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MR. LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour tonight the violent fight in Russia against the Chechen rebels, Elizabeth Farnsworth talks to three Russian experts; today's Senate Whitewater hearings, Kwame Holman reports; Senator William Cohen, the Maine Republican, explains his surprise decision to call it quits; and a new picture of the galaxy, Charlayne Hunter-Gault talks to NASA scientist Ed Weiler. It all follows our summary of the news this Tuesday. NEWS SUMMARY
MR. LEHRER: The Chechen hostage crisis widened today. Chechen gunmen seized a ferry in the Turkish port city of Trabzon on the Black Sea. They claimed they killed one person, threatened to kill all the Russians on board. Later, the gunmen told Turkish television they would blow up the ship. The ferry then departed for an undisclosed location. In the Chechen capital of Grozny, rebels seized 30 people and have taken them also to an unknown location. And Russian forces continued their assault on a group of Chechen rebels. In a village on the border between Russia and Chechnya a Russian spokesman said at least sixty rebels and four Russian soldiers have been killed in the two-day battle. The Russian forces attacked the rebels yesterday in an attempt to free more than 100 hostages. The Russians said so far more than 20 people have been released. In Washington today, a State Department spokesman addressed the conflict.
NICHOLAS BURNS, State Department Spokesman: The hostage taking and the Russian military response have, unfortunately, created dangers of broadening this conflict and intensifying it to the detriment of the civilians in the area. We call on the Chechen rebels to release their captives immediately. We call on both sides to return to the negotiations to resolve this tragic conflict. We are urging restraint on the Russian government, as well as on the Chechen fighters. We are urging them to negotiate to end this conflict because we believe there isn't--there is not a military solution that can be achieved by either side in Chechnya.
MR. LEHRER: We'll have more on this story right after the News Summary. In Bosnia today, for a second day in a row there was no prisoner of war exchange. A Bosnian government spokesman again said there would be no exchange until the Serbs account for nearly 25,000 Muslims listed as missing. The Dayton peace agreement requires all prisoners of war to be released by Friday. It is also the deadline for Serbs, Croats, and Muslims to withdraw from their battle lines. On the budget story, talks between President Clinton and Republican congressional leaders resume tomorrow. Today White House Spokesman Mike McCurry said Republican threats to selectively cut off funds for programs they don't like is really dangerous stuff.
MICHAEL McCURRY, White House Spokesman: There have been some suggestions that, you know, they ought to just de-fund parts of government that they don't like. Well, our system doesn't work that way. If they want to repeal the Occupational Safety & Health Act, if they want to take away the legitimate rights of workers through, expressed through the National Labor Relations Board, they have to go back and win that type of legislation and pass it. You essentially are trying to do something they suggest, and by de- funding parts of government that they don't like, and that just is the same part of the equation that we've been in already.
MR. LEHRER: A group of Senate Republican freshmen said their budget strategy would include specific targets and across-the-board spending reductions.
REP. ROD GRAMS, [R] Minnesota: I'm not saying what--which they're going to be, but I think it's going to be a healthy debate over which programs, and if it's going to be an across-the-board type of a program, or are we going to look at a certain--there are a number of departments within the bill that have been eliminated or targeted for elimination that they probably won't get funded. But I think it's going to be a broad base in order to keep the government operating through the end of the year.
MR. LEHRER: Senator William Cohen, Republican of Maine, said today he will not seek a fourth term. Cohen has represented Maine in Congress since 1973. He was a member of the House Committee that voted to impeach President Richard Nixon. He said he wanted to explore new challenges. He's 55 years old. We'll have a conversation with the Senator later in the program. On the Whitewater story today, the Senate Whitewater Committee questioned former White House lawyers about a meeting held two years ago. Republicans believe notes taken at the meeting show the aides suggested cleaning out Whitewater files at the Rose Law Firm. Hillary Clinton had been a partner in the Little Rock firm. Witness William Kennedy gave a different explanation of the word "vacuum" found in his notes.
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO, Chairman, Whitewater Committee: "Vacuum Rose law files." What does that mean?
WILLIAM KENNEDY, Former White House Counsel: The words stand not as a complete sentence, Mr. Chairman, or not as even a complete phrase. The word "vacuum" stands by itself. There is a space between it and Rose files.
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO: What does it mean?
WILLIAM KENNEDY: That is referring to the handwritten notes.
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO: Oh, what does it mean?
WILLIAM KENNEDY: As I previously testified, Mr. Chairman, it refers to the fact that surrounding Whitewater again the real estate investment, the Whitewater Corporation, there was and is an information vacuum.
MR. LEHRER: We'll have extended excerpts from those hearings later in the program. In medical news today, fatalities from infectious diseases rose 58 percent from 1980 to '92. According to a new survey, AIDS was responsible for the largest portion of that increase. Dr. Robert Pinner of the Federal Centers for Disease Control spoke at a Washington news conference.
DR. ROBERT PINNER, Centers for Disease Control: We don't have full explanations for these increases in infectious disease death rates. CDC and others need to do the research to find out, to look more closely at the information recorded on death certificates, as well as to explore the possible contributions of changes in the spectrum of disease-causing agents, antibiotic resistance, or other factors.
MR. LEHRER: Dr. Pinner said the death rate would have gone up even without the AIDS epidemic, although at a slower rate. In space today, shuttle Endeavour's crew retrieved its second satellite in four days. The six-man Japanese and American crew captured the $10 million satellite after two days of data gathering. They also retrieved one yesterday. Tomorrow, they'll try another spacewalk before returning to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. And in another space story today, scientists reported pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope revealed hundreds of never-before-seen galaxies. They spoke at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Antonio, Texas. They said the new information would be used in researching the age and evolution of the universe. We'll have more on this story later in the program. But first, the Chechen rebellion, Whitewater hearing excerpts, and retiring Senator Cohen. FOCUS - ON THE BRINK
MR. LEHRER: We do go first tonight to the Russian war with the Chechen rebels. Elizabeth Farnsworth has the story.
