The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
ROBERT MacNEIL: Good evening. Soviet President Andropov failed to show up today for a key Kremlin meeting, heightening speculation about his health and his grip on power. As Soviet leaders begin a week of important deliberations, we examine Andropov's role and the policy issues face. And we bring you up to date on another day of fighting and political maneuvering over Lebanon. Jim Lehrer's off; Judy Woodruff's in Washington. Judy?
JUDY WOODRUFF: And tonight, Robin, we have a look at the work of two masters. We review the legacy of painter Joan Miro, whose art spanned six decades, and we get a report on the ongoing work of one of America's most famous and most innovative architects, Philip Johnson.
MacNEIL: As the holiday weekend draws to a close tonight, winter weather is still making the going hazardous for many travelers going home. Travelers advisories were in effect virtually from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic. Freezing rain glazed roads across Idaho, and half a foot of snow fell on Alta, Utah. A total of 125 record low temperatures were set Sunday, many with the help of the wind-chill factor. So far at least 180 deaths have been blamed on the brutal cold this past week, many of them from exposure. The icy weather spread south this weekend, threatening tens of millions of dollars in damage to citrus and vegetable crops in Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Meanwhile, parts of the country watched the mercury creep upwards today for the first time in more than a week. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the temperature climbed to three degrees, the first time it's been above zero since the cold snap began. Today's flukey weather statistics contain this interesting fact: at 24 degrees. Anchorage, Alaska, was warmer today than parts of Florida. Judy?
WOODRUFF: In Lebanon, some of the heaviest fighting since the Israeli invasion has turned last week's ceasefire into nothing more than a memory. Druse leftist militias camped out in the mountains east of Beirut fired shells and rockets into the city in support of their Shiite Moslem allies who are fighting the Lebanese army. Since the shooting broke out Saturday near the nearby Palestinian refugee camp at Shatila, at least 55 people have been killed. At that time the Lebanese army took over two positions previously held by the French units of the multinational force in the army's continuing drive to extend its control over the greater Beirut area. The Shiites are trying to prevent that from happening because they believe the army favors the Christian militias. Here is a report from John Hale of Viznews.
JOHN HALE, Viznews [voice-over]: The fighting raged for four hours, paralyzing large areas of the city. Shiite militia took on the Lebanese army for control of positions around Sabra and Shatila, the refugee camps the French had abandoned on Friday. Italian troops, who patrol the fringes of the refugee camp area, were pinned down by the fighting, and one was hit by flying shrapnel. Antigovernment forces in the hills east of the capital also directed shell and rocket fire into the front lines. Some stray rounds hit Marine positions close to the airport, but the Marines did not return the fire. Mothers and relatives gathered outside one local hospital, desperate for information. But the fighting has broughy chaos, and facts are sketchy at best.
MacNEIL: Meanwhile, the announced plan of Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson to go to Syria to try to secure the release of an American pilot is ruffling official feathers in Washington. The Reverend Jackson said over the weekend he'd been invited by the Syrians to discuss the Middle East and Lieutenant Robert Goodman, the Navy pilot shot down in a U.S. raid on December 4th. Newsweek magazine today quotes Syrian Foreign Minister Abdel Halim Khaddam as saying that Goodman is being held in a comfortable guest house. Khaddam also said that when U. S. Special Envoy Donald Rumsfeld was in Damascus for talks two weeks ago, he never referred to Lieutenant Goodman.White House spokesman Mark Weinberg commented, "At the President's direction, diplomatic efforts are under way as they have been since Lieutenant Goodman's capture to secure his release. History," he said, "has proven that events of this type have a better chance for success when they are not politicized." Judy?
WOODRUFF: Syria is expected to be one of several Arab states upset with an initiative announced in Egypt yesterday. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ghali said that his government will encourage talks between the PLO and Jordan in the wake of PLO Chairman Arafat's visit to Egypt last week. The talks would be aimed at reviving President Reagan's 1982 plan -- that is, pressing Israel into negotiations for a Palestinian state linked to Jordan on what is now Israeli-occupied territory. Arafat and Jordan's King Hussein were discussing such negotiations last spring. But after Arafat failed to get the backing of even his own faction of the PLO, Hussein backed off. The Egyptians are hoping that Arafat will succeed this time because of the crisis within the PLO.Israeli Prime Minister Shamir, however, said in an interview released today that there is no chance for a revival of the Reagan initiative. Robin? Is Andropov In Power?
MacNEIL: Soviet President Yuri Andropov, who has not been seen in public since mid-August, failed to attend a key meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party today. That was unusual. So is the fact that the Soviet news agency Tass reported his absence, saying, "Yuri Andropov expressed his deep regret that because of some temporary causes, he was not able to attend the session." Western observers have been keenly awaiting this week of important Soviet government meetings for evidence of Andropov's health. Since he was last seen in public on August 18th, the Kremlin has said only that he was suffering from a cold. More recently there has been widespread speculation that he's more seriously ill with a kidney or heart ailment. Andropov could still appear at a meeting of the Supreme Soviet, or Parliament, which convenes on Wednesday. Failure to appear at either meeting would be unprecedented and suggest a serious illness. Judy?
