The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
MR. LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer in Washington.
MR. MacNeil: And I'm Robert MacNeil in New York. After the News Summary we have reports on the Russian referendum, President Clinton's response, and we discuss the human qualities that make Boris Yeltsin such a survivor. Next, we assess yesterday's gay march on Washington with one of its organizers, and we talk to our regional editors about gay rights and other issues in the news. NEWS SUMMARY
MR. LEHRER: New and tougher economic sanctions go into effect against Yugoslavia at midnight tonight. They are to punish its leaders for supporting the war in Bosnia. The sanctions were triggered when the Bosnian Serb parliament rejected a U.N.- sponsored plan to end the fighting. One of the mediators who negotiated the plan, Lord Owen, reacted angrily, saying it would prompt a confrontation.
LORD DAVID OWEN, EC Envoy: It is a confrontation that has been forced on us by a few supposed leaders of the Bosnian Serbs. And I think that confrontation is now inevitable and it will be faced up to by the World Community, be faced up to both economically, politically and if they continue, in my view, militarily.
MR. LEHRER: The main ally of the Bosnian Serbs, President Milosevic, of Serbia had called on them to accept the plan. His harshly worded appeal said new sanctions would cause enormous damage for all of Yugoslavia. Their impact will be mainly in his republic. Geoffrey Archer of Independent Television News Reports on the measures being taken.
GEOFFREY ARCHER: On Serbian's Eastern border, sanctions were already being tightened this morning by Romanian customs officials. One and a half tons of petrol was seized from drivers trying to smuggle it into Serbia. Trains bound for the Serb capital Belgrade came under sharp scrutiny, at least while the cameras were around. Smuggled cigarettes were confiscated. On the River Danube existing sanctions had already reduced Serbian traffic to a trickle. From tonight, neighboring countries will have the right to seize any Serb barges still trying to use the river. The new sanctions regime seems to isolate Serbia and Montenegro, which form the rump state of Yugoslavia. Already in Belgrade, sanctions have crippled the economy. Fuel shortages cause overloading of public transport, and now Serb financial assets abroad will be frozen.
MR. LEHRER: President Clinton said today the United States and its allies need to move forward with a stronger policy in Bosnia. He said he would be consulting with Congress and hopes to announce new moves in the next several days. Robin.
MR. MacNeil: Russian President Boris Yeltsin has won what his aides say is a huge new mandate. Preliminary results from yesterday's referendum showed about 60 percent of the voters supported him and about 53 percent supported his reforms. Yeltsin's opponents dismissed the vote and said it would not end his power struggle with the conservative congress. They pointed out that on a separate referendum question, Yeltsin failed to win a sufficient majority to force early elections for congress. At the White House today, President Clinton commented on the results. He explained why he was so strong in his support for Yeltsin.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: They are a huge country with vast natural resources, with enormous opportunities for Americans to create jobs and to earn income and to reap the benefits of trade. They still have thousands of nuclear weapons, and they are a great country that can be a symbol of democracy in a very troubled part of the world if democracy can stay alive there. They can prove that you can make very dramatic changes at once as they try to move from a communist system to a democracy, from a controlled economy to a market economy, and to a nation state away from being an imperial power with occupying armies.
MR. MacNeil: We'll have more on Russia and Yeltsin right after this News Summary.
MR. LEHRER: The nearly 400 Palestinian deportees in South Lebanon staged a sit-in today to protest the resumption of Middle East peace talks. The men have been stranded in South Lebanon since they were expelled from Israel in December. Palestinian negotiators had boycotted the peace talks over the deportee issue. They agreed last week to return to the negotiations, which resume in Washington tomorrow. Before beginning their sit-in, the deportees marched toward a checkpoint in the northeastern part of Israel's security zone. They were stopped by shelling from Israeli gunners.
MR. MacNeil: Defense Secretary Les Aspin told reporters at the Pentagon today that changes in sexual harassment policy and restrictions on women in combat and gays in the military can be expected. He said social change was occurring in America and the military should not try to fight it. About 300 people protesting the exclusion of homosexuals from the military gathered outside the Pentagon this morning. The demonstration ended a weekend of marches and other events advocating homosexual rights. We'll have more on the story later in the program.
MR. LEHRER: Today was day 97 of the Clinton administration but Republican congressional leaders were already out with their 100 day assessment of the new President. House Minority Leader Bob Michel spoke at a Capitol Hill news conference.
REP. ROBERT MICHEL, Minority Leader: When we think of the first 100 days of the Clinton presidency, only one word really leaps to mind immediately, and that of course is "taxes," and this has helped to galvanize the House Republicans into action on any number of domestic and other issues, and House Republicans will fight any of the Clinton proposals that put spending increases before deficit reduction, and it's evident that some of the more egregious tax increases proposed by the administration will have tough sledding from our members.
MR. LEHRER: White House Spokesman George Stephanopoulos said the Republican critique sounds like politics. He said the President had kept his main campaign promises, most importantly taking action to get the economy moving. Also, the White House released a pamphlet on the accomplishments of the first 100 days. It said Mr. Clinton's economic plan had charted a clear path to growth.
MR. MacNeil: A nationwide survey released today that one in four elderly Americans is malnourished. The survey, commissioned by a group of health advocates, questioned 750 health care professionals. It found that half of all elderly hospital patients and two out of five nursing home patients suffer from malnutrition. The report said the problem is likely to lead to longer and costlier hospital stays and other complications. Agriculture Sec. Mike Espey announced today that his department would sponsor a national forum on hunger. He said it would bring together the best minds and the most passionate arguments for dealing with the problem. The announcement led Ohio Democratic Congressman Tony Hall to end a three-week hunger strike. He began his fast to bring attention to the problem of hunger in America.
