The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
JIM LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour tonight a look at the violence in the Yugoslav republic of Kosovo; an update of the Justice Department's move against Johnny Chung and others involved in '96 campaign fund-raising abuses; a conversation with novelist Toni Morrison; and some closing words about the late Fred Friendly. It all follows our summary of the news this Monday. NEWS SUMMARY
JIM LEHRER: An arms embargo and other sanctions were imposed on the Yugoslav federation today. The six-nation so-called "contact group" that includes the United States did the imposing at a meeting in London. It was done in response to the crackdown on ethnic Albanians in the southern province of Kosovo. The group said other sanctions would follow if Yugoslav President Milosevic did not bring an end to the violence. U.S. Secretary of State Albright spoke about today's action.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: We obviously are going to keep our eye on the ball and make sure that this agreement sticks. And if we don't get the kind of result that we want, we need to remember that the only kind of pressure President Milosevic understands is the kind that imposes a real price on his unacceptable behavior. So I think that what has been done here in the last hours, I think, has made quite clear where we all stand on the fact that the kind of behavior that has been taking place in Kosovo is unacceptable.
JIM LEHRER: In Kosovo today about 50,000 ethnic Albanians protested the recent killings by Serbian police. The peaceful rally took place at the capital Pristina. The Albanians claim police killed dozens of people last week in two raids against separatists. We'll have more on this story right after the News Summary. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan submitted a new Iraq arms inspection plan today. It details ground rules for searching eight Iraqi presidential palaces for banned weapons. U.N. experts will lead the teams, but diplomats will also be present. The rules are based on the deal Annan made with President Saddam Hussein last month. The work is to begin in about two weeks. Johnny Chung was arraigned today on charges of making illegal contributions to the '96 Clinton-Gore campaign. That happened at the federal courthouse in Los Angeles after he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for leniency. Chung was ordered to return next week to enter his plea. He's the first major figure in the campaign finance investigation to offer a plea bargain. His lawyer spoke to reporters outside the courthouse.BRIAN SUN, Chung's Lawyer: We had serious and lengthy discussions prior to reaching the agreement. I think both sides worked very hard to reach this agreement, and I think one thing that can be said--because you hear about this a lot in the press-- there's no doubt in our mind that the campaign finance task force is being very diligent and aggressive in the way in which they're pursuing this investigation.
JIM LEHRER: We'll have more on the story later in the program. James McDougal died over the weekend. He was President Clinton's partner in the Whitewater Land Development Project. He died yesterday of cardiac arrest in a Texas prison, where he was serving a three-year sentence for fraud. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said today independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation was beginning to distract the President and the Congress. He urged both sides to do what they could to end it sooner, rather than later. He spoke to reporters at the capitol.
SEN. TRENT LOTT, Majority Leader: I don't suggest at all that it be done until all the evidence has been acquired, until the work can be completed. Would I like for it to be completed? Yes. Is it getting to be a distraction in Washington and affecting the President and perhaps even the Congress and doing the people's business? I think we have reached that point. So something needs to be done, both in the independent counsel's operation but also at the White House and by the President.
JIM LEHRER: White House spokesman Mike McCurry later told reporters Mr. Clinton had not been distracted by the matter. The Midwest was under the heaviest snowstorm of the year today. Blizzard conditions descended on Chicago, dropping more than six inches of snow, knocking out power to 275,000 customers. The storm blanketed parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Wisconsin over the weekend, leaving drifts up to 12-feet high. Three people have died. In the Southeastern part of the country heavy rain caused flooding from Louisiana to Georgia. Seven people have died there. The El Nino-powered storm meant more tornadoes for Florida. One person was killed last night, fourteen seriously injured. The U.S. Supreme Court issued two affirmative action rulings today. Without comment, it turned away a former professor's claim she was discriminated against because she was white. The woman sued the University of Nevada for hiring a black professor instead of her. And the other case the court refused to revive a Florida program that boosted the number of construction contracts to minority-owned businesses. And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to the fighting in Kosovo, Johnny Chung and others, an interview with Toni Morrison, and some personal words about Fred Friendly. FOCUS - KOSOVO CLASH
JIM LEHRER: The Kosovo story. We begin with a report from the scene by Gaby Rado of Independent Television News.
