tv Charlie Rose PBS April 4, 2011 12:00pm-1:00pm PDT
>> welcome to our program, i'm al hunt of bloomberg news in for charlie rose who is on assignment in asia. we sum up with two of washington most respected journalist, michael duffy of "time" magazine and andrea mitchell of nbc news. >> wile we talk about libya and these are the most immediate decisions a that have to be made, you've got the rest of the region and it's not too far away from july where the administration is wrestling with divisions, deep divisions over what to do about afghanistan. and again general petraeus whose testimony in the last week or so was mostly overlooked because of the event in libia. the fact he is pushing not to have a significant withdrawal. the president wants a more significant withdrawal. and as bob gates testified this week to the senate arms services committee, said we are strapped. we've got 19 ship as sesing the japanese-- assisting the
japanese right now. that not a small number. >> we turn to the final four with john feinstein of the "washington post" and organize stiringt university head basketball coach craig robinson. >> if i was scouting vcu, al, i would not let those guys shoot any three point shots. that team is a dynamic three point shot shooting teaming. i would stop them on the break from shooting tlooeings and in the half-court set. and the team that can do that is butler. they play a terrific half-court defense. they're very hard to score on. it's going to be a clash of wills here. so it's going to be a very exciting game. >> and how do you size up the kentucky uconn game? >> well, that is going to be more of an up and down game. and i think that, i think that the team that is-- the team whose depth is the best is going to win that game. that's going to be a car race there. >> we close this evening
looking at the craft of writing with way conversation charlie taped recently with author stanley fish and roger rosenblatt. >> writing has four purposes, at least to my life to make suffering eng durable, to make evil intelligible, to make justice desirable and love possible. and so when he talks about what words can do to reality, i think there's no more important thing in the world. >> charlie rose will be back on monday. tonight the administration's response to events in the middle east. the final four in men's college basketball and a primer on writing coming up. >> funding for charlie rose was provided by the following: every story needs a hero we can all root for. who beats the odds and comes out on top.
but this isn't just a hollywood storyline. it's happening every day, all across america. every time a storefront opens. or the midnight oil is burned. or when someone chases a dream, not just a dollar. they are small business owners. so if you wanna root for a real hero, support small business. shop small. additional funding provided by these funders: captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> i'm al hunt of bloomberg
news filling in for charlie rose who is on assignment in asia. we begin with a look at the administration's response to the events playing out across the middle east. the week in washington started as it often does with a sunday news show, secretary of state hillary clinton, bob gates, washington's most power wfl odd couple laid the groundwork for the president's speech on monday. speaking at the national defense university president obama declared a military intervention in libya was in the national interest of the united states. the politics of libya played out with criticism coming from both sides of the aisle. yesterday secretary gates and joint chiefs of staff chairman mike mullen took tough questions on capitol hill about the scope of the u.s. involvement. joining me now are two of the great proses on washington and this subject in particular, andrea mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for nbc news and michael duffy a sis tenant managing editor and bureau chief and lord knows how many other important titles at "time" magazine. i thank you both for joining
me. andrea, this week started off a little bit different than it ended up, we hope, the libya es capade would be over rather quickly. if it's not, the big debate now is do we arm the rebels and on that you see the president wanted to keep his options open. he first first raised the possibility of arming the rebels in his interviewses. but at the same time you've got now this alliance between the secretary of state and the secretary of defense. both against arming rebels whom we really don't understand. what you are talking being are groupses that are not a unified opposition. they're an ad hock mix of tribal leaders and others who are unified by their opposition to moammar qaddafi. but not by who else they would ally with. and their attitudes towards america, towards the united states and the western allieses is one thing. also you heard from the nato secretary-general, or rather the admiral in charge, the
head of the command, from nato, testifying that there are quote flickers of al qaeda present. different parts of the intelligence community suggest different alliances and whether or not al qaeda is really there is an open question. >> there really is a risk trade-off, isn't there. you want to get rid of qaddafi, you want to do whatever it takes to get rid of qad-- qaddafi. you have to balance which say greater risk. >> the afghanistan model, that paradigm is really haunting people in this administration. and in congress. in both parties in congress. because you don't want the blowback of arming the mujahedin as we did and then leaving afghanistan and finding osama bin laden and others using stinger missiles against us. and that is exactly what they are afraid of. >> michael, one thing we discovered in the last three or four days this is more complicated than might have looked.
