tv PBS News Hour PBS October 15, 2013 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: house republicans spent the day trying to derail a senate plan to reopen government and avoid default, but there's no deal yet. good evening. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. also ahead, the supreme court weighs whether voters can ban affirmative action programs. >> ifill: and jim lehrer is back to discuss his new novel about the kennedy assassination. kennedy. >> what if they had left, and would john f. kennedy have died on november 22nd. >> ifill: those are just some of the stories we're covering on tonight's pbs newshour.
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thank you. >> woodruff: our lead story tonight: with the clock ticking toward the hour the debt limit is breached, and the government still shut down, a bit of optimism here in washington all but evaporated, and internal disagreement among republicans morphed into disarray. newshour congressional correspondent kwame holman has our report. >> the focus had been on bipartisan negotiations in the senate. when house republicans came out of a closed door meeting this morning. >> there will be no decisions about exactly what we will go but we will continue to work with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to make sure there is no issue much default and to get our government through. >> the house republicans did float a vote, that much mirrors
the senate plan. there was talk often delaying a tax on medical quieses that helps fund the health care law, and lawmakers and top administration officials. but a number of conservatives voiced downs. senate majority leader harry reid accused an attack on bipartisanship. >> a bill that can't pat the senate. can't pass the senate and won't pass the senate. >> house democratic leader nancy pelosi echoed the criticism and from the other side of the avenue, jay carney joined in. >> whit comes to rallying tea party members that is not acceptable. >> it was all too much for john
mccain of arizona. he faulted democrats today. >> to categorically reject what the house of representatives and the speaker is doing, and i think he's pretty courageous in what he's doing in my view is not serving the american people. so let's stop this. let's stop it, sit down, consider the speaker's proposal, get our proposal done. and then, get this resolved, which we can do in the next 24 hours. >> before the house republican plan emerged, senate leaders from both parties said they were making progress on their plan. aids say they hoped to seal an agreement before the day was out. but things seemed to grind to a halt. dick durbin announced the negotiations in the senate were suspended pending something more
acceptable from the house. still, a vote to end the standoff, drops the tax on medical devices. meanwhile, the partial government shutdown entered its third week and the deadline is two days away. the treasury department warns, come thursday, it will no longer be able to. >> federal government's triple a credit rating under review. the latest on where things are stand we're joined by carrie budoff brown of politico. carrie this is changing as we speak, what is the latest? >> the latest is the house bill appears to be falling apart. they have delayed the vote indefinitely, which means the support is not at the house. this could be looked at as a
setback of sorts, but banking that the house is falling short, hoping that clears the way for the reid-mcconnell deal that was coming together last night, hoping that will move forward. we don't know if thak that's exactly what will that happen right now but that's what democrats have been waiting for, hoping that speaker boehner can't pull out that bill and go back to where they were essentially 24 hours ago. >> what happened to make them go from one plan to another in the arch? >> this has been the pattern for this house republican conference. you have a group of hard core roobles, te republicans, teapt reebility, the concisions on obamacare just wasn't enough to get them on board. and just attaching more than that would make it unpalatable
to the senate. it's become clear that there's not anything out there that's going to be coming out of the house that will appease those democrats and you know the far right tea party caucus and you have the situation where that spieker boehner is in tonight where he is unable to pass anything through the house without some democratic support, and minority leader pelosi has said she will have 100% of her members sloating against any kind of bill coming out of the house at least in this form and that leaves if speaker short on his side of the ariel. >>woodruff: the speaker will not put something forward that will depend on democratic votes over the top, he wants something his republicans can pass? >> at this point that is his position. but you know tomorrow if washington wakes up and there's no solution the only hope for the white house for the president is that the speaker backs off that position. that the senate can move
something through their chamber with a broad bipartisan support and that puts the house in a position where speaker boehner has to accept it. that's happened before and they're hoping for a repeat. >>woodruff: carrie, how do you describe the sense of the people you're talking to? are they worried? are they confident this is going to get fixed? >> i spent a day at the white house, today there was a period of frustration, they had wasted another 24 hours. if things do get moving tomorrow, they don't pass what they need to pass. the breach of the debt ceiling, their only hope is that the senate gets moving. they are hoping for a better ending. >>woodruff: well, i think the country may be, too.
