tv PBS News Hour PBS December 13, 2013 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: a retired f.b.i. agent vanished in iran, reportedly part of a secret- unauthorized mission for the c.i.a. in one of the most serious scandals for the spy agency in years. good evening, i'm judy woodruff. also ahead, our series with lawmakers on reforming government surveillance. tonight, margaret warner talks to one of the leading critics in the senate, oregon democrat ron wyden. >> those technological limitations provided a measure of privacy for americans. now, with essentially no technological limitations, the technology can do practically anything. >> woodruff: and it's friday. mark shields and michael gerson are here to analyze the week's
news. those are just some of the stories we're covering on tonight's "pbs newshour." >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> my customers can shop around; see who does good work and compare costs. it can also work that way with healthcare. with united healthcare, i get information on quality ratings of doctors, treatment options and estimates for how much i'll pay. that helps me and my guys make informed decisions. i don't like guesses with my business and definitely not with our health. that's health in numbers. united healthcare. >> support also comes from carnegie corporation of new york, a foundation created to do what andrew carnegie called
"real and permanent good." celebrating 100 years of philanthropy at carnegie.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... and friends of the newshour. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: a student walked into a high school in suburban denver today armed with a shotgun and shot two other students before apparently killing himself. authorities in arapahoe county have not identified the gunman yet, but did say he was looking for a specific teacher. students were seen walking away from the school with their hands in the air, as the building was evacuated.
arapahoe county sheriff grayson robinson explained the procedure. >> think were-- they were safer inside their locked schoolroom classes then they would have been had we allowed them to exit. and that was part of our strategy and part of our protocol. we are now slowly but methodically allowing students to leave the school in groups. >> woodruff: today's incident falls just one day before the one-year anniversary of the newtown, connecticut, elementary school shooting. and it happened just eight miles from columbine high school, where two teenagers killed 12 classmates in 1999. federal authorities arrested a man in kansas today on suspicion he was plotting a suicide attack on an airport in wichita on behalf of al qaeda. officials charged terry loewen-- a 58-year old aviation technician with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and providing support to a foreign terrorist organization. u.s. district attorney barry grissom outlined some of what
loewen allegedly planned to do. >> he researched flight schedules to determine when there would be a maximum number of individuals at the airport. he assisted in acquiring components which he believed were part of the building of the bomb. he talked about his commitment to crime and his commitment to martyr himself as part of this horrific event. >> woodruff: officials said they were continuing their investigation but no further arrests were expected. the family of a missing american man with secret ties to the c.i.a. urged the u.s. government to take care of its own today. robert levinson vanished in iran nearly seven years ago. an investigation by the associated press found he was working for the c.i.a. on an unapproved intelligence- gathering mission. for years, the u.s. has publicly described him as a private citizen on private business. we'll dig deeper into the a.p.'s findings with the editor of the story after the news summary.
in syria today, soldiers surrounded an industrial area near damascus to fend off attacks from an al-qaeda-linked rebel group. the action took place in adra-- northeast of the capital. rebels reportedly killed workers and their families who live there and largely support president assad. ukraine's embattled president held talks today with opposition leaders in an effort to resolve a three-week-long political crisis. it stemmed from viktor yanukovych's decision to scrap a trade deal with the european union. during today's meeting, yanukovych said he'll sign it, and also offered amnesty to protesters facing criminal charges. but the opposition said those promises still fall short. french troops battled rebel fighters in the central african republic's capital today. some 1,600 french peacekeepers are working to disarm the rebels and restore calm to bangui. violence between christians and
muslims has left more than 500 people dead in the past week. about 160,000 others were forced to leave their homes. >> ( translated ): there's a lot of shooting here. we don't know how to live anymore. the children have left to take refuge in quite a state. we are in a country at war. >> woodruff: u.n. secretary general ban ki-moon pleaded for an end to the bloodshed during a radio message to the country. he warned the world was watching and would hold them accountable. today was the third and final day for mourners to pay respects to nelson mandela as he lay in state in south africa. officials estimated 100,000 people lined up to file past his casket in pretoria, but up to a third of them had to be turned away. police struggled to maintain order, and some in the angry crowd broke through the barriers. mandela's state funeral is set for sunday, in qunu. the u.s. senate spent its second straight night in all- night session, extending its
continuous working streak since wednesday. shortly after seven this morning, senators overwhelmingly confirmed deborah lee james to be the next secretary of the air force. she's the second woman to head up the military branch. republicans have drawn out debates on presidential nominees in retaliation for new senate rules that limit the use of filibusters. the date is set for president obama to deliver his 2014 state of the union address to congress: january 28. speaker of the house john boehner sent the invitation today, and the white house quickly accepted. stocks rose slightly on wall street today as investors remained cautious ahead of next week's federal reserve policy meeting. the dow jones industrial average gained nearly 16 points to close at 15,755. the nasdaq rose more than two points to close just below 4,001. for the week, both the dow and the nasdaq fell roughly 1.5%