MS. FARNSWORTH: President Yeltsin and the Moscow government sent in the Russian army more than a year ago to suppress the Chechen separatist movement in the Caucuses region of Southern Russia. The fighting has cost at least 20,000 lives. The latest violent turn followed the seizure last week of approximately 2,000 Russian hostages by Chechen guerrillas in the town of Kizlyar in the South Russian territory of Dagestan. The Russian military assault took place in the town of Pervomayskaya, where the rebels had moved about 100 of their hostages. We start with this report by Lawrence McDonnell of Independent Television News.
LAWRENCE McDONNELL, ITN: For the second day now, the Russian artillery pounded the small village of Pervomayskaya. This was supposed to be a carefully planned operation to free the hostages, but commanders admitted their objective now was to flatten the place. The only negotiations they're interested in at this stage are for a surrender, but somehow, even under this relentless barrage the Chechens continued to put up resistance. Russian officers said the rebels were well dug in, defending the village with grenade launchers, mortars, and machine guns. "The Chechens hit us with a grenade," says this tank commander. "We barely got out. It's pretty hot in there." Even with poor visibility, the helicopter gunships kept up their assault, launching salvos of rockets into the village ahead of the advance of ground troops. The Russian interior ministry claims sixty rebels have been killed so far, alongside four Russian soldiers, but the figures are difficult to confirm. Russian security officials also say 26 of the 100 or so hostages have been freed. Most simply ran away in the confusion of the battle. After a brief interrogation to find out if any rebels were hidden amongst them, the villagers, the survivors were evacuated away from the fighting. This man escaped when the Russian assault first began. "I crawled out when the bombing started," he said, "waited for dark and then called to the Russian troops not to shoot." Pervomayskaya isn't the only village caught up in the fighting. This house in nearby Perechnya was hit by a stray missile last night. The woman who lives here actually counts herself lucky. She popped out to a neighbor when a rocket hit. For the last 36 hours, there's been little for local villagers to do but watch and wait for news. Amazing, the commander of the rebels has been broadcasting from the center of Pervomayskaya during the battle. He maintains that his men have not executed any hostages, the Russian army's motive for launching the assault. He also says his men still control most of the village. In Moscow, demonstrators outside the Russian Parliament condemned the operation in Pervomayskaya. Many condemned President Yeltsin for siding with the nationalists in his new hard-line attitude in the republics. [Russian National Anthem in background] Today was the first time the legislature met since it was elected last month. It is a parliament dominated by the Communists. Their leader, Gennady Zyuganov, is profiting from the perceived mishandling of the war in Chechnya.
GENNADY ZYUGANOV, Communist Party Leader: [speaking through interpreter] All the calamities that happen in this country will diminish the chances of those who run the country.
MR. McDONNELL: Though the Communists are vehemently opposed to the administration under President Yeltsin, for the moment they're determined to keep their heads down and have formed alliances with both the liberals and with the party led by the extreme nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Each party wants to look able to govern ahead of presidential elections in June.
VLADIMIR ZHIRINOVSKY, Nationalist Leader: [speaking through interpreter] For the time being, we will try to maintain a neutral line and keep normal relations with other factions. Presidential elections are the main event for us now, and after June 16th, we, depending on election results, will take a tough position and become the main opposition party in Russia.
MR. McDONNELL: And tonight, Russian television broadcast the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, largely responsible for privatization in Russia, a clear sign that the reformers are being shuffled out of the administration. "I hope this is a change of politicians, rather than policy," he said. "It would be the greatest mistake to change policy so close to presidential elections." Only this morning the Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov suggested there will be more government reshuffles. The resignation of reformer Anatoly Chubais proved him correct. The Communist priority now is to look like a government in waiting while the crisis in Chechnya drags President Yeltsin down.
MS. FARNSWORTH: For more on Chechnya and its impact on the government of Boris Yeltsin, we turn now to Michael McFaul, a professor of political science at Stanford University, who recently returned from Moscow, he joins us from Stanford; to Leon Aron, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who is writing a biography of Boris Yeltsin; and to Adrian Karatnycky, president of Freedom House, an organization that monitors human rights and democracy. Thank you all for being with us. Leon Aron, what explains--we have a lot to talk about. Let's start with the hostages. What explains the heating up of the Chechen crisis now and the taking of hostages?
LEON ARON, American Enterprise Institute: Well, I think two things. One is the general situation in which neither the government nor the rebels, the separatists, are willing to give up, and the whole war is sliding towards this sad pattern of, of the dirty little wars that, for example, Turkey fights against the Kurds, India fights against the separatists in Kashmir or Punjab, or Sri Lanka fights against the Tamal rebels.
MS. FARNSWORTH: A sort of festering sore.
MR. ARON: It's a festering sore.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Not a huge event that brings the government down- -
MR. ARON: No, that's right. That's correct.
MS. FARNSWORTH: --but a festering sore.
MR. ARON: That's right. It's not fatal. It's clearly degrading and corroded, but it's not fatal to even quasi-democratic arrangements in all those three nations, but the immediate cause, I think, was first of all that Yeltsin forced very ill-timed presidential elections in Chechnya, and the Chechens--
MS. FARNSWORTH: Last month.
MR. ARON: That's right. And the Chechens naturally, I think, with good reason consider the elected president somebody elected under the guns of the Russian troops in the occupied Chechnya as a pocket of Moscow, and there was clearly this is an effort by Dzhokhar Dudayev, who is the leader of the rebel Chechens, to prove that, that he's in charge and he would fight back, and these elections are considered by him illegitimate. The leader of these rebels is his brother-in-law.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Mr. Karatnycky, the Russians did negotiate with the rebels and there seemed to be some progress made last year. What happened to all that?
ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, Freedom House: Well, I think that that's one of, sort of the great mysteries of the last year is that Boris Yeltsin has initially undertook this adventure urged by hard-liners in a seeming bid to strengthen his hand as a forceful leader, as a leader who is, you know, powerful and able to restore order in Russia. This has backfired on him, completely strengthening the hand of many of his opponents, and yet for the last year, the circles around him have been deadlocked in a battle between moderates and conservatives and have not been able to move forward in some kind of a negotiated solution to the Chechen crisis. The fact is that this--the return of a number of people associated with this failed policy, including President Yeltsin's new chief of staff, I think signals Yeltsin's decision toreturn to the policy of tough warfare, of the destruction of the Chechen opposition, but I think that that has calamitous consequences for his chances for reelection.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Prof. McFaul out at Stanford, do you agree with that?
MICHAEL McFAUL, Stanford University: Oh, most certainly. He took a hard-line policy when he went into Chechnya. You have to remember there was an interim event in the summer when a similar situation happened. Mr. Chernomyrdin negotiated a peaceful resolution to a hostage crisis, and many people since then have criticized the prime minister for being soft with the rebels. Yeltsin didn't want to make that mistake again. He wanted to distinguish himself from the prime minister in this particular crisis, and that's why he decided to be so forceful. Prof. McFaul, do you think this situation will escalate even further? I mean, we already have hostage taking today in Turkey and the taking of hostages in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.
PROF. McFAUL: This is not a short-term war. There is not a final solution in terms of a military victory for the Russians anywhere in the near-term. This is going to go on for a long time, years, not months.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Does it worry you that it spread to Dagestan, I mean, the events--these events are taking place in a neighboring republic, they're not taking place in Chechnya, is there some way this could spread throughout the Caucuses region?
PROF. McFAUL: Yes and no. In fact, I think going into Dagestan for the Chechen rebels was a tactical mistake for them. After all, this is the corridor by which they receive guns, they have--there's a large Chechen population there, and there's some sympathy for the Chechen cause in Dagestan. By going in there, by bringing the war there, I think they may, in fact, alienate some of their former allies.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Leon Aron, you're writing a biography of Yeltsin. How does this affect his political standing? How do you--what's the tie-in between what's happening there and politics and Yeltsin?
MR. ARON: Well, I think it's very clear, for example, that Yeltsin is running for the presidency.
MS. FARNSWORTH: You think that's definite. The elections are--
MR. ARON: By the signs. And he said he would not announce until mid February. But look at what's happening. He clearly thrust himself at the center of this operation. He did not hide behind Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. He showed on numerous occasions televised clearly arranged media events that he's in charge and that he's tough. And not only his--we could infer from the handling of the situation that Yeltsin is in the running, we could also, I think, infer his strategy. He was--after these elections, the elections in December, he faced the choice. He could either try and if he decides to run for presidency, try to distinguish himself as much as possible from the Communists the way Lech Walesa did in, in Poland, underscoring the differences across the entire spectrum. It looks like he chose a different strategy. It looks like he decided to kind of strengthen his flank, his nationalist flank, in national security and foreign affairs, witness, you know, the change of foreign ministers. By moving closer to a leftist nationalist position and with the resignation of Anatoly Chubais, it seems to me that he might be even moving closer, First Deputy Prime Minister in Charge of Privatization, that Yeltsin might have decided to move closer to the Communist position or to the left, as I should say, on the economic front as well. I think that strategy would backfire. I think it's very miscalculated. If Yeltsin decides to run against the Communists, but at the same time tries to look like a Communist, or, you know, his nationalist opposition, why vote for Yeltsin? You could vote for the original, instead of voting for a copy. So I think that would backfire on him.
MS. FARNSWORTH: I want to pursue this a little bit in a minute, but first, what about his health? I mean, here's a man running, perhaps running for president, who's had two heart attacks at least and who has not been well.
MR. ARON: It is obviously one of the bigger question marks over the entire campaign, not just for Yeltsin but Yeltsin's presence or absence in this campaign would, I think, dramatically change the configuration. I frankly think that a third heart attack would either be fatal or at the very least would take him out of the running.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Mr. Karatnycky, do you think that the Chechen, the way that the President is handling the Chechen rebels and the hostage taking is very directly related to the, the political campaign that's about to begin?
MR. KARATNYCKY: Well, it's a part of it, but the most important part is the series of personnel changes he has made in recent days.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Run through those, just briefly, for us.
MR. KARATNYCKY: Well, the main changes have been the naming of the former head of counter-intelligence, of foreign intelligence, Yevgeny Primakov, to be the foreign minister. It's also the naming of Nikolai Yugorov, a hard-liner who supported a very tough anti Chechen policy of destroying the opposition, the physical destruction of the pockets of Chechen resistance and of the Chechen opposition, and those are, I think--and Chubais's resignation with an as-yet-unnamed successor, those are all signs, and the removal of his former chief of staff, Filatov, who was a democrat. Today there are very few faces who were the comrades of Yeltsin in the days where he fought first from '89 to '91 to attain leadership of the Russian Republic, and then in the fight to bring down Gorbachev and to bring him to power. That whole circle, that whole entourage has been crowded out. There are no strong links between the current team and these democrats and democratic reformers. More importantly, I would say that what we are witnessing is the political elite, the power elite in Russia internally pushing to prepare a government transition. I believe that the--many of the power centers understand that public opinion has shifted in the direction irrevocably, and either a nationalist or nationalist Communist will come to power. And many of the ministerial and staff appointments that are being made are people who could work very comfortably under either a President Leved or President Zyuganov.
MS. FARNSWORTH: This is a very significant development. I mean, what's happened in the past couple of weeks in your view would, should be seen as very significant.
