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MARGARET WARNER:Good evening. I'm Margaret Warner. Jim Lehrer is off. On the NewsHour tonight: Our summary of the news; then, a striking new development in stem cell research; a Newsmaker interview with the prime minister of Egypt; a new opera tackles the subject of slavery; and our analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks.
MARGARET WARNER: President Bush warned today he will veto a bill to ease restrictions on stem cell research. The House could vote on such a bill next week. It would allow more federally funded research on stem cells from frozen embryos at fertility clinics. It would not fund research that involves creating new embryos. But the president said today he still favors the more restrictive ban he imposed in 2001.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I made position very clear on embryonic stem cells. I'm a strong supporter of adult stem cell research, of course. But I made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is -- I'm against that. And, therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it.
MARGARET WARNER: The president also voiced concern about new research in South Korea. Scientists there have developed a way to rapidly produce human embryos through cloning to produce stem cells that are genetic matches for ill patients. Mr. Bush said he worries about a world in which cloning becomes accepted. We'll have more on this right after the News Summary. Newspapers in Britain and the U.S. published photos today of the imprisoned Saddam Hussein in his underwear. They were taken in his jail cell in Iraq. Two tabloids, the Sun in London and the New York Post, said an unnamed U.S. Military official provided the pictures. The International Red Cross said the pictures violated Saddam's right to privacy. But the Sun's editor, Tom Newton Dunn, defended their release.
TOM NEWTON DUNN: I'm afraid Saddam has thrown all the rights he had out the window when he paraded British civilians and British soldiers and British airmen that he shot down on Iraqi TV, bruised and battered, with the quite clear threat that they're going to be executed if the coalition goes anywhere close to them. The man has no rights as far as we're concerned.
MARGARET WARNER: Saddam's lawyer compared the photos' release to the abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib Prison, and he threatened to sue everyone involved. In response to a question, President Bush said he did not think the pictures would incite more anti-U.S. feeling in Iraq. Later, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the U.S. does take the incident seriously, just the same.
TRENT DUFFY: These photos are wrong. They're in clear violation of DOD directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals. And the multinational forces in Iraq as well as the president are very disappointed at the possibility that someone responsible for the security, welfare and detention of Saddam Hussein would take and provide these photos for public release.
MARGARET WARNER: The U.S. Military in Baghdad also condemned the photos and promised a vigorous investigation into who released them. In London, the Sun said it would publish more of the photos tomorrow. In Iraq today, an estimated 6,000 Shiite Muslims turned out to protest the U.S. Military presence. The followers of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demonstrated in three southern cities. In Nasiriyah, they clashed with guards outside the provincial governor's headquarters. Also in Iraq today, two Iraqis and one U.S. Soldier were killed in attacks in the Baghdad area. At least 520 Iraqis have now died in a surge of violence since the new government was announced in April. So far this month, 43 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. More than 1,620 Americans have been killed since the war began. Al-Qaida leaders in Iraq today denied a U.S. charge that they met in Syria to plot the recent upsurge in car bombings in Iraq. In an Internet posting, the leaders insisted the attacks had been planned inside Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister al-Jaafari said today he planned to visit Syria soon to urge Damascus to help stop foreign fighters from crossing the border. Senate Republicans today set a test vote Tuesday in the battle over judicial nominees. They said they'll call for cloture, or cutting off debate, on Priscilla Owen, a federal court nominee from Texas. They did so after Republican Sen. John Cornyn called for the democrats to agree to limit debate and Minority Leader Harry Reid refused.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN: Mr. President, we would ask unanimous consent that there be an additional 15 hours of debate equally divided on the nomination, and following that time, the senate proceed to a vote on confirmation of the nomination with no intervening action or debate.
SPOKESMAN: Is there objection?
SEN. HARRY REID: Reserving the right to object, Mr. President. The mere fact that I can object shows that it's a debatable motion. I do object.
SPOKESMAN: Objection is heard.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN: Well, Mr. President, I would refrain in making other offers of unanimous consent for additional debate time at this time. With that objection, on behalf of the majority leader, I send a cloture motion to the desk.
MARGARET WARNER: If on Tuesday there aren't the 60 votes needed to end debate on Owen, Republican leaders say they'll move to change the Senate rules. Their proposed change would disallow filibusters on judicial nominees. China announced today it will impose new tariffs on its textile exports. It's an attempt to defuse a looming trade war with the U.S. and the European Union. Both have complained of a surge in low-cost Chinese textiles since worldwide quotas ended in January. The Chinese tariffs will take effect June 1. And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 21 points to close below 10,472. The NASDAQ rose three points to close at 2,046. For the week, the Dow gained more than 3 percent; the NASDAQ rose 3.5 percent. And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to: Stem cell research; Egypt's prime minister; an opera based on slavery; and Shields and Brooks.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Ray Suarez looks at a major advance in stem cell research.