carrie budoff brown, thank you. >> thanks, judy. >> woodruff: in other news, the negative turn of events in washington put wall street back in a selling mood. the dow jones industrial average lost 133 points to close at 15,168. the nasdaq fell 21 points to close at 3794. affirmative action at publicly funded universities was back before the supreme court today. the case involved a voter- approved measure in michigan that blocks the consideration of race in college admissions. we'll have much more on this, right after the news summary. a libyan man pleaded not guilty in new york today, to planning the bombing of two u.s. embassies in east africa. the 1998 attacks killed more than 220 people. abu anas al-libi was captured earlier this month by delta force commandos in a raid in libya. he was interrogated on a u.s. navy ship for a week before being brought to manhattan.
there's yet another revelation about surveillance by the national security agency. the "washington post" reported today the n.s.a. has collected millions of contact lists from e-mail and online chats, including the records of many americans. the report cited documents leaked by former n.s.a. contractor edward snowden. new negotiations opened today on iran's nuclear program. there was guarded optimism about making progress, but no immediate breakthrough. the newshour's chief foreign correspondent margaret warner reports. woodruff: to end the stalemate over its nuclear program at an hour-long session in geneva with the u.s. and five other powers. diplomats said foreign minister used powerpoint to lay out iran's vision of how to assure the west that iran's program is only for peaceful energy use and
relief from crushing international sanctions in return. iran's deputy foreign minister speaking afterwards gave no details but suggested iran wants the agreement on a shape of a final deal before taking interim requests. >> we want to see a specific time frame from both sides for the implementation of next steps that the parties have to take. we are looking for an under result and a conclusion. we no longer want to take steps in the dark or deal with uncertainties. >> up to now iran has refused to stop enriching uranium to close to stage, katherine ashton says it's time to see tangible results including greater access to iran's enrichment facilities. >> we have a proposal on there table specifically on the confidence building measures but the confidence building measure has to come from the iranian
side, it is the iranians who we believe in breach of their international obligations. >> at the u.n. last month and now, hasan howfn. >> no one despite the positive signs that we've seen no one should expect a graik through overnight. there but this evening u.s. and iranian negotiating teams did meet one on one. meetings conclude tomorrow. >> in afghanistan today, >> woodruff: in afghanistan today, a close confidant of president hamid karzai was assassinated in a bombing at a mosque. arsallah jamal had been governor of logar province. the bomb was planted in a microphone stand. it exploded as jamal was delivering a speech to worshippers to mark the muslim holiday of eid al-adha. around the world, millions of muslims took part in services and rituals on this holiday. there were special prayers from
the arab world and africa to europe and the u.s. some people also slaughtered livestock as part of the "festival of sacrifice," to give meat to the poor. and in saudi arabia, muslims taking part in the annual hajj pilgrimage threw stones at walls representing satan. the ritual symbolizes the rejection of sin. a powerful earthquake in the central philippines killed more than 90 people today. it registered a 7.2 magnitude, and was centered on the island of bohol, beneath carmen city. many small buildings collapsed and area roads were damaged, hampering rescue operations. the country's oldest church, a 16th-century basilica in cebu, lost its bell tower. a top vatican official--= widely blamed for not preventing a series of scandals-- has formally stepped down. cardinal tarcisio bertone left his post as secretary of state today. during his tenure, the vatican struggled with sexual abuse by
priests and the leak of pope benedict's papers, among other things. pope francis has vowed to overhaul the papal administration. also ahead on the newshour, affirmative action returns to the supreme court; how the bond market is responding to a possible default; training teachers to be better educators; a medal of honor for bravery and humanity on the battlefield; and jim lehrer on his new novel. newshour regular marica coyle of >> ifill: the debate over affirmative action returned to the supreme court today, this time in the form of a challenge to a michigan law that would ban its use at public universities. we begin our coverage with newshour regular marcia coyle of the "national law journal." she was in the courtroom today. as always marcia, was this challenge today really about affirmative action or was it
about the process that michigan used to try to ban it? >> it was really about the process. but first a little context. the supreme court has restricted its use. it says when government uses affirmative action or racial preferences it must have a compelling interest for that and they must be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. one of the interests that the supreme court has upheld as a compelling interest is diversity. this case is a little different from the cases we've talked about in the past. >> 2003 and 2006 involving michigan and texas before. >> yes, that is how those universities were using racial preference. this is about whether voters can pass the constitutional amendment to their state constitution prohibiting the use of racial preferences. >> take us inside the courtroom,
justice soto-mayer says this gives away the opportunity to use racial diversity. >> the voters had restructured the political process within the university to the disadvantage of minorities, and the only way to really explain that is sort of a hypothetical. say i graduate from the university of michigan and i want the university to give preferences to my children and the children of other graduates. i can go and i can lobby the president, i can lobby the board of regents to make that change in policy. but if i'm in the minority and i want the university to give a preference on the basis of my race i can't do that. i have to change the michigan constitution before i can even approach them. so this lower appellate court said, was rigging the political process and that violates equal protection. >> what is the difference between preference for legacy alums and preferences on race?
