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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  October 1, 2009 10:00pm-10:30pm EDT

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[captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. in what's become the most significant terror plot since 9/11, a 24-year-old afghan man pled not guilty to charges yesterday that he was planning to detonate a large bomb on a target in new york city. that follows news of several other terror threats over the last month. is the united states at the
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greatest risk of a new terror attack since 2001? that question with tom ridge. and former "chicago hope" star adam arkin stops by. he stars in the new coen brothers film, "a serious man". we're glad jufe -- you've joined us the >> there are so many things wal-mart is doing, like helping people live better but most important, building better relationships. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. nationwide -- working to improve financial literacy and the empowerment that comes with it. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to this pbs station from viewers like
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you. thank you. tavis: tom ridge has a long record of public service dating back to his days in congress and as governor of pennsylvania. in 2001 he became the nation's first-ever secretary of homeland security following the attacks of 2001. his new book is called book book, and let me start with the obvious, can we be safe with all these arrests of late? >> i think we have become progressively safer and safer every day since 2001. but the recent arrest of azzy in colorado and some of the lone wolves in illinois and texas, unfortunately it's a reminder that the work is not over and that we can't afford
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the luxury of being complacent about either domestic terrorists or those tied in with the international apology adists. tavis: are these arrests of late to your mind coincidentalal or something we need to be paying attention to? >> it's a very insightful question and one that needs to be answered. as i take a look at the backgrounds of some of those individuals they seem to be operating, at least from what i know, i'm not on the inside anymore, but at least looking to lynn -- bin laden or al qaeda for inspiration but working outside. some others seem to be part of a larger network. i'll particularly intrigued by the arrests in new york and denver. zazzy makes his way back over there for training. was he a zealot or jihaddist before he got here? which is a reminder, we've been
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welcoming people across our shores for a long time and one of the biggest challenged we have is the notion that there might be still terrorists among us who have been here for a while. tavis: you will recall some months ago joe biden, our vice president, made the comment, pame -- i'm paraphrasing, that he knew the obama administration was going to get tested, he was speaking in terms of a terrorist attack. i want to take that comment and ask whether or not what we are seeing now has to do with the fact that there is going to be a testing of barack obama on this issue of total terrorism. could joe biden have been right? >> poor joe biden got hit from a lot of sources when he made that observation but if you look back historically, presidents do get tested in the first year or two in many different ways and right now president obama is confronted with several tests, dealing
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with the recent disclosure of a secret nuclear facility in iran, the continuing challenge with north korea, the huge domestic and he and now on top of all that there seem to be percolating to the surface some of these f.b.i. investigations which seem to suggest there may be domestic terrorists within. tavis: two questions about president obama. one, he has made the most news of his administration so far around his international agenda the last week. what's your sense of how he is handling the challenges you have just laid out on t international front? >> well, i think his ability, it was, i'm sure it was accidental in the sense that they were together at the united nations and later at the g-20 with the leaders from france and germany and the like and that united front on against iran i think projects a very strong message of multilateralism and hopefully very aggressive and sanctions if the iranians don't comply.
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so with regard to that particular challenge that he's confronted with now, so far so good. the meeting is amazing. they're going to meet today in geneva and the iranians other greed to -- agreed to talk about nuclear issues but not about their nuclear aspirations or capabilities. with respect to iran, strong multilateral leadership, it's a chance to answer the question he asked in the primary campaign, who do you want answering the phone at tk in -- 2:00 in the morning. unfortunately it rang now. tavis: and your thoughts about the pushback that former vice president dick cheney has been delivering against the administration about the issue of security and safety and terrorism? and you know that drills down awfully deep. >> first of all, with regard to
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terrorism generally i don't see too many operational differences presently within the administration as it conducts military affairs in afghanistan and in iraq. i think again the next test, again another test, is what is this president, what is president obama's strategic view and what will be -- he assess are the operational needs of the military and what's yi -- he goods -- going to do about afghanistan? what's the long-term goal there? he said before we're not going to allow the taliban to create a safe haven in afghanistan. time will tell. secretary napolitano is continuing to move and do all those things very appropriate to deal with domestic terrorism. the f.b.i. is obviously still focused and centered as the domestic terrorism unit. the one area i disagree with is that we would have a special
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prosecutor go back and take a look at at and possibly criminalize conduct of interrogators from four or five years ago. i'm on board saying waterboarding is torture, but i don't think you ought to criminalize it. if he wants to change the interrogation techniques that's their progressative but i don't think they -- prerogative but i don't think they ought to go back and criminalize anyone before. tavis: but if the truth of the matter is that the bush administration wrote that language such that it would not be criminal, if you don't want to go after the people engaged in the terror, and week debate that, what's wrong with going after the people that authorized it in the first place? >> i think obviously as an attorney by profession you can just like several witnesses at the scene of an automobile accident, they may view
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differences of opinion in what they saw. recollections are different. the reason up end up getting cases to the supreme court of the united states is that lawyers have opposing views. it doesn't mean they lied or anything. i just don't think that even holding, personally holding attorneys with regard to their interpretation of the law post-9/11 word obviously conflicts with president obama's, it doesn't need to be a criminal act. attorneys differ all the time. tavis: i hear your point of view on it. to the book here. one of the things you argue here, i'm paraphrasing your argument, is that whether or not we are safe on -- or not depends in large part on the economy. explain that. >> i think that america's fute -- future in the world and its security in the world are tied to our relationships around the
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world. economy and -- well, prosperity and security are intertwined more so than ever in the 21st century and i might say in perpetuity. we need to be more connected to the rest of the world, not less and political and economic isolationism, the buy america crowd, that point of view whether from the right or left i think undermines the long-term best interests of the country. because the economy, prosperity and security do intersect at the border. right after 9/11, the president called me in and said we did a good job alt certain borders, canada and mexico, but we brought commerce to a screeching halt. you can raise the level of security to a level where you inhibit ongoing relationships with the rest of the world.
