thumbnail of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
Hide -
ROBERT MacNEIL: Good evening. Here are the main stories in today's news. Walter Mondale killed fundraising committees attacked by his rivals. David Kennedy, 28-year-old son of the late Robert Kennedy, was found dead in a Florida hotel. The Reagan administration claimed progress in education a year after the "rising tide of mediocrity" report." Nicaragua asked the World Court to stop U.S. support for rebel forces. Jim?
JIM LEHRER: We look at two of those stories with special reports, one from Judy Woodruff on what's really involved in the Mondale delegate business, the other from Charles Krause on the Sandinista view of fighting the contras in Nicaragua. Also, a federal expert on earthquakes will explain yesterday's quake in northern California and others still to come. Another kind of expert will explain the significance of the Russians' new offensive in Afghanistan. Doris Grumbach reviews a first and already famous novel, Edisto, and we begin a three-stop trip along a not-so-famous highway in Illinois, Route 3.Mondale PACs It In
LEHRER: Walter Mondale said he wouldn't do it anymore, but he didn't say he was sorry. That was the essence of the former vice president's announcement today on the delegate money question. He instructed his supporters to stop raising money separately through delegate committees, but he denied there was anything illegal or wrong about it. He said he was stopping the process only because it was causing needless controversy, primarily through severe criticism from his two opponents, Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson, among others. At a news conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Mondale explained it this way.
WALTER MONDALE, Democratic presidential candidate: All these are legal; they are authorized by the Federal Elections Commission. There is no argument to the contrary, a simple reading of the regulations. When I discovered that some of the committees were using PAC money, I immediately wrote a very strong letter that's a matter of record for all to read that could not be defined in any other way except a strenuous effort on my part to eliminate the use of PAC money. And I think I have almost completely succeeded in that, which demonstrates the genuineness of my commitment on that issue. But nevertheless, having done all of this, the clatter helped, in my opinion, that it has undermined my capacity to make my case clear on the questions encountered so that, despite their legality and the propriety of these efforts, I've decided to get rid of them.
MacNEIL: Mondale's chief rival, Gary Hart, said in Nashville, Tennessee, that the former vice president should return the money from the delegate committees. "Give the money back, Walter. That's the way to solve the problem. Just give the money back," Hart said in a speech at Vanderbilt University. He added, "By denouncing PAC money at the front door while his campaign sweeps it in through the back door, the former vice president has failed the test of leadership."
Sen. GARY HART, Democratic presidential candidate: At least 30 Mondale campaign staff members have been switched from the payroll of their national campaign staff to either labor unions or these independent financial gimmicks devised to get around the law. The New York primary labor PACs provided 97% of all the funds for the Mondale delegate committees. So as Mr. Mondale began to approach his legal spending limit in this presidential campaign, he chose to cut corners but not cut the strings of special interest gifts. His explanation of this conduct -- his explanations have been like scenes from a Marx Brothers movie. In March the frontrunner said this: "I don't want those delegates taking any PAC money." But his staff has consistently and apparently not listened to their own candidate. All of this raises a very fundamental question. If Mr. Mondale can't control his own campaign, how will he be able to control the White House staff?
MacNEIL: The issue of the delegate committees and PAC money has been building for some time. Judy Woodruff has the background. Judy?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Robin, the controversy over the delegate committees didn't start getting publicity until about a month ago, but the earliest developments in this story came when the primary and caucus season was just getting underway.
Mr. MONDALE: Tonight you have launched us toward victory.
WOODRUFF [voice-over]: It was just two months ago that a cocky Walter Mondale suggested that his impressive win in the Iowa caucuses had helped cinch the nomination for him, but a week later the voters of New Hampshire threw a bucket of cold water on Mondale's expectations.
Sen. HART: I think a lot of people worked an awful long time for this, and we feel good about it.
WOODRUFF [voice-over]: After Gary Hart's surprise win, not only was Mondale facing a tough game of catch-up, but he had already spent half the money he was legally permitted to spend to win the Democratic nomination. With a string of expensive delegate-rich primaries coming up in March and early April, the campaign bgan to rely increasingly on so-called delegate committees through operations like this one, they worked to get delegates elected and distribute campaign material on behalf of the presidential candidate they support. The committees can raise and spend money outside the $20-million limit imposed on the presidential candidate.
MONDALE VOLUNTEER: We would like to know if you would help us by urging your family and friends to vote for Walter Mondale.
WOODRUFF: What was to become controversial, though, was that 85% of the funding for the Mondale delegate committees came from labor unions, which also set up phone banks on their own, like this one in Maryland, to contact voters. Organized labor has been working hard for Mondale across the country, funneling some campaign money through its political action committees to the delegate committees. There is a question whether this type of relationship was intended by the Federal Election Commission when it wrote the law in 1980 creating a role for the delegate committees. The law was written to encourage political activity at the grassroots level, and it stipulated that if the committees are to permitted to operate outside the spending limits of the presidential campaign, they must not spend money with the cooperation or with the prior consent of, or in consultation with, or at the request or suggestion of the presidential candidate. An election law expert interprets the law this way.
JAN BARAN, lawyer: If you have delegate committees they have to operate independently of the candidate's campaign. And if they don't operate independently of the candidate's campaign, then the money they spent is going to count towards the candidate, and I believe that's what the law is today.
