The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
ROBERT MacNEIL: Good evening. In the news today, We'll have the details of these stories in our news summary coming up. Judy Woodruff is in Washington tonight. Judy?
JUDY WOODRUFF: After the news summary, we have four main focuses on the News Hour tonight, beginning with the Michael Deaver story. Joining us for a newsmaker interview is the chairman of the panel that today found Deaver may have committed perjury, Congressman John Dingell. Then, given President Reagan's latest promise to American farmers, two members of Congress debate how much more the federal government can afford to give, even in an election year. Next, on this 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall, a retrospective on some of the great escape attempts. And finally, the question, just how close should American lawyers be to Soviet lawyers.News Summary
WOODRUFF: Former Presidential aide Michael Deaver's problems escalated today when the House committee investigating his lobbying business voted unanimously to accept a finding that he may have committed perjury. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight voted 17 to nothing to approve a memo finding that Deaver "may have violated criminal statutes relating to perjury, false statements and obstruction of a Congressional investigation" when he testified before the panel last May. The evidence will be turned over to the independent counsel appointed to investigate Deaver's activities, Whitney North Seymour. Both Republicans and Democrats on the subcommittee agreed this was the right course to take.
Rep. JOHN DINGELL (D) Michigan: I don't think that it is the business of this committee to say that he lied or told the truth. I think it is the business of this subcommittee to say that, on the basis of the review of the transcript before us and all of the events that attended the investigations of the committee, that we find sufficiently serious conflicts in testimony that we -- that the committee has, by unanimous vote, felt it appropriate to refer the matter to the independent prosecutor for further inquiry as to whether, in point of fact, there was perjury committed.
Rep. NORMAN LENT (R) New York: We believe that the witnesses, including many present and former administration officials, have made a good faith effort to be forthcoming and provide us with all the facts.Michael Deaver's testimony was the unfortunate exception to this record. Mr. Deaver, for whatever reason, failed to provide full and accurate information on matters which were material to the subcommittee's investigation.
WOODRUFF: Deaver's attorneys accuse the subcommittee of spending three months desperately trying to find possible perjury charges against Deaver and said that after a full and impartial investigation, they are sure their client will be cleared of any wrongdoing. Deaver's close friend and former boss, President Reagan, was asked today whether he still has confidence in Deaver. Mr. Reagan replied, "I've always said I have full confidence in him."
The Senate cast a vote against the current political funding system today. By a vote of 69 to 30, senators voted to limit the amount of money that political action committees can give to Congressional election campaigns starting in 1988. The bill's chief sponsor, Oklahoma Democrat David Boren, told his colleagues that they are being pounded by a tidal wave of special interest money. Today's vote was only a preliminary one, however. The final Senate vote won't come until sometime in September, leaving little time for the House to act before adjournment this fall.
Senators also debated today President Reagan's proposal to send $100 million in aid to the contra rebels in Nicaragua. Bitter charges were hurled on both sides of the issue.
Sen. ALAN CRANSTON (D) California: In the final analysis, Congress is being asked to give the Pentagon and the CIA carte blanche to make war on Nicaragua with no restrictions whatsoever.Unless we stop this war and stop it now, this could become a rerun of Vietnam -- first American money, then American advisers, then American control of the war, then American troops.
Sen. RICHARD LUGAR (R)Indiana: Again and again, those who have opposed the contras have said it's another Vietnam. I say nonsense to that, Madam President. That is a way of trying to drag up emotions and history in a false way.The thrust of our foreign policy is not to go to war; it is to try to bring about democracy.
WOODRUFF: Senate Republican Leader Robert Dole scheduled a vote tomorrow to force final action on the contra aid proposal by cutting off extended debate -- a move that would require the support of 60 of the Senate's 100 members. Today, Dole charged that opponents of the aid package have, in his words, stonewalled, dillydallied and delayed.
MacNEIL: NASA said today that engineers have redesigned the rocket engines to prevent the failure blamed for the shuttle Challenger disaster. The Rogers commission said that was caused when hot gases escaped from a seal in a rocket booster. Today the space agency said a new seal with a third O ring has been designed. Tests will start this fall, and test firing of engines in the fall of '87. If the redesigned engine passes all tests, shuttle flights could resume in the first quarter of 1988.
WOODRUFF: Canadian police officials say that the 152 Sir Lankans found crowded into two lifeboats adrift off the coast of Newfoundland yesterday were deliberately dropped there after they paid to be smuggled into Canada. We have a report from Katherine Wright of the CBC.
KATHERINE WRIGHT [voice-over]: They arrived in St. Johns on a Canadian fisheries patrol boat early this morning -- 152 Sri Lankans, of them, three families, including some children and many young men. They are Tamils, a minority group in Sri Lanka that is in political conflict with the government and has been subject to persecution.
JARRETT LETTO, Canada Immigration: Some have come right out and said they want refugee status or, in some words they used, political asylum and so on. But generally, it is that they want to come live in Canada.
WRIGHT [voice-over]: They were first spotted by fishermen laying fishing traps off Newfoundland's southeast coast yesterday. Seventy-six people crowded into each of two small lifeboats. They said they'd been on the lifeboats for five days.
Insp. JACK LAVERS, RCMP: There's some inconsistency with the facts, I think, of the matter. You know, the people, again, were in excellent condition. And their clothing was dry. And their clothing was heavy clothing, so they were well prepared for the time that they did spend in the lifeboat.We just find it remarkable that you can spend five days in fog and rain and still be dry.
