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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  February 15, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PST

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good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley, while the white house pursues options to reinstate president trump's travel ban, more sanctions may be coming from the trump administration against iran. tonight president of the national iranian american council. then we'llive o ivpivot to a conversation with ron sussheim. tonight we'll get personal and meet his son owen. we're glad you've joined us, all of that in just a moment.
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and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. donald trump tweeted see you in court after the ninth circuit federal appeals court rejected his administration's argument and maintained a temporary halt on his executive order that banged travelers from seven
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majority muslim countries from entering ours. what might happen next. frida good to have you back on the program. >> i don't know where to start. what do you make of all this? >> it's moving like the speed of light, man. >> it is moving very fast, characterized by a tremendous amount of incompetence on the surface. when you start digging, you start seeing much more insidious intent behind what's happening. what most people have seen is what's going on on tv, they issued an order that retroactively ended the visas from these seven countries. as people were starting to go back to their lives, they were deported. this includes people with green cards, living here for 20 years. but what was not reported, is
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that simultaneously, the trump administration instructed the uscis to stop processing applications for green cards from these seven countries. you combine these two thingsing to. the first one stops new people from coming in, the second ensures that those that are here and are not permanent will not become permanent. you combine that with the fact that there's this other effort to harass green cardholders and broadening the grounds on which they can be deported with the fact that you have a senior administration official saying that the united states cannot become like france and germany, country's that have sizable muslim minorities. that's when you see this is intended to be a muslim ban. it is intended to depopulate the united states from american muslims. >> i've been in any number of conversations over the last week or so, the last couple weeks since this all started about
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whether or not this is just semantics or whether there is real meaning behind this -- is it a ban, is it not a ban. is it a ban, is it not a ban. "saturday night live" has had a field day with this and others. funny stuff, by the way. is it just semantics for you, whether it's a ban or not a ban? is it something deeper. >> you have people who for instance -- this one woman has be living in the united states for seven years, she goes on a business trip, comes back, gets deported. she puts on facebook, what am i supposed to do, my car is still at the parking lot at the airport. who's going to take care of my dog, my house. this is not semantics. they will say it cannot possibly be a muslim ban, it's not targeting all muslim countries. it's the muslim ban they could get, not the one they wanted. the one that geopolitics wanted -- because the united states cannot impose this type of a ban on egypt, saudi arabia, countries it has extensive
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intelligence and military ties to. but it can do against somalia and iran, the united states doesn't have great relationships with those countries. >> trump on various occasions has said he wants to partner with iran in the fight against isis. now we're about to put -- we're putting iran on notice. what about -- >> i don't recall him saying he wants to partner with iran, he's willing to work with almost everyone that's fighting isis. he's made it clear that the iranians are fighting isis. >> my point was, he has suggested. anyone who's fighting isis he wants to partner with. there's evidence iran has done that, now what? >> what i think you're seeing is, this is an administration with no clear ideological
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actions. there's a discord between what they want to do. we're seeing a movement toward those that are arguing, the united states needs to have a much more strong military presence in the region and that it needs to push back against what they believe is iran's growing influence in the region. without in my view necessarily explaining what is the strategic benefit for the united states to go back deeper into the middle east. with all the problems that exist over there right now. all the difficulties to be able to stabilize that country. what is the actual strategic benefit of doing this. the obama administration had a clear idea about this. they believe the middle east had lost strategic significance. and the united states needed to move its resources and focus toward asia, that's where the -- this century is going to be written, in asia, not the middle east. the peer competitor to the united states is going to emerge out of asia, not the middle east. to me, it's not clear, what is the purpose of being able to go
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strongly back in and be in the middle east again. i understand that some of them have a sense of desire for revenge against iran. mindful of how the iranians and shiite militias fought with the u.s. in afghanistan and iraq. we have a foreign policy that is predicated on a design for revenge. i think we're going to be in for a very rough few years. >> what's your sense. i mean, anything can happen between this moment and the time that this program airs. what's your sense of what the president has as options for fighting this in the court system. i ask that, because again there have been all kind of jokes that have been put forth about his saying, i'll meet knew court. no, you just lost in court. we were in court. so i mean, it's -- it's -- as a matter of fact i wrote this down, there's a quote from one of his top advisers, he came out over the weekend and said, the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial. and will not be questioned.