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i don't think that's in our best interests. tavis: and you talk a lot about immigration and one thing that troubles me, i get sick and tired of be hearing people suggest we got to secure the borders on mexico down south so that terrorists don't come in our country and there's no evidence ever that a terrorist has come your thoughts on that? >> i think it's a legitimate argument and it may be a reason not to deal with the overall problem, but my judgment is you don't only need a system, you need enforcement. people can go back and forth across the border. i talk about that in the book. my concern would be if there is an infrastructure that allows undocument the workers across every year, can that same system be used to bring across terrorists? yes. it can be used to bring across
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arms or drugs or weapons. yes. but the bottom line is there was never anything i -- we viewed that was credible that that was an avenue the terrorists tried to exploit. tavis: in the 30 seconds left, given these arrest of late, all these people being arrested who want to do us harm, your word to the american people right now is what? >> it's a real threat. foreign or domestic. but it's manageable the let's just make sure we resource those responsible for our safety. i make some very strong recommendations and one of the criticisms of things we could have done a long time ago but also remind ourselves that in a historical context, we under the threat of a nuclear war -- remember, we had thousands of missiles pointed at the soviet union and they had a lot pointed at us -- but under that we did a lot of great things in this country. there was a civil rights
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movement. we raised the standard of living unlike anything else in the world. so it's a real threat. let's not be breathless about it. but do all those things we need to do and government has so many other responsibilities. we will manage it well. the real test of the times is making sure we manage it consistent with the execution -- constitution and rule of laument >> tom rinl's book is called the -- book book. thank you for being with us. >> thank you. tavis: up next, adam arkin. stay with us. tavis: adam arkin is an emmy 478 -- emmy-nominated actor who starred for six seasons on the very popular series "chicago hope" and on the fx series "sons of anarchy". you can catch him in the new coen brothers film that opens this weekend. here now a scene from "a
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serious man". >> legally i have to warn you that it is never easy for the husband unless of course there is some question of the wife having violated the marriage contract. >> oh, no, no, nothing like that. although she is planning to marry sy ableman. >> sy ableman? >> yes, but -- >> he is they are is barely cold. -- ester is barely cold. >> she passed three years ago. >> but this changes the complexion, larry. >> not in the sense -- there hasn't been hanky-panky, to my knowledge. tavis: i like that, "to my knowledge." good to see you. we were talking before we came on the air and i was asking how your father is and you said he was doing very well. >> he said to send his a -- regards. tavis: send him as well. we sent -- saw him last year
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just before he won that academy award. i raise that only because i recall in that conversation with the delightful conversation with your father, i recall asking whether or not he discouraged you from getting into acting and i act -- asked that specifically because he said he knew at 5 he wanted to be an actor but didn't get his first gig until he was 28. long stretch before he got his first gig so i asked whether he discouraged you. he gave his answer. but tell me what you recall about wanting to be an actor, when that hit you? >> i was probably about 11 years old when i knew -- tavis: a few years behind your dad. >> a few years, yeah. >> i was in acting classes as a kid and i'm sure a lot of it had to do with, you know, really worshipb him and wanting to be connected with him. i didn't live with him from the time i was 5 until i was 11 and
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i saw from a kiss tans -- distance while longing to be back with him, i also saw him go from being a completely unemployed actor to becoming an international star. and the combination of already missing him and then seeing that transition take place was very -- it was very intoxicating, you know. it made me want to be a part of that and i think primarily not so much to be like him as to be connected to him. tavis: i hear that distinction, yeah. how does it feel for you to be as accomplished as you are in this business alongside your father? his winning the academy award, must be a pretty nice feeling, father and son to have both made a name for themselves in this industry. >> what i am happiest about, more than the external recognition, which is a great thing and i don't take that for granted but it has ended up
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being a source of connection with him. it's something we can talk about and we share conversations about, you know, the business and the craft and about how we navigate and keep our sanity pursuing this career. and i love that. it is in many ways, it is the family business and show business it seems it one of the few areas where that's viewed with suspicion and a lot of assumptions. but in any other business it's sort of fine if you go into the family business. tavis: to my knowledge, i've never met the coen brothers but i feel like i know them because everybody i know wants to work with them at some point. >> yes. tavis: why is that? >> i think primarily because of the quality of their work. the body of their work just shows a tremendous, well, started with tremendous talent and has shown tremendous
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evolution and willingness to take on challenge in their work . i think they are very much actors' directors. they're brilliant writers, brilliant filmmakers and have found a way of working that i think really brings out the best in the people that they choose to collaborate with and they create an environment that's simultaneously very structured and specific but also encouraging of being surprised. you know? tavis: yes. tell me about "a serious man" and the role you play in it. >> "a serious man" is about a physic professor named larry gopnik living in suburban minneapolis in the 1960's with his family and his life
