported the findings, citing worries about scarce jobs and falling income. that news followed yesterday's government report that retail sales fell in july. a all raised fresh fears on wall street since consumer spending
accounts for two-thirds of the economy. the dow jones industrial average lost more than 76 points today to close at 9321. the nasdaq fell more than 23 points to close at 1985. that put an end it a four-week string of gains. the dow was off a half a percent this week. the nasdaq fell .7. take sound up - british in other news today, two high- profile funerals drew thousands of mourners and onlookers. eunice kennedy shriver was remembered in hyannis, massachusetts. the sister of president kennedy and founder of the special olympics died tuesday at the age of 88. today, her casket was carried in a procession led by special olympians as well-wishers lined the streets. inside, family and friends packed the church, including shriver's daughter, maria.
determined and ready to surrender to god. she did it all, she lived it all and she loved us all. i think if i said to my mother-- when i often did-- "i can't go on without you. i don't know how to live without you." she'd say, "you're fine. i've raised you well. now get out there and get going. your brothers will be nice to you." ( laughter ) >> lehrer: eunice kennedy shriver's last living brother, senator edward kennedy, is battling brain cancer and did not attend the funeral. and in jacksonville, florida, u.s. navy pilot michael "scott" speicher was laid to rest, 18 years after he was shot down over iraq. thousands of people lined the streets of speicher's adopted hometown to watch the funeral procession. it followed a 30-mile route, past his former school, church, and military base. the 33-year-old pilot disappeared at the start of the first gulf war.
his remains weren't found until just recently. a charles manson follower who once tried to kill president ford is now free. lynette "squeaky" fromme was released from a federal prison in texas today. in september 1975, fromme aimed a pistol at mr. ford as he visited sacramento, california. secret service agents grabbed her before any shots were fired. fromme was never implicated in a series of brutal killings by manson's gang in los angeles in 1969. manson is doing life in prison. michael vick was formally re-introduced to pro football today after doing prison time. the philadelphia eagles signed the quarterback to a one-year deal last night. vick served 18 months in federal prison for his role in running a dog-fighting ring. today, he said the eagles owner and coach have given him a second chance.
>> i would like to express my gratification to jeff laurie and coach reid, andy reid, for making me a part of this organization and giving me opportunity. i know, as we all know, in the past i made some mistakes. i have done some terrible things made horrible mistakes. and now i want to be part of the solution and not problem. >> lehrer: vick pledged to be an "ambassador" for the national football league, and toork for animal rights. the nfl will let vick practice and play in the last two preseason games. he'll be considered for full reinstatement in mid-october. the death toll from last week's typhoon in taiwan has increased sharply to more than 500. and damage is now estimated at $1.5 billion. the country's president announced the figures today. he said most of the deaths were in a single village that was
buried under a mudslide. the taiwanese leader has come under heavy criticism for his handling of the disaster. >> lehrer: and still to come on the newshour tonight: the future of space flight; shields and brooks; the taliban view; and the weaver/obama interview. that follows two takes on the health care debate. the first was in the west, where president obama took his campaign for reform back on the road today. newshour correspondent betty ann bowser reports for our health unit, a partnership with the robert wood johnson foundation. >> reporter: in his second town hall meeting of the week, the president once again sharply attacked insurance companies before a large crowd in belgrade montana. mr. obama was introduced by katie gib son, a cancer survivor who health insurance was
canceled after she was told she had less than less than a year to live. >> today we're talking about folks like katie who have had their insurance policies suddenly revoked even though they were paying premiums because of a medical condition. we're no different than katie and other ordinary americans, no different than anybody else. we are held hostage at any given moment by health insurance companies that deny coverage or drop coverage or charge feas that people can't afford, at a time when they desperately need care. it's wrong. it's bankrupting families. it's bankrupting business. and we are going to fix it when we pass health insurance reform this year. ( applause ) >> reporter: the president repeatedly tried to debunk of the myths that have been spread about health care reform, citing a fay aimed at a government-run insurance plan. >> everybody here who currently has private insurance, you would more than likely still be on your private insurance plan.
employers wouldn't stop suddenly providing health insurance. so that is where this idea of government-run health care came from. it is not an accurate... portrayal of the debate that's going on in washington right now. >> reporter: the audience was polite and generally friendly, but he did get some tough questions. a member of the n.r.a. challenged him. he wanted to know how a health care reform plan, estimated to cost $1 trillion, would be paid for. >> you can't tell us how you're going to pay for this. you're saving here. you're vaefg over there. you're going to take a little money mere. you're going to take a little money here. but you have no money. the only way you're going to get our-- that money raise our taxes. you said you wouldn't. max baucus said he wouldn't put out a bill that will but it's the only way to do that. >> i'm happy to answer the question. >> thank you. >> overall this bill will cost-- let's say it costs $800 billion to $900 billion.
