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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  January 27, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm PST

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: the g.o.p. presidential campaign in florida has ratcheted into high gear just four days before the winner-take-all primary. good evening. i'm jeffrey brown. >> suarez: and i'm ray suarez. on the newshour tonight, judy woodruff is in jacksonville with the latest on the no-holds- barred contest. >> brown: then, we examine president obama's plan to tie college financial aid programs to the institution's affordability. >> suarez: margaret warner updates the situation in syria, as fighting intensified in the city of homs today. >> brown: david brooks and e.j. dionne analyze the week's news.
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>> suarez: and we close with poet rae armantrout, whose new book, "money shot," deals in part with the financial crisis. >> is to write about the intersection of the public and private. or what's left of the flight our lives. >> brown: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and by bnsf railway. and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st centu. 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. >> suarez: tuesday's florida republican primary looked to be
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a two-man race with the latest batch of polls showing former massachusetts governor mitt romney leading former house speaker newt gingrich. judy woodruff has our report. >> woodruff: it was not even a week ago when the former speaker of the house rolled into florida, pumped up from a double-digit win in south carolina, and the media coverage that flows with having upset the presumptive frontrunner. it made newt gingrich confident enough to make big promises-- an american colony on the moon, a half-dozen space launches a day- - if he's elected. >> i was attacked the other night for being grandiose. i just want you to know, lincoln standing at council bluffs was grandiose, the wright brothers in kitty hawk was grandiose, jfk
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saying we want a man on the moon in eight years was grandiose, and americans are instinctively grandiose. ( cheers and applause ) >> woodruff: the overflow crowd that showed up to see him in cocoa beach wednesday liked what they heard. >> i mean, he truly is sort of a once in a generational type of leader. he has the ability to articulate issues in a very refined way, and he's a visionary. >> there's only one man on that whole stage at the present time that can take barack obama on, one on one, and that is newt gingrich. his compassion, and really the history in which he brings within his speech. it is incredible. >> woodruff: the candidate gingrich trounced in south carolina kept up his game face, but landed in florida loaded for bear and spoiling for a fight. mitt romney, in his first negative tv ad of this campaign, used gingrich's command of history against him.
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>> gingrich collected $1.6 million. an historian-- really? >> woodruff: that was just one of millions of dollars worth of television spots unloaded on gingrich, most by the so-called super-pacs supporting romney, >> what we have right now is the entire republican establishment in panic mode, running around saying whatever pops into their heads next. >> woodruff: in this state, with ten separate metropolitan areas, or media markets, advertising to reach the two million republicans expected to turn out in next tuesday's primary is not cheap. but for romney's camp, coming off a humiliating loss in south carolina, it's a necessity, says susan macmanus, university of south florida professor of politics and media. >> it's still, ultimately, if you want to change people's opinion or you want to really push their buttons, you have to
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use television, and that's why we're inundated right now. the mute button is wearing thin. >> woodruff: the tactic seems to be working for romney. combining tv attacks on gingrich with a smooth, confident debate performance early in the week has helped the former massachusetts governor regain his footing in florida public opinion polls. >> i'm not going to apologize for having been successful. i did not inherit what my wife and i have, nor did she. what i have, what we have, we built the old fashion way-- by earning it, by working hard. >> woodruff: romney's belated decision to release his most recent tax returns, embrace the fact of his enormous wealth, and say he has nothing to apologize for appeals to many florida republican voters we talked to. >> he's... he's a self-made man. he already said in one of the debates he did not get the money from his parents or anyone else. and he has been very successful. don't we want that for the country?
