tv PBS News Hour PBS September 14, 2010 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
>> brown: good evening. i'm jeffrey brown. sarah shourd, one of three americans held in iran for more than a year, was released and left the country today. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the newshour tonight, we talk to two iran watchers, including one once jailed in teheran, about today's release and what it tells us about the regime. >> brown: then margaret warner interviews former british prime minister and united nations envoy tony blair about the newest round of middle east peace talks. >> i find it hard to see if these two political leader s in this context with an american administration pushing for a deal, if we can't get one, i don't know where we go from there. >> ifill: fred de sam lazaro has the story of a jewish entrepreneur working with palestinians and israelis for both peace and profit. >> brown: susan dentzer of "health affairs" and karen tumulty of the "washington post" sort through the latest give- and-take on health care politics. >> ifill: and we sit down with
writer and cartoonist austin kleon for a dose of poetry inspired by newspaper prose. >> what i found out is that i need to treat the newspaper as a blank canvas in order to really come up with a good poem. >> brown: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> brown: freedom came today for a california woman held in iran for 410 days. she and two other americans had been accused of spying.
official word of the release was carried on press tv, the state-controlled english language news channel in iran. >> one of the three american citizens who were detained in iran, and that one has been freed. that is sarah shourd. >> brown: iranian president ahmadinejad says his government acted on compassionate grounds. the 2-year-old shourd had been reported in ill health. she spoke this evening at the airport in tehran. >> i want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people that have been involved. i especially particularly want to address president ahmadinejad and all the iranian officials that have really just led and thank them for this humanitarian gesture. i'm grateful and very humbled by this moment. >> brown: shourd was flown to ... to be reunited with his mother. the u.s. has no diplomatic
relations with iran. it remained unclear who paid shourd's bail of half a million dollars. the family said it could not afford that much. american officials said the u.s. paid nothing for her release. shourd could still be tried in absentia. her two companions remain jailed awaiting trial. in washington state department spokesman p.j. crowley said they all should have been let go. >> our view, you know, then a year ago and now is that, you know, these three individuals are not guilty of any crime. we understand that iran needed some time to satisfy itself that they pose no threat to iran. >> brown: the three americans were arrested in july 2009 along the iran-iraq border. their families said they were hiking. iranian authorities accused them of spying. their case was the latest in a series involving westerners.
retired f.b.i. agent robert levinson has been missing in iran since 2007. his fate unknown. in today's wall street journal his daughter sarah levinson wrote, "the iranian government has never delivered the full report of the investigation promised to us three years ago. we have no more information today than when my father disappeared." in addition two journalists iranian-american saberi and a" newsweek "reporter, a canadian- iranian were held for several months last year. and the washington-based scholar esfandiari spent much of 2007 jailed in iran. she was released after using her mother's house as bail. and i'm joined by haleh esfandiari, the director of the middle east program at the woodrow wilson international center for scholars. and karim sadjadpour, an associate at the carnegie endowment for international - elcome to both you. kareem, starting with you, what's known about what led to the release today?
>> i think a few points worth mentioning. first is that there's no evidence against these three young hikers. the iranian government detained them august of 2009. they stopped interrogating them a couple months after their detention so i think when you talk to people connected to their lawyers in tehran, it's clear that the government didn't have any evidence against them. second, she has a health concern. she found a lump on her breast. i think the regime certainly didn't want to be put in a position where they would be responsible for her health. i'm not convinced that president ahmadinejad was responsible for her release, but i am convinced he will take credit for her release and try to spin it in a way to project himself as being a magnanimous, reasonable guy ahead of his visit to the u.n. general assembly next week. >> brown: this comes after a confusing series of pronouncements and counterpronounce manys over the last week. what do you see going on? first the president said she would be released. then the judiciary said, no, we'll do it.
>> i think this was a way for the judiciary to score a point with the president because the judiciary is separate entity from the government and the head of the judiciary is appointed by the supreme leader so when ahmadinejad does something, the judiciary decided to make this announcement, you know, they would let sarah free. the judiciary immediately said it is for us who decide when she is going to be freed. so it shows really the differences that have been going on in the government all this time. don't speak... they don't speak with one voice. >> brown: they don't some. >> no. >> brown: how much independent is the judiciary in iran? >> we can't say it is independent because a branch of the judiciary works very closely with the security
apparatus and the intelligence ministry. but at least they would like to give the appearance that they can be independent if they want to. >> brown: but behind the scenes it looks like a whole sort of... i don't know if power struggle is too much or a of strife. >> i think it's safe to say there is a power struggle in iran. there was an interesting memoir written several years in the united states entitled how to lose friends and alienate people. i think ahmadinejad's post presidential career could offer that type of memoir in iran because it's remarkable how uncanny an ability he has to get under people's skin in iran. >> brown: he does the rest of the world too. like you're saying in iran. >> that's the . >> brown: what led to that. >> in the aftermath of june 2009 presidential elections any remaining moderates or pragmatists were purged from the system. what resulted was a very hard- line government whose color spectrum ranges from pitch black to dark gray.
