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NOW with Bill Moyers

Transcript, October 11, 2002

ANNOUNCER: You're watching NOW with Bill Moyers. With contributions from NPR news. This week on NOW...

As President Bush prepares for war, a growing number of Americans rally to oppose him.

KATHY KELLY: The whole time we are talking about war in Iraq, nobody is talking about the economy that's falling apart in the United States.

ANNOUNCER: The groundswell of dissent and new tactics in the cause of peace.

And control of Congress hinges on just a handful of races. So what are all those political ads really trying to tell us?

POLITICAL COMMERICAL: Using scare tactics to get votes.

ANNOUNCER: Kathleen Hall Jamieson on the message behind the spin, as the midterm elections head into the home stretch.

And a quiet voice on keeping life in perspective.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Walk around feeling like a leaf, know you could tumble any second. ANNOUNCER: Naomi Shihab Nye, a poet connecting her Arab and American Worlds. A Bill Moyers interview.




MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.

America was two countries this week. One country hunkered inside the Washington beltway, voted to authorize the president's war. The other America spread across the continent, remains ambivalent and troubled.

This America knows Saddam Hussein is up to no good, but it knows war is terrible, too, and it doesn't want America firing the first shot.

Thirty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson had already sent large numbers of troops to Vietnam before large numbers of citizens rallied in protest.

Nowadays, opponents of President Bush's war with Iraq aren't waiting. They want to stop this war before it starts.

Here are some of the voices of protest reported by correspondent Rick Davis and producer Bryan Myers.

RICK DAVIS: New York. Last Sunday. It was a remembrance of things past — a flashback to the 60's. After 30 years I was back covering the antiwar movement — this time in Central Park. Thousands were here and thousands more in demonstrations across the country.

The famous were here — the star appeal guaranteeing a spot on the nightly newscasts.

But unlike the slow growth of protest in the 60's, as war with Iraq seems near, diverse groups around the country are organizing fast. New faces are joining veteran peace activists. All are convinced the nation is being lead down a path to war — a war that is not about defending the nation.

MICHAEL ORANGE, VETERANS FOR PEACE: I believe that Bush if beating the drums of war in order to get Republicans elected to Congress.

DAMU SMITH, BLACK VOICES FOR PEACE: Simply put-the United States wants to have dominance of the oil fields of that region.

BOB EDGAR, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: We don't need a holy war. I don't think we have to have a holy war.

KATHY KELLY, VOICES IN THE WILDERNESS: I do worry about democracy in the country. Democracy is based on information.

RICK DAVIS: Four faces of protest — each seeking peace — each by different paths, different tactics, again a reminder the diverse 60's antiwar movement.

But this is not the sixties and Saddam Hussein does not lead a guerilla army. And he may have weapons of mass destruction.

He has and has used chemical weapons in the past. Halabjah - March 1988. Five thousand people died in the one Kurdish town. And it was just one of many towns.

He tried to destroy the oil fields of a neighboring country — and may have the power to do so again. If Saddam is a threat, should the United States strike first?

Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches was among the first to say no to a U.S. attack on Iraq.

BOB EDGAR, NATIONAL CONCIL OF CHURCHES: Some of us got concerned about that kind of thinking, the unilateral, big America is going to go in and take over and do it alone.

That there is a question of morality here in terms of first strike action. And we see it in the President's statement that he wants to change the way we think about first strike actions and the church needs to weigh on one that.

RICK DAVIS: Bob Edgar has taken the churches message to the halls of Congress. At first this soft spoken man seems an unlikely leader of a protest movement. He is a Methodist minister — ordained when he was 21.

But he's at home in these halls. The Rev. Bob Edgar leader of the National Council of Churches was a six-term Democrat from Pennsylvania.

Now he is back-leading a coalition of religious groups including not just pacifists opposed to all war, but others who believe there can be just wars.

The message they took to Senator Carl Levin was no war with iraq now.

BOB EDGAR: It's not about supporting the regime there. It's really the fact this is an opportune time for us to move forward in peace in the Middle East. And we think this is a destabilizing time for us and we really have to make the right choices.

RICK DAVIS: Senator Levin was in agreement on at least one issue -- the United States should not go it alone.

SENATOR CARL LEVIN, (D-MI): We ought to be trying to unify the world instead of dividing it. We ought to unifying them against Saddam Hussein who I consider to be a threat. That's where I'm at.

RICK DAVIS: How willing are you to take the risk that Saddam Hussein will not use chemical weapons again, including against his neighbors. Or supply them to terrorists. He's welcomed terrorists into Iraq before.

BOB EDGAR: He had all these weapons of mass destruction six months ago, a year ago. But we also know that Pakistan has these weapons. Iran has these weapons, North Korea has these weapons, Libya has these weapons. We are singling out Iraq for a war and military action that can set a precedent I think would be unhealthy.

RICK DAVIS: There are those who would consider your views and the views of you colleagues as naïve and would say "Leave it the experts, the people who have really studies this strategically, who have studied the weaponry, who understand the history of Saddam. How do you respond, I think our society is a better place when people of faith and people of a variety of perspectives give input to policy decisions.

Many of us have spent time working with the poor people both domestically and internationally, and we have life experiences that many members of the house and senate don't have.

RICK DAVIS: Do you believe that an effect of an attack on Iraq could ignite the Middle East. That this could become a religious war?