WOODRUFF: Last January, however, the Mondale campaign manager, Bob Beckel, sent a memo to all those Mondale supporters running for delegate saying he hoped they would not accept money from political action committees, but notifying them that they could spend money to promote their own candidacies. Another attorney who has studied the election law says that was a legitimate thing to do.
ROBERT BAUER, lawyer: I'm not certain, by reference to other provisions of the law, that the mere provision of legal advice to those campaigns, to individual delegates who have never participated in the process before and who are unsure of what they can or cannot do -- I'm not certain that alone would compromise the independence of the committee. I think that may well be one of the stronger points in the Mondale committee's favor.
WOODRUFF: But records filed in recent days with the Federal Elections Commission suggest that there may have been more coordination among the Mondale delegate committees than just some letters from national headquarters. Documents filed by delegate committees in New Hampshire indicate at least $25,000 in union money flooded the Second Congressional District within days before the primary there. Almost half of that money was later transferred to delegate slates in Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania.In New York, which Mondale won, but where he was officially outspent by Hart, there were four envelopes from four different congressional districts in Brooklyn, all filed in the same handwriting and sent in similar envelopes with expenditure checks drawn from the same bank. And, from Illinois came one of several examples of a delegate committee's salary check going to someone who had earlier been on the payrool of the Mondale national campaign. Based on this and other evidence, three weeks ago the Hart campaign filed a complaint with the FEC, charging the Mondale campaign had broken the law.
OLIVER HENCKEL, Hart campaign manager: The election law provides that a political action committee, for example, can only contribute $5,000 to a campaign, and that includes all affiliated committees. Well, there are political action committees that have contributed considerably more than $5,000 to the Mondale campaign through the delegate committees which are affiliated, and that's in clear violation of the law. Aside from that which is strictly legal, we think that there are serious political and moral problems with what is being done here.
JAMES JOHNSON, Mondale campaign chairman: I don't think it's going to add up to much of anything. First of all, what we're doing, I think, is completely appropriate. Secondly, I think people widely see this as a charge that's politically motivated by Gary Hart, and I don't think anybody considers that's anywhere near a violation.
WOODRUFF [voice-over]: Despite such denials by the Mondale campaign, this latest one just yesterday, the growing collection of critical news stories and a call by the citizens lobby, Common Cause, for Mondale to halt the activities of the delegate committees, all led to the campaign's decision to ask that the committees be disbanded.
[on camera] That takes some of the heat off the Mondale campaign for the moment, but there are still unanswered questions about whether what the Mondale supporters did earlier was legal. First, there is the complaint filed with the FEC by the Hart campaign, which FEC officials have said they won't be able to consider before the Democratic primaries end in June. But there are also what Common Cause calls "public policy questions" about whether the Mondale delegate committees permitted the campaign to exceed contribution and spending limits that are among the most important parts of the presidential campaign finance system. From a political standpoint, the Mondale campaign is gambling that today's move is enough to defuse the issue, while the Hart campaign obviously hopes it is not, because it claims what the Mondale campaign did helped it survive a slump period in order for Mr. Mondale to start winning primaries again.
LEHRER: Thank you, Judy.
David Anthony Kennedy, the 28-year-old son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, is dead. His body was found this morning in his room at a Palm Beach, Florida, hotel. Police said the cause of death had not been determined, but there was no sign of foul play. David Kennedy was the fourth of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's 11 children; he had been treated for drug addiction in 1979 after he was found in a seedy New York City hotel police described as "a drug supermarket." Just last month his older brother, Robert, Jr., pleaded guilty to a possession of heroin charge in South Dakota. Their uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, said in a statement this afternoon that members of the Kennedy family had tried to help David in recent years, and said they prayed he has finally found the peace that he did not find in life. Robin?
MacNEIL: The staff of the Federal Trade Commission today recommended conditional approval for the largest corporate merger in U.S. history -- the purchase of Gulf Oil by Standard Oil of California for more than $13 billion. The FTC's five commissioners will vote on the proposal tomorrow and are expected to approve it. If they do, Commission sources told us, the deal would be conditional on Standard Oil divesting some 4,000 service stations and a major refinery.
The secretary of education, Terrel Bell, said today that American schools are improving because of the public response to the year-old report which pointed to a rising tide of mediocrity. The anniversary of that report is tomorrow, but Secretary Bell held a news conference today to counter criticisms of the administration's efforts in education. He also praised state governors, legislatures, partents and teachers for their reaction to the problems identified in the report.
TERREL BELL, Secretary of Education: The President has emphasized that education is at the top of the national agenda. He's spent a lot of time speaking about education, and he's emphasized several times what he perceives to be -- and I agree -- is a grassroots revolution that promises to strengthen, we hope, every school in the country.Although it isn't a large increase, we did submit a budget this year which is larger than the 1984 budget, and does constitute the largest education request in history. We do believe that we have a very far-reaching, very significant movement going forward that's going to dramatically change the nation's schools, all, we believe, for the better.