GABY RADO: As far as the eye could see along the main street of Pristina, the demonstrators threw their victory signs into the air and waved their banners. It was certainly the largest protest seen in Kosovo for a decade, and, other, smaller demonstrations were taking place in other towns. The ethnic Albanians, who outnumber the Serbs nine to one in the province, are strongly aware of world public opinion and the organizers had one eye on the contact group talks in London. But the raw power of the emotions and the speed came from the helpless rage at the Serbian crackdown. Though the villages hit are only a few dozen miles away, no one knows what really happened there last week. What's adding to the anger of these people are the rumors that overnight the Serbian authorities took the bodies of as many as sixty victims of the fighting to the mountains. These reports are so far unconfirmed, but all that adds to the tension. Police kept out of sight today, and the crowd was careful not to provoke the kind of incident which led to riot police charges and the use of water cannon last week. But not everyone watching was so cautious. We spotted a balcony where a man we were told was a Serb openly produced a gun. Within a few minutes of us filming him three men pounced on our director/cameraman, Chris Wenner, and beat him up.
GABY RADO: Chris, what happened?
CHRIS WENNER, ITN: I took a picture of a group of Serbs on a balcony. One of them took out a gun and kissed it and swore at me, and a few moments later, three guys in leather jackets dragged me into a doorway, beat me up, and stole two of my cameras, and disappeared.
GABY RADO: Doctors later told us he had a fractured cheekbone. It was an example of the violence long under the surface in Kosovo, now reaching crisis point. Later in the day bodies of the ethnic Albanians killed in last week's Serbian police action in the mountains were left outside a police station in the town of Srbica. They had apparently been moved there overnight from the morgue in Pristina. The number was reported to be around 60, twice the official death toll. Families of the dead are said to be refusing to bury the bodies until an independent forensic report on how they'd been killed has been produced.
JIM LEHRER: Margaret Warner takes it from there.
MARGARET WARNER: More than 200 people have died since 1989 in violence between Kosovo's Albanian majority and Serb authorities in the province. Kosovo is considered part of Serbia. But nearly 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people are Albanian and Muslim. The small province is strategically located, just South of the two Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro; and just North of two other countries, Albania and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. Serbs and Muslims have been fighting over Kosovo for hundreds of years. As elsewhere in the Balkans, the Serb-Kosovar differences are rooted in centuries of ethnic and religious conflict and differing interpretations of history. But the current tensions go back just a couple of decades to the Tito era. In 1974, Yugoslavia's Communist ruler recognized the Albanian majority in Kosovo by granting the province autonomy within Serbia. For the first time, Albanian Muslims had virtual control over Kosovo's internal affairs. But Serbs in Kosovo and in Serbia, itself, never fully accepted Tito's decision. Serb nationalists revere Kosovo as the cradle of their civilization, dating back nearly 2,000 years, when their forebears there embraced Orthodox Christianity. They view the Muslims who inhabit Kosovo today as infidels. The Serbs' resentment towards the Albanian Kosovars reached a crescendo in 1989, when thousands of Serbs converged on an ancient battlefield to commemorate the 1389 battle of Kosovo. Serbia lost that encounter to an invading army of Muslim Turks, ushering in centuries of Ottoman rule. But the 600-year-old battle remains a shameful symbol to Orthodox Serbs, and they have vowed to avenge the defeat ever since. As Yugoslavia began fracturing after Tito's death, Slobodan Milosevic, who was then the Communist Party boss of Serbia and is now Yugoslavia's president, saw a political opportunity in Kosovo. He vowed to protect local Serbs and to revoke the province's autonomy. By late 1989, Milosevic had done just that and had put Serbs in control of Kosovo's local government. Albanian Kosovars accuse the Serbs of instituting a police state to terrorize the Albanian majority and of trying to force Albanians to leave Kosovo to reverse the province's ethnic and religious balance. The Albanians responded by boycotting the Serb-run institutions and creating their own parallel government in Kosovo under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova. Their stated goal was simply a restoration of Kosovo's autonomy. Then, last year, a new, more militant force emerged, the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA. Its members advocate armed struggle. Their goal is Kosovo's independence and possible unification with Albania. The KLA has clashed repeatedly with the Serb authorities. Late last month KLA fighters killed four Serb policemen. The Serbs launched this past week's violent crackdown in retaliation for those killings. Now the United States and European governments are trying to head off more violence. Representatives of the so-called contact group of six nations that monitor developments in the former Yugoslavia--the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia--convened in London today. They agreed on a comprehensive arms embargo and other steps against Yugoslavia. Russia agreed to support only some of the measures, however. Separately, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he will urge the Security Council to extend the current U.N. troop presence in neighboring Macedonia beyond the scheduled August 31 withdrawal date. KOFI ANNAN, U.N. Secretary-General: In light of the recent developments, I think we all have to reconsider our approach. And I'm confident that the member states will take a second look and not insist on withdrawing the troops from Macedonia.
