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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 16, 2010 7:00pm-8:00pm EST

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> lehrer: good evening. i'm jim lehrer. president obama said the gains against al-qaeda in afghanistan are considerable, but also fragile and reversible. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight: we recap the administration's review of the war strategy and get two views on whether progress is being made. >> lehrer: then, we excerpt today's senate debate on a new nuclear arms treaty with russia. >> arms control treaties are an integral part of this country's modern history premised on the shared belief that a world with fewer nuclear weapons is a safer world. >> the united states must be able to rapidly adapt and respond to new threats to our
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security. now's the time for more flexible deterrent capability, not less. >> woodruff: and we debrief political editor david chalian about the politics of the agreement. >> lehrer: plus, jeffrey brown looks at changes in the cable news business as larry king hosts his last cnn program tonight. >> woodruff: and ray suarez remembers the life of legendary hall of fame pitcher bob feller. >> lehrer: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> opportunity can start anywhere and go everywhere. to help revitalize a neighborhood in massachusetts; restore a historic landmark in harlem; fund a local business in chicago; expand green energy initiatives in seattle. because when you're giving, lending and investing in more communities across the country, more opportunities happen.
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>> lehrer: the president and his top national security advisers unveiled their assessment of the war in afghanistan today. it followed a year of increased deployments of u.s. combat forces. margaret warner begins our coverage. >> reporter: the u.s. is hitting al qaeda and the taliban where it counts in both afghanistan and pakistan. that was the overarching assessment of the administration's review. >> i can report that, thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals. >> reporter: the review came just one year after the president announced a surge of 30,000 more u.s. troops to afghanistan. among the positives, the report cited progress in dismantling and disrupting the leadership of al qaeda in pakistan; reversing the momentum of the taliban in afghanistan and recruiting and training afghan security forces.
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the president particularly emphasized the impact of u.s. air strikes against militant leaders hiding out in pakistan. >> today, al-qaida's senior leadership in the border region of afghanistan and pakistan is under more pressure than at any point since they fled afghanistan nine years ago. senior leaders have been killed. it's harder for them to recruit; it's harder for them to travel; it's harder for them to train; it's harder for them to plot and launch attacks. in short, al-qaida is hunkered down. >> reporter: but the president was more cautious about the situation on the ground in afghanistan. >> progress comes slowly and at a very high price in the lives of our men and women in uniform. in many places, the gains we've made are still fragile and reversible. >> reporter: most of the international troops in afghanistan are american-- 100,000 of them. another 41,000 foreign troops are also serving, under nato command.
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defense secretary robert gates said today a u.s. drawdown can still begin next july, with a goal of handing over control to the afghans by the end of 2014. >> in terms of when the troops come out, the president has made clear it'll be conditions-based. in terms of what that line looks like beyond july 2011, i think the answer is, we don't know at this point. but the hope is that as we progress, that those drawdowns will be able to accelerate. >> reporter: in the meantime, casualties are mounting. since the war began nine years ago, more than 2,200 coalition troops have lost their lives. of those, 1,436 were american, including 489 this year alone, the highest one-year toll of the entire war. the five-page unclassified summary acknowledged two significant challenges to winding down the war and bringing home the troops. one is the poor quality of governance in afghanistan under
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its president, hamid karzai. the other, is the continuing existence of militant sanctuaries in pakistan. secretary gates said today there's been some progress in getting pakistan to go after insurgent redoubts within its borders. >> i think that like in many of the things that we've dealt with pakistan, things will move in the right direction. it will probably take longer than we would like, but they have made clear their intentions. >> reporter: gates was pressed on how durable any of the gains are in afghanistan. >> there are reports-- from on the ground, from various sources, and apparently reports of... intelligence agency reports recently which paint a darker picture, a picture of corruption, incompetence, weakness or absence of government in afghanistan. so what reason is there to believe that in the long run you can prevail in afghanistan?"