RAY SUAREZ: The scientific world was astonished by today's news that South Korean scientists have extracted colonies of patient-specific stem cells from newly created human embryos. The same scientists have derived stem cells before from an embryo, but this time, for the first time, the stem cell lines genetically matched a range of patients with a variety of illnesses. The process, known as therapeutic cloning, was also far more efficient than any previous attempt. To obtain those stem cells, scientists took the DNA of skin cells from patients with diseases or illnesses, and then removed the nucleus of a separate egg cell from another donor. The cells were then fused together so that the DNA From the patient's skin cell was implanted in the egg. Those fused cells divided into early stage embryos, which are normally about 100 cells or more. The new, cloned embryo then had the same genetic material as those of patients with different diseases. The embryonic stem cells were then removed. The hope is those stem cells could be used one day to repair, regenerate or replace damaged organs and tissues. To walk us through the science and significance of this advance, I'm joined by Dr. David Scadden, the co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
Dr. Scadden, to begin, I think we should really explain just a little further what a stem cell is.
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: Sure. A stem cell is a cell type that can become many different types of cells, and there are really two major kinds of stem cells. The one that we're speaking of tonight is one that's formed during the first few days following the formation of an embryo, and that cell type can become virtually any tissue type of the body. So it can become a nerve cell, a cell from the blood or from the liver, for example. Whereas, an adult stem cell which refers to all the cells in later development, and that would include umbilical cord stem cells and those cells are powerful and they're the ones we use in clinical practice today. But they're much more limited because they cannot make the cells that are important in diabetes, for example.
RAY SUAREZ: So, in the case of the South Korean breakthrough, we're talking about embryonic stem cells?
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: That's correct.
RAY SUAREZ: So, what was the South Korean team able to do that really represents a big breakthrough, a departure from what other teams have been able to do so far?
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: Well, for the most part, we've been working with stem cells from the embryos that have been discarded in fertility clinics, and those are cells that are for the most part derived from people who have no diseases. What they've been able to do in Korea is to say if we want to look at a problem that is representative of a disease, we need to go to the setting where those diseases occur, and those would be in adults. With again an embryonic cell from such an individual you can imagine that's scientifically very complicated. So what they did was to take the nucleus, the brains or the DNA of the cell, say from the skin of an individual who had a disease, put that into an egg, whose nucleus had been removed, and the egg then makes, or in some ways convinces, the nucleus of the skin cell to think that it's an embryo, and it starts to form an early embryo. That then allows us to be able to -- what they've been able to do is create a group of cells that when grown in a Petri dish could be sustained over a period of time and they represent identical match in DNA to the donor. That's very important because it represents both the contents that led to the disease, and also it represents something that's identical, in terms of it possibly not being rejected by the donor of the cell.
RAY SUAREZ: Now is this something that's every never been done before, or never so reliably and repeatedly? What exactly do we have here?
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: Right, so just over a year ago, this same group demonstrated that they could do it, but they were able to do it once. They got one cell line after having tried it many, many times in over 250 eggs. So it seemed as if it was something that, while that was of great import, may or may not have been reproducible, may or may not be something that had any practical significance. Today what they're reporting is that they can do this with only a small number of eggs; they've gone from over two hundred fifty down to an average of seventeen and sometimes as few as five. That means that this precious resource of the egg can now be used very efficiently, and they've been able to do it not just by taking the nucleus of a specialized cell, which they had done before, but by taking it from individuals who were older, who had diseases and so they showed that they can could do this fairly routinely or rather repetitively in a way that allowed us to think we could do this on a much broader scale, and maybe get a full spectrum of cell types for a number of different diseases for which we currently have very little therapy.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, is this a tribute to technical skill, their theoretical skill, dogged work ethic, a little of all of it?
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: I think it is probably a little of all of that. Certainly, this is based on a strong background of research that they had done in this area in the past, but it also is the kind of thing that takes a tremendous amount of dedication and attention to detail. And they've been able to do that in a way that no one else has been able to accomplish. One of the issues is, of course, that it's not been able to be done here essentially at all because of the absence of our ability to use federal funding for it.
RAY SUAREZ: So the work they're doing there would be against the law in the United States?
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: No, it's not actually against the law and not against any federal law. There are some states that have restricted embryonic stem cell research, but because most of the drive of new research in this country is really driven by either private enterprise or by the government, with the government being a far greater source of that, that in the absence of either the interest of Biopharma or the willingness of the government to support this, that it really has ground to a halt, and that is very difficult for any individual institution to muster up the resources to do it. We're trying to do that at Harvard, and making headway with that. But, as you can imagine, to do this on just an occasional one laboratory here, one laboratory there, that's really not going to be able to compete with an effort that's really been the dedicated response of almost an entire nation.