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>> woodruff: even so, the turn toward negativity has turned some florida voters off. >> romney's the one doing the smear campaigning, which, by the way, was part of what really got me behind newt in a stronger way than i would have been. and that's why i'm working for him and i'm hoping he gets through. >> woodruff: for all the talk of personalities, given the 9.9% unemployment rate in florida and the housing crisis here, the topic on most every voter's lips we spoke with was unmistakable. even though most said the economy was picking up, these republicans say they want change. from craig beggins of century 21, an apollo beach realtor, it's come down to romney vs. gingrich to address his main headache... >> as a broker dealing with home purchases, where 80% of our sales involved financing, it's brutal. >> woodruff: ...to the hardin construction company in tampa,
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where we met up with senior vice president page mckee, who was still undecided. >> we would like to see leadership both at the executive level and in congress. in business, we need to know what the rules are. we need to have some feeling that there's some security or that you know the playing field's going to be leveled. >> woodruff: a similar tune at wright's gourmet cafe in tampa. >> for myself, i'm looking for somebody that understands economics and the challenges we face and making good decisions. and i put tremendous value on that, as well as somebody that's had experience in the executive side. and so, for a guy like me, mitt romney's a good fit. >> woodruff: but as the university of south florida's susan macmanus reminded us, florida republicans are divided, just like the country as a whole. >> some are very working class, and you have all the way up to the extremely wealthy. it's a little bit of everything- - racial diversity, religious diversity, ideological
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diversity, and candidate diversity, as we see. it's not an easy place to campaign in. it's very complex. it's like a giant jigsaw puzzle, even within the ranks of republicans. >> woodruff: it was to this giant jigsaw puzzle that the candidates brought their final statewide appeal in last night's debate. romney jumped at every chance he was given to hammer at gingrich- - for inconsistency and for what romney labeled "pandering." >> look, this idea of going state to state and promising what people want to hear, promising billions, hundreds of billions of dollars to make people happy, that's what got us into the trouble we're in now. we've got to say no to this kind of spending. ( cheers and applause ) >> woodruff: gingrich, who had seemed to feed off the audience in last week's debates in south carolina, watched his main rival do the same last night. it was as if the week of non- stop criticism from the romney camp was taking a toll. >> the governor has cheerfully been attacking me, inaccurately, and he knows it. the contracts we released from
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freddie mac said i would do no consulting-- wrote in, no... i mean, no lobbying, none. >> woodruff: and the other two candidates, rick santorum and ron paul, who have seemed out of the center ring, worked their way back in, at least for the moment. >> the bigger issue here is these two gentlemen, who are out distracting from the most important issues we have by playing petty personal politics. can we set aside that newt was a member of congress and used the skills that he developed as a member of congress to go out and advise companies, and that's not the worst thing in the world; and that mitt romney is a wealthy guy because he worked hard and he's going out and working hard. and you guys should leave that alone and focus on the issues. ( cheers and applause ) >> well, i don't think we should go to the moon. i think we maybe should send some politicians up there at times. ( laughter ) >> woodruff: with just four days to go until florida republicans make their choice, the drama promised to continue right up till poll closing time. >> brown: and judy joins us live now from jacksonville.
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well, judy, today, three of the four candidates i gather were spending much of their time trying to woo hispanic voters. tell us about that. >> woodruff: they were, jeff. the hispanic vote makes up 10% or 11% of the republican electorate in florida. and you're right, three of the candidates, rick santorum, mitt romney, and newt gingrich, they flew from jacksonville down to miami, where, for rom nigh and gingrich, they gathered before a group called the hispanic leadership network. this was a group founded by jeb bush, the former republican governor, of course former brother of the former president george w. bush. he established this group. they were all set to endorse newt gingrich, something that they did, but they went on and they heard a speech from mitt romney, and what we've been told, because there was a newshour team there reporting on this meeting, a lot of the people there said they were so impressed by mitt romney, by what he had to say, that they've
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now switched their decision and they're going to vote for romney. needless to say, newt gingrich did come away with their endorsement. he is running heavily ads, radio ads in the hispanic community in south florida. mitt romney today picked up the endorsement of a large number of hispanic leaders in florida. he also picked up the endorsement of the governor of puerto rico. meantime, i have to mention rick santorum. he spoke before a group of latin builders association, and he received their endorsement. so, yes, all the candidates-- all three of the candidates you heard me mention that ron paul is not in the state today or tomorrow. but-- but the hispanic vote, it doesn't vote as a bloc but these are voters who these republicans want on their side, and they're out-- going out for that. >> >> brown: and one thing we should reiterate because it's so interesting, even as we talk about the toking and froing in the final days, many voters have
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already voted. do you have new information on the early voting? >> woodruff: i sure do. i'm going to look at the number i was just given. the latest reporting shows 188,000 early ballots have already been sent in, mailed in. and this is out of an expected two million or so republicans who are expected to participate in this republican primary next tuesday. now, jeff, in addition to that, 500 and some-odd-thousand floridaian republicans in florida have asked for an absentee ballot and 275,000 of those have already been mailed in. so a big chunk of the vote is already in. it would be interesting to see where that vote is. we know that the romney campaign has been working the absentee and early voting very hard. it's possible that could be good news for him. but, of course, we won't know until the votes are counted. >> brown: just in our last minutes what, are the campaigns telling you how they're going to spend the weekends in terms of where they appear, what kind of
