The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
JIM LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour tonight, a summary of today's news, a talk with Senators Joe Lieberman and Fred Thompson about their Enron investigation and their trip to Afghanistan, a look at President Bush's choking incident, a second report on the National Guard mobilized after September 11, a conversation with the foreign minister of Mexico, and a Richard Rodriguez essay about the magic of Walt Disney.
JIM LEHRER: President Bush today began a trip to the Midwest, hours after a choking incident. At the White House on Sunday, he had trouble swallowing a pretzel. He fainted, fell and scraped his face. All his vital signs later checked out normal. Today, he said he felt great, and he joked about the mishap. On the Enron story today, a top House Democrat said there was pretty strong evidence of insider trading in the energy firm's collapse. Congressman John Dingell of Michigan is ranking member on the Commerce Committee. He told CBS the panel would also investigate possible false accounting by Enron and its auditors, Arthur Andersen. On Sunday, "Time" Magazine reported a lawyer at Andersen had ordered documents on Enron destroyed. We'll hear from Senators Lieberman and Thompson on the Enron affair in a few minutes. The U.S. bombing of eastern Afghanistan wound down today. American warplanes have blasted an area near the town of Khost for more than a week. It was the site of a large al-Qaida complex of caves and structures. At the pentagon today, a spokesman said the bombing destroyed about 60 buildings and sealed 50 caves. He said no enemy forces were found.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN STUFFLEBEEM: Now we do believe that this complex is similar to what is probably the whole countryside, and therefore, there are likely other valleys with other complexes. In fact, they may very well have individuals and of course all the source of intelligences, where are the individuals and where are they and then when we get there if we find the facilities we'll do the same thing there.
JIM LEHRER: Also today, a transport plane carrying 30 more al-Qaida prisoners arrived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They'll join 20 others already confined at the U.S. Naval station there. Hundreds more could follow. The military said they were being given meals that are culturally appropriate, plus the opportunity to exercise and shower. Pakistani police today arrested hundreds more Islamic militants and sealed dozens of their offices. That makes more than 1,500 arrested since Saturday, when President Musharraf banned five militant groups. India today welcomed the actions, but said it would not withdraw troops from the border in Kashmir. It said first Pakistan must stop violence by militants based there. The confrontation began last month after a suicide attack on India's parliament. An explosion in the West Bank today killed a Palestinian militia leader. Palestinians said it was an Israeli bomb planted on a wall. Israel would not confirm it, but it did say the victim was behind the deaths of nine Israelis. He survived an Israeli helicopter attack on his car in September. After today's bombing, his militia declared the recent cease-fire was over. Later, the group shot and killed an Israeli man in a West Bank ambush. Former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance died over the weekend in New York City. He had Alzheimer's Disease. Vance worked for Presidents, the Congress and the United Nations. He became Secretary of State under President Carter, and helped negotiate the Camp David Treaty between Egypt and Israel. He resigned in 1980 in protest of a military plan to rescue the American hostages in Iran. The operation ended in failure. Cyrus Vance was 84 years old.
FOCUS - SENATE PERSPECTIVES
JIM LEHRER: Now the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Government Affairs Committee, Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, and Senator Fred Thompson, Republican of Tennessee. They're here to talk about two issues: their hearings on the Enron collapse coming later this month and their just completed week long visit to Afghanistan and neighboring countries.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Glad to be here, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Lieberman, there was a suggestion in the "New York Times" analysis piece yesterday that the ultimate cause of Enron's collapse was a culture of greed and arrogance, are they right?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: There's certainly, Jim, enough in what we know about Enron's collapse to justify that - that contention; it was not only greed and arrogance, it seems to have been deception -- that entities were set up to hide debt that otherwise would have been reported on Enron's books; the stock was being touted by executives of the company, while they, in fact, were selling theirs and average stockholders were holding on and in the process of losing their life's savings, so this was a really shocking and unsettling scandal in which greed and arrogance, deception and fraud and maybe criminal behavior was all involved.
JIM LEHRER: Basically what you know about it thus far, Senator Thompson, what is it that troubles you the most?
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Well, I don't know. It's kind of like the perfect financial storm, I guess. It seems like so many things came together at the same time and the house of cards fell. I think you had an industry there that very few people understood. I think you had a lax accounting standard that allowed them to book revenues that were... That certainly needed some analysis because they don't reflect reality. Therefore, the stock price that came out of that didn't really reflect reality. Then you had pushing the envelope by some people inside the company, past that even. Then you had some people who should be the watchdogs who were apparently not on the job and probably....
JIM LEHRER: You mean government watchdogs.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Well, not only that but auditors -
JIM LEHRER: Auditors...
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: -- and others perhaps. And so when certain things were held back and not disclosed apparently, so when those things were disclosed, the house of cards came tumbling down and you have, you know, what we've seen. You know, the question that I think a lot of people have is our fragile is our system? How fragile are these major companies? It's the 7th largest company in the country. And if this can happen to rapidly to a company like that, how many others out there are there?