RAY SUAREZ: And the South Korean research is government funded?
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: It is. And it has become a major emphasis within the Korean biomedical enterprise, and it's frankly rather disturbing to think that this is an area, the embryonic stem cells or the work with them that was initially started in the U.S. but now we're clearly trailing in this particular area.
RAY SUAREZ: The South Korean team has now successfully created these stem cell lines. Is the science advanced enough so that the cells can be reliably manipulated and instructed to become one thing or another?
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: Well, we haven't worked with these cell lines in particular to know that. But in general, with embryonic stem cells, it has been possible to get them to become particular cell types. There's still an enormous amount to be learned here. You can't just say to a cell become a heart cell and it will do it and the cues that are necessary to make that happen routinely is something that is being worked out. What we do know is the cells have the capacity, and the hope is we'll be able to get to the point where if we need a uniform population of cells that are the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, we can achieve that. But that's still something that requires a great deal of work.
RAY SUAREZ: Now that this happened, does this change the terms of the debate in the United States? We're now moving into a new chapter in the stem cell debate here. Can we put up borders around science?
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: Yeah, I think this is - certainly this raises concern among those who have already been very suspect of this kind of research. It doesn't ease the moral concerns that people have who have been opposed to it. I think what we do know is we've entered an area where we could start to think about studying rare diseases, diseases for which we have no therapy using this kind of a cell type, and it's an important issue that we can possibly make use of these cell lines; we would like to make new cell lines so that w can do this more efficiently. And unfortunately, we now have to actually turn to others to provide this. I think if we can get some success in these lines, it would greatly change the debate. At the moment, what we're hoping is that we can just gain enough confidence of supporters of this kind of work they realize we want to do this with carefully constructed boundaries in a thoughtful way so that we can take advantage of the opportunities this offers for people suffering from these diseases, and yet not allow for the kind of abuse some people are very concerned about.
RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Scadden, thanks for being with us.
DR. DAVID SCADDEN: Thank you very much.
MARGARET WARNER: Still to come on the NewsHour: The Egyptian prime minister on democracy; a new opera tackles slavery; and Shields and Brooks.
MARGARET WARNER: Next, the Egyptian prime minister on the state of democracy in his country.
MARGARET WARNER: Since the 9/11 attacks, a new tension has arisen in the close quarter-century alliance between the United States and Egypt; at issue: The lack of freedom in Egypt's political system. Since taking over from the assassinated president Anwar Sadat in 1981, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has run his country with what amounts to a one-party system and emergency rule. But over the past few months, widespread speculation that Mubarak would seek another six- year term this fall-- running unopposed in an up-or-down referendum-- began to spark ever-wider anti-government protests. The government responded with a heavy show of force at demonstrations and with selective arrests. In January, an opposition member of parliament, Ayman Nour, was thrown in jail on forgery charges. The Bush administration protested, and Secretary of State Rice cancelled a planned visit to Egypt. Then, in early February, President Bush used his state of the union address to publicly challenge Mubarak to open up Egypt's political system and help spread democracy in the region.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East. (Applause)
MARGARET WARNER: Later that month, Mubarak stunned his supporters by calling for the first multi- party, direct presidential election in Egypt's history. Egypt's parliament last week adopted a constitutional amendment to do just that. But the opposition has continued to protest, saying the election law changes don't go far enough to let anyone mount a credible challenge to Mubarak. Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif came to Washington this week to meet with President Bush and other top officials. Among the items on the agenda: Economic and political reform in Egypt. I spoke with the prime minister earlier today.
MARGARET WARNER: Prime Minister Nazif, thanks for joining us.
AHMED NAZIF: It's a real pleasure to be here, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: So explain to us why President Mubarak decided to let rivals run against him in the presidential election.
AHMED NAZIF: I think it's an important decision. It's -- people tend to think that this is our beginning with the political reform, or the end. I think it's just a step in the middle. We started with parliamentary elections. We have a multiparty system today, and we're still improving on it. And this was one step along the way, the presidential election.
MARGARET WARNER: And what role did President Bush's call on Egypt to open up the system, what role did that play?
AHMED NAZIF: Egypt takes very seriously its regional leadership. You know, it led peace and it should be leading democracy. I think the president was right on the button there.
MARGARET WARNER: So you didn't consider what he said unwelcome pressure?
AHMED NAZIF: No. No. We take it as advice from a friend. We shouldn't do that. I don't think it was intended this way.
MARGARET WARNER: Some Egyptian observers, including pro-democracy forces suggested, though, that there can be a backlash if the United States is too aggressive and seems to be driving the change. Is there a danger of that?