MacNEIL: The secretary attacked the nation's largest teachers union, the National Education Association, which earlier this week criticized administration efforts. The NEA said that under President Reagan the federal share of the cost of education had fallen from 8.7% to 6.4%. Tomorrow on this program, educators around the country will give their views of how much progress has been made in one year. Anatomy of a Quake
MacNEIL: Scientists warned today that northern Californians can expect more earth tremors in the next few days following yesterday's massive earthquake. Measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, yesterday's quake was one of the five largest since the disastrous San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Engineers said that yesterday's would have caused catastrophic damage if buildings had not been designed to withstand shocks of that magnitude. As it was, only 24 people were injured and no one was killed, although damage to homes and property ran into millions of dollars. The cities of San Jose and nearby Morgan Hill were hardest hit. They lie a few miles from the center of the shock on the Calaveras Fault. Police in Morgan Hill, about 70 miles south of San Francisco, cordoned off dozens of homes damaged by the quake and by smaller aftershocks. In San Jose officials reported that 200 homes were damaged and three businesses destroyed, at a loss of $2 million dollars. The tremor caused less damage, but just as much fear in San Francisco, where high-rise buildings began to sway and many people ran into the streets. For more on what the earth holds in store for Californians, we have with us Mark Zoback, head of the earthquake prediction program at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California. He joins us tonight from public station KQED in San Francisco.
Mr. Zoback, first of all, how much of a surprise was the quake yesterday?
MARK ZOBACK: Well, the earthquake wasn't a surprise in the sense that the potential of the Calaveras Fault to produce earthquakes of this size has been known for a long time. For example, in 1979 an earthquake very similar in magnitude and affecting a very similar area occurred immediately to the south of this part of the fault that broke. So we've known for a long time that the Calaveras had in store future earthquakes of this magnitude.
MacNEIL: Could you explain in simple terms the mechanics of why you know this? In other words, what in the earth's structure causes an earthquake?
Mr. ZOBACK: That's relatively straightforward to explain. The Calaveras Fault is an element of the San Andreas Fault system, a series of parallel faults that run the length of California, essentially from the Gulf of California all the way to the Oregon border, where the fault runs out to sea. Now, the Pacific plate, which is on the west side of the fault system, is moving north with respect to the North American plate on the east side of the fault at a rate of about two inches per year. Now, what --
MacNEIL: Could I just stop you there? The plates are those huge sections of the earth's crust, as I understand it, which are floating on the molten interior of the earth. Is that correct?
Mr. ZOBACK: That's right. The plates are approximately 60 to 100 kilometers thick, and they are rigid or elastic, whereas the deeper materials in the earth are relatively ductile or molten.
MacNEIL: So the Pacific plate is moving north, you say, and the one on the mainland is moving south at what speed, did you say?
Mr. ZOBACK: About two inches per year.
MacNEIL: And so what happens to produce an earthquake?
Mr. ZOBACK: Well, what's happening is, as I'm speaking here in San Francisco, the plates are continuing to move past one another, but the brittle materials in the upper part of the earth's crust are locked, so this movement, this two inches per year, accumulates over a number of years, say, for example, about 150 years along some parts of the fault, and then all of this movement is unlocked in an earthquake. So you can think of the earthquake process as a spring, and you're deforming the spring slowly for many years, and then suddenly you let the spring go, and all of the movement that's accumulated over a great period of time is released in an instant.
MacNEIL: Is it true that California is probably in for a much bigger quake sometime in the future?
Mr. ZOBACK: Well, there's really no question about that. Along the San Andreas Fault in southern California, for example, there was a very, very large earthquake in 1857. The magnitude was approximately eight, or 100 times larger than the earthquake that occurred yesterday. In 1906, as you know, the great San Francisco earthquake occurred. This also was approximately magnitude eight, or 100 times the size of yesterday's event.So it's just a matter of time before these earthquakes will occur again.
MacNEIL: How good are you getting at predicting now?
Mr. ZOBACK: Well, earthquake prediction involves three things. It's prediction of the place, the magnitude and the time of an earthquake. Now, what we've been doing in the past two years is a lot of fundamental research to identify those parts of the fault which had the potential for producing a big earthquake, and what the long-term probability of that earthquake was. Once we have this kind of information we can do the kinds of focus studies which are necessary to accomplish short-term prediction. Now, we've made a great deal of progress in this kind of long-term probability estimation of earthquakes along the San Andreas system.
MacNEIL: You're, in other words, saying it's been so many years since this section of the crust, of the plates shifted, the probability increases with each year that they will shift here and cause an earthquake? Is that the kind of thing you're talking about?
Mr. ZOBACK: That's right. Along the San Andreas Fault in southern California, for example, the plates are moving relative to one another slightly less than one inch per year, and we have independent evidence that suggests that earthquakes occur there every 150 years. Well, the last earthquake in that area was 1857, which is 127 years ago. So we're rapidly approaching the average recurrence time for earthquakes in that region.
MacNEIL: You say those two quakes you mentioned in the 19th century and 1906, were on the order of eight, force 8, on the Richter Scale, 100 times more severe than yesterday's. Engineers we quoted from the wire services today said there would have been much worse damage if buildings had not been designed in San Francisco to withstand this kind of shock. Is anything designed to withstand a shock of eight?
Mr. ZOBACK: Well, these earthquakes have been known for a long time, and it's a very active area of research in engineering science to take the kinds of ground motions which will occur in these big earthquakes and design buildings to withstand them. Now, there is unfortunately no way to demonstrate the ability of these buildings to withstand an earthquake until the actual earthquake occurs. But there's a great deal of research which goes into predicting the kinds of ground motions that will occur and how the buildings will respond.
MacNEIL: Was the fact that no building in San Francisco suffered -- tall building suffered major damage yesterday, is that a good sign, or is that not a good sign of what could happen when the larger one you are predicting comes?
Mr. ZOBACK: Well, it's not really a fair test, because this earthquake was of relatively small size, and was sufficiently far away that you're really not testing the kinds of ground motions that will occur in the very big earthquakes in the future.