MR. LEHRER: An arson investigation has concluded the Branch Davidians intentionally set the fire that destroyed their compound near Waco, Texas. The investigation team was headed by Paul Gray, an arson investigator from Houston. He spoke at a news conference in Waco.
PAUL GRAY, Arson Investigator: It is the opinion of the investigative team that this fire started in the interior of the building in at least two separate locations at approximately the same time. Further evidence indicates a presence of flammable liquids inside the building which contributed to an unnaturally rapid fire spread. The team believes this fire was intentionally set by persons inside the compound.
MR. LEHRER: Two victims of the fire were identified today. They are David Michael Jones, who was David Koresh's brother-in-law. The coroner said he died from a single gunshot wound to the head. But it was not known that the shot was self-inflicted. The second person was identified as Sherry Doyle. She also had a gunshot wound to the head.
MR. MacNeil: An Indian Airlines jet crashed today in Western India. Fifty-five of the one hundred eighteen people on board were killed. Another two are missing. An Indian government official said one of the Boeing 737's engines caught fire as it took off, but survivors and eyewitnesses said the plane hit a truck on the runway during take-off. The flight originated in New Delhi and was headed for Bombay. The space shuttle Columbia successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral this morning. Two earlier launch attempts were halted by technical problems. The shuttle is on a $570 million, nine day science mission funded by Germany. Two German scientists are part of the seven-person crew.
MR. LEHRER: And that's the News Summary for this Monday. Now it's on to the man Boris Yeltsin, gay rights, and our regional editors and commentators. FOCUS - STAYING POWER
MR. MacNeil: A month ago political pundits in Washington and Moscow were wondering how much longer Boris Yeltsin might survive as president of Russia. Today Yeltsin and his supporters were claiming a big victory in Sunday's four question referendum. We focus tonight with three Yeltsin watchers on Yeltsin, the man, so often written off as politically finished but who continues to confound those predictions. We start with a report on yesterday's referendum that gave Yeltsin a big personal vote of confidence and support for his economic reforms but which left in doubt his mandate for overhauling the Russian government. Ian Williams of Independent Television News has the story.
MR. WILLIAMS: Counting continues across Russia tonight, though early, unofficial results have clearly delighted and perhaps surprised the Yeltsin camp. Almost 2/3 of the electorate appear to have voted and of them around 60 percent back Yeltsin, with a little less, though still a majority, backing his reform program, in spite of the economic pain associated with it.
PETER FRANK, Election Observer: Yeltsin has got clear majorities on those questions that were important to him. I think that's going to give him a tremendous lever to try to put into effect certain reforms which badly need doing.
MR. WILLIAMS: Foremost among those reforms curbing the power of the congress of people's deputies whose leaders were briefed today by the chairman of the Counting Commission. A clear majority of those who voted wanted the deputies to face new elections, though this fell short of half the total electorate, the figure required under rules imposed by congress. The congressional chairman claims the referendum results represented a draw.
RUSLAN KHASBULATOV, Chairman of the Parliament: [speaking through interpreter] First of all, I'd like to call on supporters of both sides not to be overwhelmed by results. There are no winners and losers after the referendum. It's achieved only one thing, a split society.
MR. WILLIAMS: And Yeltsin's rebellious deputy weighed in, Vice President Alexander Rutskoi saying the President could not claim popular support in spite of his clear majority. On Moscow's giant housing estates it was voters like Oleg and Galena Korovin who ensured victory for Yeltsin, even though they have been critical of both the president and the reforms, which have not benefited them a great deal so far. The Korovins were staunch Yeltsin supporters, backing him in the presidential elections two years ago. Since then, Oleg's lost his job in the oil industry and is now driving a taxi for a living. But yesterday, the alternative to Yeltsin, a return as they saw it to the past, seemed far worse. Like millions of others in the capital, the Korovins swallowed any doubts they had and backed the president, though Oleg voted against his economic policies.
OLEG KOROVIN: [speaking through interpreter] I support the president but not the policies of the government which have produced no results.
MR. WILLIAMS: Across Moscow, the turnout was 67 percent, three- quarters of those who voted supporting Yeltsin, with more than 2/3 backing his economic policies too. That established the capital as more staunchly pro-Yeltsin than any other major Russian city. In the countryside too, Yeltsin seems to have done well. In Petelino, 40 miles west of Moscow, the village's only industry, the chicken farm, has prospered as a newly privatized company. And yesterday, workers were far more positive about Yeltsin and his policies.
NADEZHDA VERBITSKAYA, Farm Worker: [speaking through interpreter] Voting for President Yeltsin gives me peace of mind. I think everything will be all right. I hope for the best as I respect him.
SERGEI ZUBALITY, Assistant Farm Manager: [speaking through interpreter] The workers can feel the effect of reforms through their monthly salaries. They have very good salaries. The reforms and price policy have allowed us to give them a pay rise every three months.
MR. WILLIAMS: The local authorities and factory management laid on entertainment at the polling station and villagers turned out in high numbers to vote solidly for the president. Neighboring Velan Square Village is smaller and more traditional. There is a large proportion of elderly people here who have been hit hardest by rising prices. Yet, even here, Yeltsin, though not personally popular, seems to have retained support. There has been no official word from the Kremlin today, but the question being addressed by the president and his advisers is how to quickly capitalize on his moral victory, how to use his new, popular mandate.
