The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
JIM LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour tonight an update of Starr versus the Secret Service by Ruth Marcus and the Washington Post, an extended portion of our race conversation with President Clinton, and some summer at the beach poetry from Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. It all follows our summary of the news this Thursday.% ? NEWS SUMMARY
JIM LEHRER: The Secret Service issue went to the U.S. Supreme Court today. The Justice Department petitioned Chief Justice William Rehnquist to prevent agents from being forced to testify before the Monica Lewinsky grand jury. They were subpoenaed by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The head of President Clinton Secret Service detail and eight others were to be questioned this morning, but a federal appeals court temporarily delayed their testimony. A lawyer for two of the agents commented.
LAWYER: They did not see or do anything that would be outside the ordinary that they'd seen and done with other people being present and done regularly. Whether it's important to the investigation depends-if the investigation is to find out whether everything that another person said about their presence on certain days and so forth is there, then anybody who saw them on a given day is relevant. But it's not-the ones I represent do not know about some vital embarrassing blockbuster event.
JIM LEHRER: The appeals court later refused to halt the testimony and the appeal to the Supreme Court followed. The agents will have to testify if Rehnquist does not intercede by noon tomorrow. The Secret Service claims the agents should be exempt because they work so intimately with the president and his family. There was no immediate response from Starr. We'll have more from the Washington Post news room right after this News Summary. Two more records were set today on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average went over 9300 for the first time, and the NASDAQ Composite Index crossed 2,000. The Dow went up nearly 94 points, about 1 percent, to close at 9328.19. The NASDAQ Index rose six points to finish at 2000.56. There were two more health care events in Washington today. President Clinton appeared at a capitol rally in support of a bill of rights for patients in managed care programs. He was joined by a Republican congressman, who is a physician. The proposal would expand patients' rights to sue and recover damages if benefits are wrongly denied, among other things. The president said cost savings achieved by managed care were a mixed blessing.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Imperatives of managed care have overtaken the objective of the health care system so often that often doctors are hamstrung, patients are alienated, and, as you've heard, lives are in danger. Our job representing all the American people is not to abolish managed care. Our job is to restore managed care to its proper role in American life, which is to give us the most efficient and cost effective system possible consistent with our first goal, which is quality health care for the American people.
JIM LEHRER: Later in the day House Republicans presented their version of a Patients Bill of Rights. They said their Patient Protection Act would limit costs and get patients faster medical care but would not expand a patient's legal recourse against a provider. House Speaker Gingrich outlined the goals.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH, Speaker of the House: Bias is in favor of the patient getting the care. Our goal is not to create more trial lawyer fees. Our goal is not to create more lawsuits. Our goal is to get the patient to the right doctor with the right knowledge to get the right care as rapidly as possible.
JIM LEHRER: Thalidomide may be used to treat leprosy in this country, the Food & Drug Administration announced today. But it will be closely monitored and restricted. Thalidomide was banned worldwide 35 years ago when it caused severe birth defects. Overseas today Serb police broke up the first meeting of a clandestine ethnic Albanian parliament in Kosovo. There were no reports of violence. The Serb government said the meeting was illegal. Albanian Kosovars chose the 120 delegates in March. A U.S. envoy was in the building at the time of the raid. He declined to comment. In Washington State Department spokesman James Rubin criticized Yugoslav President Milosevic and his government in Belgrade.
JAMES RUBIN, State Department Spokesman: We do not recognize Kosovo's parliament as an official political institution, but we do recognize the right of free assembly, and that this was engaging in the right of free assembly, and that right is vitally important. The kind of heavy-handed intimidation by the Serb police is emblematic of the repressive nature of Slobodan Milosevic's regime in Kosovo, which sparked the current crisis in Kosovo.
JIM LEHRER: The Serbs say Albanian separatists are promoting terrorism and guerrilla warfare to get Kosovo to break away from the Yugoslav federation. And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to developments in the Secret Service story, our race conversation with the president, and some summer poetry.% ? UPDATE - TRACKING THE STORY
JIM LEHRER: Margaret Warner has the Secret Service story.
MARGARET WARNER: As we just reported, there were major developments today in the legal battle over whether Secret Service agents can be forced to testify before Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's grand jury. For more on what happened and what lies ahead we go to the Washington Post news room and to Post legal affairs reporter Ruth Marcus. Welcome again, Ruth.
RUTH MARCUS: Hi, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: Take us briefly through the events as they unfolded today.
RUTH MARCUS: Well, it was a kind of a whizzer of the day. The lawyers really earned their pay. It started out at the grand jury in the morning, where the Secret Service agents turned up. The lawyers were able to get an emergency stay from the appeals court while they tried to go to the full appeals court to reconsider the ruling that the agents had testified. Within several hours the appeals court had considered it. Not a single one of the judges wanted to hear the case. They let it go forward by the-they let the-they didn't want to re-hear the case. They did keep the stay in place in order to give the administration time to go to the Supreme Court to see if they could convince the justices there to slow things down and ultimately hear the case.
MARGARET WARNER: What did the court of appeals say about why they were refusing to re-hear this case?