is it singularly about race? >> it is about race and the equal protection clause. in the arguments today the michigan slit or the general defending the voters amendment said basically the supreme court has never said you must use affirmative action or racial preferences. it invites the voters to some day get beyond the use of race. that's what michigan voters were trying to do, get beyond the race and adopt race knew trail means of achieving diversity. >> and justice roberts expressed sympathy for the equal protection clause. >> jeef justice roberts said, if the equal protection clause is designed to take race off the table what is wrong with voters taking race off the table? well the response to that by those who oppose this amendment, mark rose rosenbaum of the aclut
they want is one playing field, one that does not disadvantage minorities on the basis of race or gender which is also in the michigan constitutional amendment. >> so this is not unique to michigan, though, this approach? >> no. in fact california has almost an identical amendment. and other states while not adopting constitutional amendments do not use racial preference in university admissions. so there is concern on the part of opponents of the constitutional amendment, that if the court okays this amendment other states will move quickly to take race off the tabl when universities like the university of michigan have told the supreme court as early as 2003 that race-neutral means have not worked and affirmative action racial preferences are a
tool that they actually need. so that is one of the fears. >> justice kagen has reaccused herself from this case. >> yes she has and is typical of cases where she may have been involved as solicitor general of the united states she recused herself. she recused herself last term in the affirmative action case involving the university of texas. >> eight justices left and listening to their arguments today is there any way you can add up a fifth vote that it would take to uphold this law? >> i think the sentiment, there is probably a majority to uphold the michigan amendment. >> had it back by now. rd to get it back. there is probably a majority to uphold. you 97 know what if court is going -- the court is going to do. we were surprised when the case was sent back to fight another
day. >> marcia coyle, as always, thank >> ifill: for a broader look at the underlying issues in this latest affirmative action challenge, we turn to columbia university president lee bollinger, who, as president of university of michigan, was part of two previous landmark cases on racial preferences in higher education. and joshua thompson, an attorney with the pacific legal foundation, which has defended a similar ban in california. >> welcome to you both. president bollinger what did you think about this, was this about the process or about affirmative action itself, these arguments today? >> it is largely about the process as marcia said. i think that she described the alternatives, the opposing positions correctly. the one side the position is, the court has said you can have frifntion, it's your choice and all the voters of michigan have done is take this off the table.