MR. KARATNYCKY: Yes. And also retrospectively, from that perspective, the blunder of launching the war in Chechnya may well be seen as a very important pivotal moment, a pivotal miscalculation in Yeltsin's political career at a time, I think, when he thought it would give him strength as a tough- minded, restorer of order and of the strength of the federal system in Russia. Instead, it has fueled a number of opponents. It has fueled nationalists who want to come to a blood vengeance against ethnic minorities. It has fueled the neofascists who want the prosecution of a vigorous war. It has fueled Communist nostalgia and Soviet citizens, citizens of Russia, nostalgia for the old Soviet period. So on all accounts, this event that really- -this war that unfolded in December of 1994 may well be the main tactical blunder of Yeltsin's political career.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Prof. McFaul, do you agree with that, a tactical blunder, a major miscalculation?
PROF. McFAUL: Oh, the original intervention without question, I would totally agree that that was a major flaw, and I think we'll look back on the first or the second or the last, depending on what it is, President Yeltsin's tenure and look at this as a big mistake. The more interesting question, I think, though is what happens now. He's running for president, and I think it's important to remember that by Russian law, there are two ballots. In the runoff, the first ballot, the top two voters then go into a runoff on the second ballot. Yeltsin's first and most important priority is obviously to get to the second ballot. If December 1995 those election returns were the first ballot, you would have Mr. Zyuganov against Mr. Zhirinovsky. There wouldn't have been a candidate from the party of power. Yeltsin needs to defeat one of them, and I think it's Mr. Zhirinovsky, to then run against the Communists on the second ballot. That's what he's positioning himself to do, and I think he'll be successful in that.
MS. FARNSWORTH: So you think these changes and the moves which have been described here as moves to the, the, sort of the left, to the Communist left, are to do that?
PROF. McFAUL: Oh, most certainly. Definitely. He's given up on the democrats. It's quite right. There's nobody from the 1990-1991 period in this administration anymore, and he gave up on them because he saw the electoral results in December. Mr. Gaidar got 4 percent. Mr. Yavlinsky got 7 percent, roughly, and so he's banking on a different electorate for June of '96. Whether he's right or wrong is another question, but that's definitely his strategy.
MS. FARNSWORTH: And what about public opinion in Russia, what did you find? How, how do people perceive what's happening with the rebels in Chechnya?
PROF. McFAUL: Well--
MS. FARNSWORTH: It's changed, hasn't it, somewhat?
PROF. McFAUL: Yes and no. What was very striking during the parliamentary elections which just concluded last month was despite the war going on, despite the fighting that's still going on, during the election it wasn't really an issue in the campaign, and public opinion was divided on that, and nobody with the exception of Mr. Gaidar made it a campaign issue. Even Mr. Yavlinsky, who is against the war, decided not to campaign on it, because he just thought it was politically too risky.
MS. FARNSWORTH: So do you think, Mr. Aron, that this is--it's not like Afghanistan, which became sort of Russia's Vietnam, or is it?
MR. ARON: No. I think it's a different pattern. Again, I think it's a pattern, umm, that we've witnessed in newly in post colonial states or in this case post-Communist states which were put together regardless of the ethnic boundaries or, or regardless of whether people actually wanted to be part of it or not, and I think Russia is settling into a very protracted, dirty war in which neither side would concede.
MS. FARNSWORTH: What does this mean for U.S. policy? What should the State Department and the Clinton administration be doing, given not so much Chechnya but the changes in the Russian government?
MR. KARATNYCKY: Well, I think that the rhetoric of the administration has been to pretend that there has not been this kind of sea change in Russian politics to avert one's gaze from the naming of Primakov from the kinds of changes; occasional condemnations of the brutality and a search for a solution in the war in Chechnya are welcome comments of American concern. On the other hand, there is a bigger issue here, and I believe that Russian foreign policy is moving in a much more aggressive direction. It will challenge the United States. It will seek to establish alliances and relationships with other governments that are harmful to U.S. interests, or it will seek to create the traditional sort of balance of power situations with traditional allies of Russia in the radical Arab world, in the Middle East. It will seek, I believe, some new demarches with China to try to play a kind of a China card against the United States. I think we're going to see a more assertive Russia but we already saw that shift about a year ago really. Andrei Koyzrev, the former foreign minister, was moving in a more assertive direction, but now we have the personnel change with people who deeply believe in carrying out and executing this tougher policy. The United States should be very worried about stabilizing a number of countries that have escaped from Russia's hegemonic control. Ukraine, in particular, is the key country, and I think that with a man like Primakov, whose services have been involved in trying to destabilize other neighboring governments historically and in recent years who had involved himself greatly in the affairs of other states in the Caucuses also suggest that he will be a player in the Russian year abroad seeking, I think, to restore the Soviet Union. I think there's a kind of a growing sentiment within the Russian political elite to restore the grandeur of the former Soviet state.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you very much all of you for being with us.
MR. LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, today's Whitewater hearings, a conversation with Senator Cohen, and news on the galaxies. UPDATE - WHITEWATER REVISITED
MR. LEHRER: Now, it is on again to the Senate Whitewater Committee's investigation. The committee began a new week of hearings today by talking to three lawyers who worked on the Whitewater issue for the President and the First Lady. Kwame Holman reports.
MR. HOLMAN: Appearing before the committee today were one current and two former White House lawyers, who in November 1993 met with President Clinton's personal attorney, David Kendall, to discuss the Clintons' failed land development company known as Whitewater.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, Republican Counsel: Mr. Kennedy, on November 5, 1993, you met with Mr. Kendall and other individuals at his offices in Williams & Connolly, is that correct?
WILLIAM KENNEDY, Former White House Counsel: It is, Mr. Chertoff.
MR. CHERTOFF: Mr. Lindsey, you were at that meeting.
