The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
MS. WARNER: Good evening. I'm Margaret Warner in New York.
MR. LEHRER: And I'm Jim Lehrer in Washington. After our summary of the news this Thursday, we have President Clinton's Oval Office Address on Somalia and reaction to it from three Senators and one House members, plus an Elizabeth Bracket report on paying for education in Michigan. NEWS SUMMARY
MR. LEHRER: President Clinton said today he will send more troops, armor, and equipment to Somalia. Another U.S. soldier was killed in a mortar attack on U.S. troops there last night. The President met with congressional leaders at the White House this morning to discuss his decision, and this afternoon he addressed the American people from the Oval Office. He said he would withdraw U.S. forces from Somalia by early next year after the U.S. finished the mission in the right way.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: This past week's events make it clear that even as we prepare to withdraw from Somalia we need more strength there, we need more armor, more air power to ensure that our people are safe and that we can do our job. Today I have ordered 1700 additional army troops and 104 additional armored vehicles to Somalia to protect our troops and to complete our mission. I've also ordered an aircraft carrier and two amphibious groups with 3600 combat marines to be stationed offshore. These forces will be under American command.
MR. LEHRER: We'll have the President's full address right after this News Summary. Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole responded to the President's remarks. He did so on Capitol Hill.
SEN. ROBERT DOLE, Minority Leader: I want to be supportive of the President. I think not only the President deserves our support but the American forces in Somalia deserve our support, and their families deserve our support, and the President now has given a timetable, and the mission has been drastically contracted. And I thing I noticed in the President's remarks, it was about what we were going to do, not Boutros Boutros-Ghali or the United Nations, but we were going to do, Americans. And I'm convinced that the President understands the importance of our effort there and also the importance of trying to bring it to an early conclusion.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. John Warner, Republican of Virginia, said today Defense Sec. Aspin had rejected two earlier requests from military commanders for more heavy armor in Somalia. He said the requests were conveyed to Aspin last month by then Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Colin Powell. Sen. Warner said Aspin had confirmed the story to congressional leaders at the White House this morning.
SEN. JOHN WARNER, [R] Virginia: And Aspin stood up, and he was accountable for his actions. He said, "At that time, I was most reluctant to grant it, and I wished to discourage it because, one, we were trying to downsize our forces in Somalia, and this might give a signal to indicate we were reversing what we intended to do; and secondly, we had in mind at the same time Bosnia and the likelihood that we may be asked to send men and equipment there. And given that situation, I decided we wouldn't do it.
MR. LEHRER: Several other Republican members of Congress criticized Aspin's decision. Sen. Alphonse D'Amato of New York said Aspin should resign or be fired. But Sen. Minority Leader Dole said he did not think the Secretary should resign. Margaret.
MS. WARNER: As we reported, American casualties in Somalia continued to rise today. Last night's mortar attack on a U.S. base at the Mogadishu Airport wounded thirteen troops, one of whom later died. Another soldier wounded in Sunday's fire fight died at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. That brought the death toll to 14 this week and 26 since last December. More soldiers wounded in Sunday's fire fight were transported to Germany today. Some of them were awarded Purple Hearts. These latest casualties bring to ninety the total number of American soldiers wounded in the week's fighting. Seven are still missing in Mogadishu, and at least one missing serviceman, helicopter pilot Michael Durant, is being held hostage. The Red Cross has asked to see him but said it could take some time to gain access. An aid to warlord Aidid offered to swap Durant for Somalis held by the U.N., but the U.N. has ruled out any such exchange. Also today, the Red Cross said the toll of Somalis wounded from the weekend clashes had reached 700. We'll have more on the story right after the News Summary.
MR. LEHRER: Boris Yeltsin suspended Russia's highest court today. He said it had sided with hard-line lawmakers and helped push the country to the brink of civil war. This was an official day of mourning in Russia for the victim's of this week's political violence. Robert Moore of Independent Television News reports from Moscow.
ROBERT MOORE, ITN: Solemn music and the grief of relatives, a moment for Russians to stand back from a tumultuous week and take stock. The funerals of many of the policemen killed in the fierce gun battles took place this morning. The state will pay for the funerals of all the dead, irrespective of which side of the barricades they fought and died on. They are all Russia's children, Boris Yeltsin said, in a clear attempt at reconciliation. But Yeltsin is mixing his condolences with a rapid and ruthless political strike against the symbols of the old Communist system. Lenin's Museum is now to be moved to make way for the local Moscow Council, reverting to how it was in pre- revolutionary Russia, and the guard of honor at Lenin's mausoleum has been stripped away. Yeltsin has also announced that the White House, the heart of the mutiny, will never again be a parliament. It has witnessed many dramas, not just the rebellion this time, but the scene also two years ago of Yeltsin's heroic resistance against the military coup. Now it will be the seat of Russian bureaucracy. As the services for the dead took place in churches across Moscow, Russians are still coming to terms with Yeltsin's actions as he attempts to eliminate the last remnants of a Leninist and Communist past.
