Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot speaks with Bill Moyers about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s apology following the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Then, David Brancaccio talks to author Samantha Power about the disturbing images of US troops abusing Iraqis at the prison. Moyers travels to Rockford, IL, for a unique perspective on the flight of manufacturing jobs out of America. The program concludes with an essay by Moyers, who questions Sinclair Broadcasting’s decision to censor Ted Koppel after he broadcast photographs of fallen American soldiers during the Iraq War.
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BRANCACCIO:Welcome to NOW. The political and moral ground shook under our feet today.
The world was watching as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Congress why he should keep his job. He apologized for what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison. But he said he won’t resign as long as he’s able to be effective.
In Congress, the outrage was bipartisan.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Do you believe, based on all the things that have happened and that will happen, that you’re able to carry out your duties in a bipartisan manner, and what do you say to those people who are calling for your resignation?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Certainly since this firestorm has been raging, it’s a question that I’ve given a lot of thought to. The key question for me is the one you posed and that is whether or not I can be effective.
Needless to say, if I felt I could not be effective I’d resign in a minute. I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it.
MOYERS: But even after the hearings with Rumsfeld ended this afternoon, the clamor for his resignation grew louder and louder.
Joining us tonight for some perspective is Paul Gigot. Paul Gigot is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and now has one of the most powerful jobs in American journalism. He’s the editorial page editor of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. He oversees the editorials, the op-ed articles, and leisure and arts criticism. Welcome back to NOW.
GIGOT: Good to be here, Bill.
MOYERS: I started the morning this morning reading your very strong editorial “Blood In The Water.” Arguing the fact that if Donald Rumsfeld resigns or is fired, it’s a signal that the war in Iraq has been lost and George Bush has failed.
GIGOT: Well, yes. I mean, I think that Donald Rumsfeld is the most visible Cabinet symbol of the President’s Iraq policy. He clearly was giving briefings every day or every other day during the Iraq War. And now that it’s in a hard patch, in a hard struggle, I think that for the President to say, “Well, I’m going to blame my Defense Secretary. Or I’m going to hold him responsible and distance myself from that policy,” is a recipe for conceding that the war was a mistake.
And if the people see that, I think the American people, they’ll say, “Well, wait a minute. Why should we re-elect George Bush?” So, I think he’s joined at the hip with Donald Rumsfeld.
MOYERS: So, Rumsfeld cannot be held accountable in order to keep George Bush electable?
GIGOT: Well, he should certainly be held accountable like any Cabinet member if he does something that warrants firing. Of course, Cabinet members in some sense are always there to be fired if they do something wrong, as you know. But, in this case, I think what you’re talking about is something that I don’t think Rumsfeld, if you’re talking about the abuses of Iraqi prisoners, that he is responsible for. He’s responsible as Defense Secretary for how he handles the accusations and the reports. And all the evidence I see is that it’s being handled properly.
MOYERS: There is an alternative opinion to what you wrote. And it comes from one of your ideological kinfolks.
GIGOT: Sort of.
MOYERS: Sort of. THE ECONOMIST, whose cover this morning says, “Resign Rumsfeld.” THE ECONOMIST supported, endorsed George W. Bush in 2000. And it says, “Rumsfeld has to resign and demonstrate to the world one of the true American values: that senior people take responsibility. And if he won’t resign,” says the magazine, “President Bush should fire him.” In other words, somebody has to stand up with spine in his backbone and say, “I do take responsibility and I’ll pay the price for it.”
GIGOT: Well, responsibility for what? I mean, what is he supposed to take responsibility for?
MOYERS: Chain of command that goes down to what happened there.
GIGOT: Yeah, but I don’t think that I — We don’t know precisely who was responsible yet. And I think that the General Taguba report assigned some responsibility. And I’m perfectly — It’s perfectly reasonable to think that it has to go up the chain of command.
But, and I think that’s what Rumsfeld was doing. When you’re part of the civilian leadership, I don’t think you can jump the chain of command down and say, “Wait a minute, I want to grab this report and show it to the American people.” You have to have things follow regular order. How is he responsible for what some soldiers do?
MOYERS: Well, THE ECONOMIST seems to be making a moral argument. You seem to be making, in your editorial this morning, a political argument. That THE ECONOMIST is saying the message has to go out to the world that we do take this very, very seriously. And that there’s more at stake than George Bush’s election.
GIGOT: Oh, I agree with that. Absolutely. And I don’t — I’m not — we said in the editorial, I’m not minimizing this at all. People do have to be held responsible. In fact, I don’t think it’s enough for the President to simply apologize to the Arab world. I think — Although I think that’s perfectly legitimate and —
MOYERS: I thought that was a good step, yes.
GIGOT: —important thing to do. But I also think that we have to see that people are fired in the sense of court martials are made for people who are responsible. But what nobody has shown me yet is that Donald Rumsfeld or the civilian leadership in the Pentagon somehow dropped the ball on this.
The minute it was found that this was going on, they’ve ordered review after review. They ordered procedures to be followed. They’ve ordered the chain of command to make sure that this is taken seriously right from day one.
MOYERS: Your editorial—
GIGOT: That’s his job.
MOYERS: Your editorial yesterday, one I understand you wrote yourself, held that the military got on to this long before the press. But it seems, if I remember correctly, this report was finished a couple of months ago. And it was not made public until it appeared on THE NEW YORKER’s Web site a week ago today.