that's a lot of money. that's a lot of money. that's over 10 years, though, all right. so that's $80-90 billion a year. about two-thirds of it-- two-thirds-- can be obtained by doing some of the things i already mentioned, like eliminating subsidies to the insurance companies. so you're right. that's real money. i just think i would rather be giving that money to the young lady here who doesn't have health insurance and giving her some help than giving it to insurance companies making record profits. now, you may disagree. i just think that's a good way to spend our money. >> reporter: today's event in the tiny rocky mountain town marked the first in a swing through three western states, where the white house is hoping to clarify some of the public's concerns about reform. president obama does goes to western colorado tomorrow to grand junction, a city of 45,000 that's received a lot of attention lately for health reforms it implemented in the 90
80s. here, a majority of doctors work together to offer coordinated medical care. the result is some of the lowest medical costs in the country. for example, 30% below the national average for medicare. doctors are not salaried. they're paid for each service they perform. but the fees are the same for medicaid patients and for those covered by private insurance. and because they work together, they save money by not ordering excessive numbers of tests. michael promanko, a family physician, is part of that system and supports what president obama is trying to do. he thinks health care reform can be done without a lot of government involvement, just like they've done in grand junction. >> this is such a big sticky point right now as we head down the road to possible legislation. the whole idea should government be more involved? grand junction offers a grand compromise on that and shows that it can be done in a very effective manner with nonprofits
that are oriented towards the community and the patient, rather than to shareholders and profits. >> reporter: surveys show that most grand junction residents are happy with their health care but the ones we talked to had many questions about reform efforts on the national level. tony myers is an english teacher and debate coach at grand junction high school. his mother in indiana almost went bankrupt because of medical costs from treating cancer. so he very much wants reform. but he has many questions about the proposals on the table. >> i would like to see a public breakdown of "this is what's being offered. this is how it's going to work sdpp this is what you will get out of it." and i think that if i had one thing they would say to president obama, that has to be done. because until common, average, everyday people can really wrap their heads around it and understand it, they're not going to support it.
>> reporter: what are you confused about? >> i would like to know if i lose my current job or if i become ill and can no longer work, what's it really going to offer to me that is different from the status quo? >> reporter: bob chureau is a veterinarian who queries the reform efforts might make the health care system worse than the status quo. >> i fear it will be like health care in canada and england. it will take long time to get things done, to get diagnostic treatment dnz and to get surgery done, that you wouldn't have the same relationship with your doctor that you would previously that something would happen-- they would have certain guidelines when people are older and over a certain age that if they have cancer they're just going to give them hospice care, things like that. that's what i'm afraid of. >> reporter: greg and jean dillon are retirees.
greg was an architect, jean a hospital administrator. they are registered republicans but voted for barack obama. they support the idea of reform but are concerned about how fast it's being done. >> i guess as complicated as i think health care is in coverage and issues and technology and bilge issues, i wish they could slow down, have a little bit more concrete plan or step-by-step plan where you could implement it in degrees. i don't know if that's possible. >> reporter: both dillons are medicare recipients and they worry their benefits could be cut. >> the big issue right now is the baby boomers coming online, and so what are their demands going to be on medical care? is there going to be rationing? what is going to be the fallout-- for example, if a government program, will the corporate people start bailing out and shoving everything at
the public and so these are-- is there some way to keep that from happening because all of a sudden we might find a situation where everybody is dumping everybody and forcing them into the public side of this issue. >> reporter: janet wilke has owned the homestyle bakery for 33 years and cannot afford to give her 16 employees health benefits. she wants reform but says she's frightened by the cost. >> i think that what they're talking about now is going to be very expensive. i want to know how we're going to pay for it. i fear the country going deeper and deeper into debt, and i think that's a major concern. we have to-- there has to be a way to pay for all of this. >> reporter: janet wilky is not planning to attend the town hall meeting tomorrow but the president will no doubt hear many concerns like hers when he comes to grand junction.