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ades, and what message they're putting out. >> woodruff: well the message is pretty much what we've been hearing. from rick santorum it's an appeal. he's the one who is saying, "i'm the true conservative in this race. i'm the candidate who not only believes in social conservative valuees, i'm a true fiscal conservative." he paint, as we heard in the debate last night, he's trying to paint romney and gingrich as the candidates who have gone over to the dark side, in his words. but at this point, this is a tough slog for rick santorum permanent the polls are showing that romney and gingrich are the two who are doing better in the polls. mitt romney is campaigning all over the state this weekend. he is feeling-- his campaign is feeling a lot more confident than they were a week ago after south carolina when they took a drubbing from newt gingrich. and the gingrich folks feel like they have to fight back now. newt gingrich is hitting seven different spots yes the state
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tomorrow, campaigning i think three or four places on sunday and he's hitting another seven on monday. it's a dog fight. they are out for every vote. as you said earlier, the polls indicate romney's ahead but, you know, we shall see-- we won't know until the voters go to the polls on tuesday. >> brown: all right, judy woodruff in water, and there through the polling and decision on tuesday. thanks so much. >> woodruff: thank you. >> suarez: still to come on the newshour: overhauling college financial aid; an update on syria; brooks and dionne; and poet rae armantrout. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: the u.s. economy gained a little ground late in 2011, according to new government data. the 2.8% growth for the last three months of 2011 was the fastest pace since the spring of 2010. but that number would have to be
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much higher to bring down unemployment. the tepid economic news meant stocks on wall street finished the day mixed. the dow jones industrial average lost 74 points to close at 12,660. the nasdaq rose 11 points to close above 2,816. for the week, the dow lost half a percent; the nasdaq rose more than 1%. a new justice department unit officially launched today with the mandate to investigate fraud and wrongdoing in the housing market. the unit will link federal and state resources to focus on residential mortgage-backed securities. they were the bundled investment packages of what ended up being nearly worthless mortgages that helped spur the financial crisis. at a news conference in washington, attorney general eric holder said 11 civil subpoenas have already been issued to financial institutions as part of the effort. >> looking at a specific area in which we found great harm to do the economy, and continues to do great harm to the consumers in this nation. we are bound and determined and will hold people accountable in this sector.
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>> sreenivasan: the obama administration has been under pressure from labor unions, consumer advocates, and political activists to do more to probe the mortgage lending practices of more banks. at least 33 people were killed in a suicide bombing in iraq today. the bomb went off in southeastern baghdad during a funeral procession through a largely shiite neighborhood. the force of the explosion shattered windows in nearby buildings, including the local hospital. there was no immediate claim of responsibility. today's attack is the latest in a wave of sectarian violence that has killed 200 people this year. french troops may be leaving afghanistan a year earlier than planned-- by the end of 2013. french president nicolas sarkozy made that proposal today in paris after meeting with afghan president hamid karzai. sarkozy also said he and karzai agreed to ask nato to hand over all combat missions to the afghan military by the end of 2013, instead of the end of 2014. sarkozy said the proposal would be brought up at a nato meeting in brussels next week. a cruise ship operator has offered to pay passengers who were onboard the "costa concordia" that ran aground off
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the coast of italy two weeks ago. costa cruises offered $14,500 to 3,200 uninjured passengers as compensation for lost baggage and psychological trauma. some passengers have already refused the offer. meanwhile, the search for 16 people who are still missing resumed today. a team of divers was able to inspect an unexplored area of the ship. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to ray. >> suarez: now, the white house calls for changes in college financial aid tied to improving the affordability and value of higher education. at the university of michigan in ann arbor today, president obama said an improved educational system will help build a stronger american economy. >> this is going to be one of the most important issues that not just you face, but this entire country faces. in this economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.
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>> suarez: the president specifically targeted the rising cost of college, and the student loans often needed to cover the hefty price tag. the college board reports the average in-state tuition at four-year public institutions rose 8.3% last fall, much faster than inflation. together with room and board, the total exceeds $17,000 a year. by comparison, at private institutions, that number jumps to more than $38,000 per year, on average. in the spring, the average college graduate left school with about $24,000 in student loans to pay off. and last october, for the first time ever, americans owed more on student loans than on credit cards. today, as he did at his state of the union earlier in the week, the president said that he's "putting colleges on notice." >> you can't assume that you'll just jack up tuition every single year. if you can't stop tuition from
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going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down. we should push colleges to do better. we should hold them accountable if they don't. >> suarez: mr. obama also proposed a billion-dollar grant program that would provide more funding to states that help bring college costs down as well. in addition, the president pushed for action from congress on measures that would extend a tuition tax break, and keep the rate of the most common type of student loan from doubling in july. for more, we turn to two people whose institutions were on the receiving end of the president's remarks today: mark yudof is president of the university of california, a system of ten campuses serving 235,000 students; and richard vedder is professor of economics at ohio university. he also runs the center for colle affordability and productivity. we invited the department of education to join our conversation, but they declined.