still to come on the "newshour," missing in iran, north korea's leader has his uncle executed, the senate's leading critic of n.s.a. surveillance. plus, shields and gerson and author ann patchett gets personal in a new collection of essays. >> woodruff: in march 2007, an american and former f.b.i. employee stepped into a taxi in iran and then vanished. he's rarely been heard from since, but as jeffrey brown reports, there are new details emerging about what u.s. officials knew about his circumstances, and when. >> brown: it's been nearly seven years since retired f.b.i. agent robert levinson disappeared in the iranian resort region of kish island. in 2010, a hostage video showed levinson was indeed alive. >> i have been treated well and
i need the help of the united states government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years. and please help me get home. >> brown: that spurred his son and wife to post their own plea for help in his return. >> please tell us your demands so we can work together to bring my father home safely. >> brown: but the trail went cold. for years, the u.s. government maintained levinson was a private citizen on business trip at the time. but yesterday, the associated press reported levinson was actually contracted as a spy for a rogue c.i.a. operation when he was taken captive, a story not published for three years at the agency's request. today white house press secretary jay carney criticized the report. >> i'm not going to fact check every allegation made in the story you reference, a story we
believe it was highly irresponsible to publish and which we strongly urged the outlet not to publish, out of concerns for mr. levinson's safety. more recently, obviously, president obama raised mr. levinson's case in his phone call with president rouhani. >> brown: in the meantime, levinson's health and whereabouts remain unknown. joining me now to discuss the new revelations in the associated press report and the decision to publish is the story's editor, ted bridis. welcome to you. >> thank you. >> so who is robert levinson and what does it now a father was dmoing iran. >> robert levinson was a former fbi agent. hes with an expert. he was brilliant there money laundering expertise, russian organized crime. he had a number of areas of expertise. when he left the bureau to make money to help fund his 7 children's college education, he reached out to the cia which
fapped-- tapped his expertise and brought him on as a contract officer. >> he roached out to the cia but it -- but he worked for part of the cia and the other part of the cia didn't know what was doing. >> that's right, the cia is divide mood operators and analysts. operators run the assets and the spies out in the field. and there's a very specific reason for this they're very good at their job. they have established practise and procedures, security protocols to prevent spies from running into risk from being turned, from being fed that information. the analysts on the other side digest and ingest the information from the assets and the spies in the field. and in this case, bob was contracted with the cia analysts. >> brown: to do what? >> to look at corruption, i understand. they tasked him with several different responsibilities to collect information. and he was very good at it.
in fact, he was remarkably good at it. and in fact, the analysts were thrilled with his work product. i mean it was both volume i'm news and insightful and you know, they were certainly getting their money's worth under these cia contracts. >> so he disappears in a scenario where many in the cia and in the operations, they don't know that he was working for them in the first place? >> in fact, he goes to iran, kish island in march of 0ee and he disappears. the cia immediately is asked what is our responsibility, what is our sort of exposure here. and the analysts say we have not talked to bob lately. and the reason was because he had been communicating with some of the analysts privately on their personal e-mail accounts. he had not had a live contract because it had not been renewed. but they were in talks about renewing his contract. but this was allnd stood that he was going to iran to
meet with an american fugitive, at the behest of the analyst. >> brown: in the aftermath the government did not make any of this public, of course. but this has been a very big deal internally at the cia, correct? >> this was scandallous. with respect the analytical side of the cia this was the biggest scandal since wmd debacle in iraq. three analysts were forced from their jobs. seven were disciplined. a complete overhaul of the way that analysts at the cia are allowed to engage with outsiders, make contact, make contracts, because one of their contractors had turned up missing. >> brown: the government did, in fact, pay the family 2.5 million dollar settlement, right? >> in fact, the government immediately paid the family the full amount of the contract that was up for renewal. as well as a $2.5 million a
knew nature would give them tax-free payments going forward while he was missing. >> brown: now to this day the government still says that he was not a government employee. now-- as opposed to a contractor or-- pars that for us. >> very specifically, it is technically accurate to say he was not a u.s. government employee. contractors are not considered in federal parlance to be employees. his contract also had not been renewed yet. so there was-- there were that sort of ambivalence the fact that he didn't have a current contract. but he was directly going iran. the analysts knew he was going to iran. he was expected to produce a report on his trip to iran for the cia. >> brown: we saw the white house spokesman jay carney call this highly irresponsible of you to publish this. i gather you had spent three years not publishing it, why did you go ahead? >> so the ap learned about this in 2010. we learned about his cia ties. we've gone to the administration and said we feel the need to publish a
story about an important scandal and debacle inside the cia, mismanagement. the administration has provided in the past some specific persuasive and sort of temp poreal reasons to hold the story temporarily. it was always an investigative lead to run down or a potential meeting that might yield some promising leads on bringing bob home. and at each point the ap divided not to publish. in more recent time we went to the administration and they couldn't provide a specific reason why not to publish. they said that the improving relations, the thawing of the relations possibly with the new election of rouhani may yield some assistance. but there was nothing specific. there was no diplomatic progress for three years on this case. >> brown: and briefly in the meantime still nothing is known about his whereabouts or condition. >> that's right. we don't know where he is.
