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JIM LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour tonight, Gwen Ifill updates the growing election crisis in Yugoslavia, Kwame Holman covers two congressional hearing updates on military readiness and on peddling violence to kids, Spencer Michels outlines the new political faces of California, and Richard Rodriguez talks of confessing a sin. It all follows our summary of the news this Wednesday.
JIM LEHRER: The political turmoil grew in Yugoslavia today. Some 200,000 people took to the streets of central Belgrade. They proclaimed victory for the main opposition candidate in last Sunday's presidential election. They said President Milosevic was trying to steal the election by ordering a runoff. In Washington, President Clinton said he agreed.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The government's official election commission has no credibility what ever. There are no opposition party members on it. There are no independent observers that have monitored its work. And the opposition believes it clearly got over 50%, and I think what do Europe and the United States should do is support the express will of the Serbian people. And it certainly appears from a distance that they had a free election and somebody is trying to take it away from them.
JIM LEHRER: We'll have more on this story right after the News Summary. U.S. military leaders said today they were concerned about the future readiness of their forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. They said troops first to fight were combat ready, but they called for increased funding to maintain that level. And there was also a Senate hearing today on entertainment violence. Movie studio executives admitted violent films had been test- marketed to children. The head of Sony called the marketing practice "a judgment lapse." Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas threatened legislation if the industry did not police itself. We'll have excerpts from the two hearings on entertainment violence and military readiness later in the program tonight. In the presidential race today, Governor Bush said public schools have a lot to learn from parochial schools. He pressed for education reform during an appearance at a Catholic school in Los Angeles. He said it was a "beacon of hope" and an example.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I appreciate so very much the discipline of the Catholic school system around America -- the fact that the standards are high and the expectations are high -- and there's a zero tolerance program for disruption. It's a system that fully understands that in order for all children to learn, the classrooms need to be safe havens. It's a system that also understands that the teacher needs to be able to control his or her classroom. It ought to be the same for public schools as well.
JIM LEHRER: Bush said teachers should be protected from lawsuits when they enforce reasonable discipline. Vice President Gore was in Des Moines, Iowa, today where he warned against the Bush Medicare plan. He said it would force senior citizens to beg insurance companies for prescription drug coverage. He said his own plan would guarantee coverage under Medicare, and he charged Republicans are running misleading ads on the issue.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: They've been running this TV ad, I saw it this morning on TV here in Des Moines. It says Al Gore would force seniors into a big government HMO. You know what they're talking about there? You know what that refers to? That's the way they describe Medicare. There's no big government HMO. That's the way they describe Medicare. Medicare is not an HMO. You get to choose your doctor; you get to choose your pharmacy. You have the choice.
JIM LEHRER: Gore also claimed again that Bush and other Republicans have a history of opposing Medicare. The White House today released a new federal budget surplus estimate, $230 billion for this fiscal year. That's $19 billion higher than an estimate last June, and it marks the third consecutive year of surpluses. Most of the money is earmarked for paying down the national debt. At the Summer Olympics today, American athletes pulled off two big upsets. The U.S. won its first gold medal in baseball, beating defending champion Cuba 4 to nothing. And in Greco-Roman wrestling, Rulon Gardner won gold in the super-heavyweight category. He defeated Alexander Karelin of Russia, who had not lost a match to anybody in 13 years. Also today, American Angelo Taylor won the men's 400-meter hurdle, and Venus Williams won the women's tennis title. Again, video was not available due to the Olympics television contract. And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to the rising crisis in Yugoslavia, Congressional hearings on military readiness and on marketing violence to children, the new politics of California, and a Richard Rodriguez essay.
JIM LEHRER: Gwen ifill has the Yugoslavia story.
GWEN IFILL: The thousands who rallied in a Belgrade Square tonight defied the government of Slobodan Milosevic. Serbia's true leader, they said, is now opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica. But Milosevic is not conceding defeat. Yesterday, state-run television announced that neither candidate had received 50% of the vote, and that a runoff would be held a week from Sunday. The official preliminary tally gave Kostunica 48% of the vote; Milosevic, 40%. Alleging fraud, dozens of Milosevic opponents tried to check the votes for themselves at the Election Commissions building. Only one was permitted inside.
NEBOJSA BAKAREC, Opposition Delegate: They are in very great fear that we are going to find that inside, that -- because they are giving false results -- because they have the exact results that we have, only they have, they have some people from Milosevic regime are demanding them and they are asking them to give the results.
GWEN IFILL: But the Milosevic allies are holding rallies of their own, confident that their candidate will ultimately prevail. And many Serbs do support Milosevic, including some living in Kosovo.
WOMAN (Translated): He is our president and he will be our president. We all love him, and that's why we voted for him. America cannot tell us for whom to vote and what to do.
GWEN IFILL: Milosevic is making no plans to go.
SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC, President of Yugoslavia: (Translated) I expect that the political scene of Serbia will be cleaned...and that will enable faster economic development of our country.
