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JIM LEHRER: Good evening this King holiday. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour tonight, Gwen Ifill sorts through the confederate flag controversy in South Carolina, Terence Smith examines the White House effort to insert anti-drug messages into TV and movie scripts, Lee Hochberg reports on working safely at home, Ray Suarez runs a discussion about the difficult US-Iran relationship, and poet laureate Robert Pinsky recites a poem in honor of Martin Luther King. It all follows our summary of the news this holiday Monday.
JIM LEHRER: High-level peace talks between Syria and Israel were postponed today. Instead, the two sides agreed to send lower-ranking officials to Washington to work on a draft agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Barak's office made the announcement. Another round of negotiations had been scheduled to start Wednesday at Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Syria wants Israel to withdraw completely from the Golan Heights. In return, Israel wants normalized relations and security arrangements. Nearly 50,000 demonstrators marked the Martin Luther King holiday by marching on the South Carolina statehouse. They said the confederate flag that flies over the building is a painful reminder of slavery and racism. The head of the NAACP called for removing it.
KWEISI MFUME: We hold ourselves together by holding on to the belief that we will win, that we will be victorious, that history will record our deeds and record our acts as noble, as Americans who sought to do away with this hypocrisy and to lift instead in its place the kind of symbol that unifies us and brings us back together.
JIM LEHRER: The NAACP has been advocating a tourism boycott of South Carolina until the flag comes down. We'll have more on this story right after the News Summary. Elsewhere on this King day, hundreds gathered for the annual service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The assassinated civil rights leader had preached there. The King family was joined at the service by Vice President Gore and other officials. Reverend King's daughter, Bernice, urged Americans to overcome what she called a spirit of selfishness. Around the country there were blood drives, neighborhood cleanups, and other events marking the holiday. In London today, British drug companies Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham announced plans to merge. Together, they would create the world's largest pharmaceutical firm, Glaxo SmithKline; the deal is worth $76 billion. Medicines for asthma, aids, and depression are among their many products. The merger is subject to approval by the European Union and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Russia's campaign in Chechnya showed no signs of letting up today, despite claims of growing casualties. We have this report from Julian Manyon of Independent Television News.
JULIAN MANYON, ITN: As the siege of Grozny goes on, the Russians are being accused of trying to conceal the scale of their losses. Clashes are taking place daily around the city and the Russians continue to insist that their casualties are light. But as we entered Chechnya with armed guards in our car, an organization representing the soldiers' mothers said the army is lying. It says that about 3,000 soldiers have died so far, six times the official figure. The Russians are still pouring men and equipment into Grozny a couple miles over there. But for all their firepower, they have not been able to completely cut off the city. The Chechen rebels are still able to shift through the Russian lines and carry out guerrilla attacks. Further South, fighting is going on near the town of Shali. Helicopter gunships are blasting rebel positions in the mountains. Shali itself is a ghost town with Russian armor moving by day and the rebels coming in at night. The Russian army has occupied much of Chechnya, but does not have real control.
JIM LEHRER: Russia's acting President Putin met today with European diplomats and appealed for their understanding. They urged him to end the offensive in Chechnya. Chile has elected a socialist president. Ricardo Lagos narrowly defeated a conservative rival in yesterday's election. He said he would let the courts decide the fate of former dictator Augusto Pinochet, if he returns home from Britain. Pinochet has been judged too sick to stand trial in Spain for human rights abuses during his rule. And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to the confederate flag in South Carolina, anti- drug messages in scripts, working safely at home, U.S.- Iran relations, and a King day poem.
JIM LEHRER: Now the White House deal with television networks on anti-drug messages in entertainment programming. Media correspondent Terrence Smith has our look.
TERENCE SMITH: This anti-drug reference in ABC's Home Improvement was no accident.
ACTOR: Your life's on track now. You don't want to do stuff that will get you off track. You have got so much going for you. You have got so much to lose. I mean, how about your soccer scholarship?
ACTRESS: And the trust of a family who loves you.
TERENCE SMITH: It's one of a number of storylines, partly choreographed by the office of the White House drug czar in its media war against the use of illegal drugs. Since 1997, a campaign spearheaded by General Barry McCaffrey and his National Drug Control Policy Office, has involved all six major broadcast television networks.
SPOKESMAN: Hey, what you doing?
CHILD IN COMMERCIAL: I'm just lighting up.
SPOKESMAN: You can't smoke pot inside of here.
TERENCE SMITH: Reviewing more than 100 scripts of popular shows such as NBC's City Guys, the office has encouraged the insertion of forceful anti-drug messages.
SPOKESMAN: We need a ambulance.
DISPATCHER: Please try to calm down.
TERENCE SMITH: Here's how it works. The networks in exchange for millions of dollars worth of paid advertisements like these from the government were required to also run public service announcements for free. When the networks found the financial burden heavy, the administration came up with a new ringer: They would give the networks credit for part of their legal obligation if they would include a suitable anti-drug theme in the plot line of their entertainment shows.
ACTOR: They were hungry because they were smoking marijuana.
ACTRESS: There were drugs at our house?
ACTOR: Dope?