we don't know who is holding him. congressman rogers, chairman of the house intelligence committee said today the assessment is that he's being held by part of the republican guard. but frankly it's an assessment and it's an old assessment. in the absence of evidence that he is dead, the u.s. government has to assume that bob is alive and make efforts to bring him home. the family today said those efforts have not been satisfactory. and today the family in a sort of tas et acknowledgment of his cia work said it is time for the u.s. government to step up and bring one of its own home. >> brown: ted bridis of the associated press, thank you very much. >> you're welcome. thank you. >> woodruff: now to north korea, the execution of one of the isolated country's highest ranking officials is raising questions about its stability. "newshour" correspondent kwame holman begins our report. >> reporter: until very recently jang song thaek was considered
the second-most powerful figure in the democratic people's republic of korea. but on state t.v. today his remarkable demise was made official. >> ( translated ): the special military tribunal of the ministry of state security of north korea condemned jang song thaek as a wicked political careerist, trickster and traitor in the name of the revolution, and the people ruled that he would be sentenced to death the decision was immediately executed. >> reporter: married to the aunt of leader kim jong un, jang ascended the country's ranks rapidly following the stroke of kim's father-- kim jong il-- in 2008. and he rose further still following kim's death in 2011. though not a career military man, he was made a four star general and was fond of appearing in his white military uniform at state events. he played a key role in shaping economic policy and was considered the architect of the country's joint ventures with
neighboring china. however, in beijing today, a spokesman was tight-lipped regarding the news of his death. >> ( translated ): this is north korea's own internal affair. as a neighboring country, we hope for north korea to maintain stability, economic development, and a happy livelihood for its people. >> reporter: as with word of his execution, jang's removal from office was broadcast on state tv earlier this week as the 67- year-old was taken from a central committee meeting by uniformed guards. he was accused of a litany of crimes from gambling away $6.3 million, to womanizing, to attempting, to overthrow the leadership, to not showing proper enthusiasm for his nephew's achievements. in seoul, south korea, the high- level purge has put officials on guard. >> ( translated ): generally, in the past, we have seen that efforts to crackdown on internal insecurities then lead to external provocations. we are paying close attention to such a possibility this time as well. >> reporter: next week the
country marks the two-year anniversary of kim jong il's death. >> woodruff: so, what does the execution say about what's going on in north korea? we have two views: robert carlin had a 31-year career at the c.i.a. and state department focused on korea. he's the co-author of the new edition of the book, "the two koreas: a contemporary history." and sung-yoon lee, an assistant professor of korean studies at tufts university's fletcher school. welcome to both of you, to the newshour, robert carlin, let me begin with you. how surprising is this? >> surprising, i was not surprised that jang fell from power. i had thought for some time that was going to happen-- . >> woodruff: why did you think it would? >> because he's been up and down in the leadership before. because he's very ambitious, a little bit cocky, and the sort of figure who you don't want too high up in the
north korean leadership. a little bit dangerous. he had a lot of enemies. he made enemies. he had some friends but he also had a lot of enemies and he was very vulnerable. so it was only a matter of time. whether or not it would be this theatrical was the question. >> woodruff: professor lee, just a matter of time? >> yes, indeed. in a totalitarian system, the de facto number two man is an unenviable position. the number two man poses no threat and north korea has such an individual who is charged with ceremonial activities like receiving foreign dignitaries. but because jang song thaek has been the de facto number two man for at least ten years, he becomes a target. and in a to that-- totalitarian system oftentimes the life of the number two man is short and precarious. >> woodruff: robert carlin, what about his relationship with the son, kim jong un is just about to observe his second an ears-- anniversary
of coming into power. what was known about that? >> nothing. seriously, no, we don't know anything about really the personal relationships in north korea. so we have to judge on the basis of photographs. little bits and pieces of information. if you go back and you look at the indictment of jung, it suggests if you can believe it, that he's been under observation for some time. that he was throwing his weight around. that they knew it and they were watching him and they were just waiting for the right moment to take him out. >> woodruff: so professor lee, they charged him with a long list of crimes, gambling, womanizing, not showing respect to kim jungun. do we believe all this or do we just-- i mean what do you make of that? >> well, some of it is credible. north korea was very kind enough to give us a detailed account of jang song thaek's
offenses, unwittingly even admitting that the economy is in a catastrophe situation, catastrophe is the word that north korea used. also unwittingly north korea in detail admitted that there was a plot an attempt to overthrow the kim family regime. now in the people's paradise, paradise on earth, so-called, the leader is omnipotent, he is almost a diety. and even to dream that one day a person like jang song thaek may try to overthrow the kim family, is a that would. that that would now has been-- taboo-- taboo has been broken and it is ill for the north korean people because we can expect more purges and violence and accelerated, intensified internal repression n the short term. but in the long-term i think it is hard for me to imagine that kim jong un, now 30