WOODRUFF: One place Andropov will be seen is on the cover to Time magazine. Time has named the Soviet leader and President Reagan as its two men of the year, calling them contrasting key figures in a year of superpower confrontation.Time dubbed Mr. Reagan the Great Communicator, who gained the presidency through articulation of a personal ideological view on TV. Andropov, on the other hand, was the consummate Communist Party operative who attained power through maneuvering in the secretive Politburo. Mr. Reagan told the magazine in an interview that he was worried about Soviet military leaders who may have become a power on their own. He said they have been going public with attacks on the U.S., apparently without briefings by their civilian government. Andropov's failure to show up at today's meeting has set off renewed speculation among Kremlin watchers. To explain why we talk to an experienced analyst of Soviet affairs, Yuri Ra'anan. He is professor of international politics and chairman of the International Security Studies program at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Professor Ra'anan joins us tonight from the studios of public station WGBH in Boston. Mr. Ra'anan, is it significant that Mr. Andropov didn't show up at this meeting today?
URI RA'ANAN: Very significant. And it is of importance not only as far as his physical health is concerned, but even more so as far as his political health is concerned.
WOODRUFF: Now, what do you mean by that?
Prof. RA'ANAN: Well, appearance before the Central Committee is one of the great ceremonial occasions in which the elite gets a chance to see how well you're doing, how strongly you're entrenched, the guidelines they get -- whether to meet you with applause, stormy applause or standing ovation -- tell them how well you are entrenched and so on. Not to turn up at all is a very serious absence.
WOODRUFF: But we've been led to believe that there are really no decisions made at these meetings. Why then are they so important?
Prof. RA'ANAN: Well, it is true that the meeting is ceremonial. It codifies decisions that have been taken elsewhere. But the whole of the elite is there, the party secretaries from all over the country. And to be seen by them, to be applauded by them, to appear in their eyes to be completely in control is of great importance.
WOODRUFF: There were a number of appointments that were announced today to the Politburo. You've had a chance to look at those. What would you say the significance is?
Prof. RA'ANAN: Well, it's quite startling. You have suddenly a group of three people who are known to have been closely collaborating with one another for a number of years who have been given promotion. Mr. Solomentsev, who was the prime minister of the largest Soviet republic, the Russian Republic, and who languished as a mere candidate member of the Politburo for a dozen years, is suddenly made a full member and he is now in charge of the party control organization, which really imposes discipline on party members. His former deputy, deputy premier of the Russian Republic, who is now a full premier of the Russian Republic, and who was only admitted to being a candidate member of the Politburo six months ago, Mr. Vorotnikov, has now been made a full member. It's a startling promotion, very rapid one. And thirdly, the third member of the group, Mr. Ligachev, who has worked very closely with the other two in the Russian Republic on party organizational members -- matters, has now become party secretary. He is in fact in charge of personnel and appointments.
WOODRUFF: Well, what does all this say about Mr. Andropov?
Prof. RA'ANAN: Well, this group is, as it were, a third group. It is neither fully beholden to Mr. Andropov nor to his main rival, Mr. Chernenko. In fact, they all collaborated with a third personality who is no longer in the leadership, Mr. Kirilenko, and who had for a long time appeared to be the heir apparent to Mr. Brezhnev and suddenly left. Now, they are, as it were, a neutral group who suddenly seem to pose a very serious challenge for the leadership. Several of them are young -- not Solomentsev himself, he is 70; but the other two are in their late 50s and mid 60s, and their promotion therefore is of great importance.
WOODRUFF: What does all this add up to? What does it say about Mr. Andropov? Does it say that it's very unlikely that he's going to return or that he'll return at aull power?
Prof. RA'ANAN: Yes, I think you're right, it does. Now, there is a countermove, as it were, and that is, his successor as the formal head of the KGB, Mr. Chebrekov, has just been appointed to be a deputy member of the Politburo. But I think he is in fact being groomed to replace Mr. Andropov as general overseer over the secret police and the security services, because otherwise, if this were meant to be an addition to Mr. Andropov himself, he would now have no less than four secret policemen as full and deputy members of the Politburo, and that is almost unthinkable.There is one that hasn't been paid much attention to, the gentleman who represents Georgia in the leadership is himself also a former secret policeman, as well as Mr. Aliyev, who was recently promoted.
WOODRUFF: All right, thank you. Robin?
MacNEIL: The purpose of the meetings this week is to set Soviet policy for 1984. For a look at the foreign policy issues facing the Soviet decision makers, we turn to Stephen Larrabee, who served on President Carter's National Security Council. He's now vice president and director of studies at the Institute for East-West Security Studies in New York. First of all, how do you read the Andropov absence today?
F. STEPHEN LARRABEE: Well, I think, as Professor Ra'anan pointed out, it's extremely important and significant. After all, not only has he missed this important Central Committee meeting, but he also missed the October revolutionary ceremonies in October, and he's cancelled a number of important visits, including that of Prime Minister Jaruzelski, and postponed a trip to Bulgaria. So taken all together, it's quite clear that he is indeed quite sick.
MacNEIL: If he's so sick that he couldn't come to this meeting today, is it likely that he'll turn up on Wednesday, do you think?
Mr. LARRABEE: I would be very surprised, since the meeting today was far more important than the meeting of the Supreme Soviet.
MacNEIL: And what's your reading of the three appointments we've just been discussing?
Mr. LARRABEE: Well, I think there are three significant facts. The first one is that, as Professor Ra'anan pointed out, the three out of the four candidates are -- promotions are in fact Kirilenko protegees. Secondly I think what is significant is the fact that Mr. Chernenko, Mr. Andropov's rival, has in the past been in charge of party appointments. The fact therefore that these were not proteges of Mr. Chernenko but rather had an independent base, signifies that in fact Mr. Chernenko was not able to put forward his men.
MacNEIL: Which argues for some continued influence by Mr. Andropov, does it?
Mr. LARRABEE: Yes. And not only that, but I think what you are seeing here is an attempt by Mr. Andropov to use a third faction, shall we say, against Mr. Chernenko. After all, Mr. Vorotnikov had been moved up very recently in this summer into the -- as a candidate member of the Politburo, and could indeed be considered now somewhat of a protege of Mr. Andropov.