even among these conservatives there's tremendous animosity towards ahmadinejad. and the state that the country is in right now under tremendous external pressure but also internal pressure. >> brown: does that sound right to you you? >> yes, i agree with kareem but i think at the end that's my guess that the supreme leader has to intervene once again like he did in my case and probably the judiciary just let her go. because how much more do you want to discredit the president. >> brown: but the final decision would arrest with the grand ayatollah. >> yes, i mean if he says let her go, they let her go. that was in my case. >> brown: based on your case and taking back gts going back to the particular case of sarah and her companions, any sense of whether they would have known what was going on behind the scenes or might she have even expected to be released today? would that have been a surprise?
i know it's conjecture, but what do you think based.... >> i hope she didn't. she was not told last week that she would be released because then as we hear from her mother she was suffering from depression. that would have added to her depression. so i hope not. but i believe maybe when she met with her lawyer, all three appeared in court yesterday . on sunday they appeared in court. so probably he told her this is what is going on. they want... she was expecting her release. >> brown: in your case you had thought you might be released at different times. what was the.... >> i had been told on several occasions that i would be released in a week's time, in five days' time and so on. they were very cruel. i really didn't believe them. so the last time when i was summoned for interrogation and i was instead of being
interrogated i was told pack your bags and go, i thought this is really the ultimate of cruelty. but no, they were right. >> brown: in the meantime, her two companions shane bower and josh fatal are still being held. might they face trial? is there any hope for them for release? >> i doubt they will face trial because the regime will expose their own lack of evidence against him. hostages in iran often times become political footballs. i suppose president ahmadinejad likes dramatic gestures. i could see him wanting to bring them on the plane with him when he comes to new york next week. >> brown: really? >> but as i mentioned because of this internal political struggle, his conservative rivals will not want to give him that type of credit. it's very unpredictable. i hope they're released very soon but it's plausible that this could drag on for a little bit longer. >> brown: you really think of all of these cases, yours too, as pawns in iranian politics.
>> i do. it's unfortunate when you look at iran's neighbors particularly turkey and dubai they've managed to build thriving economies by trading in good conservatives. three decades after the revolution and the 1979 hostage crisis, this regime remains in the business of trading in human beings. >> brown: do you think there's hope for release? >> i beg to differ. i agree agree with kareem. on this point i beg to differ. i think the regime needs a face-saving solution. and the face-saving solution is going to be to put the two on trial and sentence them maybe to a year or 15 months. they'll have served it. and they'll ask for some bail. they'll let them go but not within the next two or three weeks. things have to calm down a little bit after the release of sarah. but i say for the first time a light at the end of the tunnel. >> brown: all right. we'll see what happens. kareem sad jad power and halah esfandiari, thank you both
very. >> ifill: still to come on the newshour, former prime minister tony blair on middle east peace; a not-just-for profit business in israel; a health care reform update; and wordplay from the daily news. but first, with the other news of the day, here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> sreenivasan: seven states and the district of columbia held primary elections today. tea party activists were a major factor on the republican side. in delaware, congressman mike castle battled christine o'donnell for a u.s. senate nomination. o'donnell was backed by former vice presidential nominee sarah palin. among democrats, washington, d.c., mayor adrian fenty and veteran congressman charles rangel of new york were in tough races. rangel faces house ethics charges. the european union sharply criticized france today for expelling ethnic roma migrants. in recent weeks, the french have deported more than 1,000 roma-- also known as gypsies-- sending most back to romania. authorities also dismantled more than 100 illegal camps. today the european justice commissioner called the deportations a "disgrace."