AHMED NAZIF: Yes, there is. I think it's important not to cross the thin line between advice and pressure. I believe that each country should be given its own space to decide on how it wants to progress with that, to set its own goals. We all agree on the goals, and that's the important thing. But the pace and how to do it should be left to the countries.
MARGARET WARNER: So what did President Bush say to you about President Mubarak's decision and the Egyptian elections when you met on Wednesday?
AHMED NAZIF: Well, he commended it very much; he asked me to send his appreciation to the president about that courageous step, and that he was looking forward for Egypt to set the example in its elections in September to run a free and fair election.
MARGARET WARNER: And did he define what he meant by free and fair? He has said publicly, for instance, he's called on Egypt to allow international monitors. Did you discuss that?
AHMED NAZIF: He did mention it but we didn't discuss it in any detail. But I think the sense is we and the president as well share the view that we need to project to the world that this is a free and fair election. Now, it takes observers; it takes television cameras standing in front of polling stations, whatever it takes. We are genuine about this. We need to show the world what we mean. But one of the reasons is because, you know, President Mubarak came up with this move, and he is met mostly by skepticism; and that's sort of challenging us. We'll show the world.
MARGARET WARNER: Even the United States allows international monitors who really come in and over -- not oversee, but observe the elections very closely. Yet in different appearances this week, you've been reluctant to commit to that. Explain why.
AHMED NAZIF: I'll tell you why. There's a little bit of a cultural diversity here. You know, you say in the United States you don't see a problem with that. In our part of the world because we've been subject to colonialists for some time, we are a little bit more sensitive to foreign intervention, foreign interference. Observation is good, not overseeing; that's a good step. We might think of observers, but not monitors, not people doing the elections for us. So it depends on where you put it on the scale. I mean, we don't close our country. People can come in and out, there's no problem with that. But do they have an official duty within that? That's where the debate is. And I think we still have time till September.
MARGARET WARNER: But might international observers actually be the best way for Egypt -- if Egypt plans to have free and fair elections to demonstrate to the world that you did - because, as you know, your critics are going to say, oh, no, the vote was rigged; it was just like the old days?
AHMED NAZIF: Well, there are other ways. For example, Egypt is the only country that I know -- there might be others -- that has judicial supervision of the elections. We actually have a judge sitting in every polling station. Now our judges in Egypt are known to be independent. They're very independent- minded and they have run the elections in 2000 in a very thorough way, the parliamentary elections. Now, they are asking for more.
MARGARET WARNER: Yes. They have said, in fact, that they don't find the rules so far are going to guarantee free and fair election, and they want more independence.
AHMED NAZIF: That's not what they said. They didn't question the rules. They questioned the old rules; not the election rules. They questioned what they can and can't do. And that's a little bit different.
MARGARET WARNER: They didn't question the degree of independence they'd have from the executive branch?
AHMED NAZIF: They're asking for more independence but not for the elections, in general.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's talk a little bit about how free and fair. And I understand that anyone from the 18 opposition parties can run. What Ayman Nour, who is currently out of jail, on bail, awaiting trial on these forgery charges -- is he going to be able to run for president, or is there a danger that he could be tied up in legal matters at the time of the election?
AHMED NAZIF: Well, according to the rules he can run. Now, he has a court case in progress; he'll have to answer to that as well, according to Egyptian law. He's being processed in normal course, nothing extraordinary or urgent or emergent about out. I believe he'll have his day in court, but that doesn't preclude him from being a candidate if he wants to.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that the world will think it's a free and fair election if for some reason Ayman Nour finds himself either in jail or in court?
AHMED NAZIF: Why is that? Who is Ayman Nour? This is a political unknown six months ago. It just happened that he was a member of parliament; he's a leader of one of the opposition - nineteen opposition parties -- that is charged by a very serious charge, a criminal charge, not a political charge. So I don't think or ought to think that anybody should take that position.
MARGARET WARNER: Other issues critics have raised and opposition politicians have raised in Egypt is the dominance still really of the state-owned media. How can you have a free and fair election with state- run press?
AHMED NAZIF: Well, the state-run press in Egypt, unlike people think, is not dominant. We today have literally tens, if not more than a hundred newspapers, people watch everything on CNN, al-Jazeera, everything, so it's an open society. Now, having said that, we will have election rules; the election rules will, I'm sure, we don't have the rules yet because we're waiting for the referendum, but they will state exactly what free time or what equal time means on state television, and it should.
MARGARET WARNER: The Muslim brotherhood, which is an opposition social movement in Egypt, is not considered allowed to be a legal political party even though it has people in parliament, and it won't be allowed to run a candidate for president. Why is that?