the other position is there have been a couple of cases in the supreme court, the seattle case in particular from the early 1980s where the court said if you take something involving race and issue involving race and you make it especially difficult or impossible basically for that to be solved in the political process that involves deep concerns. justice kennedy who probably will be the swing vote in this was especially concerned in the oral argument in his questions with the seattle case as a precedent for this. so that's the issue in the case. >> joshua thompson, what's your position? >> the position i worked, the 9th circuit court of appeals, on challenges that were identical, saying the political process is trying to be
restructured on race based preferences. i agree that it is about structure and how the political process was or was not altered. my belief is that you do not violate the equal protection clause by banning racial preferences. in other words, the equal protection clause was designed as a measure to end racial discrimination and preferential treatment. what proposition 2 and proposition 209 in california does, it prohibits outright the use of racial considerations in government decision-making. >>ifill: is this about racial preferences and legacy preferences, not another issue? >> that is certainly the argument that is put forth by the opponents of proposal 2. and my response to that is that we have a long history in this country of why we treat racial matters differently. we have a history of know that distinctions on the basis of
race are divisive, they are generally abhorrent, and we want the supreme court and we want our constitutional rights to generally prohibit such racial classifications. what michigan voters said here is udged no circumstances will we let our government make distinctions on base of race. >>ifill: lee bollinger your idea on that? >> as soon as you say racial preferences you immediately characterize the admissions process at universities and colleges all across the country in a way that distorts what actually has happened over the past 30, 40 years. virtually all universities in the united states just like all institutions, corporation the media have since brown versus poaj have been tried to have been more inclusive, and realize the promise of brown vs. board
of education and the promise of the equal education clause which is not only to stop segregation and integrated society and benefits and takes full advantage of that diversity. so when you look at admission processes there are lots of so-called preferences going around. we call them factors. people from different parts of the country, people internationally, athletes, legacies, people with all different kinds of talents and racial and ethnic diversity is one major other things we try to do to have a very rich student body that reflects the array of the human population. and in that, you really get a better educational experience, while also, helping the society achieve the great promise of brown versus board of education. >>ifill: joshua thompson is there even an achievable race neutral alternative?
>> i believe there is. i believe states across the country show you can achieve this through racial means, may need to achieve a diversity of perspectives, scholarships to low income areas as texas did last year, they added a top 10% law which allowed anybody that graduated in the top 10% of their class -- >>ifill: but the court didn't. dssments speak to the top 10% law, but the use of race has to be capped when it was achieving such great racial diversity. >>ifill: what about that president bollinger, are there other parts of the goal which are not explicitly about race? >> so josh is right that in the fisher case the 10% solution that texas had followed was not really at issue. but there's a very sharp
disagreement with the other things that he said. so looking at socioeconomic status and trying to help children from low income families get into college and elite schools is something we all agree with and work very hard on and rarely achieve. you cannot achieve the racial and ethnic diversity that we also want as part of the student bodies by simply focusing on socioeconomic status. so that's just the reality. the 10% solution that texas adopted was only after a decision in the fifth circuit in the '90s before the gruder case that struck down affirmative action in texas and because there's a de facto greated high school system in the state of -- segregated high school system, top 10% of every high school in the state gets to come to the university. >>ifill: but is the handwriting
on the wall? the position your your argument? i'm sorry, is the handwriting on the wall now that argues against your approach at the supreme court? >> um -- i don't think so. i mean what we have are a series of precedents now from bachi and powell's opinion and gruder to really the fisher case which reaffirmed this that's very strong on this. so i'm not at all doubtful about the continuing validity of the polls. >>ifill: joshua. i think the writing is on the wall, states that adopted it, california in 1996, washington, being minnesota, these states do not like racial preferences and as long as the supreme court upholds their opinions, voters will also.
>>ifill: lee bollinger, and joshua thompson, thank you both very much. >> woodruff: with the prospect of the government hitting its debt limit looming, investors over the past 2 weeks have sold off billions of dollars worth of u.s. treasury bills. for a look at the dynamics behind the sell-off and what the potential effect on the larger economy could be, paul solman visited one of the country's largest bond trading companies. it's part of paul's ongoing reporting, "making sense of financial news." >> reporter: the administration's latest warning today about the danger of default, from spokesman jay carney. >> that has tremendous negative consequences for our economy, not all of which are knowable beyond the fact that we know they're bad. >> reporter: yesterday, the president himself sounded a more specific alarm. >> defaulting would have a potentially devastating effect on our economy, sending interest
rates shooting up. >> reporter: and hobbling the economy. that's been the warning each time america has neared debt default in the past few years: mortgages soaring; consumers and businesses unable to borrow; the government forced to pay untold billions to borrow more money, if and when it can, plunging us deeper into debt. so are the interest rates the u.s. treasury has to pay to borrow money going up? this morning, we went to one of the world's largest dealers in treasuries-- rbs in stamford, connecticut-- to find out. and indeed, it looked like all >> you guys see the house is saying this is going to be dead on arrival? >> reporter: michelle girard, chief market economist at rbs, relayed the latest news. but next desk over, john briggs, who advises clients on interest rates, said not to worry. >> the bond market so far hasn't shown a lot of concern about the debt ceiling.