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>> the key here is to identify our objectives clearly. as the president said, our goal isn't to build a 21st century afghanistan. our goal is not a country that is free of corruption, which would be unique in the entire region. our goal is: what do we need to do, along with our partners and the afghans, to turn back the taliban's military and violent capabilities to the degree that the afghan government forces can deal with them, and to provide some minimal capability at the local, district and provincial level for security, for dispute resolution for perhaps a clinic within an hour's walk? >> reporter: the cost of the war to achieve those goals keeps climbing, and u.s. public support keeps slipping with 60%
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disapproving, in a recent "washington post/abc" poll. asked about that, secretary of state clinton insisted today that war policy will not be governed by polls. >> i'm very respectful of the feelings of the american people. but the question i would ask is: how do you feel about a continuing american commitment that is aimed at protecting you and your family now and into the future? because that's the question that we've asked, and this is how we've answered it. >> reporter: ultimately clinton said, the u.s. must make sure the pakistan-afghanistan region is not abandoned to america's enemies, again. >> lehrer: now two views of the review: retired general jack keane is former vice chief of staff of the u.s. army. he was an advocate and one of the architects of the surge in iraq during the bush administration. andrew wilder is the director of afghanistan and pakistan programs at the united states
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institute of peace. he lived and worked in both of these countries for more than 20 years running humanitarian organizations and doing research. andrew wilder, in general, does the official take jibe with your own based on your experiences and observations? >> well, based on i was able to read the official version of the review, not the classified version and based on that i think it does offer a fairly sober assessment of somewhat modest tactical and operational gains that have been achieved in the past year. and i agree that there have been, as was already mentioned in the preview of this program in terms of some military gains in the south, i think there that has set back the taliban. i think in pakistan some of the drone attacks have been effective in disrupting al qaeda activities there. but in terms of sustainable strategic effects, i think we've seen limited ones. i think that's where it's
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already been identified in the report, the lack of progress in terms of a partner in pakistan to crack down on the sanctuaries issue for insurgent and terrorist groups there. but also a partner in afghanistan in terms of the government that's going to be serious in promoting the good... governance and the rule of law in afghanistan. and those are critical if our long-term success is to be achieved. >> lehrer: so to put it simply then, i take what you're saying, the guess there is less than half... the glass is less than half full? >> i think in the context of the last year there have been successed but i think we can't do a review looking at the last year. we have to look at the context of the last eight or nine years. and if you look at the trend lines from the last eight or nine years, the problems identified in the review actually get even more serious in terms of the consistent lack of progress on the sanctuaries issue and in terms of the governance agenda within afghanistan. >> lehrer: we'll go through some of those specifics in a moment, but i want to get general kean's overview.
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you heard what mr. wilder said. how do you respond? you use words like "modest" and "fragile"? or what words do you use? >> well, i did an assessment myself in september for general petraeus and i pretty much agree with the content of the report. it's unmistakable that the momentum is beginning to switch to our favor. we've seen erosion of taliban will, we listened to them everyday on their radio traffic, we interrogate them on a regular basis and we have begown see that change. plus, every battalion and brigade commander that i spoke to had evidence of taliban that wanted to cross back over and reintegrate into afghan society under general petraeus' program, it's called the afghan local police. now, there are hundreds of those. hopefully they'll grow into the thousands like it did in iraq. that's tangible evidence of a shift. the other shift is that we are literally in many areas where we have not been before and we have
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secured them and we have removed the taliban from the throat of the people. challenges lie ahead in terms of governance, to be sure, i agree with that. and also i fundamentally believe that the sanctuaries in pakistan put the 2014 accomplishment at risk unless we eliminate those sanctuaries. either the pakistanis pull the plug and stop supporting them to the degree that they are now or we are given permission to deal with them ourselves. but the fact is, those sanctuaries will have to cease if we intend to be security council saysful by 2014. >> lehrer: and if they don't cease we won't be successful? that's what you're saying? >> that's my judgment. and i do think in time we probably could have tricked the forcings down even with the sanctuaries, but i think we'd be fundamentally out of political will in this country and political capital. and 2014 i think is a reasonable
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expectation for us to bring this to a stable, secure situation where we can turn it over to the afghan security forces. >> lehrer: do you agree that, andrew wilder? that the key to this are those sanctuaries in pakistan? >> well, i would add to that the sanctuaries in pakistan but also the governance piece in afghanistan. because we can kill as many taliban as we want, but, one, if they can go back to pakistan, that's not going to ultimately be successful. but we can clear an area, which is what we're doing in some areas of the south. i agree the momentum of the taliban in some areas have been halted and in some case reversed but then what steps into that void? we can't stay there and hold that territory forever. that's where the afghan government more is to step in. and so far there's been a pretty consistent track record that has been ineffective in stepping into these voids and providing good governance. and i think this is where i think we need to recognize that there's been a divergence in the interests on... in terms of what president karzai's interests are in afghanistan, which i think