>> i personally have been appalled by a situation where ... which gave the impression that the people are being removed from a member state of the european union just because they belong to an ethnic minority. this is a situation i have thought europe would not have to witness again. after the second world war. >> sreenivasan: french president nicolas sarkozy has defended the deportations. he maintains that roma camps are havens for prostitution and child exploitation. for the first time in 15 years, the number of chronically hungry people in the world has fallen. the u.n.'s food and agriculture organization reported today the figure is now below one billion. the agency cited falling food prices and record production of cereals. food prices peaked in 2007 and 2008, and sparked riots in developing countries. wall street had a relatively quiet day. the dow jones industrial average lost more than 17 points to close at 10,526. the nasdaq rose four points to
close above 2289. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: middle east peace talks resumed today in sharm el- sheikh, egypt. secretary of state hillary clinton presided over two sessions between israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu and palestinian president mahmoud abbas. there was no sign the israelis might extend a moratorium on building jewish settlements in the west bank. but u.s. envoy george mitchell did say this. >> we think it makes sense to extend the moratorium especially given that the talks are moving in a constructive direction. we know that this is a politically sensitive issue in israel. we have also called on president abbas to take steps that help encourage and facilitate this process. >> ifill: the leaders move to jerusalem for more discussions wednesday. this morning, margaret warner
spoke with former british prime minister tony blair, who represents the middle east quartet of the u.n., the u.s., the european union and russia. they met in new york, where blair is promoting his political memoir, "a journey." >> warner: tony blair, thank you for joining us. >> my pleasure, margaret, thank you. >> warner: i want to talk about your book which is going to debut on number three on the "new york times" best seller list this sunday. first the news of the day. the middle east peace talks resuming. after these years of false starts and dashed expectations do you think these talks have any better chance of succeeding? >> yes, i do, in fact. and sometimes what happens in these processes, as with northern ireland, is that you can struggle for decades, not quite achieving it. and then it can come together. i think the reason it can come together here in the middle east is because we have a opportunity frankly with a region that is more concerned about iran really , that wants to take this poison that is
generated by the israeli- palestine dispute out of the politics of the middle east. we've got to leaders and two peoples that want peace. now whether they can get there is the tough question. but they both want it. and there is an agreed outcome which is the two-state solution. i think it is possible to do. >> warner: there is this immediate hurdle, the threatened end to the curb on settlement building. you spoke with prime minister netanyahu over this weekend. do you see him putting anything on the table that you think the palestinians can accept and stay at the negotiating table? >> i hope so. you know, the cleanest thing obviously is for the renewal of the moratorium. >> warner: he said this weekend that's not going to happen. >> he has his huge difficulties internally with that. what i heard from him is this-- i don't want to get into the detail of what people may be discussing but what i heard is, one, he wants to find a way through this issue. two, he understands what the palestinian concern is, and, three, he is serious about
this negotiation. so can we find a way through this very tricky issue? answer: yes if we really care enough about getting a final deal. >> warner: do you agree with secretary clinton who said that this was the, quote, last chance for a negotiated two- state solution? >> you know, it's always difficult when you say it's the last chance but i have to say i think she's right in this sense. that i can't see how if you drag this out several more years, it's going to get any better. i can easily see how it could get a lot worse. so, you know, as i say it's difficult to predict accurately. but yes i find it hard to see if these two political leaders in this context with an american administration pushing for a deal, if we can't get one, i don't know where we go from there. >> warner: you write in your book on several occasions that
how key you thought resolving the israeli-palestinian issue was and remains to the wider struggle against islamic extremism. let me flip it around. do you think it's possible for the west and for the forces of moderation to win that struggle without resolving the israeli-palestinian issue? >> well, it's a good question. i mean , i think it's very hard to see that happening frankly. now that is not to say that the israel-palestine issue is the cause of the extremeism. it's not but resolving it would be immensely beneficial. failure to resolve it leaves that poison there. the fact is that each of them believed that they are deeply misunderstood by the other. and if you manage to get that understanding , then it would have a massive symbolic effect right across the region. it would take away from those people who are extreme the ability to exploit this issue
in order to cause problems. >> warner: another and related theme in your book is this idea that after 9/11 as you said everything changed and the world had to be remade. you thought the islamic world had to be remade. this is something that you and president bush shared. iraq fell into that sort of rubric for you. nine years after 9/11 or seven-and-a-half years after the conflict, do you think that world has been reshaped in any significant way that is of benefit to the west and to the national security of the west? >> i think there is an identifyable struggle where those people that are modernizing , forward-looking -- they have their constituency and they are moving forward. now that's not to say they're not opposed very strongly by the opposite. in iran just as in afghanistan. people say to me it's gone on
