The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
The House called the report predictably partisan and said it offered nothing new. A major subway fire in London has caused many deaths. We'll have details in our news summary in a moment. Judy Wordruff is in Washington tonight, Judy. After the news summary, the Iran Contra affair is our major focus this evening. We have a report on what's in the committee's reports and then talk with four committee members, Senators George Mitchell and William Cohen and Congressman Lee Hamilton and Richard Cheney. Then, the continuing stalemate on a budget agreement. We get an update from Congressional correspondent Koki Roberts. And finally, a look at the controversial efforts to crack down on the owners of pit bull dogs. Funding for the McNeil-era news hour is provided by AT&T, whether it's communicating the sound of a voice or data. The AT&T network moves information in all its forms across the country and around the world. AT&T.
Funding also was provided by this station and other public television stations and the corporation for public broadcasting. Eleven months after its members were named and six months after it began public hearings, the Congressional Iran Contra committee today released two reports on the affair that has taken such a toll on the Reagan administration. In the majority report, committee members lay ultimate responsibility for the scandal at the feet of President Reagan, who they say failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed. The almost 700-page document, the majority part of which was signed off on by all 15 Democrats on the committee, and only three of the Republicans was distributed to reporters this morning. At the White House, officials said there was nothing new in the report and that it was predictably partisan. But at a news conference, Senate Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye insisted that the report simply followed the facts. The officials who participated in this scandal showed disdain for laws and our constitutional
system of government. The Iran government outside government, they conducted a secret foreign policy and concealed it through a concerted campaign of dishonesty and deception. And when the affair began to unravel, they attempted to cover up their deeds. Others will decide whether these actions were criminal. And the committees find that fundamental processes of government were disregarded and the rule of law was subverted. The eight Republicans on the committee who did not sign the majority report criticized it in their own minority report. At a separate news conference this afternoon, Congressman Henry Hyde was one of those who explained why the minority did not go along with the majority. It started out as a witch hunt, it proceeded as a witch hunt, and the final report indicates
that indeed it was a witch hunt. That is a bitterly political document. It resolves every doubt against the administration. The administration gets the benefit of no innuendos, no nuances. The administration is drenched with guilt, legal and factual and spiritual throughout the report. It accuses the president of violating the Constitution in soliciting and having members of his staff soliciting funds from third countries to try and keep freedom alive and democracy alive in Nicaragua. That's utter nonsense. The minority report in so many words contends that while the Reagan administration made mistakes, they amounted to no more than errors in judgment. In a related development, the White House confirmed today that former National Security Advisor William Clark, last August, wrote President Reagan and urged him to pardon two key Iran-Contra figures.
John Poindexter and Oliver North. Spokesman said the president did not respond to the letter, but the White House Legal Council AB Culverhouse told Clark that it was not appropriate to discuss pardons at this time. Robin White House and congressional budget negotiators were again reported close, but still short of an agreement to cut the federal budget deficit. They met until 9 p.m. last night, and again today, in reported they were close to a handshake agreement. Majority Lee Ritomas Foley predicted a deal by Friday. Former House Speaker Tip O'Neill underwent about six hours of surgery for rectal cancer at a Boston hospital today, approximately six inches of O'Neill's lower bowel was to be removed in the operation. There was no report late this afternoon, Eastern Time, on O'Neill's condition, earlier doctors had said that they expected the surgery to be successful. And from California, former First Lady Betty Ford has entered a hospital for coronary artery bypass surgery. The 69-year-old Mrs. Ford is due to undergo the surgery on Friday.
A spokeswoman described it as a preventive procedure recommended by Mrs. Ford's doctors. In Denver, the investigation continued today into the cause of Sunday's crash of a continental airlines DC-9. Yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board disclosed that the pilot and co-pilot of the plane had been certified to fly DC-9s only one month ago. But a continental spokesman said the airline does not believe the crash was caused by pilot and experience. The pilot, a captain here, had 18 years of flying the experience, he is incredibly well-experienced, capable, qualified and certified pilot to be in that seat. At this point in the investigation, any inference that would be drawn that the time of these pilots, very well experienced, but on this particular aircraft, have any causal effect on this accident would be premature, absolutely, isn't it?
NTSB believes that, as we believe that, we just simply don't know. We don't believe that these pilots are inexperienced. The death toll on that Denver crash is now 28, with at least five of 54 injured passengers still reported in critical condition. A surprising development from the Soviet Union today, Boris Yeltsin, the former head of the Moscow Communist Party, who was thrown out of his job last week, was today, named to a top government post, and given the rank of minister. It was a significant turnaround for Yeltsin, who just a week ago was described as an ambitious renegade. Some observers viewed it as an effort by General Secretary Gorbachev to minimize perceptions that Yeltsin's fall was a blow to his own power. In London, as many as 28 people are believed dead and dozens more injured after a fire broke out in one of the city's busiest subway stations. The fire started in an escalator at the end of the rush hour, choking smoke from the blaze quickly filled the tunnel of the King's cross station, overcoming dozens of people.