MARGARET WARNER: Thus far, Yugoslav Leader Milosevic has rejected all international appeals, insisting that the unrest in Kosovo is an internal matter.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, two views on all this. Former Foreign Service Officer Warren Zimmerman was the last U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1989 to 1992. He's now a professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. And John Fox was a member of the State Department's policy planning staff from 1989 to 1993. He is now director of the Open Society Institute created by international financier George Soros to promote independent media, education, and the rule of law in Central and Eastern Europe.Amb. Zimmerman, why are we seeing the situation erupt into bloodshed now?
WARREN ZIMMERMAN, Former U.S. Ambassador, Yugoslavia: We had a kind of a frozen situation for nine years, Margaret, after Milosevic took away all the political and cultural autonomy of the Albanians in 1989. I don't think either Milosevic or the Albanian leadership, the moderate Albanian leadership, wanted trouble. And that's why things held on for so long in this non-violent tension. But it became inevitable because the Serbs made no concessions to the Albanians that moderate Albanian leadership would be challenged by a more radical group. And that's what we've seen.
MARGARET WARNER: And then, one, do you agree with that, and why do you think Milosevic responded with such a hard crackdown?
JOHN FOX, Former State Department Official: I do agree with that. I think the ground on which the moderates have tried to stand in Kosovo has been cut away, not least by the international community, which failed to deal with Kosovo during the Dayton peace negotiations, has really neglected the issue since we've seen the rise of this insurgency, the Kosovo Liberation Army, since Dayton, and I think it's important to note that. I think also Milosevic, himself, and the regime in Belgrade has been paradoxically weaker and yet, more--seeking more--still more control in Kosovo. And it's the last card really that Milosevic has to play on the international scene. He has a clear history of starting wars and then playing the peacemaker with the international community, and I think we're seeing a repeat of that now.
MARGARET WARNER: How do you explain the crackdown on the part of the Serbs? Do you agree with that?
WARREN ZIMMERMAN: Yes, I do. I think it's important to remember the role that Kosovo has for all Serbs, not just Serbian nationalists, but all Serbs. Kosovo is the founding myth of Serbs and Serbia. It's the battle of Kosovo 1389, in which the Serbs believed they defended Europe. It was the betrayal at that battle. Serbs are always betrayed. There's that myth. There's the myth that Serbs are always betrayed. There's that myth. There's the myth that Serbs are always victims. There's the myth that Serbs are and ought to be the dominant power in the Balkans. All of those myths come back to Kosovo. So when Milosevic comes to power on the Kosovo issue in the late 1980's and when he uses power, as he has in the last few days, there is at least reason to think that he will have a lot of people in Serbia, and, as I say, not just nationalists, in support of him. This makes it very different from Bosnia, which was an adventure for the Serbs. This is right at the heart of Serbian essence and integrity.
MARGARET WARNER: But here Serbia was just beginning to come out from under some of the international sanctions. Why would Milosevic risk all that to crack down so hard against this KLA and what's going on in Kosovo?
JOHN FOX: Well, his position really has weakened in the last year, six months, quite a bit. He has essentially lost control of Montenegro, the other constituent republic of Yugoslavia, to a multiethnic reform government, which wants to do many of the things that the international community would like to see. His--I think he, I'm sure, recognizes that the KLA is gaining strength as this--in the absence of any real political track. They are--there's no question that the Kosovars, themselves, the Albanian Kosovars, are being radicalized. And I think he also may have gotten the idea that the international community's red line in Kosovo that was drawn by President Bush and reiterated early in the term of President Clinton has eroded.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's just remind people, President Bush actually sent a letter to Milosevic in the end of 1992, saying the U.S. was prepared to intervene militarily if he went in militarily in Kosovo. Do you think Milosevic doesn't believe that's true anymore?