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mark yudof, let me start with you, at basic level, do you agree with the president's observation that the fast rising cost of getting a college education is harming access? >> well, i think it is harming access, primarily for the middle class. you have to remember the president didn't mention that there's been systematic disinvestment in higher education. our budget was cut $750 million a year, about 25%. and professor vedder probably disagrees with this, but we are creating fairness that the president is seeking in the tax code. a third of our tuition goes back into financial aid and is distributed to low-income students. 55% of our students pay no tuition. 39% of the studentses studentsel eligible, relatively low-income families. that's the reality. so i welcome this. i think it's a constructive dialogue, but there are a lot of nuances. >> suarez: professor, vedder,
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let's hear from you. professor yudof was predicting you wouldn't agree. what did you think of what the president had to say, as a general observation, that the fast rising cost of tuition is hurting access at a time when we need more educated people. >> well, i certainly agree that the cost of education is rising rapidly, and i also agree that the president in telling colleges that there will be consequences if they don't do something about reducing tuition cost growth is making a-- is showing some recognition of the problem and making a constructive suggestion. but the reality is we had a vast increase, particularly at the federal level-- i agree with president yudof. there's been a large decline in state funding. but there's been an absolute explosion at the federal level in grants and loans over the last decade. by the way i calculate, using the college board data you talked about earlier, those aid
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expenditures have been rising more than 10% a year, and that's after adjusting for inflation. and if you drop money out of airplanes or the equivalent over a students' houses, they're going to take that money and the colleges are going to be aware of that and they're going to raise tuition fees a good bit. i'm not sure we're dealing with the root cause of the problem. >> suarez: are mark yudof, he observed it's the access of money that fails to restrain upward pressure on tuition prices. they went up last year more than two and a half times the rate of inflation. >> you know, you keep saying two and a half times the rate of inflation. this is like the co-pay at your drugstore. our costs are actually down 15% per credit hour over the last 10 years. that's the reality. the states don't want to pay, so it's like you go to your drugstore, and the insurance company doesn't want to pay, your co-pay goes from $10 to $20. that doesn't mean the cost of the drug is doubled. it just means your cost is
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doubled. there's a misnomer that it's going to rock climbing walls and other things. that's not the problem. the problem is there is a shift from the taxpayers to the families in terms of education. i also don't think for the nonprofit sector that there's much evidence that there's over-consumption. we've been pretty flat in terms of our enrollment and the like. i understand that's a point of view, and i do agree with professor vedder, the trajectory of many of these programs in washington are getting so expensive that i'm very worried about it. i'm not sure they're sustainable. >> suarez: professor vedder? >> i certainly agree with the later point. here we have a nation with enormous, broader, macro debt problem as a nation. we have huge future liabilities dealing with elderly and so forth pand what we're really really doing with the student loan program is we're borrowing money, often from overseas folks like chinese investors, who lend money to the u.s. government who
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in turn then lend it to often middle class and even upper middle class students. 25%, 30% of the loan money from the federal government goes to families of relatively high income. >> suarez: what about president yudof's point that it's really hard to restrain price increase, really what students are seeing is something closer to the real price of providing an individual four-year education. >> president yudof is right correct in stating, particularly for state university that is correct more and more of the cost is being picked up by the student rather than by state government. there is no question about that. the evidence is clear. but there is also clear that universities in the united states over the last generation or so have enormously increased their staff, for example, of administrative personnel, student service personnel. there are climbing walls.
