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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  February 4, 2010 12:00am-12:30am EST

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. president obama this week unveiled his new jobs plan, but now the debate over the cost. first up tonight, reaction from a key republican on the senate and finance committee, john cornyn of texas. also, the unlikely race for best picture four oscars. "up" became only the second animated film in hollywood history to be nominated for that category. john cornyn and pete docter, coming up right now. >> there are so many things that walmart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live better. but mostly, we're helping build stronger communities and relationships. because with your help, the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance proudly
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supports "tavis smiley." tavis and nationwide, working to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. >> ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: a couple of quick programming notes. join me to nar night -- join me tomorrow night on this program for a musical conversation with bill withers. he is featured in a new documentary about his life called "still bill."
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on friday night, a conversation with patti smith. she is out now with a critically acclaimed new memoir about her days in new york city. that is bill withers tomorrow night, patti smith friday night. tonight, we begin with texas senator john cornyn. he is chair of the national republican senatorial committee. he joins us tonight from capitol hill. senator, good to have you on the program. >> thank you, tavis. tavis: happy belated birthday. >> just remember, groundhog's day is always my birthday. tavis: so much to cover in this short time. let me run through a list of things. at first of all, these aig bonuses, today we are told it totaling $100 million, they were given $2.8 billion of bailout company -- bailout money.
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your thoughts? >> it is over the top, and the american taxpayer has invested a lot in aig to keep afloat because we were told this represented a systemic risk to the whole financial system. the least these folks could do is recognize that these kinds of exorbitant bonuses are really offensive to an awful lot of people. i would say, tavis, i believe in the private sector, this ought to be a matter between the shareholders and the managent. in this case, because this is taxpayer money, the taxpayers have every right to be concerned and our reached. tavis: concerned and outraged is one thing. what should aig do with these bonuses they believe are owed to the employees? >> i understand contractual obligations, but there are a lot of ways to provide the
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incentives to money managers and other people to do the right thing, that is protect the company, the shareholders, and in this case the tax payers, without putting cash on the table. in terms of stock options, incentives, warrants and the like, it could be used to it incentivized their conduct. i understand contractual obligations, but i think there is a way to structure this that is not so offensive to the sensibilities of most americans, yet honor those contracts. tavis: until our money is paid back, taxpayer money, should these bonuses be distributed, or should that come back to the american taxpayer for what they owe us? >> i think there ought to be a way to reward people who helped taxpayers get their money back by keeping this company afloat. i am not offended by the fact that people earn a living and make good money for doing a good
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job, in this case protecting taxpayers' money. i think the kinds of figures you are talking about are so over- the-top that it obscures that. i think there needs to be moderation and if it is not exercised by them, i think perhaps the treasury needs to step been. tavis: -- the treasury may need to staff in. tavis: the senate was told today that another attempted terrorist attack on u.s. soil is almost certain. your thoughts? >> unfortunately, it is not a surprise. i think we know we are opposed by relentless adversaries, people who believe in an ideology of islamic jihad. unfortunately, we saw this latest incident on christmas day in the form of somebody flying on a delta aircraft in the united states, not somebody would normally suspect. because of our visa policies,
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this individual had a tourist visa in houston, texas, previously, and was going into detroit on this trip. this is not a matter of just screening people at the airport, this is a matter of immigration laws and make sure that only people who are not threats to our country get visas. tavis: is also a matter of not connecting the dots? >> also -- absolutely, and it is also as treating this as an act of terror. i used to be a judge for 13 years and have a fair amount of experience in our civil justice system. it is really set up to punish people after an event has occurred. it is not very well set up to give actual information and prevent terrorist acts from occurring in the future. we need to treat this as a terrorist act, which it was, and use every legal avenue available
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to us to get good information about how it is organized, where the training occurred, in order for us to be able to defeat these acts in the future. tavis: the state of the union speech by the president is one thing. we are all waiting on the budget. i happen to believe that budgets are moral documents and i judge by what they put on paper. your take on the budget that the president has submitted to congress? >> we know that the american people are very concerned. with the spending and debt, we understand some of that spending was as a result of or necessitated by an attempt to deal with an unprecedented fiscal crisis. but at some point, we need to slow down and stop the spending and debt that we are passing on to our children and grandchildren. unfortunately, this budget does not do one thing to deal with