JOHN FOX: Well, I think that the credibility of that red line is very much in doubt by the time that these actions took place. These actions were not a surprise to the U.S. government. Indeed, we've learned in recent days that there were very clear warnings provided by the intelligence community, as, indeed, there had been on Croatia and Bosnia and the other fronts that have been opened in years past about the nature of the crackdown, the kind of forces that would be used, the fact that paramilitaries and special forces that were used in other parts of the region to commit really heinous war crimes against civilians that they, indeed, would be used again. So this should not have been a surprise to the administration. I think, in fact, they were well down a blind alley of their own when this took place. They were--really were confident that there would be a breakthrough on incremental measures toward--on a political track.
MARGARET WARNER: You mean, some reforms or some--
JOHN FOX: Some concessions putting Albanian students back in the schools in which they had been expelled and so forth in years past, and it was a grand deception, really, by Belgrade of the type that we have seen before. And I think it--Washington, in particular, was badly misled here.
MARGARET WARNER: What is the U.S. interest in this conflict?
WARREN ZIMMERMAN: Well, the U.S. interest I think, first of all, is to--is to support the victims of repression, and that's the Albanians. But in a larger sense I think the U.S. has every interest in trying to see some sort of reconciliation of these two very contradictory principles that apply in Kosovo. There's a Serbian principle that we have been there forever since the Middle Ages, Kosovo has always been ours, it's our heartland, and there's the Albanian principle where 90 percent of the people of Kosovo--it's not unlike the West Bank in Jerusalem, the Arab--the Israeli and the Palestinian issue--and we have to hope that a way can be found to reconcile these principles perhaps by having an umbrella of Yugoslavia over a Kosovo, which is in it, but which--in which the Albanians have virtually total autonomy to run their own affairs. If we can't get that kind of solution through mediation or any other way, then I think chaos is going to break out.
JOHN FOX: I think the situation has been much more radicalized just in the past 10 days than when these actions began. We've had something close to 100 people killed in Kosovo, 90 percent of them Albanians, most of those civilians in really savage ways. One cannot expect politics now to resume, or to begin.
MARGARET WARNER: So, you mean--let me interrupt you for a second--but the so-called "contact" group called on both sides to negotiate. Do you think are prospects for that?
JOHN FOX: Well, I think that the international effort that's required now to prevent the broadening of this conflict is much greater than it would have been two weeks ago, two months ago, much less two years ago. And so the cost, as we have seen all the way through these crises in the Balkans, the cost to the international community, and most particularly the U.S., which will have to take a lead, and I fear a military lead in this, in this area again, is far greater.
MARGARET WARNER: Why? What is the danger of this broadening or widening?
WARREN ZIMMERMAN: Well, Bosnia was, for all its blood-letting, was a contained situation. It didn't spill beyond the borders of Bosnia. If real violence comes to Kosovo, a lot of people are killed, then you will almost certainly get a spillover into Macedonia, the neighboring republic, a very fragile and democratic government, which has to contend with an Albanian minority of 30 or 35 percent who are watching the Kosovo issue very carefully. You've got Albania--40 million Albanians--next to Kosovo, who are obviously watching very carefully as well.
MARGARET WARNER: Are you saying that the Albanians or Albanians, Macedonia, might come in themselves and intervene, get involved in that conflict, or that somehow the conflict spreads?
WARREN ZIMMERMAN: Well, I think the greater probability would be a lot of refugees from Kosovo fleeing into Macedonia, the Macedonian Albanians becoming radicalized by a situation of brutality, perpetrated by the Serbs, and that in itself could de-stabilize an already fragile government in Macedonia. That brings an interest from Greece, which has been very negative about the existence of Macedonia at all. It brings in the problem of Bulgaria, which has never recognized the Macedonians as a separate nation. You get what we used to call in the Vietnam era a real domino effect.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree?
JOHN FOX: I do agree. I think you essentially get a Lebanon in the middle of Southeastern Europe in a proxy situation where outside powers are drawn in first with the immediate neighbors that Amb. Zimmerman describes, and you get a very divisive and rather rapid split in NATO, itself, Greece on one side, Turkey on the other, and divisions which are already emerging, even in the last couple of weeks in the international community on how to deal with Kosovo. That is all the more reason why the crisis in Kosovo has to be dealt with persuasively at the very start.
MARGARET WARNER: And you're saying that can only be militarily?
