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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  February 8, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PST

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>> good evening from los angeles. i am tavis smiley. as demonstrations in cairo extended interest a third week, there are concerns about what a post-mubarak egypt would look like and it's impact on the middle east. first up, a conversation about the tense situation with the region with daniel kurtzer, former ambassador to egypt and israel. actress, jennifer beals is here, the flash dance star debuted tonight in a tv drama for fox called the chicago cold. we are glad you have joined us for the latest look in egypt. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference. >> thank you. >> you help us all live better.
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>> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, nationwide is proud to join with travis in working to improve literacy. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ambassador daniel kurtzer is the former u.s. ambassador to egypt and israel, and now a professor in middle eastern policy studies at princeton. good to have you on the program. >> thank you, tavis. >> president obama said earlier today that obviously egypt has to negotiate a path forward, and
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i think they are making progress. do you agree with the president? >> well, there certainly has been a beginning. the opening of discussions between the vice president, omar suleiman, and representatives of the demonstrators got off to a start. there is some difference of view as to whether or not progress was made. some newspapers are reporting that in fact there was some movement forward, while others are a little bit less sing win. we are at a very early stage. i would be hesitant at trying to characterize those talks because they have a long way to go not only in trying to reach agreement, but at the beginning of implementation of anything that is agreed. >> obviously there are many issues, but from your perspective, what is most critical in terms of the to do list that needs to be accomplished if the talks are going to go anywhere? >> well, i think there are probably four or five things that really top the list. the first is to find out whether or not what president mubarak
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offered last week, which is he would remain in office until the next election in august and then retire, whether that is going to be acceptable to the demonstrators. right now we are at a stand-off on that issue. the military and government are saying that is sufficient. the demonstrators are indicating they would still like to see mubarak good more immediately. beyond that, i think you have several political and economic issues. on the political side, the question of whether the emergency laws that have been in effect since president sadat was assassinated in 1981 will be abrogated by the government. this is a major demand because it allows government security services to arrest people without warrants and basically take control without due process. a second issue is opening up the political system, redoing the parliamentary elections held in november and were clearly not
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free, fair or democratic. opening up the candidacy ranks for those who wish to run to president. in other words, allowing political participation. and finally i would say on the economic side there has to be some dismantling of what some are calling a crony capital system in which the disparities in wealth have grown over the year, in addition to population growth accounting for an increase in poverty. there are very fundamental issues, and this is only the top of the agenda. this is a long list of issues that have to be discussed and decided. >> i thank you for the ones you laid out just now. let me, having said that, go back to the top of your list. the first issue is whether or not it is acceptable to the protestors that mr. mubarak would stay in office until elections in august or september later this year. here's the question. there are some, i think our own
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secretary of state, hillary clinton, who has raised questions about the wisdom of mubarak leaving office too soon and whether or not that might bring further chaos to the country and the region. your thoughts about whether or not you are sensitive to his being asked to step dewine or forced out too soon, whatever that means? >> well, there are at least two issues that i think underpin what the secretary of state has said. one is there is a question of whether or not the system itself will begin to crack if mubarak leaves to soon. i think that is a concern. he is still a symbol of long-standing nature of the regime and of the legitimacy of the regime. not everything he did in the past 30 years was bad. he actually accomplished a few positive things as well. there is also a legal issue of whether or not any of the reforms that might be decided could actually be implemented in
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the period of the absence of a president. if you had an acting president or a vice president acting in the stead of the president. so there are some tricky issues here. on the other side of the coin, though, because he is such a symbol for the demonstrators of all that is egypt, it is hard to see how they might accept the word of vice president sewell -- sewell man -- omar suleiman if reforms are taking place under the guidance of someone they don't trust. so they are trying to find the right balance between not destabilizing a system that is now very fragile and at the same time trying to get the reforms jumpstarted to see some progress. >> mr. ambassador, assess for me two things. the way you think the united states has handled this very delicate issue politically. and secondly, how the european
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nations have handled it politically? then i will come to the middle east later. >> sure. i think the united states has done a good job in several respects. number one, we do have contradictory interests with respect to egypt. egypt has been a very strong and positive alley of ours for 30 years -- ally with respect to the peace problem, with respect to the military cooperation and intelligence sharing. it is hard to put a price tag on that, but it is hard to see how we have achieved what we have in the middle east without alliance to this nation. we are a nation that has value with respect to democracy, and egypt has not been a poster child in that regard. so the administration has had a challenge in finding a voice, which was comfortable standing in both of these camps.
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i think the administration has done a good job. some of the back and forth suggests that it hasn't been an easy line to adhere to, but i think by and large as you look back over the past 14 or so days, the administration i think has made both messages quite clear. we don't want to see our relationship with egypt end, but we do want to see the expansion of political freedoms. the europeans of think have also done a relatively good job in finding their voice. europe i think is a little bit out front of the united states with respect to the question of democratization and political freedoms, but europe in one sense also doesn't have the kind of strategic needs and relationship with egypt that we have had. so there is a slightly different set of imperatives on the part of europe, but they have also had to live with this contradictory set of interests.