MR. LINDSEY: Yes, sir.
MR. CHERTOFF: Mr. Eggleston, you were at the meeting.
MR. CHERTOFF: Mr. Kennedy, you prepared notes of the meeting in your own handwriting?
WILLIAM KENNEDY: That is correct, Mr. Chertoff.
MR. HOLMAN: It was William Kennedy, associate White House counsel at the time, who kept notes at that November 1993 meeting, notes both he and the White House refused to release when Kennedy appeared before the committee in December.
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO, Chairman, Whitewater Committee: [December 5, 1995] I am very concerned that the White House has put us in this position where the committee is forced to spend far too much time and energy to obtain relevant evidence which we are entitled to.
MR. HOLMAN: For a while, it appeared a constitutionalcrisis might result. The committee and the full Senate voted to go to court to force the White House to release the notes. But it never came to that. Just before Christmas, a deal was reached in which the White House did release the notes. Today, the Committee's Democratic counsel immediately tried to downplay the significance of both the notes and the meeting, itself.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, Democratic Counsel: Let me ask you, in your understanding, what was the purpose of the meeting?
NEIL EGGLESTON, Former White House Counsel: Mr. Ben-Veniste, by November 5th of 1993, what had been made public essentially was that there was a criminal investigation and that it--that aspects of it touched on the President and the First Lady, not that they were subjects, not that they were targets, but that they weren't somehow involved. It became important, and I remember talking about this with Mr. Nussbaum, it became important to us that we make sure, we in the White House, make sure that we are doing the appropriate role and that there are things that we can't do. And the purpose of this meeting was--and I remember it--the purpose of this meeting was to make sure that the President and the First Lady had private counsel who would do the kinds of things that private counsel can do in connection with these kinds of matters, and there are lots of things that we as government officials can't do, and that we in the White House would do the things that were appropriate for government officials to do who are working at the White House. But my recollection is that the purpose of this meeting was to ensure that everybody had on the right hat.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE: I take it there was some understanding that you would have to continue to communicate with one another, that is, the White House lawyers and Mr. Kendall and his team of lawyers, as issues arose on a going-forward basis to make sure that something didn't fall between the cracks and that a matter was being handled in the most appropriate way possible.
NEIL EGGLESTON: I think that's absolutely accurate. I think that we anticipated that that would be a, sort of a first communication, but then over time there would be the need for additional communications between the counsel's office and Mr. Kendall as each were appropriately performing their own function in this, in this matter.
MR. HOLMAN: But Republican Committee Counsel Michael Chertoff disputed that characterization.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF: Mr. Eggleston, you didn't after November 5th create separate spheres in which Mr. Kendall was going to be working on his own matters and you were going to be working on your own because within five days thereafter, Mr. Kendall sent you a copy of a chronology he had prepared as part of his representation as a private client which was found in your files, so there was a continued exchange of information. And you didn't take yourself out, am I not correct, you didn't then say after November 5th, look, I'm going to separate myself from Kendall, I'm going to make sure that none of the information I get as a government official is going to get over to Kendall because I'm going to create an ethical war between us. You continued to deal with Kendall, so even after November 5th, there wasn't a parting of the ways or a passing of the torch. What happened is everybody lit the same torch and went on caring, isn't that right--
MR. HOLMAN: As for the notes Kennedy took at the meeting--
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE: What did you mean, to the best of your recollection, when you wrote this note, "vacuum," space, "Rose law files?"
WILLIAM KENNEDY: We were referring to at the meeting that there was an information vacuum, that when you tried to get your arms around Whitewater in this case, referring to the real estate investment, it's impossible to do; the records were a shambles. I had personal knowledge of that. You're dealing with an information vacuum. The Rose law files, as they related to Whitewater documents, if you had gotten your, gotten your hands on them, they would not have meant anything to you because of the condition of the records.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE: Did you or anybody at that meeting suggest in any way, shape, or form that files then existing at the Rose Law Firm should be destroyed or hidden or otherwise made unavailable?
WILLIAM KENNEDY: Absolutely not. And I don't have a prosecutorial background, but I wouldn't have tolerated it either.
MR. HOLMAN: But Republican counsel Chertoff continued his sharp questioning of former White House lawyer Neil Eggleston, particularly on his possession of internal documents from a Small Business Administration investigation of a Whitewater-related matter.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF: Mr. Eggleston, on November 16th, you called or contacted Mr.--someone at the Small Business Administration to get documents that had been sent to the House of Representatives, is that correct?
NEIL EGGLESTON: That is. I testified about that at great length a few weeks ago.
MR. HOLMAN: Chertoff read from a message found in the files of Bruce Lindsey, White House adviser at the time, the message apparently written by Lindsey's secretary.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF: "Neil Eggleston said the additional information is at SBA and approximately a foot high. He has a call in to SBA to find out if it contains reference to either the President or Hillary. He can obtain a copy of the documents if it appears necessary but does not believe it is problematic."
NEIL EGGLESTON: Let me give you a slightly longer answer. It would make a lot of sense that I would have tried to talk to Mr. Lindsey. The reason I was getting these documents is that we were concerned that having been produced to Congress, there was an issue about leaks, and I testified to that last time. Mr. Lindsey at the time was the person who would probably have gotten a telephone call if there had been a leak and a press inquiry to the White House. That is absolutely as logical as it can be that I would have attempted to talk to Mr. Lindsey about this, because, in fact, that was the notion of what I was doing.
MR. HOLMAN: But Eggleston said the press never reported the story, and so he never did show the SBA information to Bruce Lindsey.
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO: Now you have them. You call up the secretary. You don't remember the actual call, but the records reflect that you called, and you left a message, and the message said, "important," right? Was it important? It was important at that time, wasn't it?
MR. EGGLESTON: It was important as of the time, of course.