MacNEIL: To come to foreign policy, what are you looking for from the pronouncements that will come out of Moscow this week?
Mr. LARRABEE: Well, I think the most -- there are two significant things one ought to look at. The first is the tone and tenor of whatever is said about relations with the United States, which I would expect to be rather harsh in keeping with Soviet pronouncements over the last few months. And secondly, to look at the defense budget and to see if that does increase. I personally believe that there's a good chance that it will show some increase which reflects the Soviet Union's concern about relations with the United States and what they perceive as a military buildup on the part of the U.S.
MacNEIL: Some observers here say that relations between Moscow and Washington are at their worst since the days of the Cold War, late '50s, early '60s. Do you think that the Soviets themselves perceive them that way and are worried about them?
Mr. LARRABEE: Yes, I do. I think that they see -- they are worried about them. I think that part of their truculenceis a reflection of their great anxiety and their great concern, and I do think the relations are in fact in one of their worse states since the 1950s. On the other hand, I think it's important to remember that this current period and downturn in U.S.-Soviet relations in no way corresponds to what happened in the 1950s, is nowhere near as bad. After all, at that time you had the Berlin crisis; then in 1962 you had the Cuban missile crisis. And we're not --
MacNEIL: Real crises.
Mr. LARRABEE: Real crises. We have not reached that point yet. We have reached a point, I think, of very low degree of relations in which the rhetoric has been escalated significantly, but in terms of actual crises and substance I don't think we are anywhere near that point as in the 1950s.
MacNEIL: Well, thank you. Judy?
WOODRUFF: Turning now to the Soviet economy, the Soviet leaders have some relatively bright statistics to consider during their meetings this week. The gross national product in the Soviet Union increased nearly 4% this year, almost double the rates of growth in 1981 and '82. Also in the first 11 months of this year, the Soviets recorded more than a 4% hike in their industrial output. And Soviet agriculture reported its best grain harvest in the past five years. It's expected to top 200 million tons, some 10% higher than in years past. For a more detailed look at the Soviet domestic economy, we talk with one of the foremost experts in Soviet demographics and statistics, Murray Feshbach, senior research scholar at the Kennedy Institute for Ethics at Georgetown University. Mr. Feshbach headed the Soviet branch of the U.S. Census Bureau from 1967 'til '81. He now serves as a consultant with both the State and the Defense departments. Mr. Feshbach, in a speech that Mr. Andropov delivered to the Central Committee today in writing, he cited all this good news but then he said it's only a beginning. What did he mean by that?
MURRAY FESHBACH: Well, I think it's the beginning of much efforts that they have to do to turn around the Soviet economy.This one year is just an improvement on the basis of his first year in power when one would tend to see a certain amount of storming, that is, a push in the first year of a man's new administration, on top of a much lower base than they should have been at. For example, the agricultural figure, while they may be 10% higher, was still some 15% short of where it should have been, around 230 million instead of 200 million.
WOODRUFF: Well, now, most of the speech, in most of it he was tough on his audience. He cited poor productivity; he talked about the industrial sector not being efficient enough; there was a need for more technology. Do you think he was laying this down as a warning? What was the significance of this kind of tough language coming from him?
Mr. FESHBACH: Well, I think it's in line with many of the speeches that Brezhnev and others have given, even to Central Committee plenary meetings in the past. Nonetheless he's backing it up with his first initial administrative legislation on discipline and on productivity at the beginning of the year. However, things have not really improved enough that he can't omit it as part of his current speech, because they have a long way to go to improve industry, energy, agriculture, transportation, let alone the manpower issue.
WOODRUFF: Now, one of the things he cited in the area of consumer goods -- he said there were helf a million TV sets that were manufactured but that nobody wanted to buy them. Is that typical?
Mr. FESHBACH: Well, it's not typical to report it at a Central Committee meeting quite like this. Usually we see many reports of this in the retail trade materials, as domestic trade, where they have already purchased, let's say, five million pairs of shoes and they returned three million or whatever the number is because all the tops are bad on the shoes. To say that there was a wholesale fair, as he did in his statement today, that was remarkable and very unusual, meaning perhaps the situation is getting even worse.
WOODRUFF: Well, he also said that there were going to be more and better consumer goods. Do you think he's serious about that?Can he make that kind of a promise and make good on it?
Mr. FESHBACH: Well, it depends upon the plan in budget, the statement which will be presented to the Supreme Soviet in a few days which has been worked out by Gosplan, by state planning committee, by the ministry of finance and other interested organizations. I think he has a long way to go. The question will be the relationship of production of consumer goods relative to producer goods relative to defense products. And one has to see the outlines of that.
WOODRUFF: If we really are coming to the end of the Andropov reign, as our other guests have indicated, what will you be able to say that Andropov accomplished insofar as the Soviet economy is concerned?
Mr. FESHBACH: Personally I don't think there's been too much accomplished so far. I think he's getting ready for the Party Congress in 1986, or as one rumor has it, it might possibly be a year earlier, which would be fairly remarkable, because he's called out for a number of papers, as I understand it, to be prepared, submit it to the Central Committee for consideration at a major point in time when there could be changes in economic management. The other one decree which he did issue this year, major decree, was the initiative at five ministries, five industrial ministries, in icing down the line toward some changes. And they fairly typically do these kinds of experiments. And these five ministries out of the 40 or 50, depending on how one defines what the comparable scope is, in a sense was a change compared to the way it was before, giving more initiative to the ministries. But it's still not implemented nationwide and has a long way to go.