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what do you make of the fact that they believe the white house administration, trump administration believes that we're now treading on the powers of the president to keep the country safe? >> there's a couple points. first of all, the president does have certain powers, he does not have the power to be above the constitution. and mindful of the fact that he himself has declared numerous times on twitter during the campaign, he wanted to have a muslim ban. that is unconstitutional. and he's not above that law, he does not have the power to override the constitution. now, you mention something important. making america safe and secure. well, zero nationals from these seven countries have committed acts of terror in the united states where they have actually killed an american. zero. not a single one. there are countries that the united states has strong relations with, such as saudi arab yarks the uae, egypt. they actually account for 94.1%
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of the american deaths in terror acts on u.s. soil. i'm not arguing that there shouldn't be a ban against them at all. i don't believe a blanket ban in anyway shape or form makes the united states safer. it is really difficult to see how one can make the argument that this is making america safer, when you're targeting countries based on the fact that you don't have relations with them. originally this may have had a degree of support is because after months and months in which he has whipped up this fear, this idea that there's hoards of isis sympathizers coming into the united states, which is completely false. after so many people have fallen for that lie, he's offering them an illusion of security. and they're falling for it, once they realize that this actually doesn't do anything to u.s. security, in fact one could argue it would make it less safe, i think he's going to not
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only lose the moral argument, he's also going to lose the security argument. >> it raises an elemental question, which has been asked 1,000 times, for those who may not yet have heard the answer that satisfies them or explains to them, given all that you just said, why these seven countries then? >> because these are the seven countries you can impose such a ban on. it's not costly to do so. the biggest country of all of these is iran, 48% of the visas that were issued to the nationals of these seven countries went to iran. it's a country that the united states doesn't have much of a relationship with. and as a result, it's doable. but you have countries that actually do pose a threat in the sense that they're citizens -- >> this is all just smoke and mirrors? >> absolutely. it's worse than that, it's not making the united states safe. if we truly wanted to target islamic jihadism and the very radicals and that is a real danger that has caused massive
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deaths in paris, in nice, in san bernardino, we wouldn't be targeting how certain american allies are allowing so much funding from their citizenship to go to these movements. the previous administration said it publicly. the seed money to isis came from saudi arabia, so if you want to be serious about security, we should be talking about these things. >> if you're argument has been three times a night, that this makes us less safe, i hear you loud and clear, how does it make us less safe? >> because we're focusing on what is not an actual threat. it's taking our attention away from what could be a threat and the things we need to do. in that sense it's diverging our attention and resources toward the right things. >> thank you for your work. >> thank you so much. up next, ron suskind and his son owen, stay with us.
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ron suskind is a best selling author who has written some of america's most important works of nonfiction. his latest bestseller chronicles the 20 year struggle of he and his wife with their son's autism. owen is the subject of an oscar nominated documentary. first a clip from life animated directed by oscar winning director roger ross williams. >> sao i go up to his room. i see owen on the bed, flipping through a disney book, and i see sort of over to my left. i see yago, the puppet, now, yago is the evil sidekick to the villain jaafar from aladdin. i know owen loves this puppet. i grab the puppet.