MR. MacNeil: Yeltsin's referendum victory brought cheers to President Clinton's White House. The Russian and American leaders established an apparently strong personal rapport at the Vancouver summit, and Mr. Clinton committed U.S. prestige and promise of more aid to the Yeltsin government. Today at a photo session with the University of Arkansas track team, Mr. Clinton talked about the referendum and a phone call of congratulations he made today to Moscow.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Not very long ago, perhaps about oh, an hour ago now, I had a conversation with President Yeltsin. I called to congratulate him on his outstanding victory in the election and to reassure him that the United States continues to support him as the elected leader of Russia and continues to look forward to our partnership in working to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, to increase trade and commerce, and to promote democracy. This is a victory that belongs to the Russian people and to the courage of Boris Yeltsin, but I'm very glad that the United States supported steadfastly the process of democracy in Russia, and I was glad to have a chance to talk to President Yeltsin. Needless to say, he was in a very good humor when I talked to him. And he had a good sense of humor, and he offered the United States a great Russian bear hug for their support for democracy in the Russia, and actually in the other republics of the former Soviet Union as well. So it was a very good conversation, but I do want to say that this is a good day not just for the people of Russia but for the people of the United States as well.
LAURENCE McQUILLAN, Reuters: Were you surprised by the results on all four questions?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I sort of thought he would win on all four. I thought there might be some difference, and as you know, there was a difference in the vote between the referendum on Yeltsin, himself, and his policies. But you would expect that in tough times. We've had a lot of western leaders re-elected in the last three or four years in the midst of economic difficulties where the people got re-elected and there was still debate about their policy because people are having a tough time. And people in Russia are having a very tough time. I think the reaffirmation of his policies really is a tribute to the far sightedness of the Russian people. I think in the end what happened was they decided that as difficult as it is, that that is the only path they could take. And I think, again, it's a real tribute to his courage and to their common sense and ability to see the future. And it's very tough to do when you're going through what they're going through, terrible inflation, unemployment, all those dislocating problems. It is a real tribute to their maturity and to their courage and foresight.
MR. MacNeil: Now to talk about the man who won yesterday's victory with us are three men who have closely watched the Russian president over the years. Stephen Cohen teaches at Princeton University and has written many books about the Soviet affairs. Leon Aron, a Yeltsin biographer is a fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Paul Quinn-Judge was a Moscow correspondent for six years. For the last three he was Moscow bureau chief for the Boston Globe and is now its national security correspondent. Leon Aron, clearly the Russian people or a sizeable majority find something in Yeltsin to trust. What do you think it is?
MR. ARON: Well, there is -- it's not always easy to put a finger on what chemistry exists between the leader and the people. I think they believe in Yeltsin and they trust him because he looks like one of them or at least like many people they know; he speaks like one of them; he is from Siberia, which is Russian frontier, the equivalent of the Russian, of America's wild west. He is a man who has done things in the past that were quite impressive, coming back to political life after Gorbachev kicked him out of the Politburo in Moscow City Party Committee in '87, putting his political faith in the hands of the people four times in the last four years, in '89, '90, '91, now '93, and probably another election is coming. So I think all of those things created a mutual trust. The people feel that Yeltsin trusts them and they in turn trust him.
MR. MacNeil: Steve Cohen, what is it do you think in personal terms the Russian people are responding to?
MR. COHEN: I think Leon's right. They see something in Yeltsin that has to do with their own Russianness. I would not call it a democracy in the sense that we think of a leader having a democratic relation with voters. Yeltsin's ability to come back, to turn to the people, and to win, but let me hasten to say we don't know the actual results, we have Exit Polls, have to look at it, this relationship has something to do with Russia's long, long tradition of dominant leaders. It has nothing to do with parliament, nothing to do with political parties, nothing to do with interest groups. It has something to do with leadership, cults of leaders even. It goes back to the czars, continued under the communists, and in some new form Yeltsin has tapped into, and it's still powerful in Russia.
MR. MacNeil: And Paul Quinn-Judge, something to do with the alternatives the Russian people saw if Yeltsin was defeated?
MR. QUINN-JUDGE: Perhaps so. Rutskoi, Khasbulatov, people like this, don't seem to inspire great confidence, but I think it really was very much Yeltsin, himself, and his skills. He's a very gut level politician. He's a very instinctive, improvisional person. He seems to come across very well in that way and is very good at garnering people's support.
MR. MacNeil: Leon Aron, you said a moment ago they see themselves, Russian people. What characteristics of themselves do they see in Yeltsin?
MR. ARON: Strength, both physical in the man of six four, agile, the man has played wonderful semi-professional volleyball all his life and took up tennis at 55, somebody who is strong enough to overcome adversity, and most importantly, I think, there's still a lagging sentiment towards Yeltsin as somebody who was offended and hurt by the powers that be in '87, but who found a way to get back at them, and I think that still is very much on the mind of the people.
MR. MacNeil: He had also in the years when the Russian people have gone through extraordinary privations, he had a very difficult childhood, did he not? Describe that, and is that widely known in Russia?
MR. ARON: Well, it is I think suspected, but it was very, very difficult. From the age of four to the age of fourteen, he, his brother, Mikhail, and his sister and his parents lived in a tiny room in a barrack, which is a long hut in which most of the Russians around industrial areas lived at that time. They also had a goat, and so in order to give kids milk, so they all slept in the Siberian winters altogether in that drafty place with 20 other families, with no conveniences, in that room, four humans and a goat. And Yeltsin in his biography says, "And so this is how my childhood passed, candy or anything like that, there was no question of that, just to survive, survive, survive."