TERENCE SMITH: This allows the networks to then sell more advertising time to top-dollar corporate sponsors. That has critics such as Pat Aufderheide, who teaches communications in the public interest, fuming. She worries about what she calls the slippery low pressure of government propagandizing through the private entertainment industry.
PAT AUFDERHEIDE, American University: This is an ugly little moment in American media because both sides have a lot to be ashamed of. The networks did a deal with the federal government where they negotiated the content of the programming that they would carry, and they got a nice tidy chunk of change out of it. They did well, they were rewarded. And the government went in and dangled a nice very big fat carrot in front of the private media, mass media services, and got its message out.
TERENCE SMITH: President Clinton defended Drug Czar McCaffrey's efforts, saying the arrangement is good business for the networks and good for kids.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: There was no attempt to regulate content or tell people what they had to put into it. Of course, I wouldn't support that. But I think he's done a very good job at increasing the sort of public interest component of what young people hear on the media, and I think it's working. We see drug use dropping.
TERENCE SMITH: Meanwhile, despite the drug office study showing the campaign reaching young people, ABC, over the weekend, announced it has stopped trying to collect government financial credits for anti-drug messages in programs such as this one. ABC officials said they made their decision after President Clinton's drug advisor asked the see scripts before shows were aired.
TERENCE SMITH: Joining us to continue the debate about the White House anti-drug media campaign are Dr. Donald Vereen, the psychiatrist who is deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Jeff Loeb, principle and creative director of Katz & Loeb Advertising, who has been making both corporate ads and public service announcements for the past 20 years.
Welcome to you both.
Jeff Loeb, let me ask you first. What's wrong with this arrangement?
JEFF LOEB: Well, I think this is a cases of good people inadvertently stumbling into a situation in which the appearance of collusion suggests a host of First Amendment government propaganda issues that are probably inappropriate, given the subject matter.
TERENCE SMITH: Government propaganda?
JEFF LOEB: Well, if you consider what a commercial advertiser tries to do in this situation, they try and put their products into programs - we call that product placement - as a way to influence behavior in a less measured or a less obvious fashion.
TERENCE SMITH: In other words, put a can of Coke in the - on the table in the scene orsomething like that?
JEFF LOEB: What I think the government has done in this case is created a new genre called anti-product placement, which is where what you're doing is you're paying people not to do a specific behavior in the context of a program. It looks collusive; it looks bad; it makes people in my business wonder are things going to get harder for us to be credible and be trusted for the messages we put out?
TERENCE SMITH: Dr. Vereen, what do you think of that, of those points, and of the credibility issue?
DR. DONALD VEREEN: It's, first of all, important to understand that the drug issue is a public health issue. It's no different than seatbelts; it's no different than campaigns to get people to take their high blood pressure medicine. What we've done is to come up with a media campaign that's based on science and used the creative community to get messages out there. We work with advertising experts to take scientifically-based facts and present them to the young people today in a way that they can get these messages clearly. The messages - the anti-drug messages - the anti-drug help messages are captured better in programming. We know that from research. You get the message from ads, and then the messages get an extra oomph when they're in - and they're a part of what a kid's favorite character would say on television.
TERENCE SMITH: And research tells you this?
DR. DONALD VEREEN: Certainly. And we've been working with the creative community for a number of years, even before the media campaign started. I'm a doctor. I used to work at the National Institutes of Health at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. We've been working with network executives, writers, and producers to get scientifically-based facts to the creative community, and they take that information and turn it into creative stories that get the true message out there. These ads are not just superficial. Everyone has at its heart a scientifically-based fact that's important for the prevention of drug abuse in this country for young kids.
TERENCE SMITH: Incidentally, I should point out to you both that we did ask representatives of the networks to come on and discuss this, and none was available today. Jeff.
JEFF LOEB: I don't disagree with Dr. Vereen. This is a clever media strategy in the sense that we know that to build a brand, or in this case an anti-brand, which is saying we don't like drugs, ubiquity, which means we're putting our message in surprising, unexpected places is effective. But we also know that children, in particular, from studies, repeated studies done, tend to resist messages they view as being deliberately targeted to them. When I said at the beginning that I view this as an inadvertent exercise, an inadvertent misstep, what I was really saying is that instead of publicly disclosing this at the front and saying we're going ahead with this, we're putting a credit at the end of the program to say this was prepared in cooperation with the government, what they've created is a situation where kids are going to say, oh, boy, they're trying to manipulate me, and we know from repeated exercises that that's not effective.
TERENCE SMITH: And you think kids are so either sharp eyed or cynical that they would spot that?
JEFF LOEB: I think kids are conditioned right now to the manipulative nature of advertising in a way that even our generations could never understand. And I think it's really important that when you do things geared to their interests, which this is a legitimate public policy interest, that you disclose them. One other point. The fact is that the reason this is a problem is not so much related to the product. I quite ago with Dr. Vereen that drugs are a heinous evil. The question is at what point do you draw the line. If it's okay to do this in this case, which is anti-product placement, is it okay to do it for tobacco? If it's okay to do it for tobacco, is it okay to do interesting for AIDS? If it's okay to do it for AIDS, is it okay to do it if there's a conservative administration that comes in that says it's going to be okay to do it for anti-abortion? If it's okay for the federal government to do it, what about the states? The lotteries are there to basically support the schools. What happens if the states start asking, well, we'd like to insert pro lottery messages into our commercials? They've entered into a situation which is difficult to control because the precedent is so unfortunate.