>> lehrer: now, health care debate, take two. it's about how it has triggered another debate in britain over how its government-operated national health service has been portrayed in the u.s. newshour correspondent simon marks has that story. >> reporter: if the british opinion polls are any guide, david cameron, leader of the opposition conservative party, stands a good chance of being the country's next prime minister. national elections are due to take place by next spring. and today, the man who faces off against the current prime minister, gordon brown, was moving to project himself as an ardent defender of britain's government-run national health service. >> we'll invest in it, we'll expand it. we think it's a really important and great national institution. the fact that, in this country, you can go to a hospital, you can go to a family doctor, and they don't ask you how much money is in your bank account or who you are, it's one of our great national institutions and we want to expand it.
>> reporter: mr. cameron's public pronouncements resulted from the british public reaction to this, one in a series of u.s. media appearances by daniel hannan, who represents mr. cameron's conservative party in the european parliament, and who has been ubiquitous this week on conservative cable shows and talk radio, slamming the national health service. >> the health care system we have is a kind of relic of an era in britain when the state was considered all-powerful and benign, and when we had rationing and when we had i.d. cards and when we had mass nationalization. and we are still stuck with it because, you know, once you get a system like that, it is almost impossible to get rid of. >> reporter: but while the n.h.s. has not always been entirely beloved by all britons, the public response to mr. hannan's comments mobilized online, via the instant messaging service twitter.
where a feed called "we love the n.h.s." has encouraged thousands of british supporters to credit the system with curing their ills, and in some cases, with saving their lives. the prime minister, gordon brown, and his wife personally contributed to the discussion, using twitter, saying in the u.k., the health service is the difference "between life and death". sensing that his party was beind tied to the losing side of a growing public storm, david cameron today found himself disowning the views of daniel hannan, one of his own lawmakers. >> he does have some quite eccentric views about some things, and political parties always include some people who don't tow the party line on one issue or another issue. >> reporter: there are other british voices that have been injected into the u.s. debate on healthcare. a lobby group called conservatives for patients' rights produced this video in which some dissatisfied n.h.s. patients critique the service. the national health service was founded at the end of the second world war, and established to offer healthcare to all british citizens, regardless of their
age, occupation, or their ability to pay. publicly-funded doctors and surgeons, who operate within the national health system, are paid their salaries by the government. in britain, patients are offered full health coverage that is free-of-charge at the point-of- service. they pay for the system as part of their national annual taxes. some liberals in the united states, like film-maker michael moore, have, in the past, seized on the n.h.s. as a model the u.s. might consider emulating. >> this guy broke his ankle. much is this going to cost him? will there be some huge bill? >> in the n.h.s., everything is free. >> reporter: but the health care reform proposals being debated on capitol hill bear almost no resemblance to the british health care system. and while president obama and many democrats favors a government-administered insurance plan as one option to compete with private insurers,
the majority of the american health care system would remain private. in the u.k., private health insurance is carried by only around 13% of the population. and in an atmosphere in which the national health service is considered as british as double- decker buses and fish-and-chips, one n.h.s. patient who has criticized the service on this side of the atlantic is telling audiences over there she was duped into appearing on a conservative video. >> obviously, i feel that the n.h.s. let me down, but that doesn't mean that the n.h.s. does bad things. i know that it does amazing things, and it's a life-saver for millions of people. >> reporter: there have been many debates in the past about levels of funding for the system and waiting lists that can delay treatment, sometimes for life-threatening ailments. but on twitter today, one supporter of the system described the health service as "one reason our country is better than theirs," an indication of how embedded the service is in the psyche of the british public.