MS. WARNER: In Pakistan, the party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto won Wednesday's national elections but feel short of the margin it needed to form a government. Bhutto said she was confident, however, that she could put together a governing coalition with some of Pakistan's smaller parties. Only 40 percent of the Pakistani electorate voted. The United Nations is expected to lift most economic sanctions against South Africa tomorrow. African National Congress Leader Nelson Mandela urged the action last month saying that South Africa was well on its way to ending white minority rule. A U.N. oil embargo will remain in place though until South Africa's interim governing council, which includes blacks, begins operating.
MR. LEHRER: Tony Morrison was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature today. She is best known for her novels which include, Song of Solomon, Beloved, and Jazz. The 62-year-old Princeton professor is the first black American to win the prize which is worth $825,000. The Nobel committee said her prose at the luster of poetry. Morrison said she was unendurably happy at the honor. Dancer and choreographer Agnes DeMille has died at the age of 88. Her doctors said she died today at her home in New York. DeMille won two Tony Awards for her choreography on Broadway but she was best known for the landmark musical "Oklahoma," which helped elevate the status of dance in American theater.
MS. WARNER: That's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to the Somalia decision and the Michigan education plan. FOCUS - EXIT STRATEGY
MS. WARNER: Somalia is first tonight. President Clinton made two appeals for support today, to Congressional leaders at a closed door meeting this morning and to the American people on television this afternoon. Here is President Clinton's Oval Office Address.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: My fellow Americans, today I want to talk with you about our nation's military involvement in Somalia. A year ago, we all watched with horror as Somali children and their families lay dying by the tens of thousands, dying a slow, agonizing death of starvation, a starvation brought on not only by drought but also by the anarchy that then prevailed in that country. This past weekend we all reacted with anger and horror as an armed Somali gang desecrated the bodies of our American soldiers and displayed a captured American pilot, all of them soldiers who were taking part in an international effort to end the starvation of the Somali people, themselves. These tragic events raise hard questions about our effort in Somalia. Why are we still there? What are we trying to accomplish? How did a humanitarian mission turn violent? And when will our people come home? These questions deserve straight answers. Let's start by remembering why our troops went into Somalia in the first place. We went because only the United States could help stop one of the great human tragedies of this time. A third of a million people had died of starvation and disease. Twice that many more were at risk of dying. Meanwhile, tons of relief supplies piled up in the capital of Mogadishu because a small number of Somalis stopped food from reaching their own countrymen. Our consciences said, enough. In our nation's best tradition we took action with bipartisan support. President Bush sent in 28,000 American troops as part of the United Nations humanitarian mission. Our troops created a secure environment so that food and medicine could get through. We saved close to one million lives, and throughout most of Somalia, everywhere but in Mogadishu, life began returning to normal. Crops are growing. Markets are reopening, so are schools and hospitals. Nearly a million Somalis still depend completely on relief supplies but at least the starvation is gone, and none of this would have happened without American leadership and America's troops. Until June, things went well with little violence. The United States reduced our troop presence from 28,000 down to less than 5,000, with other nations picking up where we left off. But then, in June, the people who caused much of the problem in the beginning started attacking American, Pakistani, and other troops who were there just to keep the peace. Rather than participate in building the peace with others, these people sought to fight and disrupt even if it means returning Somalia to anarchy and mass famine. And make no mistake about it, if we were to leave Somalia tomorrow, other nations would leave too. Chaos would resume. The relief effort would stop, and starvation soon would return. That knowledge has led us to continue our mission. It is not our job to rebuild Somalia's society or even to create a political process that can allow Somalia's clans to live and work in peace. The Somalis must do that by themselves. The United Nations and many African states are more than willing to help, but we, we in the United States, must decide whether we'll give them enough time to have a reasonable chance to succeed. We started this mission for the right reasons, and we're going to finish it in the right way. In a sense, we came to Somalia to rescue innocent people in a burning house. We've nearly put the fire out but some smoldering embers remain. If we leave them now, those embers will reignite into flames, and people will die again. If we stay a short while longer and do the right things, we've got a reasonable chance of cooling off the embers and getting other firefighters to take our place. We also have to recognize that we cannot leave now and still have all our troops present and accounted for. And I want you to know that I am determined to work for the security of those Americans missing or held captive. Anyone holding an American right now should understand above all else that we will hold them strictly responsible for our soldiers' well-being. We expect them to be well treated, and we expect them to be released. So now we face a choice. Do we leave when the job gets tough, or when the job is well done? Do we invite a return of mass suffering, or do we leave in a way that gives the Somalis a decent chance to survive? Recently, Gen. Colin Powell said this about our choices in Somalia: "Because things get difficult, you don't cut and run. You work the problem and try to find a correct solution." I want to bring our troops home from Somalia. Before the events of this week, as I said, we had already reduced the number of our troops there from 28,000 to less than 5,000. We must complete that withdrawal soon, and I will. But we must also leave on our terms. We must do it right. And here is what I intend to do. This past week's events make it clear that even as we prepare to withdraw from Somalia we need more strength there. We need more armor and more air power to ensure that our people are safe and that we can do our job. Today I have ordered 1700 additional army troops and 104 additional armored vehicles to Somalia to protect our troops and to complete our mission. I've also ordered an aircraft carrier and two amphibious groups with 3600 combat marines to be stationed offshore. These forces will be under American command. Their mission, what I am asking these young Americans to do, is the following: First, they are there to protect our troops and our bases. We did not go to Somalia with a military purpose. We never wanted to kill anyone, but those