WASHINGTON, Nov. 27, 2011 -- AMANPOUR: This week -- what now? The supercommittee comes up empty.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There will be no easy off-ramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up to compromise.
AMANPOUR: Democrats and Republicans retrench as budget cuts loom. Our headliner, Republican supercommittee member Sen. Pat Toomey on what it will take to break the logjam.
Also today -- the immigration wedge. Newt Gingrich calls for a humane policy, and Mitt Romney pounces.
NEWT GINGRICH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't see how the party that says it is the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy that destroys families.
MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Amnesty is a magnet.
AMANPOUR: Our powerhouse roundtable on the last crucial month on the trail before voters finally get their say.
Then, the BBC takes us to Syria, where we get an exclusive look inside the armed uprising.
And our exclusive Thanksgiving interviews this weekend. Colin Powell's call to serve. How Americans can give back.
POWELL: The issue here is not the 1 percent that are in the military. It's the 99 percent who are not. And how do we make sure that they find it a call to serve.
AMANPOUR: And Matt Damon's gift of hope to the world's poorest.
DAMON: You see what happens when people suddenly have clean water. You see how life changes.
AMANPOUR: Good morning and welcome to the program. We have a big show for you this holiday weekend. But first, some news since your morning papers. Newt Gingrich snagged a major prize of this campaign season today, a front-page endorsement from the Manchester Union Leader. The influential newspaper's decision is a stinging rebuke to Mitt Romney, who's campaigned relentlessly in the Granite State and who leads in the polls there. The editors acknowledge Gingrich is not a perfect candidate, but that's OK with them. "A lot of candidates say they're going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race, he offers the best shot of doing it again. We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear."
Pakistan today buried at least 25 soldiers killed in a NATO air strike yesterday. The attack is a serious setback to the already tenuous relationship between Pakistan and the United States. In response, Pakistan has ordered the U.S. to vacate its air base in the south of the country, where it launches CIA drone attacks. And here in the United States, a glimmer of hope in a gloomy economy. Black Friday sales were through the roof, up 7 percent from 2010. Retailers pulled in $11.4 billion, a $1 billion jump from last year.
The political world is just starting to shake off its turkey hangover, and today's Union Leader endorsement marks the opening shot of the campaign home stretch. It is a big boost for Newt Gingrich on the heels of a debate that had him on the ropes. As always, our man Jon Karl measures the fallout from this week in politics.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC CORRESPONDENT: This week in politics featured Newt's gambit. Testing his new standing atop the polls, Newt Gingrich went squarely against his party's position on immigration, saying he would let some of the 11 million or so illegal immigrants now in the U.S. to stay here.
GINGRICH: I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter of a century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, and expel them.
KARL: That's a tough sell in a primary where electric border fences and alligator-filled moats can be applause lines. Gingrich argued it's about family values, not amnesty.
GINGRICH: I'm prepared to take the heat for saying let's be humane in enforcing the law, without giving them citizenship.
KARL: Romney chided Gingrich for going soft on illegals.
ROMNEY: When we have had in the past programs that have said that the people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that's going to only encourage more people to come here illegally.
KARL: Tough talk. But can Romney really attack Gingrich on this? Look at what he said just four years ago.
ROMNEY: The 12 million or so that are here illegally should be able to sign up for permanent residency or citizenship.
KARL: Romney unveiled his first TV ad this week, and it was a doozy, twisting and misrepresenting President Obama's words.
OBAMA: If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.
KARL: But Obama was talking about John McCain, not himself. Here's what he actually said.
OBAMA: Sen. McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, "If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we are going to lose."
KARL: The Obama campaign cried foul. Romney made no apology.
ROMNEY: What's sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander.
KARL: Trending this week, down, Congress. The supercommittee's failure was inexcusable and embarrassing. And check out how congressman Don Young treated historian Douglas Brinkley before his committee.
REP. DON YOUNG, R-ALASKA: And the I call it garbage, Dr. Rice, that comes from the mouth--
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, HISTORIAN: Dr. Brinkley. Rice is a university.
YOUNG: No, OK--
YOUNG: -- anything I want while you sit in that chair. You keep quiet.
BRINKLEY: You don't own me. I pay your salary.
KARL: Down, Herman Cain. What's worse than controversy? Irrelevance. The only time he broke through during the CNN debate was when he mangled Wolf Blitzer's name.
HERMAN CAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No Blitz, that's oversimplifying it. I'm sorry, Blitz, I meant Wolf, OK?
KARL: Up, Liberty the turkey. He gets a presidential pardon and a job offer from Wild Turkey.
Jimmy Fallon, down. He invites Michele Bachmann on his show, and then his band plays the song "Lyin' bleep-bleep" when she walks out on the stage. Not funny.
For this week in politics, I'm Jonathan Karl. Christiane?
AMANPOUR: Thanks, Jon. And of course, Jon will join us on the roundtable in a bit.
Of course, the week's big story was the total collapse of the supercommittee. Washington is now once again in crisis mode, facing yet another ticking clock. It's enough to leave even the most upbeat Americans thoroughly vexed. And joining me to discuss the way forward, former supercommittee member, Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania.
Senator, thank you very much for joining us.