BOB EDGAR: Yes, I think we have to be careful of that. I think there are unintended consequences of going to war with Iraq, that we really haven't had a good conversation about, Let's give the President the benefit of the doubt that Saddam Hussein has 20 or 30 or 40 missiles and can lob those missiles. The target he would likely use would be Israel. And Israel would then respond with a counter attack, as Sharon has said. I think we would have enormous difficulty keeping the other Arab nations out of the conflict.

RICK DAVIS: In another part of Washington Damu Smith has a different syle than the soft persuasion of Bob Edgar. He plans street protests. Smith, a long time activist, working on environmental issues and human rights, says war is bad for both.

DAMU SMITH: I can only conclude that this Administration is hell bent on war and destruction and death, when in fact they ought to be taking care of business here at home. So this is all a smoke screen but it's about something else. A larger agenda of world domination, dominance in the world and the United States being the worlds bully policeman to whatever it wants and to do it alone if necessary.

RICK DAVIS: Smith tells African American audiences that they have a special place in the protest movement. He has studied the statistics of past wars.

DAMU SMITH: We died disproportionally in Vietnam compared to the rest of the population. Our young people will be shipped abroad like everybody else and we fear that they will die disproportionally once again for a war that makes no sense and that will be wasteful.

RICK DAVIS: In Minneapolis these men and women do not need to study statistics to understand the cost of war. Many are members of Veterans for Peace. They have seen it up close. Michael Orange is one with memories of combat.

MICHAEL ORANGE: There is a phenomenal poisoning when one goes to war. We humans are not supposed to kill one another. It takes the finest training in the world to take a young man who has been trained since birth to respect life. Turn that around so they can become killing machines like I was thanks to Marine corps boot camp. It's a necessary evil for a nation to wage war, Even though I came back with all my limbs I like so many others came back with that poison.

RICK DAVIS: A poisoning he says began as a 19 year old Marine who went to war believing it was a right of passage to manhood. But what he saw in Vietnam, nd experienced after he came home, convinced him war should be a last option — when the nation is directly threatened. A conviction that was reinforced when he went to see an old friend, a Marine buddy.

MICHAEL ORANGE: I went up to the door of his parents house and his mom answered the door. And she saw me and she just crumbled. And she went on to explain that he had about two moths earlier the he had about two months earlier pp-put a pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger. So, um, he just couldn't cope with the poison of war, and he couldn't cope with the poison of Vietnam.

RICK DAVIS: This combat veteran remembers the Congressional resolution that led to so many going to Vietnam — and fears it could happen again.

MICHAEL ORANGE: Lyndon Johnson in 1964 used the Tonkin Gulf incident to bring a resolution to Congress much like President Bush has done, seeking broad powers to wage war against the Vietnamese people.

The irony is the Tonkin Gulf incident according to historians never happened. And I wonder what the next Tonkin Gulf incident will be. I really believe Iraq has nothing to do with military necessity. It has everything to do with political necessity. I think that's shameful.

RICK DAVIS: Orange sees the bodies of more dead Marines if there is a war. But another our four faces of protest sees other victims.

KATHY KELLY: It would be the people across Iraq who have already paid such a high price including the lives, the very precious lives of thousands of children."

RICK DAVIS: Kathy Kelly has been to Iraq 16 times — this night she spoke at the University of Dayton.

Her organization, Voices in the Wilderness, has been there 48 times. They have documented suffering they say results from sanctions imposed by the United Nations -- food shortages, hospitals with few drugs and worn out equipment, and children near death and those who have died.

KATHY KELLY: And the question I must always ask myself and then others is---what crimes did these children commit. What possible crimes.

RICK DAVIS: Kathy kelly is not a supporter of Saddam Hussein. But she believes the sanctions are hurting the Iraqi people, not his regime. Kelly could face arrest for taking materials to Iraq — food, medicine, water purification equipment — that others believe help Hussein's government.

KATHY KELLY: I'm accused to doing a crime by going to Iraq with medicine for people who are in desperate need of such and by trying to extend a hand of friendship and come back and be the voice for the people who otherwise have almost no constituency in the United States. If a jury of my peers were to decide that was a crime, you won't hear me whining as I go away to prison.

RICK DAVIS: Kelly says if there is a war with Iraq Voices in the Wilderness will be there, on the ground to bare witness and give comfort to civilians.

Do you ever begin to feel hopeless about this. The sanctions are still there and it looks like we are going to war.

KATHY KELLY: I don't think that it does anybody and good for people like me to talk and just whine and complain and toss in the towel so I don't even ask myself that question, And in a sense that says how dare I give up hope when in fact I've heard remarks from mothers who have had the courage to say to us while their children are dying in front of us while there children are dying in front of our eyes, "We pray that this never happens to a mother in your country."

RICK DAVIS: Are you delivering a message that a lot of Americans don't want to hear. That certainly the administration doesn't want to hear? And some people will consider you disloyal?

KATHY KELLY: First of all it's very loyal in the United States to speak your mind. To voice your concern and to object to things that you think are wrong. That is American. It is not unAmerican. It is American.

RICK DAVIS: If you were a betting man, how would you bet right now. Are we going to War?

BOB EDGAR: I would say yes. I would say it's likely and I would say it's likely for all the wrong reason. I think a lot has to do with the politics of the time, as opposed to the reality on the ground.

RICK DAVIS: What do you mean the politics of the time?