RUTH MARCUS: Well, the court of appeals said that the court-appeals court panel said they would not grant a further stay, other than giving the administration time to go forward to the Supreme Court, because, first of all, they didn't think that the administration was likely to succeed. And second of all, they did not think that there would be irreparable harm if the agents were allowed to testify, even if the court ultimately decided to hear the case. The full appeals court said nothing, other than none of us agree with the administration's suggestion that we hear the case; however, we do have a quite interesting blast at the Justice Department and the attorney general by one of the judges on the full appeals court, Judge Lawrence Silverman, himself a former deputy attorney general under a Republican administration who basically said this is none of the Justice Department's business. The independent counsel was in the role of the United States in this case, and the Justice Department should just basically get out of the way.
MARGARET WARNER: Explain briefly how we got to this impasse, because this issue has been simmering along for months now.
RUTH MARCUS: It has been simmering. And that has actually frustrated the folks at the independent counsel's office. They wanted to get some quick action. And they've obviously been getting it. What they did was after the appeals court panel ruled in their favor, they-
MARGARET WARNER: Let me-you're talking about-they actually did consider this case on the merits a few weeks ago.
RUTH MARCUS: Right. And the three-judge panel of the appeals court said there is no privilege, we don't know what you're talking about, let them go ahead and testify. And after that, the independent counsel's office broadened the subpoena most dramatically with the lead agent in charge of guarding the president, Larry Cockle, who was one of the folks who appeared at the grand jury today and who was the sort of most dramatic possible witness in the sense that he is the one really next to the president's body. That escalated the situation in a way that the independent counsel's office wanted to happen so that instead of having the legal appeals drag on for weeks and months, we're going to get some kind of reading from the Supreme Court in a matter of days about whether they're willing to take the case and potentially a resolution at least allowing the testimony to go forward.
MARGARET WARNER: You were also a former White House reporter. Explain what is the distinction. Why did the Secret Service-do they seem to feel that a new broader subpoena is more threatening now that it includes the so-called plain clothes officers, rather than just the uniformed ones-explain the difference.
RUTH MARCUS: Well, the Secret Service is actually upset about both classes of officers. There are folks who are in uniform who are the people who you see standing along the White House, various rooms, that you're there for a tour or if you're ever close to the Oval Office, you'll see officers stationed outside there, and the independent counsel's office wants those folks to testify about whether potentially they saw the President with Monica Lewinsky and what they saw. But the thing that has given this latest round of subpoenas the real emotional impact that it had is the idea of the folks who literally are there next to the president as he does his business not so much in the White House but out in public who are the people who would literally take a bullet for him and throw themselves in front of his body if some harm were to come his way. And it's that sense of potentially putting that division between the president and the folks whose job it is to guard his life that really has the Secret Service agitated and that I think the White House has seized on as the most politically salient piece of what the independent counsel's office is trying to do, much as Clinton's lawyers and other folks seized on the idea of subpoenaing Monica Lewinsky's mother, this one subpoenaing the guy right next to the president. We've seen the Secret Service agents next to the president risking their lives for him and being shot for him. It has a lot of emotional impact.
MARGARET WARNER: And this is a new development, is it not, that people at the White House have even spoken out on the Secret Service issue?
RUTH MARCUS: They kind of seized the moment and suggested not only that it was a problem to interfere with the president and the Secret Service but also raised the question of whether the independent counsel was trying to do something really nefarious, in their view, which was to use the Secret Service agent as a kind of eavesdrop around the relationship between the president and his attorneys. For example, on the ride back from the deposition in the Paula Jones case what was heard. There's not really any occasion that that is, in fact, what the independent counsel is going after.
MARGARET WARNER: And has the independent counsel addressed that, or given any assurances that that's not what he is after?
RUTH MARCUS: No, he has not been heard from on this, at least in public and at least in the papers that we've been able to see. But it's our sense from various interviews that what he is focused on is more in the nature of trying to use these agents really as the best kind of corroboration that is, yes, they saw Monica Lewinsky with the president, yes, they saw them potentially alone. Those agents would be really the most credible potential witnesses in any court or other legal proceeding, much better than any of the other kind of folks involved in this case. They have no obvious bias or ax to grind and they're kind of reliable witnesses.
MARGARET WARNER: And explain for us-Linda Tripp was before the grand jury today-explain for us where this Secret Service debate or controversy fit in terms of the pace that Starr's trying to lay out and conclude here.
RUTH MARCUS: Well, as much as one could determine, Starr could be at the point essentially wrapping up-at least wrapping up the things that he's allowed to get to. We still have hanging out the questions about attorney/client privilege, which when and if they're resolved and that's at the appeals court, as well, could open up a whole new avenue of inquiry for him not just as Deputy Counsel Bruce Lindsey but perhaps other White House lawyers and what they knew. But other than that and other than the possibility of getting in perhaps some fairly quick way the Secret Service testimony, Starr seems to be basically down the road of the possible witnesses that he could interview in this, except for the one big missing link here, which would be-that's probably two big missing links. One would be the president and the second would be Monica Lewinsky.
MARGARET WARNER: And then briefly just tell us what are Chief Justice Rehnquist's options now?
RUTH MARCUS: Well, the Justice Department is-as we speak really-sending its papers to the Supreme Court. They will file two things: a motion for a stay and a petition for certiorari asking the court to hear the case. The chief justice will most likely circulate this to his colleagues, see if there's really any interest in taking the case. It takes four justices to take a case, and if there is that expression of interest, then they will consider whether it would be a good idea for-they might not necessarily vote on it immediately to take the case.
MARGARET WARNER: Ruth, thank you very much. I'm sorry. We have to leave it there.