WRIGHT [voice-over]: Their journey began 35 days ago. They say each person paid an agency in India jewels and between 3,000 and $5,000 U.S. for what they believed to be an entrance fee to Canada. They were given passage on a boat moored off India. The numbers and the words on the lifeboats that would help identify the ship had been sanded away.
MacNEIL: In Lebanon, Shi'ite Moslem militiamen besieged a French battalion of the United Nations peace keeping force after a battle that killed four Moslems and wounded 17 Frenchmen. Fighting around the French positions near the city of Tyre began when soldiers at a checkpoint fired at a car they wanted to search. The shooting went on for 14 hours, until finally a cease fire was arranged at mid-afternoon. A dozen of the French soldiers were flown out to hospitals, but the others suffered only minor injuries and retreated at the scene.
In Damascus, Syrian President Hafez el-Assad was quoted as saying he would do everything he could to free the American hostages held by Shi'ite extremists in Lebanon. His spokesman said the president made that promise to a visiting delegation of Arab-Americans.
MacNEIL: That's our summary of the news. Coming up, the new Deaver investigation, the President's effort to please farmers, a debate about Soviet lawyers, and a look at the Berlin Wall. Under Fire
WOODRUFF: Our first focus tonight is an update on the affairs of Michael Deaver, former Deputy White House Chief of Staff and close personal friend of President and Mrs. Reagan. As we reported earlier, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations today unanimously agreed to hand over to an independent counsel evidence of possible perjury when Deaver testified before the panel last May about his lobbying activities. For some background on today's vote, we have a newsmaker interview now with the chairman of the subcommittee, Democratic Congressman John Dingell of Michigan.
Congressman Dingell, first of all, as I understand it, there were three main areas of conflict in Mr. Deaver's testimony. Is that correct?
Rep. DINGELL: That's correct.
WOODRUFF: Can you elaborate for us briefly on what those were and whether -- and tell us whether it was a matter of what he left out or whether what he said was contradicted by someone else.
Rep. DINGELL: Well, in -- it was a little of each. In the case of testimony regarding visits and discussions and assistance with ambassadors, there were conflicts and omissions. With regard to discussions with others in the White House with regard to certain matters under investigation of the committee, there were both conflicts and omissions. With regard to the B-1 bomber and representations made on behalf of Rockwell International, there were also conflicts and omissions.
WOODRUFF: Well, I have before me a statement that was issued today by Mr. Deaver's attorneys. And in it, they say, with reference to your first point on the contradiction with the -- on his meetings with a couple of U.S. ambassadors, that there was no reason for him to have talked about it. It was specifically Ambassador Burt to West Germany and Ambassador Mansfield to Japan. They said there was no reason for him to talk about this, that there was nothing improper about it and so forth and so on.
Rep. DINGELL: Well, of course, that happens to be the gentleman's view, and he is entitled to it. The committee, by a vote of 17 to nothing, came to a different conclusion.
WOODRUFF: Well, and on another point, the meeting -- as you called it, the meeting on the B-1 bomber -- that he had with the office -- the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Miller, they said that they have testimony of documents that support Mr. Deaver's testimony.
Rep. DINGELL: Well, I'm sure -- I'm sure that will be a matter that they will want to present to the independent prosecutor. Again, Mr. Deaver testified for five and a half hours before the committee, had more than adequate opportunity to make his views and his position known. The committee was seeking additional time from Mr. Deaver at the time that the independent prosecutor was appointed, and found itself incapable of procuring both the testimony and the cooperation of Mr. Deaver after that point. In consequence, we had to proceed with the information at hand, which we believe is complete enough to justify the reference -- again, I observe by a unanimous, bipartisan vote -- to the independent prosecutor for appropriate action.
WOODRUFF: But as I understand it, you've stopped short of saying that he has committed perjury. You're saying that it's possible that he committed perjury. Is that correct?
Rep. DINGELL: Well, you want to remember that I'm neither a prosecutor nor a judge nor a jury. That is not -- it is not the responsibility of the Congressional committee to do so.There are a number of potential, possible violations of federal criminal law which have not been enumerated exactly in the statements of the committee and in its reference to the independent prosecutor. But possible perjury, acts which would inhibit the -- a Congressional investigation, and possible false statements to a Congressional committee are among the actions which could possibly go into the investigation of the independent prosecutor. In addition to this, there are, of course, the findings of the General Accounting Office with regard to the post-employment provisions or the Ethics Act which are already before the special assistant prosecutor -- the independent prosecutor.
WOODRUFF: Specifically, Congressman, how do you respond to the statement from Mr. Deaver's attorneys? He said some of the subcommittee have now spent three months, they say, trying desperately to find a possible perjury charge, because they could find no substantive violation of criminal law. How do you respond to that?
Rep. DINGELL: Well first of all, it's not our job to find substantive violations of criminal law. But I would observe that the General Accounting Office, at an audit which was held at the subcommittee's request, has certified a record involving a number of different acts which they feel constituted potential criminal violations involving the post-employment or Ethics Acts. So the subcommittee has not been lacking in diligence or in success, and we haven't spent any desperate time seeking to find cause to refer this matter to the grand jury -- or, to the independent prosecutor.
WOODRUFF: Mr. Deaver's attorneys also point out that they've been asking for a copy of the transcript, and the committee has denied that to Mr. Deaver.
Rep. DINGELL: Well, that's a fairly simple one to address. The rules of the committee require that where an action of the committee is taken in executive session, it can only be released during -- by the vote of the subcommittee. The subcommittee could not vote on this issue until such time as we had completed the investigative phase of our actions with regard to Mr. Deaver's behavior. And at the earlest moment at which it was possible for us to address this question, we then proceeded to come forward with a fourfold motion, one portion of which was to release the relevant portions of the testimony to Mr. Deaver, one portion of which was to release the entirety of the transcript to the special independent prosecutor, and another portion of which was to release the -- to approve and release the report, and the last portion of which was to release publicly the portions of the testimony on which the committee found reasons to refer the matter to the independent prosecutor to the public at large.