who attack our soldiers must know they will pay a very heavy price. Second, they are there to keep open and secure the roads, the port, and the lines of communications that are essential for the United Nations and the relief workers to keep the flow of food and supplies and people moving freely throughout the country so that starvation and anarchy do not return. Third, they are there to keep the pressure on those who cut off relief supplies and attacked our people, not to personalize the conflict but to prevent a return to anarchy. Four, through their pressure and their presence, our troops will help to make it possible for the Somali people, working with others, to reach agreement among themselves so that they can solve their problems and survive when we leave. That is our mission. I am proposing this plan because it will let us finish leaving Somalia on our own terms and without destroying all that two administrations have accomplished there, for if we were to leave today, we know what would happen. Within months, Somali children again would be dying in the streets. Our own credibility with friends and allies would be severely damaged. Our leadership in world affairs would be undermined at the very time when people are looking to America to help promote peace and freedom in the post Cold War world. And all around the world, aggressors, thugs, and terrorists will conclude that the best way to get us to change our policy is to kill our people. It would be open season on Americans. That is why I am committed to getting this job done in Somalia not only quickly but also effectively. To do that, I am taking steps to ensure troops from other nations are ready to take the place of our own soldiers. We've already withdrawn some 20,000 troops and more than that number have replaced them from over two dozen other nations. Now we will intensify efforts to have other countries deploy more troops to Somalia to assure that security will remain when we are gone, and we'll complete the replacement of U.S. military logistics personnel with civilian contractors who can provide the same support to the United Nations. While we're taking military steps to protect our own people and to help the U.N. maintain a secure environment, we must pursue new diplomatic efforts to help the Somalis find a political solution to their problem. That is the only kind of outcome that can endure, for fundamentally the solution to Somalia's problemsis not a military one; it is political. Leaders of the neighboring African states, such as Ethiopia and Eritrea, have offered to take the lead in efforts to build a settlement among the Somali people that can preserve order and security. I have directed my representatives to pursue such efforts vigorously, and I've asked Amb. Bob Oakley, who served effectively in two administrations as our representative in Somalia, to travel again to the region immediately to advance this process. Obviously, even then, there's no guarantee that Somalia will rid itself of violence or suffering, but at least we will have given Somalia a reasonable chance. This week, some 15,000 Somalis took to the streets to express sympathy for our losses, to thank us for our effort. Most Somalis are not hostile to us but grateful. And they want to use this opportunity to rebuild their country. It is my judgment and that of my military advisers that we may need up to six months to complete these steps and to conduct an orderly withdrawal. We will do what we can to complete the mission before then. All American troops will be out of Somalia no later than March 31st, except for a few hundred support personnel in non- combat roles. If we take these steps, if we take the time to do the job right, I am convinced we will have lived up to the responsibilities of American leadership in the world. And we will approve that we are committed to addressing the new problem of a new era. When our troops in Somalia came under fire this last weekend, we witnessed a dramatic example of the heroic effort of our American military. When the first Black Hawk helicopter went down this weekend, the other American troops didn't retreat, although they could have. Some ninety of them formed a perimeter around the helicopter, and they held that ground under intensely heavy fire. They stayed with their comrades. That's the kind of soldiers they are, that's the kind of people we are. So let us finish the work we set out to do. Let us demonstrate to the world, as generations of Americans have done before us, that when Americans take on a challenge, they do the job right. Let me express my thanks and my gratitude and my profound sympathy to the families of the young Americans who were killed in Somalia. My message to you is: Your country is grateful, and so is the rest of the world, and so are the vast majority of the Somali people. Our mission from this day forward is to increase our strength, do our job, bring our soldiers out, and bring them home. Thank you, and God bless America.
MS. WARNER: Shortly after the President finished his speech, Sec. of Defense Les Aspin talked with reporters in the White House briefing room.
LES ASPIN, Secretary of Defense: What this added capability will allow, what this added capability will allow is three things: First, it will allow moving the QRF to its old mission. The QRF, as you remember, was essentially designed to be a quick reaction force if somebody got in trouble somewhere in the fighting within, within all of Somalia. The QRF was a quick reaction force to reinforce somebody somewhere in Somalia. What happened though, unfortunately, is the drawdown of U.S. forces, the QRF got involved in day-to-day operations in Mogadishu. This added military presence will allow the QRF to go back to its originally designed mission as a Quick Reaction Force. Second, we will be adding almost a second QRF in the offshore marines. The marines will add another capability that can be asserted at a particular time with a particular mission and, and that would add to the capability, so there's almost a second QRF available on the offshore. The final thing that it does is it allows this, this capability here includes some air power that we did not have before. In particular, there are going to be four AC-130 gunships, and there are going to be the, the aircraft off of the carrier Abraham Lincoln, which are available for air strikes in the area. Those are the capabilities. It will allow the United States military to conduct the mission as described in the President's speech. It will allow a greater presence. It is thought that it will be a force multiplier because with more American presence and more American activity we believe their allies will also show more activity, so I think it'll be a force multiplier. It will, I think, have an impact on the security situation in Mogadishu, and the hope, which is behind all this, is essentially to bring about the political agenda which we're laying out. The military mission here is in support of the political agenda. The military mission is in support of the political agenda. There is -- to carry out a military solution to this problem would require a number of people and a number of -- amount of time and an amount of commitment of money which is beyond all reasonable expectation. We are putting our efforts into a political solution here but we have a military component which supports that political, political process.