AHMED NAZIF: Well, the reason is that when we look at the history of the Muslim brotherhood itself, they're not pro democracy. They say today that they are. But their history doesn't say that. So it keeps us - we are a little skeptical. They say that they're not pro-violence, say less violence, but their history says they did have violence before. They are still on the terrorist list in the United States. Having said that, we do acknowledge their presence in Egypt; we have given them leeway. We're allowing them to run candidates independently in the election. We have them as members of parliament in Egypt. That will make them prove their point. Let them sweat for it. Let them prove that they are real democrats through the process that exists today. Let them have twenty, thirty independents in parliament and see how they'll behave.
MARGARET WARNER: Opposition figures say that the Egyptian police still engages in mass arrests when they put on demonstrations. Is that the case?
AHMED NAZIF: Well, we've seen some arrests, yes, but, first of all, the fact that there is demonstrations says a little bit about the system. We're allowing people to express themselves through demonstrations. Now, in a society that's still maturing, maybe demonstrations here in the U.S. would be different from what you see there. What happens is, and many times this happens, a demonstration does not stop at expressing opinions. It moves to becoming something of a destabilizing effect, for example, turning to violence, inciting people towards violence, even if not doing it themselves. And that's when the police interfere.
MARGARET WARNER: So even the speech, if, in the view of the authorities, that - it's inciting violence, they would be subject to arrest?
AHMED NAZIF: Not speech, but actually inciting violence -- that leads to violence. And, you know, we're allowing people to speak. The government doesn't interfere at all. The Muslim Brotherhood holds press conferences in Egypt; that was unheard of twenty or thirty years ago.
MARGARET WARNER: But 400 of their members were arrested at a recent demonstration.
AHMED NAZIF: Again, because those demonstrations turned violent.
MARGARET WARNER: Finally, let me ask you this: It's not only the Muslim Brotherhood that's holding demonstrations, but there are growing demonstrations in Cairo, middle class people, there's this movement called Enough, meaning enough of Mubarak. Why do you think there is this rising call for change in Egypt right now?
AHMED NAZIF: Well, change is inevitable. Everybody wants change. It's how you manage change that is important. I think it's good. It's healthy that people are looking for change, because if they do that, they're motivated to improve themselves, and that's good.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that the way the system is set up for this election there will be a viable opponent to President Mubarak?
AHMED NAZIF: That's the big challenge. The problem is, of course, that as I said, we moved from a uni-party to a multi-party, but right now have more of a dominant party and small parties. Whether the opposition parties will be able to present one or more viable candidates is something that I'd like to see actually, but it's hard to tell right now. I think the president is very popular in Egypt; that if he decides to run again, that he will win with a comfortable majority. But, having said that, I'd very much like to see the process in place, see a candidate that comes out, not just to bad mouth the president, but to present an alternative, to present another problem, to say to Mr. Mubarak, you've been doing it this way, I'd like to do it that way; that kind of thing would be very healthy.
MARGARET WARNER: Might you be that kind of candidate in 2011?
AHMED NAZIF: That's not in my political agenda right now.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Prime minister Nazif, thank you so much.
AHMED NAZIF: Thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Jeffrey Brown explores the retelling of a famous story from the era of slavery.
CHORUS: No, no, no, no, no more -- no, no, no, no, no, no more, no, no, no.
JEFFREY BROWN: Backstage at the Detroit Opera House, chorus members of the Michigan theater warmed up for their performance of a new work, the tale of almost mythic horror, but based on a true story of a slave named Margaret Garner. In 1856, the news shocked a nation heading toward Civil War: A mother who escaped her Kentucky master and, upon capture in Ohio, killed her own child rather than have her forced back into a life of slavery. More than a century later, the story served as a basis for Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "Beloved."
RICHARD DANIELPOUR: See, now that it's lit up, you'll see it differently. Let me show you.
JEFFREY BROWN: And now, Morrison and composer Richard Danielpour have teamed up to give Margaret Garner's story a new life. For both, it's a first attempt at opera.
TONI MORRISON: I came to it with the strength and trust of my knowing what that story was and what it was about and what was at stake.
(Opera singing)
JEFFREY BROWN: In this new version of the story, the slave family survives through hard work and love.
(Opera singing)
JEFFREY BROWN: When the family tastes freedom for the first time, a posse hunts them down, and Margaret feels she has no choice but to destroy the very people she loves most.
SINGING: Never to be born again into slavery! (killing children)
RICHARD DANIELPOUR: One of the things that makes this story work well as an opera... but opera is an extreme art form. You know, it's not really a mirror of life as it is, but, possibly, it's A... it's a mirror of life in a very heightened form. And so, so many operas are about extraordinary things that happen to ordinary people.
JEFFREY BROWN: Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. But opera, she says, was quite a new challenge.
TONI MORRISON: Operas are blatant. It's in your face. So, all the little, you know, novelistic tricks I thought I had are of no use when you're doing opera. You have to be much more economical, shorter. It has to be singable -- really singable, not just speakable. And it has to make way for the music. It can't be the music. It has to just allow, provoke, even beg for music.