JIM LEHRER: Senator Lieberman, Arthur Levitt, the former - immediate former head of the SEC suggested that that may be the most serious problem here because the whole marketing system is based on numbers. The public must have faith in those numbers that these corporations give out or there ain't no market system. Is he right?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Yeah, he is right. Remember, we've gone through a remarkable transformation where more and more average people own stock. It's somewhat over 60% of the American people now in one way or another own stock. And most of us are not sophisticated investors. We rely on auditors, on the boards of directors, on the analysts on Wall Street -- all of whom let the rest of us down to terrible consequences for thousands of employees of Enron, retirees and just plain investors who lost their life savings as a result. So the market is so important that one of the things we've got to do as we go back and look at this mess and pick it apart is to ask, what should change to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again? And, you know, one of the underlying questions here is, how did the analysts who now admit to interviewers, the Wall Street analysts, that they actually never understood the Enron's books but the company seemed to be making money so the stock kept going up and so they continued to tout it? How could they do that? And what can we do to stop them from doing that in the future?
JIM LEHRER: Is that going to be the thrust of your investigation? Is it picking through the bones and finding out what happened or is it to have some major new legislation, some major new watchdog mechanisms put in place? What do you foresee?
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: I think it really gets down to the question, I think as Joe alluded to, as to whether or not it's a matter of the system or whether it's a matter of individuals gaming the system or maybe violating the law. You can never devise a system that's going to protect you from individuals who push the envelope or violate the law. That's why we have courthouses in every state in the union. The question is whether or not we go to the Congress or we go to the courthouse, depending on the nature of the... the fundamental nature of the problem. Maybe both. Maybe both. Joe as chairman, of course, set up these hearings. He better addresses this question than me. But we've talked about it. And I think we're going to look at it from a broader perspective, an institutional perspective, and see how... primarily how the government institutions perform throughout all this, but I'm sure we'll get into some other things too.
JIM LEHRER: One of the other issues, Senator Lieberman, obviously is the campaign contributions that Enron has given. In fact they gave you $2,000 in 199... What did they buy for that $2,000?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Nothing.
JIM LEHRER: Why did they give it to you?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: You have to ask them. I suppose people give you something because they think you're doing a good job or in the case of some people because they want to be able to have access to you at some point. But it's up to you what they bought. That was $2,000 out of about $5 million that I had to raise that year. So I don't feel at all affected by it. But you know what this all does show, Jim, is that this is a company obviously whose business relied in some sense on government regulation or lack of regulation. They were giving to everybody -- not everybody but all around in both parties -- and it puts a taint, a cloud over all of us in government. If there's no other reaction to the Enron-- and there ought to be a lot of reactions -- one is that a few more people, members of the House of Representatives ought to sign that discharge petition to get the campaign finance reform bill on to the House floor and get it adopted and send it back to the Senate. That would be one of the greatest....
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Can I address that? It's not a matter of $2,000. I didn't happen to get any but it was for the grace of God. If they had sent it to me, I would have taken it. It's a matter of the millions of dollars that's in the system. I mean we've got a system now where large corporations and large unions give millions of dollars and it's sloshing around in the system. And the problem with that is that every problem that comes up in the economy or with companies and so forth becomes a bribery investigation. Every problem becomes a potential scandal. The first question we ask is who got the money and how much, the implication being is that who's been bribed? And that's not the way it ought to be. I mean, the average person shouldn't be having to look at that every time a problem arises and as long as those kinds of monies are around there-- and they're fairly new to our system. It's not like God ordained this. As long as that situation is there, it's going to be a scandal waiting to happen and it's debilitating to us as an institution as Congress and to our political system as a whole.
JIM LEHRER: You could almost pick any corporation the size of Enron out of the air and something similar happened to it and if you went back you would find that they also had contributed large sums of money to all kinds of people.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: It's making it so that companies can't have legitimate redress with their government. Why shouldn't a company be able to call up a government and talk over things with them? So now that they can't do that if they've made one of these tremendous contributions....
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I would say, Jim, that probably Enron was more involved than most corporations. It was its policy I think because it interacted with government in a lot of ways. That's just a fact because they obviously gave a lot to President Bush, that stimulates a lot of the media and public interest.
JIM LEHRER: One of the points that was made today was that one of the reasons that the Bush administration did not act in any way whatsoever was because they had taken so much money from the... from Enron that they were afraid they would be accused of... Does that make sense to you? I mean is that another factor in all of this stuff, that the evilness of money....
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: In an odd way I remember saying to somebody once who happened to be a friend of mine, gee, if you ever want me to help, you don't give me any money because I'll hesitate because somebody will say you did it because he gave you....
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: It's not the evilness of money. It's the tremendous large sums of money that are now....
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: We're talking about soft money. That's what Fred is talking about that and he's right. The post Watergate campaign finance laws said you couldn't receive more than $2,000 in a whole election cycle from an individual for your campaign.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Which is too low I think.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: And then came soft money and corporations, labor unions, individuals started to give hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's the big loophole that the campaign finance reform bill would close, and Enron was giving a lot of soft money, unregulated, unlimited to both parties.
JIM LEHRER: Are you confident, Senator Thompson, that you all can get to the bottom of Enron? Is there any reason... Anything that you say, oh, my goodness, we'll never figure this one out? Is the public going to eventually know exactly what happened?
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Yeah, there are too many people that play here and there are too many chances, I mean, the prosecutors out there salivating over all the finger pointing that's going to go on here, you know, in terms of....