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ultimately are political survival, which is often achieved through developing these patronage networks and supporting his local strong men. but our object sieve to promote good governance that is going to win the afghan population over to the government. and unless we achieve that, i think our effects, our military gains, cannot be sustained. >> lehrer: do you agree with that, general, that without the afghan government being able to sustain what they're doing, this isn't going to work? >> i think that there's some real truth to that. but i'm more optimistic about the possibility of being able to do that. i mean, the fact of the matter is, what we've seen now on the ground, when we get the taliban removed from the people, there's community development councils called shuras, many of whom elect those council members and they represent the people. the problem we've had in the past is there's a shadow government there from the
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taliban. and that has been against the goals of the karzai government and our own goals in the local area itself. what we're able to do do now when the taliban are gone is start to build local governance around those community development councils. and there are better people coming forward to participate, which has always been one of our problems in the past. once you get the taliban out thereof who are threatening, terrorizing, and intimidating and just in a general sense just let me say this. some of these problems that seem so intractable-- lack of proper governance at the local area in particular in afghanistan and also the sanctuaries-- when you get the significant momentum and it's obvious that there's going to be a different outcome in afghanistan for the taliban, what seems intractable now can actually get some resolution on. we were fortunate to do the same in iraq with major, major
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problems. and once we turned the tide there, a lot of problems started to fall into place. listen, these tough challenges. i'm not suggesting that they're not. but i'm more hopeful as we move forward here that we can get some local governance there that's responsible to the people and also i'm... i believe if we're tough with the pakistani it is way we need to be and don't just put a finger in their chest, we put a fist in their chest about what the outcome is going to be and what side are they going to be on as we turn the tide here, then i think we can make some definitive progress on governance and also on the sanctuaries. >> lehrer: andrew wilder, is that what's required? put the fist on pakistan to get this thing... get those sanctuaries out of there? >> well, president obama talked about this mutual partnership. and for it to be a partnership it actually has to be mutual and i think there is where there are questions. there's two interpretations that you hear. one is that the pakistan
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government is unable to stop the sanctuaries and that's a serious problem, or that they're unwilling to stop the sanctuaries and that's a problem. but i think if that issue cannot be reversed, it's hard to succeed... see how we're going to succeed military in the long term in afghanistan. >> lehrer: which theory do you buy? are they unable or unsomething from. >> i think in terms of the pakistanis, i've actually cracked... they've actually cracked down considerably on the pakistani taliban and at times in al qaeda. but where we don't see any effort to crack down is on the afghan taliban based in pakistan, both in terms of the quetta shura down in baluchistan and as well as in terms of the haqqani network. >> lehrer: is it your reading that the united states has the power to get this done? get the pakistan government to do this and we just haven't exercise it had power or is something else at work? >> i think it's a very good question. i think that's where my interest in this review... this has been backward-looking in terms of what the problems are.
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to me it's not that these problems have been identified, now is the interesting part of looking forward, what are we going to do about these and the big thing is what are we going to do about pakistan? and i think it's a big question. can they be pressured into it? that's probably not terribly successful. can they be bought now? our strategy is to try to buy support but the history of u.s. aid to pakistan does not suggest that that will be successful, either. so i think it is a real bind in terms of how to proceed in terms of getting pakistan's commitment on the sanctuary issue. >> lehrer: you agree it's a bind, do you not, general? but it can be done? >> well, what i'm convinced of this is that when we make the definitive progress that the pakistanis see that their strategy no longer makes sense-- and their strategy right now is a hedging strategy because they have fundamentally believed, with some justification, that the united states is not committed to the stability and security of afghanistan and they
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want to make certain if that's the case-- as they've believed for a number of years now-- that they have the relationship with a regime that will take over. and they believe that is the taliban and they do not want that regime to have a closer relationship with the indians, which is part of their paranoia here. come spring and summer of 2011, it's going to be obvious to the pakistanis that that's not going to happen. the taliban are not coming back into power and we're going to begin to fundamentally turn the tables here. i think then they have to relook their strategy and we should be right there with them helping them rethink and relook that strategy and move them in a right direction in terms of eliminating those sanctuaries. and let me tell you there: make no mistake about it, the evidence is unequivocal that the government of pakistan and the military leadership of pakistan aids and abets those sanctuaries we have clear evidence to that fact. that's the reality. it's not a question of unable or
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unwilling. they willingly support those sanctuaries and it's outrageous because from those sanctuaries every single day our troops are being killed. >> lehrer: outrageous, andrew wilder? >> yeah, it is. and it's... particularly given the amount of resources being paid at this point to pakistan in terms of aid and support for the military that you think we should be able to get more in terms of... in return. i was just in pakistan in november and had the opportunity to meet with some senior officials there and i do actually think that they do not want to see afghanistan fall back into anarchy. i think they do recognize it's in their interest for afghanistan to be stable. they don't want another influx of afghan refugees into pakistan and the destabilizing effects there. they want an afghanistan where they have influence. and where india doesn't have influence. and so i think that's where probably the negotiations need to start. >> lehrer: all right. gentlemen, thank you both very much. >> thank you.