years old, although it is entirely niceable, he may live another half century, it's inconceivable to me that he will have a long and happy, healthy life. >> woodruff: robert carlin do you agree this in the short term this bodes ill for the people, that this suggests not only instability in the regime but that others are going to be purged as the uncle was? >> it is only 24 hours since we heard this new. and i think the best thing analysts can do and observers and pundits is sit back and wait. at least a week. there's a lot of dust that has to settle. this is an entirely new situation that we're confronting on the outside. and so we're laying on a lot of our fears and preconception on this without really understanding where he might go. he might equally pardon a lot of the people rather than execute them. he might show how benevolent he is. and say well, you were
mislead by this man. but i'm the great leader and i can forgive you your sins. we done know what he's going to do. and my advice again is let's watch, ef row single day let's watch the information come in. >> woodruff: the professor lee it sounds like you feel more certain that in the short term, bad things could happen to some of these people who are around mr. jang. >> that's right. and to kim jungun i think this is an affirmation of his impetuous brash nature over the past two years. we've seen an accelerated path of internal repression and external military exploitation, marked by two ballistic long-range missile tests and nuclear test earlier this year. purges have, of course, the primary purpose of removing any potential from the scene, potential rival, pardon me, from the scene. but there is a secondary objective which is to
instill fear. this demom-- demon strattive effect, the theatric, the execution of such a high profile person suggests that kim jungun is now quite confident, recklessly so, perhaps, and probably prone to miscalculation. the system he inherited is -- makes him one of the world's richest men presiding over one of the poorest countries with his finger on the nuclear buttonment and that's a very bizarre and dangerous frmlation. >> woodruff: you're arguing or your point is, robert carlin, that a little time needs to pass. and does that mean the rest of the world should hold off passing judgement here? >> obviously every country has too make its own decisions on what it thinks is moral and immoral and proper government behavior. but why we would-- why we would express that right now is beyond me. it seems to me, if we're
worried about the situation in north korea, and we're uncertain about what is going to happen t doesn't make any sense for us to make it worse by voicing criticism of the north koreans. just wait, watch, if our militaries need to tweak up their watchfulness, we can do that quietly. the north koreans will understand it. we need to get past this jittery period. neither of us knows what the other is thinking rit now. >> woodruff: we hear you, robert carlin, sung-yoon lee, we thank you both. >> thank you, judy. >> woodruff: late today, the white house announced that the president has received an advisory committee's recommendations on revamping the surveillance activities of the national security agency. and the "washington post" reported the n.s.a. can crack cellphone security codes, giving them the capability to listen in on private calls and text
messages. tonight, chief foreign affairs correspondent margaret warner continues her conversations with lawmakers on the scope of n.s.a. >> warner: documents leaked by former national security agency contractor edward snowden have triggered six months of explosive revelations and recriminations. the documents showed the vast reach of n.s.a. data collection of phone calls, texts, internet searches and emails vacuumed up, stored, and analyzed. the targets not just foreigners, but many americans. in august the president announced two reviews of n.s.a. activities. >> a general impression has, i think, taken hold not only among the american public but also around the world that somehow were out there willy-nilly just sucking in information on everybody. >> warner: today, the wall street journal and new york
times reported that one advisory group has drafted a host of recommendations,
including new rules for collecting and storing phone data and tighter standards for spying on foreign leaders. >> there has been no willful use to misuse
the privacy of just your phone numbers, not even your name. >> warner: last night on the "newshour," house intelligence committee chairman mike rogers defended the n.s.a.'s activities, saying more than 50 attacks had been thwarted as a result. and you know that to be the case? >> i absolutely know that to be the case. >> warner: but leading critics like oregon democrat ron wyden on the senate intelligence committee have urged the president to rein in the n.s.a. i spoke with him wednesday. senator wyden thank you for joining us. >> thank you for having me back. >> warner: as you know the president is reviewing n sex a policy f are you advising him what would you say to him is the most important problem he needs to fix? >> the most important issue is to make it clear that security and liberty are not