GIGOT: I wasn’t talking about in the editorial about the degree to which this was made public. I was talking about the degree to which the military was investigating it and holding people accountable. And that chain of events, that timeline is such that I think you can say that the military is taking this seriously, has every step of the way. Has been working with the Red Cross and has been trying to make this right.
And that careers have ended. There have been seven letters of reprimand issued. There have been six people indicted so far. And I agree. Maybe this does need to go up to people who are responsible for those prisons and what happened there and those rules of engagement.
Because when you have people who have so much control over the lives of people, as you do in a prison situation, you have to have the proper procedures. But I think this whole investigation has jumped immediately from our justifiable horror under our standards of what happened to “Get Rumsfeld.” And I don’t see the connection.
MOYERS: What, it’s also possible that it’s jumped to send a message out to the world at large. Your again, another one of your somewhat, perhaps more so than THE ECONOMIST, fraternal conservatives, Charles Krauthammer, points out that the jihadists of Islam, in a column this morning, the Holy Warriors are unique in their loathing for the freedom of women.
So, he concludes that what makes these horrors so incendiary are the pictures of American women soldiers mocking, humiliating and dominating naked and abused Arab men. Like the one in Thursday’s WASHINGTON POST which showed an American woman soldier leading an Arab around naked on a leash.
He says, “This is why the abuse…is so inflammatory and, for us and our cause. so damaging. It reenacted the most deeply psychologically charged — and most deeply buried — aspect of the entire war on terror, exactly as Bin Laden would have scripted it.”
GIGOT: I agree with that. I think it’s been very damaging to our cause. I think it’s horrifying. I think we can’t simply say, “Well, you know, we had… The soldiers are in a tough situation. And we have to conduct interrogations.” You can’t rationalize this. I think you have to judge it not by the standards of what prevail elsewhere in the world, but by our own standards and our own values.
And I’m as horrified as anybody by this. What I think you do have to do is you have to put it into some kind of context which suggests that this is not systematic. I’ve seen no evidence of that. That this is— that most of our soldiers are highly, highly disciplined. That we’re doing great things in Iraq. They’re building schools. They’re trying to get that country on its feet.
They’re sacrificing their lives over there. And I think the danger is that in this political season where we’re trying to really fight over the Iraq War and whether we should re-fight the Iraq War and whether we should have fought it at all, which is part of this presidential election debate, we have to be very careful of indicting the entire military ’cause we need it as an institution.
MOYERS: I agree with that, Paul. But there is another context other than just the American political and military context. There’s the global context.
GIGOT: Yeah, sure.
MOYERS: How can we win the war against terrorism when in villages across the world, Muslim villages in the Philippines or in Bosnia or elsewhere, these pictures of this humiliation of Arab men are on the walls? How can we win the war unless we immediately send a message to those people in those villages we believe this is not just wrong for America, it’s wrong for the world?
GIGOT: Do you think that the firing of Don Rumsfeld is going to be that message? I don’t think that in the context you just described that that would make an iota of difference.
MOYERS: Can we enlist support in the Arab and Muslim world unless someone does take that responsibility?
GIGOT: Well, I mean, this happened. Okay? It’s extremely damaging. And, we have to cope with it. We have to, under our uniform code of military justice, under our system. And then we have to move on. And we have to prove ourselves again by proving this won’t happen again and proving our bonafides and working to succeed in Iraq and elsewhere around the world. I mean, you know, we can’t just say, “Look, it’s hopeless. This has marred us for a generation.” It’ll mar us for a generation if we wallow in it and don’t do anything about it.
MOYERS: Who is accountable for the war in Iraq?
GIGOT: Well, the President of the United States is accountable for the war in Iraq. It’s his signature policy along with the war on terrorism. It’s the most important part of his administration. And, he’s ultimately accountable.
MOYERS: It seems to me that what has happened exposes the fundamental and even tragic mistake of the Bush Administration. To shift our response to 9/11 from Osama bin Laden who did it to a conventional war against Saddam Hussein who didn’t do it. No matter how dangerous a threat he might have been to the Arab world, he didn’t do 9/11. And that that tragic assumption of the Bush policy toward Iraq was the same kind of tragic assumption we made in another time about Vietnam. That you could win that war by attacking North Vietnam.
GIGOT: Well, I don’t think we’ve lost this war. I think we can still win it. And, I think, you know, the American people will be the ultimate judges, I think, in November and beyond about whether we should have fought Iraq. I think there were reasons to do it well beyond any link to al-Qaeda.
And, in fact, when it was the one place in the world Iraq was when George W. Bush took office that was where they were shooting at American servicemen through the enforcement of the No Fly Zone. They did try to kill a sitting President, the first President Bush. So, I guess he was out of office then. But there was a lot of reason to think that Saddam Hussein was—
MOYERS: But he didn’t give us those reasons. Instead, he gave the reasons of weapons of mass destruction. And Vice President Cheney as recently as two weeks ago is still maintaining the correct use of that policy. He gave the reason as al-Qaeda. He didn’t give the reasons you just said. So, once you start a war on the wrong premises, can you ever really hope to pull it off?
GIGOT: Well, you have to win. Yeah, you have to win.
MOYERS: What’s winning?
GIGOT: Well, winning is succeeding in Iraq on roughly the terms that we went in to succeed. That is, exiting with a relatively stable country. That means we have to win in Fallujah. We have to take care of those pockets of insurgency.