GWEN IFILL: More than 70% of the country's seven and half million people cast ballots last Sunday for the presidency, the parliament, and local offices. The Milosevic government permitted no international observers, and deployed 700 troops to monitor the balloting. Western leaders, saying the election count has not been fair, have called on Milosevic to step down.
TONY BLAIR: And I say to Milosevic, "You lost. Go. Your country and the world has suffered enough." (Cheers and applause)
GWEN IFILL: Milosevic has been in power since 1987. He surprised observers at home and abroad last month when he called for early elections. In the 13 years he's been its president, the Yugoslav Federation has crumbled. In 1991, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia became independent countries. Bosnia declared independence a year later, eventually becoming a divided nation. Today, all that's left is the republics of Serbia, which includes the province of Kosovo and Montenegro. Serbia has been torn apart by war. A year and a half ago, NATO bombs forced Milosevic's troops out of Kosovo, which today is overseen by a multinational peacekeeping force. And in 1994, NATO launched air attacks against Bosnian Serbs who were fighting against Serbian Muslims and Croats. The bombing brought the Serbs to the negotiating table, leading to the Dayton Peace Accords. There is no official count, but it is widely assumed that hundreds of thousands died in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990's. As a result, Milosevic has been indicted for war crimes by the international tribunal in the Hague. Kostunica was Milosevic's major challenger during the month-long presidential campaign. The 56-year-old former constitutional lawyer pledged to restore Yugoslavia's reputation. But he has said he would not extradite Milosevic to be tried for war crimes, and he has criticized the West for focusing too much on Milosevic.
VOJISLAV KOSTUNICA (Translated): He is seen as someone who is the strongman in this region, the only person the Americans, Washington, could talk to. And that is the fact I want to highlight, and our hardships came out of that because the international community saw only Milosevic. They saw him as the only negotiator.
GWEN IFILL: Kostunica and his allies have received U.S. assistance. Washington sent $77 million to Serbian opposition groups. U.S. leaders are particularly worried about action Milosevic might take against the independent-minded Republic of Montenegro. Officials there said three-quarters of the voters boycotted Sunday's election, which they suspect was rigged by Milosevic allies. They also fear unrest over the next two weeks.
DRAGISA BURZAN: So I would say that this will unfortunately lead to additional commotion, possible innocent victims, and I thought that it would be very good for him, after 15 years of the evil he created here, to leave Serbia at least once in an upright position.
GWEN IFILL: Last week, Milosevic made his first visit to Montenegro since 1997. At a campaign rally, he lashed out at the West and the opposition, calling them "rabbits, rats, and even hyenas who wish to transform this gigantic nation into a poodle at the whim of its foreign master."
GWEN IFILL: For more on the election in Yugoslavia we turn to Charles Ingrao, Professor of History at Purdue University; Dusko Doder, co-author of the biography "Milosevic," and a former "Washington Post" correspondent, who has reported extensively from Yugoslavia; and Obrad Kesic, a Balkan affairs analyst who meets often with Serbian political party leaders. Mr. Kesic, we saw 200,000 people at last count in the Balkan square in Belgrade. What does this mean?
OBRAD KESIC, Balkan Affairs Analyst: I think it's very encouraging. There was a question mark before this rally of whether or not the people would stand behind the democratic opposition, and the announcement that they wouldn't go into the second round of elections, and this is very encouraging. The people are behind him.
GWEN IFILL: The opposition has decided not to accept this runoff? Can that stand?
OBRAD KESIC: I think as long as they have support in these numbers, definitely. That is a big question now can they maintain it over the next several days, and will Milosevic listen to the voice of the people. The larger the gatherings, the more pressure on him. It's important to keep this momentum going.
GWEN IFILL: How about that, Dusko Doder, a smart idea to turn down this runoff?
DUSKO DODER, Journalist/Author: I'm not so sure, because you may have a Fujimori situation. What you have in Serbia right now is sort of a Shakespearean drama, where you have the dictator who cannot go anywhere, he is an indicted war criminal, he has no place to go, perhaps China or Russia, but that's not for certain they would accept him, and he's fighting for his life. Now, he is very dangerous in this situation, he's going to try to maneuver and try to find a way out of it. Now it seems to me one of the ways out of it is, unless there's a continuous presence of people on the street for a long time, you will have people accept the idea, well, there's a runoff, so if you won once you will win twice.
GWEN IFILL: So you think one scene of protest is not enough, it has to be continuing protest?
DUSKO DODER: Right. In 1996, 97, for three months there were hundreds of thousands of people in Belgrade marching every day, and they didn't bring him down. In this situation it's something that's very important. For the first time that the West has come, and the United States in particular, has come unequivocally on the side of opposition promising lifting of sanctions. I think people understand it because they have suffered now for ten years of deprivation. The country is an economic basket case. And there is some hope there.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Ingrao, will that make the difference?