Several hundred commuters were trapped for nearly an hour before being rescued by firemen wearing breathing apparatus. Police at the scene said the situation remains chaotic and more fatalities are expected. In Geneva, the United Nations Children's Fund today appealed for $22 million in donations for food and medicine to stave off another famine in Ethiopia. As many as a million Ethiopians died in the last famine in 1985, UN officials say more than five million people are now threatened in the country's northern provinces of Tigray and Eritrea because of a severe drought, and relief efforts have been hampered by rebel violence against the government. Mike Wurridge of the BBC has a report. It now seems almost inescapable that there will be widespread starvation once again here in northern Ethiopia, unless food starts being distributed immediately and regularly to all the vulnerable families. But the problem of getting the food to within easy reach of where most of the drought victims are living now looks even greater than in the last famine.
These United Nations food trucks were raped with gunfire and then set ablaze by Eritrean rebels on October 23rd. The International Committee of the Red Cross has appealed to all the rebel group fans of the government to neutralise the roads in the north, in order to allow relief to fly through. Your turnative, the Red Cross say, will be many more scenes like this in the coming months. Dessah Hallopham is one of a rapidly increasing number of children, turning up at Wurridge Hospital in northern Tigray, suffering from marasmas, the form of malnutrition that comes from an overall food deficiency. She's half the normal weight for one year old, and it's feared she may have been brought in too late to be saved. Who closed government food relief where a house meanwhile stands virtually empty? In an effort to get relief supplies into the country, the UN said it would send aircraft to Ethiopia next week to distribute food. That wraps up our summary of today's news just ahead on the news hour, four members
of Congress in the Iran-Contra report, a behind-the-scenes look at the budget negotiations and a documentary report on pit bulldogs. Now to the day's lead story, the final report of the Congressional Iran-Contra Committee, what happened and how can Congress and the president prevent it from happening again? We'll take those questions up with four committee members, but first a report on the committee's 700-page document from our Congressional correspondent, Koki Roberts. The common ingredients of the Iran and Contra policies were secrecy, deception, and disdain for the law. That's just one of the many critical conclusions found in the long-awaited final report. After conducting 44 days of televised hearings, listening to hundreds of hours of testimony and reviewing thousands of secret documents, bank records, and scribbled notes, members
of the committees closeted themselves in order to write a report on what it all meant. They returned today with two reports. The majority, signed by all the Democrats on the committees, has also been endorsed by three Senate Republicans, but the other two Senate Republicans join House colleagues in issuing a minority version of opinions. They conclude, mistakes of the Iran-Contra affair were just that, mistakes in judgment and nothing more. In fact, the evidence will not support any of the more hysterical conclusions the committee's report tries to reach. Are these simply different views of the same facts? Are these preconceived attitudes shaped by partisan politics? Chief House counsel John Niels won't say. I just think that the public and the press and whoever reads the report is going to have to make their own judgment about that.
But House Minority Council, George Van Cleve, believes it might be both. I don't know that anyone can lay claim to political objectivity, and I just wouldn't ask that out of a political institution, and I hope that when people read this report, they will remember that it is a political institution, that the people who are signing their names to it are part of that institution, so that goes with the territory. The major area of disagreement in the end, as in the beginning, surrounds the president and the question, what did he know and when did he know it? I assumed that the president was aware of what I was doing and had through my superiors approved it. I was told by Admiral Poindexter in January of 86 that not only was he pleased with the work that I've been doing, but the president was as well. You did not tell the president of the United States. I did not. In the opinion of the majority, on this critical point, the shredding of documents by point-dextric North and others and the death of Casey, leave the record incomplete.
The president created or at least tolerated an environment where those who did know of the diversion, believed with certainty that they were carrying out the president's policies. But it's the opinion of the minority. The conclusion that the president did not know about the diversion is one of the strongest of all the inferences one can make from the evidence before these committees. Any attempt to suggest otherwise can only be seen as an effort to sow meritless doubts in the hope of reaping a partisan political advantage. Committee members also disagree on the effectiveness of the initial investigation into the Iran-Contra Fair, conducted by Attorney General Edwin Meese. In the course of the conversation, I said to the president that if he wanted me to do it, I would do it, or he could get someone else, but someone really had to get on top of the facts so that we didn't know exactly what had happened. It was during that investigation that Justice Department officials stumbled on the now-famous
memorandum outlining the diversion of Iran-armed sales profits to the countries. It was later learned that stacks of documents had been shredded as well. I did not tread individually packages. I shredded 12, 15, 18 pages at once. Do you remember shredding documents during the lunch hour on the 22nd when the representatives of the Attorney General's office had left for their lunch? I remember shredding documents while they were in their reading documents. You were shredding them in their presence? Well, I mean, they were sitting in my office, and the shredder was right outside, and I walked out and shredded documents. We had taken single documents over to the shredder, or we had taken files over to the shredder. I was taking files. I would go through a file. I was sitting at my desk. They were working 10 feet from me, and they were working on their projects.
I was working on mine. Have you asked them about that? Yes, I have, Mr. McCollum, and I've been told by Mr. Richardson and Mr. Reynolds, who were the people on the scene, that at no time in their presence or in their field of vision or within their hearing, I was any shredding going on by Colonel North or anyone else to the best of their knowledge. That contradiction plus the Attorney General's decision not to call the FBI into the investigation led the majority to conclude. His fact-finding inquiry departed from standard investigative techniques. He never asked Casey about the diversion, and he waited too long to seal North's offices. These lapses placed a cloud over the Attorney General's investigation. The minority responds. Whatever after-the-fact criticism people may want to make, it is irresponsible to portray the administration in the light of Mises' behavior, as if it were interested in anything but learning the truth and getting it out as quickly as possible.