We have to deal with those Shiites in the south who want to deal with us, still the majority, to put down that insurgent al-Sadar, Muqtada Al-Sadar. And then, ultimately, we have to transfer power. And I think we’re beginning to do that in June to an Iraqi government that is more legitimate in the eyes of Iraqis than a foreign occupation.
And we have to start doing that in June. And we have to keep building on that. And I think if I think that’s still very doable. It’s— we’re seeing not very easy. But I think it’s achievable.
MOYERS: You say winning in Fallujah. What is winning in Fallujah?
GIGOT: I think we’re moving it as a sanctuary for the Baathists and jihadi insurgents. That means if we have to, killing the 1,000 or 2,000 that they think are there. Much as we have done in Samarra where there were a few hundred and other places which were not as bad as Fallujah because that has a history going back well before we were there on even under Saddam, it was a hard place to control.
But it has— we allowed it to become a sanctuary for the insurgency. So, these people could go there, build up caches of weapons. We stayed out of it for a long time, our military. And we’re now paying the price. And we have to go back in there and make sure that those people are defeated.
MOYERS: That’s going to be awfully hard if the issue in Iraq and issue in the world is still what happened at that prison.
GIGOT: Well, I think we can’t let… we can’t… If we’re going to be paralyzed by how we behaved, by how some of our soldiers behaved in the prisons — that particular prison, Abu Ghraib — then I think we might as well pull out because we’re going to fail. We have to maintain our will and determination to win. Because our cause overall, as Joe Lieberman said, and as I quoted him in the editorial, “These immoral actions should not be allowed to impugn the fundamental goodness and the wisdom of our effort in Iraq.”
MOYERS: Senator Jay Rockefeller was on CHARLIE ROSE the other night. He said the Bush Administration was wrong. Wrong on the intelligence. Wrong about the 9/11 connection. Wrong that we would be welcomed as liberators. Wrong on setting a date for the handover of government.
They don’t know who yet they’re going to give it to. Bush’s advisors, he said, have a batting average of zero on Iraq. Where’s the evidence to the contrary?
GIGOT: The one thing that I agree with Senator Rockefeller on that is that we have been drifting in recent months about who to turn the country over to and how to do that process. I think the administration has not been focused, as it should be, on that. It’s been indecisive on that.
I think we’ve made mistakes in Iraq. There’s no question about it. But I don’t think those are mistakes that Jay Rockefeller talks about. I think there are mistakes we didn’t do in Iraq what we did in Afghanistan which was to focus on Hamed Karzai. Somebody who was— somebody we thought could lead and then build a consensus and a new government around him.
That’s going reasonably well considering the history of Afghanistan which is not… which is difficult. Iraq, we didn’t pick that out. We lot— we didn’t pick somebody to back. We allowed ourselves to become the occupying power and in total control. And that was a mistake. We needed—
MOYERS: We di—
GIGOT: —Iraqis from the beginning to be our allies. From before the beginning.
MOYERS: But we picked Chalabi who hadn’t been in the country for years and sent him back with his own militia to be our representative.
GIGOT: Well, the mistake— we didn’t pick Chalabi. If we’d have picked Chalabi he’d be in charge. The point is we didn’t pick anybody. I mean, yeah, some people favored Chalabi. But where is he? He’s a member of the Iraqi Governing Council that didn’t get any kind of support.
That wasn’t allowed to really assert itself. Every time we made an announcement in Iraq it was the American, Paul Bremer, making the announcement. We never put the Iraqi faces out front. And that was a big mistake.
MOYERS: Paul Gigot, thank you for joining us again on NOW. And I look forward to seeing you back with us.
GIGOT: Thanks for having me.
BRANCACCIO: As those horrible pictures from the Iraq prison kept coming this week the one person I really wanted to talk to was Samantha Power. She’s wrestled with the issue of man’s inhumanity to man from Bosnia to Rwanda and now in the Sudan. Samantha Power is cofounder of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard and a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Samantha, welcome back to NOW.
POWER: Good to be here.
BRANCACCIO: What do you think regular Americans should glean from this whole episode with these photographs about what this says about our country, about ourselves?
POWER: Well, I know that when I went over and began interviewing perpetrators of atrocities, of even worse atrocities than this. I would kind of go back to my hotel room at night and really have the shivers because what I had realized over the course of drinking coffee with people who were describing the most gruesome acts that they had carried out — some remorseful, some not — was that I had a lot in common with these people. Not because of what I would do hopefully if similarly situated but that they were distinctly ordinary. And that in a whole host of ways we were alike.
BRANCACCIO: Those photographs. Do they depict a war crime?
POWER: I think unquestionably. I mean, these are practices that are uncondoned, unlicensed and illegal. And they should be punished.
BRANCACCIO: Illegal, but what rules apply? That’s one of the big issues here.
POWER: It is a big issue and the United States has been very shifty in terms of creating facilities that lie outside American boundaries like Guantanamo, but also that lie outside the boundaries of international law. And also it has hired contractors, of course, to perform tasks traditionally performed by the military that would be bound by the Geneva Convention. And thus it raises whole questions about which laws apply to which individuals within which facility. Which is a labyrinth that the drafters and signers of the Geneva Conventions never envisaged that states would go out of their way to try to create.
BRANCACCIO: Too bad we need the rules. I mean, doesn’t every human being on this planet understand by the time they’re six months old that one… that thou shalt not be a brutal, disgusting human being to another person?
POWER: One should understand that. And I think what changes when you’re in an occupation situation or in a war situation is that the question of who is human and who is subhuman or who is an individual and who is simply a foe, people become very instrumentalized, they become sources and not neighbors, not like the person that you grew up in the sand pit with.