JOHN FOX: Well, I'm afraid that this is really now, what's been done in London today is a noble form of diplomatic catch-up, but they have drawn--they've attempted now, having I think allowed the red line to erode, they've now tried to draw a diplomatic line in the sand, which says get the security forces out, get the paramilitaries out, don't take any more actions against civilians or else. But the "or else" is not all that strong.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree, very briefly, that diplomatic can't work?
WARREN ZIMMERMAN: I think diplomatic must work because, unlike Bosnia, I'm not sure that force is going to work on the part of the West in this case. Air strikes against Serbia could very well unite the Serbs behind Milosevic because they feel so strongly about Kosovo. They didn't about Bosnia. That's the danger, I think.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you both very much.
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, the campaign fund-raising investigation, Tony Morrison, and some personal words about Fred Friendly. UPDATE - THE MONEY CHASE
JIM LEHRER: The Justice Department's investigation of '96 campaign fund-raising abuses. Kwame Holman begins our coverage.
KWAME HOLMAN: Until last week it was the Senate's investigation of campaign fund-raising abuses that attracted the most attention. But on Thursday, the Governmental Affairs Committee officially completed its work by issuing its final report. Chairman Fred Thompson reminded the press the committee's responsibility was limited to trying to find out what happened.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON, Chairman, Governmental Affairs Committee: Because we're not a grand jury, and our primary purpose is not one of making accusations of criminal activity. Ours is trying to disclose information, then handing that information off to the relevant authorities.
KWAME HOLMAN: Among the relevant authorities is a Justice Department task force created specifically to pursue its own campaign fund-raising investigation and any criminal action that might result.
SPOKESPERSON: This is Maria Hsia.
MARIA HSIA: I have done nothing wrong, and I'm prepared to fight.
KWAME HOLMAN: Last month, Maria Hsia was indicted on charges of illegally funneling campaign contributions. Hsia helped arrange Vice President Al Gore's appearance at a Buddhist temple event in 1996 that resulted in donations to the Democratic National Committee totaling $100,000. Three Buddhist nuns told the Thompson committee that Maria Hsia directed them to solicit contributions from monks and nuns attending the event.
SANDY MATTICE, Republican Counsel: (September 1997) And so in some cases at least you told them that you were going to immediately thereafter reimburse them with a check from the temple, right?
VENERABLE YI CHU, Buddhist Nun: (speaking through interpreter) Well, I didn't tell them that it was going to happen immediately, but I determined that for those people who were willing to contribute, I would reimburse them later on.
KWAME HOLMAN: And Charlie Trie also was charged last month with illegally funneling campaign contributions. Trie, a onetime restauranteur in Little Rock, donated $900,000 to the DNC, money allegedly traced to an Asian businessman. Trie also contributed more than $600,000 to President Clinton's legal defense fund, money that was traced to the California Buddhist sect.
REID WEINGARTEN, Trie's Lawyer: Charlie Trie is a good, honorable, and decent man. He never has been a fugitive from justice. He has never served as a spy for a foreign country, and he never intended to corrupt the American political system. Any effort to make him the heavy in this political scandal will fall of its own weight. This is, in fact, a political scandal that's being shoe-horned in the criminal justice system. It has no place being there.
KWAME HOLMAN: And today in Los Angeles Johnny Chung was arraigned on charges of illegally funneling campaign contributions to the Clinton-Gore campaign. Chung, a frequent visitor to the White House, repeatedly was photographed with President Clinton and the First Lady and once escorted a delegation of Chinese businessmen to one of the President's weekly radio addresses. Meanwhile, the Justice Department continues investigations on several other campaign-related fronts.
JIM LEHRER: Now, more from Roberto Suro, Justice Department reporter for the Washington Post. Roberto, welcome. How important a witness could Johnny Chung be?
ROBERTO SURO, Washington Post: Well, that's hard to say. I don't think--he does not appear to have a lot of knowledge of the inner-workings of the DNC. He had limited contact with John Huang, who is the man who was in charge of the Asian fund-raising effort. He has spoken already to the Senate committee, offered his cooperation to them, and they basically said, no thanks, determining that he basically didn't have a lot to add to it. So it's hard to say exactly how far he'll take the Justice Department. They obviously decided it was worth making a deal with him, but they've been very anxious to make a deal with anybody they could.
JIM LEHRER: And the deal they made with him is for leniency, but it's not specific yet, is that correct?
ROBERTO SURO: Right. I mean, as is often the case with these things, his--what exact--what sentence he'll have to serve out will be determined farther down the road after it's become clear what he has to offer, what he'll actually testify to.