MacNEIL: How confident are you and your colleagues getting that you will be able to pinpoint the probably arrival of a major earthquake in time to warn people and so on?
Mr. ZOBACK: Well, that's a very hard question to answer. If some of the things occur along the San Andreas Fault that have been reported in other parts of the world, well then our existing instrumentation systems may be capable of detecting those kinds of signals. But for many reasons we suspect that the signals will be much smaller, and we need a great number of additional instruments, and we need improved sensitivity and observations over much larger areas than are now being conducted.
MacNEIL: So at the moment you're not confident, is that correct, that you could warn people in time? Is that fair?
Mr. ZOBACK: Well, I think if the earthquake occurred tomorrow we'd be in a lot of trouble, but I think now we know where the earthquake is going to occur, for example, the 1857 section of the fault in southern California has a much higher probability than the 1906 section. So, for that reason, we're concentrating our efforts there, and we're developing the kinds of techniques which we want to apply along that fault in other sections where moderate earthquakes like the one that occurred yesterday have a very high probability of occurring within the next five years, for example. So, in a controlled test with a moderate earthquake in the next five years, we hope to sort of perfect the prediction science, and then once we're really completely confident of what types of observations we want to make and how we want to make them, to deploy that observation scheme in southern California and actually predict the 1857 event.
MacNEIL: Mr. Zoback, thank you.
Mr. ZOBACK: Thank you.
MacNEIL: Jim?
LEHRER: Speaking of northern California, there is an update on a story we did last Thursday, a report by Kwame Holman on drug abuse among the high-tech crowd in the Silicon Valley. San Jose Police Chief Joseph MacNamara said may computer and other high-tech company executives in the area didn't seem to believe it was a problem. Well, yesterday, Chief MacNamara announced the arrest of five persons, including an electronics broker, for the possession of cocaine. Eleven pounds of cocaine were seized in the action, the largest drug bust of its kind ever in the Valley.
[Video postcard -- Washington, D.C.] Fighting the Contras
LEHRER: The legal case, Nicaragua v. the United States of America, began today before the World Court at The Hague, Netherlands. The lawyer for Nicaragua charged the U.S. with violating the U.N. and Organization of American States charters by supporting the contras fighting the Nicaraguan government and the direct action of U.S. military forces. The U.S. says the World Court has no jurisdiction in the Nicaraguan complaint, and charges Nicaragua is using the court for propaganda purposes. In Nicaragua there were no reports of fighting today between the government and contra forces. Last week the government recaptured two towns that had been briefly occupied by the rebels. Charles Krause, on assignment for this program, reports now on the Sandinista government's battle against the contras.
CHARLES KRAUSE [voice-over]: The Sandinistas now have more than 50,000 men under arms, the most powerful fighting force in Central America. They've deployed an increasing number of their troops to remote, unmarked battlefields near Nicaragua's borders with Honduras and Costa Rica. It's here the contras have infiltrated six to eight thousand men, with help from the CIA.
The death toll on both sides is mounting. Western military analysts say the contras have become an "often deadly irritant" but as yet pose no serious threat to Nicaragua's revolutionary government. But the Sandinistas are, to a large extent, trapped. They cannot easily defeat the contras because that would require attacking their support facilities in Honduras and Costa Rica, risking a direct confrontation with the United States.
The Sandinistas' young, highly motivated army, though, has isolated the U.S.-backed counterrevolutionaries far from Nicaragua's major cities. And today the contras appear no closer to achieving their military and political aims than they did six months or a year ago. Last week the Sandinistas scored another major victory when they dislodged a force of about 500 contras from San Juan del Norte. The town, which the anti-Sandinista rebels said they would make their provisional capital, was virtually destroyed before the fighting ended. All that was left was captured ammunition and evidence of the contras close ties with the United States.
While San Juandel Norte was still under siege, another band of contras attacked Sumubila[?], a relocation camp built two years ago to house Miskito Indian refugees. The Miskitos are an indigenous tribe with their own heritage and culture.Many of them are sympathetic to the contras because, when the Sandinistas first came to power, they failed to respect the Miskitos' language and traditions. But the attack last week at Sumubila left many of its 3,000 residents confused and angry. The contras killed seven innocent civilians and kidnapped 40 others, including a doctor.
[interviewing] Did they want to go with them, or did they not want to go with them?
OLIVER HUMPHREYS, town resident: Sir, they was crying. The people was crying when they took them. They didn't want to go.
KRAUSE [voice-over]: Before they were driven off, the contras destroyed Sumubila's health clinic and malaria control station. They burned an ambulance and destroyed a warehouse filled with fertilizer, seeds and other material the Miskitos need for farming, their only source of income. Accused by the United States of violating the Miskito Indians' human rights, the Sandinistas viewed the contra attack on Sumubila as a propaganda victory.Defense Minister Humberto Ortega toured the area last weekend. He told us the situation in Central America is becoming more and more dangerous.
HUMBERTO ORTEGA, Minister of Defense [through interpreter]: We don't totally discard the possibility of a direct U.S. intervention in El Salvador, which would create great tension with Nicaragua and possible military intervention against us. There were no indications the U.S. has stopped its aggression. On the contrary, it's increasing its forces in such a way that each time we defeat the contras the U.S. steps up its involvement.