Many members can't even agree that the late CIA Director William Casey intended to create the kind of private covert network described by Colonel Oliver North. Dr. Casey had in mind, as I understood it, an overseas entity that was capable of conducting three operations or activities of assistance to the U.S. foreign policy goals, that was a stand-alone, it was self-financing, independent of appropriated monies, and capable of conducting activities similar to the ones that we had conducted here. The majority concludes the late CIA Director William Casey encouraged North, gave him direction, and promoted the concept of an extra-legal covert organization. This provides strong reason to believe that Casey was involved both with the diversion
and with the plans for an off-the-shelf covert capacity. But the minority cites the testimony of others and concludes, it is interesting to note how much the majority is willing to make of one uncorroborated disputed North statement that happens to suit its political purpose. Absent from the majority report is any self-criticism, Congress is left relatively free of any blame or responsibility for what occurred. The Iran Initiative and the Contra Initiative were in fact done by the executive, and as I think is already clear from the record, Congress was kept in the dark by the executive. What we're in effect saying is that's half the story. You need to look at the other half of the story. Why is it that the administration didn't trust the Congress enough to tell them about what was going on in Iran? This afternoon, once the reports were released, the committee chairman answered reporter's
questions and deflected criticism that their hearings produced little new information. I think the investigation by the select committees did indeed reveal considerable new information. First, and one of the major themes of the report relates to the activities of the enterprise. That's entirely new with the investigation of the select committee, and raises the, what to most of us, I think, was rather frightening prospect of a government outside of government as Senator Inouye described it a few minutes ago, carrying on covert actions without accountability. I think new in this report was the information with respect to the cover-up, the activities of the presidential aides following the publication by the Lebanese newspaper. That certainly was new in this report.
As the minority report, which was ironically leaked to the press on Monday while it's still boring classification, rather ironic to consider the accusations of those who leaked it, I have looked at that report carefully, and I'm regretful to say that I'm reminded of Adley Stevens' great remark about the press. This particular report is one in which the editors separated the wheat from the chaff, and unfortunately have printed the chaff. It is a pathetic report. Whatever the shortcomings, the final gavel has fallen, the report been issued, and the work of the committee's complete. The question still remaining, did they do what they set out to do, tell the whole story of the Iran contract a failure? I think our principal task from the beginning was to find out what our government had done, which had been kept secret before our investigation began. And I think in exposing the facts, telling the story of what our government did, I think we did a credible job, both in the hearings and in the report.
If you can read the document and tell me that there's something you still want to know about the Iran contract, if you're giving a call. Joining us to discuss these significance of their reports and what they mean for future policy, we have four members of the committees. In the Senate Gallery, two Democrats, the chairman of the House Select Committee, Congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, and Senator George Mitchell of Maine. In another studio in Capitol Hill are two Republicans, Senator William Cohen of Maine and Congressman Dick Cheney of Wyoming, ranking member of the House Select Committee, and one of the eight Republicans who signed the Minority Report. Congressman Hamilton, the White House says your report is predictably partisan and contains nothing new. How did you hope it might be received? I think the report is being very well received. It certainly contains a great deal new. The whole discussion of the enterprise and all of its activities is new material. The discussion of the cover-up is new material.
The discussion of the number of persons who misled the Congress, deceived the Congress, is new. We tried very hard not to make the report partisan. We worked hard on the language so that we stripped from it the pejorative words, and we tried to be sure that every sentence was supported by facts. Now, not everybody might agree with every sentence, but we think it's a very defensible, dispassionate report. Senator Mitchell, in your view, what would be an appropriate presidential response to this report? I think the President should do two things. First, something that he should have done a long time ago is to condemn the types of activities that occurred in these events, lying to Congress, the destruction of confidential, highly classified material, lack of respect for the law, that is, try to instill in the White House the respectful law that is so noticeably lacking in this whole series of events
and which contributed to them. Having done that, I think he should move on to other things because much other important business awaits the nation. Senator Congressman, sorry, Congressman Cheney, you were one of the eight Republicans who support the minority dissenting report. What do you think the President's response should be? Well, I think that he's already given the response. One of the things that distinguishes the members and the committee who hold different views is many of us believe on the Republican side and the House that the President responded before these hearings ever got underway, that he's the one who directed the Attorney General's investigation, disclosed the fact of diversion, set up the Tower Commission called for a special prosecutor, replaced most of his senior White House staff people, and had taken all of these steps before we began our investigation. And I think he has on numerous occasions, publicly, accepted the responsibility for what transpired here and admitted that they made very serious mistakes, and I don't think there's any need at this point for him to do it yet again.