TERENCE SMITH: Dr. Vereen, that's the question. Where does it stop? And as part of that, let me ask you explicitly, as far as you know, does the government provide financial incentives now to the networks to insert any other messages of the kind that Jeff Loeb was just talking about?
DR. DONALD VEREEN: I can answer the question by explaining very quickly the media campaign. There are media buys for ads. That occurs in April and May of every year for the following season that starts in September. According to the federal government, and it's here in the law, Congress in its wisdom said that if we're going to pay for prime time ad time to get the messages out, that's when kids are watching the television, then you're going to have to match that with a public service obligation, that is separate from the ad buys. There's a menu of choices that each network has to satisfy that obligation. It can come in the form of ads, not only the ones that we've created, but also other public service groups that are related to the drug issue can get credit. Programming is another way to satisfy that requirement. ABC itself came up with the idea of creating a web site so that kids and their parents could get information about the drug issue. They came up with their idea on their own, and they got credit for it. They made the argument and they got credit for it.
TERENCE SMITH: When you say they got credit for it, there was financial credit?
DR. DONALD VEREEN: No, it's a public service obligation credit. Now, there's a value attached to it, but how they choose to satisfy that obligation is up to them. We make it very clear what counts and what doesn't count.
TERENCE SMITH: Well, now, this weekend you noticed that ABC decided it didn't want to do this anymore. The president of ABC said she was uncomfortable with it. I mean, what's the message there?
DR. DONALD VEREEN: The message there is that what ABC did is they satisfied their obligation completely with ads, but they also had tense tens of millions of dollars worth of programming that would also count.
TERENCE SMITH: Tens of millions of dollars?
TERENCE SMITH: Jeff Loeb, that's a big bottom line. Let Jeff Loeb comment on that.
JEFF LOEB: I want to say again, I don't view this as being deliberate or necessarily something that anybody went out of their way to be manipulative. I think it's unfortunate. And when we've hired a general to run the nation's war against drugs, you expect a general to bring all the resources at his disposal to bear on the issue. I think the precedent that's been set and the notion of the government even having any form of review of creative materials and then havingit come out in this way is wholly unfortunate and needs to be addressed in a measured and reasonable fashion.
TERENCE SMITH: Dr. Vereen, let me bring you back to that earlier question. Are there now messages in programming that had been agreed with the networks against tobacco or any other substances that we don't know about?
DR. DONALD VEREEN: I'm sure there are. I watch television every now and then, and there are messages out there that are within our message platform that haven't come to us. They probably could count.
TERENCE SMITH: How are we supposed to sort out what is the narrative as presented by the producers and what is encouraged by the government?
DR. DONALD VEREEN: This is a voluntary program. The satisfaction of the public service aspect of this is purely voluntary. We have no control over it. We just communicate what's expected, what the requirements are, and then it's reported to us.
TERENCE SMITH: All right. Jeff Loeb, Dr. Vereen says that probably there are other messages. So where do you stop?
JEFF LOEB: When the doctor was talking about what's called the upfront buy in media, which is when the networks sit down with the big advertisers and talk about how much they're going to cost, there is no real rate card cost; there's no set cost. It's all negotiable. What the networks have done, at least from everything I've read, and admittedly this is a story that's spun wildly out of control, is they've proposed an alternate way to satisfy their financial obligation to the government. That suggests something of a collusive nature -- voluntary or not -- the networks are interested first and foremost in making money.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay. Thank you both, Dr. Vereen, Jeff Loeb. Thanks very much.
JIM LEHRER: Safety at the home office-- Lee Hochberg of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
MATTHEW BRACKMAN: Your Canadian order form is en route to you.
LEE HOCHBERG: Matthew Brackman is a Seattle graphic designer. He does traditional work, at an untraditional place.
MATTHEW BRACKMAN: This room doubles as our studio, band rehearsal spot every once in a while, and storage.
LEE HOCHBERG: He works on contact in this home office 30 hours a week. A provocative Halloween costume hangs on the wall. There's a laundry basket on the floor, and electrical cords and phone wires hanging-- not a problem for Brackman. Twenty-five million Americans enjoy the freedom that comes with working from home. That's twice the number of a decade ago. About 11 million are telecommuters, working for somebody else, but staying in touch by telephone and computer. Another 14 million run their own businesses from a home office. But a recent ruling from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, raised questions about whether safety guidelines are needed, and fears about how they might be implemented.
MATTHEW BRACKMAN: There's always guidelines you have to live with, but in my home, I get to make my own guidelines. That's part of why I work at home, because I get to make my guidelines.