WOODRUFF: Finally, does this complete your subcommittee's work on this?
Rep. DINGELL: Now, the subcommittee has probably completed its report with regard to the behavior of Mr. Deaver. The subcommittee will now have to make a few inquiries, I think, into matters relative to Mr. Deaver's associates and certain matters regarding contacts, again, on government officials.
WOODRUFF: Well, Congressman John Dingell,we thank you for being with us. Politics of Grain
MacNEIL: As we reported, President Reagan has some new programs for farmers. He announced them during a political swing through the farm belt, where the political fortunes of many Republicans are closely tied to the well-being of farmers. With 14 of the incumbent Republican senators up for reelection coming from farm states, Mr. Reagan was looking for a way to provide both farmers and fellow Republicans with a boost. The new programs come on top of the estimated $30 billion the government is already spending this year to help farmers. A decade ago, these programs cost less than $4 billion, making farm programs far and away the fastest growing part of the federal budget. First, we get more background in this report first filed by correspondent Kwame Holman last spring.
KWAME HOLMAN [voice-over]: Because of heavy debt, low crop prices and falling farmland values, hundreds of farmers have lost their livelihoods. But now there is a new concern in the farm belt -- the fear that farmers are becoming too reliant on the federal government for their income.
[on camera] The grain elevators behind me, like grain elevators across the farm belt, are filled to capacity. In this case, the overflow is being stored in these boxcars -- dozens of them. They illustrate the problem for the federal government -- a huge oversupply of grain. At a time when world demand for grain is decreasing, American farmers are producing record crops. That drives down prices and has forced many farmers to turn to federal programs. Federal programs that were designed to be stopgap income measures for a few farmers have instead become the main source of income for many of them.
[voice-over] Last year, farmers here in Cass County, Iowa, essentially sold their corn and soybean crops to the government. The program is called a loan program. The farmer is supposed to sell the government his grain, then buy it back when market prices are favorable. But, as Elaine Martens, who administers federal programs in Cass County explains, the government is paying more than the open market, so few farmers are expected to come back to reclaim their grain. The loans have become permanent.
ELAINE MARTENS, Agriculture Department: We were the best market in town, basically. They couldn't go to the elevator and sell it for what we were sealing it for.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: The government ended up giving Cass County farmers $21 million for their grain -- twice the amount that was paid out the year before.
Ms. MARTENS: We had probably close to 1,500 loans. The year before, we had probably between 600 and 800. So we had a lot more loans.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Farmers who take part in the federal program, like these Southwest Iowa grain producers, are required to leave a small percentage of their land unplanted -- part of the government's effort to cut the grain surplus. Still, farmers are choosing the smaller crops required in the government programs, rather than the dismal prices on the open market.
BILL AMBOR, farmer: I don't think there's one of us here that would sign up for a program if we could get a fair and equitable price for our commodities.
HOLMAN: Could you not survive if there were not the government program for your corn?
PAT McCURDY, farmer: I could survive, but it'd be tough. But I could. But it would be very tough. There's a lot of people that can't.
WALTER McCURDY, farmer: It is a program whereby the people pay us what we should get through the marketplace -- our fair price for what they're buying. People are being kidded that there's cheap food. There isn't cheap food. They either pay us or they pay a lot of government programs to hold the food price down.
HOLMAN: Are farmers becoming dependent on this program?
WALTER McCURDY: You're looking at one right now. Yes. Yes. Yeah, for a grain farmer? Yes. Definitely, we're dependent on it.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Farmers aren't the only ones who rely on income from federal programs. Other federal agencies also take advantage of the money offered by the crop program. The Farmer's Home Administration loans farmers money to cover operating costs. Carol McDonald, of the Cass County FMHA, admits that she encourages her customers to sign up for crop loans, so that they can pay back her agency the money they've borrowed.
[on camera] So here we have one government entity that loans money to farmers telling farmers to participate in another government program in order to pay those loans back.
CAROL McDONALD, Farmer's Home Administration: Mm-hmm. That's correct. That's why we feel that program is there. They've got to have it to survive, and they're going to work with that program as best they can so that they can keep that farm and continue to repay their debts.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: The question now for farmers is, how long will they continue to need such massive federal help, and how long will the taxpayers continue to provide it?
Ms. MARTENS: We can't go on like this. I mean, the farmers can't go on being -- coming to us all the time, and we as American people can't go on paying taxes to take care of this.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Many farm experts point out that the problem and the government's tab could get even bigger if efforts to sell U.S. grain to foreign countries don't succeed. The Reagan administration's farm bill, which takes effect this year, assumes that those export markets will be there to help farmers move away from dependence on federal programs. But farm economist Neil Harl says those foreign markets may have been lost for good.
NEIL HARL, economist: There is a great deal of confidence in the administration that we can sell ourselves out of this by selling abroad. And I think that is not too likely. If a farmer or a country who brought land into production in another part of the world, they're not likely to take that land out of production just because of our newfound enthusiasm for being competitive internationally.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Harl says that more money should be directed toward getting farmers to cut their production and away from price and income supports. But in this political year, with dozens of farm-state Congressional seats up for grabs, many analysts fear politicians will feel pressure to spend even more on farm programs.