You don't think he needs to do, as Senator Mitchell suggests, condemn the activities of those he has yet to come in. I think he did that when he picked up their resignations. You don't think so, Senator Mitchell? I certainly don't. He said Colonel North was a national hero, and he praised the Admiral Pointe extra as well. There's been no hint of condemnation, indeed it's been just the opposite, and it contributes to the attitude characterized, described in the report as one which encouraged people not to have a respect the law that should occur, particularly in the highest reaches of our government. And this goes to the heart of our disagreement, I think, and I think many of us believe that there were serious mistakes in judgment, serious errors in judgment, and that these men paid for their mistakes with their resignations. Say though that somehow there was fundamental disrespect for the law, whether the Constitution was trashed as a view we don't hold, and I think those differences are reflected in the report. The Republican report is not just a dissent from the Democratic version, nor the majority version, it is in fact a free standalone interpretation of these events. Senator Cohen, but you don't agree, as a Republican, you don't agree with the minority
report, and why don't you? Well, I set out to do two things, number one, to determine the facts, and secondly, to defend the truth. Now, the truth may lie in the eyes of the beholder, but I came to the conclusion that the majority report as such, in its total totality of it, that it did in fact represent the best evidence, as I listened to it, and waited. And so I came to the conclusion that while there were overstapements, while there were errors and omissions, for the most part, the report is substantiated by the evidence. Congressman Cheney back to you from the New York Times said in an editorial today, just coming back to the White House point that this was predictably partisan, the New York Times said in an editorial today, that it is the minority report, your report, which trivializes this affair by reducing what it calls a crisis of public trust to a matter of petty partisan politics. Well, I'm intrigued Robin with that editorial because they had not read our report when they wrote it.
Well, they had published yesterday on a leak, but they had yesterday was one of the one chapter. They had not read our report. They'd seen about 10 percent of it. And I think their editorial, frankly, is not an accurate one, not valid. I much prefer the one in the Wall Street Journal that said today that they thought we were publicans had done an excellent job of capturing the essence of the conflict that lies beneath all of this, which is in part the struggle between the President and the Congress for the control of foreign policy. Could I, Congressman Hamilton, can I just go back to Congressman Hamilton for a moment, the chairman of the House Select Committee? Do you fear that all this labor and all these weeks of work by many people is going to be somehow dissipated because there are two reports into yet another sort of Washington political partisan debate? Well, no, I feel very good about the hearings and the whole process. This really is democracy at work. If we had not had the hearings, if the Tower Review had not investigated, if the House and Senate committees had not been involved last year, then I don't think a lot of these actions
would have occurred in the administration. We're really going through a self-cleansing process here. It's not a tidy process. It's a little messy, I suppose. It's certainly very public, but that's far preferable to investigating these secret events in secret. And I think the result is going to be a country and a Congress and an executive, a little bit more on guard about actions that may be conducted quite apart from the normal processes of law in the Constitution. Senator Mitchell, you are a judge, federal judge, before you are a senator. What is the weight of the judgment on President Reagan in this report? I think that he bears responsibility for failing to take care that the law reigns supreme. Is that close to saying that he failed to carry out his constitutional oath to see that the laws are executed properly?
Well, it's a strong statement, but under our system, of course, the only legal recourse against the President is impeachment, and I don't believe there's any basis for impeachment here. It says forth what the committee felt was the case, no more, and no less. Is it just a different of semantics? Oh, I think so, yes, one may read it any way they want, but I personally do not feel there's any basis for impeachment proceedings against the President arising out of these events, although I think he failed to take care of that proper respect for law existed. If I could make just one further comment on the legal aspect of it, Representative Cheney just said, and the minority report says explicitly, in these words, there were mistakes of judgment, nothing more. And that is a rather incredible statement in view of the fact that two persons have already pleaded guilty to felonies, serious crimes arising out of these events, and the independent council has been investigating now for several months, and according to all reports we've received, it's likely to indict for criminal activity a whole series of other persons. I don't believe you can characterize crimes as mistakes in judgment and nothing more.
That obviously was much more involved. Congressman Cheney? Well, Robin, first of all, the two individuals who pled guilty did so in connection with tax fraud, basically, in connection to the operations they set up. They were not part of the administration. They were not involved in the administration. They did not know, probably, or ever have any contact with Ronald Reagan. With respect to what Walsh will do, that remains to be seen. My own personal view is that neither North nor Point Dexter deserves to be criminally prosecuted for what transpired here. I would hope that will ultimately be the outcome. I do expect Mr. Walsh may well indict. He's had several months now to develop his cases. And whether or not there will be convictions, I think, as a matter to be resolved in the courts. I would hope that there would not be criminal convictions in North and Point Dexter. I don't think they deserve that, that wrap. Well, of course, C-Cord and Hakeem were not government officials either, does that suggest that there is no responsibility, the notion that one is absolved of responsibility, or there's no relationship if one wasn't a government official, of course, is an unrealistic
one that bears no relationship to the facts of this case. And George, I would argue that it's not clear C-Cord or Hakeem committed to crime. We argue in our report that it's an open question. You can argue either side of the issue with respect to the funds from the arms transactions with Iran. In fact, to the gentleman who's a president for a moment, to you Senator Cohen, what is your interpretation of the words? He bears the president, bears responsibility for failing to take care of the law-range supreme. How do you weigh that evidence? You were on a committee years ago, which voted to impeach a president. Well, I think there are distinctions between non-fasons and malfeasance. Senator Mitchell has said there is no evidence that we found that would support a determination that the president engaged in the malfeasance of his office by intentionally failing to take care to see the laws would not faithfully execute it. That is not to say that he didn't take enough care, however. When you have a situation in which a covert capability is created off the shelf as we've
heard those words use self-sustaining, self-financing, that's a very significant activity. And when Congressman Cheney says in the report, the Republicans who signed that report, that there were no corrupt motives, doesn't necessarily mean you had to have a corrupt motivation or a pecuniary one in order to have a violation of law, and that's something that we ought to keep focused on. I think the president, when he was told, for example, that those people acting on his behalf were negotiating with the Iranian moderate, so-called, to release the Dawah terrorists. I think George Schultz described that he reacted as if he were kicked in the stomach. There were activities that were being carried on in the name of the president, unbeknownst to him, that I think should have been known to him, had he taken more vigorous care to make sure of the guidelines and the policies we were being carried out as he wanted them to be.