CHARLES INGRAO, Purdue University: I don't think that Milosevic is going to be removed by a lost election or a lost war, or by massive demonstrations. He is going to fall from power when his patronage system deserts him. And what we've seen this weekend in the reports of the election results from his own appointed election commission is a crack within the system, the three, four thousand officials who are loyal to him who get their patronage from him and their power, their money. What I'm encouraged by is that there are cracks in this patronage system, and once we get a psychosis of transition where people in the patronage system recognize that Milosevic is on the way out, then he is going to fall very quickly. The question is when that's going to take place. But I think he is finished, this is a case of what the final scenario will be.
GWEN IFILL: Professor, do you think there's going to be a runoff?
CHARLES INGRAO: I think there are three possibilities here. At this point the most likely possibility is that there will not be a runoff; that Milosevic will have to concede as his own apparatus is starting to dissolve. Everybody knows that Kostunica won the election, and I think the first major mistake he made was in letting that particular evidence seep into the public sphere. If he survives the next ten days and there is a runoff, there's probably going to be a boycott by the opposition. Milosevic will declare victory, but then the second crisis he will have is there will be massive street demonstrations and probably the first civil disobedience Serbia has had since the 1990's when he came to power. If he still is in power despite that, and certainly the special police are supporting him at this point although the army is not, if he's still in power, then Kostunica can turn to the international community, can form a parallel government, and once he does that I think he'll get recognized by most of the countries in the international community. And if Russia joins that, then he's finished.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Ingrao has just laid out a very complicated series of event which could happen here. Which do you think is most likely, Mr. Kesic?
OBRAD KESIC: It's difficult to speculate because there's other scenarios as well, he has other options. For example, he can choose to go into the federal parliament which was announced that they have control, and the opposition isn't contesting that announcement that his coalition is controlling the federal parliament. He can try to use that to manipulate a power struggle between let's say the prime ministership and the presidency. He did this in 1992, if you remember, when Milan Panic was prime minister and Petrocic was president; he effectively held power as the president of Serbia at that time. So he's used to manipulating the system, the constitution, to serve his ends. What we need to pay attention to right now is how much pressure is being applied to him. The number of street protesters is important because that creates the mechanism for the scenario that Professor Ingrao laid out, that the cracks within his ruling structure can widen and that people will begin to abandon him even at a quicker rate.
GWEN IFILL: So Mr. Doder, we have been talking about all the things Milosevic can do to hang on the power. What can Kostunica do to try to seize it?
DUSKO DODER: I think Mr. Kostunica is fairly new person to politics. He lacks charisma, he's sort of the lowest common denominator, and that was his strength because all the other opposition leaders are prima donnas, and that's why they could never get together. That's why Milosevic was able to manipulate one against the other. Here the man was a serious man, but the presidency itself is not that important. See Milosevic has absolutely majority in parliament. He can become prime minister, make Kostunica a president, create a paralysis of power and slowly push him out. This guy is like a snake, he's very clever. I think the most important thing is the manifestation of popular discontent in the streets. That can bring him down.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Ingrao, so we're thinking that Mr. Kostunica can win, but lose?
CHARLES INGRAO: Well, I think he made a wise decision, because Milosevic is right now trying to perform a strategic retreat. He's lost the battle this weekend, he wants to regroup his forces to fight again. He only has to win once. And what Kostunica and the opposition have done is they're going to try to deprive him of the chance to have a runoff. Like a good general he wants to finish the battle now, and not give Milosevic a chance to retreat. So they have to make no deals with Milosevic, they should not temporize, they should really go for the jugular. And I think that that's their best chance. But one way or another, Milosevic will fall by one of these scenarios.
GWEN IFILL: How about Milosevic's control over the arm, does that strengthen him or does it weaken him at this point?
CHARLES INGRAO: Well, what I've been told is that 80% of the army voted for Kostunica. There were polls taken, the army voted separately, and I've been told they got 83% of the vote. Whether that's exaggerated or not is not important. The fact is the army has never been in Milosevic's camp, only the people at the top who were his own appointees. If the army is going to intervene to save him, the MUP, the special police themselves will not be able to put this revolt down, because in the last century the Serbian Yugoslav military have intervened twice in crises, and I would suggest that to prevent a civil war the military will come in on the side of the people. They are patriots.
GWEN IFILL: What do you think about the situation with the military?
OBRAD KESIC: I think that that analysis is basically right. Milosevic has never controlled the middle officer core, and that's essential in terms of controlling the heart of the military, and definitely there's no talk about the conscripts, because the Yugoslav military to a large extent is comprised of a lot of conscripts, and all these young recruits are the center of opposition to him. This movement OTPOR, is basically comprised of people from 18 to 35 years of age and many of their fellow colleagues are now in the military.
GWEN IFILL: How about the political savvyness of the political opposition - Mr. Doder suggested that they're kind of new to this, they may be outwitted yet by Milosevic?
OBRAD KESIC: I don't know if they'll be outwitted, but definitely they're a little bit unprepared. I have to be honest with you -- I think that they were as surprised by the extent of their victory as Milosevic was. So the question is can they think very quickly, focus their energies into providing a concrete goal for the masses that are rallying around them because in the past when there were large amounts of people in the streets of Yugoslavia in '92 and 1996 and '97, one of the problems was that the leadership of the opposition didn't have a clear vision, couldn't articulate what was the end game. And I think with this case, one of the major factors that's different now from then is there's a newfound confidence of, within average people, people have lost their fear for the most part of the Milosevic repressive apparatus of power. So they're willing to stand up, and it's just important now for the opposition to point a direction.