WOODRUFF: So some tightening up but nothing spectacular?
Mr. FESHBACH: That's basically the way I would summarize it also, yes.
WOODRUFF: All right, thank you.Robin?
MacNEIL: Professor Ra'anan, I read in one of the wire services today a diplomat in Moscow speculating that if Mr. Andropov was not there today and did not turn up on Wednesday, his chances of surviving in the leadership were remote. Would you go as far as that?
Prof. RA'ANAN: I think at the moment he looks as if he were on the critical list, politically as well as physically.
MacNEIL: What form would that take, politically, from here on?
Prof. RA'ANAN: Well, you know, we entered a period of transition really some months ago. We suddenly had the promotions, if you like, of two of the younger lions, Mr. Romanov and Mr. Gorbachev, and everybody said, "Ah, here are the successors." Then came the October Revolution festival, and during the march past, a new troika appeared. It's always three -- that's apparently the sacred number -- and it was actually Mr. Chernenko, Mr. Tikhonov, the prime minister, and Mr. Grishin, the man in charge of the Moscow party apparatus. And several of us said, "Ah, here is the succession." And now today, as we have discussed earlier on,we have a new troika appearing out of the blue. Clearly things are not settled. This is a very serious succession struggle, and we are right in the middle of it.
WOODRUFF: Do you agree with that, Mr. Larrabee, we're in the middle of a serious succession struggle"
Mr. LARRABEE: I think it's quite likely that we are. I think the most important fact is that whatever happens in terms of Andropov's health, that you are going to see a period of stalemate; that most of the people in the middle and higher echelons, as well as the lower echelons of the party apparat are unlikely to support a man whom they feel may not be around a year from now. I think it will be a period in which it'll be very, very difficult to take any major policy decisions, simply because of the uncertainty about Mr. Andropov's health as well as the fact that I think there'll be considerable political maneuvering behind the scenes, which in fact already seems to have begun.
MacNEIL: Do you want to get into this, Mr. Feshbach?
Mr. FESHBACH: Well, I'm not sure I agree that the succession has fully begun yet, the competition for it. I'm still willing to give him a little bit more time, although obviously how they get their groups together, how the decisions are made at these policymaking levels, we really don't know the gory details of the in-fighting. And while I think that certainly consideration is being given to it. I don't see quite how it will come out yet. It's too early.
MacNEIL: Professor Ra'anan, what do you see as the policy implications for the United States? Here you have the other big superpower about to announce its foreign policy and domestic policy for the next year. President Reagan is about to do the same in another month in his State of the Union. What are the implications in policy terms of what you see going on there for us"
Prof. RA'ANAN: There are three points I would like to make. First of all, I think -- and I'm sure Steve Larrabee agrees with me -- that this is a period in which major decisions are not made. They're not made because there is stalemate, because there is a succession struggle, and because nobody wants to stick out their necks. So there's a great deal of conservatism as far as East-West relations are concerned.The second point, the belief, which I think is made in Time magazine in President Reagan's name, that somehow the military have taken over the decision-making apparatus of the civilians, I think this is very incorrect. The party leadership keeps a very tight grip on the military, and although there have been several military promotions in military titles, to the title of marshal, there hasn't been a great deal of increase of military personnel on the Central Committee.Therefore there's no sign that the military are running the party. It's the other way around. That doesn't necessarily mean good news. Very often the hawks are the civilians, and not the military people at all. There is an internal policy matter, however, which I think should be watched very carefully. This new troika, which is based on the Russian Republic, is also deeply impregnated with Russian nationalism.And a term which has made its way in the last year, Prestupnost, which means merger -- which means the merger of the minorities in the Russian nation, which we would call forcible Russification of the non-Russian nationalities -- is likely to be one of the watchwords of this new group.
MacNEIL: What would you like to say are the policy implications? I know you've already begun to say it in foreign policy terms for usof this period now we're going into.
Mr. LARRABEE: Well. I think the most --
MacNEIL: Including the American elections.
Mr. LARRABEE: Right. I think the most important one is the fact that I foresee very few major policy decisions coming out of this period from now until the election. One, because of Andropov's health and the maneuvering that may be going on, the stalemate within the Soviet leadership. And two, because I think the Soviet Union is also going through a period of serious reassessment of its options both towards the United States, towards arms control in general, and I think this is to some extent probably been somewhat underestimated in Washington. And thirdly, of course, with an American election coming up there's not going to be too much that will -- major decisions that will be made out of Washington unless they are forced upon Washington from outside. I don't think that the Soviet Union, as I see it right now, the Soviet leadership has any desire to try to help President Reagan become -- get elected. And therefore I think they will, if you will, lay low until after the election, postpone any major decisions until then.
MacNEIL: Mr. Feshbach, in your field, the Soviet economy, wouldn't it be arguable that any reforms, as Mr. Andropov reiterated again today, the need for reforms in productivity, in quality, in more technology and so on, is going to step on toes, and he would have to have a lot of clout and a lot of power to be able to carry that through?
Mr. FESHBACH: Well, that's typically the case. The question is of the people in the State Planning Committee, the Ministry of Finance, the entrenched ministries themselves, whether they will cooperate with any major changes.I don't think he'll have an opportunity to do so in the near term 'til his health condition is settled, but the need for them is very profound. I don't think they can continue to muddle down. I think this one year of 1983, in fact, is almost an aberration to the long-term trend in decline in productivity, the problems in agriculture, the problems in major other sectors, again combining with the demographics, combined with the shortage of manpower coming up very broadly throughout the country in the north rather than in the south, however -- but in the north is where the industry is, and implications of this for social, economic, political and military aspects.