MR. LEHRER: As he emerged from this morning's meeting of President Clinton and congressional leaders, House Speaker Tom Foley called it the longest continuous consultation on a foreign policy and national security issue that he had experienced in 29 years. Well, we do some congressional consulting of our own now with two Democrats, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey, and two Republicans, Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Warner of Virginia. Sen. Warner, is the President doing the right thing?
SEN. WARNER: The President in his meeting this morning was in firm control throughout. It was a historic meeting, and he did take this very complicated situation and move it forward in trying to clarify the mission and to give a basis for what I hope will happen as a strong bipartisan coalition here in the Congress to work with him towards the goals that he enunciated.
MR. LEHRER: So you support him?
SEN. WARNER: I support working with the President, you bet. And I've done it consistently because he is the commander in chief. This is a complicated situation, and if we were to cut and run, we would not only jeopardize our hostages there, but we would jeopardize our embassies, our troops stationed all over the world, and lastly, we'd put in question whether the United States could ever again be relied on as a working partner in a peacekeeping or, if necessary, a peacemaking mission with other allies.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Leahy, do you support the President?
SEN. LEAHY: Well, I think the President did what he had to in this case. He took a -- he, after all, inherited the situation. He saw the mission, which started off as a humanitarian one, change as something entirely different. He's making every effort to bring it back, the humanitarian mission, and bring our people out. I think he will have strong bipartisan support for that, but I would not go so far as to say Somalia is going to set the standard of credibility of the United States from here on out. As one person said at this leadership briefing this morning in consultation this morning, nobody's going to question America's credibility when our real security is at stake.
MR. LEHRER: But the sending 1700 more troops into potential danger, do you support that?
SEN. LEAHY: After, after seeing what happened to our troops during the past two days, there's no question in my mind that they did not have adequate forces to protect them, and it appears that they're not able to reply on other, within the United Nations, forces to protect them. We should have our own people, and I will support the President on that.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. McConnell, what's your position?
SEN. McCONNELL: Well, I think, Jim, at this point, there is no good alternative but to support the President. I do think, however, that the speech he made today should have been made in May. The critical mistake was when we turned it over to the U.N. in May, and that's when our troubles began, whether it was the killing of Pakistanis, the killing of journalists, the killing of Americans earlier in August, and then, of course, last weekend. At this particular juncture, I agree with John and Pat, I don't think there is any good alternative other than to beef up the force and protect our personnel on the ground in Somalia. Cutting and running I think is the worst thing to do.
MR. LEHRER: But many of your colleagues, particularly in the House, publicly called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. The President did not do that, but you think he's doing the right thing anyhow?
SEN. McCONNELL: I do think the President's doing the right thing at this point. I wish he had done it in May. At this particular point, we're out of options, except to cut and run, or to have an orderly withdrawal. And in order to have an orderly withdrawal over a reasonable period of time, I'm convinced that at this stage the President is correct, he needs some more support in there to protect the lives of the troops that we already have on the ground and to keep the port open so that goods can continue to come into the city.
MR. LEHRER: All right. Congressman Payne, do you support what the President announced today?
REP. PAYNE: Yes. I support it 100 percent. Even before the President made his statement, I supported the U.S. troops remaining in Somalia until the job would be completed, and so yes, I certainly support the President.
MR. LEHRER: Congressman Payne, what is your position on this question of whether or not the mission as defined again today by the President or redefined, I guess you might say, by the President today, is worth the lives of young Americans?
REP. PAYNE: Well, I think that as you know, we're in a period of time where President Bush talked about the new world order, and we're at a time when there's only one superpower in the world. I think that what I find and many of my colleague in the House are overlooking is that the United Nations could be the vehicle to keep the world orderly. If the United Nations fails, and we're part of the United Nations, it's going to come back to one world power, the United States of America. So I think much more is at stake in Somalia. The future of how we deal with conflicts around the world I believe is at stake. If we come out and say if some of my colleagues wanted to leave by the weekend, I think that we certainly would have sent the wrong message that when the things get hot, the U.S. will determine when and will, where it will deplore its troops. So I just congratulate the President for making this stand.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Leahy, if I read what you said earlier, that you would disagree with that. You don't think that much is riding on this Somalia decision, is that right?
SEN. LEAHY: No, I don't think our overall credibility rides on this. I do feel, as many have said, that when we set up a multilateral force that the United States really carries the major role in that, and everybody knows that. You can call the United Nations or anything else, but they look first and foremost at the U.S. role. And if we're going to have that significant a U.S. role, I'd like to have it under total U.S. control, as Sen. McConnell had suggested.
MR. LEHRER: Why? Why?