GWEN IFILL: You alluded earlier, Mr. Doder, to the U.S. or the western role in this; sanctions obviously has been the extent of our role, so much in the Balkans in the last few years. Do you think this has had any effect or will have any future effect on the outcome of this?
DUSKO DODER: I think the sanctions have helped Milosevic basically. I think this time what's different is that we have said if the opposition wins, we'll lift sanctions.
GWEN IFILL: Explain how that helps Milosevic.
DUSKO DODER: Because they're not sanctions against him. He's not suffering, the population is suffering. The per capita income say in 1990 was $800 per month, today it's 50. You can imagine the drop in the living standard -- devastation, everything. Social fabric was devastated, young people, anybody who had half a brain left the country. They're in Canada, Australia, and the United States, everywhere. So I think what Milosevic's rule has been an absolute disaster, it was bloodstained. And I think the country has had enough. But Milosevic at no point, in my experience, I got there in end of 1990, had more than 25% of the population. And these were the veterans, the police, the old Communist apparatus, retired people. It depends on the government.
GWEN IFILL: So Professor Ingrao, does the West play a role here in your opinion?
CHARLES INGRAO: Yes, I think it does. And I think it has had. I would disagree with Dr. Doder. I think that sanctions, it's a blunt instrument, it imprecise, it does more damage than you want, but I think both the sanctions and four defeats in warfare have hurt Milosevic. The Serbs who went to the polls this weekend will not admit it. They despite the United States, but they despise Milosevic and they blame him for Yugoslavia's economic crisis. So I think even though they don't perhaps want to admit it I think sanctions have had an effect. What the West can now do is offer what it has offered every state that surrounds Serbia, that is to say offer economic aid, the promise of eventual integration into the Western European community, and that is going to give them the leverage they need to work with Kostunica to arrive at a satisfactory solution of this crisis.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Kesic, let's assume for a moment that the voters have the final say in this. What is it that the voters can do, say, act in the next few weeks to have their will be done?
OBRAD KESIC: Well, in '96 and '97, earlier we heard said by Professor Ingrao that they failed to achieve that last push to get people, to get Milosevic out of power. This time around what needs to be done is this level of mass support for the opposition has to be maintained. So you need the streets flooded with people, you need the opposition clear, clearly defining what the end game is, what's the goal for having these people out on the streets. And more importantly, I think what needs to happen is that they need to weather this out. They were very close in '96 and '97. People were beginning to abandon Milosevic from his own government. Now this has occurred during the elections, after the elections people have resigned from his party. We know there are deep divisions within his party and we know of divisions within his security forces. The question is time, and people have on the patient. There isn't a magic bullet unfortunately for this.
GWEN IFILL: Dusko. Doder do you agree with that?
DUSKO DODER: I agree with that, yes.
GWEN IFILL: Okay, we'll leave it there, then. Thank you very much. Thank you for joining us.
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, congressional hearings on military readiness and selling violence to kids, the new look of California politics, and a Richard Rodriguez essay.
JIM LEHRER: Now Kwame Holman reports on Senate hearings today about two on-going issues, first, military readiness.
KWAME HOLMAN: The military's chiefs of staff and their chairman, General Henry Shelton, went before the Senate Armed Services Committee today to lay out what they think it will take to carry out the nation's missions in the near future. General Shelton said for the time being, the military is ready to go.
GEN. HARRY SHELTON, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: Today, our forward-deployed and our first-to-fight forces are trained and ready, as the nation witnessed during Operation Desert Fox in 1998, and also in Operation Allied Force last year. And they are also ready for any lesser contingency. This readiness capability has repeatedly been demonstrated during the past year in the Balkans, in Southwest Asia in East Timor, and in other operations and exercises around the world.
KWAME HOLMAN: The heads of the four military branches agreed with their chairman's short-term outlook, but one by one forecast problems for the long term, particularly for the military's ability to fight two wars nearly simultaneously. Army General Eric Shinseki.
GEN. ERIC SHINSEKI, Army Chief of Staff: First, we have diverted soldiers from other organizations to fill our high- priority war-fighting formations. Second, we have for years mortgaged our future readiness, this modernization effort, in order to assure that our soldiers had in the near term what it takes to fight and win decisively.
KWAME HOLMAN: Admiral Vernon Clark, chief of naval operations, talked about the Navy's aging fleet.
ADMIRAL VERNON CLARK, Chief of Naval Operations: We are procuring desperately needed new combat aircraft, but not at the rate necessary to sustain the force required for the future.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Air Force's General Michael Ryan.
GEN. MICHAEL RYAN, Air Force Chief of Staff: Combat unit readiness has dropped well over 20%, and our mission capability rates on our aircraft are down by 10% over the last decade. These decreases in readiness can be attributed to past under funding of spares, high operations tempo, loss of experienced airmen, and an aging aircraft fleet.