BRANCACCIO: We saw it in Vietnam. They would call the Vietcong gooks, dehumanizing them and therefore somehow making it easier to do horrible things.
POWER: You have to do it that way because to fight war which is after all organized slaughter, it would gravely undermine the the morale of the soldier if they believed they were killing the person in the sand pit right? So, what happens when you get a protracted occupation is that you see that that mindset of the enemy, the foe, the Hun. In the case of the Rwandan slaughter, it was the cockroach. You know, in Nazi Germany, Jews were vermin, you know. There’s always some kind of frame that one has to take in order to justify doing awful things.
And so when you think about American soldiers they’ve already branded — some of them anyway — the Iraqis as the other. And thus you have people who are prone to give way to the excesses and, to an extent, to the fear, to the delight, to the power. It’s a whole series of dynamics.
But I think once you’ve branded people in a way that takes them outside the kind of universe of moral obligation, no holds are often barred.
I think our tendency as a country since 9/11, especially when we round up people abroad is to presume them terrorists until they are able to prove they are not terrorists. And that’s been the default in Guantanamo and elsewhere that you can get rounded up on very little evidence and then if you want to prove your case you have to show that you’re not the thing that you’re accused as of having been.
But if you take, for instance, the weapons of mass destruction claim which we have refused to formally drop as our grounds for invading Iraq and you imagine people in this prison system for the year following the American invasion, you have guards who believe there are weapons of mass destruction. You have inmates who are telling you, “We don’t know where the weapons of mass destruction are.” You have guards who believe there are weapons of mass destruction. So, your determination is to get from these people who must know because there are weapons of mass destruction where the weapons of mass destruction are.
BRANCACCIO: It’s difficult for Americans. We see ourselves somehow as sometimes beyond the regular rules.
POWER: Well, I think in America, from the start— I mean, from the Founding onward and from the American Revolution onward there has been a presumption of virtue, a kind of genetic predisposition to be higher and grander and more rights-bearing and more rights-promoting than just about anybody else. After all, we made human rights. You know, we made the Bill of Rights. We, in our Declaration of Independence, enshrine equality and liberty.
And the kind of— The story of America I think is something that you do breathe in the air, you breathe the story. I don’t think the air makes you very different here, the water makes you any different than it makes you if you’re someplace else. So, we do presume that we are a city on the hill and that we are blessed. And I think that explains our position towards the International Criminal Court.
You know, we really actually believe that we won’t commit genocide crimes against humanity and war crimes. And therefore anybody who would conceivably argue that we should be brought before an International Criminal Court must be making it up or must be—
BRANCACCIO: But President Clinton signed a treaty saying we would join the International Criminal Court. When President Bush came in, he essentially unsigned that treaty. We’re concerned that if we’re asked to go fix a problem in the world — and we are often asked as Americans to fix a problem in the world — that we will then later be accused of war crimes.
POWER: Yeah, we— and that, again, because we don’t commit war crimes because we’re Americans, means that it must be a set of trumped up charges. But that relates to the second presumption that we have, I think, of our exceptional nature and that’s that we have exceptionally rigorous structures that we’ll root out the bad apples in fact when they emerge.
BRANCACCIO: But look what’s at stake. U.S. prestige abroad, the ability for the U.S. to say to other countries, “You need to do a better job with human rights.” At the moment, other countries are shrugging their shoulders, at the very least, when America wants to speak up about abuses in other countries.
POWER: Yeah. Well, I mean, when it comes to Iraq, we’ve now lost the only argument we had going into, you know, the last month, which is that this was a war designed to end torture. That was all we had left because we’d lost the weapons of mass destruction argument. We’d lost the al-Qaeda/Iraq argument because, in fact, the war in Iraq seems to have created an al-Qaeda/Iraq connection that didn’t exist beforehand.
But at least we could say we ended torture in Iraq. And one of the things that was disappointing, I think, this week among many news items was that early in the week, President Bush actually gave a speech. This is prior to his apology or his continuum toward an apology in which he, again, boasted of the U.S. liberation and how the United States had ended torture in Iraq.
And this was four days after the photos had been published in all the major newspapers. This desire, again, to go forward, forward, forward, forward and kind of pretend history hasn’t happened and to continue, you know, if we don’t acknowledge it, maybe they won’t notice, kind of attitude. Which really, I think, marred the Bush Administration’s early response to these images, is very, very typical.
POWER: The the other tragic component to this, which is not just the lost American lives, not just the lost Iraqi lives and the ever-unraveling and uncertain future for Iraq but is that the United States has so undermined its standing in the world that it actually has proven itself incapable of speaking up on behalf of principle in other areas.
In Sudan today, in western Sudan a million people have been ethnically cleansed just over the last few months. About 30,000 have been killed. It is Arab-Muslim violence against African Muslims. So it’s Muslim on Muslim. Its confusing to people. But it’s basically a policy that aims to destroy black life in western Sudan. The Bush Administration is the only administration, the only country in the world at the United Nations, that has drawn any attention to this suffering.
BRANCACCIO: They’re doing the right thing in this case.
POWER: Not enough. Not putting enough on the line. The Bush Administration has a lot of leverage with the government carrying out these killings. I really do think there’s far more that the Bush Administration could be doing. But even the little things it’s trying to achieve like getting, you know, UN resolutions denouncing Khartoum and trying to mobilize international support for a monitoring force that will look out for a million people, 400,000 of whom will be dead by December if they are not reached and rescued. 400,000. I mean, this is— that’s half of the Rwanda tally. That’s a lot of people.