MR. MacNeil: Paul Quinn-Judge, do you see in that the Russian people seeing some value that he has not come from the, the apparat, the sort of people who've done well by the system in the past?
MR. QUINN-JUDGE: Well, I think he has a number of advantages. One, he hasn't come from the apparat, himself. Secondly, he was humiliated and almost destroyed by it both politically and physically and personally as he, again, recounts in his own autobiography. On one level, Russians seem to like the dominant leaders, as Steve Cohen as said. On the other hand, they like to see somebody who has been the under dog at some point in his life. That coupled with this very visceral determination that he is at times capable of showing I think is a very appealing combination for many people.
MR. MacNeil: Describe, Steve Cohen, this, the resentment that he may feel at the way he was treated by the apparat, himself, the way --
MR. COHEN: Let's make it more complex. I think Paul may have misspoken. Yeltsin very much is from the apparat. Until he was in his late 50s he was a high figure in the party apparatus. The mystery, the paradox of Yeltsin, is how did a man who spent his entire life beyond middle age working successfully in the political apparat become its leading enemy. Undoubtedly, he felt angry at Gorbachev in 1987 at what Gorbachev did to him, drove him from the leadership, for no cause Yeltsin thought, and even today, we see in Yeltsin one great mission in addition to his others. He wants to eliminate Gorbachev's reputation in history, whether it's in the United States or in Russia, the anti-Gorbachev impulse sometimes drives him to do things he probably regrets later. One other thing I would emphasize, Leon has mentioned the bright side of the Yeltsin story or what Russians call the Yeltsin cult, but there are darker aspects that make one wonder where this mandate may lead Yeltsin. His habit to formulate politics in terms of enemies, it's I, it's me versusthe enemies of Russia, in this case the parliament. But in running a campaign against parliament, what does that say about the future of democracy in Russia? If you villainize parliament, Russia's never had a parliamentary tradition. It's always had a tradition of strong leaders. What basis does that create for a future democracy?
MR. MacNeil: Leon Aron, we first knew Yeltsin in this country as something of a buffoon he seemed, and widely reported to be a drunk as well, and a man given to fits of emotional outbursts and things. Can you put that in context, how real is that, and what does it say about him?
MR. ARON: Well, you know, this is one of the hardest things for my book. It's one of the situations not unlike this town where those who know don't talk and those who talk don't know. The -- I am yet to meet a person who will tell me I have seen Yeltsin drunk beyond his ability to speak or to conduct business. I am yet to meet one, so I am agnostic on that, and I question. There are also some rumors, and I think in '89, during Yeltsin's misbegotten trip to the United States, which was awfully organized, in which he slept three hours a night and covered, I believe, fifteen cities in a week, that was all snowballed I think not without a slight participation of, of we know which services at the powers that be are called in Moscow. I think all of that should be taken critically --
MR. MacNeil: You mean, the KGB --
MR. ARON: That's right.
MR. MacNeil: -- engineered --
MR. ARON: No. There was clearly a situation for example at the famous situation, Johns-Hopkins University, where Yeltsin stumbled. I spoke to two people who were in the hold. They both told me he was not drunk, he was dead tired, and took sedatives before he was awakened.
MR. MacNeil: Steve Cohen, do you have a view of that?
MR. COHEN: Well, the most interesting thing is, is, why is it that acts that would destroy a politician, an electoral politician in the United States, only enhanced Yeltsin's standing in Russia?
MR. MacNeil: Well, the Russians are not exactly squeamish about a man who drinks.
MR. COHEN: No, not at all. It might thought to be something admirable, but he fell off a bridge, he was known to be a little bit of a womanizer, he's known to be a drinker, but every time this was reported, he shot up in popular esteem. Partly I think it's what either Paul or Leon said, Russians race to support a president who appears to be victimized, because Russians, themselves, have been so victimized. It's a different political culture, and again I urge you, when you think about Yeltsin, try not to squeeze him into our conception of what leaders are. Try to squeeze him, put him back where he belongs in the Russian tradition.
MR. MacNeil: Well, trying to do that, Paul Quinn-Judge, what can you add to this business of emotional outbursts, rumors of drunkenness and so on?
MR. QUINN-JUDGE: Oh, it's all there, but I think much more interesting is not so much how he got into a stream under a bridge one night but the mood of the guy, the temperament of the man. He's been very effective at portraying himself as somebody who has rejected the apparat, even though he came from it. Much more worrying about him I think is his drinking habits, which we haven't been able to pin down yet anyway, is the tremendous mood wings that the man can go through without alcohol. He loses his momentum very fast, and this is what I think is going to be very worrisome in the months to come. He is deeply emotional. He, he's subject to deep depression, which has reduced him to lethargy on a number of occasions, and he actually documents this in his own book. This is a side I think we have to worry about. Then later we can, Steve can work out what happened with his, his bridge events or his girlfriends.
MR. MacNeil: Leon Aron, what can you add to that, fits of depression and so on? Of course, some great American leaders like Lincoln have had that too, haven't they?
MR. ARON: Well, by the way, if you would just listen to all we have just said, we might as well be describing a successful western politician, you know, a bit of womanizing, a bit of drinking, fits of depression every now and then. Mind you also that Yeltsin sleeps about four hours a night, comes home at midnight, sleeps four hours, gets up, reads, and so on. I think that we ought to look at it, in my view, somewhat differently from what Steve said. I think we should not try to place Yeltsin and what he is trying to accomplish outside of our context, outside of our understanding. Yeltsin is trying to build a democracy. Yeltsin is trying and has put his own reputation to roll the dice four times with the people. You point to me, a Western politician that ran in four consecutive national elections in four years.