Can we move this on, Judy? Yes, Congressman Hamilton, as you know, life goes on in this city. I mean, we've seen the president now recently engaged in a struggle to name a new Supreme Court nominee, much of the city has wrapped up the Congress and the White House in the presidential elections. What do you see as the enduring impact of this report? I hope the report will have a deterrent value. I think it'll be a long time before a national security adviser to the president says the buck stops with me. There'll be a lot of very specific things that will come out of the report, and have already come out of the process. The recommendations that the committee makes are directed largely towards covert actions. I would put them in the general category of fine tuning, important steps, but not major steps, perhaps, in terms of notification and the nature of findings, the requirement of written findings, no retroactive findings, identifying the agencies that should be involved in covert actions.
I think a lot of steps like that will be helpful. At the same time, I don't think it's possible for us to draw a law that will forever assure that these kinds of events will not happen again. Congressman Cheney, how realistic are some of those recommendations? For example, the one that Congress be notified within 48 hours. Is that practical? Well, when there's a covert action, I think you have to preserve the prerogative of the president and extraordinary circumstances not to notify the Congress at all, or that is to exercise discretion to wait for days or weeks or even months. I think that's within his constitutional prerogative. I'm reluctant to see us impose any additional restraints or restrictions upon the president's ability to operate this area. I agree with Lee Hamilton. I don't think you can pass a law that will guarantee no future president will make mistakes, and I think we have to guard against passing laws now that will restrict some president in a future crisis that we can only guess at at the president. How do you see this, Senator Mitchell? I think that the principle finding is that this was a deficiency in men not in laws, and while I think there ought to be some changes, and specifically the law you mentioned, I
support Senator Cohen's, the author of it, so he'd be in the best position to describe it. I think it does make sense, and I think it is not unduly restrictive on the president. It ceased me. It's not very difficult task to notify a few members of Congress of something of this magnitude. Well, what are the, gentlemen, all of you, what are the realistic chances that this is not going to happen again? Senator Mitchell just said, as the report said, the problem was with people and not with the laws, so who's to say it wouldn't happen all over again? Judy, Judy, I think we have to be careful not to create a government bureaucracy that's afraid to make mistakes or take risks. These were high-risk decisions. They turned out to be bad decisions. I think they seemed a much closer call at the time, but I don't think we want to set up a situation in which a future president faced with difficult circumstances, such as Ronald Reagan was faced with, thinks only of avoiding mistakes. You are going to make a certain number of mistakes, and we have to give him the flexibility and the power to do the job we expect him to do for us. I think the key point here is that if high officials, including members of Congress, operate in an atmosphere of mutual trust, the laws will work.
But if you don't have that mutual trust, and if you deceive the other body, and if you mislead them, then no matter how carefully the laws may be, or no matter how carefully your organization's instructors may be, it's not going to work. Senator Norway said today that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, quoting others, of course. That remains true with the issuance of this report. Senator Cohen, you, in your dissenting statement, I guess if you want to call it, let that note that the majority report spoke of laws being broken, and you said you didn't think that was the responsibility of the committees to do that. Why not? What was wrong with making those statements? Well, I think, as I pointed out in my views, I felt we should concentrate upon the violations of constitutional standards and also civil statutes, as opposed to getting into very much detail on the criminal statutes, other than listing them, because we do have an independent
prosecutor who was actively investigating a number of the participants. I felt that we were treading on an area that we'd be better advised to stay away from. But for that reason, I submitted the additional views. Congressman Hamilton, why were those violations laid out in the report then? Because we think they were a very significant part of the total picture. One of the themes that runs throughout these events is a lack of respect or a disdain, I think, in some cases for the law. We have that in very direct testimony from several of the witnesses, and although our job is not to determine whether there's a criminal law violation, certainly we have an interest in whether laws have been skirted or violated civil law or criminal. What we cannot do is judge whether or not a particular person had criminal intent.