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>> woodruff: still to come on the "newshour": the senate debate on the start treaty; the state of the cable news business and remembering hall of famer bob feller. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> sreenivasan: a u.s. house vote on president obama's tax cut deal ran into a roadblock today. liberal democrats, who've opposed the deal, demanded more chances to amend it to their liking. in response, democratic leaders pulled the bill, to avoid a procedural defeat that could scuttle the whole thing. later, they huddled to work out an agreement on how to proceed. the measure sailed through the senate, yesterday. russian prime minister vladimir putin today defended the government's response to racist riots over the weekend. some 5,000 far-right protesters demonstrated outside the kremlin on saturday. the crowds attacked muslim minorities, and more than 30 people were wounded. today, putin insisted the government will respond harshly to the violence. he also dismissed criticism of police for breaking up anti- government protests. the european court of human
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rights has ruled that ireland's abortion ban violates a woman's right to proper medical care. by 11 to six today, the judges, including one from ireland, said the irish government must allow abortions when the mother's life is at risk. the court upheld ireland's right to outlaw abortion in some other cases. such decisions are legally binding, but they can take years to enforce. the founder of the whistle- blowing website wikileaks was freed on bail today. a british judge refused to keep julian assange in jail, while he fights extradition to sweden to face sexual misconduct allegations. we have a report from rohit kachroo of "independent television news." >> reporter: julian assange held his hand in victory, as he walked from court to the limited freedom of conditional bail, in the last few minutes. >> well, it's great to smell fresh air in london again. first, some thank yous, to all the people around the world who've had faith in me. >> reporter: and he said the revelations from his wikileaks website would not stop.
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>> i hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter. >> reporter: assange was not with assange sat in the dock, now familiar arguments were made again in court. the lawyer representing the prosecution said there was a real risk of him taking flight aided by wikileaks supporters. assange's defense said he had not acted like a fugitive trying to avoid the authorities. the judge ruled there was no substantial risk of the man, glimpsed through the window of a prison van absconding. assange was taken from the court-- towards the suffolk stately home where he must stay as part of his bail conditions-- wearing a tag, observing a curfew and reporting to the police every day. >> sreenivasan: assange now faces a hearing on his possible extradition to sweden, next month. the food and drug administration is recommending that doctors no
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longer use the world's best selling cancer drug avastin to treat breast cancer. the decision today was based on four independent studies. f.d.a. officials said the drug did not prolong survival in breast cancer patients. and, it did not slow the disease enough to outweigh the risk of dangerous side effects. avastin is made by the swiss company roche. it is still approved for treatment of kidney, brain and lung cancers. movie director and producer blake edwards has died. he passed away last night in santa monica, california, after contracting pneumonia. edwards directed a string of "pink panther" movies, starring peter sellers as the bumbling inspector clouseau. his other well-known films included "breakfast at tiffany's", "days of wine and roses" and "10". his wife, actress julie andrews, starred in several of his movies. in a statement today, she said, "he will be missed beyond words." blake edwards was 88 years old. wall street moved higher today on word that claims for unemployment benefits have dropped again. the dow jones industrial average gained more than 41 points to close at 11,499. the nasdaq rose 20 points to close at 2,637.
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major stories. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: and to the u.s. senate taking up nuclear arms control in a crowded lame duck session. after months of back-and-forth, the senate formally opened debate on the new "strategic arms reduction treaty" with russia. a number of republicans called for more time, while democrats >> i want to start by reminding my colleagues that arms control treaties are an integral part of this country's modern history, premised on the belief that a world without nuclear weapons is a safer world. >> new start significantly impacts america's national security and nuclear deterrent. as a result, i believe this deserves adequate time in the senate. >> reporter: president obama and russian president dmitry medvedev signed the treaty last april, replacing a 1991 pact that expired four months earlier. under the new accord, the u.s. and russia would cap their deployed strategic warheads at
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1,550 apiece down 30% from current caps. they would also limit ballistic missile launchers and bombers to 800 on each side. but on the senate floor today, republican john ensign of nevada said the treaty is an obstacle to deploying missile defense systems. >> the u.s. must be able to rapidly respond and adapt to new threats to our security. now is the time for more flexible deterrent capability, not less. new start is riddled with u.s. concessions from which i can see little gain. >> woodruff: at the white house, secretary of defense robert gates dismissed that complaint. >> this treaty in no way limits anything we have in mind or want to do in terms of missile defense. so i think there were some legitimate concerns but frankly they have been addressed. >> woodruff: in addition, the obama administration has proposed more than $85 billion over ten years to meet demands
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for upgrading the u.s. nuclear arsenal. republicans also charged the treaty is weak on verification. but the vice chairman of the joint chiefs general james cartwright cited broad military support for the pact. >> all the joint chiefs are very much behind this treaty. because of the transparency, because of the reality that both the united states and russia are going to have to recapitalize their nuclear arsenals, both the delivery vehicles and the weapons. to have transparency, to understand the rules which put structure to that activity, we need start and we need it badly. >> woodruff: and the chairman of >> woodruff: still, the leading republican critic senator jon kyl said treaty supporters are making conflicting arguments. >> number one, we have this wonderful relationship with the russians that's been reset and we're cooperating on all these things, and by the way, you can't trust those guys so we've quickly got to put those verification measures in places. there's something that just doesn't connect there as far as
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i'm concerned. >> woodruff: kyl and others also accused democrats of rushing the vote and even infringing on the >> woodruff: moreover, kyl accused democrats of rushing the vote and quote, "disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for christians and the families of all of the senate." that drew a tart response today from vice president biden in an interview on msnbc. >> get out of the way. there's too much at stake for america's national security. and don't tell me about christmas. i understand christmas. i have been a senator for a long time. i've been there many years where we go right up to christmas. there's 10 days between now and christmas. i hope i don't get in the way of your christmas shopping, but this is the nation's business. this is the national security that's at stake. act. act. >> woodruff: and the chairman of the foreign relations committee democrat john kerry said republicans have nobody to blame but themselves. >> they just delay and delay and delay.