RUTH MARCUS: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: A reminder: The Washington Post's full coverage is available after 10:30 PM Eastern Time on their web site and on ours.% ? FOCUS - DIALOGUE ON RACE
JIM LEHRER: Now a reprise of our conversation with President Clinton on race done to accommodate viewers whose local public television stations did not air the original program. Last week in this studio the president talked with four NewsHour regulars: essayist Richard Rodriguez of the Pacific News Service, Roger Rosenblatt, and Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, and regional commentator Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Constitution, plus four others, Roberto Suro of the Washington Post, author of a recent book on Hispanic Americans; Kay James, dean of Regent University's School of Government; Elaine Chao, the former head of United Way of America, now at the Heritage Foundation; and Sherman Alexis, novelist, poet, and screen writer. Here's an extended portion of their conversation.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I have tried to emphasize that America is becoming a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, and therefore it will be more important both to understand the differences and identify the common values that hold us together as a country. And I often cite, since we're in Northern Virginia where this program is being filmed, I often cite the Fairfax County School District, which is now the most diverse school district in the country with people from over 100 different racial and ethnic groups, with over 100 different languages actually in this school district, and I think that's a pattern of where we're going. I've got a friend who is a Southern Baptist minister here, who used to be a minister in Arkansas, he's got a Korean ministry in his church, and that's just one tiny example of the kind of things you're going to see more and more of in the country.
JIM LEHRER: Elaine Chao, where do the Asian Americans--what kind of obstacles do they start out with compared to white Americans or Native Americans or black Americans, whatever?
ELAINE CHAO, The Heritage Foundation: I think what exacerbates the relationship between the races is, in fact, the feeling of inequity that somehow somebody else is getting a better deal through unfair means,and Asian Americans are a much maligned minority. On the one hand they are sometimes counted as minorities when it's convenient for others to do so, and other times when they are--when they skew the figures in a less favorable way, like university admissions, then they're counted as white, so Asian Americans suffer the brunt of both worlds. But in many ways, Asian Americans are now the victims of being an underrepresented minority, which means that they're excluded from many of the equal opportunities that are available in this country, and I think that's a very, very serious problem that I hope that your race panel will be able to address.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Give us an example.
ELAINE CHAO: Well, there is a single mother by the name of Charlene Loen in San Francisco, and she's raised two boys. One boy, Patrick, is applying for a school in San Francisco. It is a school system, it's the Unified San Francisco School System that has basically implemented a quota system through a consent decree, and Patrick, though he scored 58 on his testing scores, out of 69, was barred admission to the high school of his choice because there were too many, quote unquote, Chinese Americans. He had alreadyfulfilled the Chinese quota. There are different standards in that school system for different students of different colors. If you are white, you have one standard. If you are Asian-American, you have the toughest standard to meet. And of course, other races have other standards as well. That is a horrible example of preferential treatment and of unfair treatment based on race, and I think something's got to be done about that.
CLARENCE PAGE, Chicago Tribune: You know racism is institutional. We are talking about history here. And that is why if you want diversity in San Francisco schools, if you want that virtue of having your kids exposed to other kids of different races and backgrounds, then you got to be willing to say we got to put a ceiling on some people. And I have told the same thing to African-Americans back in Chicago with housing, because we want to keep desegregated housing, then you have got to tell black folks as well as white folks, hey, we have got enough of you right now, and that's a hard thing to do. But, you know, integration, desegregation does not come by just good wishes. You've got to work at it. You've got to take some mechanical steps to get from here to there, and until we can do that, we can't have an honest dialogue, until we are willing to talk about how much are we willing to pay.
JIM LEHRER: Somebody has to get hurt in order for some other people to be helped?
CLARENCE PAGE: Well, that's right. You know, there's got to be some pain involved. And everybody talks about it. This is why affirmative action is so tough. And, Mr. President, I have written this so it's only popular that I say this to you personally: I feel like the one problem with the race dialogue was that I think you were reluctant to deal with the question of affirmative action. It is the most divisive question we got along lines of race in this country right now, besides crime, which is another question for the dialogue. But we need to talk, and of course, I agree with you fully, we need to amend it, not end it, we need affirmative action, but how do we define it, and how do we deal with those people who feel like they are sacrificing, and I think the sacrifices have been overrated and the polls tend to bear me out. Most white folks don't feel that pained by affirmative action or so-called quotas, et cetera. But it's a great political tool, and until we deal with it effectively, have a real dialogue about it, it's going to continue to be exploited politically by various people in a positive or negative kind of way. And I guess I would have to say how do you feel about that in terms of the kind of tiptoeing around the really tough issues of race that we're dealing with here?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: See, I believe, I frankly, I believe that the real reason it's a problem, it's morea problem in education now than economics because the unemployment rate is so low, and because the jobsare opening up, so most gifted people feel that if they're willing to work hard, they can find a job so you don't see, we don't have the anxiety about affirmative action you used to have when the police departments and the fire departments were being integrated and, you know, promotions were being given. Every now and then you hear something about that, but most of the controversy now is about education. Why? because people know education is really important, and if the parents and children make a decision about where they want to go to school, in the case of Elaine, a public school, that they believe is good or a college, they are afraid if they don't get in where they want to get in, they will get a substandard education. I have a different view. The reason I've supported affirmative action, as long as you don't just let people in who are blatantly unqualified to anything, is that I think number one, test scores and all these so-called objective measures are somewhat ambiguous and they are not perfect measures of people's capacity to grow, but secondly and even more importantly, I think our society has a vested interest in having people from diverse backgrounds. I mean, when I went to college in the dark ages, one of the reasons I applied to Georgetown was they had foreign students there and they had a policy of having a kid from every state there. And you know, maybe I got in because there weren't too many people from Arkansas who applied, for all I know. I think that there are independent educational virtues to a diverse student body and young people learn different things in different ways so, and I don't think objective measurements are perfect, so Idon't have a problem with it. But I think the most important thing is that we have to understand that this is one of the hard questions, and it is best worked out, in my view, by people sitting around a table trying to work out the specifics like in San Francisco, and when people feel like they have no voice, then they feel robbed, but there will never be a perfect resolution to this.