MacNEIL: That report by Kwame Holman. Here with us to debate whether the nation's taxpayers are getting their money's worth for their $30 billion are two politicians who see the nation's farm crisis very differently. Democrat Barney Frank represents a mostly urban district in and around Boston and has been critical of the growth in farm aid. Republican Senator Mark Andrews of North Dakota is himself a farmer and counts many fellow farmers among his constituents. Both men are up for reelection 12 weeks from today.
Senator Andrews, at a time of record deficits and budget cutting, are taxpayers getting their money's worth from these programs which are growing so rapidly in cost?
Sen. MARK ANDREWS (D) North Dakota: They are if they allow us to recover that export market that we lost. The only way we can prosper is by moving grain into export. And actually, it's not just the people on the farm; it's the people in the cities. For every billion dollars worth of farm goods we export, we put 25,000 new jobs off the farm. And then, too, when we're looking at our export payments and our balance of payments, we have to realize that the whole economy slowd down if the farmer isn't moving his grain. Let's put it in another way. The overall production of our farm families is competitive. Our farmers can compete with farmers anywhere in the world. But they can't compete with other governments, and that's what we've had to do for far too long. Our cost of production is under the cost of production of the Soviet Union, People's Republic of China, our European allies, and a number of others. But we're barred from those markets by a number of trade barriers put in our way. We've got to get our way through those to recover the markets we had before the export embargo of 1980.
MacNEIL: Congressman Frank, how do you see the value of these programs to the taxpayer now?
Rep. BARNEY FRANK (D) Massachusetts: I agree in part with Senator Andrews. The Reagan administration, unfortunately, believes in disarmament in only one area, and that's in foreign trade, where they are unilateral disarmers. The European common market has an outrageous protectionist agriculture policy, and our farmers are hurt. But we exacerbate it by domestic programs. We've had a lot of complaints in America about what we call non-means tested entitlement programs, where people get, as a matter of right, amounts of money from the federal government, even if they're not poor. Well, agriculture, the way we have it today, is an anti-means tested entitlement program. Under the agriculture programs, the bigger you are, the bigger your farm, the more wealth you have, the more money you get from the federal government, to the point where we're now going to be spending something probably upwards of $25 billion in this fiscal year on agricultural subsidies. My problem is --
MacNEIL: Some estimates -- some estimates go as high as 30 billion or more, depending on the crop size.
Rep. FRANK: I understand, although when you get to the 30 billion, that's also including, in fairness to the farmers, who are carrying enough of a burden, some other agricultural programs that aren't necessarily the specific subsidy ones. But it's very, very high. It's the fastest growing part of the federal budget. And it's not targeted. I want to help people who are in trouble. I want there to be drought assistance. I think that's important. But we have farmers under the bill that passed most recently that Ronald Reagan signed -- there used to be a limit on how much you could get per farmer under the agriculture program; $50,000 per year -- tough limit, by welfare standards. Congress, Unfortunately, over my objection, removed that. So we've got people now who will be getting hundreds of thousands, a million dollars in agricultural subsidies. That's what I have a problem with.I don't mind helping people who are in need. I do mind the most rapidly growing program -- and frankly, I think there's a great inconsistency. Somewhere -- I must have missed it in all the conservative texts, because I've got a lot of my conservative friends who are for the free market. And when it comes to poor people who need housing, when it comes to the homeless, they get read lessons from Adam Smith. Somewhere in all these free market texts, there's a footnote that says, "None of this was meant to apply to agriculture." And I've got the Library of Congress searching. I haven't found the footnote yet.
MacNEIL: Con -- Senator Andrews, how do you reply to that -- that this aid, which is growing so fast, is not targeted, and rich farmers are getting it, as well as farmers in real need.
Sen. ANDREWS: Well, what Barney said is not exactly straight on the dollar, because there is a $50,000 payment limitation for wheat and feed grains. There always has been. And we kept that very same identical payment limitation. There's no payment limitation for the dairy herd buy-out, but that originated in the House, and those of us in the Senate had another system that would have cut back some of these ultra-high, multi-million dollar payments.
MacNEIL: Well, let's hear back to the Congressman. Are you wrong about that, Congressman?
Rep. FRANK: No. In terms of the deficiency payments, the $50,000 limit is there. But in terms of the loan payments, we have removed it. You see, we subsidize farmers in several ways, and it is complicated, but in fact -- and I will just refer people, because I know this might come up, read the July 19 issue ofCongressional Quarterly here page 1635 where they explain it -- and the loan payment part -- the way it works, you get a deficiency payment if your farm crop doesn't bring enough on the market. But then you can also lend your crop to the federal government and never pay back the loan and keep what you got in return for your crop. And there there used to be a $50,000 upper limit, and we removed that, and that's very explicit.
MacNEIL: Do you agree with that, Senator?
Sen. ANDREWS: No, Barney. I'll bet you a darn good North Dakota steak versus one of your Boston lobsters that we haven't changed one bit.
Rep. FRANK: On the loan payment there's no limit.
Sen. ANDREWS: There's never been a limit on loan payments for wheat and for feed grain. Never has been. There always has been a $50,000 payment limit --
MacNEIL: Gentlemen, gentlemen --
Sen. ANDREWS: -- and the direct payment.
Rep. FRANK: And there is no limit on the loan payment.
Sen. ANDREWS: -- and that's the important thing.
Rep. FRANK: Well, it's not important --
Sen. ANDREWS: There wasn't --
Rep. FRANK: It's very important when you --
Sen. ANDREWS: There wasn't payment limitation on the loans.