>> u.s. treasury bond been in the last couple of weeks? >> so they fell from 3% to about 2.7% which is a fairly modest decline. >> but that is still a decline when the president is saying, oh my goodness if this happens interest rates will shoot >> correct. >> reporter: so what's going on? m.i.t. economist simon johnson tried to explain it to us. >> we have a very strange relationship with the world economy. when we scare people a lot, what they want to do, investors, is find something that's safe. the safest asset they can find is u.s. treasury debt. >> reporter: but how could anything be riskier than a bond that the issuer says we're not going to pay, we'll default? >> in the u.s., we have a long history of politicians saying many things that turn out not to be entirely accurate. this is a game that they're playing. will they, politicians-- ultimately the political system-- ultimately lead us to a point in which we default on those debts? probably not. will there be chaos along the way and damage to the economy?
yes. >> reporter: and yes, damage to the economy was spooking not bonds, but the stock market this morning, said economist girard. >> because if the u.s. were to get into a situation where we were facing default, the economic consequences would be significant, far larger than the impact of a government shutdown. we're talking very severe recession. now that's an unlikely scenario. but that's exactly the kind of thing that rattles the stock market. >> reporter: and so stocks, after rallying for days, were down this morning. but are bond investors totally impervious to what's going on in d.c.? no, said john briggs. >> so there's a very short-term government security, a treasury bill, which matures on october 24. >> reporter: and that's this chart over here. >> correct. it almost got down to almost zero. this is the government shutdown. and you can see that the closer we got to the debt ceiling a potential default, the more investors would demand to hold that security, because that is right in that window where, if we run out of cash, this is the first security that will not pay.
>> reporter: got it. and so that's a huge jump, from zero to... what is that? >> .05%. half a percent. >> reporter: and so this three- month treasury bill, coming due in a week, is what bond market watchers are monitoring most closely. and what's happened to it since? red means it's falling, right? >> so that reflects increased confidence that a deal is going to get done. we had news over the weekend that reid and mcconnell thought a deal would be coming, possibly today. so we started to fall down into essentially 20 basis points from 50 a few days ago. but now we're rising again today, because the house republicans seem to be saying they will shoot down this latest senate bill. >> reporter: but, as it turns out, rising only slightly, to 22 basis points. it doesn't look like the bond market is terribly scared at this point either. >> not terribly scared, but as we get closer, i would expect if we do not have a deal, i would expect yields to move back up. >> reporter: and as of the bond market's close, they had. the interest rate on the october
24 t-bill is back up near half a percent, 45 basis points-- which may not sound like much, but signals that at least temporary default is a lot more of a risk than it was thought to be over the weekend. >> ifill: now, a program designed to help elementary school students become better readers by retraining their teachers. special correspondent john tulenko from learning matters has our report. >> how many sounds are in this word, boys and girls? let's count. b-r-a-t, brat! there's four sounds in that word, right? >> reporter: just four sounds. simple enough for these beginning readers at betances elementary in hartford, connecticut. but watch what happens when
literacy expert dr. linda bronstein switches the letters "r" and "a" in the word "brat." >> let's see how many sounds are in there now, everybody. let's see how many sounds. >> "b," "ar," "t." >> look at that. what happened? now we have only three sounds. you cant say "ah" anymore, because now your sound is "ar." this "r" is bossing you and making a new sound, which is "ar." >> reporter: when the letter "r" comes after a vowel, it changes the vowel's sound. bronstein calls this the bossy "r." and that's just one of the many rules early readers need to remember. there's also... >> vowel teams? you need to know if you see two vowels together, the first one does the talking. >> diagraphs. so, like, "s" and "h" say "shh." >> "e-r" says "er," "er," "er," like "ladder." >> which also almost sounds like the "i-r" in "bird." >> if it's a consonant, vowel, consonant, you sandwich the vowel, and it's then closed, and