JEFFREY BROWN: The role of Margaret Garner is sung by opera veteran Denyce Graves. At a key moment, she sings of what she calls her "secret soul" which no master can take away.
SINGING: No pretty words can ease or cure what heavy hands can do when sorrow is deep the secret soul keeps its quality, love.
DENYCE GRAVES: There's something inside the essence of who you are which remains intact that no one can touch, you know? No one can take that away from you. They can do whatever they want to do to your body, but they cannot reach that. They cannot touch that. It's like knowledge. It can't be taken away. And I think this is the knowledge of the soul. And I think that that really describes... in that particular aria, that that really describes who she is.
JEFFREY BROWN: To find his way into his characters and to give each a voice, composer Danielpour says he felt as though he had to live with them for three years, the longest he's ever spent on one project.
DANIELPOUR: The best music comes not when you try to chisel it out and manufacture it, but when you wait and listen and surrender your own ego and surrender a sense of what you think you know and just listen. And in this case, listening had to do with listening to the text. There's already a music inherent in the text if you listen very carefully. And there's already a fully fleshed out character, both physically and visually, in all of these characters.
WOMAN: What other dates do you have available?
JEFFREY BROWN: In another way, too, "Margaret Garner" is an unusual collaboration between three cities: Detroit, where it opened; Cincinnati and Philadelphia, to which it will travel. It's clearly an effort to make opera exciting to a new, particularly African-American audience, and early ticket sales reflected success.
CORRIE TOWNS: Because of the historical issues that are related to this particular opera, I decided I wanted to see it.
WOMAN: I was interested in seeing the story of "Beloved," and I saw our read an article about Toni Morrison being here and the opera coming out, and just really wanted to see it.
KENNY LEON: It can't be phony. It can't be like the guy center stage doing this.
JEFFREY BROWN: Bringing in a new audience is also a goal for Kenny Leon. A successful theater director, including last year's Broadway revival of "Raisin the Sun," this is his first time out as director of an opera.
JEFFREY BROWN: Did you know a lot about opera? Like opera?
KENNY LEON: I think some opera is good. I think most opera, to me, for my taste, is not very good. I think some of it is, you know, we come to the stage and, what they say, we "park and bark."
JEFFREY BROWN: You park and bark?
KENNY LEON: Park and bark. ( Laughs ) but I love... I love the human voice. That voice is singing over that orchestra without amplification. I'm like, "what? I always thought they had microphones." No, that's the beauty of the human voice. So, I think I'm a... I'm a huge opera fan now.
JEFFREY BROWN: Is there a difference in terms of storytelling?
KENNY LEON: No, I think storytelling is storytelling. I think that's what makes the fear factor pretty small for me, even though it's my first opera. Like I say in my neighborhood, I ain't scared because storytelling is storytelling.
JEFFREY BROWN: For Toni Morrison, there was one more inspiration: Offering something new to a group of very talented singers.
TONI MORRISON: I had discovered in the last five years this incredible, I don't know, population of African-American singers, classical singers that I didn't even know existed. I mean, I knew some, but it's amazing to me. They are everywhere, and not just in this country, in Europe. So, the notion of being able to provide something worthy of their talent was extremely delicious to me.
( Singing )
JEFFREY BROWN: For Denyce Graves, the role has been special and uniquely difficult.
DENYCE GRAVES: This is a real, live story, and it's a story that I've heard so much growing up. I mean, I am the daughter of the daughter of the daughter of the daughter, and somehow I feel connected to this woman.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, has this been hard, emotionally?
DENYCE GRAVES: Uh-huh, extremely. Not just for me but for everybody involved in this project.
SINGING: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no...
JEFFREY BROWN: In the opera, as in real life, Margaret Garner was charged with destruction of property because her child was owned by a slave master. In theopera, Garner is sentenced to hang. Though granted a reprieve, she lets herself fall to her death. The chorus, whites and blacks together, seeks forgiveness.
CHORUS: Have mercy, have mercy on us. Help us break through the night.
TONI MORRISON: There's this other thing, which is a kind of restoration, redemption that the opera can offer via its music, its words, its singers and its staging to the audience so that when you leave you know more, you felt more and you felt more deeply that somehow you are more human than you were, or you feel more human, more humane, more capable than you did when you came in. (Cheers and applause)
JEFFREY BROWN: Morrison and everyone else involved with "Margaret Garner" hope that their work, like the story itself, will now live on.
MARGARET WARNER: "Margaret Garner" has its final performances in Detroit this weekend; it will go on to Cincinnati this summer and Philadelphia next February.
MARGARET WARNER: Finally, to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. They're with Terence Smith tonight.