>> the ground truth in this day in libya is more complicated at the end of the week than at the beginning of the week. not all bad for the president. as andrea noted the rebels are what bob gates described as a pickup team whiches was as close as he could say, you know h this could be a disaster without saying that. that was quite a comment, i thought. on the other hand we see a couple things happen that we're not-- we have some defections from the libyan high command, those could be signs of a real breakdown in the regime or even perhaps a pathway to getting qaingd avi to leave. we just don't know yet. on the other hand, other good piece of news, i suppose the president's perspective, we've handed off most of the responsibility, though not all of the actual flying, to nato. it's still pretty much of an american operation but they made a big deal this week of pulling back from the largely u.s.-led thing. on the other hand, now that we've grounded their airplanes and destroyed a lot of their tank commands qaddafi moved forces on to the same pickup trucks the
rebelses are on. it's hard to tell our pickup truckses from their pickup trucks. no one really knows-- they pulled back some of the most lethal weapons. the ac-130 and a-10 from the air cover. if qaddafi moves in over the weekend and a lot of people expect in the military he could get. more kinetic on the ground with these low level vehicles t is unclear what the u.s. and nato has the ability to quickly turn that around and do something about it. they are worried as the weekend beginses what will happen. >> you both agree, however, to call this a success, it has to involve qaddafi going. and will qaddafi go in exile someplace. or is he the kind who will be there to the last --. >> the strange thing about this is to call it a success qaddafi has to be out, but that's not a success because we don't know what replaces him. >> that's true. >> so you can't really measure the optics aren't there to measure what we have actually achieved even
if we get qaddafi out. we don't know what would replace him in that vacuum. it is a much less predictable outcome than even tunesia and egypt. the other thing about the pulling back of the, c-130s and the a-10 wart hogs is that they are on stand by. and at the same time just the pulling em this back to standby mode precipitated a blistering attack by john mccain. >> right. >> against the administration policy and against the defense secretary. >> there are some democrats. >> but what is interesting. that is interesting, michael, because this issue actually divides both parties. there are republicans like john mccain and lindsay graham who have one view there are a number of republicanses like mike rogers and hayley barber who says what the heck are we doing. >> never bought the justification for going in or it made sense to do that. who are haunted by afghanistan and iraq even though they supported some of those operations five and ten years ago. and then there's the
duration question. you know, no-fly zones don't typically last weekses, they typically last years, in bosnia, three years before we got again to bomb everything. in iraq, 12 years before we invaded. now a lot of people when this began a few weeks ago thought this would be a matter of weeks. it might not be. and it's quite possible, the man has lived in tents roaming around. >> he has been there for 42 years. he may be a madman but he is a scrooge madman. >> it is quite possible that this will not end in any of the scenarios we talked about and in a way, libya becomes-- this is also a scenario. >> an east-west libya. >> certainly coast and everything else. >> right. >> and interestingly while we talk about libya, and while these are the most immediate decisions that obviously have to be made, you've got the rest of the region. and it's not too far away from july where the administration is wrestling with divisions, deep divisions over what to do about afghanistan. and again general petraeus
whose testimony in the last week or so was mostly overlooked because of the events in libya. but the fact is he is pushing not to have a significant withdrawal. the president wants a more significant withdrawal. and as bob gates testified this week to the senate foreign-- senate armed services committee, said we are strapped. we've got 19 ships aresing the japanese right now. that not a small number. >> we've seen this on afghanistan we've seen this picture before. and what they did before was to compromise. they took what was the most ambitious request of petraeus and they took what was the least ambitious of white house aidees and sort of split the difference. that's an oversimplification. >> we've seen the leaks that we saw in the washington post this morning or yesterday almost word for word last summer in a way that precipitated the decision that was going to supposedly bring people home this summer. i'm confident that at least four koox and three truck drivers will be leaving afghanistan in july. >> exactly. >> but i'm also certain when
they made that announcement which no one seemed to complain about late last year that this could go through 2014. that we where going to have the vast majority of our troops there in three years. >> and a lethal bombing of u.n. personal right now. >> and there's no indication that the tide has turned. >> and what bob gates was trying to say, and with all budget debates, these things get very, you know, very down in the weeds. but the bottom line is that the pentagons as of every other department is now operate on these short term continuing resolutions which are last year's spending levels or the current years spending leflings so that has actually constrained them. they are not up to what they had projected they would need to be right now, not envisioning all of these other commitments. >> that was probably the most important moment of the week i thought when bob gates listening to the questionses about afghanistan, about libya, finally, he didn't blow a gasket but he said guys you're asking me to do so much in so many places and you're giving me nothing to do it with. it was a cri de coeur like few i have seen.
>> the fact is what you have got unleashed a little bit is this defense secretary, clearly on his way out. and as he finishes his tour, a very successful tour in this cabinet, he is basically talking truth to power. and that is a powerful force. >> in talking truth to force isn't he in the drivers seat, and he has more, he really has more leverage than petraeus, than hillary clinton, than any of the white house political advisors or anyone on capitol hill. what bob gates recommendses in afghanistan, obama pretty much has to do. is that fair or oversimplified. >> i think that is very fair. >> and i think his ability of fearlessness, because he is saying it in public is not like anything we've seen from many senior cabinet members in 20 years. he's out there and he's telling people what he thinks all the time. and he hasn't gone yet. >> a lot of us thought he would be gone by now. he's not. >> now that we agreed that he can control what determines there, what is he goinging to say or recommend. >> afghanistan. >> on afghanistan.