KRAUSE [voice-over]: The Sandinistas are closely watching whether Congress votes to cut off further aid to the contras. If the aid is cut, the Sandinistas believe they could easily defeat the U.S.-backed rebels, because in their view the contras have little popular support inside Nicaragua.But the Sandinistas' principal concern remains the CIA, which has mined their ports, and the growing U.S. military presence in neighboring Honduras. Even if the contras are cut off or defeated, the Sandinistas are convinced the Reagan administration will use other means to try to put an end to their revolution.
MacNEIL: That was a report by Charles Krause, our special correspondent.
The British government said today that the Libyans besieged in their embassy in London will be forced out if they don't leave voluntarily by the deadline, midnight, Sunday. The police have surrounded the embassy since April 17th, when someone inside fired a machine gun out a window, wounding 11 demonstrators and killing a policewoman. Today the British conferred with the Libyan chief of military intelligence, possibly about plans to evacuate the Libyan Embassy in London and the British embassy in Tripoli at the same time. Here are two reports by the BBC from London and Tripoli.
KEITH GRAVES, BBC [voice-over]: The Libyan consulate in Kensington the three officials who arrived from Libya last night to supervise the departure of their comrades, spoke to the besieged embassy on the telephone during the day. Upon these men and one in particular, hopes of ending this incident peacefully are pinned: 46-year-old Colonel Abd al-Rahman Shaibi is the man responsible for operations against Libyan dissidents overseas. His men probablymurdered Policewoman Fletcher. Little wonder, then, that he's being guarded by a squad of arms special branch men and driven around in an armored Jaguar. Tonight he and his two colleagues have spent almost two hours at the Foreign Office. It was described as an important meeting, but held with relatively low-level officials. The colonel has demanded that photographers and reporters are kept well away from him.The speculation is that it was an operation that he organized that went dreadfully wrong and led to Policewoman Fletcher's death, and that now an angry Colonel Qaddafi has sent him to London to sort out the mess.
KATE ADIE, BBC [voice-over]: The Italian Embassy sent a lorry to cart off the most important bits and pieces from the British residence. The Spanish are looking out for the pictures; the Indians already have the grand piano. All documents are going into the shredding machine at the embassy. Furniture and paper are easily dealt with. Moving people still presents problems. At the embassy, 10 people, including three diplomats' wives, are having their movement restricted, possibly a deliberate tactic by the Libyans, possibly bureaucratic muddle. The ambassador is free to come and go, and at the moment he's optimistic about the chances of getting everyone out on time, starting with 15 wives and children tomorrow.
A couple of miles down the road from the British Embassy this evening, Colonel Qaddafi is putting in an appearance at a people's congress. The sort of welcome he automatically and always receives shows the determination which propels and sustains every action by the Libyan people.
MacNEIL: In Lebanon, Rashid Karami, a Sunni Muslim leader who is one of President Gemayel's principal opponents, indicated today that he will serve as prime minister in a new government of national reconciliation. And Walid Jumblatt, the Druse leader who has been openly at war with the government, said he too is ready to serve in the cabinet. The cabinet is expected to be named tomorrow, and the inclusion of Karami and Jumblatt would be seen as an important step towards ending the civil war which is now in its tenth year.
Jim? Spring Offensive: The Panjshir Valley
LEHRER: There were conflicting reports and claims from Afghanistan today as the Sovietbacked government said its troops had scored a major victory against rebel forces who in turn said that wasn't so. At issue is the Panjshir Valley, a narrow, 100-mile-long gorge that has been the center of the resistance against the government and the Soviets since it all began 4 1/2 years ago. Some 20,000 Soviet troops with 500 tanks and armored cars and helicopters are reportedly involved in the Panjshir offensive, supported by high-level bombing attacks. But "reportedly", as always the key modifier of news from Afghanistan. And here to help us sort through it and its importance is Karen Dawisha, a Soviet analyst from Britain's Southhampton University. She served as a special adviser on Soviet-Afghanistan policy to the House of Commons, and is now a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution here in Washington.
First, is there any way to know who's telling the truth, just on the fighting today?
KAREN DAWISHA: It's always very difficult in the case of Afghanistan, but we have two major sources. We have, first of all, Kabul Radio, which, although controlled by the Soviets and the Afghan regime, has in the past not admitted major successes unless there has been some truth in these reports and, secondly, diplomatic sources in Kabul have over the last twomonths reported major movements of Soviet troops to the valley in the north. So these are the two major sources that we're going on.
LEHRER: And today the fact that Kabul Radio did claim victory in the valley is something that we should pay attention to, in other words?
Ms. DAWISHA: Yes. I think that when we want to -- what we want to do in interpreting this is to admit that the Soviets have been involved in a major offensive, a major intrusion of Soviet ground forces, Soviet air power against the rebels in this valley, and they probably have done a great deal of damage to villages and installations. Victory will only be determined by the rebels in the future, though.
LEHRER: Well, if they in fact have inflicted heavy damage to the troops and to supplies and whatever is in the valley, how significant is that?
Ms. DAWISHA: I think that it would be significant if they were able to break up the infrastructure of Ahmad Shah Masood, who is the leader of the rebels in that valley. He has succeeded in thwarting Soviet efforts to drive him out ever since the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
LEHRER: It's the sixth time they've tried, right?
Ms. DAWISHA: The sixth major offensive. And the important thing about this valley is that it does straddle the major road from the Soviet Union to Kabul, and it therefore is a major hold for the rebels if they can keep it. And I think it would be important for the Soviets during this particular season to put that at the top of their agenda in military terms.