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essentially starts falling apart. his wife tells him she wants a divorce and a number of other things start going terribly wrong and he has this sort of existencial crisis in which he starts seeking spiritual advice, emotional advice, legal advice from a variety of people, none of whom is particularly helpful to him and the crisis sort of deepens as the film goes on. i play his divorce attorney who, while very on the surface very officious and caring is really not of much use in the long run. tavis: when i watch you in movies or watch you on television, "sons of anarchy" or whatever it might be, i know that you direct because i see your name a lot of times in grey's anatomy or shows you direct, how do you behave yourself, as it were? keep in mind what hat you are wearing when you are acting versus directing? >> oh, i -- it's not that much
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of a challenge. i mean i have found -- one of the reasons i think i started directing and gravitated towards doing that was because even when i was acting i was interested in problem-solving and recognizing where as an actor i could contribute to the complexities of a scene being diminished to some extent. and i think the producers i started working for recognized that that -- that i sort of had a little bit more of a macro view towards weigh was doing and that sort of transitioned into directing opportunities. but it didn't take long to direct some stuff to understand that as an actor it's very good to let directors follow their own vision and stay out of their way. you can certainly make
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suggestions and ask questions but at a certain point you have to let them do their thing. tavis: you don't feel the pinch to say, when you're acting, "i really should say to him x, y, or z?" >> i will always make suggestions that fall within the purview of, i think, i hope, what is appropriate for an actor to be suggesting in terms of blocking or a move that might work or something that might help solve a problem but i won't overstep that line. i think i have a pretty good idea where that line is. if anything, getting to direct myself has made me more aware of that and i want to be there to help a director fulfill his vision the tavis: i have so many questions i want to come back to, but you're a serious -- busy guy. you are acting, drething, when you can. tell me about "sons of anarchy" for those who haven't seen that
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series. >> "sons of anarchy"? it's a vuffle, hard-hitting series on fx about a motorcycle gang. it takes place in a fictitious town in northern california, a charming california -- ron perlman plays the head of the gang. his stepson is sort of the heir apparent, the son of katie segal's character who is married to ron perlman and is going to be the next leader of the club and when that's going to take place, nobody really knows. there are political struggles within the motorcycle gang itself and i this season am playing the nemesis of the gang, who is a white separatist who comes in to bust open this club and sort of make a power grab for his own purposes. and i get to work with henry rollins as my right-hand man, who is just a great guy. it's a great show, great
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company of actors and it's been a wild ride the tavis: yeah. i guess it's in part because you're such a good actor but how does one go about playing, much less accepting the role of being a while the separatist? >> it's just my job. tavis: somebody's got to do it, huh? >> you know, i -- there is very little, thankfully, on a personal level that i can relate to in the specifics of that character but the job of an actor is to sort of find, i think, crealingses -- correalingses, things that you can substitute and reference in your own life that hook up whatever the character is into, no matter how heinous that may be. and the most interesting bad
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guys to me are eople that believe passionate. ly in some morale aspect of what they're doing, even if it's horrible and that's been sort of the challenge with this guy. tavis: yeah. just because i'm curious, before i let you go, are you a motorcycle thus yaft? >> i'm a motorcycle thus yaft. i don't ride. i'm very enthusiastic about people that feel passionately about it. tavis: but you're not getting on? >> no. i rode a dirt bike when i was a kid. in "sons of anarchy" there are gorgeous bikes everywhere. i was like, can i sit on this? yeah. and i put the kickstand up and it was like oh, my god, they're heavy! that's a lot of horsepower to be sitting on top of and i've got a 4-year-old son and i want to stick around to see at least his fifth birthday. tavis: you just stick to the
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light separatist and stay in your line -- lane. >> if i have your blessing. tavis: i'm sure that will be a youtube clip in about five minutes. "tavis smiley encourages adam arkin to remain a white separatist." >> you do know that this is a role! tavis: yes. adam arkin, a great actor and you can catch him in the new coen brothers film, "a serious man" and in the series "sons of anarchy" and if you pay attention to credits you see his name in credits of your favorite shows. tell your dad i said hello. >> i sure will. tavis: that ts -- that's it for tonight. i'll see you back here next time on pbs. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at the
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tavis: join me next time with emmy winning sportscaster james brown and the mexican guitar duo. that's next time. we'll see you then. >> there are so many things that wal-mart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live better but mostly we're looking forward to helping people build stronger relationships and communities because with your help the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. tavis and nationwide insurance -- working to improve financial literacy and the empowerment that comes with it. >> nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioned by the national captioning institute
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>> we
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