for so many years. it's so hard. we lose our soldiers. there are civilians that are kill. i always say to people, why is that happening? it's happening because of this wider issue. you know, the people who cause the difficulty in iraq were al qaeda on the one hand linking up with internal insurge cents, and the other was the external pressure that was trying to create and foment the sectarianism. so in the end what is the answer? the answer is to support and empower those people who want a different way forward which include of course the people who are voting in iraqi and afghan elections and wanting a different way forward. >> warner: yet you said in saying that you have no regrets about going to war. you do not regret that decision. nonetheless you and the president of the united states did not anticipate the nightmare that would be unleashed, the one you just described. what does that say about our ability ever to understand the consequences of what we are doing in that part of the world? in other words, especially if we have the presumption of
thinking that we can help reshape it or remake it? >> i think what it means is that when we do understand and can see it , we do see these extreme forces and they are very active and their impact is terrible. but the thing that should give us hope is that there are people who want a different way and who need our help to get it. when i'm doing the work i do in palestine at the moment, over these past two or three years, the palestine economy and the west bank for example is growing double digits. you know, unemployment i was in a place the other day where unemployment last year was 30%. this year 12%. they are really moving forward. why is that? because the palestinian authority have taken security matters into their own hands. they're building the institutions of capacity and governance and they're running the west bank properly. >> warner: that's a place
where the u.s. did not intervene with force of arms. is is there a role, do you think still, for intervening with a force of arms or does it just unleash demons that then we... that make life not only more difficult for us but more difficult for the modernizers as you described them in that world? >> that's the big question. my answer to it would be that the demons were there. you know, that if you look at what was happening happening in iraq under saddam or in afghanistan under the taliban the demons weren't on our television screen every night. the battle wasn't as obvious as it was when we were engaged in it but the battle was there. in the end the answer to it is not to say, well, we've got to leave you within this terrible situation because if we intervene, then these other people are going to come in and create mayhem. do we let these terrorists cause that mayhem or do we say we're going to stand up and confront you?
this is the trouble because, yes, it's true. when you intervene, they fight back. but does that mean you don't intervene? >> warner: meanwhile here in the west we're seeing the rise of what some would call a new kind of islam-phobia. in europe bans on wearing minarets or wearing the veil. here right in new york this furor over an islamic center being built near ground zero. what do you think is going on there? do you think the gulf between the two civilizations is actually widening? >> no, i don't think so. but i think what is going on is that this extremism is producing its own reaction. right? and what political leaders have got to do is to try and make sense of that . in my view the only basis on which you make sense of it is to say this is not a battle between islam and the west. it is a battle, however, between those with a modern
view of the world in which people of different faiths peacefully co-exist together and those in whatever religion who don't. you know, it's an interesting thing, this. but the reaction to this extremism, which is producing its own form of, as you say, islam-phobia in certain parts of the world and europe. this is an issue that is like wild fire through european politics. what it is necessary for european leaders is to say we are not going to engage in discrimination against muslims. on the contrary, we are going to stand up for the principle that people are born free and equal, whatever their race, whatever their faith, whatever their color, and we're going to stand up for that and stand up for it against those within our own cultures and societies that want to discriminate and those who are fomenting extremism. within islam. >> warner: where does this whole line of thinking lead
you when it comes to what a public leader must do confronting iran and its nuclear ambitions? >> well, you see, i think if iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability, it would destabilize the whole of the middle east. i don't think it's acceptable that it does. one of the reasons why iran with nuclear capabilities is because of the nature of the iranian regime so, you know, this is , you know, in that debate in a way you have encapsulated both the toughness and the difficulty of the decision-making. what happens if sanctions don't work? and also the problem that in the end you know that they will try to present our consenting them as an attack on islam whereas of course it isn't. it's an attack on a regime acquiring unlawfully nuclear weapons capability in circumstances where they
export terrorism and chaos around the region. >> warner: when you talk about confronting them you're talking about militarily. >> you can't take that option off the table in my view. i don't want that option. i think we should strive as hard as we can to avoid it. but they've got to know that the will is there to stop them getting that capacity. look, you know, it's difficult... these are difficult judgments. but my judgment being out in that region a lot of the time is if you get a nuclear-armed iran two things will happen. one you completely change the balance of power within the region, probably have other countries trying to acquire that capability too. secondly, i see what iran does in that region. you know, it's not just good nuclear weapons capability. they are pushing and fomenting this extremism everywhere. now if you give them the technology for nuclear weapons, can you be sure that they wouldn't leak that technology ? well, i wouldn't take that
risk personally. >> warner: and yet the iraq experience, should that give us a certain humility about the prospect that once again we would just be blind to the potential consequences, to the demons, the nightmares that could be unleashed? >> of course. absolutely. you're right. that's what makes it so difficult. but the trouble is we're in a situation where, you know, as i always used to say to people the consequences of removing saddam are severe. but so is the alternative which is leaving him there. it's the same with iran. the consequences of confronting iran are, you know, i don't like to think about them. but we have to think about them. because the consequences are of not con friday nighting them and leaving them with nuclear weapons capability is also a problem. we live in a era of low predictability and tough decision-making. >> warner: tony blair, thank you so much. >> thank you.