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO: And now you're going to tell this committee you don't remember going over or going over the documents with him, somehow it didn't become important because two days later the Justice Department made some announcement?
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO: Is that what you expect us to believe?
MR. EGGLESTON: I am telling this committee that I believe that I did not go over these documents with Mr. Lindsey. I don't know what his recollection his, but my recollection is he did.
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO: So the records aren't revealing the truth then? Once again, I mean, the records aren'ttelling the truth.
MR. EGGLESTON: Senator, you're going to have to draw whatever conclusions you want. I'm just--
MR. HOLMAN: Facing an end-of-February deadline on the funding of their inquiry, the committee's Democrats and Republicans have agreed to issue a report on their findings later this month, but Republicans want to seek an extension of the hearings of up to three months, and Democrats have yet to agree to that. CONVERSATION - STEPPING DOWN
MR. LEHRER: Now a conversation with Sen. William Cohen. The Maine Republican surprised most of the political world today by announcing he would not seek a fourth term. He was first elected to the Senate in 1978, after six years in the House. There he served on the committee that considered the impeachment of then President Nixon. His Senate service included work on the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, as well as the Special Committee on Aging. The Senator is also a novelist and a poet, and he joins us tonight from Capitol Hill. Senator, welcome.
SEN. WILLIAM COHEN, [R] Maine: [Capitol Hill] Good evening.
MR. LEHRER: The word most identified with you is moderate. Is pulling a surprise today like this a moderate thing to do?
SEN. COHEN: I'm not sure it's a moderate thing to do. For me, it was the right thing to do. It's a decision I have been considering for the last several weeks. I think a famous poet that you're familiar with once said that life is a series of spontaneous changes. This wasn't quite spontaneous but it was close to being spontaneous. It's been evolving over several weeks, and it became clear to me during this past weekend that this was the right decision for me.
MR. LEHRER: You said in your statement today that the budget crisis or the budget impasse really brought it to a head. Explain that. What--how did that happen?
SEN. COHEN: Well, we're seeing a breakdown of negotiations during the Christmas break or breakdown. We've seen sides polarize and harden, rigidify, and very little movement toward the center as such. And during the course of that, I became convinced, obviously, that the group of moderates that I had been working with had offered a, a responsible proposal that we felt both the President and our colleagues could accept, and yet nothing seemed to move toward the Senate during that period of time. I became convinced that we have to balance the budget within a seven year time frame using real numbers, Congressional Budget Office numbers, and I'm reasonably satisfied the President is now committed to that. Hopefully, we can get a greater commitment to that. But it became clear to me that on the one hand, we're never going to see a reduction in the friction, or I should say perhaps the fractiousness in our society, and in the Congress, itself, until we start expanding the economic pie. One way of doing that is by balancing our budget, getting our fiscal house in order, and stop bankrupting the future generations. That's one part of it. The other part is expanding our global competitiveness, and that's really what led me into the debate in my own mind about what I should be doing in terms of best utilizing my own talents and my own time. And that is I think we're missing out a great deal in terms of international global competition, particularly in the Pacific Rim region, where I just returned from. So as a combination of looking at the--expanding the pie domestically and also expanding it and participating in the economic prosperity internationally, which galvanized my own decision making.
MR. LEHRER: Is the U.S. Senate a nice place to work anymore?
SEN. COHEN: It's the best place to work. You can't find a better job in politics than to be a member of the United States Senate. I think what's happened, however, in recent years is there has been a tendency to polarize both on the left and on the right. And what I suspect is taking place is that we're seeing sort of a gravitational pull, the Republicans to the conservative side and the Democrats to the liberal side, and we'll have a liberal and a conservative party, and then eventually that liberal and conservative party will have to gravitate back toward the middle. I also am reasonably convinced that this country has to decide whether or not we want to have one-party government, at least for a period of time. We had President Bush who was in office the last time with a Democratic Congress. We now have President Clinton with a Republican Congress. And as a result, we're seeing stalemate and stagnation, paralysis, and all the other words we can use to describe what's taking place. I think what we have to do is decide as a country whether we want to give the government, the reins of the government to one party to move either to the right on the conservative side, or the left on the liberal side, and see where that takes us economically, but if the country's going to continue to vote for divided government, we're likely to have greater division in the future.
MR. LEHRER: On a more personal basis, are you too moderate to be happy with this conservative Republican revolution, as it's called?
SEN. COHEN: Well, actually, the conservative members of the Senate have made me very comfortable. They--I have a good relationship with virtually everyone in the party. I've cast some tough votes, obviously. But I've never heard anyone criticize me directly or heard about it indirectly. I enjoy pretty broad support within the party, itself. There's room for moderates. Obviously, I think the party, the center of the party, itself, is moving to the right, but there will always be room for moderates because you have to govern from the center. And eventually we'll come back to governing from the center but I think in the short-term are going to see moves to the right and to the left on the part of both of our parties.
MR. LEHRER: And that's what explains, in your opinion, then that there are so many of your number, other moderate Republicans, Nancy Kassebaum, Alan Simpson, Mark Hatfield, John Danforth, four of them have quit, you think that's what's going on?
SEN. COHEN: I think that's part of it. I think that the long hours that are put in this job with less progress, more wheel- spinning, more waiting around, less real debate, more diatribes, I think all of those have contributed to a, a lower quality of life, so to speak, in terms of having time for one's family or being able to plan one's time on a daily or a weekly basis. I think that's part of it but not all of it.
MR. LEHRER: In other words, it's become a debating society and not a doing society, the United States Senate?
SEN. COHEN: I think we're doing more talking and taking less action, so it's more molecular in motion, that it's bouncing around but not really moving forward. And I think that's been frustrating to, to a lot of people both in the Democratic Party and Republican Party alike.