mutually exclusive. we can have both. for example, on this whole matter of collecting millions and millions of phone records, on law-abiding americans. now this country wants to be safe. and all of us in the intelligence committee know it's a dangerous world. but the evidence does not support the proposition that there is a significant measure of safety that's added as a result of collecting all these records on law-abiding americans. >> warner: of the head of the nsa keith alexander said in testimony that 50 terrorist plots is have been foiled by this exhaustive surveillance. you don't buy that? i mean you're a member of the intelligence committee. >> congressional testimony doesn't support that proposition. in fact, john english one of the deputies there when he was asked actually-- that assertion that really found when he had to address it
specifically, that it was at most a couple. and part of this is that there has been what i call a culture of misinformation among the intelligence, you know, leadership. consistently over the last few years, the intelligence leadership has said one thing in public and then quite another in private. >> warner: with its growing technological reach and prowess,
do you think the nsa has been given licence to collect data overseas in too aggressive a manner? is the technology outstripping the policy? >> there's no question that the technology is dramatically changed this debate. for example, it used to be that because there were technological limitations, those technological limitations provided a measure of privacy for americans. now with essentially no
technological limitations, the technology can do practically anything, the only way to strike the appropriate balance between liberty and security is to embed that balance in the law. >> warner: what did you make of the eight big u.s.-based
internet giants this week, google, facebook, yahoo!, microsoft coming out and actually saying they thought the balance between the power of the state and the rights of individuals has gotten out of whack. >> the statement from the companies has enormous implications. one very thoughtful technology organization which intel belongs to, an important employer, in my state estimated that the damages in terms of lost revenues result of these nsa practices would approach $35 billion between now and 2016. and i think it is going to be bad for the country, bad for their customers here. bad for their brand overseas. >> do you even know how many
americans are being swept up, have been swept up in this nsa surveillance that is actually targeted on overseas terror theft. >> we have asked this question, in classified sessions, in public sessions. and largely have been stonewalled. now of course the information that has been declassified, you know, recently indicates that thousands of americans have had information, you know, collected on them. and that really means to the be did -- leads to the central privacy question. the advocates of the bulk collection of all these on law a buying americans say this is not surveillance. they're saying it is data collection. and they're saying we're not listening in. and for that reason it's not surveillance. i
want it understood for your viewers that when your
government knows who you called, when you called and for how long you called, you're getting alot of private information about individuals. for example, if the government knows that you called a psychiatrist three times in 24 hours once after midnight, they know a lot about you. >> warner: they say they have no
intention of abusing this, to control, harass, prosecute, intimidate american citizen, it's to understand their connections with other people who may be connected to foreigners, foreign terrorists who mean harm to the united states. >> the argument that we're to the going to abuse them because we have a bunch of our own little internal, you know, rules, that's not in sync with the constitution. the fourth amendment doesn't say you can invade people's privacy but it's really kind of okay if the government then sets up some sort of general rules to make it okay. the fourth amendment in effect says you've got to have reasonable grounds to
believe somebody is involved with terrorist activity, nefarious activity, in order to get this information. all along people like me were told look, you're raising all these concernsment but the reality is the fight-- is going to make sure that everything is okay. what we've learned in the last few weeks is the court repeatedly said things are not okay. in effect saying that they were lied to repeatedly to the point where they couldn't see how there was much of a system of rules at all. >> woodruff: . >> warner: another
thing came up that was very contentious, at least internationally. and that was spying, eavesdropping on leaders of friendly countries. how do you reach the point in which the diplomatic and political risk outweighs the benefits of having that information? >> if you are's on the intelligence committee you do know that we have been
interested in the intentions of foreign leadership for a long time. i do believe that while it's appropriate to do a review with respect to foreign leaders for the reasons you're talking about. because obviously there have been great concern among foreign leaders an statements made that could affect national security
relationships and trade relationships. >> warner: in this post 9/11 world, however s there any reluctance on the part of lawmakers to second-guess the intelligence professionals? given that the cost of being wrong is so high. >> the government has emergency authorities that basically say when there's a threat they can go get the information, get the warrant later. of course protecting the safety of the public has to always come first. and i will take a backseat to anybody in terms of that. what concerns me is that
what's always been the constitutional-- teeter totter and what you think about the founding fathers, it really comes back to that. they always said our system works when you have liberty and security in balance. the teeter totter is just kind of right here. you haven't done a good enough job of striking that balance. we can be fair and respectful of the intelligence leadership and do a better job of striking that balance. >> warner: senator ron wyden, thank you. >> thank you. >> woodruff: the white house said the president's own policy changes now are not expected until january. >> woodruff: and to the analysis of shields and gerson. that's syndicated columnist mark shields and "washington post" columnist michael gerson. david brooks is away tonight. david brooks is away tonight. gentlemen, welcome to you both. glory be, congress has