BOB EDGAR: Well, the whole time we're talking about the war in Iraq, nobody's talking about the economy that's falling apart in the United States, And as we come upon elections in November, Iraq is going to be the centerpiece in the conversation and are you for or against that kind of thing. I'm not sure if we didn't have an election it would have the same center stage.

RICK DAVIS: But Bob Edgar says he will continue to speak out, organize teach-ins, prayer vigils and protests. And walk the halls of Congress and the United Nations, hoping someone is listening.

MOYERS: You can learn more about different angles of the Iraq debate at pbs.org, including links to the groups in our report and some books and articles to consider, pro and con.




MOYERS: You probably don't need any prodding to remember that this is campaign season. There are only 25 more days to the midterm election. And the prize is control of Congress.

The Democrats hold the Senate by only one vote, and the Republicans rule the House by six. Republicans hope to end up owning Congress and the White House, which would mean they would have the whole of national government in their pocket. The executive branch, the regulatory agencies, the courts. Quite a windfall.

With stakes like that, candidates across the country are making all the stops, and pulling out all the stops. Here's what I mean.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I support the president's efforts to lower taxes.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: So many people have lost so much, their college savings.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I think the most important lessons I've learned in my life may have come from the jobs I had working my way through college.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Defense spending means security for our families, and it means jobs for our workers.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: On tax cuts, Daschle said no.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I was proud to be with the first group of U.S. Senators to go to Afghanistan.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I never want to know more about Washington than I do about Minnesota.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Bipartisan praise for his common sense conservative decisions.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: And like this sign that was on my father's desk says, I'll always put Arkansas first.

MOYERS: Joining us again to help figure out the real message behind all of those ads is Kathleen Hall Jamieson, one of the country's top analysts on politics, and the Dean of the Annengberg School for Communications.

She has a new book out this week called, THE PRESS EFFECT. Nice to see you again.

JAMIESON: Thank you.

MOYERS: It seems to me that George W. Bush has won the first round in the war against Iraq, that he's got the Democrats on the defensive.

JAMIESON: Um-hmm. And Democrats uniting behind the bush premise, which is that the president is making the right decisions here, which means that the Democrats are trying if humanly possible to re-center this election away from differences on Iraq and on the domestic agenda.

MOYERS: You've just come from Minnesota where Senator Paul Wellstone, the incumbent Democrat announce that had he was against the resolution giving the president what he wanted. And the Republicans have come after him on this issue.

Take a look at this ad.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: In 1990, Paul Wellstone promise to slash our national defense by at least $200 billion.

Year in and year out, he voted for cuts.

Ask Wellstone: who are you fighting for?

MOYERS: Now, take a look at who's paying for that ad. It's not his opponent Norman Coleman; it's the Republican Party. What's the politics here? What's the message? What's going on?

JAMIESON: We began seeing about four years ago, a tendency for the parties to carry the attack in campaigns and the candidates as a result would be somewhat absolved of that responsibility.

MOYERS: Do you think this is healthy for politics, that the party becomes more accountable, more responsible, takes more of a position?

JAMIESON: No, actually, I think it's unhealthy, for this reason. We're taking away from the American people to use party as a short cut to understand candidates. So I prefer that parties use their money to tell us what Republicans stand for and what Democrats stand for and not as a surrogate for attacking.

MOYERS: Next door to Minnesota, South Dakota, there's a really fierce race going on between the Democratic incumbent Tim Johnson and his Republican challenger John Thune.

Have you watched the ads on that?

JAMIESON: Yes.

MOYERS: Let's take a look at a couple of them.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Al Qaida terrorists, Saddam Hussein, enemies of America, working to obtain nuclear weapons.

Now more than ever our nation must have a missile defense system to shoot down missiles fired at America. Yet Tim Johnson's voted against a missile defense system 29 different times.

MOYERS: And here's Tim Johnson's response to John Thune.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: John Thune is playing politics with the war, using scare tactics to get votes.

Tim Johnson's son is in 101 Airborne, and could be one of the first sent to Iraq.

JAMIESON: I think people who have followed the debate about missile defense are looking at this and are genuinely bewildered because we don't have a missile defense system right now and we're not going to have one in the foreseeable future. It wouldn't have stopped the attacks in New York.

MOYERS: The hijackers can did not use ballistic missiles to attack the World Trade Center. They used hijacked aircraft.

JAMIESON: One could actually look at this and say part of what was wrong with the debate about the missile defense shield was it focused our attention at on a threat that didn't actually exist, that wasn't imminent, and as a result, we ignored a threat that was much more likely.

MOYERS: So why would a Republican politician in the small state of South Dakota use the missile defense in his ad when it is not an issue?

JAMIESON: If you're running against a candidate who has the patriotic trump card in the form of a son in military service, you probably want to establish your patriotic credentials by some vote that might put that person at risk.

This is a battle that says on one side, he opposes the missile defense shield implication that would make us sense against his son is ready to defend us. How dare you attack him?

MOYERS: I saw an ad last night that shows just how far President Bush has moved the Democrats so that the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Arkansas has to look as if he's on a battlefield wearing camouflage uniforms ready to take on the enemy. Look at this ad.

P0LITICAL COMMERICAL: I'm Mark Pryor.

Unlike some Democrats in Washington, I believe in strengthening the military, and I support the president in the War on Terrorism.