>> brown: and now we move from the perspective of a world leader to that of a businessman who is struggling to make peace on a smaller scale. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro reports from israel.- eporter: once upon a time this factory in central israel was a small kitchen selling a few jars of sun-dried tomato spread to delis in israel. then in 1992, founder benish got a visit from daniel, a recent law graduate and tomato spread fan. >> three people were working me and another two workers, and he came with a jar that he bought in a supermarket. he said this is yours? i said, yeah. he said i like this the most. i never taste anything like that. look, this is my idea. he presents the philosophy of piecework. >> reporter: daniel had brought a proposal he wrote in college called pieceworks. if benish would buy his supplies and ingredients from israel's often hostile neighbors instead of portugal or italy he would sell the product in america.
did you think he was a little crazy? >> in the beginning, yes. >> reporter: but daniel, who grew up in mexico, the son of a holocaust survivor, made the case that trading with arab and muslim neighbors was not just good for peace. it was good business. >> it's closer than portugal to buy it from egypt but also the sun-dried toe natos are fresher. the olives, the bassal. and the farm in a palestinian village. >> reporter: today sales have grown to more than a million jars a year. >> we sell in whole foods. we sell in a lot of natural stores, specialty stores. >> reporter: the social message is peace through business ties. daniel has since started other much larger food businesses, but he calls peace-works is not just for profit enterprise. (horn) he's channeled 5% of peace-works profits interest a grass roots group he started called one voice to raise the
voice of moderates, he says. >> we're moving from theory into action. the first part of the action is actually visualizing what it is that the people are going to do and empowering the people to start building a two- state solution. >> reporter: one voice has several hundred thousand signatures from supporters. its young volunteers, palestinian and israeli, campaigned for their vision of peace : an independent palestinian on land captured by israel in the 1967 war. the two nations would share a capital in the historic city of jerusalem. also in the one voice media campaign are films to fire up its mostly young supporters. this one imagines israel and palestine co-hosting the 2018 soccer world cup. >> do you think we'll have an independent palestine? not as i see the situation now. >> reporter: but as they hit
the pavement, video cameras in hand, to make more films, one voice's volunteers find a far more pessimistic reality. >> life is very bad here in palestine. and the situation is deteriorating because of the wall, because of the settlements which are eating up our land. >> reporter: in the west bank city there's anger over jewish settlements built on land israel captured in 1967 and the wall that israel calls its security barrier. also in-fighting in the palestinian leadership. >> there is a siege on the people. we've become two people, two lands. we're taking a passive role in this. we were a people active and alive but our politicians are standing in the way. >> reporter: israeli volunteers also met many skeptics. they too cited the bloody power struggle within the palestinian territories between the fatah party of president abbas which control
s the larger west bank and the islamist hamas party which now controls the gaza strip. >> you have to look back. it goes back 4,000 years. it has nothing to do with politics. it's a jihad war. who can we make peace with? fatah? what about al qaeda? >> sadly, when i talk to israeli groups or to american- jewish groups, they don't see both sides. they don't see the humanity of the people because unfortunately the media doesn't show that. i assume it's the same case for you, that you only see the worst of us. >> reporter: at a meeting of one voice volunteer supporters in the west bank city, daniel said large majoritys on both sides are moderates who support a two-state solution but each use the other as lacking the leadership to carry out a peace treaty. >> i definitely think that we
are swimming upstream. it makes it very difficult for the vast majority of moderates who would benefit from connecting with one another and from meeting to be able to express themselves. >> reporter: the growing tension has also made it difficult for benish's business. his workers and many ingrediented used to come directly from the west bank until barriers and tight security put an end to it. today benish works with an arab family living within israel's 1948 boundaries. they have ties to familiarers in the west bank as well as their own olive groves. if these men seem familiar, it's because their fathers traded with each other. >> his father is the largest grower, olive grower here in the area. they had a good relationship in the term of business. he came to our house, you know, my family knows everything. >> reporter: today their relationship thrives but it often has to do so quietly.