But there's a long list of laws here that we think were disregarded. And we think there was a rather systematic pattern of not following the law. And we think that that's a very serious error or errors in these events. Congressman Cheney, how do you respond to that? Well, I would respond, Judy, that this gets into an area where we think the majority report was deficient in not focusing on the extent to which Congress contributed to the context within which these events occurred. The bold amendment was not some sort of fixed statute that was there for a long period of time. It took various forms over several years, was passed, and a giant continuing resolution to fund the entire government, really, in my opinion, without the kind of scrutiny that had deserved. I think the president should have vetoed it. But I think Congress has to bear some of the responsibility for the confusion that existed over the issue of what the law was going to be in this area. I think the president has to bear the responsibility for not having confronted the issue
openly and honestly when this first occurred. Do you think the president will pardon an appointee extra in Colonel Lawyer? I really don't know, Judy. I think at this point he's received, as I have, letters from citizens urging such pardons. He's made clear his view that he doesn't think any such discussions appropriate at this time. I wouldn't want to predict beyond that. Senator Cohen, do you think that would be appropriate? I don't think it would be appropriate. I think, number one, we have not even had indictments. If there are going to be indictments, number two, we have not had a judicial proceeding. And I think it's bad policy, not only bad policy and bad politics to talk about a pardon prior to allowing the system to work its way to its conclusion. But you wouldn't rule one out down the road. I mean, the appropriateness of one down the road. I think that's for the president to take into account at the appropriate time. And now it's not the appropriate time. I think we have to go through the process. Senator Mitchell? I agree with Senator Cohen. I think it's much too premature. Indeed, given the pace of these events, it's likely that any trials will not be concluded until after President Reagan has left office.
So it may be an academic question as to him. I think for now it is, it would be highly inappropriate for him to do so. And I strongly urge him to stick with his current position, which is not even to discuss her to consider him. And finally, Congressman Hamilton on the pardon questions. I agree with Senator Mitchell and Senator Cohen. It's just premature. All right. Well, gentlemen, we thank you all for being with us. Senator Mitchell, Congressman Cheney, Congressman Hamilton, and Senator Cohen. Thank you all for being with us. Thank you. Thank you. We turn next tonight to the ongoing struggle in the capital to hammer out a plan to reduce the federal deficit. Today's round of negotiations marked the 18th day of meetings between congressional and White House representatives. And brought the negotiators ever closer to their unofficial deadline of Friday when automatic across the board, spending cuts, will go into effect if no agreement has been reached.
The world financial markets have watched and reacted on a daily basis to the progress of these negotiations. Joining us now to tell us what's taking so long is our congressional correspondent, Koki Roberts. Koki, if you will put on your other hat now. If you believe the guests we've had on this program for the last few weeks, never before have the anxieties of so many people around the world been hanging on the activities of so few in Washington, what's the first of all, where are they? How close to an agreement are they? Well they're quite close because the deadline is quite close, so that's always helpful in getting them close to an agreement. Are they going to meet again tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock and probably sometime tomorrow they will either come out with an agreement or a statement of principles that they will have an agreement which will put them in a position to be able to postpone that across the board budget cuts scheduled to go into effect on Friday. Well, reading something about that today, it suggested that they might legislate their way around that deadline and say that just passed another long and say that's our line
doesn't count. Yes, they have to be in some position to do that. They can't just postpone it. That would really send a terrible message to the markets and the rest of the world. If they just said, we're just going to keep meeting and not do anything. So they have to be in a position to say, we're right there, we're all butt agreed and here are the things we're sort of agreed on and we'll just postpone those across the board. Cuts are get rid of them all together. Do you think that's a possibility? They may come out with an announcement as vague as that as to how much would be cut and wear and so on. Well, they could and they could also send it back once they're done. They can send once they're done with the big numbers, which is what they've been talking about, the big numbers for domestic cuts, defense cuts, tax increases, then send it back to the committees that actually will have to decide where those come. But this is not, you know, it's not ever easy to get to these numbers. There's nothing complicated about cutting the deficit. You have to cut spending and you have to raise taxes and nobody likes to do that.
And what we're dealing with here is not just the economic problems of it, but they're enormous political problems going into a very big election year, 1988. One of the men in that room, Robert Dole, is running for president. He has up a new Hampshire, Jack Kemp, one of his opponents going around saying, there he goes again, the tax collector for the welfare state. So Robert Dole is in a position where he needs to have enough spending cuts to be able to match him with the taxes so that he can go out and say to his Republicans in the Senate and to his constituents on the road. Now, I got something for these taxes. But then when you try to get enough spending cuts, you run into all kinds of problems with other people. And in particular, with two other men who happen to be sitting in that room, who happen to have interesting elections next year. One is Lawton Childs, a Democrat from Florida, one is Trent Lott, a Republican from Mississippi, a child's running for reelection for the Senate, lot running for election