JIM LEHRER: It wasn't me, it was him. It wasn't the auditor.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: It was the board of directors or it was the executives or the executives who left the company early or whatnot. Yeah, I don't think there's any question about it. You've got all the congressional scrutiny. You've got the Justice Department looking at it. You're going to have plaintiffs' lawyers out there by the train load coming in -- taking depositions and subpoenaing documents, yeah -- we'll get to the bottom of it.
JIM LEHRER: Does it deserve all this attention, Senator Lieberman?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Well, it does deserve a lot of attention because as you know it's the largest corporation ever to go bankrupt in the United States of America. And the collapse of this company came with shocking speed. I mean, a little more than a year ago, trading for $90 a share. Today I gather you can't get a half dollar for it. Of course what's really infuriating is that a lot of average people lost their life savings while we now know enough to know that the executive... That 30 top executives of the company sold more than $1 billion worth of stock in the same period of time and walked off with all that money.
JIM LEHRER: That alone makes it a big deal.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: It's a big deal.
JIM LEHRER: Your trip to Afghanistan. Senator Thompson, how close is that war to being over?
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Not very. Not very. I think certainly the initial thrust of it, the major thrust, the subduing of the Taliban, that's pretty much over. But there's a lot yet to be done. From the rebuilding that's going on there with the interim government and all the things that they're going to be facing, the need for an army and an police force and our assistance there and the international cooperation that is going to be needed in all that, but still bombing out, you know, along the border and trying to close up the rest of those caves and then dealing with those probable small pockets of al-Qaida around that are still there hunkered down in Afghanistan or some of these adjoining countries who are just waiting and biding their time to come back. That's just in Afghanistan. And then you have the issue of the other places in the world where we're going to have to address.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Lieberman, the Afghanistan... Can Afghanistan be rebuilt? I mean, without a terrorist element? I mean, do you see hope there on the ground and the U.S. is going to have to be prepared to stay there a long time to make it happen shall.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: The U.S. and our coalition partners from around the world. Yes, I think Afghanistan can be rebuilt. I mean the fact is as we visited the various countries we did in Central Asia, one of the impressions I came away with is that the tradition of Islam there has been moderate and not violent. The al-Qaida and the Taliban and bin laden were an imposition on the tradition of the religious tradition of Afghanistan. Now we've got a chance to prove in what I've been calling the civil war within the Muslim community around the world that we will support the majority against the fanatical extremists. It turns out that the Hamid Karzai, the man who is now the chairman of the interim government in Afghanistan is a remarkably, able, fine man with a very good cabinet. They're facing a desperate situation. Terrible -- just hunger -- let alone a country in ruin. I think we've all got to work together to prove that we can rebuild this country and that it will be moderate, modern and Islamic. That will be a very important message for the rest of the world. Incidentally in this will be a participant but fortunately our allies in Europe and Asia are going to contribute most of the money.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Thompson, Senator Lieberman made some headlines today in a speech at Georgetown University in a speech saying now it's time to move on Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Do you agree with him?
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: I don't know if he says now is the time or not.
JIM LEHRER: I paraphrased.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: You're right. I didn't.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: But I agree with him in that our problem with terrorism will not be over until that situation is addressed. I don't think anybody thinks that it's a simple matter or necessarily an easy matter. But it's a lot easier than sustaining another September 11. So I think we're going to have to do it. There are indigenous forces there that can be utilized. I don't think we're assisting them enough or allowing them to do certain things they ought to be allowed to do. I think we, you know, need to get about doing things. We probably don't need to talk about it too much in detail in terms of method, but the groundwork needs to be laid right now for it.
JIM LEHRER: Sooner rather than later?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Well, I think Fred has it just right -- which is to say as soon as it is wise to do so, but the main point I was trying to make again today was that the war on terrorism will not be over if Saddam Hussein remains in power in Baghdad because he threatens us more than any other leader in the world today, and when and how we act in Iraq to change the regime is up to the commander in chief, the President and those who advise him. But whether we should have it as our goal to remove Saddam can no longer be in doubt. I think it's that important to our security.
JIM LEHRER: You're not talking about bombing tomorrow.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Not at all, no. This has got to be thought out. The most important thing I think and I believe is that in our government we're thinking about options about how to make this work.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: I just hope he doesn't accept inspectors.
JIM LEHRER: Because if you does the UN inspectors.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Will be right back into a cat-and-mouse game indefinitely. You know I think an inspection regime is built upon the proposition that there are not weapons there and this is a way to prove it. We know that's not the case. And if we get bogged down in all that, in appeals and Iraq's trading partners coming in on their side and requiring proof of this, that and the other, you know, it will buy time for him but... That we don't need to give him.
JIM LEHRER: Senators, thank you both very much.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Jim.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Thank you.
FOCUS - CHOKING EPISODE
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, President Bush's choking incident, the National Guard on duty, the foreign minister of Mexico, and a Richard Rodriguez essay.
JIM LEHRER: Gwen Ifill has the President's story.
GWEN IFILL: President Bush returned to a full work schedule this morning after briefly losing consciousness and fainting yesterday. The White House said the President gagged on a pretzel while watching a football game in the White House residence yesterday evening. He later told aides he was alone in the room with only his dogs, Barney and Spot. The President told reporters today that he fell off the couch and was unconscious, but apparently only for a short time.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I hit the deck and... Woke up, and there was Barney and Spot showing a lot of concern. I didn't realize what happened till I looked in the mirror. My glasses cut the side of my face.