KWAME HOLMAN: Marine Commandant James Jones.
GEN. JAMES JONES, Marine Corps Commandant: Today's requirement mandates that we work very hard to not only provide equipment, but to pay attention to other important aspects of readiness, such as family stability, housing, spousal support, quality of life issues, health care, education, and a multitude of other societal realities that were not as evident 20 years ago.
KWAME HOLMAN: The committee's top Democrat, Carl Levin, blamed some of the shortfall on the propensity of members of Congress to fund new ships and aircraft, popular back home, but often not even requested by the Pentagon.
SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) Michigan: We are spending too much money on things that we don't need, and that's one of the reasons, at least, that there are shortfalls in areas that we do need, and Congress carries a significant responsibility for that.
KWAME HOLMAN: None of the witnesses volunteered answers to Levin's assertion. Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions wanted to know if money to keep the military ready to fight is coming at the expense of other military accounts.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, (R) Alabama: Have we, as a nation, General Shelton, taken money from modernization, from infrastructure, from procurement, from science and technology, to maintain current readiness?
GEN. HENRY SHELTON: Senator sessions, the answer, as I gave you in my statement, I think, is yes, because of the increase in the use of the force, the aging equipment, the increased cost of the operational tempo, basically we have had to pull money that could have otherwise gone into the modernization accounts back in to maintain current readiness and maintain the level we're at today.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: It's creating a crisis for us, is that correct?
ADMIRAL VERNON CLARK: If you look at... You characterize this in terms of all of the accounts, and if you say that it is... We took readiness funds out of modernization, or out of recapitalization, the fact is there we have been funding the readiness account at a percentage of the requirement, and we are not meeting the recapitalization challenge either.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed reminded the service chiefs that money for readiness added to last year's budget has yet to take effect.
SEN. JACK REED, (D) Rhode Island: You have as a bottom line statement that the large FY '00 investment is not yet realized. Are we to assume that those trend lines you show will actually keep improving over the next several years in terms of readiness, so that not only are we ready today, but in the foreseeable future that readiness will improve?
GEN. HENRY SHELTON: We anticipate that happening, Senator Reed, certainly in the area of spare parts, things that have to be procured that have not had a chance as a result of the... Even going back to the '99 supplemental, or to the '99 budget, some of that is just starting to come in now. In fact, in March of this year is when some of the first parts would arrive from that '00 budget.
SEN. JACK REED: So we're all today trying to fit these facts into a coherent picture of the situation. So I assume, based on what you've said and your colleagues have said, that we're ready today, and you've just indicated that that readiness is likely to improve. Is that an accurate statement?
GEN. HENRY SHELTON: We are ready today with our first to deploy, first-to-fight forces. And as we... As I indicated, there are other areas in these... What I would call the combat service, combat service support, units that are outside of those first-to-fight forces that still will need additional funding in order to get them up to where they are. and that is where we're falling... fallen a little short, even as we have pulled funds from what otherwise could have gone into modernization.
KWAME HOLMAN: As a result, General Shelton said significant new funds for military readiness will be needed, a task that will belong to the next session of Congress and the new President.
JIM LEHRER: The second follow-up hearing today was on marketing violence to children. Again, Kwame Holman reports.
KWAME HOLMAN: Jack Valenti, President of the Motion Picture Association of America, was back before the Senate Commerce Committee today, this time accompanied by Hollywood executives. Valenti was on his own two weeks ago, when he defended the filmmaking industry against charges it was marketing R-rated movies to children. At the time, Committee Chairman John McCain was angry that not a single studio executive showed up for the hearing, and took out that anger on Valenti. Today however, McCain let the matter rest.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN, Chairman, Commerce Committee: Good morning. The purpose of this hearing is to further consider the federal trade commission report marketing violent entertainment to children. This hearing is a functional extension of the one held two weeks ago. I want to thank the representatives of the motion picture industry for their attendance here.
KWAME HOLMAN: The industry came under immediate fire once the report was released. The industry executives said they hoped their appearance today would demonstrate their commitment to self-regulation. However, today's hearing coincided with a "New York Times" report that some violent films have been test-marketed before audiences that included children as young as nine. One of the movies mentioned was "The Fifth Element."
SEN. BYRON DORGAN, (D) North Dakota: They've been gathering nine-, ten-, and 13-year-old kids for research exercises to market test movies and so on and so forth. That's wholly inappropriate - I mean, aside from the fact that FTC says internal documents suggest that the companies have actually been strategizing - that were marketing this R movie to underage kids, totally unappropriate.
KWAME HOLMAN: Mel Harris is President of Sony, parent company of Columbia Pictures, which produced "The Fifth Element."
MEL HARRIS: We totally subscribe to what we have placed with the MPAA members, that we will not have any research groups where any recruited viewer under the age of 17 will not be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today's hearing came a day after the Motion Picture Association and eight movie studios said they would stop "inappropriately specifically targeting children" in advertising R-rated movies. The 12-point guidelines include a pledge that "no company will knowingly include people under 17 in research screenings for films rated-r for violence unless accompanied by a parent or guardian."