JIM LEHRER: Now, this task force, this Justice Department task force is following the bottom-up way of doing things. Explain that, and give some analogy so we can understand it.
ROBERTO SURO: Well, the strategy has begun by getting the cooperation of the straw donors, those nuns you saw just now, who made contributions in their own name and then were later reimbursed. In all three of the prosecutions that have just been referred to they're straw donors that have agreed to cooperate with the government.
JIM LEHRER: These are people who were given money and said, okay, now, you contribute this in your name, and it will be legal because there are restrictions on how much money each individual can give, but it really isn't their money; they get it from somebody else.
ROBERTO SURO: Exactly.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Right.
ROBERTO SURO: And the next level is these three individuals who are organizing straw donors, or funneling foreign money allegedly into the campaign.
JIM LEHRER: Now, that's Trie, Chung, and Hsia.
ROBERTO SURO: Right.
JIM LEHRER: Right. Okay.
ROBERTO SURO: The next level up would be presumably people either in the White House or at the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, if, in fact, any individuals there acknowledge that illegal foreign money was coming into the campaign and did anything to solicit it or to offer quid pro quos. It's not at all clear that that's happened, and that there's any evidence in that direction, but the question is whether these individuals could carry to that level.
JIM LEHRER: And the kinds of questions then that Chung will be asked, we don't know what the answers are going to be, but the questions will be, all right, did you tell anybody above you what you were doing, did they know about it, did they ask you to do it, that kind of thing, and above them would be officials of the Democratic National Committee, et cetera.
ROBERTO SURO: Right. And Chung had dealings with Don Fowler, who was chairman, and he had--and Richard Sullivan, who's the finance director, and he produced all three hundred and sixty odd thousand dollars, the DNC. What he's already said in interviews makes it clear that they weren't checking real hard at the money. I mean, he made donations when he didn't--money was coming into his bank account and going out the same day in political contributions. They later returned this money once it became known that it was suspect. But not checking real carefully into the source of funds is not necessarily a crime, so the question here is whether, you know, we have a scandal and you have things that are embarrassing already. The question is whether it's going to carry over into real illegalities or not.
JIM LEHRER: And neither Hsia nor Trie have agreed to cooperate, as Chung did today, is that correct?
ROBERTO SURO: That's right. They both, as you saw with their attorneys on the courthouse steps, vowed to fight the charges against them.
JIM LEHRER: And so where do those cases rest, as we speak?
ROBERTO SURO: The cases this summer will be going through discovery, which is the process in which the government shows its cards to the defendants and says this is what the evidence is against you. And depending on how severe that evidence is, it's a time when defense attorneys sometimes may turn to their clients and say, look, now we've got to think about making a deal again. So that could happen this summer, into early September. Both trials are slated to start in early fall. And so there will be a period, you know, when those characters might be in play again, and if they decide not to, to go for a deal, then we'll have trials in the fall.
JIM LEHRER: Now, based on your reporting, is it possible to say whether or not Justice Department task force has an overall destination where it's headed, in other words, they're looking for individuals, are they going after individuals? Are they trying to prove a China connection? Is there any big destination in the sky?
ROBERTO SURO: I don't know. I wish I did, but I don't--I don't know. What we do know is that there are grand juries here in Los Angeles that have remained very active. There are about 120 prosecutors and agents, which is a very sizable investigation, they show no sign of disbanding, they're still working. It's not clear where they're going.
JIM LEHRER: Now, all of the people that we've been talking about up till now have been Democrats. In other words, they raised money for Democratic campaigns, et cetera. What's the task force doing, if anything, on the Republican side?
ROBERTO SURO: Well, there's one big Republican case, and it's a real big one. It's Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. There are allegations that were raised in congressional investigations, and there's been a lot of grand jury activity about a very complicated financial arrangement in which allegedly again foreign moneys made their way into Republican campaigns. And the issue is basically what he knew of that, whether he knew that there were foreign moneys, what he said to Congress about them. There is testimony before the Thompson committee in which he said one thing, other people said something else, and that's under examination now.
JIM LEHRER: So it may boil down to who do you believe, rather than something other than that?
ROBERTO SURO: That's right, and sort of who knew what, or who was in a position to know what. And my understanding is that no final decisions have been made about whether there will be a prosecution in that case or not.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have the feeling that there is a smoking gun out there that we do not know about thus far based on the Thompson hearings and the Burton hearings, and all the other things that have been reported up till now?