GWEN IFILL: President Bush contacted a nurse five minutes later, was checked by a physician, and immediately underwent a series of examinations, including neurological tests and an electrocardiogram. All proved normal. The President's physician, Dr. Richard Tubb, said he could "not find any reason this would happen again." Tubb said the pretzel went down the wrong way, causing the President to cough and triggering a common reaction known as vasovagal syncope. That occurs when a nerve called the vagus nerve near the brain stem sends a signal to the heart to slow the heart rate, leading to fainting and unconsciousness. The President, who exercises regularly and who runs a seven- minute mile, is considered to be in terrific shape. Doctors say that due to his workouts, he does have a lower- than-normal pulse, and that may have contributed to the fainting. For his part, the President made light of the whole incident. Aboard Air Force One today, the President even sent a bag of pretzels to reporters. Then he joked about it at the start of a trade speech today at a John Deere plant in East Moline, Illinois.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I thought for a while, when they told me that I was going to receive a gift here, that old Chuck was going to bring a pretzel -- (Laughter) -- those kind that are easy to chew. (Laughter) If my mother is listening, mother, I should've listened to you: (Laughter) "Always chew your pretzels before you swallow." (Cheers and applause)
GWEN IFILL: The President also said he was fighting a cold this weekend. His doctor said stress had nothing to do with the scare.
GWEN IFILL: To help us understand a little more about the President's unusual fainting spell, we are joined by Dr. Paul Pepe. He chairs the division of emergency medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He also serves as an emergency and trauma consultant to the White House medical unit. But tonight he is not speaking for the White House.
Dr. Pepe, welcome. How unusual is this episode?
DR. PAUL PEPE: Actually it's not a common episode but it's not entirely unusual either. And this is a normal reaction that happens to normal people under certain circumstances. Quite frankly I think the bottom line here is that Barbara Bush is right, you know, chew your food well. In this circumstance from what I best understand is that he swallowed a pretzel and it wasn't completely chewed. Sometimes if a dry piece of food like that gets stuck in your throat it can be really painful going to your esophagus into your stomachs. As a result it can induce a major painful stimulus that will trigger off the vagus nerve as you said that is a normal nerve that is a break on the heart and can slow things down. Now it goes into overdrive as a reaction to this particular, as we say, nasty stimulus.
GWEN IFILL: This nerve - which goes down both sides -- can be triggered by something, the syncope, the fainting that this nerve induced can be triggered by something as simple as choking on a pretzel.
DR. PAUL PEPE: This is a misnomer that he wasn't really choke inning the classic sense that we think of somebody who has got it in your wind pipe, your airway going down into your lungs. Here he was really swallowing something down your esophagus. In a sense it was something that felt like it was stuck there and it's extremely painful going down, but it's unlikely that it caused any serious damage there. But what it does do is it causes a very painful effect that many people will get a reaction. This is like a classic fainting spell that we often hear about -- they classically always presented when someone got a bad piece of news in the movies they would have a bad reaction. This again is conducted by the vagus nerve.
GWEN IFILL: From what you can tell and what you've heard and read about this episode, was at any point was the President's life threatened by this?
DR. PAUL PEPE: Not really. You know, in this particular situation again if he had fallen and hit his head against something really, you know, hard and it was a good fall, you know, from a standing position, yeah, it could have been more serious, or if he had literally choked on the pretzel but -- or any of the food that was stuck there had regurgitated while he was briefly unconscious there -- there about could be a threat there. I know the nurse that was working there yesterday and of course Dr. Tubb, his doctor -- they're both outstanding. He was in really good hands. From everything I understand it was a straightforward situation. And here he had mostly a little bit of a bruised ego as well as a bruised face. But he handled it pretty well I think under the circumstances.
GWEN IFILL: The President is considered to be so healthy and fit that he even has low blood pressure the way we understand it. Could that have made him more susceptible to this kind of fainting episode?
DR. PAUL PEPE: Not necessarily. It's possible - if someone is used to a lower blood pressure that's great. It doesn't make him more susceptible to less blood flow in the brain. It's all relative to what you have. The vagus nerve is actually active in all of us right now. It's a normal nerve that actually if you cut it on both sides, you know, for example, a person who gets a heart transplant, they have those cut and their hearts are normally higher without those vagus nerves. The vagus nerves are actually constantly giving what we call vagueal tone. They're sending down nerve pulses to keep the heart at a steady, low pace. And what happens in a situation like this it gets in brief and I mean brief overdrive that can knock the heart rate down. We actually often use the vagueal nerve for people with fast heart rates - we often use it to stimulate way. There are different ways.
GWEN IFILL: We are almost out of time. I want to ask you two brief things. He had a dental cleaning on Saturday and had a mild cold over the weekend. Could either of those two things have triggered this?
DR. PAUL PEPE: It's conceivable that there are two things, probably not the dental cleaning as much as the cold, yeah, could make you a little bit more susceptible if there was a slight fever. It all depends. But I think in general this is a normal thing that can happen to normal people. Here it just happened to happen to a normal President.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you very much, Dr. Pepe, for joining us.