MacNEIL: Well, Mr. Feshbach, Professor Ra'anan, Mr. Larrabee, thank you for joining us. Judy?
WOODRUFF: In Japan, Prime Minister Nakasone was reelected today by naming a new Cabinet designed to satisfy his critics. They had blamed Nakasone for his party's sharp setbacks in recent national elections. Today's announcement ended two months of political chaos following the conviction of former Prime Minister Tanaka for taking bribes from Lockheed. Of the 21-member Cabinet, only two were permitted to keep their posts, the foreign and finance nimisters. And for the first time since Nakasone's conservative-leaning party took power 28 years ago, a member of an opposition party was given a Cabinet job, reflecting the alliance that party formed with Nakasone's party last week to give him a voting majority in the lower house of the Japanese Diet.
Elsewhere, Egypt lowered the price of its crude oil today, another sign that there is a surplus in the world market. Egypt is not a large producer, however, and analysts said they would pay more attention to what happens in Britain, which is under pressure from its customers to reduce the price of North Sea oil. We'll be back in a moment.
[Video postcard -- Duluth, Minnesota] Joan Miro
MacNEIL: Funeral services will be held tomorrow on the Spanish island of Majorca for the painter Joan Miro, who died there yesterday at the age of 90. Next Thursday Miro will be buried in Barcelona, the city where he was born in 1893. There's been a flood of tributes today to the enormous influence of Miro, one of the leaders of the surrealist movement of artists and writers that originated in Paris in the '20s. In particular, American critics have noted the strong influence of Miro on modern American painters and sculptors. Many of Miro's best known works are on exhibit in American galleries. In fact, more of his major works can be seen in this country than anywhere else.
[voice-over] Featured at the National Gallery of Art in Washington are such paintings as Miro's early oil, The Farm, painted in 1921, and Head of a Catalan Peasant from 1924. Also, Sooting Star from 1938. This tapestry, entitled Woman, was completed in 1977, and is one of the National Gallery's leading attractions. The Hirshhorn Museum nearby also features many of Miro's works, including this 1953 bronze statue, also called Woman, and also Moonbird from 1966.
Miro was not one to seek the spotlight, but he did occasionally speak about his work, as he did in this 1979 interview at the unveiling of a new set of his prints.
JOAN MIRO [through interpreter, 1979]: The noise of the machine excites me. We lift this up, and it makes my heart pound. It's like the birth of a new baby. This is a moving moment for me. This is a very moving moment for me. A very pretty baby, monsieur.
MacNEIL: For more on the significance of Joan Mior we turn to an American expert on his work. She is Carolyn Lanchner, curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art here in New York. First of all, I've seen Miro described today as an abstract surrealist. Could you just briefly tell us what abstract surrealism is?
CAROLYN LANCHNER: Well, I would -- in deference to Miro, let's just begin by saying that he might not describe himself as a surrealist. He didn't very much like to be typed or categorized, but indeed he is so thought of. And abstract surrealism -- well, surrealism itself divides into two camps, really -- the abstract and the illusionistic. The abstract is formally much more inventive and was much more influential in art outside the surrealist movement. It developed in the '20s in Paris, and its leading practitioners were Miro and Masson. The other side of the surrealist movement is exemplified by the work of Dali, Tanguy. In both kinds of surrealism it is the dream image that is being transcribed, but in the abstract methodology, it's -- the forms one sees are imaginative. And in the illusionist Tanguy -- Dali kind of thing -- well, not Tanguy so much, but Dali and Magritte -- you're in a landscape that you know, except you're disoriented because while you see the chairs and the watches are, for instances, melting, to take a famous image.
MacNEIL: Real things, but rather weirdly represented, whereas Miro's are strictly imaginary things.
Ms. LANCHNER: It's a kind of -- and formally the illusionistic surrealism relates really more to 19th century art than to 20th in many ways.
MacNEIL: How would you describe the importance of Miro in 20th century art?
Ms. LANCHNER: Well, he's perhaps -- he's certainly the most important painter that we associate with abstract surrealism.
MacNEIL: Would it be -- if you compared him to Picasso, for instance, who was not a surrealist, but in terms of importance and genius and talent, where does he rank in that kind of thing?
Ms. LANCHNER: I'd rather not do it that way. I think Miro we have to treat as unique and miro himself, and in the generation that came after Picasso he's perhaps one of the most formally inventive artists. If not the most formally inventive we have, and he certainly is the one that was able to make painting, to realize painting as poetry more than any other artist that we know in the 20th century.
MacNEIL: You've selected a number of his works for us to look at a little more closely, starting with The Birth of the World, painted in 1925, Way this painting and what does it say to you?
Ms. LANCHNER: Well, The Birth of the World is possibly the major example of a kind of way, a very important way he worked from around 1924 'til about 1929 or '30, in which he developed a technique that came out of the surrealist idea of automatic drawing, whereby images suggest themselves as the artists work. And for instance in this painting there is a -- the technique is blotting, staining, wiping with rags -- wholly improvisational, in a way that anticipates the abstract expressionist painting that happened here in the late '40s and early '50s.
MacNEIL: What about The Portrait of Mistress Mills in 1750, which was painted in 1929?
Ms. LANCHNER: Well, I thought that was kind of interesting because the audience can see how Miro takes, moves from the image that we all recognize that seems very conventional, to his own kind of world, and what he -- how he transposes that. And it's -- in his transposition he allows us any kind of way we want to read this woman. I've always sort of thought she's reading a love letter there. And it's interesting to see how he's taken her face and miniaturized it, given her necklaces; it's cropped at the bottom unfortunately on the right because we're -- Engleheart, who is the author of the 18th century etching, has shading and modeling; Miro has done some kind of interpenetration of yellow and black that's thoroughly modern, and quite marvelous.