to the Senate, neither one of them wanting to touch those cost of living adjustments for federal benefit programs, fearful of what that will do in their election campaigns. If you don't touch those programs, it's very hard to get enough money to make the spending cuts real. And that's the impasse they've been at for the last couple of days. Usually in Washington, when they feel, take the Social Security Commission a couple of years ago, when they feel real urgency that the cold winds are breathing down, blowing down their necks. They can hammer out a pragmatic compromise, and each one gives a little when he has to. Is the feeling that has the feeling really got into them yet that they have to? Oh, I think so. And I think they will. They'll come up with a compromise that talking today that it's a real package of $24.8 billion for that, that 0.8, you can be sure will change. But that's something that they say is absolutely real and it will happen. That's, excuse me, interrupting, but that's quite a lot lower than some of the more optimistic
estimates of up to $30, $35 billion. That's right. And one of the reasons why they were so fearful of talking about numbers was because when they actually came out with a number like this one, then people like you would say something like that and then the markets would respond and say, oh wait, they haven't cut as much as they said they were going to cut. Of course, the amount they need to cut to avoid that across the board slays, just $23 billion. So it's a little bit more than that and as they keep saying, this is real. It's not phony things to like that. They will, I can't believe every bone in my body of covering Congress tells me they will come to an agreement because of the things you're saying, the real desire to get there and show that they're responsible. But they are very, very wary of each other and they're wary that the president will say, well there go those Democrats again raising taxes, the Republicans are wary that the Democrats say there go those Republicans again cutting programs so they're just going at it very,
very gingerly. Well, I was going to ask you about that. When they do get the deal, which you expect they will get, are they going to go away on a real constructive bipartisan, happy relationship or is this going to explode into recrimination and name-calling and another political battle ahead or whatever? Well that's the question that they can't answer right now and that's why they haven't gotten an agreement yet. Because that in itself would send a message. Really and the Republicans in the House met this morning and said that they saw the sort of outlines of this deal without any cost of living adjustments, they said they hated it. That they preferred the across the board budget cuts to going with this deal. The Bob Dole said today that he was going to have trouble getting Republican votes. So it's not going to be easy. They're going to have to have the president come and say that he wants them to vote for this. The Democrats are going to have to say the same thing to their troops and they're going to have to be assured that enough Republicans will be voting for it so that they won't
be the only ones out there behind this package. But that necessity to do something is still greater than the fear of doing something, I think. Well, Cookie Roberts, thank you very much. It is said that when dog bites man, it's not news. But one type of dog bite has repeatedly become news over the last two years. Vicious often fatal attacks by pit bulldogs are being reported at a rate of one per month across the nation, tonight Lee Hockberg of Public Station KCTS in Seattle reports on controversial efforts to ban the dogs and punish those who own them. This is Willie, a 65-pound pit bull. After this picture was taken at an animal shelter near San Jose, California, Willie was
destroyed. In June, he had mauled and killed a two-year-old boy, a little neighbor who had wandered within range of Willie's powerful jaws. I have never seen injuries that were so severe and involved so much of the victim's body. Predominant injuries in the head and the neck of this child were indescribable. Willie's attack is but one of a spate of pit bull incidents this year that have put some of the unpredictable dogs and their owners behind bars, pit bulls have killed 13 people in the last year and a half, most of them small children. Two pit bull owners have been charged with involuntary manslaughter after their dogs' attacks. TV cameras were rolling on one assault as an animal control officer checked out a report of a vicious pit bull in Los Angeles. The attacks have enraged community leaders and prompted state and local lawmakers to
pass tough new laws restricting pit bull ownership. As many dog lovers have labeled the law's dog racism and are successfully fighting them in the courts. Pit bulls haven't always been in the dog house. That's 10-year-old Fred Astaire posing with a pet pit bull. And while Spanky and the little rascals would have preferred he find his own sleeping bag, Petey the Pit Bull was still part of their family. The little rascals didn't know it, but some animal experts say the pit bull was not a good pet to have, then or now. Dale Dunning is executive director of the Arizona Humane Society. The American pit bull terrier today is absolutely dead game. The dog that we're looking here at here in this kennel right now, as pleasant as it may seem, is the dog that's on the nightly news, the dog that's featured killing its owner, killing the child that it was raised within the family, killing other animals in the neighborhood.
It's the dog that's entirely unpredictable. Dunning says the pit bull beyond any other dog is dangerous because man has taught it and bred it to be dangerous. Today's pit bulls are descendants from pit bulls the British used in dog fights as far back as the 17th century. For years, man has trained pit bulls to go for the kill. Such training still goes on illegally as in this rare videotape. We're talking about a dog that for the past two, three, four hundred years has been bred and refined just to be a fighting machine. It is a devastating fighting dog. As vicious as fighting dogs are with each other, they have, through centuries, been trained not to turn on their human handlers and he dog aggressive to man was killed. Today though, that has changed. According to Dunning and others, the dogs have become more popular and are being raised by less responsible owners, aggressive dogs are being allowed to live and to breed. Today that dog's not being destroyed.
It's being bred by inexperienced people, people that are not dog fighters, people that are not professionals. And these dogs are being turned loose in the communities of today and they're doing what we see every night on the news. Then Jessop's two pit bulls, Brit, the black one, and Dred, the brown one, have never mauled anybody. Jessop is an animal control officer near Olympia, Washington, and an admirer of pit bulls. She says those who criticize pit bulls are unfairly blaming the breed as a whole for the aggressive actions of a few poorly trained dogs. It looks real rough, but it doesn't have anything to do with aggression. My co-workers eight-year-olds come over here and play this about an hour with them. Together with Dred, Jessop has taken on a mission to show the world that pit bulls aren't as bad as their critics are making them out to be.