MacNEIL: Okay, gentlemen --
Rep. FRANK: There was an overall $50,000 per limit which is now gone. We've got people -- read July 27, New York Times -- people who are going to be getting millions of dollars in agricultural payments. And when people tell us, "Well, you know, we got to cut Medicare, and we have to cut low income housing, and we can't afford Superfund, but we're going to spend $26 billion subsidizing farmers with no regard to economic need," I think that's a problem.
Sen. ANDREWS: Well, friend, you and I will join in cosponsoring a $50,000 payment limitation across the board. We've been for it for a long time. The nonpayment limitation comes to rice and to cotton, and --
Rep. FRANK: But also for wheat --
Sen. ANDREWS: The loan rate that they have to sell that back and pay that loan back very rarely --
Rep. FRANK: No, under this -- very rarely, but now you're admitting that it's there.
Sen. ANDREWS: Very rarely do they turn that commodity over to the government.
Rep. FRANK: But more and more they have been doing it. The fact is --
MacNEIL: I think the piece -- gentlemen, I'm sure you were able to see it, because you were getting hooked up with your microphones, but I think the piece that Kwame Holman, our correspondent, had on before you were on demonstrated that large quantities of those grains do, in effect, get bought by the federal government and don't get loaned to it or just temporarily stored there. Can I turn to the question of the President's Russian wheat sale? It has angered a lot of allies, like Canada, which are grain producing countries. It has also annoyed the Secretary of State. Senator, what do you feel about the justification for selling subsidized American wheat to the Russians?
Sen. ANDREWS: We're not selling subsidized wheat to the Soviets. All we're doing is selling the Soviets grain at the same price we sell it to other customers. The Soviets were our number one customer for wheat three years ago. We then started cutting deals and giving discount prices to other countries, and the Soviets quite rightly said, "To heck with you." And they dropped off to our 29th purchaser. It's a lot like the main street merchant who announces a 25% off sale, but says, "No regular customers need apply." That's garbage. It doesn't make any sense at all. The subsidy is not going to the Soviets. We're giving that price so we can compete with the Canadians. The way it's been before, the Canadians, the Australians sit at a nickel under our loan rates. They take all the markets away from us, and we end up with the full bins. Actually, the taxpayer saves money, because the money we used to spend to store that grain for a year has now been given to the farmer in additional certificate payment, and that grain is moving into the export market to a lot of countries other than the Soviet Union.
MacNEIL: How do you see --
Sen. ANDREWS: They're paying exactly the same price any other customer is.
MacNEIL: How do you see that new Presidential sale, Senator -- Congressman Frank?
Rep. FRANK: Well, I agree in part with what Senator Andrews said. They're paying the same price as everybody else. But that doesn't mean it's not a subsidized price. It's a heavily subsidized price. Agriculture in America today -- I mean, we have the image of the yeoman farmer out there toiling away in the free market. It is the most regulated and subsidized economic activity in the United States today. We have an essential problem. Countries that used to be importers of food are now growing their own. We are paying people to grow virtually as much as they want whether there's a market or not. And we buy it, and we store it, and we cost ourselves billions of dollars. Now, the senator was correct. If you are going to say to people, "We guarantee to buy this, and we'll pay you 50, 70, $100,000 a year, and we'll hold onto it," it is cheaper for you then to sell it to the Soviets at a somewhat cheaper price. I think the interesting thing is the ferocious anti-communism of Ronald Reagan of 1980 seems somehow to have moderated some way. I think somebody ought to do a documentary of the Reagan years, and it's going to be called, "Ronald Reagan Meets Reality," kind of like "Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein."
MacNEIL: Have we got a quick -- have you got a quick final comment, Senator?
Sen. ANDREWS: The thing is -- the thing is, when these two heads of the superpowers meet, hopefully later on this year, to discuss disarmament, the President and Gorbachev are both representing nations that can blow the world up ten times over. They're both representing nations that can put men in space.But only the President -- our President -- speaks for a nation that can produce enough food to take care of its people and have a lot left over. The Soviets can't. Their cost of production on wheat is $11 bushel, and I --
Rep. FRANK: That's right. So that's why we're selling it to them cheaper.
Sen. ANDREWS: And I testify that that's really the strength of our country. We ought to talk about the agricultural advantage and stop worrying about the farm problem --
Rep. FRANK: The Soviets --
Sen. ANDREWS: -- and sell it to them at cost of production --
Rep. FRANK: Well, that's right --
Sen. ANDREWS: -- until the Canadians and the Australians are forced to the bargaining table --
Rep. FRANK: But Senator, they're very grateful --
Sen. ANDREWS: -- and get that price up.
Rep. FRANK: You're pointing to a great strength we have. They can't afford to feed themselves.
MacNEIL: Gentlemen --
Rep. FRANK: But we're subsidizing them, and they're very appreciative.
MacNEIL: Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us. Great Escapes
WOODRUFF: Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the day East Germany began building the Berlin Wall, starting with a barbed wire barricade to keep East Germans from crossing to the West. Well, that set off a series of dramatic escapes, and we have a report on some of them from Charles Wheeler of the BBC.
CHARLES WHEELER [voice-over]: From the very first day, escape was dangerous. You could get out, but only by finding a likely spot, moving fast, and risking a bullet in the back. The weakest spot of all was in the center of the city where the French and Soviet sectors meet. On the Bernauer Strasse, uniquely, the border ran along the building line of the houses on the eastern side of the street. Here, an East Berliner only had to step out of a front door to be among neighbors in the West. When families escaped simply by crossing the street, the People's Police occupied the lower stories and blocked off all the side streets. So now the only escape was through the higher windows. There was even a tug of war over a middle aged woman -- border guards in the window, West Berliners below. One by one, the windows were sealed. The upper stories were left until last.