MacNEIL: Let's look at one more, Hirondelle/Amour, which was painted in 1933 or '34.
Ms. LANCHNER: Okay, well, this is pure Miro, I think, for its exuberance of color, exuberance of form, of movement, where you have the Hirondelle/Amour written on the canvas and it functions simultaneously both as the message and as lettering. It also, I think it reminds me of what Giacometti said about Miro, that what was so wonderful about him was the sense of aerialness, of liberation. He had never encountered anything quite like it before. before he'd seen Miro.
MacNEIL: On that note, Ms. Lanchner, I think we have to leave it. Thank you very much.
Ms. LANCHNER: Thanks.
WOODRUFF: It was not a quiet weekend in Central America, where government troops in both Nicaragua and El Salvador attacked rebel forces. In Managua, the Sandinista government says its army launched a major sweep against rebels in northeastern Nicaragua. That's the region where American bishop Salvador Schlaefer last week led Indian refugees into Honduras. The Nicaraguans say there is heavy fighting going on near eight towns. One report says that both the government and the guerrillas, known as Contras, are suffering heavy casualties. And to the north in El Salvador, the government says it killed at least 50 guerrillas in weekend fighting. The U.S.-supported army reportedly used some 16 helicopters to carry 400 soldiers into rebel-held territory for the battle.
Looking back at today's news, for most people this was the final day of a three-day holiday weekend. But it was not the end of the bitter cold wave that has gripped the nation for nine days. Over 180 people were reported dead because of the record freeze.
Soviet leader Andropov did not show up at a meeting of the Communist Party's Central Committee. Andropov hasn't been seen in public since August. But his illness will not keep him off U.S. newsstands. The Soviet leader and President Reagan have been named time magazine's Men of the Year for 1983.
In Beirut, the tempo of fighting increased today as Lebanese army units battled Moslem militiamen for control of positions vacated by French troops in the multinational peacekeeping force.
And in Japan, Prime Minister Nakasone formed a new coalition government today following an election setback last week. Robin?
MacNEIL: And finally tonight, Charlayne Hunter-Gault looks at why one of this country's leading architects is having a change of heart about what he's been doing for the past 50 years. Charlayne? Philip Johnson
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The Times Tower in New York City's Times Square usually comes into the news about this time of year because of the thousands who flock to its base to ring in the new year. But this year the tower is in the news for a different reason: it may be torn down. At least that's part of a plan being proposed by an architect who wants to replace it and other less historic buildings in the area with towering office buildings with glass mansard roofs. The project is certainly going to be controversial. That's the nature of the man behind the idea.
[voice-over] These buildings created a revolution in modern architecture. These are two of the hands that designed that revolution. They belong to Philip Johnson, alternately praised and damned by critics, but never ignored. He has been called a genius, a restless, refreshing innovator. Others have called him fundamentally frivolous, mercurial. Wherever the truth lies, it has not affected Johnson, who at 77 is at the peak of his career.
PHILIP JOHNSON: We've never been so busy in our lives. It's awful. We're getting behind in our work. What we're doing over at Times Square, for instance -- how could you have a job more exciting in this entire world?
HUNTER-GAULT [voice-over]: His first building was his residence, the Glass House. Built in 1943, it changed the face of architecture in America with its pure form. Among many other Johnson buildings are the State Theatre at Lincoln Center, the Crystal Palace in Garden Grove, California, and the Seagram building in New York, which paved the way for two generations of glass towers.
Mr. JOHNSON: Now, that is the spirit of the international style, as we named it -- I named it -- 32 years ago, 40, no, 50 years ago, excuse me.And that dominated our postwar buildings. What we all envisioned was a brave new world where everybody would feel better behind glass walls because we could see out and be much more connected with nature, and incidentally it would be cheaper. And the result is that our cities are now -- look the way they do with these boxes, because they're all cheaper to build than Gothic spires or lovely Gothic buildings like the Woolworth building, or pointed buildings like the Chrysler building. It was very Calvinist, very negative, and we all revolted against it about the same time. We all agree, all us young architects, that so-called modern architecture was too cold and icy and flat. Frank Lloyd Wright used to call it flat-chested, no breasts, because it was all sheared and smooth with the glass up to the top and the top just cut off. It didn't seem human. That's not architecture; architecture is something that expresses itself emotionally and gives you a sense of thrill of some kind.
HUNTER-GAULT [voice-over]: Johnson's most daring break with the architectural ideas of his past was the American Telephone and Telegraph Company building in New York.
Mr. JOHNSON: The first thing we has to do was put a top on the building. And of course my first building with a top was the now famous AT&T building. It shocked everyone, six years ago only, when it first came out. This was a diffusion, a pluralism that came after the narrow religious belief, almost, of the international style, where the purity of the form was paramount. L've had people burst out into rage just by looking at the AT&T, because it denied all the principles of the older modern architecture.
HUNTER-GAULT [voice-over]: Johnson set about creating a more varied experience for people as they proceed through the city. He describes the process of moving through the different levels and shapes in a building as the processional, as seen in the AT&T building.
Mr. JOHNSON: How the processional works in a piece of architecture is the most important thing. That's one of the most dramatic processionals I've ever done. So you come in under Golden Boy -- that's the nickname for that enormous statue -- and then that enormous foyer, which is 60 feet high, you come into a 12-foot-high lobby to take an elevator which is only eight feet high. See, so to get to an 100-foot-high arch to come in, down to an eight-foot, nasty eight-foot elevator entrance, was the problem. And how do you do that with some grace and some interest while you're doing it? That's the processionalism in architecture.