LEE HOCHBERG: The controversy started when a Texas company asked OSHA for rules on home-based employees. The agency's response said, "All employers, including those which have entered into work-at-home agreements with employees, are responsible for complying with safety and health standards." That suggested to some, the specter of government auditors roaming home offices. House Majority Leader Dick Armey called it "an outrageous extension of the Washington bureaucracy." Senator Christopher Bond, chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, said "it gives the federal government a license to stage an in-home invasion." The Labor Department quickly withdrew the OSHA letter, saying it was not a broad policy statement. But it emphasized employers are responsible for all employees' working conditions. So what does all this mean? Is an employer responsible if an at-home employee trips and falls on a toy left in the middle of the hallway -- or what about the employer of the Seattle writer who has this home office... ten rungs up a ladder to a loft with no fire escape?
RON JUDD: From our perspective, there are some things out there that are happening that are clearly unsafe.
LEE HOCHBERG: Labor leaders like Ron Judd of Seattle say OSHA should examine the employer's role in home office safety. He says the virtual explosion in the number of at-home workers-- some using power tools and chemicals in haphazard workspaces-- will lead to injuries.
RON JUDD: If I'm producing a product for an employer on a shop floor, that employer is responsible for the safety and health of me as a worker. Now if that employer asks me to move that out into my garage and to produce the same product, wouldn't the employer still have some sort of responsibility and accountability?
MATTHEW LYNCH, Washington Employers: The government has to realize that there are limits to what employers can do.
LEE HOCHBERG: Business leaders, like Matthew Lynch of the trade group Washington Employers, say they can't assume liability for home offices over which they have limited control.
MATTHEW LYNCH: To be exposed to possible citations and fines by the federal government really is untenable.
LEE HOCHBERG: Offices like Brackman's, for example, might trigger a rash of citations.
MATTHEW BRACKMAN: The thing that I'd be most hesitant about OSHA with would be the number of appliances I have plugged into an electrical outlet. I don't have orthopedic chairs, I don't have good lighting. There's a lot of things I don't have.
LEE HOCHBERG: You don't have a chair.
MATTHEW BRACKMAN: I don't have a chair, for that matter, right, exactly.
LEE HOCHBERG: Employers say rather than monitoring home offices, it would be easier for them to simply eliminate the employee option of telecommuting. That would be an unfortunate life shift for Bob Kerns of Portland, Oregon. Since his daughter Maggie was born 16 months ago, he's happily brought his writing work from the Lycos Company home. He's written web pages while caring for his daughter. It's a family-friendly example of the best of telecommuting.
BOB KERNS: I remember one time, I just went downstairs to take a little five-minute break, and my wife was giving Maggie a bath in the sink, and I pulled out the videotape camera and got some footage of her doing that, and then put it away, and five minutes later, I was back at work. So, I mean, those kinds of experiences are impossible in any conventional job.
LEE HOCHBERG: It's not just at-home employees who fear losing their freedom, but the soaring number of people who actually run their own businesses from home. To stay close to her daughter, Mary Chalker operates a picture frame shop from her Seattle-area house. She can't see why the government would be concerned about that.
MARY CHALKER: I don't think they have the right to come in and regulate this operation, where it's just me. If I had employees, I wouldn't question that. I don't think I need the government to protect me from myself.
LEE HOCHBERG: The Labor Department has called for a national dialogue to develop rules that make sense for the changing the 21st- century workplace, and will soon convene meetings with business and union leaders.
JIM LEHRER: Now soccer and diplomacy between Iran and the United States and to Ray Suarez.
RAY SUAREZ: From the sounds of the pro-Iranian crowd to the sights of the ubiquitous red, white, and green flags, it was hard to tell Iran was the visiting team yesterday afternoon in Southern California. In the third match of its soccer diplomacy tour of North America, the Iranian national soccer team took on its U.S. counterpart at the Rose Bowl. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. The crowd was mostly made up of Iranian Americans, a slice of the nearly one million now living in this country. And amid gestures of goodwill by both teams, the question for many of fans was whether a soccer game would help move the ball forward on improving relations between the two countries. But so far, soccer has not had that political effect between Iran and the country it calls "The Great Satan." There have been no diplomatic relations since the 1979 hostage crisis. Just two months ago, crowds shouting "Death to America" were on the streets of Tehran to mark the 20th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy by Islamic militants. There have been some diplomatic overtures of late. The Iranian government led by President Mohammed Khatami, elected in a landslide in 1997, has endorsed expanded personal and cultural ties. But it's been more cautious about resuming diplomatic relations. American officials have made some reciprocal gestures. But as Defense Secretary Cohen said last fall, there are conditions.
WILLIAM COHEN: With respect to Iran, we watch Iran very closely and have indicated that we would like to have a better relationship with Iran, but for this to take place, there must meet at least three conditions. Iran must stop supporting terrorism, it must stop undermining the Middle East peace process, and it must stop trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
RAY SUAREZ: Today, the "New York Times" reported that the CIA believes Iran might be able to make a nuclear weapon. Washington has been monitoring the evolution of Iranian politics and society, to see how far President Khatami can advance internal reforms and more personal freedom over the objections of more conservative clerics. The man President Khatami shares power with, spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini, has officially endorsed Khatami's reform agenda, while opposing diplomatic relations with the U.S.. At the same time, one of the country's most powerful clerical groups, the Council of Guardians, has blocked the candidacy of dozens of pro-Khatami reform candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections next month.