it's going to make a short sound. >> so for "cat," "c-ah-t," "cat." >> but "cake" says "ay," "c-ay- k." >> see how complex it is? there's a lot to teaching reading. >> "b-ar-t," "bart." >> reporter: in the united states, learning to read is a major challenge. national tests show two-thirds of all fourth-graders score below proficient. there are many reasons why, but one in particular may come as a surprise. when you were in education school, how much training did you get in teaching children to read? >> very little, very little. >> reporter: like many teachers nationwide, jaclyn nardi started her career in the classroom unprepared for the complexity of teaching children to read. >> a lot of college, i feel like, was lesson planning. it was a lot of the paperwork side of it, not as much as the hands-on teacher experience. >> reporter: she was weakest in teaching one essential reading skill, decoding. >> phonics was my issue. in college we did a lot of
"let's read together and talk about what we've read." but it wasn't really breaking down parts of a word. so i didn't really have the skills, how to get them from point a to point b. i was never taught anything like that in college. >> reporter: a recent examination of coursework at hundreds of colleges of education found 60% give just passing attention to decoding, memorizing common words by sight, and other skills critical to reading. critics question the methodology, but concede that training needs to improve. to address that, in 2010 hartford turned betances into a model school where teachers learn to teach reading. >> "curly" is "ur," "u-r." >> reporter: a key component is an approach similar to the residencies used to train doctors. most new hires at betances begin as associate teachers and come straight out of college. >> coming here, i learned more strategies and actually hands-on things i can do with the students.
>> reporter: associate teachers, like faith kureczka, are paid a standard salary and work the same hours as regular teachers. however, instead of being thrown into a classroom to fend for themselves, here they spend a year or more co-teaching with experienced instructors. >> you really need to come in each day and have conversations with your colleagues and really learn the job so you're ready for your own classroom. and i think for me, it was very beneficial, because now i have all this knowledge, and i can use it. >> reporter: the other key element to the betances model is a strong mentor. dr. linda bronstein's full-time job is to improve reading instruction at the school. >> i'm in and out of classrooms all day. i do modeling where i'm responsible for the lesson. what is the author trying to tell us? coaching is where the teacher is doing the lesson, and i might jump in and give some tips.
>> reporter: even when she's not in the classroom, bronstein is watching. >> we have two cameras in every room, and i can watch instruction from my office. >> reporter: teachers receive instant feedback-- over the phone, by e-mail, or in person. >> i'm known to be a person who has to correct something right away. and the teachers, they've gotten used to it. >> any minute dr. bronstein could be watching you, or just walk into your classroom and observe, so you're always on your "a" game. but i'm glad that we have... as much as i dislike the cameras, that we have them here, because you're always getting feedback from dr. bronstein and from each other. >> reporter: teachers at betances work on lessons together at least once a week, often reviewing videos of themselves and their colleagues. what's it like to have a camera
recording your every movement? >> i mean, i do get a little nervous every time they turn on, but i know that it is the best way to quickly improve, to watch yourself on video and see what you're doing effectively, and what you need to improve on. >> reporter: after two years learning this way, associate teachers will be reassigned to other schools. hartford spent $400,000 to create the model at betances in hopes of substantially growing the number of reading experts district-wide. >> the bottom line is, teacher quality is important. but you have to put your money behind it. >> reporter: it seems to be paying off. in its second year, 87% of third-graders achieved proficiency on the state reading test. that's more than double the year before. but is it too good to be true? over the summer, the state began an investigation into what it called potential irregularities in the school's test scores. state officials aren't saying what that means. on our visit, made prior to the
investigation, we brought up the possibility of cheating. some people might say a jump from 42% up to 87%, that looks suspect. > i know. well, but i know what we did. i know what we did. we worked intensively. we did small group instruction with those children. we taught them the strategies they needed. and it worked. >> reporter: bronstein insists the scores are accurate. further evidence the approach works comes from countries like finland and singapore that use similar methods of training teachers, and whose students outperform their counterparts here in the united states. >> woodruff: the nation's highest military honor was awarded today to a soldier for his bravery and humanity on the battlefield. ray suarez has our story.