MR. MacNeil: Steve Cohen.
MR. COHEN: The fundamental question would be: Has democratization as a process, as a system, increased in Russia since Yeltsin became the top leader, December 1991, or not? He's ruled by decree. He's villainized the parliament. He's announced that he will go against the constitutional court when it suits him, and he's resorted to a referendum which is not an election. It's not putting himself against say Rutskoi or another Kennedy. Referendums have been used by democrats and by despots. I would argue that not much democratization has occurred under Yeltsin thus far.
MR. MacNeil: Because he isn't a democrat, himself?
MR. COHEN: I don't think of him as a democrat. I think of him as a great leader but not a democrat in the sense that we use the word. I need some qualifying expression.
MR. MacNeil: What do you think of that, Paul Quinn-Judge?
MR. QUINN-JUDGE: Yeah. Democrats suggest too coherent a pattern of thinking for I think Boris Yeltsin right now. He's somebody who's rejected one system and is looking for another. And what he's going to do, I think we're going to see very soon or we won't see it at all, because after this referendum he should have got some sort of impulse, some sort of boost to get going. He's got to handle both political and economic reform virtually simultaneously. His track record is of a person who gets very depressed and very unnerved if things don't go well. So if we don't see anything fast, and if we don't probably see somebody in Washington trying to act as his nanny from time to time, I don't think we're going to see much of a coherent Yeltsin legacy at the end of this year.
MR. MacNeil: Leon Aron, what is driving him? If it isn't democracy as we understand it, what vision is driving him?
MR. ARON: Well, Yeltsin I think put it himself very well in several interviews. He says, "My deepest dream in my heart is to see the Russian people living normally and for the Russia to take its place in the role of civilized nations of the world." I believe that that's what he would like to achieve.
MR. MacNeil: And do you need to be a democrat to do that?
MR. COHEN: Leon says Yeltsin wants Russia to be normal. The word is the same in Russia, normalna, but it doesn't mean the same thing.
MR. MacNeil: Well, we have to leave it there, and we'll watch what happens. Thank you all three.
MR. LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, a gay rights leader's view of the march and how it and other issues look to our regional editors and commentators. FOCUS - STATUS REPORT
MR. LEHRER: Now the impact of yesterday's march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights. Judy Woodruff is in charge. Judy.
MS. WOODRUFF: It was one of the largest civil rights demonstrations ever held in the nation's capital. Hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Americans came to Washington from all across the country to demand freedom from discrimination. As they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, they called for equal rights, an end to the ban on homosexuals in the military, and increased funding for AIDS research. Organizers said more than one million people participated in yesterday's event. The National Park Service put the estimate at 300,000. Joining us now is one of the leaders of the march. She is Torie Osborn, the executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. She represents 80,000 members across the country. What are your numbers? One day after the march, where do the numbers stand?
MS. OSBORN: Well, we're still trying to get kind of a recount. It's obvious that it's more than three hundred thousand, and I think it's close to a million. It may be more. The metropolitan police of Washington said 1.2 million.
MS. WOODRUFF: Why do the numbers matter so much? The Park Service says 300 maybe more. How much does it matter?
MS. OSBORN: Well, because this is a community that's coming into its own. This is a civil rights movement that's really entering a new phase of being taken seriously, and I think of taking itself seriously in the task of making our case to the American people. And whether it's a 1 percent number that they're talking about in terms of numbers of gay men that suddenly quadrupled within a week to 4 percent.
MS. WOODRUFF: These are the surveys that were done?
MS. OSBORN: Yeah, the surveys. I mean, the numbers matter and they matter more because we're looking for accuracy and an accurate reflection of the truth. What gay men and lesbians constantly put up with is either lies or, or stereotypes about who we are. So these things become, take on a significance. But the real issue is that if close to a million or more than a million people marched in Washington, let it be known.
MS. WOODRUFF: What do you think you accomplished? I mean, other than getting the fact of the numbers out there, what do you think you accomplished?
MS. OSBORN: Well, the most important thing was really that this was kind of a kickoff rally for the gay nineties. This is the decade that I think America is going to finally really grapple with this issue. Every civil rights movement kind of has its era, has its decade, and this is really going to be ours. There were hundreds of thousands of people who came from around the country, some at great risk to themselves. People came out for the first time. I ran into a group of kids -- and I say kids -- teenagers who came up to their parents, coming from Seattle by bus across country, came across to their parents to tell them where they were going, people who had never been in a march, people who were too young to remember Stonewall that launched this, the modern part of the gay movement. This is a time when I think because of the assaults of the right wing and then because of a Clinton victory that's kind of given up, a green light for promoting tolerance. But this community is saying enough, enough, enough discrimination, enough anti-gay violence, and enough decimation because of AIDS and government indifference.
MS. WOODRUFF: And do you think that was the message that went out yesterday? What was the message that you think most Americans got?
MS. OSBORN: I think the message, this march was really to kind of energize the troops and send people back to their towns and cities to organize and to, to get involved and to come out, and what I'm calling coming home to America. I think the media coverage on this march for the first time ever really represented fairly the real diversity, you know, the gay bads, and the lesbian lawyers, and the accountants and the carpenters and the regular people, the real live Americans who are gay and lesbian. For the first time ever the media, both print and electronic, really covered the diversity and the representation without just focusing on the drag queens and the leather.
MS. WOODRUFF: When you say the mission was to get people -- to go back to their communities, get organized, get involved, come out, as you put it, is that your primary focus right now, or is it on a federal level that the whole gays in the military issue, federal anti-discrimination legislation which or both?