By the end of September, People's Police had evicted all the remaining residents. Five hundred and eighty flats were cleared, 50 doorways and 1,200 windows were bricked up. Later, they demolished all the houses. And in the cemetery adjoining the Bernauer Strasse, they dug up graves and reburied bodies to make room for a shooting zone and for the wall. There were no more escapes from that street. In the end, all the buildings were bulldozed away.
Just inside East Berlin, where the river forms the border, the Leonid Veigle celebrated theatre company was playing Bert Brecht's Mother Courage. One of Veigle's accresses had defected to the West. The understudy was Ingrid Pitt.
INGRID PITT [voice-over]: It's a play of 12 scenes. We had one scene to go. I was standing in the wings, and one of the people in the theatre came backstage, and he said, "Ette dich." They're coming for you. They are going to arrest you. Go. And I went out the stage door, and I ran. How they ever finished the play, I have no idea. I ran along the road, which was very difficult, because of this voluminous costume I was wearing with lace up boots and millions of skirts and padded jackets and things. And this car came down the road. It was the car that decided me, I think. And I dashed to the side to where the wire was along the river. And I tried to get out of this vision of the driver with the car. And I couldn't really get under the wire easily. The barbs kept hanging onto my hair and my clothes and the padded jacket and skirt and everything. And s I tore myself loose, I somehow lost my footing, and I slid down the bank into the river. It was so cold. And the water seeping into my clothes -- the reason I started swimming so much, so vigorously, was because it was the only way to keep from drowning.
WHEELER: How did you get out the other side?
Ms. PITT: I couldn't.I couldn't get out. It was all paved. Hen I saw this hand, and I couldn't reach him. I couldn't reach this hand. And then they slapped this coat down on this paved area of the river. These coats, and I grabbed the coats and got out eventually with much heaving and spitting and puffing and huffing. I finally got out.
WHEELER: Whose was the hand?
Ms. PITT: An American patrol had come along in a staff car.
WHEELER: And did you ever see the American rescuers again?
Ms. PITT: Yes. Yes. I married him. I was very grateful.
WHEELER [voice-over]: But happy endings in this part of the sector border were rare. To snipers in watchtowers, swimmers are sitting ducks. Month by month, the border was reinforced. To catch underwater swimmers, the security forces now sank underwater obstacles. When escapers breached the wall with lorries, they laid down tank traps, and then rebuilt the wall entirely, using massive concrete beams and slabs. Using brute force to escape now invariably ended in disaster.
But ingenuity often paid off. A tiny bubble car puttered through a heavily guarded checkpoint. Inside, only a driver. But then he extracted from a secret compartment his East German friend. Inge Eulitz was only 17. Her fiance, a musician with West German papers, persuaded her to bolt for East Berlin strapped underneath his car.
[on camera] How close were you to the road?
INGE EULITZ: A few inches, perhaps. Three or four inches.
WHEELER: What were you hanging onto?
Ms. EULITZ: I had asbestos gloves, and I was just holding onto anything that came.I was just hoping it wouldn't be the exhaust pipe. You see, I hadn't -- never practiced it before.
WHEELER: How long did you have to drive to reach the checkpoint?
Ms. EULITZ: It was only about 30 minutes to the actual checkpoint.
WHEELER: Driving slowly?
Ms. EULITZ: Very slowly. Very slowly.
WHEELER: And then at the checkpoint?
Ms. EULITZ: At the checkpoint, this is when my heart started pumping. Because I could hear all sorts of noises. I couldn't actually see anything, but I wouldn't -- even if I had been able to, I wouldn't have looked. I just didn't want to look. And while Wolfgang kept going in and out of the car about two or three times, he -- I was trying to think framtocally of what to say if they catch us now. I was trying to make some, which no doubt sounds very silly, some stupid excuse. They would believe me, I was convinced of that.
WHEELER: You were trying to find some explanation for being hidden under a car?
Ms. EULITZ: Yes. Yes.
WHEELER [voice-over]: After her escape, Inge Eulitz's story appeared in a London newspaper. Ever since, guards at all the checkpoints have used outsized dentist's mirrors to peer underneath all cars. All spectacular escapes have led to countermeasures that have made them hard to copy. But there have been exceptions. In 1962, a lift man in a government building used a bow and arrow to shoot a wire from the seventh story to a lower building in the West. Using a harness and pulley, he escaped with his family. True to form, the government took it out on the building.
Last summer, Michael Becker, who was born a year after that escape, found a description of it in a newspaper. "If he could do it," he thought, "so can I." With a companion, Becker quickly found a suitable pair of buildings on either side of the wall. What they needed was a roof in East Berlin from which they could fire a line over a house in West Berlin and into a courtyard behind it. There, a West Berlin helper would be waiting.The building they chose turned out to be the living quarters of border guards. They stole in at midday, hid in an attic 'til after midnight, then used a skylight to make their escape.
MICHAEL BECKER [through interpreter]: We used a bow and arrow. We fired this very thin cord over the roof of the building opposite. Then our friend in the West pulled it over -- 80 meters of it.
WHEELER [voice-over]: Andreas Bradke escaped without anybody's help close by a cross that marks the place where a 17 year old, Peter Vechter, was shot in the back as he tried to climb the wall in 1962. Vechter called for help, but nobody came from either side of the wall. It was an hour before he died, and only then did his killers carry his body away. Vechter was killed a few yards from Checkpoint Charlie. Last winter, Bradke, who's a civilian electronics engineer, was given a six week assignment to install a new security system at the checkpoint.He was escorted everywhere by armed guards. Then one day, they left him for a moment.