Though Dred's father was a fighting dog, Jessop has trained Dred to rather peacefully herd ducks into a pen. This she says is hardly the behavior of a killer. How can they say a breed is vicious? There's supposed to be a million or a half a million pit bulls out there. If they were all vicious, there'd be a million dead people right now. But for the most part, when you're talking about the breed of the pit bull terrier, you're talking about a very, very soft breed with people. Very submissive. Genetically, this dog has the ability and the willingness to kill when it decides it wants to kill. It has nothing to do, not the dog's race today, absolutely nothing. I submit to you that if you were to adopt this animal, if you were to take this animal into your home, you have just adopted a bomb with it. You didn't get the detonator, the detonators right in here, the detonators and the dog's back. And as much a baby as this dog looks to be right now, who knows what could set it off? With animal experts unable to agree on whether pit bulls can be trusted, the dogs have
been running political leaders in circles. Many municipalities have passed laws banning pit bulls, only to see them overturned in the courts. City officials in Buckley, Washington, for example, banned pit bulls after dogs like Suzanne Schumacher's, threatened neighbors. But Schumacher and the Northwest American Pit Bull Terrier Club convinced a judge that it's unfair to ban all pit bulls simply because of rare attacks. In the 70s, they had jaws and in the 80s, they had pit bulls. And I really think that this is a mass hysteria. I think these dogs have gotten into the wrong hands. When you pass a law such as Buckley had or such as any other place had and say, all pit bulls are bad, then aren't you lumping together and making an assumption more or less the same way that we have made assumptions about the Japanese, about the blacks, about the Jews? It's racism as far as I'm concerned. Like I said, it's a grave injustice to these animals. They're a very fine, noble breed who have represented America.
The judge has delayed enforcement of the law until city attorney Lauren Combs convinces him that to protect the townspeople, it's necessary to ban all pit bulls, even those who've never shown aggression. Combs says he has a strong case. I guess a good analogy would be tigers. There are nice tigers. You've seen pictures of them with kids playing with them, and you've seen pictures of people putting their heads inside of tigers. But no one argues with the fact that you can't have tigers in cities and no one protests when they're banned from cities. If Combs can establish that pit bulls are a known danger and that cities need to be protected against them, it could influence another landmark case. The case of two-year-old Jimmy Soto unfolding in Morgan Hill, California near San Jose. In June, that pit bull we saw earlier, Willie, fatally mauled the toddler as he made his way to his home. Police have charged the dog's owner with involuntary manslaughter, arguing that the pit bull owner should have known the dog's propensity to attack and should have prevented it.
But Michael Berry claims he had no way of knowing Willie might attack. If my dog had a track record of even growling at somebody, I would never have a dangerous dog. And to say that because a man owns a certain breed of dog that he can be held criminally liable is unpa, you know what unpa is? Berry and his attorney Bud Landreth are fighting what's called in legal circles, the set gun theory. The argument is your client brought a cocked pistol into a residential neighborhood and it went off, so he's responsible. That is a bunch of bulk. That is to say that every pit bull will kill on a moment's notice with an unprovoked attack. It's loaded to say that because a small child is killed by a dog, a crime has been committed as sheer nonsense. Police say the dog's owner was, in fact, involved in illegal dog fighting.
Officers found this treadmill used by many fight trainers to build up dog's muscle strength and endurance in Berry's home and Willie was found to have been purchased from fighting stock in North Carolina. Jimmy Soto is not responsible for his own death. Michael Berry is responsible for that dog being trained to kill. Jimmy Soto is dead because of Michael Berry's putting the dog there. The Jimmy Soto tragedy may be one more piece of evidence that today's pit bulls are not to be trusted, that the pit bull buyer often doesn't know what he's getting. Morgan Hill Police Chief Abby, who's fighting for an ordinance banning pit bulls from Morgan Hill, says further delays in passing and enforcing such laws will mean further tragedies. Pit bulls are a product of human intervention. The solution must also be human intervention. It's not going to go away.
In the meantime, pit bull opponents and local authorities will be watching for an assortment of court rulings to see how much intervention they'll be able to apply. Again, the day's top stories, the Iran Country Committee's issued their official report saying that President Reagan was ultimately responsible for the scandal, the White House called the majority report predictably partisan. In London, a subway fire killed at least 28 people. Former House Speaker Thomas Tip O'Neill underwent successful surgery for bowel cancer, and doctors said tests will be completed Friday to determine if the cancer has spread. Good night, Judy. Good night, Robin. That's our news hour for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow night. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you. Good night. Funding for the McNeil-era news hour is provided by AT&T. Whether it's communicating the sound of a voice or data, the AT&T network moves information in all its forms across the country and around the world, AT&T. Funding also is provided by this station and other public television stations, and the
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- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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- NewsHour Productions
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- NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
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- Episode Description
- This episode of The NewsHour features segments including a look at the Iran-Contra scandal with Senators George Mitchell and William Cohen as well as Congressmen Lee Hamilton and Richard Cheney; a Cokie Roberts report on the stalemate over the budget agreement; and a report on the crackdown on pitbull ownership
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- Slight audio distortion at the beginning. Beginning of the episode is missing.
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- Copyright NewsHour Productions, LLC. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode)
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- Moving Image
Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
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Identifier: NH-1082 (NH Show Code)
Format: 1 inch videotape
Identifier: NH-19871118 (NH Air Date)
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- Chicago: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” 1987-11-18, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 24, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-5717m04k98.
- MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1987-11-18. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 24, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-5717m04k98>.
- APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. 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-507-5717m04k98
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