MOYERS: Freeze that for a momentt. Looks as if he's on the battlefield, right? Camouflage fatigues and all that?

JAMIESON: Either that or he's trying to hunt something in a very green environment.

MOYERS: Well, take a look at what follows.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I'm also a hunter and a gun owner and I'll protect the Second Amendment rights of every American.

MOYERS: So the battlefield is a pasture in Arkansas and he appears to be looking for the fierce spotted Ozark razorback. What do you make of an ad like that?

JAMIESON: This ad is hurting Democrats as it advances this Democrat because it says, unlike some Democrats, this Democrat right here in his hunting gear is supporting the military. And that suggests that a lot of those other Democrats in Washington aren't. That's the line in that ad that suggests how far this debate has pushed the Democrats on to the defensive.

MOYERS: Let me show couple of ads in Missouri. Where Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan is facing a challenge from the Republican Jim Talent. Both of them make it look as if he and she are tainted with corporate scandals.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: It's a matter of right and long.

We cannot let dishonest people in corporate board rooms get rich while the life savings of hard-working Americans dwindles away.

That's why I authored an amendment that is now law that keeps executives from secretly cashing in their stock.

MOYERS: And here's one from Jean Carnahan's republican opponent Jim Talent.

POLTICIAL COMMERCIAL: When she took campaign cash from corporate executives at Global Crossing. Executives who bankrupted the company and cost the employees their jobs and life savings.

JAMIESON: One of the things we should ask every time we see an ad is, what's the issue and what does it have to do with government? One of these ads is trying to make the case that there's an issue and I'm being accountable.

The other is trying to make the case that, she's not really telling you the truth. You can't trust her no matter what she said.

The second ad isn't actually addressing anything that the first ad said, but it creates the illusion is that it is, which is something called pseudo-rebuttal. It sets up the suggestion that it's rebutting the other side and then it doesn't actually do that. And in that kind of an exchange, one would love to have someone say, "stop for a moment, please. Could you tell us where you stand on corporate accountability? Could you tell us how you would have voted in the areas that she's identifying votes? And could you please tell us what difference those votes are going to make in my life?" Because the implication of that first ad after all is because I'm there protecting you, your pension is safer than it otherwise would have been.

MOYERS: If in fact President Bush has won the first round of the war against Iraq and has Democrats on the defensive about patriotism and the war, it seems to me that democrats have won the fight over Social Security... That all across the country Democrats have Republicans on the defensive on this issue. What do you think about that?

JAMIESON: I agree with you absolutely. And the first test of this is, who's controlling the language? The Republicans won't use the word privatization. They won't use the word partial privatization either, which is the Republicans have fled that language from the beginning.

They instead talk about investing in personal retirement accounts or investing in the stock market, individuals investing in the stock market.

The problem with saying, in the "stock market," however, these days, is people don't feel very safe about being invested in the stock market. So the Republicans shifted again to talk about Individual Retirement Accounts. They're trying to move to individual control rather than government control. Any time you see a party fleeing from one linguistic preserve to another you know that it's losing the battle of language.

MOYERS: The battle of language.

JAMIESON: Of language.

MOYERS: What should voters look for in this fight over Social Security when they watch these ads?

JAMIESON: Well, the first thing, and we talked about this before, is the we don't have enough revenue coming into the Social Security system right now through the payroll tax to ensure its long term survivability. Current seniors are safe and fine. But we're going to hit a problem in the foreseeable future, and the sooner we address that the greater the likelihood that we get that problem solved with less pain.

Now, you'll notice, nobody's talking about that. Instead, we're debating whether or not it's a good idea to partially privatize social security... Democrats' language. You notice nobody's talking about that. Instead, we're debating whether or not it's a good idea to partially privatize Social Security. Democrats' language.

And the Republicans don't even want to talk about that because they know that the stock market is performing poorly and they don't, as a result, want people to remember that in 2000, George Bush campaigned on that promise. The Republicans don't want to have the debate on the terms that they actually do support,.

And there's the prospect that when the republicans... When and if the Republicans take control of the Senate and hold the House and Bush is president, that the Bush proposal which he has not backed away from and each Republican candidates haven't backed away from, they're still supporting it, they're just not talking about it.

MOYERS: Let's take a look at some ads that are being run in in a very critical race in your home state Minnesota. Both of them speak to the Social Security issue.

WELLSTONE POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: So many people have lost so much, their college savings, their retirement savings. Americans have lost $630 billion in their pension plans and 401 k's in the last two years.

What's really troubling now that there is still... There are still so many people that are pushing to put Social Security trust money into the stock market.

MOYERS: And Norman Coleman's response.

COLEMAN POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: On the 50th anniversary of D- Day, I called my dad to say thank you.

He's worked his whole life, he's done what he could do for me and my seven brothers and sisters, and then you got folks out there scaring him saying we'll take away your Social Security, we'll privatize it, destroy what they've got.

I think that's unconscionable, that someone would scare my mom or my dad. And I'd fight against anybody who would do that.

JAMIESON: Let me make the Coleman ad more accurate. What Coleman is saying is, "I won't do something that they call privatization." He's not saying, I wouldn't support putting part of the payroll tax on a voluntary basis for people into the stock market.

So the premise underlying both sets of ads is a bogus premise. Seniors don't worry. The question is, the next generation coming up. And as we talk about this we really shouldn't be thinking short term. We really ought to be asking, where are we going to get the money to make up the difference if that money is pulled out of the payroll tax and we're ignoring that part of this debate.