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the concerns of most americans. the government is spending too much, taxing too much, and passing too much debt to our children. tavis: there are those who believe that mr. obama it is caught in a situation because of eight years of republican administration that did not manage the books so well. your thoughts, broadly speaking, what all the president be doing or not doing with regard to the budget? -- what should the president be doing are not doing with regard to the budget? >> i agree that he inherited budget deficits, but they were within historic norms, 3%, 4% of gross domestic product was within the norms that we have seen historically. the kind of spending we have seen it under the current administration is outside of those historic norms and should be a concern to all of us. the fact that china is buying
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our debt and holds frankly our national security and future prosperity in its hands. i don't think it is a matter of not taxing enough, i think it is a matter of not spending too much. i think there are things we need to do to cut the spending, reduce the deficit, and live within our means. tavis: this weekend in asheville, there is a gathering of a national tea party convention, so they are coming together for an attempt at a national convention. let me ask you directly if these persons are patriotic americans or are they partisan individuals, vehemently opposed to the administration of barack obama? >> i would say the tea party movement represents a lot of people who have not been involved in politics before and did not consider themselves republicans or democrats. my impression is they are mad at the establishment, which includes both established
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political parties and the commons currently in power. that is one reason why you saw -- and the incumbents currently in power. that is one reason why you saw the changes in massachusetts, where scott brown was elected in that very blue state. i think the tea party movement, people who are not sophisticated and politics, newcomers to politics, but very concerned about the country. i would call them patriotic americans doing everything they can to get their government to listen and be responsive to their concerns. tavis: so many people run around brandishing guns. you are not calling that loving country? >> no, i think there are clearly people who cross a line should not cross, including instances like that. you know what i hate about washington, tavis, people seem to think things are so personal, including personal attacks. i would rather talk about
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policies and ideas that people have about what is in the best interests of our country and what is in the best interests of our future prosperity for our children and grandchildren. we can have civil debates and disagree, but i think personal attacks against the president or any other political figure or simply a distraction. tavis: republicans and democrats are the establishment in washington. the supreme court decision about campaign contributions on the part of corporate america seems to have divided washington. it's seems that all the democrats are opposed to this decision, republicans seemed to be enjoying this, celebrating the decision. why so defensive on this issue of money in politics? >> i think we have seen attempts to restrict campaign financing as opposed to making it more transparent, and the politicians have accepted more
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accountability. the attempts to keep big money out of politics has been a terrible failure. since campaign finance reform passed about 10 years ago, money has exploded. in the president's successful campaign in 2008, they spent more than john kerry and george bush's campaigns combined in 2004. rather than trying to restrict people who are interested in the political process, let's make it transparent and accountable so voters can look at it and take into account. tavis: the voters don't have any chance against corporate money. there is no way that an individual, none of us can compete with corporate financing of campaigns, can they? >> 28 states allow corporate contributions to candidates and campaigns. i think in massachusetts, the last month, we saw 13 different
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groups pay for advertising for and against scott brown and his democratic opponent. there is so much money in campaigns now, really what we need to do is make it transparent and accountable. not try to suppress speech because they are unpopular. tavis: finally, is there and what is the way forward on the health care debate? >> i think we need to start over and take an incremental approach. there are a lot of things that we agree on, dealing with pre- existing conditions and making sure that people don't lose their coverage when they lose their jobs. a lot of people need help, and we need a safety net that provides that some people have access outside of just the emergency room, which is inefficient and very costly. the main problem is it costs too much and we need to find ways to bring that down. unfortunately, the proposed bill
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did not predict it may go up. i think we could do better, and i think we have to do better on a bipartisan basis that is more transparent and accountable. some of the sweetheart deals i think turned a lot of people off to this particular piece of legislation. tavis: senator john cornyn, thank you for your insight. >> thank you very much. tavis: up next, director pete docter. stay with us. tavis: pete docter is one of the most prolific and successful animated directors in hollywood. his previous films have included "toy story,""monsters inke, in's latest film has been nominated for an oscar category, "up."
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>> we have your dog. i wonder who he belongs to. >> book, he is trained. -- look, he is trained. >> did that dog just talk? >> my name is doug. squirrel! my master is good and smart. >> cool, what do these do? >> i would be happy if you stopped. tavis: it takes four, five years to make these? >> it does. tavis: $300 million domestically, $700 million worldwide. >> it is hard to believe.