>> lehrer: next tonight, sobering words about the american space program and its prospects. judy woodruff has our science unit story. >> reporter: it's been more than three decades since an american touched down on the moon. in 2004, president george w. bush proposed going back there, by the year 2020, and eventually to aim for mars. that plan called for replacing the shuttle fleet with new kinds of space vehicles. but the idea of returning to the moon ran into considerable skepticism -- both on its merits and over questions of additional funding for nasa. this spring, president obama commissioned a panel to study the pros and cons of returning humans to space. but during recent public meetings, several panel members questioned whether there's even
enough money to fund the current program. earlier today, the panel presented its findings to white house and nasa officials in washington. it concluded that human missions to the moon by 2020 may be unrealistic. but there were options the panel considered workable, including going ahead with nasa's next generation of vehicles for human space flight -- a rocket program that could go to the moon eventually and elsewhere. extending the life of the international space station until 2020, using commercial rockets to get there. and continuing to fly the shuttle until as late as 2015, while working on a new design that could reach the moon. i talked with the panel's chairman norman augustine at his offices in bethesda, maryland. he's the former ceo of lockheed martin. thank you very much for talking with us. >> nice to be here. >> you are just back from the
white house. you made this presentation. what was the reaction? >> really, we've given the white house a dilemma. the space program we have today, the human space flight program, really isn't computable with the money we have. so either we have to do something with the current program that's not going to be very successful, i'm afraid, or spend for something really exciting and workable and that's the challenge the white house is going to have is to sort that out. >> reporter: "not computable." is that because of the cost? >> primarily the money." there are real technical challenges. for example, we don't really know the effect of galactic cosmic rays on human beings that are in outer space for long periods of time. we think the effects could be very bad. we also know that weightlessness has a serious impact on humans when they've been exposed to it
for a long time. and when one talks about going to mars, for example, we're talking about 180 days of flight to get there and 180 days to come back and probably a year on mars to get the planets to line up so they can come back. so there are a whole new set of challenges one faces when one looks at exploration in outer space. >> reporter: so safety in human life was a big consideration? >> safety is the fundamental driver here. the moon was a huge challenge in its day, but mars is an even greater challenge today. for example, on the moon, you're four days away from getting home and from getting help. certainly, on the moon you can talk back and forth like we are now. on the other hand, if you have someone on mars and someone on earth, and mission control is trying to help them and you ask a question, it takes 20 minutes for your question to get to mars at the speed of light and something like 20 minutes to come back. if you say, "is there smoke in
the capsule?" it's 40 minutes before you get an answer. so they're really on their own out there. >> reporter: some people are going to listen to this, look at this and say, "wait a minute. we went to the moon decades ago. why is it so hard to go back by 2020?" >> we spent at that time 4.4% of the federal budget going to the moon each year during that period. today, i think it's somewhere around .7% we're spending. when we went to the moon, we spent a lot of money, and i think one thing people forget is we went went to the moon during the middle of the vietnam war, a huge war. so i think it teaches a lesson that the question is priorities. this country could afford to do great things. it's a question of what the priorities are. >> reporter: was there an underlying philosophy about what the u.s. approach to space exploration should be here? >> when we began, other than the kind of fundamental belief most of us had that mars is a logical place we'd like to wind up,
there are other interesting things you could dock with an asteroid. you could go back to the moon. you could go to one of mar's planets. but other than that, i don't think there was an underlying assumption. some of us had our own beliefs and we changed those beliefs a lot by what we've learned during these last 90 days. we start out with over 3,000 options that we started look at and narrowed it down to 16 serious options, and we're going to offer four options, plus the basic program, to the president. >> reporter: there are references in here to relying on commercial space exploration. how much should we expect to see that? is that the wave of the future? >> i think commercial space flight is going to be an important piece of the future. there's a certain analogy to the airline in the early days when the government gave the struggling airlines contracts to carry the mail. guaranteed those contracts. today, nasa knows how to put
things in lower orbit. we did that routinely-- that's probably not the right word, but we do it frequently. it seems unreasonable to us that nasa should spend its time repeatedly doing what it knows how to do. nasa ought to be exploring outer space and doing new things and turning over the transportation of weight and people-- goods and people to lower orbit which by that i mean a few hundred miles above the earth. that should be a commercial endeavor in our view and to make that possible someone has to guarantee a market, and that's the government, just as it did in the postal service days. >> reporter: if money were no object at all-- and i know that's a fantasy-- is it clear in your mind what the united states should do in space? >> i think it is. and i think we don't even have to have a situation where money is no object. if the nasa budget were increased, the total nasa budget by about 20%, we could set on a
very logical path, i think, to do fly-s by of mars, to go back to the moon, to visit the moons of mars and land on an asteroid, and eventually land on mars. and we could do it, i think, safely and with technology we know,000 eventually produce. >> reporter: overall, i think most people would agree, this is a far cry from john f. kennedy, 1961, clarion call, let's put a man on the moon. is that permanently behind us as a country, just a distant dream? >> well, i think the what president kennedy was speaking in a difference sense. we were in a race with the russians. some of our companies are now partners with the russians. it is a different era. on the other hand, today, i just saw a poll, 72% of the people said they-- that the space program was important to them. 52% said they cared a lot about the space program. people do care, and as a matter
of fact, two of the mexico of our group were astronauts. one of them was sally rirkd the first woman in space. and everywhere we went, people crowded around them. space is important, i think. it's one of the diminishing number of areas where america still has a lead and if we don't lead, someone else will. >> reporter: norm augustine, thank you very much for talking with us. >> thank you. >> lehrer: and to the analysis of shields and brooks-- syndicated columnist mark shields and "new york times" columnist david brooks. how do you portray the saga of the health care debate on this friday night? >> well, the polls are still terrible. there's still a majority against it. so it's sort of an odd situation where you look in washington, you see pretty much momentum toward it, slow compromises, and you see the democrats with plenty of votes, but are we really going to pass the most major domestic reform in a
generation when the majority of the american people are against it? that's sort of an oddity. and the second thing, as we've seen in these highly reasoned town hall meetings in the country, it's a pretty traditional left-right fight. you have republicans and democrats and in the age of obama where we're supposed to rise above that, obama has got himself into a pretty traditional partisan battle, the health care version of the thomas hearings or some other very hot partisan fight. >> lehrer: is president obama making any inroads in getting back his support? >> i think--. >> lehrer: getting it in the first place? >> i think after a rough patch, i think he-- they had a pretty good week. i mean, i think that the argument that these town meetings, at least three out of four of them were reasoned events, that they weren't just brawls and fights--. >> lehrer: people don't seem to be taking him on at these town meetings.