>> i think he's decided, 2014. a few cooks come home this summer. >> token withdrawalses this summer and sort of gradual but really emphasis on the capitol g and then start to really come out in a couple of years. which means if it becomes a campaign issue in 2014, bank bam has to hope that casualty levels don't start to rise. >> i think what you will see is a change in the balance of power with the political teams at the white house who are very well blended into the foreign policy team at the white house actually having more sway and coming years. >> you know. >> coming months, rather. >> such an interesting point there. andrea. one of the criticismses of obama from those who think he got the libya policy right monday night, complicated though it may be he came up with the best policy. it took a lot of contortionss to get there. and someone said to me the problem with this staff, maybe the white house in general is they think first politics and second personal protection and then third policy. and once they get to focus
on policy they end up, you know, pretty much getting the right policy. >> that criticism, you're hearing more and more of that criticism as the contorted way that they have reached this policy. but in defense of them, this is really complicated stuff. we have never seen these kinds of tectonic shifts in this region. i mean it's been centuries it in the making. and every one of these countries is a very distinctly different situation. >> and we're not done. we have had a rolling revolution since the beginning of the year in three or four countries. there are three or four more that could happen at any moment whether it is yemen or syria. and those are the easy ones as far as u.s. interests go. neither, which is easy. so i mean they are really writing several tigers here at once. >> on january 1st we had no idea any of this was coming. on march 1st we were really yew foric it was all going to turn out well. with the silver reality of april fool's day what is the outlook now. >> it's probably this is not
the velvet revolution of 1989 where we can sit back in our armchairs and watch eastern europe peacefully move towards freedom and liberty with a more or less beneficent soviet union saying yeah, we're done. what we have here is a dozen autocracies, some familiarial, some base on fortune, some on crime. not everybody wants to cede power anyway in the same way it will happen one right after the other. and some won't end well. >> and a lot of other heavy consequences. we always thought that the road to peace between palestinianses and israelis went through damascus. there had to be, you know, some sort of peace agreement with syria, we were close several times in the last 15 years. and now there's no way that we could be negotiating with assad. let's say he is after the crushing blows against the rebel on, there is no way that he could be interlock eter in middle east peace. >> two questionses about two
different countries. and are they emboldened and strengthened or threatened and imperiled. first iran and then saudi arabia. >> one think you see shot through everything the president is doing, a quiet level is overriding concern about iran and any possibility that this will use all this unrest and uncertainty to extend its influence particularly in the persian gulf. that is why the u.s. looks the other way in bahrain and let them crack down and one of the reasons he has been willing to err on the side of aggression in libya which is to say watch what we can still do here even though we have two other wars going on. we can still do this. >> saudi arabia. >> you will see hillary clinton make overtureses to the opposition groupses, the student groups in iran next week on. in the percent festival. but the other thing about saudi arabia is it's not all about oil but a lot of it is about oil and economic interests. there was that phrase that the president used about the
economic driving forces. >> also about ohio. >> yeah. but the saudi importance, that relationship has made us look the other way. >> andrea mitchell of nbc news and michael duffy of "time" magazine, thank you so much. the ncaa men's final four begins tomorrow night from reliant stadium in houston with two intriguing gamings. the first, a clash of underdogs. virginia commonwealth university rams taking on the butler bull dogs. the second game featureses two perennial powers when the kentucky wildcats face the university of connecticut huskies. with me in washington is america's premier sports writer, the foremost expert on college basketball among other things and a graduate of charlie rose's alma mater duke university. john feinstein, joining us shortly late letter be craig robinson the head basketball coach at oregon state university. john, this is really a great
narrative. we'll talk later about the quality but the narrative is great about vcu and butler. >> yeah, you have good versus good in that first game tomorrow night. obviously butler was cinderella last year when they got to the championship game and barely loss to charlie rose's alma mater by about two inches on that last second shot of gordon haywardses. and now here they are back without hayward who left early for the nba. they're back the final four and they're facing a team that most of the so-called experts didn't even think belonged in the tournament, vcu, when the bracket was unveiled a couple weeks ago. and they have won five games because of the new 68 team tournament to get to the final four, first team in history to do that. and only the third 11th seed since the tournament expanded in 1985 to make it this far. >> is there a quality difference between these four teams? >> not much. i don't think there's much. i think when you saw vcu play kansas on sunday and kansas was the number one seed and many people had them at the start of the tournament winning the national championship just
as last year when they were upset by a so-called mid maj never northern iowa in the second round. if you look at it, the gap has closed between the so-called power schools and power conferences, the ones with the big money, big money, excuse me, so-called bcs conference and the so-called major conferences because everybody is on television now. so they can't use that as a recruiting tooling at north carolina, duke, connecticut, kentucky, because everyone is on tv now. and because these so-called mid majorses have juniors and seniors. most of the power schoolses now lose their stars. >> like john walls and blake griffith are gone. >> that really is an equalizer. some people complain that means the quality isn't as high as it once was, may well be true. >> it's not. >> but the narrative is better. >> absolutely. the quality of basketball at all levels for reasons that we could spend several hours discussing isn't nearly as good as it was 15, 20, 25 years ago. the players don't want to be coached any more. they're too big starses to be coached. they play summer ball now which is all one-on-one.