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I don't understand this language. I think it's filled with loopholes - specifically - of not inappropriately - specifically targeting children. Inappropriateness is judgment which is clearly subjective and not objective. So what I would ask the witnesses, why don't you just simply say that you will not market to children this kind of R rated material, that you will not market it to children under 17, period.
KWAME HOLMAN: Stacy Snider is chairman of Universal Pictures.
STACY SNIDER: I want to recognize the sincerity and the deep conviction with which you put forth that question. And I have thought about the phraseology of this initiative for many days, and for a good part of last night. And while in looking at this report, there are things in this report that shock me and that dismay me, and that we can pledge to you sincerely, will not happen going forth -- we're not g to market R for violent films to 10 and 12-year-olds. These documents were eye opening to me, I take them seriously, and you have gotten my attention. At the same time, however, I am reminded of films, not merely films like "Schindler's List," which I'm very proud to be associated with since it was released by Universal Pictures, but I'm referring to the continuum of R rated violent films, some of which would be suitable for mature teenagers to see with their parents. I'm thinking, for example, of the film like "Boys in the Hood." If I were to pitch "Boys in the Hood" to the Senators here, it might contain graphic violence, it might contain language, it would contain gunplay, and yet that is an example of a movie that personally was inspiring to me, it would be a movie that I might choose to take a mature children to, mature child to, provided I had the proper information of what was contained within that film.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Will you or will you not market movies rated R to children under the age of 17?
MEL HARRIS: You refer, sir, to the difficulty with working with words like inappropriately, or specifically, or targeting children. One of the ways you could say is we will only appropriately specifically target children, which obviously is not the proper way to use that language. So we may have difficulty with the word like inappropriate, but we borrowed it from what we saw in the FTC report -- at least on our behalf. And I think if the specifically targeting children in advertising for our films is a difficult phrase, we obviously welcome dialogue among our friends here and also among those of you and others who might offer other kinds of language that would help us to give you satisfaction on that point.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Thank you. Now I'll ask the question again. Will you or will you not market movies rated r to children under the age of 17?
MEL HARRIS: In that question, sir, I cannot answer and say that we will not have marketing materials that will be exposed to people under the age of 17, that would be impossiblefor me to say.
KWAME HOLMAN: Some Senators conceded the industry is making an effort to shield children from inappropriate entertainment -- but not enough of an effort.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: I am not satisfied that when 46% of the underage people are able to buy tickets to inappropriate movies, according to the ratings system that you all have said is working, I don't think it's working. And we are looking for ways to make it work, and I am sending a signal across the bow that if you don't try to make this really work, then you are going to see legislation, because parents are throwing up their hands in frustration.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Thank you, this hearing is adjourned.
KWAME HOLMAN: Senator McCain ended the hearing without any threats of his own. He simply told the Hollywood executives they had some work to do.
JIM LEHRER: The changing faces of California politics. Spencer Michels reports.
SPENCER MICHELS: President Clinton put the spotlight recently on a California congressional district he visited where ethnic voting power is playing an increasing role. Democratic candidate Mike Honda is running for a formerly Republican open seat in Silicon Valley. Both parties consider it a crucial election in the battle for control of the House of Representatives. The power of the ethnic vote in this part of California has been very visible lately, as at this fund-raiser for a Latino school board candidate in San Jose. Here Asians and Latinos paid their money and joined in the scramble for political clout. Japanese American assemblyman Honda spoke in support of the school board candidate, Jason Rodriguez.
MIKE HONDA: I grew up just a few blocks down, here. My mom is here.
SPENCER MICHELS: This party is a small example of the changing face of the electorate, and of those running for office.
JASON RODRIGUEZ: I want to get more parents involved in the lives of their child's education.
SPENCER MICHELS: As Asians and Hispanics increase their numbers, they are becoming more active in local, state, and national politics. The population of Asian Americans in the U.S. has gone up 43% over the last decade, while Hispanics saw a 39% jump. That's compared to much smaller increases for blacks and whites. California, the most populous state, has the most Hispanics-- nearly a third of the population-- and the most Asians-- about 11%. Hispanics have already achieved a measure of political success in the state. The lieutenant governor is Latino, as are 19 members out of 120 in the legislature. Asians, who have yet to flex much political muscle, have just two members. Perhaps most significantly, in the 1990's, Latinos doubled their percentage of registered voters to 13% of California's total, according to Stanford Political Science Professor Luis Fraga.
LUIS FRAGA: There is still tremendous opportunities for increased growth in registration for Latinos. They could be, by some estimates, as much as 25% of the overall electorate in California, if every qualified Latino citizen of California registered to vote.
SPENCER MICHELS: Democrat Honda is trying to take advantage of those numbers. In his race for Congress, he has appealed to Chinese American voters with denunciations of the government's jailing of Los Alamos Scientist Wen Ho Lee.
MIKE HONDA: Remember your culture.
SPENCER MICHELS: And he asked Japan for an apology for brutality to Chinese prior to World War II. But Asians are not the only ethnic group he's courting.