JIM LEHRER: Richard, you agree, no perfect resolution to this thing?
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: No. I do agree. I think generally no perfect solutions. I left the university over affirmative action I was so appalled by it. I consider myself a Hubert Humphrey liberal. When it came time for me to get a position over you because you were white and because America perceived me to belong to this new brown race, this complete fiction of the Hispanic race does not exist. There is no Hispanic race left or right of Cuba. We, my father is very light skinned, my mother looks very Indian, there are white Hispanics, there are black Hispanics, but the university didn't care about any of that. I was this new brown race, this new Hispanic, at a point in the American political discussion when the only person who was not a minority was people that you came from, poor whites, particularly poor white males in this society who the language of affirmative action is that they are somehow represented in the public society. Like hell they are. Where are the Appalachian whites represented--because there are white men in the front of the airplane? And it came to me at a time when I was middle class Mexican-American, perfectly capable of dealing with the competition for jobs and the jobs came looking for me because I was their brown man. And I threw the jobs back at them. I didn't want those jobs. And if that's the way we are going to discuss race in America with these bureaucratic understandings of who is a Hispanic, without even knowing what a Hispanic means, we are in real trouble in this country.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: But let me ask you, let me ask everybody--first of all, I'm glad you said thatbecause we are in the business of defining stereotypes tonight, so that's good. I think all of us who haveworked hard to get where we are-are sort of proud of that-and, I mean, when I was a young man, I was the only person on my law school faculty that voted against our tenure policy because I never wanted anybody to guarantee me a job. I told them they could tell me to leave tomorrow and I'd go. I mean, I really identify with what you have done. I'm proud of that. But suppose you are the president of the university. Would you like, other things being equal, to have a faculty that were not, that were reasonably raciallydiverse and even more importantly, would you like, other things being equal, to have a student body thatreflected the way America, the way the America these young people was going to live in once they graduated, and if you believed that and you didn't want to infuriate people like you have been infuriatedand make them feel like you felt, how would you go about achieving that? You see, I think this is toughstuff. I don't pretend my position is easy or totally defensible. How would you do it?
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: Well, can I say--I think you would start at the bottom of the social ladder. You would start in first grade, rather than at graduate school to try to decide which ones of us get into law school. You would make sure that America had a system of education that saved children at first grade because we're losing there.
JIM LEHRER: Roger.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yes. I think that's absolutely right. And I think that even though it sounds like a distinction without a difference, goals are better than quotas, and if you know what you want in a particular situation, be it a workplace or a college class, then you are not stuck in the exact situation Elaine mentioned in which you're doing something patently unfair. Also the nice thing about goals is you don't always have to reach them. The idea is to keep them, your eyes on them, and hope that you get the proper and reasonable mix in a group.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let's go back to this. I want to ask you to, because I want you to go in here. Did you--what exactly was it did you resent? Did you resent the fact they were going to guarantee you a job whether you were any good or not, or did you resent the fact that they were looking for Hispanic faculty members?
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: I resented two things. I resented the fact that I was being rewarded for the exclusion of other people of my ethnic group. In other words, I was a numerical minority at a point in which I was not a cultural minority, and the absence of those people, because nine people were not there, I as a tenth person became their minority. And I resented it for all the political liberal reasons that I have andthat there was something that didn't play on my soul, the notion that I was entitled to this job and you weren't because I had darker skin and it didn't play on me. I was never a primary victim of racial discrimination in this country. I belong to California, and I grew up among Portuguese and Irish kids, nevernever a primary victim. And in the name of the primary victims I was advanced to graduate school.
ROBERTO SURO, Washington Post: And I've had some of the same experience--not quite as explicitly-but I mean, there are times when I have consciously not wanted to be regarded as a Hispanic journalist and don't find that as a central part of my definition or qualification, and even in doing reportage. I think I sort of hope that I could deal with anybody, and when I went overseas looking for assignments, I very consciously didn't go to Latin America. But this is--it draws this distinction that Richard raised, I think, between primary victims of discrimination and people who have different kinds of history. And we're dealing with now how do you determine whether, you know, affirmative action was started as a historical remedy. Lyndon Johnson's speech here was about the foot race, was a reflection on history. And the question is what do you do when people, when you have people who don't have the same history, but belong to aminority group? Among Latinos now you have people who have experienced real discrimination and have a real history of discrimination, places like south Texas, and you have people who arrived yesterday, yet our system of looking at them puts them all together in one group.
JIM LEHRER: Cynthia, the differences, in other words, dealing with people differently?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, Atlanta Constitution: Well, this may be one of those places where, in fact, the black experience in America is distinct. I did grow up suffering discrimination, real in your face. I grew up in southern Alabama under Jim Crow, and now I am not offended by affirmative action programs at all. I happen to think A, that that does not mean that the person is unqualified, but I also remember only too well when people that I knew were denied jobs because they were black, and so that is one of those places where the black experience is different perhaps from any other experience in this country, with the possible exception of Native Americans.