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and i'm not going to stand here listening to them come to the floor of the united states senate asking why we're trying to do the important business of the country at the last minute. because all they have to do is look in a mirror. that's all they have to do. >> woodruff: the president has pushed for ratification before the lame duck congress comes to an end. and late this afternoon, senate majority leader harry reid said they will stay in washington for as long as it takes. >> we are in session if necessary up until january 5. i hope that's not necessary but that's the clock to run out. long clock. i've got family, would love to go back and visit with them. not going to let the country's work not be completed. >> woodruff: the treaty will need 67 votes for ratification. now to help us delve further into the senate politics behind
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the treaty debate, we are joined by "newshour" political editor david chalian. thank you for being with us tonight. >> moi pleasure. >> woodruff: david, so what is going on here? months ago when think came up in the senate all the signs were encouraging. >> and you know the history of nuclear arms treaties. usually huge bipartisan vote in the senate which, of course, the white house points to all the time. what happened sheer twofold. there's a substantive argument and a political tactics that got put in place here. the subs tannive the argument you hear in that peace that you just did, judy, on modernization of nuclear facilities across the country, that was a big concern of john kyl's and the questions of missile defense did this somehow hamper america's missile defense. you heard secretary gates say they believed they've addressed all those questions and those concerns that they thought were legitimate concerns. so now that means we're left with the politics part of this. >> woodruff: and what are the politics? what is it that the republicans don't want to have happen with
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this treaty? if they're okay on the substance, what's going on? >> what's going on is you remember right after the election when this lame-duck session started mitch mcconnell sent a letter signed by all 42 republicans over to harry reid that said "you must two do two things before you do anything else-- the tax cut legislation and funding the government. when that's completed we can go on to other priorities you and the administration have." well, that's not done yet. so right now because they believe that was the mandate in the election, to cut government spending and waste, they think they have a winning issue, the republicans do, by saying you can not move to anything else including start unless you get that funding of the government done. >> woodruff: but you do now, we see, have some division among the republicans. there were, what, nine of them who voted with the democrats this week to at least bring this to the floor for discussion, for debate. >> right. and that is what is giving some hope to democrats on both ends of pennsylvania avenue. talking to folks who are working this bill in the foreign relations committee, they're pretty confident that they had the votes here because, as you
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said, you saw in that vote yesterday they had 66 and evan bayh, a democrat from indiana, indicated he's going to vote for it. so they have got a boost of confidence here. the problem, though, is, judy, that they're open to amendments, we have several days to go here. the timing of the christmas holiday coming up against the clock here, the republicans as they have said, jim demint said, trying to run out the clock here because they really want to keep the focus on just cutting the spending. i will tell you though also, despite the confidence, there's not a democrat that says it's in the bag, done, we've got the 67 votes. the thing that gives the white house and capitol hill democrat it is most sort of confidence right now is those nine republicans that voted with them, not one of them is named john kyl and they thought john kyl was going to be able to lockstep the republican votes and clearly some republicans are willing to break away from kyl on this one. >> woodruff: among them john mccain. >> among them john mccain. >> woodruff: the polls, david, we saw a new poll this week. 70%-- by two to one-- americans
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are in favor of this nuclear arms treaty. what political benefit, then do the republicans get by opposing it? >> again, the only political benefit that they see for themselves right now is being able to talk about something else, to talk about spending. that's the benefit. it's not so much a benefit to defeat start. of course there's always the added benefit-- that which they found lots of success with throughout 2010-- of denying president obama an accomplishment. he has made it crystal clear that this is his single most important foreign policy initiative in this lame duck session to get completed before they go away for the holiday. and now that the tax cut legislation is done, they will fund the government because they're not looking to shut it down on saturday. this is now the remaining major priority for president obama. >> woodruff: so in brief, what does it look like? >> well, i think it's on razor's edge and we got late news today that democrat ron widen of oregon got diagnosed with prostate cancer, is going to have to have surgery on monday in baltimore and he said from his office he's going to misvotes tomorrow and some days next week. because it's a matter of every
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vote counts and the democrats have no room for error here, ron widen being absent from the senate may cause a big complication for them to get through the rest of this lame duck session with start and the other priorities. >> woodruff: meaning they could be in session up until christmas and maybe after, as we heard harry reid. >> exactly. >> woodruff: david chalian, thanks very much. >> sure. >> lehrer: next, the ever- changing world of cable news as one of cnn's most prominent figures retires. >> brown: for 25 years, larry king has been a staple of cnn's prime time lineup and for many of those, he was cable's biggest star. known for putting simple mostly non-threatening questions to everyone from presidents... >> are you angry at b.p.? >> you know i am furious at this entire situation. >> brown: celebrities, to business leaders and
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one of king's most famous and newsworthy shows came in 1993 when he hosted a debate on nafta between then vice president al gore and ross perot. it drew 20 million viewers, cnn's largest audience for a regularly scheduled program. tonight, king is hanging up his suspenders and handing over his time slot to piers morgan, who is best known for his work as a judge on reality t.v. shows in britain and the u.s.. although "larry king live" hasn't altered its format over the years, the cable news industry has changed considerably. when king started, cnn was the only 24 hour cable news network, providing a mix of live coverage of breaking stories and analysis and debate programs, that would reach around the globe and today cnn lags in a cable world that's largely moved from nonpartisan reporting toward sharp opinion, dominated by newer stars and personalities at rivals fox news and msnbc.