MS. OSBORN: It's really both. I mean, generally speaking, laws of legislation will follow public attitudes, and this is a movement that really has some public education to do. So we're going to be pursuing a federal civil rights bill that'll be introduced later this year. And of course we are working lobbying daily, and doing media and so forth, to continue to put pressure on Congress to support the President when he lifts the ban on gays in the military on July 15th. But this is really an issue of launching a public education campaign. This is a community that less than 30 percent of Americans think they know somebody who's gay. Well, I know that every American knows somebody who's gay. But we haven't been out of the closet in the numbers that we need to. So it, we're talking about encouraging, making it safer for people to be less invisible, for people to come out of the closet to their friends, to their families. This is really a battle that's won around the Thanksgiving tables of America. It's not just in the halls of Congress. Yes, it's about stopping discrimination, but it's also about stopping myths and stereotypes.
MS. WOODRUFF: So when you say people go back to their communities and they get organized and they get active, what kinds of things are they going to be doing? What do you look for then? What do you want to accomplish at the local and state level in the next year or so?
MS. OSBORN: In the next year or two there are over 12 states that are targeted by the right wing for these anti-gay ballot initiatives such as the one that won in Colorado and lost in Oregon, and so we need to mobilize and organize and educate so that what happened in Colorado happens no more, no other place in America. That's fighting the right. We obviously have to continue to do --
MS. WOODRUFF: The conservative movement.
MS. OSBORN: Yes. The "wingers," as we call them, the far right wing that's organizing, that's really made us the abortion issue of the '90s, put us, put the gay and lesbian community in the cross hairs. It's also a question of the kind of work to promote fighting anti-gay violence. There are anti-violence projects in local areas. There's all kind of organizations that both extend, do social services and serve the needs of the community, teen-agers, gay teen-agers struggling with sexual identity, struggling with the isolation. I headed up an organization that had a youth services program, a critical, critical program because we have gay teen suicide that's three to four times what non-gay teens face. The isolation -- my voice -- three days of doing, of working -- and so it's both working on services and local organizing that helps create a safe space for people to come out to, to feel that they can come out on the job, and out to their families, be who they are, stop the lies. One, one social scientist estimated that the productivity lost to the closet, in other words, that the average person --
MS. WOODRUFF: Because people are concealing their, who they are.
MS. OSBORN: Because people are either making up stories about what they did last night -- essentially, average is about five minutes of time per worker, per gay or lesbian worker, and even if you estimate that only 5 percent of the population is gay, which we think is a low estimate, it's billions of dollars of lost productivity, so we're talking about, we're really talking about conversation with America that hasn't yet happened and that is going to happen in the '90s.
MS. WOODRUFF: And just quickly, you think the tolerance will grow as a result of yesterday?
MS. OSBORN: Yes, absolutely. I think it launches a decade where tolerance will grow. We've seen anti-discrimination increasingly supported by the American people, and we're going to begin to, I think, have more understanding of our lives.
MS. WOODRUFF: Well, Torie Osborn, we thank you for being with us.
MS. OSBORN: Thank you, Judy. FOCUS - EDITORS' VIEWS
MR. LEHRER: Now how the gay rights march and other current matters look from outside Washington. Five of our six regular regional editors and commentators are with us. Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Constitution; Erwin Knoll of the Progressive Magazine in Madison, Wisconsin; Gerald Warren of the San Diego Union- Tribune; Lee Cullum of the Dallas Morning News; and Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune. Ed Baumeister of the Trenton Times is out of the country. Cynthia Tucker, was the gay rights march considered a major civil rights event in your city and by your newspaper?
MS. TUCKER: Well, the Atlanta Constitution certainly took it very seriously. We sent reporters up to Washington to cover the event. Atlanta has a sizeable gay community, however, Atlanta is very different from Georgia. Georgia remains a very conservative state. And I think that many Georgians are very skeptical about the gay rights movement. Ms. Osborn said earlier that there is a lot of public education that remains to be done. I think that one thing many citizens don't understand, including many citizens here in Georgia, is that gays can be actively discriminated against. Many people don't yet understand that gays can be discriminated against in housing and in the workplace, and I think that's part of the public education campaign that has to continue.
MR. LEHRER: Gerry Warren, what about the March, how was it seen in San Diego, and your area, Southern California?
MR. WARREN: I think it was seen as a significant event, Jim. I think there is confusion in the minds of the heterosexual community on what civil rights we're talking about here. In San Diego particularly, I think there is a division among the people. The city, itself, has a very, I think very good human dignity ordinance which protects the rights of those of differing sexual orientation.
MR. LEHRER: And it specifically says that in the, in the law, in the ordinance?
MR. WARREN: It does. It does. It says you cannot discriminate against persons because of sexual orientation. And that relates to housing and it relates to a lot of other issues, and so I think we've come a long way. The significant thing about the march yesterday I believe is that it began to present the gay and lesbian movement with a, with a mainstream face and did not present an entirely extreme or radical face to the American people.
MR. LEHRER: Do you see a mainstream face in Madison, Wisconsin, Erwin?
MR. KNOLL: Yes, very much so. I think in public relations terms this march was a huge success. Now Madison and Wisconsin pioneered in civil rights protection for gays. And so there is a tradition here of protecting those interests. At the same time there's still a considerable amount of homophobia here as everywhere else in the country, but when I looked at the media coverage yesterday and today --
MR. LEHRER: How was it covered locally in your area?
MR. KNOLL: Locally it was front page news. The images were very positive. I think it was a very strong effect in favor of gay rights, lesbian rights.
MR. LEHRER: Lee, how would you read it from Dallas?