LEHRER: What physically is in the valley? I mean, other than -- can you describe it in words, in terms of what the structures are, both military and otherwise?
Ms. DAWISHA: Well, there are very few military structures as we would know them. There are villages at the bottom of the valley which provide support and succor for the rebel forces and, up at the top of the valleys and on their sides, there are caves, paths that the rebels have been able to use, and of course there are, in particular, machine gun positions at the top of the valley that the rebels have always been able to use very successfully for attacking the helicopter gunships from above, and this has been the major problem for the Soviets in driving rebels out from the valley floor.
LEHRER: I read today that there was speculation that the reason the Soviets launched the big attack, the big offensive now, and particularly announced it today from Kabul was that they wanted to send a message to President Reagan as he goes and talks to the Chinese. Do you buy that?
Ms. DAWISHA: I don't think it's without reason. I think that if one were to put a balance on it -- let's put it this way. If President Reagan were currently in Moscow having a summit with the Soviet leadership it's unlikely that they would choose this particular moment to launch an offensive in Afghanistan. There are really no constraints on the Soviets at the international level to prevent them from trying to achieve major objectives by military force in Afghanistan.And I suspect that we will see much more of this sort of thing in the months to come.
LEHRER: What's it an indication of, that the Soviets want to try to finally end this thing, or what?
Ms. DAWISHA: Of course they would like to be able to think that they could use military force to achieve their political objective in Afghanistan. I would imagine that after five years of getting bogged down in Afghanistan they're not particularly sanguine about their chances. What they would hope to do is to secure the supply routes to Kabul and to prevent any rebel attacks on the passes that they have to go through to make sure that the rebels do not succeed in infiltrating the towns; that's their objective, military objective in Afghanistan, and to send sort of signals to the regional powers and to the United States that they are willing to escalate, that they are willing to hold onto their position militarily, even with losses in Afghanistan, and also that they are hoping to improve their position at the negotiating table for the next round.
LEHRER: And they're saying that they're willing to hold on to it forever if that's what it takes, right? Is that what they're saying?
Ms. DAWISHA: If that's what it takes, yes, absolutely.
LEHRER: On the other side, the rebels, it's an open secret that the rebels get U.S. supplies through various sources. How dependent are they on us?
Ms. DAWISHA: They are dependent on the United States, and they certainly do benefit terrifically by the support that they do get through us, through other interested parties via Pakistan. They also are affected negatively by the constraints operating on us to provide more. The Pakistanis, for example, are very concerned to achieve a solution that would allow the three million refugees to go back to Afghanistan --
LEHRER: This is the three million who are now in Pakistan?
Ms. DAWISHA: Who are now in Pakistan. But they also are worried that if these three million refugees become too fully armed and are not immediately able to go back to Afghanistan that they will have, really, an army within Pakistan.
LEHRER: An army that could cause them problems.
Ms. DAWISHA: Absolutely.
LEHRER: But, unlike the situation that you just saw Charles Krause report on, the support of the contra guerrillas by the United States in Nicaragua, there is no controversy at all about U.S. support -- at least in this country -- about the support of the Afghan rebels.
Ms. DAWISHA: No, there is not as much controversy, and don't forget that the United States is not directly involved in the support and promotion of U.S. aims in Afghanistan. It's nuanced much more through third parties, whether it's Pakistan, whether it's through the Gulf states, through Egypt or whatever. So we're not directly involved in that sense.
LEHRER: Thank you. Robin?
MacNEIL: President Reagan stopped on the Pacific island of Guam today for a few hours rest and briefings on his way to Peking. Mr. Reagan, whose journey has been arranged in stages to reduce jet lag and fatigue, is scheduled his schedule to make the six-hour flight to Peking tonight, arriving in the Chinese capital tomorrow morning, U.S. time.
Back in Washington the Congress had bad news for the President's so-called "Star Wars" plan to eliminate the threat of nuclear missile attack. The non-partisan Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the scientific arm of Congress, published a study saying the idea was not worthy of public hope or national policy. The administration wants to spend $1.8 billion for research on the program in the next fiscal year, and $26 billion over five years. Today, top administration defenders of the proposal, the President's science adviser, Dr. George Keyworth, and Lt. General James Abrahamson of the Pentagon, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They ran into criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
Dr. GEORGE KEYWORTH, science adviser to the president: The defense initiative is not a search for a technical panacea. It is a search for a technical tool by which different peoples with different political bonds and cultures can find a common ground to negotiate a common peace. We see the investigation of strategic defense options as an absolutely vital catalyst to real arms control.
Sen. CHARLES PERCY, (R) Illinois: The administration has had over three years to develop an effective strategy for space arms control. During these three years time has not been standing still. On the contrary, the Soviets have continued to improve their existing operational ASAT system, and the United States has now begun testing of its own miniature vehicle. Even more disturbing, the administration has formalized a so-called strategic defense initiative that raises grave questions as to its costs, goals, technological feasibility, affect on crisis stability and consistency with long-standing U.S. arms control policy.
Sen. LARRY PRESSLER, (R) South Dakota: The risks and costs of a space weapons race could prove to be extremely high. At a minimum, the U.S. needs to think long and hard about the implication of a space arms race. Through talks with the Soviet Union we can determine whether space arms control can contribute to our nation's securities.