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"larry king live," once the most watched cable news program, lost that title to fox's "o'reilly factor" and has recently seen its lowest ratings ever, falling in its own time slot to the third or sometimes fourth most watched cable news show at 9:00 p.m. eastern. and we get some further thoughts about the evolution of the cable new business and larry king's place in it. it comes from ken auletta, who writes about the media for the "new yorker." and eric deggans, the t.v. critic for the "st. petersburg times." ken auletta, fill that picture in a little bit for us with the start of the cable world that larry king was part of in the beginning. describe it and what he brought to it. >> well, what he did... i mean, he obviously the show is an hour-long show. he was able to get most any guest he wanted to get and they were from presidents to celebrities to michael jackson to freaks. and i mean almost literally,
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though it could be interpreted figuratively as well. but it was a comfortable place, a safe place for people to come and basically show their leg. they could say what they wanted. larry king was not an aggressive interviewer. he got a lot of good information out of people. but essentially it was a safe environment. and contrast that with good interview shows, let's say tim russert when he was doing "meet the press" or your show. people... there's an element of surprise, an element of fear that people have, "what am i going to get asked?" and you never had that with larry king. >> brown: eric deggans, and that world of cnn at the time, the only cable news out there. so he's pioneering, they're pioneering. take us back to what was going on there. >> well, you hit the nail on the head. the fact that cnn was the only cable news outlet at the time
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gave larry a wide latitude. and he presented the kind of show that we were used to seeing on the networks. it was more general interest. it was wide ranging. they were lots of different kinds of people on the show. and larry himself had a really broad appeal. they basically took a radio show that he was doing that was syndicated and did a t.v. version of it. that's why you still have that old-school broadcast microphone on his desk even to this day. and i think one of larry's problems right now is that he's doing a very general interest show in a very specific niche oriented cable news environment and he's suffering for it. >> brown: well, eric, fill in that picture. the world has clearly changed, the world of cable news. what world is it now that you see? >> well, obviously partisan punditry has become sort of the corn of the realm in prime prime time cable news at least. and there's a sense that people
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throughout the day-- thanks to the internet-- they already know the news of the day when you get to 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, which is essentially cable's prime time. and so people like bill... bill o'reilly and keith olbermann who have these partisan, aggressive, opinionated views on things based on party affiliation, they're the stars now. and larry was never like that. he's never been like that. and so i think what happens is the serious news viewers who might have enjoyed larry king and consumed him, that i ear doing other things. they're catching up on the internet, they're watching shows on d.v.r. i myself watch prime time entertainment on the networks in 7:00 and 8:00 and 9:00. i'm not watching cable news. and the people who are, i think, they want more partisan punditry >> brown: ken, some of this is economic, right? it's a cheaper production model to go to the kind of talk shows we see most evenings on cable
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news. but talk about that and what eric is talking about, this move towards more of a partisanship. >> there's no question. if you think back to the early days of cnn, ted turner created it. the idea was to have a world news network and there was no other competition. and you would get, really fair, balanced news. and larry king was an attempt at that. he basically gave people a platform to speak. he drew out a lot of good information, but he wasn't partisan, as eric said. and now what's happened is that basically you realize you can get the news any time you want and it's very expensive to do investigative reporting. it's very expensive to have viewers overseas so let's have people sitting in a studio in an audience and basically bloviating and giving their opinion. it's very inexpensive to do that. and what's happened is that people increasingly say, hey, wait a second, i want to go to fox for my conservative opinion or i want to go to msnbc for my liberal opinion and forget larry king, this kind of news that's