MR. LEHRER: Explain this to me then, Senator. All the polls show, at least the ones that I have looked at, show that the majority of the American electorate is in the center, is in the mainstream. So why is it that the majority of the United States Senate or the Congress of the United States is not also in the center? Why is this polarization happening if the people aren't doing the same?
SEN. COHEN: Well, I think what's taking place at the organizational level, obviously in both the Democratic Party and Republican Party, those people who feel most passionately who are most ideologically committed tend to be on the right in the Republican Party and the left in the Democratic Party. And so you have the organizational activities really starting to dominate the electoral process. Most people are in the center. And that's where I believe you have to govern from. But right now, what we're seeing is greater power and potential put in the organizational levels of the political system. As a result, you're getting people who are more ideologically committed to either the right or the left.
MR. LEHRER: But if all of you moderates in the middle run for cover, aren't you essentially turning it over to the extremes, as- -
MR. LEHRER: --Sen. Lieberman said today? Sen. Lieberman, who's a Democrat--
SEN. COHEN: Right.
MR. LEHRER: --considered a moderate Democrat from Connecticut, said today that your, your announcement just feeds the idea that we're going to have a United States Senate of extremes.
SEN. COHEN: Well, I don't agree with that. Sen. Lieberman is a good friend and someone I admire a great deal, but the fact of the matter is that I've dedicated almost 24 years of my life to public service, and I think that I look through the prism of life perhaps a bit differently than some of the newer members, and I would include Sen. Lieberman as part of the newer members coming in. I also have to look at where I feel I can make the greatest commitment and use my talents and time to the best advantage for the people of Maine and hopefully for the country in the future. And so it's a question of timing. There's a natural rhythm and time for things, and I came to the conclusion that after 24 years of being in Congress, it was also time for me to step back for a period of time. I don't rule out a re-entry into the political system at some future time, but I think for me personally and I think even for the political system it's healthy for people to step out of the, the middle of the process, to gain a different perspective, and then come back in with renewed energy and perhaps a different perception.
MR. LEHRER: Do you have something specific in mind you want to do with your life now?
SEN. COHEN: I really don't have anything specific in mind. I know that I want to continue the kind of activities I've focused on during my years in Congress. That would be on security issues, on defense issues, also on the Intelligence Committee, and obviously in my spare time, I'd like to emulate you, yourself, and continue to write in the margins of my life.
MR. LEHRER: Well, you did a lot of that while you were a United States Senator.
SEN. COHEN: And I'd like to continue to do it afterwards.
MR. LEHRER: Yeah. The, the relationship between and among Senators, we had Sen. Simpson on here talking about this when he announced his, his decision to step aside, and he said that the only time you ever see each other or enjoy each other anymore is when there is a roll call vote and everybody has to go to the floor, and the old days of friendship among Senators is out the window. Do you agree with that?
SEN. COHEN: I do to a certain degree. I think what's happened is Alvin Toffler's Future Shock has arrived in the United States Congress. I think time is speeded up by events. We're seeing things move faster and faster and faster. Schedules are more compact. There are more meetings. There are more votes. There is less time for communication. And everything is pretty much on a pace which is almost unmanageable, and very little time is leftover for either long talks or short talks, but certainly very little time to communicate with each other on a personal basis, usually during lunchtime on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, and that's about it. That's a marked change from when I first came to the Senate, where it was a much more relaxed atmosphere. I think something that television probably has contributed to this acceleration of time and perhaps contributed to the separation, as such, of the friendships, you just don't have enough time to really spend with each other, or spend evenings together at each other's homes, or even at a restaurant. There's simply not time left.
MR. LEHRER: What will you miss the most about the United States Senate?
SEN. COHEN: I think what I'll miss the most is the friendships that I have made, the sense of companionship that one does have, even though you don't have enough time to really, to sit down and talk with members, such as Alan Simpson or Warren Rudman, who left earlier. The friendships are important. Also--
MR. LEHRER: He was a good friend. Warren Rudman, he was--he went even before Danforth. He was a--
SEN. COHEN: Right.
MR. LEHRER: He was a friend of yours, was he not?
SEN. COHEN: Indeed. He remains a very close friend. I think what is most exciting about politics is that you feel as if you're plugged into an outlet, you are electrified on a daily basis, you have such a packed schedule with such a variety of issues that you must become expert in that you really are energized throughout the day and into the evening, and you can do that for so many years, I think, before it starts to fray at the edges a bit, but that's what I'll miss most, and I still have a year to go of public service, so it's not as if I'm leaving tomorrow. But that sense of, of excitement, of being bombarded by a variety of issues on a daily basis I think that's what I'll miss the most.
MR. LEHRER: All right. Senator, thank you very much.
SEN. COHEN: Thank you very much. FINALLY - NEW GALAXIES
MR. LEHRER: Finally tonight, new pictures for outer space. Charlayne Hunter-Gault has that story.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Some of the great mysteries of the universe may be a little close to being solved, it's size, make-up, and perhaps even the origin of the universe. That's what scientists are saying after seeing pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in December. Today they released the pictures showing the most distant and detailed images ever recorded. For more on what was found and what it means, we have NASA's scientist, Dr. Ed Weiler, who's been a part of the Hubble Telescope project since its birth 18 years ago. Dr. Weiler, tell us exactly what it is that was shot out there by Hubble and what it is that has you scientists so excited.
DR. ED WEILER, NASA: [San Antonio] Well, let me give you a little bit of history first. Dr. Bob Williams, who is the director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, had the idea about a year ago that maybe it would be worth a significant fraction of his discretionary time on Hubble to really push the telescope to its ultimate limit, that is to take the longest exposure possible and really push the telescope to find the faintest and deepest parts of the universe, and a team at the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute, including some European astronomers, preparedthis observation over a period of about a year. And what they did is try to find an area of space where we can look out of our own galaxy, where we wouldn't be looking to a lot of other nearby galaxies or a lot of other nearby stars, really have a clear view, really back almost to the beginning of time, and the observation was taken just this past December, and it represented about thirty to eighty hours of exposure time, and this picture represents the deepest photograph of the faintest objects ever seen by humans.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: How do you know that you're looking back to the beginning of time? I mean, that's almost a mind-boggling concept, that you could actually look back to the beginning of time.