BRANCACCIO: So, what’s happening?
POWER: The United States, of course, because of Iraq, doesn’t have the troops or the will to go in itself. Nor should it go in, of course, aggressively. But it doesn’t plan to contribute peacekeepers or monitors. It doesn’t have police. So, it goes to the international community. It says, “Look, we care. This is happening. We stand up against evil. That’s what America means.”
And it goes to Tony Blair. And Tony Blair says, “Forget it. I’m out of here. You know, I’ve already been down that road with you once. If you say black, I’m saying white for a while.” The French and the Germans utterly mute. Kofi Annan, again, distracted by having to figure out what the UN should be doing in Iraq has.
made one statement about the suffering of these people in Sudan. But has not followed up by using his moral authority and his agenda setting capacity to try to draw attention to it, to try to get peacekeepers deployed or monitors deployed so that these people can return home. The Bush Administration goes forward. And then it’s surprised when everyone says, you know, “You can’t just come to us when it suits you.”
BRANCACCIO: But help me out, Samantha. I mean, I don’t want to see more of these pictures. It’s not that I don’t want to see them; I want to see them if they’re happening. But I don’t want these practices to continue. What should we do next, given the problems as you see them?
POWER: Well, it is about actually making concessions that are hard for us but that mean something to them. So, that would mean revisiting the issue of the International Criminal Court. Perhaps Kyoto. Closing down Guantanamo. And using this as an opportunity to say the system, when it comes to detention, is broken. We are fallible.
We learned that. It took us 200 years to learn that in America. We’re now learning that it applies also to off-shore detention facilities. And we are going to, you know, start from scratch and train personnel in the same way that we would train them as if they were, you know, interrogating Caucasian Americans, you know, in Des Moines.
This is an opportunity to do an overhaul. But it’s also an opportunity to recognize a couple things about the international system. It’s broken. We don’t actually have a policing capacity at an international level that can go in and provide, first, law and order, because that was the first problem with policing in Iraq, is that we allowed, you know, the security to unravel and chaos to envelope the society which, in itself, has been like the thread in the sweater, you know, where everything has kind of ensued from those early days of chaos and resentment. But what we need as an international community is a police force that is standing by.
BRANCACCIO: I’m sure there are men and women at the United Nations right now that are raising their hands saying, “Give us enough money, we could probably put that together.”
POWER: But again, we have a tendency to kind of romanticize what the United Nations is. I mean, it’s basically a building where states come together. Often it’s a building that just aggregates the selfishness of states.
But this is an opportunity. We get it. It’s broken. We need a standing police force that gets training in the much harder task of operating in foreign countries where you can’t rely on close ties within the community; you don’t even speak the language. You have to rely on translators, et cetera. I mean, this won’t just serve us, if we actually use this as an opportunity to learn, it won’t just serve us in Iraq over the coming years because, God knows, there’s going to be an international presence there for many years.
But also in other countries that tend to fall off the beaten path like Liberia or like Congo or now like Western Sudan.
BRANCACCIO: Samantha Power, thank you so much for having joined us on NOW.
POWER: Pleasure, thank you.
MOYERS: We pause for a footnote to David’s interview with Samantha Power for an alternative view which in the interest of fairness and balance we feel obliged to share with you. It comes from that noted moralist and darling of the right, Rush Limbaugh.
Let’s listen to his show from Tuesday as we look at what he’s talking about.
CALLER: It was like a college fraternity prank to stack up naked men…
LIMBAUGH: Exactly. Exactly my point. This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it and we’re going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time. You know, these people… you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of people need to blow some steam off?
BRANCACCIO: There is news out there that is not about Iraq. Even as Donald Rumsfeld was testifying today, President Bush was out on the road, doing a little populist campaigning in the Midwest.
He’s been at it all week, taking out his big red, white and blue bus, heavily armored— with plush leather captain seats and flat screen TV.
The tour aims to showcase the President’s image as a regular guy in touch with regular guy problems.
Now, to be a regular guy in a Midwest manufacturing state these days means you’re worried about your job or your small business, even though there was some good news today for people who work in factories.
Employment figures were better for the second month in a row with new jobs added to nearly every sector of the economy, including manufacturing. Those figures will resonate in a city not on Mr. Bush’s itinerary this week: Rockford, Illinois.
Folks around town there like to tell you that Rockford was high up on the Soviet Union’s nuclear hit list during the Cold War because of its importance as a manufacturing center.
I went there a couple of weeks ago with producer Peter Meryash.
BRANCACCIO: Rockford, Illinois, about an hour’s drive from Chicago, was built on manufacturing. And for a hundred years, it was a thriving center of American industry.
Fast forward to 2004 and it’s a far different story. Just ask Eric Anderberg and his dad, Malcolm.
ERIC ANDERBERG: You know, Rockford at one point, all these buildings were busy. Full of employment. It was no problem to find a job in this town. In any of these buildings. A good paying job. That’s just not the case anymore.
BRANCACCIO: It’s a familiar story. Factory towns across the country have met the same fate as millions of good paying manufacturing jobs have vanished altogether— or have been shipped off to spots where a worker gets paid much less.
ERIC ANDERBERG: We’re talking about Rockford here today, but it’s the whole country. The whole manufacturing climate in this country is, is in, is basically in freefall.