Sen. JOHN GLENN, (D) Ohio: While I support research, all this business of going on with the proposals for deployment and all are so premature to me at this point that I just can't believe we're discussing layers one through five, and we're just assuming that all the basic physics of this thing work. And that is a long ways from being proven.It may be another 15 or 20 years before we have the thing workable. And I just can't see this. I think the President far oversold this. I thought at the start it was for political reasons: he wants to appear to be Buck Rogers out there defending the country, and that's fine; I appreciate that. But I just cannot -- I cannot see us going through all this business of deployment and great teams going out and decision-making and all of this business when the basic system hasn't been invented.
Dr. RICHARD PERLE, assistant secretary of defense: This administration has made no decision to spend hundreds of billions of dollars. What we have is a technology development program, a research program, that's clearly spelled out in all of the budget submissions and the testimony n support of that. And we regret as much as you do the impression that there is an imminent deployment, because there isn't. It's a long-term effort.
Sen. GLENN: Do you agree that there's that impression in the country?
Sec. PERLE: I agree there's that impression, and I think it results in large measure from the exaggerated criticism of the program in which figures like a trillion dollars are routinely thrown around.
MacNEIL: Yesterday in a speech in Cleveland, Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale called the Reagan proposal a fairytale that would open the heavens for warfare. He called instead for a space freeze.
Last night we carried a report from a British magazine, Jane's Defense Weekly, saying that Iran was likely to have its own nuclear bomb within two years. Today the State Department said it didn't think that report was correct.
[Video postcard -- Forney, Alabama]
LEHRER: As most of you surely know, there's been a rhubarb since last year about southpaws. First a university researcher said they hit better than righties. Then a second university researcher said no, they didn't. Well, today a third university researcher from North Carolina joined the fray saying it was a matter of the eyes. Southpaws, when standing at the plate, had their righteye closer to the mound. That's why they hit better. This new development was carried today in the pages of The New England Journal of Medicine. In other words, it's become a very serious matter, and that's why we're reporting it.
Robin? Book Review: Edisto
MacNEIL: Next tonight, our weekly book review. This time the book is a first novel called Edisto by Padgett Powell. Our reviewer is Doris Grumbach.
What is the setting of Edisto?
DORIS GRUMBACH, reviewer: Well, it has two settings. The first and longest part of the book, of the very short book, takes place on the coast between Charleston and Savannah, a sort of nondescript place where the boy begins his 12th year with his mother. And then, at the very end, it switches to Hilton Head, which represents civilization.
MacNEIL: You say the boy. What is the story? It's the story of a boy?
Ms. GRUMBACH: Yes, it's the story of a boy's world and in his 12th year. It's the story of a boy who has extraordinary sophistication in some ways. He hangs out at a beer parlor which is a black beer parlor. He's a white boy named Simmons.He is writing a novel. He's very sophisticated. And on the other hand he is, like all 12-year-old boys, fearful of sex, trying to find out what it's like, what it's about, and knowing almost nothing.
MacNEIL: This is funny. This is the second book we've had recently reviewed on the program that is a story about a young boy, and I believe there's a third one that's been published recently.
Ms. GRUMBACH: Yes, there's one by Ken Nunn, called Tapping the Source, which is another novel, this time about an 18-year-old who goes in search of his sister.
MacNEIL: And the other one we reviewed recently was William McPherson's Testing the Current, about an eight-year-old or nine-year-old boy. Now, what do these books have in common? Why is there such a spate of books about young boys?
Ms. GRUMBACH: Well, I don't know the answer to that, but what they have in common are three distinct and eloquent voices, excellent voices. In all cases there are sort of a dual voice. There's the voice of the author telling about the boy he remembers, and the voice of the boy himself. In this case particularly there are some very sophisticated sentences which this 12-year-old boy might not have written. But there are also sentences which belong explictly to the voice of the boy.
MacNEIL: And what's especially notable about the book to you?
Ms. GRUMBACH: Well, it's an interesting book. Once before we talked about Eudora Welty's book. In a different way this book is about the education of a writer who, at 12, is beginning to notice everything. And he says at the end, "This is my motto: never to forget that dull as things get, old as it is, something is happening, happening all the time, and to watch it." And you realize that that's what Simmons has been doing -- watching it, remembering in this perfect way that this young novelist has.
MacNEIL: There is also, I saw in your notes, there's a tension between the mother and father of this boy as to what he should become. Describe that a little bit.
Ms. GRUMBACH: Well, the mother wants him to be a writer, which is what he becomes. The father wants him to go to baseball games and be a physical sort of boy. The mother and father are apart, separated. He, the little boy, goes on what he calls custody junkets to visit his father, and ultimately, in Hilton Head at the end, the two come together; the father and mother are reunited, and the boy begins what we assume to be his manhood. The tension lies in what he is to be, and we know from the book that he's going to be the writer.
MacNEIL: And who is the writer of the book, Padgett Powell?
Ms. GRUMBACH: Padgett Powell -- and all I know about him is what the book tells me -- that this is his first novel, that he was born in North Florida in 1952 and now lives in Houston. So I think he's at the beginning of a notable career.
MacNEIL: Doris Grumbach, thank you.
Again, the book we've been discussing is the novel Edisto by Padgett Powell, published by Farrar, Strauss, Giroux. Jim?