>> a man who worked for president eisenhower and nixon and ford once said, "i don't know care who it is. the most powerful committee chairman, the most influential c.e.o., just give me five minutes with the president and i can turn him around. and he said, i don't care who it is. you bring him into the president especially in the oval office, and they end up walking out saying, mpresident, god bless you. we're with you. we're doing a wonderful job." and i think it's a lot tougher to be confrontational with the president. in a strange way, i think the president needs it because--. >> lehrer: to be picked on? >> he needs that moment. he needs that defining moment. the intensity and the passion are on the other side, are against it. david's right. four out of five democrats endorse what the president is dog. one out of 10 republicans does. independents have slipped, and they've got to be won back. and i just think the president has to be-- and what the problem is his strengths in the campaign
david touched on it, was that he was so reasoned and so reflective and so thoughtful. and not someone who appealed to emotions. but they need an emotionally defining moment, i think. >> lehrer: time to forget that? >> no, i actually think he needs to reassure people. the town hall meeting today in montana. people are scared and very anxious. we've had the government taking over the cars, taking over the insurance, taking over the banks. now it's going to take over health care. i thought reasoned part was the best part of his performance today. the problem is he's really good talking about withy we need change and what change would look like if we had a good system. he's not sod sew good talking about what the plan is. and that's where the anxiety is. the other thing is he just tells a lot of whoppers now. believe me, rush limbaugh and sarah palin are saying some things extremely off the charts untrue of the plan but i wrote down some of the things balma said which was a whopper. he said everybody could keep
their plan. six million are going to lose their plan. preventive medicine will cost $90 million. government would be out the health care decisions. he tells one thing after another making it seem so easy. believe me, this is not easy. it's going to take some sacrifices and some really painful cuts for people to get this system under control, and often, when i look at him, i think he's over-promising, not as much as the other side but to a significant degree. >> certainly not as much as other other side because the other side, i think, has gone beyond the pale. the fear is not just about this plan. there's a fear of robbing the land. i mean, between 2000 and 2009, the private sector basically didn't create any jobs in this country. there's a fear, if you live in ohio, you can't see your grandchildren unless you drive a car or bus somewhere because your family is moving away. change has come very newscast this country. i think there is an anxiety.