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they're not in and of themselves all that important, but the cumulative effect of a lot of spending on things outside of the core missions have contributed somewhat to the inflation in college cover thes. >> suarez: so president yudof, if the government says we are not going to pay-- we're part of this triangle, or we're on one corner of it-- we don't want to keep shelling out money. will that put downward pressure on these annual price hikes? >> well, of course, it will, and, frankly, our student are fed up with the price hikes. i don't like it much myself. i'm trying to find someone who wants quality and is also willing to pay for it, and everyone wants to pass the buck to someone else. but, of course, it will put pressure on to keep it down, and then at least in the case of the university of california, classes will get bigger. class access may suffer. the time tow degree may grow. i agree with professor vedder. we have to do a better job of cutting our budgets. if we have too many
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administratores, let's reduce the number. i'm not saying things are perfect, but at the end of the day i think we will see that downward pressure, and for a great research university like the university of california, you know, inevitably, that will have a negative impact on the quality of the institution. >> suarez: so bottom line, mr. president, you can't hold the line on prices without reducing the quality of the service you're providing? >> well, we're going to try. we'll do our cuts and we'll have our common i.t. system. i would say it's not a certainty but i'm fearful about it. that's what i would say. >> suarez: what about you, professor vedder, can colleges hold the line or even reduce costs with these new federal incentives to do so without undermining the quality as the president says he has to? >> colleges are in an unsustainable trajectory right now with respect to the cost of education. the cost of something cannot go up faster than people's incomes
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forever. at some point, the burden becomes too large. i think we filled the gap for many years with increased student loans. it's clear that is no longer sustainable. we have to move to a new model and that involves new ways of doing things. necessity is the mother of invention. >> brown: the violence continued >> suarez: well, mr. president, this proposal needs congressional approval. will the university of california systems' spokesperson in washington be contacting the california delegation and urging them to vote no on any change in the way the federal government oversees loans and transfer payments to higher ed? >> well, we won't be doing that. we'll get into a constructive dialogue on this. you know, i agree, we have to change how we're doing business. the president has some tremendously able people working on this. you know, i look forward to that-- to an extended conversation, but i'm not going
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to tell them to weigh in and sort of in a kneegeorgia fashion oppose the president's agenda. that's not going to happen. >> suarez: joining us from california, president yudof, thanks for joining us. professor vedder, good to see you as well. >> glad to be with you, ray. >> brown: the violence continued in syria today with fighting in homs, hama and idlib. activists reported at least 50 people were killed in the last two days. also today, syrian insurgents said they're holding seven iranians hostage, and would not release them until the government frees a rebel army officer and stops military operations in homs. we have this report by lindsey hilsum of independent television news. >> reporter: the protestors brandished their weapons in idlib today. their slogan: "we have the right
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to defend ourselves." so much for the idea of a peaceful uprising. many are now preparing for a protracted armed struggle against the forces of the syrian president, bashar al assad. >> ( translated ): no matter what you do, however much you terrorize us and however many of our children you kill, we will prevail. god is with us. >> reporter: the defecting soldiers who call themselves the free syria army drove onto the streets of homs today as the crowds massed. they were mourning some 30 people killed in fighting with government forces before dawn, and a similar number who died yesterday, amongst them, eight children killed with knives. the pictures are too gruesome to show. opposition activists say they were victims of government thugs. several neighborhoods of homs
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now show the marks of war. an activist shot this video of a building which collapsed on tuesday after being shelled, killing 18 people inside. "that's my brother's toy bear," she says. "and this doll used to sing. look, it's ruined." hama echoed to the sound of shelling and rocket fire this morning. a defector who oversaw the defense budget until a month ago told channel 4 news today that iran is helping the government with weapons and snipers. >> ( translated ): there are planes loaded with cash coming from iran. i would estimate about $6 billion has arrived so far. there were iranian snipers. i saw them going into the security compounds. i heard them speaking farsi. what business do they have there? there are expense claims listed for these iranians under the
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heading of "experts". >> reporter: the head of the arab league observer mission said today there's been a significant increase in violence over the past three days. there were even deaths and injuries in normally quiet aleppo today, but there's no solution in sight, and the russians have said they will veto the proposed resolution at the u.n. security council tonight. >> suarez: margaret warner takes it from there. >> warner: for more on the spiraling situation in syria, we go to ania in beirut. thank you for joining us. the head of the arab league mission in syria said today that there has been a very high escalation of violence in the last few days. is that what you're hearing from your sources? >> reporter: certainly. you know, the figures that are coming out are quite ghastly. we're hearing 50, 60, 77, as many as perhaps 96 people killed today. un, yesterday was also a figure in the high double digits.
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this has become the pattern over several months, these daily double-digit death tolls. however, in the past week or so we have seen what appears to be a dramatic escalation. we've also seen the military go back into this-- go back into hama. they haven't staged a major offense 95 that city since i was last there in august, early september. so, you know, the assad security forces are certainly seeming to want to crush this rebellion that has now entered its tenth month. they sort counting. they said their last count was over 5,000 people. they've stopped counting the dead. it's just an indication of the difficulty of operating inside syria, and also the chaotic scene inside the country. >> warner: now we've seen, especially home-shot videos of security forces attacking protesters and vice versa, but
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what about civilians? are they also getting pulled into it? and is it sectarian in nature? >> reporter: well, you know, when the free syrian army was first formed-- that's the band of defectors-- they had quite clear instruction. they were saying they only wanted other defectors to join their reasonings. however, recently we have seen from these amateur videos that are pouring out of syria, we have seen civilians have joined the reasonings of the free syrian army. as to whether or not it is become, sectarian. certainly the sectarian underdopes are there. when i was in syria i heard many cries of those dogs in sunni strongholds. it is taking on an increasingly sectarian tone. otherwise,, are the coreligionists of president assad. and although they comprise 12% of the population they
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disproportionately were represented in represented in the upper echelon of political, military, and business establishment. and that breeze some resentment, as to the fact we haven't seen many breakaways. for the most part, the military, for example, has the-- remained remarkably intact, and the defections we are seeing are largely low-level sunni conscripts who are breaking away from their units. >> in the itp piece we ran, there was a defector who said he is seen iranian cash and snipers in syria. there are a lot of rumors of iranian support but has there been any evidence that? >> reporter: well, you see, that's the thing. given the thousands of amateur videos which have emerged and they really have documented this rebellion in gruesome, bloody detail, and yet there hasn't been much in the way of video evidence keating that there are
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iranians, that these iranians are on the ground in syria. i heard many, many stories from refugees who fled their towns who said there were iranians. some of them said they captured people who did not speak arabic. they weren't sure if it was farsi but they certainly didn't speak arabic. yesterday al jazeera aired footage, also amateur footage, when the defectors presented it with, and it showed five iranians-- they had i.d.s. there were two who presented laminated i.d. cards and passports. they said they were members of the iranian revolutionary guard and they had been nabbed by these defectors. confession under duress is hardly evidence. however, the syrian government believes that these iranians are engineers who were kidnapped by-- quote, unquote-- terrorists in late december.