For more on U.S.-Iran relations, we get three views. Robin Wright is a correspondent for the "Los Angeles Times" and the author of the new book "The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran." She was last in Iran in November. Bahman Baktiari is an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine. He was last in Iran this past October, and was at the soccer game yesterday. Kenneth Timmerman used to run the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, a nonprofit organization that focused on human rights in Iran. He is currently a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland. Well, I guess let's start in the most obvious place. Robin Wright, do these games, events like these games matter? Are they important in telling the story of the evolution of the relations of these two countries?
ROBIN WRIGHT: Well, I think they're critical. I think they offer a chance for both Iranians and Americans to get to know each other again after two decades of hostility. I think they're also a microcosm of the changing mood in both countries. In the United States, a recent poll showed that 91% of Americans are prepared to allow a dialogue between the United States and Iran and that 80% would actually be prepared to engage in concrete concessions to renew relations with a new moderate president. In Iran, everyone I've interviewed has indicated varying degrees of interest in renewing relations with the United States. So I think there is for the first time a genuine appetite. But I think it also has to go slowly, just as relations were renewed between China and the United States almost 30 years ago the same way, through ping-pong diplomacy. This is a way for some kind of human contact to pave the way through diplomatic contact.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor, the game ended in a tie. But maybe there was some interesting action in the stands. What can you tell us about being there?
BAHMAN BAKTIARI: I think one of the important aspect was that for the first time I saw a huge number of Iranians gathered together, regardless of their political viewpoints. And I think I agree with Robin. Another important aspect of these games is that it's bringing the Iranian community in the United States together. It's a very much unifying theme. They all were cheering for their country. So I could not see but positive results coming out of these games.
RAY SUAREZ: So regardless of affiliation back in the home country? I know the Los Angeles area is home to a large monarchist group. Many of the Jews who left Iran during the revolutionary period settled in Southern California. But once they were inside the Rose Bowl, they were all Iranian?
BAHMAN BAKTIARI: Yes, they were. There were a large number of second-generation Iranians born in this country. I think they are dispelling their identity by participating in these games. And it is the only way they can relate to Iran. I was very surprised to see the large number of young Iranian men and women who were cheering their heart out for their team. In that way, it brings together a large community of Iranians, I think, in the Los Angeles area. There are about half a million or 600,000, very wealthy, successful running community leer. It brings them together toward their country.
RAY SUAREZ: Kenneth Timmerman, one of the few in this tense dance, one of the few things that's been green-lighted by both sides is this kind of person-to-person diplomacy. Is there a trickle up? Does it inform what people in policy areas are thinking?
KENNETH TIMMERMAN: I think what the message is here is that there's not an enduring hostility between the Iranian people and the American people. And any recent visitor who's come back from Iran, whether it's Robin or anybody else that I've spoken to, certainly will tell you this. The Iranian people love to see Americans. They greet Americans. They take them to their homes when you go into Iran. That's not the problem. The problem that we have is with the Iranian regime. And the Iranian regime is a problem for the United States and it's also a problem for the Iranian people. This is a regime which continues to assassinate opponents inside Iran. It has a horrible human rights record. Just over this past year they assassinated the heads of some of the opposition groups - Sridhar and others. They're assassinating writers and poets.They're closing newspapers all the time. They have a miserable human rights record at home, and they're supporting terrorism overseas. That's the problem. It's not the people-to-people problem. There is no problem people to people.
RAY SUAREZ: I'm wondering how much difference, what the United States does or doesn't do in the near term matters in what we see as a time of domestic foment where people are still waiting to see where things fall out. There's a lot of tealeaf reading and people say the United States shouldn't do or should do this. But maybe no matter what we do the events aren't going to be that different in Tehran. Robin?
ROBIN WRIGHT: I think Iran is at a critical transition period. It's trying to become a normal state again. It went through 20 years of really violent turmoil and change -- the ending of monarchy, deconstructing the past and reconstructing something new. It's now trying to find a way that will empower people. And there are in effect two very different camps in Iran. One, reformers who want some form of Islamic democracy, and those who Ken described, who are behind a lot of the viciousness, the violence, the retribution against opposition, who are clinging to the revolutionary image of a state that is extreme, that is locked into kind of an ideology of the past. And that's what is coming to play next month when Iranians go to the polls to elect a new parliament. And there is a strong belief that if these were free and fair, that the overwhelming majority of Iranians would vote for the kind of reformers who would not only change the domestic status quo, move toward reform and democracy, but also would like to pave the way for renewing relations with the United States.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Professor, can you continue reform and keep the Islamic revolution?
BAHMAN BAKTIARI: I don't see any problem with that. It seems like the Chinese government has kept the experiment alive. I think I disagree with Mr. Timmerman on the question of the Iranian government's change of behavior in the past two years, not being very "drastic." Even the speech of President Khatami on the CNN interview was truly a landmark. It was the first time an Iranian official had ever mentioned making mistakes during the hostage crisis. And all these are sport activities that we see back and forth as the result of that speech. Also, as Robin mentioned, the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Iran are very important. Iran is not ruled by one person. It is a collectivity. And as much as the camps are competing with each other for power, they seem to be agreeing on the rules of the game. And one positive aspect of Khatami's presidency has been the fact that more groups are clarifying their political positions. It's very difficult to be a fence-sitter in Iran today. I see distance developing more and more and compartmentalizing itself into much more comprehensive reforms.
RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Timmerman, your response?
KENNETH TIMMERMAN: Well, one of the problems is there is a foment of democracy in Iran, and this is very positive, but the problem is that the regime is still deciding on who can actually be a candidate. And when they reject candidates who do not accept clerical rule, absolute clerical rule, there really cannot be any democracy. The problem really comes down to Iran being run today by a small elite of clerics who are imposing their rule on the rest of the people. And that is the dictatorship of the clergy. Now, President Khatami, who is being touted as a reformer, met in Tehran just a month and a-half ago with the head of Lebanon's Hezbollah. And he stood up and said, "we will continue to support terrorist groups that are opposing the existence of Israel in the middle east as an organized state." I don't think that is a great change of Iranian state policy over what they said ten years ago.
RAY SUAREZ: But no matter who chooses the candidates, aren't some of the results of these elections clearly standing on the shoulders of each subsequent one -- the Khatami regime has been very different from the ones before it, and a lot of these local offices are being held in unprecedented numbers by women.
KENNETH TIMMERMAN: Yes. That is a very clear progress in Iran. And don't get me wrong. There is a lot of progress in Iran. But if you want to come back here to U.S. policy, what should the United States do, I will certainly say in my U.S. Senate campaign in Maryland that America needs to be... hold up a beacon of freedom to the world. I think we need to say to the people of Iran that we will support you in your march towards democracy, and we will not legitimize a government which is run by a clerical elite. We will instead try to support you as you try to replace that government or change the structure of that government.
RAY SUAREZ: Robin Wright?
ROBIN WRIGHT: I think there's an extraordinary amount of energy in Iran today pushing for change. And I think the United States has an important role in encouraging that. I think one of the sad things is there was an effort by this administration to make overtures to Iran. President Clinton actually thought that Iran might be his China, meaning... Referring to President Nixon's opening of the door the China 25 years ago. And the timing was such that there are only a few... Well, you have the rest of this year basically for the Clinton administration, and after the Iranian election in late February, there was some speculation about whether Iran might be able to move closer or do something. It doesn't now look like the administration has decided that that's likely to happen. Yet there's still I think a sincere interest in trying to see if there are issues on which there is common ground. I know the secretary of state, for example, very much wanted to go to the soccer game in Los Angeles. But her schedule, because she was in Central and Latin America, wouldn't allow it. But the Iranian wrestlers are coming to Washington in a couple of weeks, and I understand that there may be a senior U.S. official visiting those games.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, professor, you just heard Robin Wright talk about the fact there's a year left in the Clinton administration. Are those sorts of timing questions being distilled and sifted for their content in Iran? Are the people in Iran wondering about the next American president and whether to move now or then?
BAHMAN BAKTIARI: I think most of the issues in Iran are decided by domestic politics and foreign policy is not an important issue right now. And the developments in Iran are so fast that within a couple of days you have three or four newspapers emerge, one or two closed again. And I always give the analogy that one day in Iran is equivalent to a couple months in terms of developments in surrounding countries. So it's a very fast-developing country in terms of its political development. It's a young country, very young. And it is very difficult to manage. President Khatami has learned that just making promises is not enough. And more and more students are much more in a fomented situation. They demand for from him. Women in Iran are very informed, as Robin mentioned. It's a difficult country to manage. After the parliamentary elections in Iran, they're going to have presidential elections. And somehow the cycles of elections in United States and in Iran somehow does not coincide for any kind of comprehensive negotiations it seems to me.
RAY SUAREZ: That will be the last word. Thank you all for being with us.
JIM LEHRER: The controversy over a confederate flag and to Gwen Ifill.
GWEN IFILL: Nearly 50,000 people gathered on the streets of downtown Columbia, South Carolina today, all drawn by this sight on top of the statehouse dome: The U.S. flag, the state's palmetto flag, and the stars and bars, a symbol of the confederacy. The dispute over the flag-- supporters say it is a symbol of the state's heritage, opponents say it glorifies slavery-- has long been contentious. South Carolina is the only state still flying the flag over government property, and the only state that does not observe civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as a holiday.
SPOKESMAN: Basically what we want to show is support that gives a national presence, that shows that people outside of South Carolina are just as concerned as the local people.
GWEN IFILL: The confederate flag was first raised over the state capitol in 1962, as part of a centennial celebration of the Civil War. But black leaders in South Carolina and around the country have denounced the display, calling it a deliberately offensive celebration of pre-Civil War, pro-slavery sentiment. Last year, the NAACP called for a boycott of South Carolina's $14 billion tourist industry, and estimates more than 90 groups have canceled events. Last week, about 6,000 people, some dressed in period costume, marched in support of the flag. Many argue that it is a fitting tribute to confederate civil war veterans, and have defeated past efforts to remove it. The flag's future will be decided by the state legislature, which began its six-month session last week.