MS. CULLUM: Jim, as you know, this is a very conservative city but we too have a gay community that is large and very prominent, particularly prominent in city politics, and I think we will certainly be hearing from that community on election day next Saturday. The press coverage here I thought was --
MR. LEHRER: Excuse me, next Saturday meaning the race for U.S. - -
MS. CULLUM: For city council.
MR. LEHRER: For city council.
MS. CULLUM: City council.
MR. LEHRER: Okay, all right.
MS. CULLUM: Of course, there will be interest in the Senate race also to replace Lloyd Bentsen, but I was really talking about city politics because that's where they have been the most successful. The press coverage I thought was restrained but thorough. I believe that this is a community that is perfectly willing to, to receive all people who abide by its businesslike ethos. It's a business city. It's a southern city that cares a lot about manners. They may cut you off at the knees in Dallas, but they will be very polite. And I think that, that this mainstream face is going to be a great help to the cause. I don't think that the march necessarily persuaded the unpersuaded. I don't know that it necessarily galvanized those who are unfamiliar but want to be fair, but certainly I would imagine it did energize the marchers as Torie Osborn was saying it would continue to do. I think it succeeded there.
MR. LEHRER: Clarence, what's your reading?
MR. PAGE: Well, very similar to what my colleague were reporting around the country. I noticed this is one of those issues, especially in the last 20 years, that's become a real cutting edge difference between big city Americans and small town America. In Chicago, the current mayor, Richard Daley, campaigned in gay bars when he was running for mayor. His father, Richard J. Daley, would have had gay bars raided.
MR. LEHRER: But did he --
MR. PAGE: It shows you how values have changed.
MR. LEHRER: Did the son campaign successfully? Did the gays support him?
MR. PAGE: Most successfully, absolutely. He went out for -- gays are now part of the liberal constituency in big cities, and big cities are run by liberal politics. I don't think the battle is in cities like Chicago or Atlanta or San Diego or Dallas so much as it is in the next tier of towns. That's where the debate has moved now, and I think it's very important what has been mentioned, these positive images getting out through the media. Our newspapers, and I think others in Chicago and around the country, have become more sensitized to the concerns in the gay community that we not put the emphasis on the leather boys and the more sensational Sister Boom Boom kind of characters and show how 80, 90 percent of homosexual America looks just like straight America. And I think that was important this weekend. The national media still tend to lean toward the more sensational visuals. Maybe they're more competitive.
MR. LEHRER: Cynthia, on the point that you made earlier and that Clarence just followed up on, do you believe that this march will cause gays who live out of the large cities, where being a gay is not as risky and at least an out of the closet gay is not as risky, do you think this might cause them to come out in the smaller towns and start open mainstream debates about the issue?
MS. TUCKER: I think that's possible. Ms. Osborn said, as Lee said earlier, that she hoped the march energized the activists, and I think that's certainly the case. And I think that seeing the large numbers, whether it was three hundred thousand or a million, I still think three hundred thousand is an awful lot of people. So having that many people have the courage to come out, seeing parents there, I thought one of the most poignant parts of the march I saw was having the parents of gays and lesbians come out and say, I support my son or daughter, I love my son or daughter, I'm proud of my son or daughter, was very important. And so if you're sitting in small town America and those are the images that you see, I think that you might be encouraged to come out and to talk to your parents if you haven't done so before, to talk to your employer, to say you valued my work in the past, when you didn't know my sexual orientation, now that you know that I'm gay or lesbian, I'm no different, you should still value my work, so, yes, it might have that effect.
MR. LEHRER: Lee, what do you think about that? Also, Ms. Osborn also said that every American may not know it, but every American knows someone who is gay. Is this march likely to increase the real awareness of that fact, if that, in fact, is true?
MS. CULLUM: Oh, yes, I think that is true, Jim. You know, I talked to a professor at SMU here in Dallas not long ago about how other periods in history have handled this issue. And I learned, and it's not news to anybody, that in classical Greece homosexuality was pretty much accepted. I have seen articles that dispute that, that there was at least some acceptance. In medieval Europe amazingly during the ascendancy of the Church, it was not an issue at all. Intellectuals, artists, who were gay managed to maintain their prestige. Suddenly comes the 19th and 20th century, and you find that it is a very, very difficult issue. And this professor's theory was that in times of economic stress it becomes more of an issue, more of a cause of anxiety, and so I think while this economic stress continues, if that theory's true, we can see the anxiety also continue but maybe it will be abated somewhat. Certainly I think that people are going to be confronted with homosexuals and the reality of that way of life in a way that they never have been before.
MR. LEHRER: All right. Beginning with you, Gerry, let's move on to another issue. The pressure appears to be building considerably for President Clinton to lead a major new initiative on Bosnia, upping the ante with the Serbs in some kind of serious way. What is the sentiment for that in your area as best you can read it? Gerry, I can't hear you. Hold on just a minute. Somebody needs -- Gerry, I'm sorry. Hold your thought. I'm sure it's terrific. We'll get back to you. We're not good lip readers. So we'll be back to you. Clarence, what's your reading? Is the United States of America ready to, to lead and launch a major military action if that's what's involved or anything else that's involved to, to say to the Serbs don't do this anymore?
MR. PAGE: We're very divided in this country. Sentiment is meaning more and more. It's building up more and more toward doing something to help in the suffering that we're seeing on the news. This has been driven largely I feel by evening news video very much like our action in Somalia, but everyone knows Serbia, Bosnia, is a much more difficult place militarily than Somalia. Colin Powell made good sense to a lot of Americans I think when he said we shouldn't get involved in an action until we know what the end game is. Ross Perot put it more directly last night. There's another Vietnam over there, and that's what I think Americans are still very much worried about. We want to do something but what, and you have to think first off, why aren't the Europeans doing something? Why must we lead? It's in their backyard. And wasn't this how World War I got started? Those are all very pertinent questions that give Americans pause.