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so we have two very different versioning of the story and the truth is certainly lies somewhere in between. >> warner: thank you so much for joining us. and stay safe. >> reporter: thank you. >> brown: that brings us to the analysis of brook and dionne. "new york times" columnist david brooks, and "washington post" columnist e.j. dionne, who joins us interest los angeles. mark shields is away tonight. so, david, yet another turn in florida, some strong ads, a couple of strong debates and romney back up? >> he's up. now, he's mr. inevitable again. you just have to ignore the little ruff patches he had. he had a terrible week. and what was interesting is a professional politician once told me, don't judge a candidate by how good they are. judge them by how much they improve. so romney shows the capacity to grow, so he had this period
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where he said i can tell the country that i'll release my taxes in april. that will work. and everybody who had ever been through this said that will never work. and finally he admitted that was a mistake. he was able to learn and the second thing he was able to learn is he might lose. i don't think it occurred to him he might lose-- >> brown: even though it happened once before. >> he's lost a lot in his career but he felt i can lose and i can lose to that guy, newt gingrich, which he definitely did not want to do. so he toughened it up. he decided i have to cut him up and i have to relentlessly cut him up and in the middle of the debate i was thinking, ease up. you've killed him. ease up. and he kept at it, so that just shows a sign of a candidate who can evolve. >> brown: e.j. he got a lot more help interest thank you week from the establishment. >> right, well, the republicans who know newt really seem to not want him to get the nomination. let's put it politely.
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i think-- there we newt stories floating around. he apparently asked bob dole why do so many people take an instant dislike to me? and bob dole sort of grunted and said it takes time. it's stories like that, that are floating around about gingrich among established republicans that are hurting him. but i think it's something else. i think newt has really done very well in this campaign because he has not come under that much attack. he has been the attacker. and he has been able to bring the attack mostly to journalists. and i think one of the (s he's had is that he hasn't had as many openings to attack journalists, and the other is that he had never seen a mitt romney like the mitt romney he has seen this week. now, the problem is, we are all saying once again, ah! it's romney's to lose. david is writing a book about humility. ( laughter ) and i think punditry will be an
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excellent subject because if anybody should be humble these days, it's political pundits on this-- >> brown: chapter 1, david. >> i wouldn't know it personally. but, no-- and we go through these cycles and some of it is just who is in the electorate. in the south carolina electorate there are a lot of evangelicals voters. in the florida electorate, not so many. the striking thing about the debate last night is newt gingrich didn't really strike back. why was he so passive? and one cynical person said the second newt gingrich is attacking mitt romney is the second he's not talking about himself so that's not a good second for newt gingrich. he likes to talk about himself. it was weird that he didn't respond. in the romney camp, the argument is if you hit a bully he is disoriented but he was relatively passive. >> brown: e.j., what about the attempt, the push against romney over the-- to portray him as the
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rich guy, using the tax shelters. how did he fight back at that? >> you know, i think that he has been tougher on the stump than he seems to have been in these last two debates. and i don't know why he didn't continue to hit romney on his wealth, on the caymen islandes, on swiss bank accounts which are now closed, because those did raise some real questions on the electability front. when they were asked at the end of the debate about who was more electable, i was really surprised gingrich didn't take it right to romney and say, "look how much trouble you had on the question of releasing your taxes. look at all these questions about your investments." instead he did kind of campaign boilerplate. it was very, very surprising and in some sense un-newt like. whether you like him or not he is a skilled politician and can be a skilled debater. >> the vulnerability is on
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health care. and i thought romney-- when santorum said, "you have balmcare, you were the progenitor of it" romney's defense was pretty lame. >> exactly right. exactly right. and i think david's on to something that it will be complicated for romney in the end if he gets the nomination to really go after the president on the health plan. >> brown: you brought up santorum. he had a stronger night last night. >> very strong. it's always been a bit of a mystery to me. if i'm a tea party republican. , i don't like mitt romney. he's a massachusetts moderate. i just don't trust him. so why am i thinking newt gingrich is my guy? why aren't i thinking rick santorum is my guy. he has much less baggage. they had a sill question, "why would your wife be a great first lady is there santorum gave a great answer to that. he's just a more humane guy, and