MOYERS: Are you saying that important elections like this cannot deal honestly and openly and frankly with important issues like that?

JAMIESON: I'm saying that if the press does a good job, this issue is opened up to be a complex important issue that has a direct impact on people's lives. This is exactly what elections should do. Democracy has the vehicle right. If the press does its job to ensure that advertising doesn't mislead and that we're not distracted from the larger issues.

MOYERS: What's the vehicle?

JAMIESON: The vehicle is the press. The vigilant press.

And often we look at the press and we say, "but they're not doing it, they're covering strategy and tactics." Then the question is, are people going to read it?

What I can tell you about Minnesota is, it has higher readership than most other states and it has higher political participation. So, maybe in Minnesota the answer will be yes.

MOYERS: You and I talk sometimes as if ads were the only way politicians and parties communicate with people, but there's a lot going on out there that is beyond the advertising, isn't it? Direct mail?

JAMIESON: Internet.

MOYERS: Internet.

JAMIESON: The internet is being used on the Social Security issue right now by the Democrats to try to raise money. The Democrats are out there with an internet ad whose main purpose is to get people to say, on Social Security, you've got to support us because otherwise-- and the visual cartoon suggests George Bush is going to put the young in a wheelchair and run them right down the stock market into the ground and put your grandmother in a wheelchair and run her right off a cliff.

But sometime in the next four years or so, we're going to see those kinds of political ads popping up on our screen, depending on how we register to vote and they're going to actually become the new form of political communication for us.

They're going to be stronger, more problematic than what we see on television.

MOYERS: They are much tougher so tough in fact the Republicans are crying foul.

JAMIESON: The interesting thing that just fascinates me is, we don't ever look at direct mail and say, is that fair, because we assume it's partisans speaking to partisans through the closed channel of something that came in your mailbox. And after all, they had a stamp on it and it was sealed.

Where the same thing that occurs on television, we're outraged by it. So it's not that the content shifted, it's that it became a mass vehicle rather than a private communication.

This internet piece is much more like direct mail, but it looks more like television because it's on your computer. And so we bring our sense of what's appropriate mass communications to it, not our sense of what's appropriate private communications to it. And as a result, many people judged it to be way over the bounds.

Interestingly enough, because it suggests both that the young will be driven off the stock market and the elderly will crash, it's deceptive on two grounds. So I find it problematic on broadcasting as well.

But what the Republicans objected to was the caricature of George Bush and the suggestion that he might personally push someone in a wheelchair. The Democrats said, it's a cartoon! They basically said, don't you have a sense of humor?

Well, underlying that are two very serious arguments, we've just spent time talking about them. And the channel of direct mail, parties have always used the stronger appeals

MOYERS: Bold letters, capital letters...

JAMIESON: The big threat to everyone. The categorical language. Well, we're now seeing it migrate to the internet, and that's what I find interesting about that internet ad.

MOYERS: All of this suggests that this is a very important election. That's no long... That's not a cliché.

JAMIESON: It's a very important election for a number of reasons. The country in 2000 got a forecast from George Bush about one set of directions on such things as prescription drugs, Social Security, missile defense shield size, scope and immediacy, that was quite different from Al Gore. In 2002, the Republicans aren't backing away from that agenda.

MOYERS: There are ads out there which do contain the issues that a lot of people are thinking about. Let's take a look at a montage of some of those ads that are being played out in campaigns across the country.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: He'll ensure older americans gain the health care security they deserve.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I understand the difference it makes whether you can afford prescription drugs or not.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: He understands that a lot of colorado families are struggling.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: They're concerned about whether or not they're going to be able to afford to send their kids to college.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Right now in minnesota, we are cutting teachers, we're canceling after-school programs.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I know what happens when a dad doesn't have a job. Been there.

POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Make health care more affordable, will solve many of our real problems.

MOYERS: Ads like that are running all across the country. Is there a common denominator to them?

JAMIESON: The common denominator to those ads is that it costs money to address social needs. And the issue that's not being raised in the ads is, the accountability that George Bush and the Republicans should have for the very large tax cut.

MOYERS: Nobody said that, but you're reading that out of the messages.

JAMIESON: You can't afford the teachers and the education and the health care and the prescription drugs now because the Bush tax cut has taken a lot of capacity out of the existing revenue stream to address social programs.

But nobody has had the nerve with a popular president in a time of war to take on the question, should we be delaying that tax cut that... The next stage of implementation of that tax cut.

And if the money requires rolling back a promise, is that the desirable thing to do? And if not, where is the money going to come from? Or do we just say, those are needs that are going to go unmet.

MOYERS: Thank you very much, Kathleen Jamieson. I look forward to continuing this discussion.



BILL MOYERS: Eight years ago, recovering from heart surgery I found deep comfort in poetry, especially the poems of Naomi Shihab Nye. Her poems speak of ordinary things -- things we take for granted until it's almost too late. In her new book, 19 VARIETIES OF GAZELLE those are again her subject. Even when war, politics and terrorism put them in jeopardy.

Naomi Shihab Nye, is an American, an Arab, a Poet, a parent, a woman of Texas, a woman of ideas. The daughter of a Palestinian father and an American mother, she's lived in old Jerusalem, in St. Louis, and now with her own family in San Antonio, Texas.