>> i think our nation needs this ceremony today. >> president obama made the formal award to william swenson in the white house east room and he alluded to the fiscal fight dominating washington. >> in moments like this, americans like will remind us what our country can be at its best. >> the former army captain is only the sixth living recipients, in december 2009 he was serving as an embedded trainer and mentor to afghan security forces. this army simulation shows how his army wassing caught in near the pakistan border. >> has been shot in the neck. will breaks over 50 meters of
open space, bullets all around. he presses a bandage to kenneth's wound, calling a medivac, trying to keep his buddy calm. over the radio they are demanding the americans to surrender so will stops treating kenneth long enough to lobby a grenade, and after an hour and a half of fighting air support arrives. >> a helmet cam showed swen sewnson swenson kissing the man's head to assure him. the pentagon is now investigating allegations that swenson's nomination was delayed because he criticized superiors
over the handling of the battle approximately the military says his paperwork is lost. , i'm joined by david nakamora of the washington post. he has interviewed swenson many times. while this is a story of uncommon heroism. >> he left the military two years ago, he went back to his native seattle where he is from and where he went to college. he has kept a low profile. there is a lot of allegations that the army was concerned about his criticism, concerned about what kind of representation he would give if he was on a public stage. there are pressures from outside. what happened to his nomination? he deserved it, got it today stood up there like a good soldier and back in his uniform.
that was a powerful moment. >> the president told the story of how this award came to be. it took a long time for those men to get air support when they were pinned down by those snipers. >> absolutely. our reporting showed it took about 90 minutes from what we understand from eyewitnesses from people involved in the ambush. 90 minutes of pure fighting. these were 11 or so u.s. trainers and border police who were allied with the u.s. but not completely under our command. so some of those folks just ran off into battle. the u.s. soldiers and marine corps got separated from each other, which was part of the problem. the communication was cut off at one point so they were really stranded on the battle field for a long time. it took a long time for will swenson and his buddies, they were able to regroup and go back out and they found three marines and a navy corpsman who had been
killed unfortunately. >> what are explanations why our military was so slow in responding to men in real trouble? >> there was an investigation, overall, the u.s. had a surge but civilian casualties in afghanistan were mounting up and that was harming the mission to gain trust in the outer villages. the army did after will swenson raised these concerns did do an investigation and reprimanded two officers at the demand to try to support this mission and found they had acted negligibly and ended up sanctioning them severely. will swenson created ill will among his superiors because of crit sigh size -- crit skiing them. >> another marine has been decorated for that same firefight.
are there multiple divisions? >> nobody can think there's an airtight story that all 11 men would agree on. but what happened was corporal meyer, he was 21 years old at this time, everyone said he acted heroically and probably deserved a medal, but because the marine corps was eager for a medal, the president took the initiative and credited him with saving more people and perhaps killing more insurgents than the reporting has proved to be accurate. that is consistent with what swenson had to say. not out of personal interest swenson says i want to tell the truth. he's not doing a lot of media until this week, he's trying to get the story out in the right way, the military doing the investigation and coming out
with the facts. >> briefly, he has separated from the military, has he had a tough time in private life? what is he up to now? >> he said i've been unemployed, sarcastically referred to it as my forced early retirement. he was a ranger, dedicated military guy, liked what he was doing, he was 30 years old at the time of the battle. this is a remarkable twist, confirmed by the army, he has asked, maybe as late as today, to be returned to active duty. and the army is now, you know he's not said this but the army is confirming this just a few hours ago, they said they are processing him just like they would anyone else, will have to do a drug test, left the army honorably and noblely and hopefully will be back as a captain or a major. >> david nakamora, thanks very much. >> thanks ray.