SEN. LEAHY: Well, because if you're going to be in harm's way, I think we should, I really do not, I'm very, very uncomfortable having significant numbers of U.S. forces out under somebody else's control if they're going to be in harm's way, but the basic thing though that's happened here, we started out in this with a humanitarian purpose we all agreed upon. When it changed into either nation building or chasing a warlord, who would be then replaced by another warlord, if we caught him, at that point we should have had a real debate on it because American forces were being put in harm's way. And I think that probably what is going to come out of this more and more is if we're going to send American forces, where there is a real potential of them being in military action, then I think we ought to have a resolution either saying we're for it, or we're against it in the Congress. And I think that, that in many, many ways strengthens the President's hand, it doesn't weaken it.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Warner, do you agree with that, that this thing, all that's happened in the last say 24 hours or the last 48 hours, or since the weekend, or I should say since the killing of the American troops and over the weekend, should have happened weeks ago, months ago?
SEN. WARNER: Well, in point of fact, Sen. Byrd initiated this debate on the deliberations on my bill, i.e., the Armed Services Committee on which I serve, which was early in September, so the debate did start, and we delayed until the 15th of October a report from the President seeking these clarifications, and then these tragic losses ensued here last weekend, and the debate started again. What the leadership of the Senate recognized is we simply didn't have all the facts. The President simply needed more time in which to devise a plan to present to the Congress, and that's the reason this legislative process has come to a halt, and we're awaiting our return next week when a good, strong debate will take place. And may I add one other thing about your early report on Sec. Aspin. I associate my remarks with those of Sen. Dole. I think we should remain cool and calm, of sound judgment now and do our best to have bipartisan support for the President and his team. In due course, the steps that were taken by Sec. Aspin, which he quite frankly stepped up to and talked about in our meeting with the President this morning as to whether or not he did or did not explicitly reject this request by the on-scene commander for more troops, Aspin should be given the chance to speak to that specifically. And Gen. Powell, with whom he discussed this issue, could likewise be given the opportunity to say what was his recommendation. And then at such time as may be necessary, the President, of course, Aspin serves at his pleasure, then the President has to make a decision, not the Congress.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. McConnell, Sec. Aspin was -- we had an excerpt from that briefing that Sec. Aspin had after the President's speech -- and he was asked by a reporter, are you going to quit? Sen. D'Amato said you should quit, are you going to, and the Secretary said no. What is your position on that?
SEN. McCONNELL: Well, I don't think Sec. Aspin should quit but I do think both he and the President deserve some points for admitting this morning that mistakes were made. I disagree with John Warner that the fact that the debate occurred in September was early enough. This debate should have occurred in May, and I think what's really going to be hashed out on the floor of the Senate next week in this long overdue debate is where America should send its troops and under what conditions, and I think that the lessons that we've learned in Somalia are directly applicable to what we may be asked to do in Bosnia. And I would suggest that there is no chance at this point that the President could get support from the Congress for putting American ground troops in Bosnia, even though some may argue that our national security interests are involved there and aren't involved here in Somalia. So it's one of the unfortunate offshoots of this.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. McConnell, how do you respond to those who would say, on the other hand, wait a minute, you can't have it both ways, you can't support the sending of 26,000 U.S. military troops on a humanitarian mission, then when the going gets rough, say, oh, wait a minute that was a mistake? You've got to --
SEN. McCONNELL: But, Jim, the going wasn't rough in May. It was going rather smoothly. The problems began when we left a sort of residual force behind in May, this sort of slimmed down, residual force behind under some kind of a U.N. command. That's when the trouble began. When the United States was in charge, when it was delivering food and carrying out the humanitarian mission, thing were going very smoothly. So Lesson No. 1, don't supply American troops to U.N. command unless America's national security interests are involved and unless the Congress approves it, and this debate we're going to have next week, in my judgment, should have occurred back in May when basically we turned this over to the U.N.
MR. LEHRER: Congressman Payne, what --
SEN. WARNER: I'd like to interject --
MR. LEHRER: Yes.
SEN. WARNER: There's no restriction on the Congress as to when it can or cannot debate, so if we're going to pass around the fault, I think the Congress has to step up. We're coequal under the Constitution with the President in our responsibility. I mentioned the debate started as a point of fact in September, but there was no reason debate could have not taken place in May. But the turning point was the third U.N. resolution which said that we should begin to account for those deaths of the Pakistani troops and hold those accountable for it, then the mission got --
SEN. LEAHY: John, the kind of -- the question -- debate and debate -- I mean, you were among those within the leadership in both parties who did everything possible to avoid having a vote. They might actually face up to the question whether we should be there or not. I think the President has done the right thing in defining really what was our mission, and nobody, I feel in this country, or at least the vast majority of Americans are not supporting a mission of chasing warlords around the streets of Mogadishu because we know full well if we catch one, he will just be replaced by another one, and that's a prescription of being there forever and ever and ever.
SEN. WARNER: And I agree with on that point, we shouldn't be --
SEN. LEAHY: But I think that the debate has not gone on what is our new policy in being there, and I think that we do have a lot of people, very brave soldiers, who are at a grave risk because they have a policy that seems to be made by people not our leadership, not even our commander in chief. I think we're going to get that back on track, and I think the President was very wise in the things he said to do that.