i think there is a concern, and i think he was reassuring on that. >> lehrer: what about the whoppers? >> preventive care, i mean, everybody i've ever talked to in medicine says if you can get people to stop smoking, which is a form of preventive care, you are not only extending lives. you're saving billions and billions of dollars. >> lehrer: the same thing about obesity. >> that stuff it fine but if you're testing somebody for an illness, you have to test 100 to find five. if you look at the studies and the other research, it doesn't save you money. we should do it, but because you have to test so many people to get the few you are really going to prevent serious illness from, you're really not adding up to a lot of cost saving. >> lehrer: what about the death panel thing? how does that catch fire the way it did or is that fire over? >> i think jackie thompson in the "times" had a very good piece on the origins of it. it was-- betsy mccallie,
lieutenant governor of new york, and george pataki, for one term, earned a reputation as an opponent of "clinton care," basically was the perpetrator of this. and on bill bennett's radio show. and sarah palin picked it up. i mean, just made outrageous and indefensible statements that "my parents and our down syndrome baby would have to appear before a death panel to determine whether they were worthy of living." and newt gingrich, whose prideful about his intellect, basically backed her up. >> lehrer: so did senator grassley said something. >> senator grassley. the republican senator from alaska, johnny isakson, the republican senator from georgia's credit, took it on and said this is outrageous and indefensible. it does cheen the debate. it does scare people at a time
when people are afraid. it spreads indefensible fear0u d baseless fear. >> lehrer: your point is there's enough to be afraid about-- >> without this kind of stuff. first, there is no death panel in the bill, full stop. that is for sure. but if we're going to get serious about cost control, we are going to have to have serious discussion about the amount of care and expense of care we give at the end of life. that's just a fact. so if you want to call it a "death panel," call it that. but it's about having serious discussions about care at the end of life. and we're going have to have have those discussions. in some weird way, i'm pro-death panel. i want to have those discussions, whether it's one on one or just as a society. and this is a fundamental problem i think with this whole process. we have to have serious discussions about who's going to lose in all this because we've got a runaway system, and every time you make a minor suggestion a hint of a minor suggestion-- or in this case not even a hit, an exaggeration, people go
crazy. so how are we going to get the system under control. >> lehrer: you mentioned the name "clinton." how about secretary of state clinton. what do you think of her trip to africa and the outburst? >> i thought it was an absolutely legitimate outburst. i thought it was an important trip--. >> lehrer: to refresh people's memories. somebody said what does president clinton think about something, and she said-- >> she said, "i'm the secretary of state. i don't channel my husband. basically, up to the know what he thinks, ask him yourself. >> lehrer: & he land to be-- at that moment, i think he was celebrating his birthday prematurely in las vegas, and $240 stake. >> lehrer: i can't even imagine. >> but, listen, africa is
crucial. we're in a fierce competition for influence and engagement with china, with russia. i thought message she delivered, where are she goes, she brings cameras. she brings microphones--. >> lehrer: and she talks straight. >> she does. >> the $240 a 1 steak. is that an insult? how much are the carrots? >> lehrer: the cost foreign policy. >> as for clinton, i thought her response was completely appropriate. the question was insulting, so-- i was fine with it. as for africa. one of the nice-- the good news stories about africa is that there has been institutional change in country after country. now, we've had our problems with south africa and other countrys-- sudan, obviously-- but there has been institutional
improvement on that continent in many, many governments. and i think part of the achievement of the bush administration (ly was the millennium... accounts and she's building on that, i think, the obama emotion as as-- administration as well. >> lehrer: what should be said about caroline kennedy. >> we talk about president pral siblings, and they're embarrassments and seek presidential pardons and unflat ring things. as far as presidential siblings go, i think eunice kennedy shriver was the gold standard. >> lehrer: why? >> well, eeltail you why--. >> lehrer: you knew her. >> i knew her. and i respected her. she was enormously formidable. don't romanticize her into this sweet little thing. she was tough as nails. and she had an iron will. and i will say this-- she-- her
brother, john, and robert and edward, won the headlines, and they won the place in the history books. she actually changed the nation. i mean, when she began, people with mental disabilities, down syndrome and others, were kept very much in the shadows, in the cold shadows of indifference, in warehouses. she basically, through her will and determination through the special olympics, laid the way for inclus in our society and acceptance. and she not only changed the way we felt about mentally challenged individuals. she changed the way they felt about themselves. to compete as athletes and in jobs and schools. she made america a more humane place and what a legacy. >> lehrer: i remember judy woodruff's piece on the day she died, david, and we ran a claim of the speech she made, that had all those ribbons of robert
kennedy and john kennedy and bobby kennedy. she was talking about special olympics and the mentally disabled. but, boy, she was talking in a way that everybody listened. >> the smartest thing i read about her said she took the kennedy ethos-- which was about competition and sports and toughness-- and she applied it to a population where people had not paid much attention and had not demand a lot, and so she combined the tough witness the compassion and created the legacy. >> lehrer: thank you, both. >> thank you. >> lehrer: now, a conversation about the taliban, the insurgent forces the u.s. and coalition forces are fighting in afghanistan. jeffrey brown has our story. >> reporter: as the war in afghanistan heats up, how much is really known about the taliban, how they've been able to take control of territory and what are the prospects of