passed a budget. mark, is this something, does this mean the gridlock is coming unlocked or is this just a one-time thing. >> save the champagne, congress hasn't passed a junk. the house has passed a junk. >> that's what i meant. >> that's right. perhaps for the first time since 1997 the congress will pass a budget. i mean bill clinton was president, trent lott was senator leader, newt gingrich speaker of the house. it's baby steps. it's not a giant stride. not to be confused with the connecticut compromise which lead to the a a dochings the constitution of the missouri compromise for 40 years. but it is-- we will no bar as opposed to a low bar, an ago of civility and compromise, and leadership on the part of particular paul ryan and the house, the republican and patty, the democrat in the senate gave us at least encouragement that the congress could, in
fact, act positively. >> woodruff: so michael, do you see sunshine and cooperation down the road? >> i think that would be highly desirable and highly unlikely. paul ryan and speaker boehner sold this to their own caucus in the house by saying we need to keep attention on the failures of obama care and not draw attention to our own divisions by having another counterproductive budget fight. that argument is hardly the prelude to ambition, okay. this deal succeeded in many ways because it was small. it had small reductions in entitlements, nonmedical entitlements. and it had small increases in discretionary spending. this is the reason it could pass both sides. and that i think what we've seen is a truce in the budget wars, and not a new governing coalition, unfortunately. >> woodruff: so mark when it comes to bigger fiscal issues, tax reform, this
doesn't mean that that maybe any easier now? >> i don't think it means anything for tax reform, quite frankly. i think tax reform say long way off. i mean we didn't go to either party's core concerns here. i mean the democrats didn't give up anything on entitlement reduction or curtailment. they-- . >> woodruff: in fact they stayed away. >> that's right. and the republicans stayed away from tax increase. it was, you won't go near mine, i won't go near yours. and they met in the middle and dealt over the territory at the could, but i don't see that. i do think, judy, both parties needed a win. and they-- the rollout of obama care had been botched, is the euphemism, but it had been disastrous to democrats in recent polls. and quite frankly, the closing of the government had been brutal to the republicans, so they could not in any way risk that. and i think the chances of the debt ceiling which we're
looking at in another three months, i think the chances of the republicans going to the mattress again on that is very remote. >> woodruff: one interesting thing that did come out of all this, michael, is speaker boehner made a point two days in a row to take after these conservative, outside conservative groups that were opposing the deal, telling republican members not to vote for it. in fact, we want to remind everybody of something the speaker said when he talked to some reporters yesterday. here's just a portion of what he said. >> frankly, i just think that they've lost all credibility. you know, they've pushed us into the-- to defund obamacare and shut down the government. most of you know my members know, that doesn't exactly the strategy that hi in mind. but if you will recall the day before the government reopened, one of the people, one of the these groups stood up and said well, we never really thought it would work. are you quiding me!
-- kidding me! >> woodruff: michael whack does this tell me. the speaker is going after people in his own party. >> this is clearly a backlash to the manifest failure of the shutdown strategy which i think most people recognize. my friend blogger pete wayneert says republicans have apocalypse fat agency. they are just tired of confrontation. but there is something broader going on. i think the leadership has decided, it tried to appease tea party groups, the activist groups. but they are unappeaseable. they criticize this deal before it was printed. and there is very little incentive to a cum-- accommodate a group that is going to criticize you anyway. so i think the leadership has made the decision that this is an important part of the coalition. but it can't define the republican party. and it can't bully the republican party. that-- this is just the beginning of an institutional reaction to tea party activist groups, it seems to me. >> woodruff: what dow make of this, is this the beginning of a serious split
or just a momentary thing? >> i think, judy, first of all in the speaker's statement, he acknowledged that he had been bullied and pressured into the closing of the government. they forced it upon him. they had capitulated. the republican caucus had capitulated to the demands of those that wanted to close the government and with the repeal of bamacare. what was fascinating in the entire debate, i was up watching the house debate. was there was no mention at any point of the repeal of obamacare. none of that language. it was all common ground and all of rest of it. this was a declaration of independence by john boehner, from these groups. and sort of reasserting his leadership of the caucus. i mean i think it's fair to say for the first time in this session he's really acted like the speaker. and i think that was-- that was clear. >> woodruff: is that going to have repercussion for other things he tries to do as leader of his party.