FOCUS - CHANGING OF THE GUARD
JIM LEHRER: Now, the National Guard and homeland defense. Recently, Tom Bearden looked at the guard's role in protecting the skies over America. Here is part two of his report.
TOM BEARDEN: Since September 11th, 45,000 National Guardsmen have been called to active duty. Pilots are flying combat air patrols over major cities. Troops are guarding airports, bridges, and nuclear power plants. Airmen like Robert Harris and Stuart Gardner, who patrol Los Angeles International Airport, are working 14-hour days away from their homes and their civilian jobs. But both say they have it comparatively easy.
SR. AIRMAN ROBERT HARRIS, California Air Guard: I try to think of veterans in the past who have served in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and my friends and brothers in Afghanistan, and then I... The duty here makes it a little more easy, thinking about the burdens they're putting up with.
TOM BEARDEN: The Guard just celebrated its 365th birthday, tracing its roots all the way back to pre-revolutionary war militia units. In more recent times, they've been called up to quell civil unrest and to assist with natural disasters. Guardsmen helped integrate Little Rock High School in 1957, and were the center of a storm of controversy when soldiers killed four students during anti-war demonstrations at Kent State in 1970. Guardsmen have also fought alongside the regulars in many of the country's wars. In fact, backing up the active forces has become a primary mission. Now the Guard has taken a leading role in homeland defense. That mission was hardly on the radarscope before September 11. But now a major pentagon study is under way to decide which forces are best for the job, and in the process determine the future organization of the country's military forces. One example of that scrutiny focuses on National Guard units called "weapons of mass destruction civilian assistance teams."
SPOKESMAN: How are you?
TOM BEARDEN: This is a training exercise in Southern California, simulating the release of a nerve gas agent.
SPOKESMAN: We have a convex container that is leaking an unknown substance.
TOM BEARDEN: Local fire departments and hazardous materials units practiced procedures to contain the threat, and then called the ninth weapons of mass destruction team from the California National Guard for help. There are 32 such teams scattered across the country. The unit has mobile laboratory equipment, which detects the precise threat. The team then advises civilian authorities on the best course of action. But some wonder if the civilian agencies could do the job themselves. Randall Larsen heads a homeland defense think tank. He says the original plan was to have ten teams, costing about $18 million. Larsen says congressional politics have swelled that to 32, and that only ten of them have been certified as being capable of doing the work.
COL. RANDALL LARSEN (Ret.), ANSER Institute for Homeland Security: If we would have taken a fraction of that money that went to weapons of mass destruction civil support teams, and had spent that on providing some new capabilities and some new training, and perhaps a few new personnel at the local HAZMAT teams, I think it would have been a far wiser investment of taxpayer money and had a lot more capability.
TOM BEARDEN: Why should the guard do this? Why can't the civilian folks have the same equipment and the same training?
MASTER SGT. DOUG FOGELMAN, California National Guard: The Guard here, the reason... The best part about the Guard is, we bring in military assets. We advise, assess, and facilitate. We have all the government assets at our fingertips, and we can make the phone calls to bring in the government assets if it really goes ugly in an incident-- like, they really slime a place in Los Angeles, once we establish what the problem is and how big it is, that incident commander and that mayor are going to be really scared, and we can say, "okay, now here's your answer. We have all these assets we can bring in right now." We make the phone calls, and it's happening.
SPOKESMAN: What airline are you flying on sir?"
TOM BEARDEN: The presence of thousands of guardsmen patrolling hundreds of American airports is also controversial. Their assignment is to beef up security.
SR. AIRMAN ROBERT HARRIS, California Air Guard: We augment law enforcement, providing extra eyes and ears and adding an extra sense of protection for the public, letting them know that it's safe to fly now.
TOM BEARDEN: Soldiers are also on duty at dozens of smaller airports, like the one in Fresno in Central California.
SPOKESMAN: You here tomorrow?
SPOKESMAN: Yes, sir.
SPOKESMAN: We're going to start mustering you guys out of station.
TOM BEARDEN: Sergeant Charles Dorfmeier says he and his fellow guardsmen have developed a good working relationship with local police officers. But here, too, questions have been raised about whether the Guard's presence actually translates into better security, despite the fact that they received special training from both the Guard and the FAA.
COL. RANDALL LARSEN (Ret.): It doesn't make me feel any more secure seeing them there. I guess if I were a foreign terrorist operating in the United States, and I walked in there and I saw those camouflage uniforms and M-16's, there may be some deterrent value there.
TOM BEARDEN: Larsen thinks the Guard ought to have a rolein homeland defense, but is concerned that Guardsmen and women might be asked to do too much. The Guard was to be on station until the newly federalized security force is in place, but no one knows how long that'll take.
COL. RANDALL LARSEN (Ret.): We've asked a lot from our citizen soldiers in this country and our citizen airmen in the National Guard. We're using them for the last ten years, deploying them to missions all over the globe. And now we have them guarding bridges in California, and we have them at airports. I think we have to ask some very serious questions about what's the real value of this.
TOM BEARDEN: General Russell Davis is the chief of the Guard Bureau, the Pentagon agency that sets policy for the National Guard. He says most people didn't sign on to tote a rifle in an airport, and he's worried that they might decide to end their Guard careers.