MR. LEHRER: Congressman Payne, let me ask you about that. I mean, the, the United Nations multilateral force concept, which is a new thing, as you said, about the new world order, what kind of -- where do you come down on this idea that the United States should be in -- any time you said a U.S. military troop into harm's way, they should be under exclusive control of the U.S. and not of the United Nations, is that going to work in the long run in the new world order?
REP. PAYNE: In my opinion, it will not work. I think that what we have around the world are able leaders of military. If there is a special provision that only U.S. military may command U.S. troops, then the Italians could say then only Italian commanders should do Italians who were in Southern Mogadishu. In Baidoa, you have the French, and that would be another question. The Belgians are in Kismayu. One thing that's being overlooked though is that there were various phases of this operation. There was the UNOSOM. There was the Restore Hope. There was the airlift phase that President Bush announced in, in August of '92, that we would airlift food in. That didn't work. We moved them to UNITAF, which was another United Nations agreement. We then moved into UNOSOM II, and there was a U.N. resolution, 814, that was approved with participation of the United Nations to move into the phase of reconciliation and, and restoration of the Somali political and civic life, which also included disarming which was not a part of a UNITAF, which hind sight, and I supported -- as a matter of fact, Boutros Boutros-Ghali called for disarming when the U.S. troops went in in December of '92. Our commander in chief said we would not be involved in disarming, and so the weapons were left there. So this is a complicated matter.
MR. LEHRER: What would you say to the average American who says, hey, wait a minute, we sent American troops, we sent American know-how, and American supplies to save these folks from starvation and chaos, and what do they turn around and do, and kill our people, why in the world shouldn't we just get out of there and forget the whole thing and let them do whatever they want to do with each other?
REP. PAYNE: Because 99 percent of the Somali people are not in favor of that because this is Southern Mogadishu, a section of a town. You can't rate another country, for example, on a section of a city. In cities in the United States where terrible things have happened, you cannot rate all of the United States on what happened to a foreign tourist in Miami.
MR. LEHRER: Sure.
REP. PAYNE: And so that's the only analogy I can bring up.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Warner, let me ask you a similar kind of thing that we're hearing. You've been involved in the Armed Services Committee for years now. There are -- we were told last night on this program authoritatively that Aidid, this warlord, has at most 1,000 people with guns, and, and the most powerful nation in the world doesn't know what to do about him. And, I mean, I'm just saying that's what people have said, and it makes us look kind of weird or look kind of powerless in face of this. How do you respond to that from a military point of view?
SEN. WARNER: Yes. Jim, first the mission was to keep open the lines of communication so food and medicine could flow.It was only after the third U.N. resolution came along, and indeed, we participated in the U.N. in that debate and signed off on it, that we began these diversionary tactics, and the President made it clear this morning that we should not have done that, and we should not have gone into these diversions to try and catch a man who immerses himself around many, many innocent civilians, albeit they're primarily in his clan. So you could not expect our people to charge in there and just ruthlessly slaughter a lot of civilians, but, nevertheless, the President -- and I commend him - - said, we made a mistake, and now we're going to pull back from this mission of trying to isolate Aidid and isolate his clan, and work on a parallel diplomatic course of getting the African nation, not the United States, but the African nation to join us in building a coalition in there that will eventually create a government in Somalia. And at the same time, we'll go back to our primary mission of keeping open the avenues from the port and the airport to provide for food and medicine. One last thing to close on, on this joint command, that's an issue that's very hot here, and we are now going to have hearings in the Armed Services Committee on what do we do with the U.N. But bear in mind, since its inception, we have served our troops under foreign commanders in NATO and done it very effectively since the inception of NATO.
MR. LEHRER: I just want to ask Sen. McConnell about that, because you raised that to begin with. You think that the United States should also never server under foreign command, is that right?
SEN. McCONNELL: I think neither the Congress nor the American people are going to stand for U.S. troops being under the command of some U.N. commander in these kinds of nation building efforts. If the U.N. wants to engage in nation building in countries like Somalia, or I could name a whole lot of other countries where America's national security interests are not involved, then we're going to have -- the U.S. Congress is going to have to prove that - - and my guess is that neither the Congress nor the American people are going to sort of cede to the United Nations the responsibility for the supervision of our personnel in nation building in countries that are clearly not in our national security interests.
MR. LEHRER: What about Congressman Payne's point that if we take that position, every other country in the world is going to take the same position as well, and nothing will get done?
SEN. McCONNELL: Where I disagree with the Congressman is that I don't think soldiers from other countries become the target that American soldiers do. One of our colleagues was talking to one of his constituents who was lying wounded in a hospital in Germany yesterday, and he said, Senator, they're just shooting at the Americans. I think our people are a red flag in these kinds of operations. I think American soldiers are not like other soldiers, and I don't think we ought to be engaged in these kinds of activities. When we commit troops of the only superpower remaining in the world, it ought to be under American command on a mission that is clearly and unambiguously in our national security interest.
MR. LEHRER: All right, gentlemen, we have to leave it there. Thank you all four. Sorry, Congressman, we're out of time. I hear you talking but we've got to go. Thank you very much. FOCUS - COSTLY LESSON?