>> in the palestinian areas when things get hard, it's also hard here. i have palestinian business associates. during the hard times, you're usually refraining from making your joint activities public. >> reporter: similarly this factory makes many products for other brands besides peace- works but we were asked not to film the other brands for fear that the association might affect sales in the israeli market. >> this idea of trading with arabs is not very popular in israel as well, right? >> you're right. the reason we are trying... working in spite of all the problems is due to our belief that it will help eventually. >> it's very important for this kind of business to exist. because that creates a channel of communication. now that the political community indication practically doesn't exist. also when businesses is thriving people's standard of living will go up. i think it's imperative that the palestinian people will
get out of the economic bright they're facing. that's also very important to the israelis because we are neighbors. >> reporter: daniel says the forbidding political climate has made it difficult to scale up these works so it could have a wider impact. >> when the time comes-- and the time won't be today-- the minds are not ready. but if you start providing this constant in one or two years where you have the momentum you'll be able to get them to the street activation. >> reporter: the one voice group hopes things will change through dogged campaigning by younger israelis and palestinians. >> before i start business when i was in college i remember one of my advisors thought i was naive and crazy and it could never be done and gave me the list of why it couldn't be done. eventually i did it. it's a little bit more of a stable idea and more of an accepted idea now. it wasn't 17 or 20 years ago. so i think sometimes it's good to be a little naive and to just be willing to take risks. and to not know that you're crazy. then when you look back you can't believe you did it.
>> reporter: this year one voice will spend $1.4 million, money raised in part from the sale of food products but also now from several israeli -arab and american donors. >> ifill: now, the continuing fallout over the health reform law. the battle continues to play out even as the law begins to take effect. in florida today, a federal judge heard arguments filed by 20 attorneys general who are challenging the validity of the law. and the debate remains alive in the political arena as well. >> ifill: as the seven-week sprint to the mid terms began today with a final round of big primaries the six month old health care law, once sold by democrats as a political plus, is so far anything but. ( applause ) >> ifill: the latest evidence: a new poll released today by national journal and the pew research center. it shows 45% view the law
unfavorably. 38% favorably. for some republicans, campaigning against the law has become part of their anti-washington anti-big government pitch. >> i'll work to cut spending, lower taxes, repeal obama care. >> ifill: just last spring democrats hoped voters would embrace the issue. >> i predict, david, by november those who voted for health care will find it an asset. >> ifill: but the president acknowledged last friday the measure may have turned into a political problem for democrats. >> we're in a political season where every candidate out there has their own district, their own make-up , their own plan, their own message. in an environment where we still have 9.5% unemployment people are going to make the best argument they can right now. >> ifill: opposition to the law is also playing out in the court and on the floor of the senate. today nebraska republican mike johans proposed changing fax
filing requirements for small businesses and allowing some employees to opt out of insurance coverage. >> so today are we going to turn our deaf ear to the job creators in america? are we going to stand with the president who doesn't want anybody fiddling with his health care reform or are we going to stand with small businesses? >> ifill: florida democrat bill knellson said the approach would undercut the law's intent. >> what the senator from nebraska is doing is he is driving a stake into the heart of the health insurance reform bill by taking two million people out of that pool that are uninsured, that otherwise would be getting health insurance. >> ifill: both johans's amendment and nelson's alternative failed.
part of the problem: several of the law's key provisions do not take effect until next week. among them children with pre-existing health conditions will no longer be denied coverage. young adults under the age of 26 will be able to stay on their parents' health plan. insurance plans won't be able to drop coverage when people get sick. and life-time limits on coverage will be lifted. the biggest changes, which would require coverage for tens of millions of americans, won't take effect until 2014. >> ifill: for more on all this, we turn to karen tumulty, a political reporter for the washington post who's been spending time on the campaign trail. and newshour regular susan dentzer is editor-in-chief for the journal "health affairs." she's been spending time tracking the rollout of the new law. karen tumulty, we just sawchuk schumer back in march say i am certain that we're going to be able to run on this. he said it better than i did. what happened had. >> the exact opposite of what the democrats were hoping for. back in june the gallup poll was suggesting that americans
were pretty evenly divided over the health care law. in fact there was a 3% margin that more people supported it than opposed it. now in late august, the most recent gallup poll suggests that the opposition is now 17 percentage points greater than the support for this bill. i think one of the reasons is that this bill fits into the larger narrative of this election year. it's exhibit-a essentially in the republicans' case that the obama administration and that the democrats who have been in charge of capitol hill have been guilty of expanding government too much and of overreach. again this becomes the single piece that is driving that narrative. >> ifill: who is running against this? who is running away from it? >> interestingly enough you do hear a lot of the... it feels like some of the democrats who were talking about it the most are in fact the democrats who voted against it. a couple of weeks ago i was in