>> i think his position will be stronger in the caucus. i mean you had a budget deal that was supported by eric cantor, by paul ryan, by nancy pelosi and by president barack obama. which is, i think probably strengthens the position. >> and by 66% of the republican study committee in the house representatives, most conservative group, this was a huge victory, personal victory, a small deal but a huge personal victory for the speaker. >> woodruff: but do you see, michael just quickly, do you see this leading to problems going forward for the speaker and his own tea party -- >> the problems existed. the question is whether the leadership is going to push back or not. now we've seen mitch mcconnell push back. we've seen paul ryan push back. we've seen speaker boehner pub back. we've seen the chamber of commerce in key races fund mainstream republicans. i think this was a serious response to what is going on. >> i just point out, judy, the republican leader of the senate has come out against the deal, mitch mcconnell.
so has the republican whip in the senate, john cornyn. both of whom face tea party challenges. six of the seven republican candidates in the house now running for the senate have opposed this deal. so there is still fear and apprehension. >> woodruff: but the budget is still -- >> i think the senate is we thinking the house is the real problem. i think right now the senate is a lot more of a problem for the passage of this than -- >> very close to culture, they have the few supporters for cloture, meaning closing the debate. >> it is really fricky at this point. >> woodruff: well, while just before we leave the subject all together, watching all this, the president and we watched a number of new polls come out this week showing his approval rating down the lowest of his presidency in the last couple of weeks, michael. there are some staff changes at the white house. what does all this is a about what is going on one year into the second term?
>> well, it is an example, almost no influence on the deal, he was marginal t didn't embody any of his legislative priority, very much a bystander in this. you can't ever count a president out. president bush in his secretary term at the low point did the surge in iraq. this is an inherently po wirful position. but the president-- the senate is very much up for grabs which would be a huge blow to the president. increasing questions in the polling about his credibility, particularly because of his promises on obamacare, and his competence, these are long-term challenges for the president as he tries to, you know, reinstitute his influence. >> yeah, what the president has going for him right now, reservoir, is people do like him. but he's taken a hit, make no mistake about t judy. you have 54% now on "the wall street journal" nbc poll disapproving of the job he's doing. >> woodruff: highest ever. >> the highest ever. and you've also got half
voters saying they're disappointed or dissatisfied in his performance so there is no question. the people he is bringing back, john pedest a a was a huge superb chief of staff for clinton and-- is a gifted congressional liaison, knows the hill very well. but even he is ing wering these people is an acknowledgment he had to do something, he's never gone really out of his comfort zone. he's never done the equivalent of reaching out to a jim baker to run the two campaigns against ronald reagan and bringing him in as a chief of staff. and i think you know, i thinks that still remains a problem. it's still an insurance lar operation. >> woodruff: this kind of thing can make a difference for the president? >> i'm afraid his main problem is not a personnel problem right now. it's the implementation of obamacare which is a huge challenge. with very disappointing uptake with. dislocations in insurance markets because of regulation, with new taxes
coming on in the new year. this is the substantive challenge he faces that's not going to be solve by personnel issues. >> the last thing i want to ask you about is we know tomorrow with the anniversary of the terrible shootings at newtown, connecticut. today on the eve of that, another terrible school shooting in colorado with the shooter took his own life. mark, do we look for anything to be done about these school shootings? there have been 27, i believe, since newtown around this country. >> judy, i was so long about newtown. i just thought the size, the dimension, the scene of newtown, of the slaughter of the innocence would really move public opinion. it hasn't. i don't know what it will take. >> it is extraordinary, the mixed influence this had on the states, in some blue states you have more restrictive laws n some red states less restrictive laws it just shows how geographically and culturally polarizing it is but increasing agreement on
the issue of mental health, the administration made the announcement this week. 37 states have increased funding for mental health. that's a common ground issue and a real issue that i think needs to be confronted. >> again, as we've said our heart goes out to the families of everyone involved in newtown. michael gerson, mark shields, thank you both. >> thank you, judy. >> thank you. >> woodruff: finally, tonight the evolution of a writer. jeffrey brown has our book conversation. the tricky thing about being a writer or about being any kind of art cyst that in addition to making art, you also have to make a living. so like ann patchett author of such acclaimed novels state of wonder as her work of a writer as nonfiction. her new become there is the story of a happy marriage collects essays she's written over the years on various slices of life. and she joins us now, welcome to you. >> thank you. >> brown: so this idea of