BRANCACCIO: The voice of working-class America speaking out? Hardly. This time it’s the factory owner sounding the alarm about American companies so driven by profits, that they’re shipping some of America’s best middle-class jobs overseas.
Eric and his dad Malcolm own a small manufacturing company in Rockford. They’ve had to reduce their workforce from 70 to 40.
MALCOLM ANDERBERG: When you have to walk out and you have to lay off an employee and it’s no fault of yours or no fault of that employee’s that you’ve lost your work. And when that employee has to go home and tell his family that he’s lost his job today. And he doesn’t know where he’s gonna get one. How am I gonna pay my payments on my house, how am I gonna pay my payments on my car? How am I gonna put food on the table? How are we gonna maybe send our children to college?
I have a responsibility as an American, doing an American business, to the people that work for me. And I think that should be the responsibility of our country.
BRANCACCIO: Stop in at the Sunrise Family Restaurant and you’ll find it seems like everyone in Rockford has a story to tell about a job that disappeared.
MALLICOAT: The company I used to work for no longer exists. It’s an empty building now.
BRANCACCIO: Out of work, Chuck Mallicoat had to retire early.
MALLICOAT: We went from approximately 70 people in 2 shifts down to a skeleton crew, and eventually they just closed the doors.
BRANCACCIO: What’s left as these jobs disappear? Malcolm and Eric Anderberg took us on a sobering tour of once-mighty Rockford. You get the eerie feeling a neutron bomb could have gone off here. The buildings still stand intact, but they’re weirdly vacant.
ERIC ANDERBERG: Okay, over here is still the Suntech building. It’s for sale. It’s empty, for the most part. They made pumps.
MALCOLM ANDERBERG: I see there’s a For Sale, For Lease sign here.
ERIC ANDERBERG: This building is empty. For sale. For lease. You see a lot of that. The building used to be manufacturing. Now it’s a warehouse.
MALCOLM ANDERBERG: Turned into a warehouse. Now I think it’s empty.
ERIC ANDERBERG: For sale. It’s empty.
BRANCACCIO: Rockford’s unemployment rate is sky high. More than 16,000 people here are out of work— 8 percent of the workforce.
In manufacturing alone, more than 12,000 jobs have been lost in the last five years.
ERIC ANDERBERG: This is the Greenley compound. They make everything here from the handsaw to complex machine tools. This is actually, it’s a compound almost of several different buildings. And they did everything from make the raw material to finished product. What was it, about 12 hundred people or so that worked in this facility?
MALCOLM ANDERBERG: I think it was more than that. I think somewhere between 12 hundred and 17, 18 hundred, in that area.
ERIC ANDERBERG: As you can see it’s empty. It’s a ghost town. That business has gone away.
BRANCACCIO: The Anderbergs are part of a growing chorus of Rockford’s businesspeople worried about the future of American manufacturing. Matt Bortoli runs quality metal finishing, a midsize manufacturer just outside of Rockford. He used to employ about 700 people; now his company is down to about 250.
BORTOLI: We have to have some obligation to the people of this country. And that’s the workers that we have in our plants, and the families that those workers support. We cannot continue to exploit the low cost labor countries at the expense of our people here stateside. That to me is fundamentally wrong. And I think that’s just as important as our President talks about protecting our borders from threats and terrorists. This is the new terrorist threat as far as I’m concerned.
BRANCACCIO: That’s pretty vivid language coming from a Republican businessman. But the economic numbers across the country bear him out.
Since the recession officially began 3 years ago, manufacturing has been hit harder than any other sector of the U.S. economy. More than 2.5 million American manufacturing jobs have been lost.
In this American manufacturing town, it’s hard to escape the evidence.
As Rockford, Illinois’ factory jobs either just disappeared or moved overseas, what you’re left with are scenes like these, empty chairs, empty desks, even the broken machine tool or two. But what’s missing? The engineers, the factory workers who once worked right here.
Some other local examples: the Amerock Corporation. Decades ago, it coined its name, combining the words “America” and “Rockford.” In February, Amerock, which makes hinges and other hardware for cabinets, announced it will be closing its plant here. And now says it will manufacture products abroad “in low-cost countries,” eliminating some 450 jobs from the area.
Textron, one of the world’s largest producers of fastening products, announced it will close two of its plants in town. Gone will be 700 more Rockford jobs.
Even high tech, once considered the answer to America’s jobs exodus, has not escaped the giant suck of jobs overseas. Cell phone giant Motorola has cut almost 6,000 positions from the area.
LUNDIN: We tend to have a peak and then we tend to have a valley. But the jobs have always come back.
BRANCACCIO: Jon Lundin runs a job training program in Rockford. He’s also written a book about the town’s industrial history.
LUNDIN: What’s different this time is that through global communications, primarily the Internet and other kinds of resource distribution around the world, a lot of these jobs have, have located elsewhere. Or they’ve simply been eliminated through automation. We don’t need them. You can, you can get the same thing done with a lower cost worker in China for like a tenth of what we pay here, then it’s going to go there.
BRANCACCIO: In fact, the average hourly wage for manufacturing in China is less than one dollar per hour. In Mexico, it’s just over two dollars per hour. Compare that to the U.S., where workers earn on average more than $21 per hour in manufacturing.
LUNDIN: Multinationals look at the globe and will look at the best opportunities for a dollar return. And that’s what they’re paid to do.
BRANCACCIO: As big companies send more work abroad to where labor is undeniably cheaper, the smaller, local manufacturers that supply these bigger companies also lose business. That’s another reason why it isn’t just blue collar workers talking about job loss any more.