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not exciting. so what happened? cnn lost its way because then they try and compete that, at least in certain parts they've tried to do that. and it's all as me and essentially cable news is opinion news. it's not reporting. >> you know, i would also point out one other thing. beyond the idea of cost, what bill o'reilly does is reliable. and the problem that cnn has is that people turn to cnn when there's big news happening, when the chilean miners are being rescued, when we have an election that's really important in 2008. that's when they had some of their biggest ratings ever. but when there's not a news event, you know, investigative journalism doesn't always pan out. you can spend a lot of time on a major story and have it not turn out. but bill o rilely is going to be provocative everyday of the week and part of the problem that cnn has is that it's not reliable for viewers. they can tune into keith olbermann, they can tune into
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o'reilly and they know they'll get a show whereas with anker son cooper maybe one day he'll have a great interview, maybe the next day he won't. >> brown: it's interesting. larry king, of course, is a personality. we still have personality-driven shows, but you're saying it's a different kind of personality now. i couldn't help watching our little setup as it came by the tag for piers morgan, the new guy that's taking over. the tag is "a bit dangerous" is what they say. >> yeah. and, well... but essentially, you know, if you watch bill o'reilly, he's dangerous. keith olbermann, they're dangerous. they're unpredictable. it's like live television used to be. what is going to happen next? and that's one of the reasons why in fact their audience is much larger than cnn's audience was 20 years ago when larry king started... and more when he started his show. but it's still a limited niche audience. it's people want to... who have an expectation like bill
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o'reilly, like his point of view but also like the surprise. what outrageous thing is he going to say today? >> brown: all right, ken auletta... >> i'll break in briefly and say i'm surprised seen then? continuing with the interview model, to be frank. i think the audience has voted and what they want is the bill o'reilly keith olbermann style presentation. i'm surprised they're bringing on someone else to try hour-long interviews, as dangerous as he is, i think viewers have kind of voted and said they're not interested in that. >> brown: all right. we'll see what happens. eric deggans and ken auletta, thanks a lot. >> woodruff: finally tonight, a look back at the life of baseball great, bob feller. ray suarez has that. >> in 1936, the cleveland scout signed an iowa farm boy named bob feller. he's young, and green and maybe a little scared. but he can throw the ball with amazing speed. >> suarez: amazing might have been an understatement.
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bob feller learned to throw that fastball at his family's farm in van meter, iowa. it earned him the nicknames "rapid robert," "bullet bob" and "the heater from van meter." it was a blistering pitch, if you could see it. once, after he was blown away by a feller third-strike, yankees' great lefty gomez said, "that last one sounded a little low." bob feller made his major league debut at age 17 for the cleveland indians on his summer vacation from school. in his first start he struck out 15, and weeks later, made it 17, tying what was then the record for most strikeouts in a single game. from there, he set about humbling the boldest bats in the major leagues-- joe dimaggio, ted williams. >> next year, he kept hank greenberg from equaling ruth's homerun record while setting one of his own. >> suarez: and in 1938, he set a new strikeout record-- 18 in one game by fanning detroit's hank
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greenberg twice on the last day of the season. feller had three no-hitters in his career, including the only one ever pitched on an opening day in 1940. he also pitched 12 one-hit games and led the american league in strikeouts seven times on the way to 266 career victories all of them with cleveland. that total would have been far higher perhaps 100 or more, but world war two intervened. feller volunteered for the navy the day after pearl harbor and missed nearly four full seasons in the prime of his career. feller told bob costas last year he had no regrets. >> i'm not a hero. heroes seldom return from war. survivors return from war. but i'm very proud of my military career and i don't miss those 100 wins whatsoever. >> suarez: he returned to cleveland for the 1946 season and helped the indians capture the world series in 1948-- the last time the club won the fall classic.