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>> one of the reasons i am so honored to have you on the program is you are that rare individual who has done two jobs that one might think are dime particularally add odds. one is being our ambassador to egypt, and the other being our ambassador to israel. i am curious from your perspective as to what is at stake here specifically with regard to what egypt will do, won't do, will become or won't become in the future in the middle east? >> tavis, let me start with what i think is not at stake. there has been a lot of breathless analysis that somehow the peace treaty between egypt and israel may be up for grabs. people are looking at this question quite carefully. i don't believe that is the case. almost any scenario, a successor regime to that of hosni mubarak will find in its over interests to maintain the peace treaty
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with israel. that treaty haven't necessarily been characterized with the friendliest of relations, some have called it a cold peace, but there has never been a single violation of the rarningtse in that treaty, and there is no reason to believe that would occur under a successor regime. i don't believe there is a concern with respect to the nature of the treaty. but israeli-egyptian cooperation on issues related to security around gaza, security of the israeli-egyptian border do require a kind of museum trust that will be tested in the period ahead. any egyptian government is going to have its hands full with domestic internal reforms and may not be able to devote the kind of resources that are necessary to contain, for example, the problems in gaza. egypt has suffered from
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terrorism emanating from gaza into the sinai peninsula, and that is going to be watched carefully in the period ahead, as well as maintaining their security relationship. >> you are now teaching at princeton, and i want to now ask you about a question about youth and maybe youthful engagement at the epicenter of this. you are engaging young people every day. i have been reading a lot the last few days about the role or lack there of that social media played in this uprising. talk to me about what your sense is of the role that young people have played or are playing in this particular uprising? >> well, i think this is one of the most interesting fen that of the past two weeks. you basically had a political and economic system that had become terribly strat fade.
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a lot of elderly people had remained in positions of power and influence, and there wasn't the kind of room for the kind of upward mobility in that system that we are used to here through merit, promotions and so forth. so through the economic, political and other dislocations, you had this very strat phied system that doesn't -- didn't allow the entry of new participants. because there were social media available, a lot of people found themselves being able to talk to each other, to share stories, to use the various social media to communicate in ways that they had not had before, and this was something that came together in a sense as the backdrop for what has happened. at the same time, tavis, it is important to remember that the regime had also maintained the
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capability of cutting off those social media. you remember during the course of these 14 days the interpret has been down for several days. a lot of the social media that had been available before the demonstrations were cut off. in other words, the regime was aware of the consequences of allowing too much communications freedom and retained the ability to basically shut it off when necessary. things seem to be back online now, but it tells you that this is all very tenuous. >> quickly, are you hopeful about the next few weeks or months? >> well, i think in the first instance we have to be hopeful that a dialogue is started. a lot remains to be done. but to the degree that the government can persuade the demonstrators that the clog is serious, yes. maybe the demonstrations will end, and they can get down to the business of implementing reforms. >> the ambassador both to israel
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and egypt from the united states. ambassador, thank you for your time. i appreciate it. >> thank you, tavis. >> up next, actress jennifer beals, from a new show called chicago code. stay with us. >> jennifer everis a talented actress whose roles include flash dance and the tv series, the l word. she is back on prime time tv now with a new series. it is called "the chicago code." the police drama airs monday night as at 9:00 from fox. here now a scene from the show. >> support, do i look like some kind of janitor? >> that means i am the highest ranking police officer in chicago. every cop in the city answer to me. >> how did we miss out on initiating your [beep]? >> i want to do something important with my life. >> members of the black lords removed the bob body.
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i came leader to leader that we are going to do. >> how are you doing it do that? >> we are going to enact operations against the black lords. you get in the middle of this fight though, i return the favor, respectfully. >> how surreal is it to have grown up in chicago, and now you are starring in a series where you are playing the support of police in chicago? >> it is very surreal. every street corner is filled with a memory. there are some neighborhoods that are unrecognizable. live cab any -- cabrini green is gone. there is a field and things. it is interesting and fun. >> it feels how to be on the streets and shooting it? >> at first it was surreal. it was difficult to getting back in the groove of being in the
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city. but i was help by my friends. i have friends there high school who still live there. so i spent a lot of time with them, my mom, and my family, reacquainting ourselves with the city. then it just got to be joyful. and it is fun because i have run into people that i grew up with on the street. that is exciting. >> we will go back to your childhood in a second. there are so many cop shows on television, obviously. there are so many shows about cops we have seen, and movies about chicago cops. when you get a script like this for a show, any hesitancy at all about whether or not you are about to sign up for something that can give us something, offer something, show us something about chicago, about the police department, that we have not seen in a million other movies or tv shows? >> i think for me when i am looking at a script, i really try to consider what experience am i embarking upon?