MR. LEHRER: But Erwin Knoll, the opening of the Holocaust museum in Washington and Elie Wiesel's statement to the President right there on the platform and a lot of things that have come out since then seem to be pushing the other way. Do something, do something, do something.
MR. KNOLL: Yes. I don't hear very much of that here, but I get a lot of letters from my friends in New York saying, do something, do something, do something. I think there is a potential for doing a lot of mischief. I think there is a potential for intervening militarily and increasing the level of violence, rather than diminishing it. And that is even more evident in the past week or so when there's been a resumption of fighting between Muslims and Croats in Bosnia. I think we would have a terrible time if we intervened identifying whom we are targeting our intervention at and whom exactly we're trying to help, and I don't criticize the President for hesitating and hesitating a long time before getting into that mess.
MR. LEHRER: Gerry Warren, we fixed your audio. You're on, sir. What were you saying?
MR. WARREN: I was saying there are no easy answers to this. This is a difficult situation. The President is at this moment acting very reasonably I think. He is under the most intense pressure that any new president has ever faced that I can see and from some traditional friends of the Democratic Party, some traditional liberal groups after him to do something, and it sounds like they're after him to do something even if it turns out to be wrong. He is thinking about it very seriously. He'll make a decision in the next few weeks, and I think -- or next few days, excuse me -- and I think then should be supported. But just to use military force because we are aghast at what's happening there and without a clear plan would be folly I think.
MR. LEHRER: Cynthia, what's your view of this?
MS. TUCKER: Well, I don't hear very many Georgians clamoring for the President to immediately take action either. On the other hand, I get many letters from reader who are aghast at what they see on the evening news. So it's clear that the pressure is increasing for the President to take some action. And I believe the President ought to very seriously consider some limited action. I don't think anybody favors putting American ground troops on the ground right now in Bosnia. But it seems to me air strikes are called for. We can certainly try to take out Serbian artillery positions and do something about their supply line. And so I think the President ought to very seriously consider air strikes.
MR. LEHRER: Lee Cullum, was there a moral imperative here? That's the issue that's been raised in the last few weeks, that this is no longer a simple -- I hate to use the word simple here -- but a simple geopolitical or a simple military thing, we're now into the moral issue of not letting this thing continue? How is that going down in Dallas?
MS. CULLUM: Of course, it's a moral issue, Jim. I wholeheartedly agree with Cynthia that the United States must take action. The Bosnian Muslims must be allowed to arm themselves. Air strikes must be taken against Serbian supply lines. There is no question it's a moral issue. I want to say also that I think it's an issue of national self interest. If this chaos is allowed to continue, if it spills over into the borders of Central Europe and disrupts those fledgling democracies, if it spreads chaos in the former Soviet states, if it looses more lunatics in the world who bombed the World Trade Center and other spots across the globe, that can't be in anybody's interest. It would disrupt trade, it would disrupt Europe. The U.S. has a stake in Europe. It did before the Cold War. It did during the Cold War and has a stake today both morally and in terms of our interests.
MR. LEHRER: But, Clarence, back to your point, when the Ross Perots of this world say, hey, look, you can say it's a moral issue, you can say anything you want to, the real issue is sending young men and women to their deaths in the old Yugoslavia for a moral issue, is that the way it should be seen?
MR. PAGE: You know, one thing that struck me last week with the opening of the Holocaust museum, Jim, was how it would have been so simple for the allied bombers to have bombed the railroad tracks to Bergenbelsen, Trablinka, Auschwitz. It wouldn't have stopped the Holocaust but it would have slowed it down, and we weren't even willing to spare the bombs. And I think that is where the argument Cynthia was just making for example, among others, for going in and bombing has some weight, it has some moral weight, that that, maybe that's the least we can do. The argument is also powerful that Colin Powell has made as well as Ross Perot that well, one of our planes is going to get shot down and they'll be parading our pilots around --
MR. LEHRER: Or a bomb could fall on a hospital instead of the railroad tracks.
MR. PAGE: Exactly, exactly. And where does it end? But there's also that important question of where do we begin if we don't even make that one move. So I think that argument needs to be made and will be made, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: All right, Clarence, Cynthia, Lee, Gerry, Erwin, thank you. RECAP
MR. MacNeil: Again, the main stories of this Monday, new international sanctions against Yugoslavia take effect tonight. They were triggered when the Bosnian Serbs rejected a U.N.- sponsored peace plan. Boris Yeltsin won new popular support in a referendum on his leadership. His opponents dismissed the outcome. Good night, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Good night, Robin. We'll see you tomorrow night. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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- This episode's headline: Staying Power; Status Report; Editors' Views. The guests include PRESIDENT CLINTON; LEON ARON, Russia Analyst; STEPHEN COHEN, Princeton University; PAUL QUINN-JUDGE, Boston Globe; CYNTHIA TUCKER, Atlanta Constitution; GERALD WARREN, San Diego Union-Tribune; ERWIN KNOLL, The Progressive Magazine; LEE CULLUM, Dallas Morning News; CLARENCE PAGE, Chicago Tribune; CORRESPONDENTS: IAN WILLIAMS; JUDY WOODRUFF. Byline: In New York: ROBERT MacNeil; In Washington: JAMES LEHRER
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- APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_507-x34mk66501