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feller was elected to baseball's hall of fame in 1962 and remained an active and outspoken presence in baseball until earlier this year. he died last night in cleveland from acute leukemia. bob feller was 92 years old. for more on bob feller, the player and the man, i am joined by bill livingson sports columnist at the "cleveland plain dealer." sco bill, from the stories you've written about bob feller, you think if a novelist wrote these kind of stories, you'd want it to be true. was bob feller the natural? >> he was the natural and he was also kevin costner in "field of dreams." his story is so amazing and the most amazing part of it is that it's true. his father built him a baseball field in iowa with a scoreboard and a small stand of bleachers and sewed corn and wheat, mostly
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wheat, so he could harvest it quickly and they could play baseball. and he was "the natural" because they didn't have the nutritional information like today and weight training, he worked on the farm and built up his joints and his strength. >> suarez: you've called him one of the most admirable men in a generation and that's high praise from a sports columnist in. >> well, i think when you look at bob feller's career you have to factor in the war years and the fact that he enlisted immediately after pearl harbor when he did not have to into the navy. his father was dying of brain cancer and he was the sole support of his family and he lobbied militantly against being put in any soft position of morale boosting and playing baseball for the troops. and served on the "alabama", a battleship for three and a half years as a gunner's mate. convoys in the north atlantic, come kasi attacks in the pacific
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kamikaze. it was a remarkable thing from a remarkable generation. >> suarez: where would you rank bob feller in the pantheon of great pitchers of the past? >> that's a very tough question because he did misthree and a half years in his 20s, in the prime of his career. he had won 76 games the three previous years. he won 266 games. most people think he would have won 70 to even 100 more games, which is, you know, most of the way to 400. if you take that into account, he could have been the greatest of all time. you can't take it into account because it's just supposition, but i think you have to realize that what he sacrificed for that was also possibly his life for his country. >> suarez: early pictures of feller show a boyish face and the body of a big, strong man. was he a power pitcher before we even use that term? and who would his... who would
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you compare him to in modern baseball? >> oh, yes, he was. and he had an interesting theory on that. he... you know, now they make pitchers run and they think much of it comes from the leg and that's probably true. but he felt that the work he did with his shoulders on changing tractor wheels and milking cows and things like that built up immense strength in his wrists and fingers and he felt that was the key to being a power pitcher, too. he was part of the line from walter "big train" johnson through bob feller to nolan ryan to "rocket" roger clemens. and he was not tainted by steroids like clemens is. those guys are always... particularly ryan, clemens and... ryan, feller and johnson are always in the discussion for the fastest pitchers ever. and that was the mystique of it. even though he had a killer curveball it was the speed that entranced people. >> suarez: over the years when i've talked with veteran ball
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players, they're sometimes reluctant to compare themselves to players of other eras. but it seems like there was no such reticence on bob feller's part. he stayed current with the game and was a student of the game right up until he died, wasn't he? >> absolutely. he would tell you why jarrett wright-- who was a young phenom pitcher in indians had in the '90s who carried them the world series and they almost won, they was seventh game pitcher and left the lead-- what he needed to become better. he once told me the indians... the '95 indians, that was tremendous slugging team, had a... it was pretty easy to strike some guys out. and he was talking about manny ramirez and albert bell. i said "how would you pitch them, bob?" he said "bust a fastball under their chins and a slider on the outside corner." well, you can't bust a fastball under their chins anymore because of stricter rules about head hunting and if you could hit a slight slider on the outside corner and place it there every time nobody would
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hit you. but that was bob feller. he could do these things and mortal men couldn't. >> suarez: but it sounds like even into his 90s he was still a pretty imposing character physically. >> oh, absolutely. he's beloved in cleveland because he did not leave. he stayed here in the cold weather, he was very loyal to the indians' organization. he would be in spring training. he would pitch to insurance executives and ad salesmen who got to put on an indians uniform in the fantasy camp. he threw a strike from the pitchers' mound from the rubber to start the 1997 world series, the first game in cleveland. and he said "i'm going to throw a strike and i'm going to throw it from the rubber." and he was 79 years old then. i thought he was indestructible. i feel a very sharp sense of loss even despite the fact that he had such a long and full life. >> suarez: he certainly must be one of a dwindling number of men who actually played in the 1930s. with his death, have we lost a connection to that era? the era of gehrig and ruth?
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>> i believe so. stan musial is... and i don't know if he played in the '30s, he certainly played in the '40s. in fact, he had a deferment and did not go to war. i think bob feller pitched to lou gehrig, he pitched to ted williams and joe dimaggio. he saw babe ruth bat. it was like walking into a baseball museum to sit down and talk ball with him. >> suarez: bill livingston, thanks for us. bill livingston of the ""cleveland plain dealer." >> thank you, ray. >> lehrer: again, the other major developments of the day: the president unveiled an assessment of the war in afghanistan. it said the gains are considerable, but also fragile and reversible. the senate formally opened debate on a nuclear arms treaty with russia. and the founder of the whistle- blowing website wikileaks was freed on bail in britain. he faces sex charges in sweden.
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and to hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, for what's on the "newshour" online. hari? >> sreenivasan: we asked a group of military and foreign policy experts for their take on the afghan policy review. find that and the full video of the president's remarks on the "rundown." we look at the killing of a u.s. border agent earlier this week in southern arizona. we get the details from two arizona public media reporters. plus "patchwork nation" looks at new foreclosure numbers and asks whether there is a hint of good all that and more is on our web site: >> lehrer: and again, to our honor roll of american service personnel killed in the iraq and afghanistan conflicts. we add them as their deaths are made official and photographs become available. here, in silence, are ten more.
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>> woodruff: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. >> lehrer: and i'm jim lehrer.
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we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks, among others. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> opportunity can start anywhere and go everywhere. to help revitalize a neighborhood in massachusetts, restore a historic landmark in harlem; fund a local business in chicago; expand green energy initiatives in seattle. because when you are giving, lending and investing in more communities across the country, more opportunities happen.
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