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he was a very skilled debater, really took it to mitt romney in a way romney wasn't ready for or at least didn't have good answers to. i dont know, santorum has not had the bumps, aside from the obvious iowa things. >> brown: e.j., rick santorum? >> first of all, santorum should sue the iowa republican party since he won that and no one knave him credit for it for about two weeks. secondly, i think he needed a little bit more money because usually when you have two candidates going at each other the way gingrich and romney are, you have an opening for a third candidate. but i think the problem for the tea party is the side of santorum that i probably like best, which is the side of him that believes in some government, believes in some government action, and i think that some of the tea party folks know that he is not as antigovernment as they are. >> brown: all right, now, switch to president obama, because this week, he, of
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course, got his national audience, right, in the state of the union. david, starting with you. >> i think less of it the more it went on. i remember the night sitting here and i said it was a very well-delivered speech. i still agree with that. it was the sort of policies that will appeal to independents. the question is, is it right for the moment? i think this is an election about national decline, averting national decline. it's an election in the-- wage stagnation, inequality, gigantic issues. and this is not bill clinton running for a second term. i think you need an agenda equal to the moment. and he came in with that kind of agenda, huge agenda. now, this was a bunch of little tax credits for little things, little things that were good ideas that he has marginal control over. today he was out in michigan campaigning on behalf of lower college tuition. does the president of the united
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states have much control over what the university of michigan charges for tuition? >> brown: haven't the republicans show they aren't going to go along with big things? >> he has to establish a majority who will never work with you, it has to be a center center-left. announce a big tax reform so people trust washington. that's how do you it. >> brown: e.j., how do you feel about the state of the union a few days later? >> i agree with david the underlying issue in american politics is how do we avoid decline. i disagree with him on the speech. i don't think simpson-bowls is center-left at all and it's one of the reasons obama pulled back from it. i actually think that speech was effective because he did two things at the same time. on the one hand, he is making a big argument to the country about the cost of inequality, the fact that we have lost the kind of upward mobility we use told have. there was this wonderful black
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and white movie feel to it. i thought of "it's a wonderful light" when he went back to his kansas grandparents and talked about how we felt as a country after world war ii when we took off like gang busters and the middle class took off like gang busters and he's argues government needs to do some things in order to allow people to have decent upward mobility gain and to reduce inequality. and then he proposed some very specific, commonsenseical things that he hopes he might get through, even under these circumstances. i think there is a big vision there, and some specific proposals, a lot of which i think might even be up david's alley. in terms of education, in terms of community collegees, and in terms of tax fairness. he should have had mitt romney up in the presidential box because romney was exhibit "a." >> brown: there is an interesting-- is that not,
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david, a kind of over-arhcing theme? >> you have to have policies to address it. i agree, community colleges should be strengthened but is that going to really change it? i'm sort dubious. e.j. talked about the black and white movie, building a bridge to the 20th century. manufacturing, 90% of american workers work in the service sector. we are a service economy. i'm all for boosting the manufacturing sector but the idea that's going to get us out of our problems. that's not the economy we live in today. i think that was sort of a misdirection. i would have liked to have seen something much more ambitious for his point of view and the country's point of view. >> brown: e.j., to pick up more on the fairness and inequality. who is the president appealing to here? >> i think it resonates on the left and in the center. and that's the key. the one thing i do agree with david on is he does need to
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build the center-left majority. and, obviously, people on the progressive side have talked about rising inequality for a long time and occupy wall street, i think, deserves some real credit for really forcing that issue to the forefront. but a lot of middle-class, middle-income, middle-of-the-road voters also sense the opportunities they once enjoyed aren't there for them, aren't there for their kids. so i think this argument about inequality, and there's-- we can talk about dueling polls but i think the polling is pretty clear that a lot of voters are concerned about this. they're not concerned about it because they don't want the rich to do well. they think opportunity should be more broadly shared in society than it is. >> brown: just briefly because we talked about this with the occupy movement, you think there are some limits. >> i think it's the wrong way to phrase it. it's not about inequality. it's about opportunity. are you giving the people a lift up. that's not the intention of each other. if all you're talking about is