JIM LEHRER: Elaine?
ELAINE CHAO: Clearly the history of this nation as it went through these racial stages has been very tragic. No one would dispute that. And it's clear also that we don't live in a perfect world in which there is equal treatment for everyone, but I think it's absolutely incumbent upon all of us to remember that that is the ideal, that equal opportunity must exist for everyone in this country regardless of color, race, or creed, or whatever. And when we talk about diversity, what a wonderful notion it is. Of course,most of us support it. I for one definitely support it. But the issue is how does one create this diversity and who gets to sacrifice--as Clarence mentioned--and who gets to suffer, whereas diversity is implemented right now, it's basically implemented through the numerical quotas, goals, whatever they're called. Basically the touchstone word is we want it to be representative of America, which means that it's 13percent African-Americans, 8 percent Latino-Americans, 3 percent Asian-Americans and perhaps Native, certain percentage of Native Americans, and the rest white. When we don't evaluate things and when we don't offer opportunity based on merit, how do we decide otherwise and what becomes, who becomes over-represented minorities, who becomes underrepresented minorities, and that just snowballs into differential treatment, preferential treatment for one group versus another. I think we should heed to the overall core value of this country that equal opportunity applies for all and that should be samestandards for everyone.
CLARENCE PAGE: Well how do you define merit?
ELAINE CHAO: I think this is a new debate.
CLARENCE PAGE: It should be equal opportunity to get into Berkeley and UCLA. But how do you define merit--SAT's ACT's or other criteria?
ELAINE CHAO: No. I think clearly--merit.
JIM LEHRER: Let me ask Sherman, where do Native Americans fit into the affirmative action debate?
SHERMAN ALEXIE: You know, I get this question asked a lot. And I always say if we were taking the jobs and we were taking the spots in college, then why aren't we having jobs and why aren't we in college? I mean, you got people worrying about medical school, you know, people worrying about blacks being, getting into medical school or law school and I walk through the hospital, and the brown people are, you know, mopping, so, you know, I think all this debate about affirmative action and about quotas is illusionary and anecdotal. You know, there has never been a black person who has been denied a job who has won alawsuit against a company for not hiring them because they were black. And yet, we are determining national policy based on anecdotal lawsuits-
ELAINE CHAO: It's not anecdotal.
SHERMAN ALEXIE: --on one example. You know, in Texas, we changed the whole entire admissions system at the university of Texas based on one person's losing a spot because of their job, and it was one lawsuit that decided that, that turned the tide, and so if you want to talk about affirmative action, that's sort of a legal affirmative action where a white person has more power in the courts bringing a lawsuit against a university would have than a black person would have bringing a suit against a university for notgetting in. So I think --
ELAINE CHAO: Jim, I have to answer that, if I could, because it's not anecdotal evidence. There is a great database of differential standards that do exist for different racial groups, that is common practice in the admissions of universities today all across America, that is common practice for many of our educational facilities, institutions at the lower levels as well. There's definitely no questions that it's just not anecdotal. The Center for Equal Opportunity, and many others, think tanks, have compiled substantial databases that do show this is part of the racial policies of America today. I do want to say one thing about-I think it was Richard-
JIM LEHRER: I want to go to the president.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: You want me to answer Clarence's things?
ELAINE CHAO: I was going to say, I think education--Richard has a good point--education is important, that we ought not to talk about equal opportunity at this late stage, but how do we get back to K and 12? Our schools are falling apart. How do we fix our schools? How do we slash crime in ourneighborhoods? How do we create economic opportunity for everyone? I mean, that's the real goal for ourcountry.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: What were you going to say about that?