nobody plays defense. they all want to be on the espn. we call it the espning of athletics. plus the fact that you do have the college kids now coming out after a year, so-called one and done because that rule was put in several years ago. but you are right. the quality of competition is better than it's ever been. because there are more teams that can advance to the final four, more teams that can win the national championship realistickically than ever before. when george mason made the final four in 2006, i thought then that was a once in a lifetime occurrence. a school that had only existed for 35 years making it to the final four out of the caa, colon yate-- colonial athletic association. i was wrong t is part of a trend. >> there may well be others. >> absolutely. >> let me ask you about the coaches of these two teams, first shacka smart, 34 years ol, i think. >> 32. >> 33, it's a remarkable story. what's he like. >> he's very outgoing, very
emotional. in fact it's interesting because shacka is smart and brad stevens, the butler coach combined are one year younger than jim call human, the-- call houn the connecticut coach. young koches, brad stevens in his second final four, shaka smart in his first. totally opposite personalities. brad stevenses, i wrote this a couple years ago, if he had been alive when man landed on the moon he would say oh, that's pretty interesting that is big emotion. shaka smart, you hand him a cup of coffee this is the greatest thing i've ever seen in my life. totally opposite personalities but what they have in common, both very driven, competitive and both very good at what they do. >> smart basketball coaches. >> without any question. >> let me ask you about the state of college basketball as we get to the other two programs because they're both storied programsment but you have to put an as ter ising behind them. jim calhoun who i admire a lot. >> me too. >> was sanctioned for rules violations, california pairee is take his third
team to the ncaa final four. there is a record there of sorts. >> right. >> it really does raise a question about the whole integrity of the game at that highest level. >> it's what college cath letics has evolved to, john calipari, if kentucky were to get vacated from this final four, i guess he would retire the untrophyed. getting three different schools vacated. but he certainly has that history. jim calhoun, connecticut, they are just sanctioned by the ncaa back in february. and he will be suggestion pended for three years-- three games, excuse me, next season. and that's typical ncaa justice, let's put it off like they did with the ohio state football players. we are not going to take them out of the sugar bowl which say huge moneymaking game. we will make them miss five games next season during the regular season. jim calhoun we won't take him out of the tournament because he is a big name coach, a hall of fame coach who won two national titles. we will take him out of three games next january during the season. that is the way it operated. the best line i ever heard on ncaa justice was years
ago, jerry tarkanian, the coach at nevada las vegas who was sanctioned by the ncaa multiple times, when money fell out of an ffl going from the kentucky basketball office to a kentucky recruit, jerry tarkanian said the ncaa is so angry with kentucky it's going to put cleveland state on probation for another three years. >> i'm thinking if i am a coach of a team that has a mediocre record and i look at kind of the risk benefit ratio. >> right. >> the cheating and maybe getting that star player are not cheating and then having another losing record and having the alumni demand i be fired, the risk benefit ratio today is to cheat. >> cheating pays there is no question. look at john calipari. he took massachusetts to the final four in 1996. by the way, he is a terrific coach. i mean he could coach with anybody. >> write. >> he then leaves, goes to the nba, comes back, takes memphis to the final four. they're both vacated for different violations. you know people say well, he wasn't himself found guilty. but he was in charge. if you are goinging to take the credit, you have to take
the blame. >> exactly. >> and what did john calipari end up with, the most lucrative contract in the history of college basketball, at the university of kentucky making almost $4 million a year. cheating pays. >> right. well, the other thing about the kentucky program is, as you know, i'm a huge fan. i think college sports belong in the academy. i think it helps, i think it is part of a diverse academic environment. however, to bring people in for one year and you know they're coming in for one year and then out, occasionally it happens, even duke, the gold standard of programs has had a couple of kids leave. >> and another one this year. >> it happens, but they also have a bunch of seniors who are playing. kentucky it is just a training ground for the nba it is not part of an academic institution. >> that said, kentucky is playing big the rules. >> no, no, -- >> and to be fair to the ncaa which i hate doing because they don't deserve fairness. but this is an nba rule. this is part of the collective bargaining agreement. >> the ville anne or the players union, not the david -- >> exactly quite. >> can i put my sand cap on for a minute.