We first met at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey eight years ago where we talked about the power of the word.

BILL MOYERS: Poetry is a form of conversation is it not?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Absolutely, conversation with the world, conversation with those words on the page allowing them to speak back to you-- conversation with yourself.

BILL MOYERS: We caught up with Naomi Nye at the Poetry Festival again in New Jersey last month.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: "If you place a fern under a stone, the next day it will be nearly invisible as if the stone has swallowed it. If you tuck the name of a loved on under your tongue too long, without speaking it it becomes blood, sigh, the little sucked in breath of air hiding everywhere beneath your words. No one see's the fuel that feeds you."

BILL MOYERS: "The fuel that feeds you." What is it?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: I think for many of us it's language in the sense that language can carry us to understanding, and connect us to things that matter in our lives. For those of us who trust poetry and the power of linkage that poetry gives us. It's a way of-- sitting quietly with words and-- letting us-- them lead us somewhere.

BILL MOYERS: So "the fuel that feeds you" is the power of words?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: I think so. Those power of words, and a faith in the power of words. That words can give you something back if you trust them, and if you know that you're not trying to proclaim things all the time, but you're trying to discover things.

A little girl said to me, last year, "Poetry has been eating all my problems." And I said, "What do you mean by that?" And she said, "It just makes me feel better when I read it, or when I write it." And I think that's been true for many people in this country.

BILL MOYERS: You dedicate this book to your grandmother. What was her name?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Her name was Hadra, Sitti Khadra. Sitti for Grandmother. Khadra Shihab. And she lived to be 106 years old.

BILL MOYERS: Is s-- is she the one who said she was gonna live until she had outlived all the people she didn't like?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: That's right. Although she seemed to like almost everybody, so we could never figure that out.

BILL MOYERS: But did she succeed? She did--

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: She did succeed. She was the oldest person around when she died.

BILL MOYERS: She was Muslim.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: She was devout Muslim, yes.

BILL MOYERS: Is it true that the only trip she ever took outside of Palestine was to Mecca?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Yes. That's true. She went to Jordan a few times to visit cousins but she never got in an airplane. She only rode in an elevator once.

BILL MOYERS: And she was born in what year?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Well, she was born in-- from 1994 minus 106.

BILL MOYERS: And she lived through the turmoil of upheavals in Palestine.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: That's right. She remembered lying down in a ditch when-- fighters on horseback rode by from Turkey when she was a little girl.

BILL MOYERS: World War I.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: Lawrence of Arabia

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: She remembered those days. So her-- her whole life was in a context of upheaval. And yet within herself she maintained this fantastic sense of humor and a great memory and a love for language. That weight of language which she could-- relate to.

BILL MOYERS: She probably would have thought that what happened on 9/11 was a real stain on her religion, right?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Absolutely, I know she would have thought that. And I have felt her in dreams saying that exactly.

BILL MOYERS: Y-- you've actually written and said that-- since 9/11 she has swarmed into your consciousness. Why?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Well I had written so much about her, both in poems and in a novel called Habibi (PH) that I thought to myself a couple of years ago, "I probably won't write about her anymore. I've said all there is to say." But after September 11th I felt her poking me again saying, "No there's more you need to say for the women who believe in peace, for the children who want to live together. For all of us who would never, never believe anything like that could be a good-- a good representation of our religion, or our culture."

BILL MOYERS: You have a poem in here dedicated to your grandmother, in fact you call it "My Grandmother in the Stars".

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: "It is possible we will not meet again on earth. To think this fills my throat with dust. Then there is only the sky tying the universe together. Just now the neighbor's horse must be standing patiently, hoof on stone, waiting for his day to open. What you think of him, and the village's one heroic cow, is the knowledge I wish to gather. I bow to your rugged feet, the moth-eaten scarves that knot your hair.

Where we live in the world is never one place, our hearts-- those dogged mirrors-- keep flashing us moons before we are ready for them. You and I on a roof at sunset, our two languages adrift. Hearts saying take this home with you, never again and only memory making us rich."

BILL MOYERS: Do you ever stop to think about how powerful the hold Grandmother's have over us? I mean I wasn't particularly close to my grandmother, but many years ago when I was new in this business a director said to me, "You're too formal, you're too stiff. When you look into that camera, assume you're talking to one person." And ever since then I've imagined talking to my now deceased, 96 year old grandmother, when she died." But the hold in my imagination of that woman-- how do you explain that?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: It's h-- I think it's beyond us to explain, but I think you're v-- i-- it's true what you say. They are an original gravity for us in our lives. And if we're lucky they love us unconditionally, just because we exist, they love us. We don't have to do anything or prove ourselves in anyway.

BILL MOYERS: I gave mum-- my grandmother lots of reasons not to love me, but she never gave up.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Right. And I didn't speak the same language as my grandmother. And still she always seemed happy to see me. So there was that sense of I want to do things to make her proud, I want to speak towards-- to her, I want to-- represent her in some way in the world-- and her culture, and the things she loved.

BILL MOYERS: You've said elsewhere that your grandmother just wanted people to worship in any way that they were comfortable with. She just wanted them to sit and have their tea and smell their lemon blossoms. What was the wisdom that this 106-year old Palestinian woman had that we don't have today?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Well maybe the wisdom was one of her final lines she ever spoke to me, Bill. Which was, "I never lost my peace inside." And I think through living very sensibly, calmly, close to home. Paying attention to what was right around her, she was able to maintain an equilibrium. Although she had lost her home and everything she had. She still maintained a sense of humor too. And an interest in other people. She was fascinated by other people's stories.