HUNTER-GAULT [voice-over]: Johnson is accused of copying himself and others and of being overly influenced by his corporate clients. Responsible for many of the larger new corporate buildings around the country, Johnson sees it this way.
Mr. JOHNSON: Our nearest monuments are of course our corporative buildings. Maybe somebody will make a little comment about our culture someday about that. In the meantime I'm only a kept man around town, and I damn well do what the leaders, the most important people in our community say.
HUNTER-GAULT [voice-over]: An exception is the 68-year-old repertory theater in his hometown, Cleveland. He was invited to design a new theater.
Mr. JOHNSON: They wanted a good building and they have given me the free hand that I never dreamt of having in a building. So I've sort of gone, shall we say, way out. But I wanted to give my home city a monument that they'd be proud of.
GEORGE VOINOVICH, Cleveland Mayor: It certainly warms my soul and makes me proud to be mayor of this great city. But the rare beauty of the complex, we owe our thanks to Philip Johnson. a native son blessed with a genius for architecture. That Philip knows Cleveland, loves Cleveland, and understands Cleveland is reflected in the grace and power of the complex itself.
Mr. JOHNSON: I have a sister in Cleveland, Jeannette Dempsey, who's my severest and most interesting critic. And I can't forget what she said when she first saw these drawings. "At last," she said, "at last you've drawn a pretty building."
HUNTER-GAULT [voice-over]: Johnson was able to express his new ideas, the blending of different architectural periods and styles.
Mr. JOHNSON: I don't know, it's kind of eclectic, shall we call it, to be a more polite word of just a mess.And by mixing all this together you get a sort of a feeling that maybe it was built over time, that it was all mixed up -- we have towers and domes and hallways, and in that whole complex is a little jewel of a theater.
Mr. JOHNSON [in the theater]: But these balconies aren't real balconies.These balconies are only for light controls. We'll have to decorate the walls, you see, and make them count and give scale to the room. We put the fake balconies up there.
So we have this long wall where we'd also hang pictures, but it's a very clever processional into the room, and you can come in here where you like. You go from that narrow promenade into this rather wide, open gallery. Then you go into the main rotunda, which is unfinished. The dome is plain; it represents the sky, of course. The columns will be this big around.
This is all the wrong scale for a person. There's nothing unmodern about this whole place, except once in a while when I want to borrow something from Bernini, but that's the -- yeah, I thought a little reminiscence of international style wouldn't hurt anybody at all. And so to come back and do this is sort of a novelty to me. And then how kind of the people of Cleveland to give me enough money, even though they couldn't finish it, to give me enough money to create these elegant shapes. I mean, how could I have done it? They gave me carte blanche, didn't they? They never said you can't do that because it'd cost too much; we'd rather not finish it than spoil it. Now, that -- that never happened to me with a client before.
HUNTER-GAULT [voice-over]: Johnson was free to design the building without regard to cost. What the theater could not afford to build now would be finished later.
MR. JOHNSON: Well, we don't leave unfinished buildings in the commercial world. But in the world of art, when a building is finished makes very little difference. And in the great cathedrals it could be hundreds of years. And so maybe in 100 years we'll get our rotunda.
Now I believe we are getting more and more a sense of pride. I think this theater is a sample of it. I think the city of Cleveland, which has been starved for monuments, but for buildings of all kinds, will celebrate their commercial buildings, to be sure. But I just dare to hope that they will celebrate our monumental theater still more. The success of that design naturally gives me more courage to be crazier or whatever the word is, still.
HUNTER-GAULT: Having the freedom to make radical changes in his career may have helped set Philip Johnson apart, but at the same time these changes are a part of something bigger even than Philip Johnson, the changes that are reshaping the whole field of architecture. Here to explain in a little more detail is Paul Goldberger, architecture critic of The New York Times. A collection of his essays, called On the Rise, has just been published by Times Books. Paul, if Philip Johnson is having second thoughts about what he's been doing for the past 50 years, what does that say about the whole period?
PAUL GOLDBERGER: Well, Charlayne, Philip Johnson, I think, has always been a very good litmus paper for what's going on in the world of architectural building and thinking, both. And what's happening with him is part of something much better.We're in a very curious moment. In fact, we might almost say that right now, to be modern is to be old-fashioned and to be old-fashioned is to be modern. Philip Johnson proves that better than anybody, I think. We're beginning to give up on the belief that the whole idea of modernism is itself something modern, if that makes any sense.
HUNTER-GAULT: Modernism meaning all these glass towers --
Mr. GOLDBERGER: Meaning glass towers and sleek, fresh, austere buildings without a great deal of ornament. We're much more interested today in things that relate more directly to a much longer and deeper past. One of the real fallacies of modernism was that it kind of tried to reinvent the world. It began with this notion that there really was no history, that the world began when the modern architects said it began, at a certain time in the '20s.
HUNTER-GAULT: When the Philip Johnsons of this world began.
Mr. GOLDBERGER: In fact, indeed, Philip Johnson was one of the great -- not the very first generation of modernists, but one of the great second-generation modernists, building on Mies van der Rohn and Walter Gropius and of Corbusier. And we don't believe in that antihistoricism anymore.
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, how did it happen that after 50 years or so, modernism did fall from grace, as it were?