KAY JAMES: I was just going to say, Mr. President, and I think the operative phrase was in your question, all things being equal, wouldn't we like a diverse community, particularly in the academic arena. And I was looking around the table and thinking gee whiz, I bet I'm the only one here at the table has to make admissions decisions. And you are right. All things being equal, wouldn't we like to have a diverse community? And I think that's where most people in America are. Most people in America, of course, acknowledge and have high esteem for diversity and recognize that their lives are much more enriched in that environment, but what they have a problem with is feeling like there are setasides or preferential treatment for some class of people that exist for them only because of their race. As an example, I guess I run across so many middle class African-American students who don't deserve to have preferential treatment based solely on their race. They have had every opportunity. They have been given every chance in America and so it makes no sense to give them preference for purely race-based that maybe we should look more at some of the programs that exist in America that give treatment and preference to people out of poverty, that give preference and treatment for a variety of reasons but to purely have race-based solutions in America today doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let me go back. Let me go back to something Clarence said at the beginning. You pointed out, we talked about prejudice, discrimination, then we started talking about diversity and all that. I think you need--if I could, go back to the very first thing that all of you started talking about--we need a vocabulary that embraces America's future. And we need a vocabulary that embraces America's present and past on this race issue. And we need to know when we're making distinctions, and then we need to fess up to the fact, at least when it comes to Native Americans, that if we don't do something fairly dramatic, the future is going to be like the past for too many people. I mean, so--for example, I think most Americans, whether they are conservatives or liberals or Republicans or Democrats, would support the, for example, my budget proposal to give more resources to the EEOC to get rid of the backlog, because all the surveys show that 85 percent of the American people or 90 percent or something believe that actual discrimination against an individual person in the workplace is wrong based on race. Now, the real problem is that affirmative action, I think, now since there are a lot of middle class blacks, middle class Hispanics, people of color, that it's almost, people are not so sure in the workplace and the school place whether it is furthering the goal of getting rid of the lingering effects of discrimination, which is Cynthia's experience, and mine as a southerner, ours, you know, or whether it is now being used to create a more diverse environment, which people feel is a good thing, but not a good thing if it is sticking it to this hard-working Chinese mother in San Francisco and her children, who is raising her kids under adverse circumstances. And I guess one of the things that bothers me is that a lot, we need to take, make these kinds of discussions practical and institution- or community-based because I'll say again, I think that we want, we want our children to grow up to learn to grow up in the world that they will, in fact, live in. Therefore, if you forget about discrimination for a minute, you can't ever do that, but let's just assume there is no discrimination, America has a wonderful system of higher education. There are hundreds of schools I think you can get a world class undergraduate education in, and I believe that therefore it's worth having some policy to try to diversify the student body. It's interesting to see what Texas did when the Hopwood decision came down--they said, well, we don't want to have a totally segregated set of colleges and universities in Texas, so we'll say the top 10 percent of every high school can automatically go to any Texas institution of higher education. That looks like a merit-based decision. But, of course, it's not any more merit-based than the other decision because there are segregated high schools and there are differences in test scores and all that. So I just would say we need to kind of, we need 10 hours to discuss this. I would like to listen to you. But the only thing I want to point out is the American people have got to decide--you know--do they want a housing project in Chicago, in this case only the people of Chicago have to decide--that's integrated? If so, if the people who don't get in there, do they have reasonable alternatives? That's one realistic thing. If a child doesn't get into a good school that he or she wants to get into, do they have an equivalent alternative? If they don't, you maybe have hurt them for life. Is it worth it to get discrimination? Or in the case, look at Kay's problem. She runs a government department, makes these admissions decisions in a school that has a certain religious and value-based approach to life so if a child gets deprived of going into there, even if the kid goes to Harvard, it may not be the cultural environment.
KAY JAMES: They couldn't get near the education they get at Regent.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let's assume it's equivalent. The child may lose something noneducational. So I mean--all these things are--I just want the American people to start talking about this in a way that's real here.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: Mr. President, one of the things I think we need to do as Americans is also wonder whether these terms we're using mean anything anymore. And the fact is we have been falling in love with each other for over 200 years in this country, from Pocohantas to Thomas Jefferson's children. The fact is that there are very few blacks in America, the fact is that increasingly now I'm meetingyoung people who don't want to define themselves as belonging to a race. And the two largest Hispanicgroups in this country, a lot of Puerto Ricans, Mestizo Mexicans, are entering this country and injecting a kind of complexity into the whole way we understand race as a singular thing, and beginning to teach us that, in fact, we will belong in some future to many races. When I said that there is not a vocabulary for this also in San Francisco I know this young woman who is is--I asked her what her racial identity was, and she said her father is African-American and her mother is Mexican. I said, Well, what are you? She says, I'm a Blaxican. And she says she is a Blaxican because there wasn't a word for it yet. When you asked that question about young people, I think American young people are going to be redefining the very stolid, old Crayolas that we have been coloring America with.
JIM LEHRER: Cynthia, and then to Roger on this question that the president raised, the new dialogue, the new--what is--and Richard, what are the new words we use? What do we talk about in this new world?
CYNTHIA TUCKER: Well, I think one of the things we have to do is just simply acknowledge how much the world has changed. Richard's right. I have a Mexican brother-in-law and my sister and he are about to have a baby, and she, too, I suppose will be Blaxican, or whatever. And so I think, first of all, more Americans need a stronger sense of history. I think there has to be an acknowledgment that African-Americans and Native Americans especially have suffered burdens others have not, but I also think thatall of us, including African-Americans, need to acknowledge how much the world has changed. I think oneof the reasons we hear so many interesting things from California, Elaine, is because California is cuttingedge. Some days I look at California and I think that's the wave of the future and I think oh, goodness, no.But Chelsea chose to go to school there.
ELAINE CHAO: It's a great place.
CYNTHIA TUCKER: Maybe California is doing okay. But I do think that the struggles among the various ethnic groups in California are a cautionary tale, quite frankly.
JIM LEHRER: Roger?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: You know, when you think about how much the world has changed-I want to flip into a Pollyannaish mode for the moment--but one way it has changed is a lot of things have gotten better. Not only have they gotten more interesting, not only have they gotten more complicated, all of which is true, but you, I, you grew up in a world in which hatred was a usable instrument, where people couldn't go to the same schools, you couldn't vote, you couldn't do this and you couldn't do that, and not only that, it was an instrument that was in some dark and deeply stupid way approved of by the silence of the majority. Now, as you say, that majority does not approve anymore. We talk about racism in the country. You know, I'm not sure if we're talking about anything like the same racism with which you two grew up and of which we were apprised. It isn't to say that everything is getting better or good as fast as we could want it, but I sometimes wonder how important affirmative action as an issue for debate really is because I think eventually it is going to be phased out anyway. It's going to get there. And that, to go back to Richard's irrefutable point, to get down to the youngest people and the best education for them, and all social programs akin to that would seem to be part of the new vocabulary you called for, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Roberto, how would you define the new vocabulary?