ROBERTO SURO: Well, you--
JIM LEHRER: I mean, in the overall thing, not just Haley Barbour.
ROBERTO SURO: Right. Well, I mean, it's been 16 months since the election. And a lot of people have done a lot of digging. I suppose it's entirely possible that there's a character out there that we know nothing about, that somebody's--that a prosecutor is looking into, but the people who gave money are known. I mean, their names were listed, and a lot of them have been looked at, and you kind of get the feeling that you sort of know what's on the table. I mean, the Thompson committee did its investigation and you think you see the scope of it, but, again, it's possible we're not seeing it.
JIM LEHRER: The big difference, of course, is now there are indictments, but there weren't before the--Congress--
ROBERTO SURO: People tend to talk more when they've been indicted.
JIM LEHRER: Right. Okay, Roberto, thank you very much.
ROBERTO SURO: Thank you. CONVERSATION
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, a new novel about paradise and to Elizabeth Farnsworth, who recorded this last week while she was in Washington.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Novelist Toni Morrison, who has received the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes, is on the bestseller list again this month with her new novel "Paradise." It's set in an all-black Oklahoma town called Ruby, population 360. It's a place with a complicated history, going back to slavery and haunted by incidents of prejudice among ex-slaves, themselves. It's also the story of a former convent just outside Ruby, where a group of women gather to heal their broken lives and in the process seem to threaten Ruby's very existence. Toni Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," was published in 1970. She's also the author of "Sulah," "Song of Solomon," and "Beloved," among other works. She teaches literature at Princeton University.Thank you for being with us. Is Ruby a place that's based in history? There were all-black towns in Oklahoma formed by ex-slaves, weren't there?
TONI MORRISON, Novelist: Absolutely. It's my invention of the all-black town that might have lasted until now, until at least the 80's. It's based on towns that did exist and some that are still there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And did you come to the idea through reading the history of those towns and reading about the migration of slaves from Louisiana or Mississippi to Oklahoma?
TONI MORRISON: Part of my idea came precisely from that research and thinking about that whole period when ex-slaves, freed men, left plantations, sometimes under duress, because Southerners frequently wanted them to stay but managed to take advantage of the land that was offered in places like Oklahoma and to build whole towns, churches, stores, banks, many houses. And some of them are still there to see.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Explain the idea of separation. It's almost a utopia that's built in Ruby. It's very separate, and in some ways I felt that the book was a meditation on this idea of separateness. This is a place, after all, where nobody dies until the end of the book. Tell me about that, about the separateness.
TONI MORRISON: The isolation, the separateness, is always a part of any utopia. And it was my meditation, if you will, and interrogation of the whole idea of paradise, the safe place, the place full of bounty, where no one can harm you. But, in addition to that, it's based on the notion of exclusivity. All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And am I wrong to consider it a meditation on the dangers of exclusivity? This was a place that was very beautiful in some ways but very dangerous in others.
TONI MORRISON: Well, isolation, you know, carries the seeds of its own destruction because as times change, other things seep in, as it did with Ruby. The 50's, that was one thing; the 70's, that was another, and they refused to deal with the changing times, and simply threw up their gates, like any gated community, to keep everything away. And, in fact, that was the necessary requirement for the destruction of their paradise.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Morrison, is there something in African- American history that makes you especially interested in this separate place?
TONI MORRISON: Yes, because only American--only African-Americans were not immigrants in this rush to find a heaven. They had left a home. So they're seeking for another home, while other people are doing the same thing, except the other people were leaving a home that they didn't want to be in any longer, or couldn't be in any longer. Native Americans were being moved around in their home. African-Americans were looking for a second one and hopefully one that would be simply up to them, their own people, their own habits, their own culture, and to contain themselves in that. So it makes the motive for paradise a little bit different.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Then there's the convent outside of Ruby, which is another sort of paradise, at least that's the way it seemed to me.
TONI MORRISON: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Women--Ruby's ruled by men, the convent is all women, and there's this dichotomy: The convent that is ruled by women who have been hurt and the town that's ruled by men. Tell us, how did you think about that dichotomy and come to that idea?