DR. WEILER: Well, you have to remember the speed of light is not infinite. For instance, the, the image you're seeing of me now has to go up to a satellite, down to Washington, then back up to a satellite and out to people's TV's. That takes time, so you're actually seeing me as I look--as I look now in the present but a fraction of a second later, and that's true when you look back further into space. It takes light time to get here, so if you look back one billion years, it takes light a billion years to get here. So you're actually looking at objects a billion years younger. If you look back 10 billion light years, it takes 10 billion years for that light to get here, so you're looking at objects that are 10 billion years younger than we are.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: And what was seen as the experiment progressed that is so, such a major discovery at this point?
DR. WEILER: Well, what we're seeing--and I don't know if you have the image up on the screen now, but--
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, we do have the image, and we can put it up.
DR. WEILER: Okay, great. I'm looking at the image now, myself. For instance, everything you see on this image is a galaxy with just a couple of exceptions. You see a star right in the center a little bit to the left.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: And what is a galaxy?
DR. WEILER: A galaxy is a collection of hundreds of billions of stars, and we live in a galaxy called the Milky Way. They're the largest forms of matter. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is probably somewhere between ten and fifteen billion years old. So actually we live in the present, and we're the oldest objects in the universe. Everything you see on this picture is younger than we are. If you look at that star right in the center, just to the upper left of it, you see a nice little spiral galaxy. That looks very similar to the one we live in like the Milky Way. If you look just to the left of that, you see all these little fuzz balls, blue fuzz balls, red fuzz balls. Those are probably galaxies or shreds of galaxies as they're forming, perhaps only a billion years after the Big Bang. So all we're really doing is looking through a wedge of the universe or a tube of the universe. The big galaxies are ones that are fairly nearby, maybe only about 2 billion light years away, and those little tiny things are probably at the very edge of the universe, the very beginning of the universe only maybe perhaps a billion years after the beginning.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: And so once we've seen this, and this is all in color, right--
DR. WEILER: Yes, this is true color.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: I mean, I can see--right. What do we learn from what we're seeing there. What are those pictures really telling us?
DR. WEILER: Well, this observation was considered so important that unlike most observations, astronomers on Hubble get to keep the data for a year and analyze it and then publish it. This is so important because it really--we're really looking at our origins, our own very origins here.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What does that mean?
DR. WEILER: Well, we're looking back to the beginning of time. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, probably looked like one of these smudges ten, fifteen billion years ago. So we're really looking at our origins, how we began, and we're looking back at a range of galaxy ages, and it's going to take, it's going to take many, many years probably to really get all the data out of this image. But what we've done is we've made this data available to the worldwide astronomical community. In fact, if you have access to Internet, you can pull it off your screen tonight. That's very dissimilar to the way most data is taken. Most data is given to an astronomer and they have about a year to analyze it. But we felt that we wanted the best minds in the world working on this because this really could be the rosetta stone of learning something about how galaxies evolved, how the largest ones of matter evolved over time.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: And when we know that, what do we know, and what can we do with it?
DR. WEILER: Well, every successful culture spends a tiny fraction of its money trying to gain knowledge, and I think understanding how the universe began and understanding how we got here is a very basic human question that was probably asked by the very first cave woman and cave man that walked out of their cave and looked at the sky.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: So this could take us back to Adam and Eve, is that what you're saying?
DR. WEILER: Well, I don't know about that.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But where does it lead, I mean, what do these pictures take you to next? I mean, what will you do with them next?
DR. WEILER: Well, what has to be done now, and this shows a synergy between space, space astronomy and ground base astronomy, what we need to do now is get actual distances to some of these objects because all we have here is a picture, which has an incredible amount of detail on that, but we need to know the distances of these objects to really understand which objects are young and which objects are old. To do that we're going to need the largest ground base telescopes on Earth, for instance, the 10-meter telescope, to take further observation of these things to try to understand the distances, so by combining work on the ground and these Hubble pictures we'll really get hopefully a better understanding of how the universe evolved in time.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: All right. Well, Dr. Weiler, needless to say, as you begin to understand that, we'll be here trying to understand it with you. Thank you very much for joining us.
DR. WEILER: Thank you. RECAP
MR. LEHRER: Again, the other major story of this Tuesday, Chechen gunmen seized a ferry on the Black Sea. They threatened to kill all the Russians on board, and Russian forces continued their assault on a group of Chechen rebels in a village on the border between Russian and Chechnya. Before we go tonight, an editor's note: The "NewsHour" is going on the Internet with an on-line NewsHour. It will include material from our broadcasts and new features designed just for the World Wide Web. It will be--it will have interactive elements and the "NewsHour's" editorial values. It is an experiment. It is a start. The "On-Line NewsHour" can be found at the PBS Web site. The address is: HTTP://WWW.PBS.ORG. Again, HTTP://WWW.PBS.ORG. We'll see you tomorrow night there and here. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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This episode's headline: On the Brink; Whitewater Revisited; Conversation - Stepping Down; New Galaxies. ANCHOR: JAMES LEHRER; GUESTS: LEON ARON, American Enterprise Institute; ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, Freedom House; MICHAEL McFAUL, Stanford University; SEN. WILLIAM COHEN, [R] Maine; DR. ED WEILER, NASA; CORRESPONDENTS: ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH; KWAME HOLMAN; CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT
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Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 1996-01-16, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 2, 2022,
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