ROBERTO SURO: Well, I mean, you know, we've talked a lot about trying to describe the population and how it's changed. Roger touches on an important point. We have to have a new vocabulary to describe our attitudes. Discrimination is a different thing in this country than it was 20 years ago.
JIM LEHRER: In what way?
ROBERTO SURO: Well, if you take the African-American example, I'd say, you know, a young black male who lives in an inner city experiences being black differently than a middle-aged, middle class female who lives in a suburb. It's a different experience of what it means to be a black in this country. And when you're talking about remedies of discrimination, when discrimination isn't simply based that all black people will be excluded from certain institutions, as it was, as was the case earlier in our lifetimes, you need more subtle remedies, more complicated remedies, and more complicated vocabulary to describe attitudes. Where people are classified according to multiple markers, not just skin color, but a variety of different things established status in this country. And so the remedies have to establish each of those things, I believe.
CLARENCE PAGE: I have to beg to differ. I'm a middle class black who lives in the suburbs. And in my suburb right now, there are numerous complaints about black youth being stopped by cops unfairly just as they are stopped by the cops in the inner city. And Jim, you know, after the L.A. riots in '92, we had this discussion on this program, and I talked then about my three-year-old son who everybody thought was quite cute--he looks just like me naturally--how else could they think?
JIM LEHRER: I don't remember that coming up.
CLARENCE PAGE: You don't remember that part. I was thinking then where will he be ten years from now. My son is now nine, and, you know, and now I have to say four years from now because he is going to be a teenager, and today the most feared creature on urban streets today is a young black male.
ROBERTO SURO: That's my point.
CLARENCE PAGE: And that is the future I am looking toward with my son. I want a better life for my son like everybody else does, and the new vocabulary of race to me is very much like the old vocabulary, except it's got some new terms, like the gilded ghetto. The gilded ghetto is what middle class blacks find themselves in out in the suburbs now because the white folks who used to be their neighbors have moved farther out, like Saul Alinsky did years ago.
JIM LEHRER: What do you tell your son? What do you tell your son about why this is happening?
CLARENCE PAGE: We treat race talk like sex talk around our house, Jim. We don't bring it up unless our son brings up a question, and then we answer the question he brings up, but we live fortunately in a desegregated, integrated neighborhood. Our son is very well aware of racial difference, has been since he was four years old, as all children are, but he doesn't see racial value, he doesn't see one race being better than another, I hope. Certainly by the associations he has, he doesn't reflect that. I hope that is our future. But I have to say, and Richard and I always have this discussion, and the vision he paints of the future is so beautiful, I hate to throw cold water on it, but I've got to say in 1998, we are still a segregated society; blacks and whites still live mostly separate lives. We're better off than we were 30 years ago, thank God, but we are still--outside of the workplace, outside of the workplace, we still live largely separate lives. Why in the workplace have we got such associations? Because of affirmative action. That's a big reason for it.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: In 1998 we are still unable to say that, in fact, we are part of each other's bloodstreams. In 19-you know--this is-
CLARENCE PAGE: I have a sister-in-law named Piatrowsky, by the way-
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: But this is the heritage of racism where we were never allowed to marry each other, and now we deny it to ourselves. We say that that doesn't make any difference. Well, I get stopped by police in San Francisco when I go jogging before dawn. The last time I got stopped was by two black policemen, and I think to myself, this is a very complicated society we live in.
CLARENCE PAGE: Who said blacks couldn't be prejudiced? Who said blacks couldn't be prejudiced? Of course.
JIM LEHRER: Let me ask-yes, go ahead.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I agree with that, but we got to--you know, I'm very sympathetic with what you say, and I want it to be, as you say, and I agree that we have all kinds of overlapping stereotypesthat we haven't even talked about. One of the things that came up after the Los Angeles riots, you know, theattitudes of the African-Americans to the Korean grocers and the Arab grocers and the Hispanic customers and all that, you know, it's a lot more complicated than it used to be. But, as a factual matter, if you just look at prison population, you wanted to bring that up, if you look at all the unemployment rate among young single African-American males without an education, if you look at the physical isolation of people in these inner-city neighborhoods, we have the lowest unemployment rate in 28 years, there are still New York City neighborhoods where the unemployment rate is 15 percent. If you look at these things, if I could just come back to sort of what I think is practical here, I think it is imperative that we somehow develop a bipartisan consensus in this country that we will do those things which we know will stop another generation of these kids from getting in that kind of trouble. And my best model now, I guess, is what they're trying to do in Chicago in the school system and what they've done in Boston with the juvenile justice system, but in Boston they went for two years without one kid under 18 being killed with a gun--unheard of in a city that size. So, and if you look at what they did in Houston, we need to at least adopt those strategies that will invest money in keeping these kids out of trouble in the first place so to try to keep them out of jail and give them a chance to have a good life, and if there's disproportionate manifestation of race, then so be it, then we ought to have an affirmative action program, if you will, that invests in those kids' future and gives them a chance to stay out of trouble. To me, it's the kids that are being lost altogether and the disproportionate presence of racial minorities among those kids that is still the most disturbing thing in the world, because if you get these kids up there, 18 or 19, heck, they'll figure out things, our kids will figure out things we weren't smart enough to figure out. That's how society goes on, that's what progress is all about, but I think we have to recognize that's still a big race problem in this country, especially for African-Americans.