Mr. GOLDBERGER: Well, it wasn't really so simple as one day everyone woke up and said we don't like glass boxes anymore. Except it isn't quite something altogether different either. I think what happened was that the general public never really appreciated glass boxes, that world of austere towers -- and we really don't have to even focus on the glass box so much; we can also focus on the red-brick public housing project, which is just as potent a symbol of modernism's mistakes as the glass office tower is, or the Holiday Inn, or any of a dozen other symbols of modernism. It was never really very satisfying to our society as a whole. Architects finally began to realize that it wasn't working. I think they were pushed by a number of people even before Philip Johnson. There were some architects who were beginning to do other things back in the '60s. Robert Venturi, an architect who is a very great theorist and writer as well as a great architect, wrote a brilliant book in 1966 called Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Jane Jacobs, the city planner, wrote a very important book called Death and Life of Great American Cities, saying wait a minute now, what about neighborhoods and old-fashioned buildings and plain old stoops and so forth. All that stuff together began to have an effect. Philip Johnson was the first major establishment figure to say, "You know what, maybe all these kids" -- as Johnson persists in calling anybody under 70 -- "maybe all these kids something to say. Maybe they're right."
HUNTER-GAULT: And of course he was working in concert with other architects even on all these projects. We can talk about it.
Mr. GOLDBERGER: Yes, indeed. In fact, his partner, John Burgee, who has been his partner on all the work we just saw in the short tape, has been a very important force in helping him shift his ideas and develop them.
HUNTER-GAULT: Michael Graves is an architect whose name comes up in terms of this radical new departure. Now, he has a building in Portland, Oregon, the Portland building.
Mr, GOLDBERGER: Right.
HUNTER-GAULT: What is fifferent about it?
Mr. GOLDBERGER: Just about everything, in fact.
HUNTER-GAULT: Pop surrealism, I think they called it.
Mr. GOLDBERGER: It's been called pop surrealism; it's been called Cubist classicism, which I like a little bit better because it's a kind of a mix of classical ideas and Cubism really, a kind of a collage that we might almost think of as coming out of Cubism. It certainly isn't a glass box, it certainly isn't sleek or austere. It's full of ornamentation and color and things like that.
HUNTER-GAULT: What about the AT&T building that we've been talking about all evening? One of the things that some critics have called it is the first Chippendale skyscraper.
Mr. GOLDBERGER: Right.I think I was that critic, in fact.
HUNTER-GAULT: Were you the critic? Is it that top of the building that makes it part of this radical --
Mr. GOLDBERGER: The top, bottom and the middle. But the top and the bottom most of all. AT&T is a much -- has turned out in the end, in spite of all the brouhaha when its design was made public in 1978, and everyone said, "Oh, God, what a horrible thing, and Philip Johnson is destroying architecture and he's destroying New York" -- it was the most notorious unbuilt building for many years. When it was finally built, it's turned out in fact to be not quite so bizarre as everyone feared. The bottom is a very grand and noble classical statement. I think those great arches have a great civic presence. They're a monumental place for all of us, and very beautiful. Not so bizarre. I mean to contrast it to the Portland building, whether one likes the Portland building, as I generally do, although with reservations, or doesn't, it's an unusual building, it's a bizarre form. AT&T is not. AT&T in the end is really kind of a building.
HUNTER-GAULT: You take both of them together along with other buildings that symbolize this break in tradition, and the critics say that it's arbitrary, that it's narcissistic. Do you agree with that? And do you think -- where do you think it's going?
Mr. GOLDBERGER: Well, bad architecture is always arbitrary. And the poorer examples of this so-called postmodern movement are arbitrary and they are narcissistic. But the better examples manage to sort of struggle beyond those impulses, I think to bring out real architecture. All architecture has been a little bit narcissistic. Even so great a building as the Seagram building, which Philip Johnson did with his original mentor, Mies van der Rohe, is narcissistic in one way.I mean, part of it is saying, "Look at how wonderful I am," but it also elevates and ennobles us and brings us beyond those sort of selfish impulses into something much grander. And the best architecture today still does that.
HUNTER-GAULT: So are we through with the glass towers, and are we going to see more Chippendale skyscrapers?
Mr. GOLDBERGER: I don't know if we'll see any real Chippendale skyscrapers again. We're through with the boring glass boxes. What we're going to see, I think, are two things. We're going to see more buildings that have bits and pieces of history, like the Chippendale skyscraper or the Portland building, and we'll see more buildings that use modern materials like glass but in much more interesting ways and more unusual shapes, with setbacks and funny silhouettes and unusual profiles, so as to evoke a kind of picturesque feeling.
HUNTER-GAULT: All right, thank you very much, Paul. Robin?
MacNEIL: Thank you, Charlayne. Good night, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Good night, Robin. That's our NewsHour for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you and good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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- The episode first covers conflict amongst the Lebanese army attempting to gain influence in Beirut. Also included is information on the continuing Israel-Palestine conflict with Yasser Arafat and the PLO, Soviet President Yuri Andropov who has failed to make several public appearances, and an interview with Uri Raanan, Murray Feshbach, and F. Stephen Larrabee about Reagan, Andropov, and foreign relations between the US and the Soviet Union. The next segment covers the legacy of artist Joan Mir, discussed by Carolyn Lanchner. Next discussed is the proposed destruction of the Times Tower by the modernist architect who helped design it, Philip Johnson. Johnson is interviewed discussing modernist architecture, his career, and changing architectural theory. Also interviewed is Paul Goldberger, architecture critic, about Johnson, the waning belief in modernism in the same vein as Jane Jacobs, and historic preservation issues.
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Identifier: NH-0081 (NH Show Code)
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Identifier: NH-19831226 (NH Air Date)
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- MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1983-12-26. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_507-qn5z60cr8n>.
- APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_507-qn5z60cr8n