MS. WARNER: Next tonight, the battle over funding public schools. Many states are wrestling with how to educate their students on diminished funds and how to spread the money more equitably among them. In Michigan, state lawmakers recently took a dramatic step. They did away with using the property tax to fund public schools. This week, the governor of Michigan offered his funding alternative. Elizabeth Brackett reports.
MS. BRACKETT: Kids were back in the classrooms in Michigan this fall but that didn't mean the system was in good shape. In fact, students, teachers, and parents are asking if the public school system here will survive.
MOTHER: They don't learn anything. I want mine to learn something. I didn't go through all this to, to say give up on it because everybody else has.
MOTHER: We don't know what's going to happen to our kids next year.
MS. BRACKETT: That's because last July in an unprecedented move, the Michigan legislature threw out the method for funding their public schools. They cut the property tax by $6.3 billion, without providing any way to replace the revenue.
CURTIS HERTEL, Michigan State Representative: Some solution. It's a high stakes game of chicken that's being played in this institution. It's wrong. Being done today what was done last night in the Senate is irresponsible.
KIRK PROFIT, Michigan State Representative: It does not work when you base education on property wealth. I think it is the most un- American thing we can do to tell a child that you get educated if you have property wealth, but if you don't have property wealth, you're subject to prison and unemployment, and other third world indicators. We need to throw this out and start fresh.
MS. BRACKETT: Michigan has depended heavily on the property tax to fund education. 65 percent of the moneys come from that tax, putting in Michigan among the top five states in the country in their reliance on the property tax. And that has created inequities. Some districts spend as much as $9500 per student, while other districts spend as little as $2700 per student. By failing to replace the unpopular property tax with any new revenue, the legislature put the schools in danger of shutting down next year. The head of the state teachers union was stunned by the move.
JULIUS MADDOX, Michigan Education Association: They can move responsibly to bring change. Anyone who lives in a home that they find unacceptable doesn't burn down that house because now it will make them find a better house. They find the better house first, and then they move.
MS. BRACKETT: Surprisingly, the move to wipe out more than $6 billion in revenue was made by a Democrat, State Senator and Gubernatorial Candidate Debbie Stabenow. She says she was tired of the continuous calls by Republicans for cuts in school funding, so she decided to go them one better and propose throwing out the whole system.
DEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan State Senator: What we did was set a deadline to solve a crisis that has been growing in Michigan for over 20 years. In the last three years, the government's been cutting education, pitting schools against each other. They came up with another 20 percent cut in property taxes this summer, and we said stop, we want to wipe the slate clean. We all know property taxes our unfair. Let's give ourselves a one-year deadline and rebuild the system so it works.
MS. BRACKETT: Republican Governor John Engler had little choice but to sign onto the biggest property tax cut in the state's history. Now the governor and the legislature have until December 31st to pick up the pieces and put a school finance package back together again. The governor says the state must grapple with more than just the funding question.
GOV. JOHN ENGLER, Michigan: I don't think that the funding challenge is as great as the quality challenge because when we look at the total cost of education in Michigan annually, we're spending in excess of $9 billion. We've seen per pupil spending soar, while the student enrollments have declined, so the money hasn't been the issue. It's getting it spent in such a way to provide effective education.
MS. BRACKETT: Students at teachers at Cass Technical High School in Detroit say it's hard to get a quality education without increased funding. Cass is one of the top high schools in Detroit. 95 percent of its students go on to college, but even here the disparity in per pupil spending between Detroit and richer suburban schools has meant fewer resources for city kids.
DEBORAH McGRIFF, Superintendent, Detroit Schools: I personally don't believe that you can have excellence until you have equity. You can establish -- it doesn't make very much sense to establish high standards and then not provide the appropriate funding to make those standards available to all young people.
MS. BRACKETT: Detroit Superintendent Deborah McGriff says under the current funding system Detroit schools spend $4,000 less per pupil than suburban schools.
DEBORAH McGRIFF: We're hurt in class size. Our class size is much larger. We're hurt in the quality of our buildings; they're much older. They're not as well maintained. We're hurt in, in terms of teachers' salaries. Our teachers are not paid as well. There isn't a single facet of education that I could name where the children of Detroit are not at a disadvantage because of the differences in funding.
MS. BRACKETT: Single mother Felicia Barnes has lost faith in the school system because of that disparity. She worries about the education available for her son.
FELICIA BARNES: When you have thirty to fifty kids in a classroom, everybody's not going to be listened to. They have computers out there. We don't have computers in all our schools for our kids. They have little, um, like art classes or some type of different things that we don't have for our kids, and that tells you that money is a big problem.
MS. BRACKETT: In the current system, every school district votes on their property tax rate. Detroit voters have never turned down a request for a higher rate. But since property values are low in the city, the property tax does not bring in enough money for the schools. The state does pick up some of the cost but not enough to correct the disparity between rich and poor districts. Superintendent McGriff is cautiously optimistic about a new plan.
DEBORAH McGRIFF: I think we also have the opportunity to correct what we couldn't do over the last twenty years. And I think sometimes when people are pushed to the wall, they rise to the occasion.
MS. BRACKETT: Just outside Detroit in wealthy suburban Bloomfield Hills, high property values have made it possible to spend more dollars per student than in any other district in the state. And it shows.
TEACHER: [talking to student on field trip] And can you tell me what smell that is? Good. Right.