>> woodruff: finally tonight, what if the glass bubble top on the car in which president john f. kennedy was riding in dallas had not been removed by a secret service agent? that's the premise, based on real events, for our own jim lehrer's newest book, "top down: a novel of the kennedy assassination." i talked to him recently. jim lehrer, welcome back to the newshour. >> thank you judy, pleasure. it's nice to talk to you on the other side of the desk. >> little strange for me but it's great. >> you were there on november 22nd, 1963. you were a reporter for the dallas times herald. you were covering the day president kennedy was coming there. you were at the airport when it all happened. and yet, it's 50 years later, you're writing this book. how did that happen? >> well, i was haunted by the events of that day. and had to do with the bubble top. we had an open telephone line
with our re-write desk at the times herald because the kennedys were coming in to dallas right on our deadline. and so the herald wanting to keep the story updated and all that, and just before the airplane was to arrive, air force 1 was to arrive at love field, the rewrite man said to me is the bubble top going to be up? i said, i couldn't see -- to make a long story short i went to the ramp, where the cars were, i saw the bubble top was up so i said to the secret service agent you know everyone wants to know do you want to leave the bubble top up? the reason it was up was because it had been raining in dallas. he said well it's clear here. the agent said on the two way radio, clear downtown. so the agent said to the other
agent, lose the bubble top. what happened for me was the agent who made this decision and who talked to me i ran in to him at midnight that night after the assassination had occurred in the dallas police station and he came out of the meeting i was standing there and he came over to me and said tears in his eyes oh jim if i hadn't table the bubble top down. the theory being even if the bubble top was up, even though it wasn't bullet proof, it could have deflected. there could be an expectation that it was bullet proof. >> you say you were haunted, what is that? >> old what-if story. what if they had left the bubble top up? would john f. kennedy have died on november 22nd, 1963? well, there are thousands of people who had some piece of the decision to do something that
affected, for instance, there were people in dallas who argued against having a motorcade. there were other people who argued in washington, against kendall going to texas at all on this political -- kennedy going to texas at all. what if i hadn't done this? that is one of those stories. >> it is calls from the perspective of the newspaper writer. how much in the real world do you know have these agents been tormented by that? >> first let me say that part of the story is completely fictional in terms of the agent. it is the story of this agent who made my story a fiction story. and it drove him -- it drove him to a state of depression, what would now be called ptsd. one of the reasons i finally earned up deciding to write this book was that i did know that there were million secret
service agents involved in that trip. some of them in dallas some of them elsewhere and many of them suffered various ailments as a result of what happened on november 22nd. some of them did have serious mental problems, some had serious drinking problems, some suicides. things that were not really reported at the time because the secret service didn't want it out. and the families didn't want it out. the agents themselves didn't want it out. they didn't want to talk about it. because most of those agents are gone now. even in the service active agents do not talk about the kennedy assassination. >> was it easier to write about this with the passage of time? >> certainly there was. if i had wren it earlier it probably would have been a different book. also i became interested in ptsd and what trauma either being part of a trauma, you don't have to be -- the person who is traumatized by the action itself but just to observe it, just to
be part of it. what it can do to somebody, it can change the way you think, it can change the way you live for rest of your life. >> is it harder to write a novel about something, an incident about which so much has already been written? >> yes, it is. in fact, i was reluctant almost decided not to do it. i thought my goodness. then my publisher said oh yeah, go ahead, could come out for the 50th anniversary of the kennedy assassination. that made me a little uneasy but i thought i'll go ahead and do it. i mean there's scads and scads of books. mine may be the only book that's been written about the kennedy assassination that's not about a conspiracy theory of some kind. there's no conspiracy in mine. >> you do refer to it. i refer to it in passing. but what really surprised me judy is 50 years later, it is
for some people still a fresh event. >>woodruff: and we all remember where we were that day. >> absolutely. absolutely. >> jim lehrer, the booker is top down, the kennedy assassination. come back and see us more. >> yes ma'am, will do. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day. senators suspended talks on ending the shutdown and averting default after house republicans insisted anew on changes in the health care law. the debt rating agency fitch warned it might lower the u.s. government's triple a credit rating. the supreme court again took up the issue of affirmative action at publicly funded >> woodruff: online, there are tell-tale signs that the headhunter helping you find a job has done his homework and is the right fit for you. find out what they are from our resident jobs expert. that's on our making sense page. all that and more is on our web
site, newshour.pbs.org. >> ifill: and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, the latest on efforts to break the stalemate on capitol hill, and an interview with italy's prime minister. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us here at the pbs newshour, thank you, and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> united healthcare-- online at uhc.com. >> bnsf railway. >> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made
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