>> when i watch vcu play butler what i should look for as we are watching saturday night. >> they are both going to try to dictate pace. vcu will want to push the ball every chance. they want to play very fast, get down the court. they have joey rodriguez who will push the ball every chance he gets and they will try, the way the game is played now, you don't fill lanes on the fast break, you run to the three point line and fire three point shots. that how they got the big lead against kansasment butler will look for a more controlled game. they will look to get the ball in the hands of their great underrated guard sheldon mack and they are going to look to pound the boards. they've got two really good inside players in smith and howard. they've also got some depth. and they're goinging to look to have a controlled game. if the game is played in the '60s, butler wins. if the game is play in the 80s, vcu wins, in the 70s, toss it up. >> i'm thinking sheldon mack is really a fabulous guard. you are right. and he made what seemed to be a dumb fail. >> to put it mildly. >> but i remember taking the great senator bill bradley
tie basketball game about 20 years okay, georgetown syracuse and a georgetown kid made a dumb shot with 3 seconds left and i said why "in god's name" did he do that. and bradley said because he's a 19-year-old kid and sometimes we shouldn't lose that. >> that is the beauty of the college game. these are still kids. they are still learning as they go. and sheldon mack after that pittsburgh game when he committed that foul that easily could have cost butler the game just looked up and he was able to say it because they ended up winning, i just committed the dumbest foul in the history of butler university. and he lived to tell about it. >> he sure came back. the other game, huskies and wildcats, what do we look for. >> walker, everything in this game starts with kendall walker. >> the uconn player. >> which believe the best player in the country. had an unbelievable year and especially an unbelievable postseason. if he can get in the lane the way he has done against every team connecticut has played in the last month, then connecticut becomes very hard to guard. because he makes everybody around him better. if kentucky and i wouldn't
be surprised to see john calipari try some zone or a little, what we call a junk defenceman to man and zone to keep walker out of the lane f can do that, then kentucky has the advantage because they have more good players than connecticut. >> more athletic. >> well, and they're deeper. and they've got a very good big man in harrelson who is the one senior on the team. >> havingic approximated on him, he is a seniorness he is a senior. >> he averaged about 1.3 points last year. >> and he's played well this year. he had a good season. but if kentucky can control walker, then they have the advantage. walk certificate the best player on the court there is no question in my mind about that. kentucky has more good players. >> right. and walker does really dominate a game like very few. >> for a six foot guard it's extraordinary. and again it gets back to, not only his ability to create for himself but his ability to create for the other players. remember connecticut is playing three freshman and four sophomores that is not that unusual in today's game with the big time teams with
playerses who leave early. but to do that and to be in the final four is a tribute to walker it is also a tribute to the fact that jim calhoun is a hall of fame coach. >> both games are a toss up. does one team have an edge. >> i think they are both toss ups. the one advantage i give butler is is they have been through it all. all the kids went through it last year, the hype connected to the final four. brad stevens has been through it before as a coach so i give them a little bit of an edge because of that. i would have said canvas has an edge against vcu over experience and they blew them away. in the other game, again, i think that i always say if it's close, bet on the best player. i think walker is the best player. >> and if you had a final with uconn and butler? >> my heart says butler. >> yeah. >> it really does. >> what is -- >> they were so close last year. >> the head always tends to lean towards the power team because they're going to have more players, more good players on the court. and obviously in connecticut you have a coach who has won two national championships which we are not vacated in 1999 and 2004.
but i'm going to roll with the bull dogs just because it's such a fantastic story. and i, if i was startinging a college basketball program tomorrow and could hire one coach, i would hire brad stevens. >> the next-- i think he has that kind of potential, i really do. >> i agree with most of your critiques earlier of the sport and the state of college basketball. but it is an exciting weekend. >> it a wonderful weekend. it gets back to actually something tony la russa said about baseball as we had were headed to another work stoppage. i said it will be terrible for baseball. he said the game is better than all of us. and it's true of college basketball too. college basketball is corrupt. the ncaa wants to do nothing about it, they go like this all the time. same with college football but darn, the gameses are good. >> we are ready to go to coach robinson. now coach we have decided that your secondary claim to fame is that you have a brother-in-law, 1600 pennsylvania avenue but your main claim to fame is the head coach of the oregon state beavers. i hear you had a rebuilding
this year but are coming back next year. give us your sense of this final four from a coaches perspective. >> well, this one couldn't be any more exciting having two higher seeded teams like butler and vcu in it. it's goinging to be really exciting. and you combine that with the tradition of kentucky and then you've got probably the guy who is playing the best at this point in time, walker. >> and if you were an analyst as are you now, you look at that vcu and butler game what are you looking for? what is going to make the difference. john feinstein said vcu wants to play fast pace, butler more half-court. >> well, what i think, if i was scouting vcu, al, i would not let those guys shoot any three point shots. that team is a dynamic three point shot shooting team. i would stop them on the break from shooting threes and in the half-court set. and the team that can do that is butler. they play a terrific
half-court defense. they're very hard to score on. it's going to be a clash of wills here. so it's going to be a very exciting game. >> and how do you size up the kentucky uconn game? >> well, that is going to be more of an up and down game. and i think that, i think that the team that is-- the team whose depth is the best is going to win that game. that's going to be a car race there. >> john said earlier that there's been too much of what sometimes is called the e,spning i hads can more interested in being on highlights and less than fundamentals there is the one and out there is the kids not paying or not being as coachable. is that true or is it something that you think changing? what is your take? >> well, my take on it is that it's not just college basketball. it's sort of a societal phenomenon that's going on. i mean we all have access