[FIELD TRIP TO SCHOOL DISTRICT'S FARM]
MS. BRACKETT: Students in Bloomfield Hills can go out to the school district's farm for a "hands-on" approach to environmental science.
SPOKESPERSON: [television production class] The first thing on the switcher is you have to punch up whatever camera it is that you're going to be looking at.
MS. BRACKETT: Or they can have access to the latest technology in their television production classes. Superintendent Bob Docking worries that all these programs could disappear with the restructuring of the educational system. He spoke to producer Carol Blakeley.
ROBERT DOCKING, Superintendent, Bloomfield Hills School: When you're the highest expenditure district in the state and this kind of thing happens, you have the furthest to fall. Our parents want outstanding education for their kids. We've been able to have it. If that's denied to our parents, then they'll go to private schools. That saddens me a great deal because, obviously, I've spent my career in public education, and I believe in it. If those options aren't available to those kids in public schools, they won't go to public schools any longer.
MS. BRACKETT: Cynthia Von Oeyen says she and her husband moved to Bloomfield Hills because of the schools. She thinks all Michigan children should have access to a quality education but she doesn't want her community schools hurt in the process.
CYNTHIA VON OEYEN: When I'm thinking in my panic mentality, if we receive what the government had been talking about a couple of weeks back, we'll be looking at a foundation grant of something like around forty-eight or five thousand dollars. That's what's being talked about the most. In this community, that would represent a 50 percent per pupil cut in expenditure. I see no possible way for our district to proceed business as usual. We really want to maintain local control.
MS. BRACKETT: Legislatures are fanning out across the state trying to get feedback from citizens as they struggle to put Michigan's education system back together again. Debbie Stabenow asked kids at the Parker Elementary School in Clintondale what they thought was needed in their schools.
STUDENT: We need more books in our school. We don't have very much.
DEBBIE STABENOW: More books, or library books?
STUDENT: Well, reading books in our class, we don't have a lot of those in our class. We need a lot more.
CHRISTINA: [student] We were talking about this this morning, and we think we should get a science lab to put all the science stuff in.
SPOKESPERSON: Good idea.
MS. BRACKETT: At the high school in Marin City, students asked Stabenow the same question everyone else in the state was asking: What tax will replace the property tax?
STUDENT: So what goes up then? What's going to be paying for it? Because I know you said the state pays for it, but what is it exactly that's going up, because we're dropping property tax?
DEBBIE STABENOW: Right. Here are the choices: At the local level there's the property tax; at the state level there's income, sales tax, and the single business tax. Those are the three main areas.
MS. BRACKETT: This week, Gov. Engler proposed his solution for funding schools to a joint session of the state legislature. It includes a 50 cent hike in the tax on a pack of cigarettes, a property tax on business, second homes, and homes owned by out-of- state residents, and a 2 cent hike in the sales tax which must be approved by the voters.
GOV. ENGLER: The replacement revenue package I am proposing is fair and responsible. It spreads the burden of paying for our schools so that no one sector of our population gets stuck holding the bill, and it provides the means to pay for high quality instruction throughout the state so that every school can bring a world class education within the reach of its children.
MS. BRACKETT: Michigan State Democrats followed the governor with their response.
VIRGIL SMITH, Michigan State Senator: And I think a basis of eliminating the inequities is, is fair funding for every student within the state of Michigan. I'm sorry to see that the governor wants to put some of this burden that we eliminated off the property tax on, on the cities and counties. They'll just have to shift it over to the property tax owner, and I'm sorry to see that he wants to pick up 1.8 billion of his dollars on the sales tax.
MS. BRACKETT: Parents and school officials say they can't live with less money per child even in wealthy districts like Bloomfield Hills, and they are not optimistic about the chances for a quality reform plan emerging from the politically charged atmosphere.
SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT DOCKING: Generally, our legislature has trouble coming to a concurrence on what day of the week it is. But now they're going to come up between now and the 31st of December with a new educational plan for the 21st century for Michigan children. That scares me to death. Is it politicized? You bet it's politicized, very politicized, and the kids are right in the middle of that.
MS. BRACKETT: And Docking says it is the kids who will suffer. It's the biggest gamble a state has ever taken in public education doesn't pay off. RECAP
MS. WARNER: Again, the major story this Thursday was the U.S. mission in Somalia. President Clinton said in an address to the nation that he was ordering more than 5,000 soldiers and marines to the region. That would effectively double the size of the U.S. force there. But the President set March 31st as the date for an overall U.S. withdrawal. He said the new deployment was needed to protect American troops already there and to help prevent a return to chaos and starvation. Good night, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Good night, Margaret. We'll see you tomorrow night with Mark Shields and others. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you, and good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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- This episode's headline: Exit Strategy; Costly Lesson. The guests include PRESIDENT CLINTON; LES ASPIN, Secretary of Defense; SEN. JOHN WARNER, [R] Virginia; SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, [D] Vermont; SEN. MITCH McCONNELL, [R] Kentucky; REP. DONALD PAYNE, [D] New Jersey; CORRESPONDENT: ELIZABETH BRACKETT. Byline: In New York: MARGARET WARNER; In Washington: JAMES LEHRER
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