MIKE HONDA: My friends, a great many of them, are Mexicans-- Mexican Americans from Texas, Mexico, and California. I learned the language when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador. I hope I'm a model for people to be able to work together, live together, and create coalitions and alliances.
JIM CUNNEEN: Every time, in the state legislature, Mike has always supported the litigation lobbies...
SPENCER MICHELS: Honda's Republican opponent for congress in this Silicon Valley district is assemblyman Jim Cunneen. The two of them have debated often, tackling ethnic as well as general interest topics.
MIKE HONDA: I took a delegation to Taiwan...
SPENCER MICHELS: While Cunneen intends to run some radio commercials in Spanish, he says he wants to target individuals, not ethnic groups.
JIM CUNNEEN: I think whether you're a Latino, Asian, black, Indian, whatever it may be, in this valley, we're talking about people who, in many cases, work for high-technology companies or work in industries that are supportive of high-technology companies, and they know it's from a sound economy that all else flows.
SPENCER MICHELS: Several prominent Republicans, including Senator John McCain, have campaigned for Cunneen. At present, the race is seen as very close. Regardless of how Honda does, there is no question that there has been a surge in ethnic interest in politics in California. But the impact of that interest is not always clear-cut or simple, and often differs by which ethnic group is involved. In cities throughout California, like Cupertino, near San Jose, Asians, especially Chinese Americans, have just begun to be highly visible and to take an active part the community. But they don't yet have the political clout to match their growing numbers. They are trying to turn that around at events like the recent Moon Festival, attended by 50,000 people. Along with traditional dancing and food, a voter registration booth has become part of the festivities, as have appearances by politicians. Kenneth Fong, president and founder of the genetic materials firm Clontech, thinks it's time for Asian Americans to get moving.
KENNETH FONG: The Asians American are not the kind of people who are very vocal about what they want, and they just wait and see what happens to them. I believe now is the time for them to get involved with realizing the American dream. I think there's one way to go about doing that: To get the representation so that they can, you know, do their best to serve this country.
SPENCER MICHELS: Fong joined a two-year-old Asian American Political Action Committee called 80-20, which aims to get 80% of Asians to vote as a block and to raise money for candidates it thinks can help the Asians. Even before Wen Ho Lee's release, the controversy over his arrest was a factor in energizing the 80-20 PAC, and it has helped activate Chinese Americans to fight what they consider racism. Despite Lee's freedom, activists like Kenneth Fong remain outraged at his treatment.
SPENCER MICHELS: Are you saying that if Asian Americans had more political power and clout, that something like this wouldn't have happened?
KENNETH FONG: We believe that this case would not have happened to African Americans; probably would not have happened to Irish American, or Jewish American -- and if the Asian American would have more political clout, absolutely, yes.
SPENCER MICHELS: To build that power, Fong, a longtime Republican, has decided to vote for Democrat Al Gore for President, and to go along with most of his 80-20 colleagues, who endorsed the Vice President.
KENNETH FONG: I came out with the data showing that the Democrat, as it have in the past, nominate many more Asian American to decision- making positions than the Republicans. We should just go to vote for those who are more for the Asian Americans.
SPENCER MICHELS: But there is division among Chinese leaders about how monolithic the community should be politically. Lester lee owns Recortec, the oldest Asian American high-tech firm in Silicon Valley, where he manufacturers specialized computers. Lee is also a member of 80-20, and a Republican, but he's bucking the PAC's endorsement of Gore.
LESTER H. LEE: I probably will go for, you know, Bush. The only reason is because the fact that the Orientals, or the Asians, put, you know, moral value above everything else.
SPENCER MICHELS: In California, likely Asian American voters split 40% Democratic and 29% Republican, with a large number of independents. But Lee doesn't believe Asian Americans need to vote together to gain political power.
LESTER H. LEE: You know, if we are split 50- 50, okay, but you have a large number of people going out to vote, the parties is going to have to listen to you anyway.
SPENCER MICHELS: While Asians are still trying to figure out an effective political strategy, Latinos are further along, more organized, more monolithic. In California, 58% are registered Democratic, 25% Republican. The impetus for that imbalance, some analysts say, came in 1994, when former Republican California Governor Pete Wilson supported proposition 187, a measure that cut off social services for undocumented immigrants.
PETE WILSON: There are those who say that Pete Wilson did more to naturalize and register Latinos to vote than any civil rights group has ever done. Because he was perceived, and his policy positions were perceived, as a threat to this particular group, that group has mobilized, naturalized, and registered at levels that far exceed anything that had occurred in the past.
SPENCER MICHELS: As a rule, Latinos voters, like these at a Mexican Independence Day celebration in San Jose, have lower incomes and less education than their Asian counterparts, many of whom make a good living in the high-tech world. Latinos get into politics to push bread-and-butter issues like wages and health care.
GROUP (Chanting): San Jose, San Jose, we just need a living wage!
SPENCER MICHELS: Many have worked with unions on economic issues like this successful campaign to get a living wage in San Jose.