ANDREAS BRADKE [through interpreter]: It was a chance to escape. All I had to do was drop my tools and run for it -- about 30, 40 meters. But I couldn't do it. I was scared.
WHEELER [voice-over]: Bradke says that for a fortnight he kicked himself for passing up the only chance he'd ever get. But on his last day at work, he suddenly found himself alone again. From a small green gate, Bradke ran across two empty traffic lanes and turned sharp right, pursued by a sentry at the barrier. But the unbroken white line marks the border, and there the sentry had to stop.
The wall today is virtually foolproof.What with the outer and inner walls and the floodlights, the patrols and the watchtowers, the chances of being shot and killed are overwhelming. But preventing the Beckers and the Bradkes of society from attempting to beat the wall involves the massive diversion of money and manpower. Not for a moment can the border guards afford to relax, even after 25 years. Open Bar?
MacNEIL: Finally, we focus on an issue that has troubled almost every American professional group that has had some kind of organizational tie with their Soviet counterparts. Charlayne Hunter-Gault has more. Charlayne?
CHRLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Robin, it boils down to this: do such professional connections bestow U.S. blessings on Soviet practices that Americans abhor? The immediate case in point: the American Bar Association voted today to continue a highly controversial agreement with the Association of Soviet Lawyers. During its convention going on in here -- here in New York this week, opponents have charged that the Soviet lawyers group has issued anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic writings. But other ABA members have defended the relationship, arguing that it is a way to keep the human rights issue in front of the Soviets. Today's vote did little to stem that debate, as we see now from our next two guests. Eugene Thomas is the incoming President of the ABA and a supporter of the agreement. Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor who has represented Soviet dissidents, is himself on this issue a dissenter.
Mr. Dershowitz, why? What's wrong with the American Bar Association having an association with the Soviet lawyers group?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, Harvard Law School: Well first of all, there are no lawyers in the Soviet lawyers group. All the lawyers are thrown out of the association. As soon as you try to represent a dissident and be a real lawyer, you're expelled. What we just saw on television were border guards, and border guards are what comprise the Association of Soviet Lawyers. By the American Bar Association, a great organization of independent lawyers, in effect saying, "We're the same as you are; we're equal," it bestows the same kind of legitimacy that would be bestowed if the ABA had such an agreement with the South African apartheid bar or with the Ku Klux Klan. One of the speakers today analogized the association -- one of the speakers that favored the agreement -- analogized it to the Ku Klux Klan. Should we speak to the Klan? Sure we should. Should we speak to Soviet lawyers? Sure we should. Should we legitimate this association which plays such an integral role in the repressive actions of Soviet society? No, we shouldn't do it.
HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Thomas, why have it, if all those things are true?
EUGENE THOMAS, American Bar Association: Well, principally because all those things aren't true. The American Bar Association deals with issues of human rights and legal concern to a world that is a very small community. We're looking at a country that has nuclear warheads and warlike capabilities in the Soviet Union that should concern every living person on this earth. The human rights issue is a critical issue, but it's one of several. And we are not legitimizing the Soviet Union or any organization there. We are talking to lawyers, we are talking about law, we are talking to the leaders of that country about human rights, about environmental law. We're talking about the issues of this time. Lawyers have learned long ago that because you disagree with somebody doesn't mean that you shouldn't talk to them.
HUNTER-GAULT: But Mr. Dershowitz says they aren't lawyers.
Mr. THOMAS: Well, that's by his definition, as he just gave it to you. The fact is that there are 207,000 lawyers in the Soviet Union. They're the third largest organization of lawyers in the world, the United States being first, the nation of India being second. The fact is that we do have, through this organization, an opportunity to sit down and talk to people who are the practicing bar of that nation. And through that, we have the chance to meet with Andrei Gromyko, with the chief justice of their supreme court, and to put issues to these people about how they do treat such matters as dissidents who wish to leave and are refused the right. We have the opportunity to do that. That's very important.
HUNTER-GAULT: What's wrong with that?
Mr. DERSHOWITZ: Nothing wrong with that. We've had that opportunity for years. I've met with these leaders. They're very anxious to have contacts. What we have to do if we're going to have these kinds of agreements of cooperation where we mutually respect each other, is to condition them -- to have a timetable.For example, the ABA has not insisted on having observer status at dissident trial. If they had said, "Look, we'll come to some agreement with you, but, in return, we want something," we would have a very different issue. But they've got nothing in return. All they have is an opportunity --
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, you've been there --
Mr. DERSHOWITZ: But we've all been there, and there will be plenty of opportunities to talk.
HUNTER-GAULT: Excuse me, but I was going to say, Mr. Thomas, you've been there under this negotiated agreement. What do you think you specifically accomplished in this area of human rights?
Mr. THOMAS: I don't want to be a spoiler, but the facts ruin a good story here. Yes, we've been there, and the prestige of the American Bar Association viewed by the Soviets as an expression of the justice arm of America is well received and seriously received -- much differently than an individual lawyer's call might be. We have, in fact, talked about exchanges with respect to human rights. We've talked about observing trials. We've dealt with these people in connection with creating an agenda of topics of critical importance to civil rights and, indeed, to peace in the world.
HUNTER-GAULT: And what impact do you think all that's had?
Mr. THOMAS: Well, I think it's had significant impact. I think we've made real headway. You want to remember that this dates back to when Griffin Bell was invited years ago to go head a delegation to visit in the name of the American Bar Association. He was joined by Shirley Hufstedler and John Bracken, the chairman of the House of Delegates. This goes back many years. This dialogue has gone on many years. And I will tell you that I think that when you are invited to see the president of the Soviet Union and sit down and talk to him like we are here and say we are concerned about an independent judiciary, an independent bar and the treatment of dissidents and the treatment of Jews, you have brought an agenda to a policy maker with power to act.