LEHRER: A last look now at today's top stories. Walter Mondale says he doesn't want his delegate committees to raise any more money. The Democratic presidential candidate was reacting to criticism from his rivals Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson. Tragedy again struck the Kennedy family. David Anthony Kennedy, the 28-year-old son of the late Robert Kennedy, was found dead in a Palm Beach, Florida, hotel room. In Washington the Federal Trade Commission reportedly approved the biggest merger in U.S. corporate history, the $13-billion purchase of Gulf Oil by Standard Oil of California. And in The Hague, Netherlands, Nicaragua began its case against the United States in the World Court.In Guam President Reagan is resting up on the last leg of his trip to China, the President's official visit starts tomorrow. Tales from Route 3
LEHRER: And, finally tonight, the launching of what, in more pizzaz television quarters, would be called a miniseries. For us it's simply three stories that will run on three different nights about three people who live on Route 3.
[voice-over] The next time you're in East St. Louis, Illinois -- that's just across the river from the Missouri St. Louis, consider a drive down Route 3, Illinois state highway 3, the Great River Road, as it's called. The river is the Mississippi, the greatest of all American rivers, and Route 3 runs parallel to it, from East St. Louis until it meets its end, 140 miles south at Cairo. That's C-a-i-r-o, spelled like the city in Egypt, pronounced like the syrup in America. In between there are towns with names like Waterloo, Rosebud, Chester, Wolf Lake and Olive Branch, all bound and related to one another on a map by that two-lane road, Route 3, but as different as the people who live there.
Take Chester. Except for East St. Louis and Cairo, it's the largest place on the route, with an official population of about 8,300. But 2,300 of those Chesterites are inmates at a state prison and a state mental hospital. Among the others is 79-year-old Joe Akers, editor and publisher of Chester's weekly newspaper, the Randolph County Herald Tribune.
JOE AKERS, editor and publisher, Randolph County Herald Tribune [voice-over]: I came out here by the request of a brother of mine who had an interest in this paper. He knew I was retiring and asked me to come out here and see if I could do anything with it. Then, in 1970, my brother was killed in an automobile accident, so the wife and I just bought out the paper and we're still here.
[to staff person] Eileen, if I give you some dope about that meeting we had about the museum the other night, can you put a little something together on that, please?
[voice-over] The role of this newspaper, like any good weekly newspaper in a small town, can and should be used in many ways for the benefit of the town.
And I'd like to get that. I think I'd like to put that on the front page if we can get it in time.
[voice-over] We don't have a murder every 24 or 48 hours like they do in many metropolitan communities. We do have a penitentiary here and we have a mental health institution here, both state-operated. We have many things of interest and, I may say, primarily to the women -- social news. It seems like everybody's related to somebody else. Start reporting things on somebody in one town and you find that they've got a cousin or an uncle or a grandma or somebody living practically next door to you.
That coming along in good shape? Very good, all right. Very good.
[voice-over] They say in a small town everybody knows what you've done, and that's true, but in many small towns, people not only know what you've done, they know what you're thinking about.
How long before you'll be on the press?
STAFF: Forty minutes. That good enough?
Mr. AKERS: Bump it along. Bump it along.
[voice-over] One conclusion I came to some time ago is that it doesn't make any difference where you go. It doesn't make any difference what country or what nationality you're talking to. There's the usual percentage of good and decent and upright and honest people. But unfortunately, on the other side of the coin, there's the customary percentage of so-and-sos. And it doesn't make any difference what their nationality is. It just seems to be part of human nature. I don't like the idea of small-town newspapers getting in the hands of syndicates. It's not a question of their ability to run a paper, but too often there gradually sneaks in the rules and regulations of the syndicate and you lose some of the flavor of what I think should be a weekly newspaper.
[on camera] Just this past summer, I hadn't been out of the house all day Saturday because I wasn't feeling well. In fact, I wasn't even dressed, wandering around in my pajamas, dressing gown. And about 6:15 the doorbell rang. I went to the door and here was a little boy, six years old. He looked up at me and he said, "Hi, Joe." And I said, "Well, hi, there, sonny. What can I do for you?" And it developed that he had caught the first fish he'd ever caught in his life. And it was about a seven-pounder, and he caught it right down here at the Chester waterfront. Very obvious that he'd like to have a picture. Well, I couldn't disappoint a little fella like that, so I tossed on some clothes and we came down here at the office, I got a camera and took a picture of him. That's the way you have to do it in a small town.
LEHRER: Joe Akers of Chester, Illinois. And I made a mistake a few moments ago in listing some of the other towns along Route 3. I said there was a place called Rosebud. Wrong kind of bud. It's Redbud. Sorry. Good night, Robin.
MacNEIL: Good night, Jim. That's our NewsHour tonight. We will be back with another tomorrow night. I'm Robert MacNeil. Good night.
The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
Producing Organization
NewsHour Productions
Contributing Organization
NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/507-696zw1976z).
This episode of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour reports on the following headlines: Walter Mondales decision to kill his PACs, the Sandinista perspective on fighting Contras in Nicaragua, a look at a recent California earthquake, the significance of the Russian offensive in Afghanistan, and part 1 of a series of reports on Route 3 in Illinois.
Asset type
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Politics and Government
Copyright NewsHour Productions, LLC. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License (
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
AAPB Contributor Holdings
NewsHour Productions
Identifier: NH-0168 (NH Show Code)
Format: 1 inch videotape
Generation: Master
Duration: 01:00:00;00
NewsHour Productions
Identifier: NH-19840425 (NH Air Date)
Format: U-matic
Generation: Preservation
Duration: 01:00:00;00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” 1984-04-25, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 24, 2024,
MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1984-04-25. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 24, 2024. <>.
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