wisconsin where suddenly russ feingold the senator finds himself under challenge from an opponent who had never even been in politics before may, who now has a decent shot at beating him. he argues that the reason ron johnson, a businessman from wisconsin, claims that the reason he decided to run was because of this bill which he calls the single greatest assault on our personal freedom in my lifetime. it is really again plays into the whole narrative that the republicans have built. >> ifill: susan, what has changed and what hasn't changed' people? is it people's understanding of what is in the measure? or is it just being useded for, i guess, political... the details of the bilk used for political advantage? >> i think karen is right. i think the over all change here, if it is a change-- and it's really just a worsening of the problem-- is that the economy is so dominant now in the various races, if you look at voter sentiment, how voters
feel with issues, health reform is a distant third after the economy and jobs and dissatisfaction with government in general. there's just not enough in health reform at the moment to break through any of that for the people who are opposed to it. it's still very partisan. 68% of democrats still very supportive of health reform. 77% of republicans violently opposed to health reform. >> ifill: what has actually happened since this bill was enacted six months ago that people can point to and say my life is better? >> as the piece noted six months after enactment which happens to be september 23, a number of provisions relating to insurance market reform go into effect. those will help people. now mind you, that he will help people who already have coverage because they amend the terms of existing coverage. also for many people they won't really feel the effects until january 1 when new plans go into effect. so, for example, if you are
relieved that your plan is now no longer going to have annual limits or will have restricted annual limits and no life-time limits anymore, you won't really necessarily feel that relief until january when all of that actually goes into effect because your new plan year takes effect. those kinds of things are important but they tend to benefit people who already have coverage. as the piece noted the big bang when you start to roll out subsidies to help people who don't have coverage, all of that doesn't take effect until 2014. in the end if you look at the kaiser tracking poll the most persuasive number is that 51% of americans are disappointed now in health reform because not that much has happened. >> ifill: yet, karen , last august about this time incredible uproar. lots of town hall meetings taking down this bill saying it was socialism. we didn't hear that this year. >> no, we didn't. it was really interesting at least in the places where i was going to these town halls
the kinds of questions that people were asking. you're right. people were not screaming socialism and death panels. they were asking questions like, you know, i have a small business. suddenly, you know, i'm going to have to provide... what is this going to do to me? i don't think that until people feel this law fully implemented not just the expansion of coverage that comes in a few years but whether it lives up to its promise of transforming the health care system , of reining in some of these forces that have been driving everyone's costs through the roof, not until people see whether that is working-- and that could be decades away-- are they really going to, i think, know whether this is a bill, a law that has helped more people or hurt more people. >> ifill: i think the supporters of this law would have said we knew it would take time to roll out. in the time that it's taking to roll out and be felt, what real possibility is it that efforts to repeal all or part of it are serious?
>> well, the efforts are very serious. whether they result in serious ends remains to be seen. it's very clear that the republican strategy is to pick away at various sources of revenue that finance the legislation that was part of the dance this week. if the house, if the republicans take back the house or increase their margins in the senate, you'll see more of the same. of course as long as president obama is in the white house, he will presumeably veto all of that legislation. we don't expect much. all of this is gearing up a general aura of dissatisfaction with the legislation that could build on itself and perhaps help the republicans in 2012. >> ifill: let's take that general aura of dissatisfaction and flip it on its head. how do you take away something from people that they already have? is the white house counting on the fact that now that this is law they can talk about rolling it back but that's harder to do. >> i agree. if that becomes a debate over
repealing this law, it becomes a completely different kind of debate. but a lot of the issue i think is is going to be shaped and framed around how well this law is implemented over the next few years. if as the government both the state governments and the federal government come up with unanticipated consequences glitchs in the law that they didn't expect, if they are able to sort of fine-tune it and make the implementation more smooth than a lot of people expect it to be, i think that that too will also gradually make people feel more comfortable with the law. >> ifill: how much is this not really playing out so much in washington as it is on the state level or even in these individual congressional races which sometimes actually feel like local races? >> well there is a lot of tension at the state level where as in many states as we see, you have attorneys general suing to undermine the law and essentially have provisions of it declared unconstitutional.
people who are in charge with planning for the implementation setting up the health insurance exchanges, figuring out what rules they now need to enforce some of the new provisions on insurance companies. so they're all kind of looking over their shoulders saying what the heck is happening? and worrying about what the tendency is going to be over time. i think on balance what the democrats are hoping is that more and more of these provisions roll out and because they are so inter-dependent it will frankly get harder to start to take this all apart. and people will start to see bit by bit some additional benefits. the pre-existing condition restrictions program or pre-existing program which enables people who couldn't get coverage at all because of chronic illness or other things, people, you know, a few more thousand people get coverage under that it's a lot harder to take that away. >> ifill: sounds like we have a long-term challenge and a short-term. short term between now and november. thank you both very much.