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i pull it up to my elbow and i begin to crawl across the rug as quietly as i can. owen turns to the puppet like he's bumping into an old friend. i say to him, owen, owen, how does it feel to be you? and i said, not good, because i don't have any friends. now i'm under the bed spread and i just bite down hard. i just say to myself, stay in character. and i said, okay, okay. owen, when did you and i become such good friends? and he said when i watched aladdin, you made me laugh. and then we talk, owen and yago, for a minute, minute and a half. it's the first conversation
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we've ever had. >> i whispered to ron when that clip was running, that people at disney, mr. iger and company must be loving you and owen right now. >> like who knew that disney had the power -- i'm a disney fan, who knew disney had the power to do all of this. >> look, i think they love the way owen interprets them for the world. there's a book before the movie, they saw the way he sees them and how he sees more in them than often the animators who made the characters. it's a beautiful story about the power of movies. disney movies in shaming who we are, who we become. >> you gave a bit of that -- you answered this question to some degree in that clip just now, how did you process the minute you realized the power that these characters had in owen's life. >> it was kind of stunning, tavis. owen's about 6 1/2 there when this happens with the yago puppet, he's up to about a three
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word sentence after endless hours of therapy. all of a sudden, i realize he's memorized disney movies. you throw him a line, he'll throw you back the next line. he can go for hours. we can communicate but only in dialogue. we begin with scenes night after night in the basement. he begins to read by reading credits. what we did in the basement was meditate really on big issues, like the emergence of the hero. those days, my lilili'm interviewing presidents by day, by night, we're thinking about the power of myth and fabel in shaping who we are. and in a way, the basement conversations were the most real in terms of how political dialogue has declined in this period. >> things aren't always as they appear. >> we're in the early stages. now we're way down the path. >> what did this process teach you or reinforce for you.
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tell me about the power of fiction, given that you and i are nonfiction guys. >> what it taught me was just the power of story, all kinds of story. this thing between our ears, it's a narrative machine. we don't remember facts unless it's shaped into a narrative of some kind. that's what we've learned over the last 15 to 20 years in neuroscience. we were living it here. and saying, okay, what sorts of stories shape us to understanding of courage or justice. we do that as nonfiction people. now i saw in fiction and nonfiction, in a way, it's all the same in the way this brain processes story. and as owen often says is, all we are are stories, all we leave behind are our stories. that was -- that made me a better journalist, i appreciated story, because it was the only way we could connect with the person we love so much. >> has this experience, this
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revelation given you an your wife not just a new way to communicate with owen, but a different way of seeing or understanding him? >> yeah. >> am i putting too much on it? >> no, absolutely. >> you know, i mean, you know, we're told early on, when he loses speech, when we're told you have to support him for the next 50 years, 30 years after you're dead sort of thing, don't hope for much. we started to trim our hopes and losses, if you know what i mean. as any parent would. and then after a time, we said, wait a second, he changed, but we're changing too. we're beginning to see what we couldn't about lights hidden under bushel baskets, things that maybe others miss. and as walter -- his older brother says, owen is my best teacher. and that's the twist of it all. here we are educated people with ow graduate degrees, owen ends up teaching us through his silence in the days in which he
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emerges, more than we could otherwise learn. he helped us find our inner heroes to meet him where he lived. >> i don't know about you, but i want to meet owen, and we'll do that in a second. before he takes his seat, a clip from owen discussing the disney club that he started. >> okay. okay, i'll start as soon as everyone gets here, we can begin. >> hey, owen, can i recommend you say, may i have your attention, please? >> when everyone gets here, we'll begin. i started a disney club, so i can get to know more people, and they can be around me, so i can be more popular. it worked. >> owen, nice to meet you. >> nice to meet you too, tavis. >> before i get to this disney thing, there's a question i've been burning to ask owen. i hope i'm not speaking out of school here. >> no, no. >> when i saw donald trump --
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oh, look at that face. when i saw him mock this disabled reporter. >> the new york times guy. >> what did you think of that, owen? >> it was so horrible. what did you say to me and mom. you were saying, when you saw him do that, what did you say about donald trump? >> that he's like eston from "beauty and the beast." >> why? >> because he's handsome but he's a bully. and he mocks people. >> mocks people who are disabled. >> you've been mocked sometimes as people with disabilities are. how does that make you feel? >> really horrible. >> do you have anything you want to tell donald trump. >> what do you want to tell him? >> that he should never make fun of anyone. >> powerful. >> do we have a favorite disney movie? disney character. >> i love them all.