LT. GENERAL RUSSELL DAVIS, National Guard Bureau Chief: If people wanted to become firemen and policemen, they'd go out and become firemen and policemen. Yes, they will do the duty. Yes, we have carried mail. National Guardsmen trained to do mail and assist with mail a few years ago in mail strikes. But they didn't join for that purpose.
TOM BEARDEN: General Paul Monroe commands the California National Guard.
TOM BEARDEN: Are you concerned about retention and recruiting when people contemplate much more active service than the guard has ever done before?
MAJOR GENERAL PAUL D. MONROE, JR., Adjutant General, California National Guard: Absolutely. It's always a problem every time the Guard is activated. And it's not that people aren't patriotic. Usually what happens is, they go for a national crisis, and they solve the national crisis, they feel real good about it-- what more is there to do? So some of those people leave the service.
TOM BEARDEN: But the larger question remains unanswered so far: Who should be in charge of the military aspects of homeland defense? At a recent Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, California Senator Diane Feinstein wondered if it might not be time for a reorganization.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) California: The anthrax incidents, the looking at crop dusters, the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, what else... You know, the fear that something else is going to happen. We have never been in that arena before, and the longer I am around; the more I think a kind of primary military response is really the protection of a homeland.
TOM BEARDEN: Some members of Congress think one answer might be to create a commander in chief for homeland defense, an officer in charge of all the military assets in that arena. Retired Lieutenant General Frank Libutti is the special assistant for homeland security at the Department of Defense.
LT. GENERAL FRANK LIBUTTI (Ret.), Department of Defense: We should be very circumspect. We should not be premature in making judgments to change things until we see the results of reviews that are already underway, and should be closed by the spring. In terms of what DOD is doing, they'll look holistically at the role of the Guard and the Reserve, what we're doing inside DOD-- And that's to stand up what we hope will be an undersecretary of defense.
TOM BEARDEN: One decision could be to strip the National Guard of its heavy ground combat units, which are designed to back up the Army overseas. Phil Anderson, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says such units may be obsolete for the homeland security mission.
COL. PHILLIP ANDERSON (Ret.), Center for Strategic & International Studies: I think that if we were to examine the threat, I think we could be fairly confident that we're not going to require heavy mechanized forces-- artillery, infantry, heavily armed infantry-- to address the homeland security issue. I think what we would find is, is that we need constabulary forces, things that are more akin to military police forces, to augment state and local capability, and militia force, if you will, to satisfy this requirement.
TOM BEARDEN: General Monroe says any attempt to take away the combat units could touch off a turf war.
MAJOR GENERAL PAUL D. MONROE, JR., Adjutant General, California National Guard: General Shinseki, the chief staff of the Army, he's got a mission, as he says, for the entire Army, for the Army and the Guard and the Reserves. Now, if the Guard is to focus more on homeland security than it has in the past, that's kind of out of his hands, so he sees his responsibility of increasing the resources of the total armies. So if, for example, the Guard, 25%, 30% of their force is focused exclusively on homeland security, then what those wartime tasks they were doing, General Shinseki, in his mind, he needs to replace that. And right now, his solution is, I think, to increase the active forces, to replace those wartime tasks that the guard may not be available to do.
TOM BEARDEN: General Monroe and others in the National Guard leadership say they'd resist any effort to strip the Guard of its combat units. They say the Guard is fully capable of fulfilling both a national defense mission and its current combat role.
JIM LEHRER: Next, a conversation about Mexico and the United States. That's a relationship President Bush gave a top priority to at the beginning of his administration. The Mexican foreign minister was in Washington last week, and Ray Suarez got a relationship update from him.
RAY SUAREZ: Joining me is Jorge Castaneda, the foreign minister of Mexico. He's been in Washington meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to talk about security, immigration and the future of the relationship between the United States and Mexico. Mr. Minister, welcome back to the program.
JORGE CASTANEDA, Foreign Minister, Mexico: Thank you, Ray, for having me.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, tell us what you can about the meetings with the Secretary of State and the National Security advisor.
JORGE CASTANEDA: Well, we had very, very good meetings with both of them, as well as with Governor Tom Ridge on security matters. We talked about the whole gamut of issues on the bilateral agenda, this very ambitious, very forward-looking agenda that Presidents Fox and Bush laid down when they met in Guanajuato in Mexico at President Fox's home in February of last year. We talked about immigration issues; we talked about security matters. We talked about trade. We talked a lot about the regional issues that are of great importance and concern to both our governments and countries: Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela. So we have a broad range of issues that we discussed, and I must say we moved forward very briskly and very significantly, substantively on all of these issues, Ray.
RAY SUAREZ: When President Fox was here toward the end of the summer, immigration was a prominent part of the conversation with the Bush administration. There was talk of regularizing the status of illegals, finding a more orderly way for Mexican labor to do work in the United States. But I'm wondering now, since the terrorist attacks of September, whether that isn't something of a back burner issue.