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we make these because we love them. of course, reaching such a wide audience, it does not get better than this. tavis: when you spend five years on a project, you have to like it. in the context of your life, are you ok with spending four, five years on this? >> this was one sixth of my life. i should make that a business card. no, i think the secret for me is we had so many amazingly talented people, the film gets better and better as we go. it is constantly changing and evolving and getting stronger. tavis: when you are on the same thing that long, how do you know that you are in fact getting better as time goes on? i am wondering, do you lose perspective? what was the original call for years ago? what were we trying to do? the u ever get lost in the
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process? -- do you ever get lost in the process? >> we have certain trucks. one of the things is we have screenings every five months. we bring in the other directors. as we feel something is starting to take shape, we bring in these other amazing filmmakers and they give us notes. and we correct from there. tavis: how do you know as a director when this is complete? >> well, there is a deadline. they say we did not actually finish these films, we just release them. we're constantly working on them. one of the things, you try to hypnotize yourself. you say, okay, i am an audience member, i sit in the seat, how do i feel? it is more that sort of judgment as opposed to anything. tavis: these nominations mean
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that people will go out and see these films that have not seen them. ed asner was in this very chair when the movie came out. for those who have not seen "up ," the story line is? >> i was afraid that was coming. that is hard. tavis: stop, you said something i want to go back to. you are the director and you say it is hard for me to explain. tell me why? >> it is an unusual promise. the pass stories, "toy story," toys come to life, that is the basic premise. you get the basic idea. this one, i was struggling to explain to people what it is all about because it is an unusual idea and it took a little doing to get it green let -- green light it because it is such an oddball pairing, an old man, flying house.
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once you see it, you get it. tavis: now tell me what it is about? >> an old man loses his life. -- an old man loses his wife. they had promised to go to south america and see these real places that we got to go, the table top mountains, and she passes away before the have the chance. the movie is about how he deals with that sense of failure, and really, a great studio pixar allows us to pursue something unusual like this and see it through. tavis: speaking of pixar, 10 films, all of them have done marvelously well. maybe they don't want this out, but why are all these films so successful? >> i think the formula is there is no formula. the one thing we do is we allow ourselves to make mistakes and correct them. what you are seeing on the
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screen when it is done is like the eighth version of the movie. we have made a bunch of other versions, we have had directors, man, give really hard notes, -- we have had directors come in, give really hard notes, or structured things. in the end, and hopefully it has come together in a way that is cohesive. tavis: never once have i heard anybody say they were on a project where a director gave them notes on the project, but that appears to work for pixar films. tell me about the process as a director of having other directors critique your work? >> it is not a little intimidating. really, the great thing about working at pixar is even with john placer, -- john lassiter it was the creative officer at the studio, he will give us notes, but we're not required to follow them.
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all that is required is for us to make a better film. if i want to adjust the ideas or ignore them, as long as the story gets better, that is the process. it is allowing everybody, and then having me and bob peterson, the writer and co-director, wheat figure out how to approach the story. then we would show it again. tavis: we know this year that the academy awards has expanded the number of nominees in each category to 10. even with that, what is it like to have an animated film break through into that category of best picture? >> it is spectacular, because this is the first one to get nominated for both best picture and best animated. tavis: five nominations. >> i really feel very grateful.
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i cannot even quite believe it. but i think it reflects before us who were making these films, we don't think of them as an image films, we just think of them as films. they have to stand on their own, connect to the audience, and allow people to relate to what is happening on the screen just like any other film. tavis: if you don't know what your target audience is, that is to say it is not for kids or adults, how the know how it will play across the board? -- how do you know how it will play across the board? >> my best answer rhee's we make them for ourselves. it -- my best answer is we make them for ourselves. if i can get everybody to laugh and respond, something is going right. tavis: if these adults are laughing at it, does that mean a kid is not going to laugh at it? >> it is interesting, we try to
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clear it. he tried to have things that kids will get. i had a friend who saw "up" who saw it with his 7-year-old son. they founded the emotional at the beginning, and his son did, too. his son at thought when a leg of the bird got hurt, it was sad. even though they are not seeing the same thing, they respond. tavis: finally, in my research, i have discovered that you won an academy award, as a student, years ago. here you are again with the academy award thing. you won one as a student. is it true that that story line is not all that unfamiliar? >> there are definite
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similarities between the grouchy guy who lives in the house and the kid next door. there is some similar stuff that i am not trying to retread. tavis: it is amazing how life comes full circle. youdent academy award for this project. there is a funny story about this. >> this was before computers, so you actually had these pieces of plastic and you would ink the front and paint on the back. i sent all of these original drawings up there and disappeared. somewhere along the line, this three boxes worth of original drawings are lost in the world. we had to redo that part. i gave them a credit and the original film -- in the original film, "original drawings lost by."
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it is one drawing every 1/24 of a second. today is drawn by computer, but it is a handmade process, one film at a time. tavis: we will see what happens this year. that is our show for tonight. catch me on the weekend on public radio international. i will see you back here next time on pbs. until then, good night from l.a., and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley on tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a rare conversation with music legend bill withers. that is next time. we will see you then. >> there are so many things that walmart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live better. but mostly, we're helping build stronger communities and relationships. because with your help, the
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best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports "tavis smiley." tavis and nationwide, working to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. >> ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute
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