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taxing the rich-- i'm for raising the tax on the rich-- that's not about growth and expanding the pie. it's about people having the ability to work hard and get ahead. morality is the way to talk about it. >> brown: e.j., your last word, you say obama should take it out there? >> why he's talking about manufacturing because there is an opening to bring some manufacturing back. it's why he's talking about training. i think countries that are less unequal than we are actually have more upward mobility. so i think our disagreement is i think inequality and the mobility question are linked, and david doesn't, and we'll see who is right in november and 10 years from now. >> brown: all right, e.j. dionne, david brookes, thanks so much. >> suarez: finally tonight, another in our occasional series on poets and poetry. rae armantrout won the 2010
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pulitzer prize in poetry for the collection "versed". her latest book, "money shot", was published last year and deals in part with the financial crisis. >> "complex systems can arise from simple rules." my name is rae armantrout. i live in san diego. i grew up in san diego, actually. i teach at u.c. san diego. but mainly, i am a poet. my poetry always includes whatever is around me. if i watch something on tv or hear news in the car or hear certain phrases bandied about, or if i see things happening to my friends-- like a couple of my friends have lost their homes in this financial debacle-- of course, that is going to get into my work. and what i like to do really is to write about the intersection of the public and the private, or what is left of the private, in our lives, and kind of bring those aspects of reality together.
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"money is talking to itself again in this season's bondage and safari look, its closeout camouflage. hit the refresh button and this is what you get, money pretending that its hands are tied. on a billboard by the 880, money admonishes, 'shut up and play.'" the poem "bubble wrap." it is the one i wrote the day the stock market lost so much value. i was coming home from the store, and saw this immigrant trying to sell these scorpions made of twisted electrical wire and thought "this will be the new economy now." it seems like, if value can disappear in that way, what kind of value was it? sort of magic value they can
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create out of nothing and it can disappear. i was listening to the language that they used to describe the crisis-- "credit default swaps," "leveraged buy out" and all. the whole thing was horrifying. as a poet and someone interested in language, i couldn't help but be fascinated by those terms, "now, an engine's single in-drawn breath. the black hole at the heart of it is taking it all back. an immigrant sells scorpions of twisted electrical wire in front of the rite aid." there is a lot of the san diego landscape in my poems. the palm trees and junipers and flora of san diego comes in constantly. one of the poems, "long green," would possibly, in some sense, be a pastoral poem. it is about plants, various
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kinds of plants are mentioned, but the language of the financial crisis creeps in and becomes integrated with the language about nature. "long green" "such naked spines and vertebrae convincing parallels upright, separated by a few inches of clay. such earnest, green gentlemen, such stalwarts jouncing in the intermittent wind. idea laundering exists primarily to produce a state of equilibrium. all night the sea coughs up green strands, cold boluses and swallows them back in." >> suarez: you can hear rae armantrout read more of her poems and watch an extended conversation with the poet on our web site.
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>> brown: again, the major developments of the day: republican presidential contenders continued their tough campaigning in florida. president obama called for a financial aid overhaul for higher education during a stop at the university of michigan. and in the past two days, at least 74 people have been killed in syria in a crackdown on anti- government protesters. and to hari sreenivasan for what's on the newshour online. hari. >> sreenivasan: on the rundown, find an interview with senate minority leader mitch mcconnell about his recent visit to burma and his meeting with aung san suu kyi. on "art beat," jeff talks to roger rosenblatt about his new memoir, "kayak morning," which explores his journey through grief after the death of his daughter. and on tonight's broadcast of "need to know," jeff greenfield examines the political power of florida's senior population. here's an excerpt. >> it's been true for most of the last half century-- if you don't win florida, you don't win the white house. and if you want to win here, you have to do well with the state's most powerful voting block,
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seniors. more than one in three g.o.p. voters here are over 65, and that poses a special challenge to the republican presidential contenders. >> when it comes to social security and medicare and medicaid. >> why a special challenge? because for years, decadees, really, the conservative part of the republican party has been arguing that the programs that matter most to seniors-- social security and medicare-- are unsustainable, that the growing number of seniors will bankrupt the system unless big changes are made. >> sreenivasan: that's jeff greenfield from tonight's broadcast of "need to know," which appears on most pbs stations. check your local listings. there is a link to that story and a lot more on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. ray. >> suarez: and that's the newshour for tonight. on monday, margaret warner will be in brussels for a preview of the european union summit on the debt crisis. i'm ray suarez. >> 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. thank you and good night.
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