JORGE CASTANEDA: I think the first point I'd like to emphasize, ray, if I may, is what President Bush has been telling President Fox on the phone and personally over the last few months, and what Secretary Powell and National Security Advisor Rice told me just these past days, that the U.S. Government's commitment to reaching an agreement with Mexico on migration issues, on the full gamut of migration issues, is a commitment that stands and that is as valid and as present and as important as ever, and that there has been no change whatsoever in that commitment. Now, obviously, we are sensitive to the fact that the events of September 11 have changed the timetable, the calendar, that other issues have become somewhat more prominent for this period of time, that the same U.S. officials cannot attend to so many different issues at the same time, that there is a question of trying to get things back moving once this... The terrorism period is, not over, but at least has been... A lot of headway has been made on it, as seems to be case. So what I came out of my meetings with was a sense, one, the commitment is there as firm as ever; two, the technical talks are progressing and will continue to progress expeditiously, seriously, substantively trying to reach agreements on the very complicated technical issues that are involved; and that during the course of the year the two Presidents and the high level ministerial groups will review the advances that the technical groups have made and find the best moment when they can reach a final agreement and try and present it. But yes, timetable has change, the commitment has not.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, that's the movement of people. What about the movement of goods? There was a lot of trouble on the border late in 2001 as United States officials tried to beef up security.
JORGE CASTANEDA: Well, this was one of the important issues I took up with Secretary Powell, with tom ridge, with Governor Ridge. What we have said is that the delays at the border for cargo have diminished since September 11, since the first period of a lot of delays. By December we were doing almost back to normal. The traffic in December of many Mexicans returning home and coming then back to the U.S. was about normal, the delays were about normal. We're a little concerned, though, that volume is low. What's going to happen when the U.S. economy recovers, the Mexican economy recovers and volume of cargo, mainly, returns to its previous levels. And we talked about a number of ideas that have a double purpose -- one, to enhance security at the border for both our countries. We both understand that this is of great importance to the United States and to Mexico. We want a more secure border. But we also want a border where goods and people move freely and legally more expeditiously, that we not do too many things on the security side that make movement less expeditious, but that we not be too relaxed on the movement side that we weaken security. And we're working on this very closely. We have been doing it since September 11, and I think we've made a lot of progress. And many of the ideas that we talked about will soon translate into real policy.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, you've mentioned wondering about what happens when the cargo volume increases. This is the first American recession since the signing of the NAFTA agreement. And Mexico's economy has increasingly become oriented toward the United States. How is Mexico weathering this downturn in America?
JORGE CASTANEDA: Well, it would be perhaps not wise to say that the U.S. Slowdown has not affected us. It has affected us and very significantly. We had zero growth in the year 2001, which is much less than we expected and hoped for. We had hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs, and this is very significant in a country where employment levels are low and where we don't have the type of safety net that the United States or other western European countries have, for example. That said, the macro economic fundamentals are very solid in Mexico. Inflation is way down to its lowest level since the 1960s. Interest rates are down to the lowest level since the 1970s. Reserves, international reserves, are at historically high levels. Foreign direct investment continues to pour into Mexico at unprecedented rates. So yes, we have a slowdown brought about largely by the U.S. slowdown. We have a recession. Ours is a full-blown recession. But we think we can come out of it soon, and we think we can come out of it very strong because the macro economic fundamentals are so solid that once the U.S. economy begins to recover-- and we hope this will be soon-- the Mexican economy will also recover, and recover the high rates of economic growth that we had in the year 2000, 1999, 1998.
RAY SUAREZ: Let's talk a little bit about the state of the bilateral relation. There was a lot of complaining both in the United States and in Mexico about how Mexican leaders handled the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. When the first noises from Mexico City were not forthright enough, Americans complained. When President Fox declared his unconditional support for the United States, many Mexicans, including political leaders, complained. What's been happening since?
JORGE CASTANEDA: I think that these were minor, I wouldn't even say episodes. I think they were opinions by groups on one side or the other of the border or of the political spectrum who always, as is logical in something that is so important to both countries as the bilateral relationships, have axes to grind, Ray. I think what's so important is one, the bilateral relationship was extraordinarily strong, bold, far reaching, visionary before September 11 and continues to be so today. I think what we will see during the year 2002 is a strengthening of the bilateral relationship, a strengthening of the personal relationship between Presidents Fox and Bush. I think we will see that on a growing number of issues-- whether these are bilateral, migration, drug enforcement, border security, water, the environment, et cetera; or regional issues, the situation in Colombia, the situation in Venezuela, the Argentine crisis, evolution in Cuba on a series of areas, U.N. Security Council, where Mexico is now going to be a member for two years-- we will see increasing cooperation, increasing convergence, and on occasion, disagreement between the United States and Mexico, but disagreement which will take place in this framework of a much more mature, balanced and complete relationship. I think what we're building here, Ray, is a long-term strategic relationship between Mexico and the United States, which we had had not had before. I think the blips on the screen after September 11 were only that-- blips on the screen.
RAY SUAREZ: Are they part of growing pains for a country that really is a large country, a large economy but has a non- interventionist tradition, has not been a big player on the world stage?
JORGE CASTANEDA: I think growing pains may not be the metaphor I would use, but it certainly points to the issue properly. I agree with that. Mexico is a country that traditionally was both inward- looking economically, historically, culturally, and with good reason, because Mexican culture is to vibrant, so vigorous. There's a lot to look inward too in that sense, a country with a strong national identity. But also a country that perhaps did not have the sense of a world role that today a nation of 100 million people, $700 billion in GDP per year, the ninth largest economy in the world, the United States' second largest trading partner, and enormous cultural vibrancy and vitality-- a country like that has to have a world role.