negotiating with them? for that we turn to charles sennott, the executive editorial editor of globalpost. he's covered the taliban for over 15 years and returned from a reporting trip to pakistan and afghanistan. welcome. >> thank you sgroun who are the taliban. the question that we often ask. >> i think we need to know the taliban are stronger than we realize, and i think the other thing we need to know is the taliban are two things-- they're actually many things-- but there are the pakistani taliban, which has really become a unique movement that was part of the taliban that fractured on the pakistani side and took hold in the paspun belt on the pakistan side. and then there is the taliban we know that held power in 2001 when the u.s. came in after the september 11 attacks and cobbled that government in afghanistan. so the taliban in afghanistan is still very close ideologically,
theologically, and militarily to that original afghan taliban that was in power in kabul. we really have two different talibans with several different permutations. >> in afghanistan, what explanation the success that they have? is it all about weapons and fear? is it about providing security? is it-- what explanation it? >> i think it's a sense of patience and time. time favors the taliban. when the united states military was focusing on the war in iraq for so many years, the taliban was quietly reorganizing in pakistan, and quietly doing the work in these villages that are very remote, that are there in the south and east, and it was quietly convincing this population that the taliban movement will be there long after the u.s. government has left. and that's posed both as sort of cultural affinity, but it's also a threat. and we're seeing that now with the election, that the taliban is certainly capable of threatening people, and that sense of sort of thuggery, the
wanting to get back into power is very much an element as well. >> reporter: you on your reporting trip you met with what you referred to as "moderate taliban." that raises the question about are there divisions among groups there? what exactly is a moderate? what does it tell you about the prospects of reaching out having actual conversations? >> president obama has called for negotiations with the moderate taliban. and one of the questions you hear often in kabul is what does that mean? who are the moderate taliban? the taliban officials who we met with were the former heads of the now-deposed government. this was, for example, the former foreign minister of the taliban. it was the pakistani ambassador for the taliban. it was the minister of higher education. the u.n. representatives to the taliban who was actually in new york at the time of september 11. some of them have spent some time in guantanamo. some of them were on the run, but they have regrouped and now
live under various forms of house arrest inside kabul, in afghanistan. it was challenging to get to them. and unique, and really an eye-opening experience in the sense that you could hear translate taliban their perspective on where things are. and i heard a range of opinions, ranging from, for example, the former foreign minister of the taliban, very open to negotiations. he really believes they could happen, that there is a steady momentum toward them that began in saudi arabia earlier this year and continues today and after the election may actually take hold. >> reporter: negotiations with the afghan government and the u.s? >> they see themselves as intermeadaries between the taliban militant insurgent leadership, and the afghan government, and on a low and unofficial level, the u.s. government has its presence in afghanistan. >> reporter: how seriously do you take that. i think what's important to know about afghanistan is negotiations can happen at any time. this is a place where one side will flip against the other.
and suddenly align with another. that's the history of afghanistan. >> reporter: even though everything we hear now is more about divisiveness and sort of hardening of positions and more military action. >> and quite often, the negotiations, that sense of flipping sides, can happen right at a time when both sides feel heat wave strength and that is a moment we're in right now. we heard general mcchrystal say himself the taliban is winning in many areas in the south and east and it has, very interestingly, develop thed some inroads into north and west as well. the u.s. military is in a strong position as well. they now have the 21,000-troop increase. they're on the offensive. very often, in afghanistan, in my years of reporting there that can often be a time when people shift and change and people begin to talk. i'm not saying i think we can guarantee that will happen, but one thing about afghanistan is when you begin to hear the possibility of negotiation, as the president has called for, i think it's worth pursuing. >> reporter: i want to ask you
about one story you've reported on over the years, the story of an american woman, sally goodrich, who helped build a school. >> sally's story is a great story because it's a microcosm of where afghanistan is today. sally lost her son, peter, on september 11, and she decide build a school in his honor in afghanistan. i went with her to the first opening of the school. it was a really beautiful moment a girls' school, tremendous celebration by this village. a real feel-good story about afghanistan. a few months ago sally called me and said she couldn't believe it that the village elderlies who helped her build the school had their homes razed by the u.s. military and several are in detention for supporting the taliban. the village had flipped. when i did my reporting i found a very complex and nuanced situation. i met with the village leaders, those of whom had been released. what they said was, okay, we are
not taliban. but what you could sort of glean from the ministry of education officials, from the principal, from others, was a sense that those village leaders did in fact allow the taliban into that village so they could keep the girls' school open. those village elders had 16 of their own girls in that school, and that was the deal they were willing to cut. the tragic ending to that deal was that the u.s. military said, well, look, that's all well and good. but the taliban in that village have killed u.s. service men and women with roadside bombs. so, you know, we can't-- we can't allow that kind of deal. so the village elders, two of them, remain in custody. but then, just about a week airfare left, the village road into the school was bombed and 15 school children were killed, including two girls. and the school was severely damaged. so this is, to me, a microcosm
of just how complicated it is on the ground in afghanistan. and if the u.s. troops are going to succeed in afghanistan, it's going to require that level of understanding of the complexities that exist on the ground. >> reporter: already, charles sennott from globalpost thank you. >> lehrer: on our web site, newshour.pbs.org, watch a web only interview with charles sennott on the unique journalism model that fuels globalpost's international news reporting. >> lehrer: finally tonight, a very young journalist lands a major interview. 11-year-old damon weaver of pahokee in south florida is a reporter for his elementary school's television station. during the 2008 election, he interviewed then-democratic vice presidential candidate joe biden.