too much more information. we're all on our pdas and computers and our phones. and i think that what you have is you have kids who are growinging up and a lot of folks are telling them how good they are. they're reading about themselves more. they're seeing their highlights more. they're showing their own highlights on u tooub and facebook and things like that. and it just, it just makes it tougher to have any kind of real structure for the kid until we get them. i mean you know there are some really good high school coaches who are doing a great job preparing kids for college. i just think that they're-- they spend less time with those kids and those kids are spending more time with their individual coaches. they have individual skills coaches. they have individual
conditioning coaches. and then they have an individual strength coach. and it all is pointing to me rather than team. but i am not-- i'm not fully through with it. i mean i just think that we as coaches have to do more once we get those kids. >> coach, one more question. your brother-in-law who happens to be president of the united states filled out his bracket a few weeks ago. he picked all number one seeds for the final four. you coach a team. it's often an underdog team. are you trying to educate him on not being a chalk eater and you have to go with the underdog sometime. >> oh, no, i'm not educating him on anything. he's very capable of doing his own thing. i think, you know, he's been extremely busy as you probably have noticed of late. and probably couldn't take as close a look as he normally does. i mean between what's going on in the world, and what
the beavers are doing, he's got his hands full. >> well, i want to tell you, i know one person who will be pleased with that answer and that is michelle obama, your sister. coach robinson, thank you very, very much. we hear that the oregon state beavers are coming back next year. >> we sure are. and thanks for having me, al. >> we'll be cheering for you. thank you very much, craig robinson. thank you very much john feinstein. >> my pleasure, al, thanks. >> the great writer that anial hawthorne once said easy readinging is damn hard writing, stanley fish and roger rosenblatt know this too well. they have written books on the craft of writing and the powerful urge that driveses so many of us to take on the task. joining me are stanley fish. his new book is called how to write a sentence and how to read one with. and roger rosenblatt author of unless it moves the human heart, the craft and art of writing. i'm pleased to have both of them here at this table. good to see you.
what is it about good writing that makes it good? >> i like plain writing, restrained writing. and writing that defend it-- depends on the strength of the known. a lot of writers talk about the strength of the verb or adjective, et cetera. the reason i like the known is that emmerson called it the speaking lang gauge of things. and i try to teach my writing studentses that if you find the write known you won't need three adjectives to describe it. if you need three adjectives to describe it, you probably have got the wrong known. so there are a lot of little things in it. eventually i go wide in the book as you know. but certain particulars, small things, anticipation over surprise, invention over manageation, things like that, that makes good writing. >> i am attracted to sentences. as i say they knock your socks off. but you wonder as you read
them and after you have just read them. how could someone who uses the same language i do produce that in i can't. and those are the sentences i tend to collect almost as if you might collect videos and great athletic moments. and although the sentences with the readers of this book. how do you write a sentence like that. >> there are ways of imitating the form. and that's what i try to teach in the book. you can take sentence as part if you first begin by understanding what way sentence is. my mantra is a sentence is a structure of logical relationships. which is as i say it not very helpful. but as i develop it through exercises i think helps my students and readerses to know when sentences are cohering and when they are falling apart. and then we study sentences of great writers, which cohere in surprising ways. so surprise also is one of the the values that i
admire. and we can both admire and imitate at least the form of great sentences. although often when the imitation is on the table and put next to the original great sentence, there is a lamentable gap. >> tell me about sentences beyond the known. >> well, actually i learned a great deal from reading stanley's book because i never thought of the sentence as the particular units, the central unit. though like him i appreciated him. the kick i got out of the book apart from the instruction was, it reminded me of what a crazy lotus literary types are. stanley quotes a sentence of john updikes talking about ted williams last home run or home run in his last at-bat. the sentence was it was in the bush while it was still in the sky. okay. i admire the sentence. then here is how crazy we get. i start to think it is a
little imprecise. is it the home run that is in the book or the fact that he hit a home run in his last at-bat. well that wasn't in the books. because -- because it was really the contempt he showed the crowd after he ran around the bases. and you start to get into language like that and i think oh, how grateful i am for a book like that. >> that's a great remark because the seven closed nature of the sentence does-- that is it goes from the moment to immortality in cooperstown. and it excludes the audience and it excludes those who like updike were present during the day. and that's just perfect as you've said for ted wailiams. that's great. >> i interviewed ted williams about what he was thinking as he rounded the bases. and he said i thought for a moment, i thought for a moment i might tip my hat. i decided not to. >> well, i'm glad he decided not to. >> it was the whole history of contempt. >> twhaert. he was driven forward by his history. and here is john updike
talking about the satisfaction that he gets from writing. here it is. >> what's the satisfaction for you? >> it's turning reality into words and then out the other end comes a kind of reality in the reader's mind. but it's the flux of life as it goes through you and goes by, around you, that you can actually find some wordses that will fix it, and make it understandable to others who are far away or maybe far in the future. that's the excitement for me. >> i was thinking about the subject after i wrote the book, and so what i am about to say is going to say neater than it would if we were just talking off-the-cuff. but i came to the conclusion as updike indicates that writing has four purposes, at least to my life. to make suffering endureable. to make evil intelligible. to make justice desirable and love possible. and so when he talks about what words can do to reality,
i think there's no more important thing in the world. >> i certainly agree in general with both you and john-- and updike. the way i put it in the book as you know is a sentence is an organization of items in the world. and that organization of the items you select and the way they are ordered will produce extraordinarily different worlds. but my view of what writing is for is much less exalted than yours. or i suppose much more hermetic and aesthetic. i think that the point of writing is to produce great sentences that you can then look at, as you look at a gem. >> so for you writing is the thing itself, not the power of the thing. >> i think that yeah, i think, one can't deny, of course, that writing of all kinds has power. and there are many historical, you know, historical moments when great events have been traced at least in part to writing.