GWEN IFILL: Now, two sides of a difficult issue: In South Carolina. Dwight James, executive director of the state NAACP, took part in today's march. Terry Haskins, a state representative and speaker pro tem of the House, watched from a distance.
Mr. Haskins, what does the confederate flag mean to you?
TERRY HASKINS: Well, the confederate flag means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Obviously the crowds of people who came to South Carolina today to demonstrate see the flag as a symbol of racism and hatred, but there are also thousands and thousands of honest, God-fearing southerners who see the flag as a symbol of honor and heritage and respect. The unfortunate thing about what's going on now in South Carolina is the manner in which the economic sanctions were placed on the state of South Carolina. The resolution which called for the flag to be removed was adopted in July of last year after the general assembly was out of session. It demanded that the flag had to come down by January 1 or else economic sanctions would be placed on the state of South Carolina. The leaders of the NAACP knew that the general assembly was not in session during that time and that constitutionally we could not take any action. So it was really not fair to put that kind of a standard up that couldn't be met and then to impose sanctions for not meeting them.
GWEN IFILL: Dwight James, you spent the day today as part of that crowd of 50,000. What does that flag on top of the capitol mean to you?
DWIGHT JAMES: Well, the flag represents to many African Americans like myself the institution of slavery, anidea about the confederacy, that it stood for the continuation of slavery, the segregation of African Americans in this country, and it's also associated with many modern-day hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and violent groups that see African Americans as unworthy of American citizenship.
GWEN IFILL: Is your objection, Mr. James, to the flag being on top of the capitol or the flag flying anywhere at all?
DWIGHT JAMES: Our objection has been stated clearly, and that's to the flag being represented in positions of sovereignty in the state. And here we have the confederate flag flying above the capitol, the people's house in Columbia.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Haskins, people talk about southern heritage as a reason for preserving the flag. Is it possible that heritage is one of those things like beauty that's in the eye of the beholder?
TERRY HASKINS: Well, absolutely heritage is in the eye of the beholder, and so is the location of the flag. There's a legitimate argument that the flag should not be flying on the capitol dome because it doesn't represent the sovereign government under which we govern in South Carolina. But the NAACP is not being totally honest in their demands. They have said that they want it taken off the dome. We've suggested that the flag be policed on the confederate soldier's monument on the statehouse grounds. That would be within its historical context. It is a memorial that's been in place for over 130 years. But so far the leaders of the NAACP have rejected that notion, insisting rather that the flag be put out of view and be retired in shame and disgrace and that those southerners who hold it to be a symbol of great honor would have to be disgraced in their feelings about the flag.
GWEN IFILL: How about that, Dwight James, why not just remove the flag to another location of the confederate memorial?
DWIGHT JAMES: Well, let's, first of all, set the record straight. We've had many opportunities in South Carolina to remove the flag. And our leaders in the state senate and the statehouse have just failed to act. The resolution came about as a result of much study, much preparation on the part of the association, and that is the state conference in South Carolina took the resolution to New York and had the delegates there consider and approve unanimously the action that called for economic sanctions. And now we find ourselves in a position where over that six-month period, we had no movement by the part of the leadership in South Carolina, not to take the flag down, not even having substantive discussions along that manner. Now, we have not taken up any discussions or come up with any position with regard to placement of the flag. We have at this point been insisting and consistent and persistent in our position that thing from should not fly in positions of sovereignty. And that's where we stand.
GWEN IFILL: Terry Haskins, it sounds like you're more upset about the idea of the fact that the NAACP is making these sanctions, these demands on the state than of the idea of removing the flag itself.
TERRY HASKINS: You have to understand that there's an important principle of governing involved; and that is that it would be bad public policy for any legislative body to take action based upon economic threats or sanctions. That's just a bad precedent to set when dealing with any special interest groups.
GWEN IFILL: Was that precedent not set elsewhere in the south during the civil rights movement with lunch counter boycotts in the south?
TERRY HASKINS: I think that precedent was set, and I was not in the legislature back then obviously. But unfortunately, most of the civil rights legislation had to be forced upon the South by the federal government. But in this case, just four years ago, the Republican governor of South Carolina proposed bringing the flag off the dome and putting it on the confederate soldier's monument. I stood with him. I urged that proposal to be adopted. The NAACP did not come out and help. They didn't lift one finger. They would not support a Republican governor making that proposal. So much of this is about politics and about dividing people rather than trying to find solutions that bring people together, and that's an unfortunate aspect of this whole sanction and boycott.
GWEN IFILL: Dwight James, people who support the flag say that this march today was essentially a stunt, a way of getting attention rather than a way of finding a solution to a problem.
DWIGHT JAMES: Well, I think we hardly needed a stunt to get attention. I think this issue has focused the attention of the nation and the world on South Carolina over the last several months. So attention couldn't be the motive. The people of South Carolina wanted to show and demonstrate as good constituents that we want action on this issue. Now, if my co-guest here tonight might interpret that as being a threat, just constituents acting out their basic right to let their legislators know what they want to see happen within the state, I think he's being disingenuous.