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>> it's hard to pick a winner. >> it's like picking a favorite child. you know. >> you don't want to offend any of the others. >> okay. is there one that you watch the most? what would you say are the sum of your favorites. >> the big four, mermaid, beauty and the beast, the lion king and aladdin. >> you want to do a voice for tavis? >> mind if i do -- >> yeah, you want to -- >> that's a different one, that's another one he has, called sword of the stone, merlin and arthur. >> after the squirrel scene. >> merlin's the wizard, and arthur discovers what in that scene? >> love. he says, you know, boy, i love this is a powerful feeling.
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greater than gravity? well, yes, boy, i feel the greatest. >> owen loves that scene. >> sure do. >> he's memorized all these movies. >> hundreds of hours. we've been doing them for years. there's scene that owen embraces for events, for moments. before he went off to college, this program you're going to see, he brought us to watch the little mermaid about what scene did you do then that you showed us with sebastian? >> it's like i always say your majesty, children have got to be free to lead their own lives. >> like you always say sebastian? >> uh-huh. then i guess there's just one problem left? >> and what's that your majesty? >> how much i'm going to miss her. >> and then owen paused it and
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turned to me and said, are we going to be okay? he's leaving in the morning for college. yes, we're going to miss you terribly, that's because we love you so much and that's the way it ought to be. it's fine, and then he watched the rest of the movie. it's a way to process the world through movies. which we all do some of. he does it almost like no one else. >> not that it matters, but my favorite is -- i'm a dumbo guy. >> i love dumbo. >> dumbo is an amazing movie. >> what's the big considered for dumbo? >> the inner ears. >> what's your inner ears? >> my artwork. >> it's the compensatory abilities that owen talks about. the thing that makes dumbo different is -- >> his ears. >> and his greatest what? >> strength. >> so he can sore. >> i ought to come to your house one day, man. i'm inviting myself to dinner one day, so i can sit and be a part of these conversations.
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>> it really is arresting, though. >> yeah. >> it really is arresting to see what he takes from these films so many of us even miss, even if we like them. >> that's the power of the story of life animated. the viewers sit there and say, how can someone who is considered disabled -- and look, owen's not -- he seems like one in a million, 40 feet tall, he's one in millions. how can he see so much more in these movies than i do. people say different but not less. let's look at that but different and greater in areas of strength. that changes the way people see the world like owen. >> how is the course coming along? >> good. >> they have a disney club where he lives now. and owen is still a fan. of all the great classics. you've moved on to some live action though too? >> yeah, and others. >> do you want to do a little
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bit -- owen had something -- he broke up with a girlfriend. >> we're still just friends. there's a million more. >> more fish in the sea? >> more fish in the sea? >> right. >> owen was working through that, he says, there's a movie i'm using, tell michael caine. >> broken wings bends in time, one day robin will fly again, i promise. now that was the late michael groff, now michael caine. why do we falter, so we can learn to pick ourselves up again. >> thank you, sir. >> every man who's had his heart broken appreciates that. >> he's moved on, though. >> if you say that to yourself every day, eventually you can move on. >> these scenes are universal. every guy. and with us on the couch. >> and a child shall leave them.
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congratulations on the nomination. >> thanks. >> nice to have you both here. >> are you going to get up there on the red carpet, the academy awards? >> yeah. but i'm not an actor, i'm an artist being celebrated. >> i can't do better than that. that's it. thank you for watching. >> you're welcome. keep the faith. >> he's gone. owen has left the building. owen has left the building. i love that, man. he just kind of walked out will holla. for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley, join me next time for a conversation on the film, "the united kingdom." that's next time. we'll see you then.
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and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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. good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley, tonight we have a tribute to al jarreau, right now coming up.

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