but i'm not sure that writers themselves, even those who have what we might think of as a political purpose have that in mind. i think what they want to do is craft. >> but i don't-- actually i agree in terms of the polemical purpose. but i do think craft almost automatically becomes something bigger than itself in the writers that the three of us would agree or the wonderful writers. i take this title of mine unless it moves the human heart from poet ad hope who is-- i paraphrase it. but it's that your writing will not matter unless it moves the human heart. and the heart that you must move is corrupt, depraved and desperately wicked. and i changed it a bit to say and desperately in need of your love. but the sentence after sentence, word after word, the precision with which you look at the sentences in your book then as they mount up seem to me to create a
whole new universe and a better one. >> you also quote at the beginning of this mark twain. the difference between the almost right word and the write word is really a large matter. it's the difference between the lightning bug and the light. >> it's what i teach my students. we in the lightning business and i will do every kind of trick i can, i'm sure stanley does the same thing to push them towards that write word and to know the difference between the word and the right word. >> and you said, i think, i never failed to say we to my institutes because i do-- students because i do not want them to get the idea that you ever learn how to write no matter how long you've done it. >> every other writer feels the same as i do. every time you sit down to write something new you go huh? have i ever done this before? how do you drive this car. the then when you get in it you start to remember things tas that you have learned in the past. but these writing programs they're not professional schools the way law schools
or medical schools or professional schools. they're amateur schools. and my mfa program which i, in which i teach, at stonybrook southampton. >> was that a master of fine arts. >> master of fine arts. is, these programs are bunchonning over the country. as a bunch of people in the same boat in a very touching situation given the fact that there's no profit. there's nothing guaranteed in this venture. all over the country just learning to put in family terms, beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence. >> there's a difference between your students and mine. which counts for some of the differences in the two books. my students aren't the students who are eager to write and know that there is something in them that-- my studentses are the people who are scared to death of writing. were they are undergraduates or these days, second and third year law students or graduate students. writing has become for them simply the sight of anxiety.
they don't know what to do. they don't know, even at the basic level of rephrase or clause what it is that they are supposed to put together. >> that's why i admire both you and your book. and i had a similar experience teaching at harvard's kennedy school one year when i couldn't get anything out of a class. they were all brilliant kids. or they weren't kids actually but people who were world leaders and were going to do something important in the world. and i couldn't get them to find something original in themselves. then i had this idea of just an exercise. and i closed the door of the classroom. and i closed it again. and i closed it again until they got used to the sound of a closing door. and i said now, start to write. no throat clearing. start to write. and one, a gay man wrote about his partner leaving, and his partner said we didn't click but the door clicked. and another, a wonderful woman who had not written really anything interesting in class up to that point began her piece in my father's house there were no
doors. she had grown-up in trailers, on navy bases, and then came another person entirely. and that moment of excavation was worth all those years of teaching. >> all right. this is ian mcoun who talked about how novel teaches the author how to tell his own story. >> the learning curve is long and slow beginnings are often very difficult. but somewhere past the halfway mark maybe two-thirds of the way through you have learned it all. you know the characters. you know where you are heading. you still have the opportunity for surprises along the way. but you are finally in control. you've learned how to sing this particular song. and i think i'm not alone in this. i think lots of novelists, those days when they come 500 words, 800 words a day, it's a secret, it's yours, it's building and just where you want. that is the real pleasure. when people say why do you write, i want to say to them,
how you cannot. i mean-- how could you not have this-- how you could live without wanting to record, investigate life on these terms. yet at the same time i'm always craving to rooech the end. oh, if i can finish my life will be free. >> why dow write? >> i write because i have to. it's just, it's in my dna. i wanted to be a writer since i was 12. when i became a writer i was the happiest a amman could be. >> i write for the pleasure of figuring things out, a, and b explaining them to other people. i don't know why but i love to take perhaps complex or controversial ideas and simply lay them out as accessible a way as possible. >> is that the same joy as fetching. >> it is the same joy as fetching. although, teaching is harder because when you write it's you and the words, and your project. when you teach there are those pesky students.