In 1996, Judy Pike took over a small manufacturing business, Acme Grinding. Just down the street from the Sunrise.
PIKE: A small business owner is sort of like being the head of the family. I mean you cry with them when people die, you celebrate when their children born.
BRANCACCIO: Pike employed 40 people. But four years ago, she found herself faced with a crisis. Her biggest client, Textron, cut back the work it gave her company. And Pike says she had to go into savings to keep the business afloat. She says many other manufacturers here have faced the same choices.
PIKE: You mortgage your house. You, you know, you take your 401Ks and your retirements. There’s a lot of people in this town who are struggling who have done that. I mean they have wiped out their retirement. And it’s a sad situation.
BRANCACCIO: She says after looking over her financial books, she knew she had to lay off most of her people. Then last December came the day she dreaded.
PIKE: The day that I had to make the decision and tell them we were gonna close, it was horrendous. I mean you never seen such tears in your life. And I mean it was like we were all sad for what was happening. It wasn’t that, you know, it was like an end of an era. You know, what were we gonna do now?
MANZULLO: We’ve had over 50 hearings, 50 hearings dealing with manufacturing.
BRANCACCIO: Rockford’s representative in Congress is Republican Don Manzullo. As chairman of the House Small Business Committee, he knows American manufacturing is in trouble.
MANZULLO: The first thing that has to be done is that the policymakers, and I’m talking people on both sides of the aisle, whoever’s in the White House, have to realize the absolute necessity of maintaining manufacturing in this country. There are some people, David, who believe, “If manufacturing goes, so what. We’ll have the service jobs.” You can’t do that. If you can’t farm, if you can’t mine, and if you can’t manufacture, you become a third world nation.
BRANCACCIO: Manzullo says American multi-nationals are being short-sighted.
MANZULLO: The Chinese think generations. Europeans think generations. That’s what we have to do here in America again.
Now, when you think long range like that, as opposed to most American multi-nationals that are forced — I say forced — to think short range because there’s so much emphasis placed upon increasing the value of stock then you end up with a European advantage.
BRANCACCIO: An advantage in Europe and elsewhere around the globe, he says, that comes from companies and banks that take a long-term view of investment— profits and employment that stretch over generations.
An example: the Italian company that bought Rockford manufacturing heavyweight Ingersoll machine tools, after Ingersoll went bankrupt.
Tino Oldani is the new president and CEO. He intends to turn a profit while keeping jobs right here in Rockford, citing the community’s hard-working and skilled labor force.
OLDANI: We attribute different values to a company. We look into a company as a potential growth of increase for the equity, and not a short-term investment where we do something and two years from now we run away with a lot of money.
BRANCACCIO: Like other business owners we spoke with in Rockford, Oldani is critical of how American multi-nationals operate.
OLDANI: They are not looking at adding skilled people. People is a head count. They are no, they are not a Joe, or Larry or a Brian, they are a head count. If you look in that way and you don’t value the people that they are working for you and your company, you are taking these jobs away, you are outsourcing, you’re going to China. You’re going to Mexico.
ERIC ANDERBERG: That’s what’s impacting communities like Rockford right now. It’s not because we’re not productive or we’re not efficient enough to produce things in this country, it’s just price. Cheap labor. How much profit can I make in this company? That’s what the large corporations are doing.
BRANCACCIO: And what’s the American worker to do? When you look closely at the jobs that are being created these days here in the U.S., you see more often than not that they pay less and offer fewer, if any, benefits.
ERIC ANDERBERG: You know what troubles me today, a lot of the youth today— some of them think making a living is working at Home Depot during the day and delivering Domino’s Pizza at night.
That’s not making a living. That’s getting by.
BRANCACCIO: In fact, in 48 out of the 50 states, high-wage jobs, in industries like manufacturing, are being replaced by low-wage ones, such as in the service industry. And that kind of work pays, on average, 21 percent less. It’s worse in Illinois, where new jobs on average pay 34 percent less.
LUNDIN: I think this, this wonderful middle class economy that we had, the promise of American life that anybody at the bottom of the ladder could climb to the top if they simply had the skills and the will to do it and luck, I don’t know that it’s there anymore. The middle rungs are going and we’re continually pushing the skill levels up. But we’re not bringing along the people at the bottom.
BRANCACCIO: Many in Rockford’s business community fear Washington just doesn’t get it. The Anderbergs are Republicans who support the President, but they believe America’s trade policy is designed to help large multi-national corporations at the expense of small companies like theirs.
MALCOLM ANDERBERG: As small business people, the good majority of us, we don’t have the time or the money to go to Washington to lobby for what we want or what needs to be done.
We would like to see what’s in the best interest of all America, not for just the people who have the money to lobby to get their issues in front all the time.
BRANCACCIO: Case in point, tax cuts. They’ve been wildly cheered by big business. But just listen to these owners of smaller companies.
Well, a good businessman like yourself must applaud the President’s efforts to lower taxes that we’ve seen in the last couple of years.
BORTOLI: You know, in our heydays we paid taxes like nobody’s business. Lots and lots of taxes. That means you were making good money. But you’ve got to be profitable to be able to pay taxes. So cutting the tax rate doesn’t do you any good unless you’re profitable.
MALCOLM ANDERBERG: In times when I was growing my company I paid taxes every year. I haven’t paid taxes for over five years with my small company. I haven’t taken a paycheck in two years myself personally. Because to keep my company going, to keep my sons working and to keep my employees employed. And that’s the truth, and that’s a fact.