JIM LEHRER: Clarence raised the point, Sherman, about race talk in his family, and Mr. President, you have said you had trouble getting people to talk bluntly and honestly about race.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Yes. We don't talk a lot about it.
JIM LEHRER: How do you get people to talk about race?
SHERMAN ALEXIE: Just walk into a room, I think people are always talking about race. It's always coded language. They call it class. Or they use coded language. Well, nobody actually says that's a black person, let's talk about being black. It always ends up coming up. Nobody talks about Indians. So I don't have to worry about that. We grew up not being talked about at all, and we're still not talked about. You know, I walked by the locker room out there and there is a Washington Redskins bumper sticker out there on a locker, and I thought nobody cares about Indians.
JIM LEHRER: But do Indians talk about race?
SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oh, yes. We are actually probably a lot more conservative and racist than any other single group of people. We are much more reactionary. It's funny. Politically, we give our money to Democrats, but we vote for Republicans.
JIM LEHRER: I'm going to leave that one alone. (laughter among group) Kay James, how do you get honest talk? Do you think there is honest talk about race?
KAY JAMES: All you have to do is get people start talking out of their own personal experience, and it gets there pretty quickly. And everyone has a story to tell. I've noticed around the table even today that as we talk about race in America and the distinctives of being African-American and that it's really a black-white issue, I guarantee you if you're bringing an Irish American in here they would tell you they've experienced discrimination in this country, and if you get--you talk to people in the Jewish community and they'll say, well, you know, our experience in America has been this, and so when you get people to talk out of their own experience, it gets there fairly quickly.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Yes. Go ahead.
ELAINE CHAO: I think the bottom line is, I think there has to be not allocation of programs based on preferential treatment, not at all, but that there be equal opportunity, and going back to Clarence's issue about merit.
JIM LEHRER: We're talking about talking bluntly about race.
ELAINE CHAO: Right. And I think this is part of it and I think the president wanted me to answer Clarence's Thomas--sorry--Clarence's question about merit--
JIM LEHRER: Okay. But I have to interrupt you all now and to say thank you, Mr. President. And to thanks to all the rest of you.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: We're just getting warmed up.
JIM LEHRER: I know. I know.
ELAINE CHAO: However merit is defined.
JIM LEHRER: Okay.% ? FINALLY - ON THE BEACH
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, some poetic images of summer at the beach from NewsHour contributor Robert Pinsky, the Poet Laureate of the United States.
ROBERT PINSKY, Poet Laureate: For a lot of us summertime being near the ocean, driving toward it in cars, wading into it for a dip, listening to it, eating the things that live in me, maybe even sailing on it, andspending a lot of time just sitting and looking at it. Here's Robert Frost's meditation on that custom. "Neither Out Far Nor in Deep." "The people along the sand all turn and look one way. They turn their back on the land. They look at the sea all day. As long as it takes to pass, a ship keeps raising its hull. The wetter ground, like glass, reflects a standing gull. The land may vary more, but wherever the truth may be, the water comes ashore and the people look at the sea. They cannot look out far. They cannot look in deep. But when was that ever a bar to any watch they keep?" Frost's poem is about facing the ocean and looking at it. Elizabeth Bishop writes about wading into it and develops an image for the waves. In her poem they're like chariots. The chariot wheels are armed with sharp, bright blades that turn as they charge forward, then collapse to charge again. "Wading at Wellesely:" "In one of the Asyrian wars the chariot first saw the light that bore sharp blades around its wheels. "That chariot from Asyria was rolling down mechanically to take the warriors by the heels. A thousand warriors in the sea could not consider such a war as that the sea, itself, contrives but hasn't put in action yet. This morning's glitterings reveal the sea is all a case of knives, lying so close they catch the sun, the spokes directed at the shin. The chariot front is blue and great. The war rests wholly with the waves. They try revolving but the wheels give way. They will not bear the weight." That rhythm charging forward liked armed chariots and collapsing, charging, collapsing again, that's the deeply soothing of the surf. I wish it to you in whatever watch you keep.% ? RECAP
JIM LEHRER: Again, the major stories of this Thursday, the Justice Department petitioned Chief Justice Rehnquist to prevent Secret Service agents from testifying before the Monica Lewinsky grand jury, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed over 9300 for the first time. We'll see you on-line and again here tomorrow evening with Shields & Gigot, among others. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
- The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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- This episode's headline: Tracking the Story; Dialogue on Race; On the Beach. ANCHOR: JIM LEHRER; GUESTS: RUTH MARCUS, Washington Post; PRESIDENT CLINTON; ROGER ROSENBLATT, Essayist; RICHARD RODRIGUEZ, Pacific News Service; ELAINE CHAO, The Heritage Foundation; CLARENCE PAGE, Chicago Tribune; ROBERTO SURO, Washington Post; CYNTHIA TUCKER, Atlanta Constitution; KAY JAMES, Dean, Regent University; SHERMAN ALEXIE, Author/Screenwriter; ROBERT PINSKY, Poet Laureate; CORRESPONDENTS:CHARLES KRAUSE;KWAME HOLMAN;MARGARET WARNER;
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- To view the segment on the dialogue on race, you can visit https://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-2f7jq0t99k?start=1007.87&end=3220.26 or jump to 00:16:50.
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- MLA: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.” 1998-07-16. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-2f7jq0t99k>.
- APA: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-2f7jq0t99k