TONI MORRISON: Well, Ruby has the characteristics, the features of the Old Testament. It's patriarchal. The men are very protective of their women, very concerned about their role as leaders. The convent, as it evolves, becomes a kind of crash pad for some women who are running away from all sorts of trauma, and they don't seek the company of men. They have been hurt profoundly by men, so that even though they quarrel and fight most of the time, they're in what they consider a free place, a place where they don't have to fear that they are the people to be preyed upon, but the values are different. You have a very profound Protestant religion in Ruby, and you have something that verges on magic that is non-institutional religion in the convent. The values are entirely different. The women are--you know--examples of the 70's. And the conservative black community is affronted and horrified by that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Would you read the first couple of paragraphs from the book for us from the book.
TONI MORRISON: I'd be happy to.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: From the book.
TONI MORRISON: "They shoot the white girl first, but the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry out here. They are 17 miles from a town which has 90 miles between it and any other. Hiding places will be plentiful in the convention, but there is time, and the day has just begun. They are nine. Over twice the number of the women, they are obliged to stampede or kill, and they have the paraphernalia for either requirement--rope, a palm leaf cross, handcuffs, mace, and sunglasses, along with clean, handsome guns."
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I was struck by this for many reasons, but that first line, "They shoot the white girl first," I have read the whole book, and I don't know who that was. And I imagine you did this on purpose. It doesn't matter what color the girls in the convent are. Was that your point?
TONI MORRISON: Well, my point was to flag raise and then to erase it, and to have the reader believe--finally--after you know everything about these women, their interior lives, their past, their behavior, that the one piece of information you don't know, which is the race, may not, in fact, matter. And when you do know it, what do you know?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How do you work? What are the rituals for getting started? To me, this book is almost in a--it's in a different consciousness. It's like at a high level of kind of poetic prose. How do you get yourself there?
TONI MORRISON: Well, I try to write when I'm not teaching, which means fall and most of the summer. I do get up very early, embarrassingly early, before there is light, and I write with pencil, yellow pads, words, scratchings out, but, you know, long before that, I've spent a couple of years, probably eighteen months, just thinking about these people, the circumstances, the whole architecture of the book, and I sort of feel so intimately connected with the place and the people and the events that when language does arrive, I'm pretty much ready, I don't have to discard so much.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What is next for you now? Your books have plumbed the history ofAfrican-Americans in this country. Do you plan to stay--to keep writing about that?
TONI MORRISON: I don't know. I have no ideas now. I am about to fall into a very dark melancholy if something doesn't happen soon.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You kind of wait until the ideas come to you.
TONI MORRISON: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you so much for being with us.
TONI MORRISON: You're welcome. RECAP
JIM LEHRER: Again, the major stories of this Monday, an arms embargo and other sanctions were imposed on the Yugoslav Federation. It was in response to the crackdown on ethnic Albanians in the southern province of Kosovo. Fifty thousand Albanians held a peaceful protest in Kosovo's capital to protest recent killings by Serbian police. And Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation was beginning to distract the President and the Congress . FINALLY - APPRECIATION
JIM LEHRER: A personal note before we go tonight: I was away traveling last week when Fred Friendly died, but I wanted you, our audience, to know how much he mattered to this program and those of us involved. As a Ford Foundation executive in the 1970's, Fred Friendly funded an experimental local news program in Dallas that brought me from print journalism to public broadcasting. He supported national programs on PBS, including coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings that brought Robert MacNeil and me together for the first time. Later, he helped WNET-New York launch "The Robert MacNeil Report" that eventually became this "NewsHour." As a teacher of journalism at Columbia University, his students included a long list of names you have seen in the closing credits of this program from the very beginning. At this particular moment, they include four of our top people: Dan Werner, Linda Winslow, Annette Miller, and Jeff Brown. As a spiritual force behind the kind of journalism we have tried to practice here, Fred Friendly was always there to say, "Well done," or "Hey, you really screwed that up." He did many more important things in his life than all of those.
JIM LEHRER: We'll see you on-line and again here tomorrow evening. I'm
JIM Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
- The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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- This episode's headline: Kosovo Clash; The Money Chase; Conversation; Appreciation. ANCHOR: ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH; GUESTS: WARREN ZIMMERMAN, Former U.S. Ambassador, Yugoslavia; JOHN FOX, Former State Department Official; ROBERTO SURO, Washington Post; TONI MORRISON, Novelist; CORRESPONDENTS: GABY RADO; ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH; MARGARET WARNER; KWAME HOLMAN
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- APA: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-d50ft8f679