RAY SUAREZ: The foreign minister of Mexico, Jorge Castaneda, thanks for joining us.
JORGE CASTANEDA: Thank you, Ray.
ESSAY - AMIDST ENCHANTMENT
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, essayist Richard Rodriguez of the Pacific News Service reflects on the fantasies of Walt Disney.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: Walter Elias Disney was born 100 years ago in Chicago. These days, I suspect many of us imagine the American townscape of 1901 rather like Main Street at the entrance of every Disney theme park, with its ice cream parlor, emporium, and Town Square. In fact, Walt Disney's family lived not far from Al Capone's headquarters, and in a neighborhood where two boys were arrested for killing a policeman. Disney's father called Chicago a "cesspool."
MICKEY MOUSE: Pretty soon, Walt's family moved to a farm in Missouri...
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: ...Where the work was hard and unprofitable. It was there young Walt encountered streams and pigs and squirrels. (Birds chirping) In a forest, he saw an owl one day and chased it, was clawed by the bird, and in a fury seized it and slammed it to the ground, stomping the bird to death. The more one learns of young Walt Disney's America, the more one is struck by its darkness and difficulty. When his father went broke, the boy watched as his favorite farm animals were sold and taken away.
BAMBI SEGMENT: Bambi, quick. The thicket!
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: It's no coincidence that in so many of Disney's early full-length cartoons, happiness is easily threatened. Danger lurks.
BAMBI SEGMENT: Faster, Bambi! (Gunshot)
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: As Bambi learns when its mother dies, tragedy is as natural as a cloudless sky.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: Since early December, when the Disney corporation began advertising the centennial of Walt Disney's birth, I have thinking about America's most famous fantasist. Here we are, just months after the surreal events of September 11, and America's movie theaters are filled with fantasy: Gothic quests, comic monsters, British witchcraft. Computers, of course, are the true wizards. As a kid, I first saw Walt Disney on television in the 1950S. Every Sunday, with grandfatherly charm, his voice raspy from cigarettes, he invited America's children into one of the chambers of his imagination. I admit I was little charmed by fantasyland. I preferred the humor of Warner Brothers' cartoons.
BUGS BUNNY: What's up, doc?
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: There was bite to bugs bunny and Sylvester the cat. In Warner Brothers' cartoons, character was everything-- wit, sass, malice. The backdrop was flat, which was true later with Hanna Barbera's "Flintstones," or today with those postmodern "Simpsons." The punch line is delivered in a world that barely is drawn.
MARGE SIMPESON: So I guess life goes on.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: The '50s was a profitable decade for Walt Disney, with Davy Crockett and the insufferable Mouseketeers. What seems to be more audacious in that decade was Disney's dream of Disneyland. It was as though he wanted to make fantasyreal by constructing a series of movie sets, props, and common places we recognize from movies, through which visitors could wander. Like other post-war urban planners, Walt Disney displayed both an innocence and an arrogance. After all, to create the happiest place on earth, he needed to clear away all that is messy. Disneyland is scripted reality. To his disgust, neon and the honky-tonk of Anaheim intruded on the edges of his dream, so Disney planned a bigger park in Florida, where the messy world would be kept at bay. Before he died from cancer, Walt Disney planned to build houses on fantasy plots. He would call his dream suburb "Celebration." Perhaps his whole life was a quest, as fantastic as any on today's movie screens, to remove ugliness and unhappiness from our lives.
SNOW WHITE SINGING: With a smile and a song...
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: Not until I was in college did I see the movies that had made Walt Disney famous in the 1930s, and then I was astonished by his sense not of character, but by the backdrop. (Birds chirping) Disney saw the way a saint might, with a sense of wonder. Every leaf is finely veined, every drop sparkling, every cloud rounded. Nowadays Hollywood has schooled young audiences to prefer bang to visual detail. But as six-year-old boys might tell us, we could be entering a real world that resembles the animated mayhem of video games and movies, with steroid heroes and exploding skyscrapers. But I remember a night in Berkeley, in the unruly 1960s, when I first saw "Fantasia." The theater was crowded with unkempt men and women who had grown up in the uniform suburbs. The movie began. The flowers danced and the raindrops sparkled. Many in the audience dropped acid and smoked pot in order to see the world's redeemed as Walt Disney dreamed it should be. I'm Richard Rodriguez.
JIM LEHRER: Again, the major stories of this Monday. President Bush began a trip to the Midwest. He said he felt great, despite a choking incident on Sunday. On the NewsHour tonight, Senators Lieberman and Thompson said the collapse of Enron showed the need for campaign finance reform. They said the company's large, unregulated contributions to both parties now puts a cloud over government. We'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
- The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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- This episode's headline: Senate Perspectives; Choking Episode; Changing of the Guard; Conversation. ANCHOR: JIM LEHRER; GUESTS: SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN; SEN. FRED THOMPSON; DR. PAUL PEPE; JORGE CASTANEDA; CORRESPONDENTS: KWAME HOLMAN; RAY SUAREZ; SPENCER MICHELS; MARGARET WARNER; GWEN IFILL; TERENCE SMITH; KWAME HOLMAN
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