we both know, they're not always coop rattive. >> but i don't-- i don't write the way stanley writes. i don't -- don't-- i rarely know what i am thinking before i start to write. i don't have something to explain so much. -- says that his meth of writing is like a car at night. and can only see as far as the headlines illuminate. up to a certain point that's true. and then eventually when you hit the middle of the book your mind can't help it, and comes to the end. but i'm closer to that. the jd of living in the mystery, dwelling in the mystery, and then discovering what you have said when you look back. >> one of the old notions of writing and certainly creative writing is write what you know. is that true? >> i take a different, slightly different take on it, from shelly frrk the defensive poetry saying it a little differently from shelly. but what he said was we must
learn to imagine what he know. and that is a very important idea, it seems to me. because if you only write what you know you will wind up saying something in different words. but roughly we all have the same beast. if you learn to imagine what you know you start to dream into reality. and then something else happens. then you turn the world into swift's world or shakespeares or jane austin. >> so write what you imagine. >> write what you imagine. >> i would say that again, this is the difference between the kinds of writinging we do. but for me i would say it's write what you want to know. that is, you know that there is a problem out there, or a puzzle. some feature on today's society that you want to figure out what's going on. and so that moves you forward. >> we're on exactly the same ground. >> who was it that said i don't know what i think until i see what i bright. >> i don't know but it's true. and i also don't know what i feel until i write it.
>> there, sometimes i write a sentence and look back and did i say that? and did i mean that. and have i always meant that? >> dow get satisfaction from teaching? >>. >> i get enormous satisfaction from teaching. i just love to teach. and i'm sure roger has this experience too. when on the days when i don't think i've done it well, i wish that the next class were in 20 minutes. >> that's right. >> because i feel that -- >> sounds like golf to me. >> somehow, something that i'm supposed to be able to do hasn't been done. >> you don't want to let them down. you really don't. slightly different than stanley, i write all the time. and writing is very lonely and quite self-interested enterprise. >> that's right. >> and when i am in a classroom and i've really learned to teach well in the last few years, actually. for a long time it was just sort of treading water or showing off. but one reason i learned to teach well is i hearned to
teach selfilessly. i give myself to those students for as long as i can. and if in that process you have failed them for a class, or even for a mark, you really want that time back. >> yes, that's right. and it is never the student's fault. if something doesn't work, if the path that you want to take them down has never really opened up, it's your fault, not their fault. >> that is the way i see interviews, stanley. >> there was also this notion that how do you know when it's finished. when a piece is finished? >> i can't speak for others. for me writing is a lot like music. i go through the various movements and i know and i have a feeling of when it's over, when i have said what i can say. >> you just have a feeling. is that what you do? >> it's easier to know when you're finished than it is to know when you've gone. si have a piece of advice early on and i'm sure others
have both given it and received it. eliminate the first paragraph. >> that's funny that you say that. when i was the literary editor i used to do that with people and it almost always worked. >> yes, i remember, the book that launched my career was a book on milton's paradise lost. and there is a cancelled paragraph. not quite the equivalent o of-- virgins flying with the enid but it exists somewhere. >> what is interesting here is that you are quoting-- said when you start out it is like driving at night. you can't see beyond. so are you in search of something. you know, you don't know where. >> that's right. >> and you are in search of answers to something you want explained. but you don't know the answer when you start. >> you know a little bit of the answer. and then the surprise that roger talks about so eloquently in his book, comes out when suddenly what you have written raises a question that you weren't aware of before.
and you see the path going some where else. and you must follow it. >> that is the maybe the mystery of the sentence, certainly the mystery of words, why we hit on a form in which to express ourselves and the selfs that we express are different. we don't know where they came from. sometimes we admire them, sometimes we're scared of them. >> my imminent producer courtney asked both of you to bring a passage from a book. do you have it. >> i have it in my mind. >> that's what i thought. >> which got caught, down here on the table. and it's the most famous sort of quotation but i think of it in terms of the work that both our books are up to. the last lines of dover beach, uh,, love, let us be true to one another for the world which seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new, hatt really neither joy nor love nor light nor certitude nor peace, nor help for pain. and we are here as on a darkening plain, swept with
confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night. and when i said before that writing makes suffering beautiful, that is what at the end-- here is matthew arnold trying to put his world together and he thinks the world is falling part. and by the very fact, by the didn't of his writinging this beautiful poem he put the world together. >> mine also is a poem ending which has some relationship to yours. it's from the 17th century poem, the forerunners by george herbert. what i call the first alzheimer poem. because the poet imagines himself looking in the mirror and seeing what we both have, white hairs. and knowing what is ahead. so he tries to renounce the powers of time is taking away from him. but he can't do it. so he says things like farewell lovely language. and he keeps on, but in the end, in the last two lines he says go, let a bleak
pailness chalk the door so all within be livelier than before. >> oh my. >> is that just something. isn't that extraordinary. >> lovely. >> and that's what i mean about, as i said in the book over and over again, things that just knock, verbal thingses that just knock your socks off. >> how to write a sentence and how to read one, stanley fish. unless it moves the human heart, the craft and art of writing, roger rosenblatt. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> to all of you would - be writers, write. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org