BILL MOYERS: You write in here about what it means to be half and half, where love means you breath in two countries. Help me to understand that.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Well I think whenever you love something or somebody it means that you have to extend yourself, you have to grow-- get a little larger. You can't stay in your little comfortable-- spot. So you have-- it's a challenge it's a risk, and-- whether it's loving another culture far away that suddenly has been represented by an act of violence-- or whether it's loving another person-- and that always involves you know all kinds of growing-- we're challenged.

And so every time you care about something or somebody that relates to a different place in the world, then you're empathy grows. And for example, for all Americans who have friends from Iraq, I'm sure that things that have been going on-- they're thinking about it not only in political terms, but in human terms. You know what will that mean for their friend's families, or what will that mean for all the children of Iraq?

You know during the Gulf War I remember two little third grade girls saying to me-- after I read them some poems by writers in Iraq-- "You know we never thought about there being children in Iraq before." And I thought, "Well those poems did their job, because now they'll think about everything a little bit differently." They'll feel closer to that place in a different way.

BILL MOYERS: One of your poems, the last poem in the book is something you did after 9-11. Would-- would you read this for me?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: I call my father. We talk about the news. It is too much for him. Neither of his two languages can reach it. I drive into the country to find sheep, cows. To plead with the air. Who calls anyone civilized? Where can the crying heart graze? What does a true Arab do now?

BILL MOYERS: What does a true Arab do now? Your father wondered about that.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: My father was devastated when he heard.

BILL MOYERS: That these were men from the Middle East?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: It was-- it was doubly heart-breaking to all people from the Middle East who love peace.

BILL MOYERS: As an American of Arab descent do you feel after 9/11 that you have to explain yourself?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Well, not explain myself so much because I'm more indentifiable as an American. But I certainly understand my cousins when they said their friends grew more supportive but people they didn't know , during the past year, took two steps backward sometimes before they would agree to get to know them.

That life became more difficut in that way. And I think we all needed to work harder to maintain a feeling of openess to anyone we might identify as the "other." Now, that's what interests me. How can we keep bridging the gap that sets someone apart from us and finding a way to know them that will help us all.

BILL MOYERS: You write this one line in which you talk about "The men who have so much pain, there's no place to store it." Who are you writing about?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: I was thinking about Palestinian refugees, and the people of my Grandmother's village when I wrote that. And my father in his own life. And-- all the people of different countries in the world who have lost things that many other people can never understand.

You know those of us who leave our homes in the morning and expect to find them there when we go back-- it's hard for us to understand what the experience of a refugee might be like.

BILL MOYERS: But how do people deal with such immeasurable lose in their life?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: How do they maintain any shred of dignity and balance? You know those are the courageous people to me. All the-- simple people of the earth who-- don't lose their sanity in the face of-- constant-- dis-ease in the world they live in. Who keep sending their children to school, who keep combing their children's hair. How do they do that?

BILL MOYERS: Well that's why I assume that so often in your poetry you are taking small and ordinary words. Words about ordinary things and-- and holding them close.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Because they have a weight that I recognize that helps me stay balanced. And I think other people too.

BILL MOYERS: Is that why you write about button-hooks and onions and all kinds of things like that?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Those little things?

BILL MOYERS: The tea that your grandmother drinks?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Yes. That's-- that's why. It keeps me focused on things close to us. The material world that gives us a sense of gravity. And that we'd like-- we'd all like to be free to enjoy in our world.

BILL MOYERS: I remember visiting the Middle East and my favorite scene are seeing the men outside having the-- the-- their coffee every afternoon.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: It's a beautiful scene. And it reminds us sometimes how much we rush. How-- how we don't take that kind of time in this country often enough. And-- and that beautiful scene of pausing in a day. Just to sit in a circle together. It's very common in the Middle East.

BILL MOYERS: I want to come back in closing to-- to what is my favorite poem of yours. The one that-- that helped me most after I was recovering from heart surgery. I actually carry it around. In very tiny print. You can't read that, in my wallet. I read it. I don't know if I can follow it but I-- I am constantly reading it. And I printed it out for you to read. As you know, this is my favorite.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: It's so kind of you Bill. Thank you very much for carrying it.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: The Art of Disappearing.

When they say Don't I know you? say no.
When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.
If they say we should get together.
say why? It's not that you don't love them any more.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees.
The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished. When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second. Then decide what to do with your time.

BILL MOYERS: Thank you Naomi.

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: And thank you for VARIETIES OF GAZELLE.



BILL MOYERS: As I was listening to Naomi Shihab Nye talk about how words give us something back when we trust them, how language grounds us between cultures, as well as between memory and the future, I thought of some young people whose poetry I heard several months ago.

They're part of a community center in Seattle, Washington called El Centro de la Raza, The Center for the People.

Founded 30 years ago by a young upstart named Roberto Maestas, the center is still around, still breaking down barriers of race and class, still feeding the hungry, teaching English as a second language and helping Latino children and parents discover new things about themselves through the power of words. Nothing earthshaking, mind you-- no miracles have been sighted in Seattle. But they are celebrating the center's 30th anniversary this month, and that, given the odds, is something. Happy Anniversary El Centro.