GWEN IFILL: Terry Haskins, go ahead, respond.
TERRY HASKINS: I never said that holding a rally is a threat. The threat was when the NAACP national organization asked people across the country to not come to South Carolina, don't spend your tourist dollars here, don't bring your family reunions to South Carolina. Those are the kind of economic threats that I'm talking about. And the real problem here is public policy. We have asked the NAACP to lift the boycott or even delay it when we were faced with the threat of a boycott, if we didn't act by January 1, knowing that we couldn't even act, under law we couldn't act in any way, we asked them to lay the boycott, allow men and women of goodwill to sit down together, negotiate and try to work out a compromise that would bring the flag off the dome, satisfy the concerns of the members of the NAACP, but still treat thing from with honor so they that you don't have to insult the holders of great southern heritage in South Carolina.
GWEN IFILL: Dwight James, has there been any kind of fallout, any kind of way you can measure the effect of your economic boycott?
DWIGHT JAMES: Well, we measure its effectiveness in, I guess, a few ways -- in terms of the number of groups that have canceled, in terms of the impact that we see in terms of the economy of the state, and the continuing interest from people around the country and around the world in this particular issue.
GWEN IFILL: Dwight -- I'm sorry, Terry Haskins, one of the problems with issues about race in America is that things get rhetorically flamboyant. At some point a supporter of thing from at a pro flag rally last week, a state senator referred to the NAACP as the national association for the advancement of retarded people, and when he was asked to apologize, he said he apologized only to the retarded people of the world.
TERRY HASKINS: That's very unfortunate.
GWEN IFILL: How does that advance your argument?
TERRY HASKINS: It doesn't advance the argument. It doesn't advance the argument anymore than an African American senator saying last week, who said that if the flag doesn't come down, Columbia is going to burn like it did under Sherman. Neither of those -- that kind of rhetoric doesn't help anybody. What we really need is for everyone to step back, take a deep breath, lift the sanctions and the threats and come together in an air of mutual respect so that we can try to work something out that's good for all the people.
GWEN IFILL: Will there be a vote in the statehouse this year on this issue?
TERRY HASKINS: I expect there probably will be a vote. I don't know how soon it will come. But I think it would be very unfortunate if the legislature was forced to take action under threats of economic sanctions. I think that's bad public policy.
GWEN IFILL: And, Dwight James, given what you've heard Terry Haskins say, what is your sense about whether there will be a vote this year and what the outcome will be?
DWIGHT JAMES: We anticipate that there will be a vote, however, we must also recognize that we wouldn't be at this particular point in discussions had it not been for economic sanctions, because we haven't gotten to the table to negotiate, to discuss, and there was opportunity last year to take action if there was really a will to take action. We built into this strategy several windows of opportunity where we had an opportunity for the governor, an opportunity for the general assembly to move in a direction that indicated that we were going to move toward resolving this issue. But we saw no progress.
GWEN IFILL: Okay. That will have to be the last word. Thank you very much, Dwight James and Terry Haskins in South Carolina.
DWIGHT JAMES: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, a poem for Martin Luther King Day from NewsHour contributor Robert Pinsky, poet laureate of the United States.
ROBERT PINSKY: All over our country, students of all races, in courses in literature, in African American studies, in American studies, in various ethnic studies, are asked to write essays on a variety of topics touching on race, particularly on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. To complete these assignments, students might need to make their own individual accounting of the tangled sadness and triumph, genius, and frustration of race in American history. In some ways, each student writer is challenged to find a personal vision of that history. Here's a poem by the celebrated African American poet Langston Hughes that takes its form from that challenge. Hughes attended Columbia University in the 1920's. His poem is called "Theme for English B." "The instructor said, 'go home and write a page tonight, and let that page come out of you. Then it will be true.' I wonder if it's that simple. I am 22, colored, born in Winston-Salem. I went to school there, then Durham, then here, to this college on the hill above Harlem. I am the only colored student in my class. The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem through a park. Then I cross St. Nicholas, Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the 'Y,' the Harlem branch 'Y,' where I take the elevator up to my room, sit down and write this page. It's not easy to know what is true for you or me at 22, my age, but I guess I'm what I feel and see and hear. Harlem, I hear you; hear you hear me. We too-- you, me-- talk on this page. I hear New York, too. Me, who... Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love. I like to work, read, learn, and understand life. I like a pipe for a Christmas present, or records: Bessie, bop, or Bach. I guess being colored doesn't make me not like the same thing other folks like whoare other races. So will my page be colored, that I write? Being me, it will not be white, but it will be a part of you, instructor. You are white, yet a part of me, as I am a part of you, that's American. Sometimes, perhaps, you don't want to be a part of me, nor do I often want to be a part of you, but we are. That's true. As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me, although you're older, and white, and somewhat more free. This is my page for English B."
JIM LEHRER: Again, the major stories of this Monday. Israel and Syria postponed high- level peace talks set for this week. Instead, they'll send lower- ranking officials to Washington. Nearly 50,000 demonstrators marched on the South Carolina statehouse on this king holiday. They called for the removal of the confederate flag that flies over the building. 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,” 2000-01-17, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 2, 2022,
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