Mr. DERSHOWITZ: But it is not --
Mr. THOMAS: Excuse me, I'll be through in just a minute, professor. But it isn't -- it isn't the same as having an individual walk in, as prestigious as he may be.It isn't the same. This is the American legal profession talking. And I submit, we've gotten a place on the agenda.
Mr. DERSHOWITZ: It's the American legal profession giving its imprimatur and getting nothing in return. Mr. Thomas, I have a challenge for you. One yer from now, if as a result of this we have not gotten observer status -- the very minimum, observer status -- at the trial of Soviet dissidents, will you come on this show, will you say you were wrong, or will you withdraw the agreement?
Mr. THOMAS: I'll be happy to come on this show one day from now, one year from now, or any other time and talk about what we're doing and how we're progressing and what we're really achieving. I would like to talk also about this point that we have not bestowed any credibility or legitimacy upon the ASL. That's not our purpose. It says in our agreement we don't do that. And I can tell you now, they know we don't do that. They know we disagree.
HUNTER-GAULT: Do you think they have?
Mr. DERSHOWITZ: Of course they have. It talks about mutual respect, it talks about acknowledging their commitment to the rule of law. The rule of law? In the Soviet Union? They don't know the meaning of the word. Exactly what they want, this association, is exactly what they've gotten. They have achieved 100% of their agenda. We have achieved nothing. If within one year we do not have a timetable in which we say, "We want the following five goals," this has been very bad lawyering. And you know, our clients don't want it. The dissidents in the Soviet Union are universally against it. Anatoly Shcharansky. Anatoly Shcharansky, who I've represented for nine years, called me from Jerusalem, pleaded with me to speak in front of this association and say, "Don't give them this kind of legitimacy. Make demands."
HUNTER-GAULT: What about that?
Mr. THOMAS: The great number of responsible Jewish organizations in this country with whom we have spoken, and we've spoken to all of the leadership groups we can, the great majority of them encourage us to continue and object to aggravating this agreement. They feel --
HUNTER-GAULT: How do you respond to the call from Shcharansky saying don't do it?
Mr. THOMAS: Because we've had calls from other people that have defended many, many people over there, and including people who speak for those, and they say, "Look, this is good. This helps a person who feels oppressed. This helps a person in trouble in the Soviet Union -- that people are going to see Gromyko, that --"
Mr. DERSHOWITZ: Every dissident agrees. Every dissident --
HUNTER-GAULT: But if the American Bar Association shouldn't be talking to this group of lawyers, whom should they be talking with?
Mr. DERSHOWITZ: They should be talking to this group of lawyers. They should also be talking to the few brave, heroic lawyers -- the Helsinki Monitors who have been put in jail. That's who we should be giving legitimacy -- Dina Kaminskaya, who got thrown out of the association for wanting to represent Shcharansky. Talk to them. But we have said -- sold legitimacy to this organization.
Mr. THOMAS: We have talked to these people, and we have, by and large, been encouraged to fight for human rights, to get in here and do something about it. We're -- I'm not representing a client; I'm speaking for a profession. We have been encouraged by these very people to do exactly what we're doing.
HUNTER-GAULT: If the entire bar association today affirmed this agreement, what does that say to you, Mr. Dershowitz? That maybe you should think twice about it, or that something's wrong with them?
Mr. DERSHOWITZ: We got very few votes yesterday. We got a lot more votes today. It was as if the association got invited to a party by a vote of the hosts of about seven to three. It wasn't a very enthusiatic one. What I want to do is come back a year from now and say, "Mr. Thomas, you're accountable to your members, you're accountable to the American public; what have we gotten in the year." If the answer is nothing, I expect you to admit you were wrong.
HUNTER-GAULT: All right. We'll come back in a year. We have to leave it there now. Thank you, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Dershowitz.
MacNEIL: Once again, today's top stories. President Reagan said he is optimistic about a Soviet summit this fall. The President also welcomed a call for U.S. and European talks with South Africa. A House panel voted to have Michael Deaver investigated for perjury. Good night, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Good night, Robin. That's our News Hour for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow night. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you and good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
- Producing Organization
- NewsHour Productions
- Contributing Organization
- NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This episode's headline: Under Fire; Politics of Grain; Great Escapes; Open Bar?. The guests include In Washington: Rep. JOHN DINGELL, Democrat, Michigan; Sen. MARK ANDREWS, Democrat, North Dakota; Rep. BARNEY FRANK, Democrat, Massachusetts; In New York: ALAN DERSHOWITZ, Harvard Law School; EUGENE THOMAS, American Bar Association; REPORTS FROM NEWSHOUR CORRESPONDENTS: KATHERINE WRIGHT (CBC), in Canada; KWAME HOLMAN; CHARLES WHEELER (BBC), in Berlin. Byline: In New York: ROBERT MacNEIL, Executive Editor; CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, Correspondent; In Washington: JUDY WOODRUFF, Correspondent
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- Politics and Government
- Copyright NewsHour Productions, LLC. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode)
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- Moving Image
Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
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Identifier: NH-0741 (NH Show Code)
Format: 1 inch videotape
Identifier: NH-19860812 (NH Air Date)
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- Chicago: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” 1986-08-12, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 1, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-j96057dm46.
- MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1986-08-12. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 1, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-j96057dm46>.
- APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-j96057dm46