TERENCE SMITH: That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and David Brooks of the New York Times. Gentlemen, welcome. This week, another full week of a classic inside the beltway battle over process; the filibuster and the president's judicial nominations. I think you two met today with the Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid. It sounds like an ideological collusion to me, but you were there. What did you learn? What is the very latest?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, they call us in for sage advice. It's like Salon and Pericles coming in - no, I think where we are right now is that all of yesterday there were twelve moderates, six Democrats, six Republicans trying to get a deal; they failed, not definitively; they may still work it out. But they came this close to the deal and they couldn't do it, and they couldn't do it for, I think, two reasons. One, they couldn't establish trust in the room. Even among these centrists there was no trust across the parties; and the second thing is they're centrists, and centrists just are not ruthless - or willing to push through a deal. They want to shop it around, make sure everybody's happy, communicate, talk, make it just right; and so they never did deal. And so I think what we have learned from Reid, and I think we've heard the same from the Republican leadership, is they're ready for the fight on Tuesday. There will be a vote and there will be a nuclear showdown.
TERENCE SMITH: Mark, what's really at stake here? Is it really just about the process of the filibuster? Or is it something a little larger?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, what's really at stake is, this is the warm-up fight for the Supreme Court, Terry, and if, in fact, the rules are changed -- I mean, the Senate rules are pretty explicit - to change the rules of the Senate, the rule says you have to require two thirds of the Senate as voting, 67 in this case. So they don't have 67 votes, they're going to change the rules, to change the rules and do it with 51. I mean, that's with the vice president ruling from the chair. And so that's what's really at stake. I mean, David and I were both on Capitol Hill today separately, other than our meeting with Sen. Reid. But Republicans I talked to were quite candid about, you know, the process that didn't begin with this, that - when Bill Clinton had been in the White House, we decided to kill "em in committee, the nominations, because we controlled the committee. So I think that it's - what I'd add to David's analysis is not only that I commend those who trying to fashion a compromise, particularly interesting I think that Bob Byrd, the Democratic leader of the Senate for a long time from West Virginia, who was against a compromise, and John Warner of Virginia - I mean the sort of two of the two of the lions of the Senate who are probably key players in this whole thing. But what I would add is that Republicans said to me today on the Hill, they said the problem is that this is being driven -- the trains are driven by the interest groups on both sides.
TERENCE SMITH: David, Mark referenced the Supreme Court possible battle over that. Is this something of a dry run for that? Is it likely affect the situation and might it apply in the case of --
DAVID BROOKS: This wouldn't be happening if we didn't have two Supreme Court nominations proudly hanging over us for the next couple of years. They want to make sure there's an up or down vote, the Republicans do, on the Supreme Court nominations, as well as these circuit court judges; they're pretty important. People see Priscilla Owen maybe as a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor, so that all factors in. But the other thing is, this is all about partisanship. This is not only about the Supreme Court; it's about the U.S. Senate, and what that becomes. This has been a train toward increasing polarization in the Senate, and we've just been heading this way for 20 years. And to me what was interesting about the moderates was these people getting together - where they going to say, we're out of the trench warfare, we're going to break out of this? And this was their effort to do it, and as far as I could tell, it's failed. So that's -
MARK SHIELDS: I wouldn't write "em off completely. I mean, they're going back in on Monday, and for that they deserve the appreciation and the credit because they run the risk -- neither leadership likes to have a compromise fashioned without either leader in the room, I mean, even though they give it their blessing. So I think in that sense, Terry, that they've kind of shown us the way, the 12 in the middle.
TERENCE SMITH: Are there political winners and losers here that you can - either one of you -- can identify?
MARK SHIELDS: I think Harry Reid is - a lot's riding for Harry Reid; a lot's riding, I would say, for Bill Frist, the Republican leader. But Harry Reid is an intriguing figure. It's his first year - he's only been there four months -
TERENCE SMITH: As Senate Minority Leader.
MARK SHIELDS: As the Senate Minority Leader, and he seems to have fashioned a deal with his caucus, and that is, I don't care how you vote individually on - whether it's asbestos or bankruptcy or tort reform, I need you to be united with me and all your colleagues on Social Security and on the filibuster, and that's really -- it hasn't been trying to lay down party positions, except on these two. And this is really -- this is big time. I mean, he's in the spotlight. For Bill Frist I think there's a lot of presidential politics involved here, and I think in a strange way even if he does prevail, in the final analysis, the hearts of the religious right, who are most concerned about this issue, belong to George Allen of Virginia; Sam Brownback of Kansas; and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, potential rivals of Frist in 2008, a lot more than they do to Bill Frist.
TERENCE SMITH: Do you think Bill Frist has that and more at stake?