ROBERTO MAESTAS: This is a home for the left out, the locked out, the people with noble intentions, and the people who want friendship and love, and maybe a small bowl of tortillas or enchiladas or caldolares.

MOYERS: Young people like Elisa Maria Miranda learn to read and write poetry - to find the words for their own version of Roots.

ELISA MARIA MIRANDA: We walked like the cement had carried us. Gritos of Welga drying our mouths as yellow grass. Welga from the growers' dangerous fields and cold homes. As we marched I held the sign of a little girl standing in her dirty river that she calls home.

ROBERTO MAESTAS: Poetry has become a powerful weapon for our children, for the adults, for our elders. And we are constantly looking for the natural inclination of human beings to be poetic.

MOYERS: Here's El Centro's Roberto Maestas as a much younger radical. He grew up in the neighborhood, had dreams of a gathering place for the dispossessed. Down the street was a deserted three-story school building.

ROBERTO MAESTAS: Seattle was in a deep economic political crisis. The war was grinding away at the fabric of our nation. We decided to find a home, create a home.

We tried to convince the authorities to build a community center that would address the needs of the most left out, most locked out.

We asked that they show us the building. We pretended we were interested developers, and we asked them to open the building up for us. They opened the door. I took the lock, put it in my pocket, and we've had it ever since.

MOYERS: Hundreds of people came from all over. They came to see if they could help make this community center work. A deal was struck with the city and school board; the vacant Beacon Hill School became El Centro de la Raza.

ROBERTO MAESTAS: The job really started the day we won. And now that we have this huge building, what do we do, and how do we do it…

MOYERS: Today it houses a child development center… trains people to run small businesses... sponsors art exhibits, poetry workshops, conferences - and keeps urging everyone who shows up, young and old, to stand and be counted.

REGINO MARTINEZ: I always tell people that I'm a generation away from being in the fields. My grandparents, my parents…all my aunts and uncles were migrant farm workers, so I never forget them.

ROBERTO MAESTAS: "I think the most important thing we can do is to...invite them, convince them that they are valuable and important."

"We have learned to use language to define our terms, to express ourselves, and to bring out of our children the noblest and most beautiful sentiments that human beings have. That's how powerful language can be."

CAMILO ANDRES ALMONACID: We once wore rainbows that curved out of hidden realms arcs of tradition around our necks, showering spectrums, streams of shades, we wore the offspring of rain, we wore rainbows like cloth, like war paint spread across cheeks Like juice stains on children's mouths, thorns on kings, like halos on angels, like do rags and old t-shirts and bandanas. Today we don't wear rainbows like we used to. Different, children don't slide down them or use them like Frisbees, now they hide behind cities, on top of gasoline stains, on clean glass, in people eyes. On dirty, they reflect on the back CDs if you hold them sideways. They hide between mountains, behind sprinklers on suburb lawns, on silverware in restaurants, at home in mom's garden, in clubs on strobe lights, on diamonds, acid trips, carnivals and city blocks. But it's not like we're less now because we don't wear rainbows.

ROBERTO MAESTAS: "The constant for our children is to be kind and loving and generous, to be forgiving, to learn from each other, to be open about each other's ideas, to respect each other - whether they agree or not, to never use violence and aggression.

CAMILO ANDRES ALMONACID: We're practically the same now that we don't wear rainbows, think about it. I got a cell phone, you got a cell phone, little kids got cell phones, grandmothers, grandfathers, squirrels and barbers got cell phones. Maybe cell phones are the reincarnation of rainbows.

MOYERS: A book of poems by these young people was published a few years ago to considerable acclaim.

ELISA MARIA MIRANDA: No shoes, socks or warm clothes, standing in her dirty river. I wish I could hold the little munequa that cooked her food by a campfire, stored and kept it cool by an ice chest, bathing drinking and washing in her dirty river. She may have the pleasure of a tent at night, or simply a cardboard house and a dirt floor. Families hungry cold and sick standing in her dirty river, only to get up before the sun rose, to work in poisoned land. Pesticides poisoning the food and the people. I could just picture the girl that stands in her dirty river watching our people bent over, whipped by the sun and its long hours. 3 dollars a day for picking fruits and vegetables in the land of the free? Rows and rows of these families down these river banks, and down these fields. Staining my mind like grape juice on a white shirt.

MOYERS: El Centro de la Raza may be the only organization in America to receive the Reagan-Bush "Thousand Points of Light" Award…and the anniversary medal of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua. As we say, nothing earthshaking here...no miracles...no miracles, that is...to the naked eye.




ANNOUNCER: Next week on NOW: Big business giving big money and exclusive deals to public schools.

SCENE FROM SCHOOLS, INC.: There is a very sophisticated and aggressive marketing plan targeted to children, and I don't see any place for it in the schools. MOYERS: Is the rush to sell inside schools hurting kids? Next week on NOW.

ANNOUNCER: And coming up on NPR radio:

SCOTT SIMON: Hi, I'm Scott Simon. Join me on the radio tomorrow for Weekend Edition from NPR.

Tomorrow James Taylor explains he doesn't write songs, he just hears them in his head and writes them down.

And we'll have the latest on the shootings in the Washington, D.C. area and the debate over Iraq.

You can find your local public radio station on our web site, npr.org.

MOYERS: That's it for tonight. I hope you'll join us next week. For NOW, I'm Bill Moyers.