SPOKESPERSON: We want to wrap everything up next Friday.
SPENCER MICHELS: The South Bay Labor Council is working to get out the vote on behalf of Democratic candidates, and to insure a permanent political alliance with Latinos, who make up a large part of its membership. Latino politicians have concentrated on winning local battles, like using political pressure to build this recreation center and library in a poor section of San Jose.
CINDY CHAVEZ:...That the community is organized enough to have power and to be able to implement...
SPENCER MICHELS: City councilwoman Cindy Chavez, a Latino, meets with neighborhood groups often just to organize them so they can fight for what they want, and have a seat at the table with more established groups.
CINDY CHAVEZ: Imagine this: One of our most gang-plagued areas having no place for children to play after school is closed. I mean, it's unthinkable -- but, through the neighbors organizing and demanding of city hall -- that city hall take some leadership, we spent millions and millions of dollars to build two facilities for them. And the lesson is, the more we work together, the more we get listened to.
SPENCER MICHELS: This year, Latinos are being listened to and courted on the national level as never before. Both major party candidates made trips to California to woo the Hispanic vote, and to be seen with Hispanic state politicians. They still come, but not as frequently, since polls are now showing gore substantially ahead in the state. But even if the state is not in play, the Latino vote remains essential, according to Stanford's Luis Fraga.
LUIS FRAGA: One could argue no Democratic candidate can win nationwide without California, and no Democratic candidate can win California without overwhelming support among the Latino community.
SPENCER MICHELS: To be essential to election victory-- locally, statewide, and nationally-- is a position both Asian and Latino political leaders say is critical to their aspirations, so they are doing everything they can to get their communities organized.
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, essayist Richard Rodriguez of the Pacific News Service on the act of confession.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: His voice weak, but in no uncertain words, Pope John Paul II recently apologized for the role Catholicism has played in fostering anti-Semitism. (Speaking Latin) Several years ago, this same several years ago, this same Pope apologized to Latin American Indians for the colonial church's part in eradicating indigenous cultures. Curiously, at a time when the Pope makes such public confessions, fewer and fewer American Catholics are privately confessing their sins. For the last several decades since the second Vatican Council, when the Church admitted its need for widespread reforms, priests in the United States and western Europe especially have noticed declining numbers of Catholics going to confession. It could be that the moment a church starts admitting its failures, it looses a crucial aura of moral authority, thus loses the authority to judge and forgive. But might it also be possible that the reason fewer American Catholics are confessing their sins to a priest is because we are Americans? A recent study by Allan Wolfe of Boston College's Center for Religion in American Public Life found that a majority of Americans are disinclined to be strictly governed by moral teachers or teachings. We are more inclined to decide for ourselves what is good or bad. This same poll found that most Americans have an essentially sunny view of God. I remember as a child entering the dark confessional box. The panel window would be pulled back, and there, beyond the screen, would sit the priest in profile. I would begin the ritual cadence, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned." Everything said was whispered. Today we are accustomed to famous people confessing on TV.
SPOKESMAN: I have brought disgrace and humiliation and embarrassment upon you.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: Televangelists weep for their sins, the President confesses to sexual misbehavior, a baseball player says he is truly sorry for racist and anti-immigrant and anti-gay blabberings. It's unclear whether Americans want to hear so many public confessions, though clearly we are titillated. If you are willing to write about an incestuous affair with your father, a best-seller might result. In his elegant essay, "The Closing of the American Mind," the late Allan Bloom, the conservative philosopher, remarked that his students had almost no intimate sense of evil. The only reaction the students would give to that word was to speak of the Holocaust. Evil was something that happened overseas and to another generation. Though most Americans believe in their intrinsic goodness of their fellow human beings, the liberal theologian Rheinhold Neibuhr, in "Moral Man and Immoral Society," noted that when we are grouped together in vast social entities, we are willing to take actions like dropping a bomb on a village that we would never do as individuals. In recent years, Americans have demanded apology and penance from the federal government. Japanese Americans, for example, won reparations for their forced incarceration during World War II. And some African Americans want more than an apology for generations of slavery; they want financial compensation. In an earlier, more puritanical America, private sin was often accompanied by the public humiliation of the pillory. Today, Americans seem to expect from the public abstraction a kind of moral reckoning and pillory, but we are less sharply judgmental about our private lives. For myself, as a Catholic, I do not yearn for some pre-Vatican Council Church of my youth, boyhood lists of venial and mortal sins. But as an American, I sometimes wonder if there is not something too sunny about my conscience, and why it is that at a time when television is noisy with confessions, I so rarely say privately to people I know, least of all my God, "I'm sorry." I'm Richard Rodriguez.
JIM LEHRER: Again, the major stories of this Wednesday: Some 200,000 people took to the streets of central Belgrade. They proclaimed victory for the main opposition candidate in Yugoslavia's presidential election. U.S. Military leaders told a Senate hearing they were concerned about future readiness. And at another hearing, movie studio executives admitted violent films had been test-marketed to children. We'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you, and good night.
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 2000-09-27, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023,
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