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for me, it is really about the experience. i don't usually see what i have done. i don't often watch the film or watch the show. it is really about that experience on set and within the scene. because later when the film comes out or the show comes out, it is the editor's realm or the director's realm. but that moment on set, that is that electricity between me and another actor, and that is it really what excites me. so for me it was what kind of experience am i going to have, and who am i going to be working with? i have sean ryan, who is extraordinary, and i get to work with jason clark, and i get to play the first female support of the city of chicago. i get to play a woman who is trying to define what her leadership looks like amidst a group of people who are primarily men. >> cutting quickly while this is
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up on the screen, a great shot of a great actor i love who plays a chicago alderman, who is shady -- >> a corrupt chicago alderman. >> without giving too much away, tell me abouthe relationship between you two in the series? >> well, i am the support, and i am brand new to the job. i was on a list of three people who were up for the job. the first two candidates, who were the first two chosen weren't able to do the job because of various misfortunes. i wasn't supposed to get the job. i was really a tone candidate, and they figured i could go their puppet. they figured wrong. she goes in determined not only to take on crime on the streets, but to take on the corruption that is in the halls of power and the corruption within her own police department.
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so she goes up against the alderman, who is one of the people who put her in the position. >> that is not very nice. you don't bite the hand that feeds you. >> very, very foolish of him. i love working with him. >> he is a great actor. >> we used to laugh on set, and i would see how he was doing things, maneuvering props and things to gain ground, and we would love. >> to your point, after all the years of doing this, do you still find yourself watching and learning, checking out other actors? >> oh, my goodness, dell roy schooled me every day. i learned so much from him. he is a very powerful man, incredibly kind, incredibly generous to other people, and very dedicated to his work. really like our last day of
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shooting at the end of the series i cried because i knew that i would miss going to work with him the next day. and hopefully next season. we will see what happens. >> for those who watched the super bowl, meaning most all of us, fox was promoting the heck out of this series. they obviously expect a lot out of you and the cast in terms of delivering. no pressure. >> not me personally. >> the first thing i thought was when i saw who the creator was, creator of the shield. you did the l word. the shield was on cable. cable allows you more liberties. >> like swearing. >> than you have on network television. so you think this show, for those who are fans of "the shield" and they are trying to pull us in by the fact that the guy who did the shield did this,
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even though you don't necessarily have the same latitude on network that you have on cable? >> i think he is able to walk the line really well. he is so great with language that he doesn't need to have people swearing to get to the truth of who they are. one of the, that really love about sean, and we worked together on lie to me, is that he makes it really clear that the characters lead the plot, and not vice versa. that is exciting, because you are not then having to deliver plot at the expense of your character. >> i said i wanted to get back to your childhood earlier. you are biracial as we say in real life. >> yes. >> and i play one on tv here. and you played someone like that on the l word. was that by choice? >> with the l word, when i met
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about with eileen about the role, i asked her to make the character biracial. i thought it would be interesting to talk about that. when i was a child, there was nobody on television who looked like me. i had spock, and that was kind of it, and i was hoping to give some other kind of representation. >> now you have a biracial guy from chicago who is president of the united states. so the biracial thing has worked out ok. >> yes. >> the other thing i wanted to ask you about, and i had forgoten about this because it has been so many years because we were all huge flash dance fans. i had forgotten, though, that when you became a star with that movie, you were not just at yale, you were really just getting started, a freshman at yale when that movie comes out? >> right. >> you decided to stay in school and finish up your degree at
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yale. >> yes. >> i assume, and i could be wrong, after all these years that you made the right decision to stay? >> oh, gosh, yes. you need that cocoon for a while. you need to figure out who you are, what you think and what you believe in. you need to have a life before you start acting. i wasn't ready to jump into hollywood. >> this town is predicated on the belief or notion that you have to strike while the iron is hot. and you don't become a hit in a movie and then leave to finish up your degree. you bucked against that though? >> i know it sounds perverse, but i wasn't that into money, which sounds crazy because i had no money growing up. you but i believed i could make money at any time. there is this perverse belief that you have to strike while the iron is hot because you won't be able to make the money
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down the line. the fact is you can make the money down the line. pam greer did the oprah show, and i went to cheer her on, and m.c. hammer was on the show. he made money, and he lost it all, and he made it again. i really felt like at that time in my life i needed to go to school because i enjoyed going to school, and i was pursuing really what gave me such deep, deep pleasure. >> there were periods in your career where we have seen a lot of you and other moments where we have not seen a lot of you. how have you navigated those periods where we weren't seeing a lot of you? what were you doing in those moments? >> well, i was working. i have always been working, but i have never based my identity on what other people think of me or how other people perceive me. that is just too dangerous and crazy. you do all the preparation. you get ready.
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you study how people walk. you study how people sound. you get the sense of your internal life. and then there comes a moment when you have to let go. and that to me is so delicious. i love it because it is terrifying as well. >> well, she has let go, and we will see how delicious it is. it is called "the chicago code" if you didn't know that. it is being advertised everywhere, monday nights on fox, starring jennifer beals. good to see you. >> thank you. >> that's our show for tonight. thanks for tuning in. until next time, thanks for watching and keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs according. >> hi, i am tavis smiley, join me next time for a conversation with clive davis on events leading up for this year's grammy awards. that is next time. see you then. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james.
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>> yes. >> to everyone making a difference. >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smile. with every question and answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial illiteracy and removing things one at a time. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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