BRANCACCIO: Another fact: as large manufacturers send work overseas and small manufacturers have to lay people off, the whole town’s economy suffers. An example: the Sunrise Restaurant. Shamil Asani is the restaurant’s manager.
ASANI: Last 2 years, actually year and a half, I’m doing very, very, very slow business than I used to do. Almost 30 to 40 percent decrease from the previous 2 years.
I used to have 2 managers. I let them both go. I let 2 cooks go, 2 dishwashers, 1 busboy and 5 waitresses.
BRANCACCIO: It’s a vicious cycle. Just ask one of the waitresses, Elaine Peters. Her husband’s trucking business depends on shipping some of the products manufactured in Rockford.
PETERS: When these companies and manufacturers all close they have nothing more to ship which affects his revenue and income that we expected to have this year.
It just goes by the wayside instantly. And all of the sudden your income that you thought you had is down by more than half and you go into your savings. And you thank God that there is an income coming in. And that I have this job.
BRANCACCIO: There have been signs this year in Rockford that the job market is improving. Some employers here have told us hiring is up slightly.
But even the President, on that recent campaign swing through the hard-hit Midwest, acknowledges the pain.
PRESIDENT BUSH [Michigan, 5/3/04]: There are workers who are concerned about their jobs. I understand that. I understand that. Our economy is in a time of transition. And if you’re the one going through transition, it’s not an easy experience.
BRANCACCIO: Judy Pike voted for Bush in 2000, and will likely do so again. Even so—
PIKE: You know, I wish he would really come out here and see 12,000 people out of work, and what the heck are they gonna do? I mean, what are these educated trained 12,000 people going to do?
BRANCACCIO: People like Thomas Gabel, one of approximately 450 workers who will be losing their jobs when Amerock shuts down production here.
GABEL: I don’t know what my future is going to be. In 6 months from now, a year from now, I have no clue what I’m going to be doing. And I’m scared. I’m really scared.
BRANCACCIO: That’s what blue-collar workers have been saying for years. Now increasingly, their employers are saying it, as well.
BORTOLI: The better jobs that this so called global economy is gonna create have yet to materialize here in the United States. And I’m not sure whether an accountant would be a good job because you can get your accounting work done in India. I’m not sure whether a programming job would be a good job because that can be done in India. Manufacturing engineer would go to China.
Where are these better jobs that we’re supposed to get? And nobody’s been able to explain that to me.
MOYERS: The war in Iraq has become also a war of images. This week, we were troubled by pictures of tortured Iraqi prisoners. Last week, it was photographs of American soldiers who have given their lives there.
On Friday a week ago on NIGHTLINE, Ted Koppel read the names of the dead and showed their photographs. Those faces and names were blacked out on ABC stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting. Sinclair accused Koppel of “doing nothing more than making a political statement.”
But what about Sinclair’s own political agenda? With 62 stations, the company is the biggest of its kind in the country, and has lobbied successfully in Washington for permission to grow even bigger. Its executives are generous contributors to the Republican party.
After 9/11, there were reports their on-air talent had been required to read statements affirming a station’s 100% support for the President.
The company’s Vice President for Corporate Communications doubles as the on-air commentator. Earlier this year he was sent to Iraq to editorialize on the good things happening there.
That’s Sinclair’s prerogative, of course. Every news organization has first amendment rights. I’m exercising mine right now. But speaking out is one thing, keeping others from being heard is another. Sinclair censored Koppel.
And when the Democratic National Committee wanted to buy time for a spot critical of the President, Sinclair’s station in Madison said no.
Clear Channel, the biggest radio conglomerate in the country, with twelve hundred stations plus, was a big winner in the deregulation frenzy triggered by Congress in 1996. Last year Clear Channel was a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq with pro-war rallies.
Rupert Murdoch’s a big Washington winner, too. Congress and the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission let him off the hook even though his News Corporation owned more stations than the rules allowed.
Murdoch also controls Fox News, another big cheerleader for American policy in Iraq.
And the NEW YORK POST. For a week, the POST refused to publish photographs of those tortured Iraqi prisoners saying the pictures would “reflect poorly” on the troops risking their lives there.
Again, their right. Freedom of the press, it has been famously said, is guaranteed only to those who own one.
And that’s just the point. These media giants can be within their rights even while doing wrong. It’s the system, dear Brutus, the system— a cartel, in effect, of big companies and big government scratching each other’s back.
The founders of our government didn’t think it a good idea for the press and state to gang up on public opinion. So they added to the Constitution a bill of rights whose first amendment was to be a kind of firewall between the politicians who hold power and the press that should hold power accountable. The very first American newspaper was a little three-page affair whose editor said he wanted to “cure the spirit of lying.” The government promptly shut him down on grounds he didn’t have the required state license.
Nowadays, these mega-media conglomerates relieve government of the need for censorship by doing it themselves.
And we’re reminded once again that journalism’s best moments have come not when journalists make common cause with the state but stand fearlessly independent of it. A free press remains everything to a free society.
That’s it for now. David Brancaccio and I will be back next week. I’m Bill Moyers.
ANNOUNCER: And connect to NOW online at pbs.org.
Find out what the Arab press is saying about those Iraqi prison pictures. Learn more about retraining and job programs in your area for unemployed workers. Read more about Rush Limbaugh’s comments. What you need to know about opinion polls.
This transcript was entered on May 7, 2015.