having to make a living. you realize that in your 20s. >> when my parents told me to leave. >> brown: but there you were, and you're wanting to be a novelist in your early 20s and the choices are waiting on tables and things like that. >> and teaching. i done know why they seem like parallel ca raers-- careers coy teach, coy wait table its, i could cook in a restaurant. food and teaching were the two skills i had. >> brown: but you found writing. >> there were problems with both. one i was too tired if i was a waitress, too tired at the end of the day when i came home to try to right and with teaching there there was never any time. i was always doing lesson plans and grading papers. so i decided to make my living as a magazine writer. and i found that it was really easy and fun. >> brown: you honed your skills. >> yeah, i did. i mean i learned how to take criticism, how to get things done quickly, how to cut a thousand words out of a piece when they lost an ad so they didn't have as much
space. i became very flexible and i think i really lost my ego at 17. coy go back to the ego offices of 17 and see if i could find it now. >> woodruff: . >> brown: what does this represent to you when you look back. you went back to look at the essays. and you thought of putting them all together. what did you see? >> i saw that my best work was my most personal work which is odd because my fiction is very far afield and has nothing to do with my life. but when i wrote nonfiction, my best work was the really personal stuff. when i was doing-- . >> brown: what do you think explains that? >> i have no idea. maybe just some sort of balance in my brain. the reporting pieces i did when i looked at them again didn't seem very interesting. but the pieces that i had written about taking care of pie grandmother, about my dog, about marriage, about work, those were the pieces that were just better. >> brown: it is interesting because you say in here that you like the fact that in your fiction, the reader
ends up knowing nothing more but the writer. >> right. >> then when he or she started the book. >> right. >> and yet in the nonfiction, the personal is what works? >> it's very personal. and it's interesting because i published in a wide field. so in one was reading all of my nonfiction pieces. and coy write very personal things thinking well, you know, maybe this person is going to read that and someone else is going to read this but putting them all together, all of those personal pieces side-by-side was very cringe inducing. and even when i finished the book it took me a long time to decide nay wanted to publish it. >> one of the themes as you've said is about relationships. >> uh-huh. >> all kinds. >> right. >> foretheme is about writing. >> yeah. >> just the writing life. >> yes. >> i am sure every writer has this and probably every newscaster, that people are always coming up to me and saying my daughter wants to do what you do. my god son, my tennis partner. could you talk to my
next-door neighbor and my cousin and tell them how to get a book deal and they will them how to get an agent and tell them if they should go to graduate school. so i decided mi going to make a clearinghouse. i'm going to write down every single piece of writing advice i have from how to work, how to get your skills honed, to how to sell a book to whether or not you should go to school i will put it all in 1 place. and then when anyone says to me will you have coffee with my son who wants to be a writer, i can say he has to read this essay first. and if he still wants to have coffee, if he has any questions left after reading this essay, and no one does. i think they getaway card covered everything i foe about writing. >> brown: so what is the difference then for you in writing fiction and nonfiction. is it a physical difference? is it time of day? is it everything or -- >> it's that nonfiction is easy and fiction is hard. and that's for me-- . >> brown: nonfiction is easy. >> is easy, it's fun. i'll take almost any
assignment. if somebody calls me up and says will you write this piece, will you write this op ed, it's 4:00 in the afternoon, it's due at 7:00 in the morning. that's fun to mement fiction was always really a labor. the hardest piece of nonfiction i ever wrote isn't anywhere close to the easiest piece of fiction. >> brown: and why is fiction always a labor. >> i think because in fiction you have to make up every single thing, right, what's the story, who are the people, when does it start, when does it end, what happens. in nonfiction you know all of those things. it's really more about writing. and i'm very comfortable writing. >> brown: but is fiction more enjoyable because of the freedom of making all that up. >> no it's not more enjoyable. and probably i should figure out why i'm so much more interested in doing something that i think is really hard. but somehow the thing that is hard for me feels more noble. i don't know. >> brown: all right, your new book is "this is the story of a happy marriage" good title. >> thank you very much. >> brown: ann patchett, thank you. >> thanks for having me on.
>> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: a student walked into a high school in suburban denver armed with a shotgun and shot two other students before apparently killing himself. one of the students is in serious condition. federal authorities arrested a man in kansas on suspicion he was plotting a suicide attack on an airport in wichita on behalf of al qaeda. on the "newshour" online right now from a near-fall off of a fiscal cliff to an infamous shutdown showdown, 2013 was a rough year for lawmakers. we mark this friday the thirteenth with a list of the year's thirteen unluckiest political moments. all that and more is on our website newshour.pbs.org. and a reminder about some upcoming programs from our pbs colleagues. gwen ifill is preparing for "washington week," which airs later this evening. here's a preview:
>> why congress is in the mood for compromise, the president is in the mood for a staff shake-up and john kerry is in the mood for negotiation. we take you behind the story tonight on "washington week" judy? >> woodruff: tomorrow's edition of "pbs newshour weekend" looks at how drones could soon change life in america. and we'll be back, right here, on monday. paul solman reports on the eventual drawdown of federal reserve stimulus, before chairman bernanke's final press that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. have a nice weekend. thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪
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