yesterday at the white house, he interviewed the man who was at the top of the ticket, now- president barack obama. here are some excerpts. >> all across america, money is being cut from education. how can education be improved with all these cuts? >> well, we actually, here in the administration, trying to put more money into schools, and there are a lot of schools all across the country that are getting new buildings and new facilities. we're now putting more money into training good teachers and giving them more support, and so we think it's important to put more money into the schools. but money alone is not going to make the difference. we've also got to improve how the schools are operating, and we have really been trying to focus on how do you find the best schools and figure out what it is that they're doing well. and they're trying to get other schools that aren't doing so well to do the same kinds of
things that the schools who are doing well are doing. so i hope that we can really see some improvement, not just with money, but also with reforming how the schools work. >> i live in pahokee, florida, which is a kind of poor town. what can be done to improve education for students that live in towns like mine? >> well, unfortunately, a lot of times, if you've got a community that is lower income, they don't have as much money in their schools. a lot of that is state funding, and i want to see states be more fair in terms of how they give money to various schools around their communities. but i do think it's important to make sure that we can find help from the federal government, from here in washington, d.c., for those schools that need the most help. there are certain programs, like dropout prevention programs, for example, that local school districts might not be able to afford, but maybe we can make sure that the federal government
is giving help to those local districts so they can improve their educational system. >> do you have the power to make the school lunches better? >> well, i remember that, when i used to get school lunches, they didn't taste so good, i got to admit. we are seeing if we can work to at least make school lunches healthier, because a lot of school lunches, there's a lot of french fries, pizza, tater totsn all kinds of stuff that isn't a well-balanced meal. so we want to make sure there are more fruits and vegetables in the schools. now, kids may not end up liking that, but it's better for them, it'll be healthier for them, and those are some of the changes we're trying to make. >> i suggest that we have french fries and mangoes every day for lunch. >> i notice, as president, you get bullied a lot. how do you handle it?
>> you mean people say mean things about me? i think that, when you're president, you're responsible for a lot of things, and people are having a tough time, they're hurting out there, and the main thing i try to do is just stay focused on trying to do a good job and try to be understanding that sometimes people are going to be mad about things. but if i'm doing a good job, i'm doing my best, i'm helping people. that keeps me going. >> were you ever bullied in school? >> you know, i wasn't bullied too much in school. i was pretty big for my age, but obviously, it's a terrible thing and i hope all young people out there understand that they should treat each other with respect. >> when i interviewed vice president joe biden, he became my homeboy. would you like to become my homeboy? >> absolutely. thank you, man. great job.
>> lehrer: again, the major developments of the day: a closely watched survey found consumer sentiment fell for the second month in a row. it raised new doubts about prospects for a recovery. president obama charged news coverage has focused too much on angry protests at town hall meetings on health care. and lynette "squeaky" fromme was released from prison, 34 years after she tried to kill president ford. on newshour.pbs.org, an online- only feature tonight-- on "art beat," jeffrey brown talks to pulitzer-prize winning author richard russo about his latest novel, "that old cape magic." it tells the story of middle- aged english professor jack griffin. here's an excerpt from the conversation. >> jack is beginning to hear his
mother talking to him even when she's not and i think is the metaphor for what happens to all of us. even when our-- we think of our parents when our-- when our parents die, we think that things are going to change, that that particular conversation has ended, and in fact it is probably just beginning. >> lehrer: "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. i'm jim lehrer. thank you and good night. major funding for the newshour with jim lehrer is provided by: intel. supporting math and science education for tomorrow's innovators. chevron. the atlantic philanthropies. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and...