DAVID BROOKS: I do think it was - you know, something Harry Reid told us today was he thought this was really being pushed by the White House, 90 percent from the White House. That is actually something I disagree with. I think it was something Bill Frist has been talking about for a long time, and a lot of Republicans have been talking about for a long time, and it does have some presidential implications for Frist. Would he be pushing this hard without the need to sort of win over and solidify support from the religious conservatives? Maybe, maybe not.
TERENCE SMITH: Do you get the sense that the public is following this the way people in Washington are?
DAVID BROOKS: I hope not as closely. But I think there's a general sense out there, and I think the general sense is we're worried about gas prices; we're worried about the economy, and what the heck are they doing out there? And the second general sense --
TERENCE SMITH: You mean what the heck are they doing -
DAVID BROOKS: -- In Washington. And it starts with Schiavo and then it goes on and on and on, but then I think there's the general sense of the filibuster, which is the same when Newt Gingrich shut down the Congress - and we've talked about it before. In my business we cut deals. We don't get everything we want; we act like adults. Why can't they just do that? And that's why I think you've seen both parties see their approval ratings decline and why you've seen Congress in particular see its approval ratings decline.
TERENCE SMITH: Well, there were new polls, Mark, this week that showed ratings down for -- approval ratings down both in the Congress, for the president and declining confidence about the economy and about the war in Iraq.
MARK SHIELDS: There really were. And particularly I focused on the Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, because they plot the whole thing over the years. The numbers for the Congress are the worst they've been, Terry, since 1994. And everybody in the business remembers what 1994 was. It was the earthquake that took four years of Democratic control of the Congress and turned --reversed it. And so the Democrats don't have particularly higher marks than Republicans. Republicans have plummeted; the Congress has plummeted. If you just go back to inaugural day, it's down a full 20 points since then in public. I think David is right. They don't see the Congress dealing with them; they see them bickering; they seem them doing minor and trivial things. But I think the concern that Republicans have to have is there's no good news. Iraq is not good news; the economy is not the good news. Nothing is good news for them right now. And when the public expresses its ire and anger at the Congress, it's always visited upon the majority party, and that, I think has to be a concern.
DAVID BROOKS: The other thing I would say, and I've got this sense from the leadership of both parties, they're like in the pre-World War I, we'll be home by Christmas days. Right now they're having meetings; they're plotting out what to do after Tuesday when this vote happens and they think they've got the winning strategy to really make it work for them, to humiliate the other party, and they have way too sunny a view of what it's going to look like to most people who are casually paying attention. They think, oh, they'll look like obstructionists, but that's not how it's going to look. It's going to look like trench warfare and people are just going to have some vague, generalized sense that these people are just, you know, they're just incompetent.
TERENCE SMITH: We also had a story the week with Newsweek retracting its initial account of the desecration of the Quran in prison at Guantanamo Bay, and the White House coming down very hard on Newsweek specifically, the pressgenerally. What's going on here?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, you try and change the story, when the story isn't good, and the press is critical of you, you turn your guns on the press. I mean, I really think David had - I thought a very perceptive column -- I don't say that very often about David - in the New York Times on Thursday on this very subject talking about his own experience to colleagues. And I'd just add that the information generally about disparaging the Quran and using that as a tactic of interrogation has been reported widely before this. I mean, with the flushing down the toilet, it stuck and could not be confirmed. But, you know, I just thought the White House sort of - for a White House that really took us to war on totally false information about nuclear biological chemical weapons, I thought it was a little overreaching.
TERENCE SMITH: David, what did you think of what the White House said on that?
DAVID BROOKS: I think first the White House should never attack the media. They run battleships. They are really powerful. When they get in a -- I don't want to say a pissing contest, but I'll say it -- with the media, you are just, you're lowering yourself if you're the White House. And it's just demeaning. The second thing is they should focus on who are the real villains here, and that's not Newsweek for making an error; it's the people who incited the riots in the first place. The columnist, Kathleen Parker, had a beautiful phrase, when she said, "Those people don't need a reason to riot; they need an excuse." And that's exactly right. Imran Khan, the Pakistani opposition official, and the clerics there, they were just looking for an excuse, and they are the killers.
TERENCE SMITH: All right. David, Mark, thank you both very much.
MARGARET WARNER: Again, the major developments of the day: President Bush warned he will veto a bill to ease restrictions on stem cell research. Newspapers in Britain and the U.S. published photos of the imprisoned Saddam Hussein in his underwear. And Senate Republicans set a test vote Tuesday in the battle over judicial nominees.
MARGARET WARNER: And again, to our honor roll of American service personnel killed in Iraq. We add them as their deaths are made official and photographs become available. Here, in silence, are ten more.
MARGARET WARNER: A reminder that Washington Week can be seen on most PBS stations later this evening. We'll see you online and again here Monday evening. I'm Margaret Warner. Thanks for being with us. Good night.
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 2005-05-20, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 24, 2022,
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