>> thanks, gwen. >> thank you. >> brown: finally, another in our series on poets and poetry. tonight, texas-based writer austin kleon, who finds poetry in the prose of daily news. his first book, "newspaper blackout," was published this summer. >> my name is austin kleon. i live in austin texas with my wife megan and our little dog milo. by day i design websites. by night i write poetry and draw cartoons. do you sit in a cubicle all day? do you mess around in front of the pc and do you find yourself always looking for the millions of hours killed? i was your typical kid who wanted to be a writer. i went to college and to learn how to be a writer. up went through creative writing workshops and wrote my
double-spaced times new roman 12-point font manuscript, had my fellow students critique them in workshop. when i got out of college i was struggleing. i didn't have an audience anymore. i just hit what was a basic old case of writer's block. i thought, you know, i just don't have any words. i kind looked over at the recycle bin next to my desk. it was piled full of newspapers. i thought, i don't have any words. right over there millions of them. so i picked up a newspaper. i pulled out one of my markers that i draw with. i started deleting words from the paper and letting some just float there. i thought i must be on to something. this one is called anything goes. anything goes in america. the rules not really rules but a kind of guesswork. when i first started taking the marker to the news print i thought it was just a writing exercise. i thought it was something that would lead to bigger writing, it would lead to a
short story or a novel. might even lead to a graphic novel or the comic strip but slowly as i kept doing this, i would show them to my wife. she would say, well, you're writing poetry. it's compressed language. it makes use of the page. it's poetry. it was a big surprise to me. this one is called all you can do. in love, all you can do is fail so badly the first time the rest you don't mind at all. i came to the method because i love to read newspapers so much. but what i found out is that i need to treat the newspaper as a blank canvas in order to really come up with the good poem. so what i'm doing when i'm looking for a poem, alan ginsburg has this line in supermarket california. he said shopping for images. so that's what i'm doing. i'm actually scanning the newspaper. i'm not reading it. i'm just kind of glancing over it. i'm trying to look at the newspaper as one of those old word-find puzzles we used to
do in school where we had to circle words that were kind of just left in this field of letters. this one is called foreclosure. 9:00 a.m. they're at his door with papers. there must be some misunderstanding. he has lived here for six years, peaceably and happily. he has a job. it's not fair this song and dance. leave town, they say. go live in a train station or peddle fruit cakes because a house is not a home. i'm a 9:00 to 5:00 guy. i've had a 9:00 to 5:00 job. a big part of my creative life has been finding the time, finding the little spaces in my daily routine to make work. so my book i actually wrote the entire tee of my book on the bus commute to and from work every day. and then in the basement on my lunch break for an hour. this one is called take a holiday. take a holiday. go on strike. decide not to wear pants.
only now does the flowering begin. threaten the economist with the unimaginable. my joy when i'm making them is to somehow really playoff that article. to either completely transform the raw material of the article into my own poem so that the poem doesn't even resemble the original article. or to in some way kind of parody the article or twist the article into a different meaning. but it's really about the transformation of the material. if i was taking the article and just summarizing it into a poem, that wouldn't be very interesting but it's the transformation of this thing that's a very... it's this non-fictional journalistic artifact, taking that and turning it into something very personal that's mine that i feel could have come out of me. that's the real play of the activity. that's the real joy.
>> ifill: again, the major developments of the day. iran released american sarah shourd after holding her more than a year. two americans arrested with her remain jailed on spying charges. and middle east peace talks resumed in egypt. on the "newshour," peace envoy tony blair said if current leaders cannot succeed, an agreement may not be possible. and to hari sreenivasan in our newsroom, for what's on the newshour online. hari? >> sreenivasan: austin kleon reads more of his work on our poetry series page. we follow up on two stories we aired recently. paul solman updates the labor standoff at a mott's plant in new york. workers there called off the strike. and some good news about a dancer who lost a leg after being trapped in the rubble of the haiti earthquake. george exantus has a new prosthetic limb and is back on the dance floor. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. jeff? >> brown: and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, we'll have results from today's primary elections. i'm jeffrey brown. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill.
we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.