TOOMEY: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: I just wanted to ask you, you know, the ranking Republican on the supercommittee, Jeb Hensarling, said he really worries for the country and wonders how long this country has to actually put itself back on a sustainable place? Do you think anything is going to happen before the 2012 elections in this regard?
TOOMEY: I certainly hope so. I'm, look, I am terribly disappointed. I think our country would have benefited enormously from a constructive agreement by this committee. Of course, the silver lining is the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, which was the goal of the legislation that created our committee, will still go into effect. I think it's important that some configuration of those cuts in fact happen. The full amount, just configured differently.
And I do think that we Republicans put a very, very reasonable plan on the table, a proposal that I think would broader support. So I hope that we'll be able to advance at least parts of it, if not as a package, then sub-components. And I'm hopeful that we'll make some progress there.
AMANPOUR: You said you -- those automatic cuts will go into effect. But the president has said that he doesn't want -- he'll veto any attempt to tinker with those. Do you think that any tinkering will go on? Do you think he'll be able to veto that and it will be able to be stopped?
TOOMEY: I thought that his comments were a little bit more ambiguous than that. I thought he was suggesting that he would veto any attempt to eliminate portions of it. I don't recall him having a categorical veto threat on any change in the configuration. His own defense secretary, Leon Panetta, said that if the defense cuts go through as contemplated under existing law, it would hollow out our nation's defense. I think there's a broad consensus that too much of the cuts are weighted on our defense's capabilities and would really, really cut in deeply into our ability to defend this nation. And so, I think it's important that we change the configuration. I would be surprised if the president would simply veto every effort to make any changes.
AMANPOUR: And you also said that you think something can be done before the next elections. Beyond this, these automatic cuts, what do you think? I mean, is there any possibility of more compromise as the president has called for?
TOOMEY: You know, I think so. And I say that because I spoke with a number of Democratic senators who were not serving on the supercommittee, who thought that the plan that we put forward was very constructive, was reasonable. Sen. Durbin didn't agree with the plan that I put on the table, that we Republicans put on the table, but he did suggest that it was a breakthrough. So I think there's a chance to work with some of the more moderate members of the Democratic caucus, who want to make progress, who realize how important this is.
So I'm cautiously optimistic. You know, in the very end, when we were unable to persuade our Democratic colleagues of virtually anything, we put on the table $644 billion of really noncontroversial spending cuts and revenue sources, things like user fees and asset sales. And even that package they rejected because it didn't have a huge tax increase on individual Americans. I don't think that view is shared by all of the Democratic senators. And so, I want to work with those who are more open-minded and really looking for a constructive opportunity to make a change.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, there was some movement on the whole revenue issue, but the administration said, sources are saying, that what happened, you know, $300 billion over the next ten years doesn't even meet sort of a low bar in this regard and they call it regressive. But I do want to ask you this. There are two issues that do have to be dealt with, that are expiring, and those are the tax -- the extending the payroll tax cuts and the unemployment insurance, which is set to expire. Will they be extended? Will you support that?
TOOMEY: You know, we'll take that up, and I think probably some package of that with other features might very well pass. But let me go back to the tax policy. First of all, let's be clear, the problem that's creating this deficit is not a revenue problem. With this very current tax code that we have now, with all its flaws but with current rates, as recently as 2007, we had a budget that was virtually balanced. A deficit of only 1.2 percent of GDP.
What's happened in the meantime is this staggering explosion in spending, increasing in elegibility for entitlements, creation of whole new entitlement programs. And that's what's got to change. And that's what I was hoping the supercommittee could address, some long-term reforms to bend the curves, put us on a sustainable fiscal path, and still have strong economic growth by avoiding some kind of massive tax increase. Obviously, we were unable to get there, because we come at this from very different perspectives. But I'm not going to give up our work on this.
AMANPOUR: All right, we'll be watching. Senator Toomey, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
AMANPOUR: And we turn right now to our "Roundtable." Joining me today a pair of THIS WEEK classics, ABC's Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts. And with them Michael Gerson of The Washington Post, and our senior political correspondent, welcome back, Jonathan Karl.
So you just heard what Senator Toomey just said. Is there any hope that this is actually going to move forward, let's say, for instance, on the payroll tax cuts, the unemployment insurance?
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Well, payroll, if they don't extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance, it's going to be real hit in terms of economic growth. And so, I think that they probably are likely to figure out something there. Although, of course, it contributes to the deficit.
But every economist is saying if you do that -- if you don't let people have extra money in their paychecks, which is what suspending the payroll tax does, that then they will tighten up and stop spending. And that would be a terrible problem.
AMANPOUR: Sam, Senator Toomey talked about hoping that there would be some sort of bipartisan movement of...
SAM DONALDSON, ABC NEWS: No, no.
AMANPOUR: You don't think so at all.
DONALDSON: Christiane, it's whistling past our national graveyard to think that Congress next year, in an election year, will say, oh, we didn't make a deal, we're bad boys and girls, we will now make a deal and put this country on a fiscal path that makes sense. Not a chance.
I agree with Cokie, they will probably do the payroll tax. And they've got to extend unemployment insurance, over 2 million people will be thrown into what sort of situation.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the reason why there's no chance, Sam, is because they have to do this now with the old rules. The supercommittee could have done this on a fast track, could have done it with a simple majority.
Now all of a sudden they have to do the same thing. But this time, Christiane, they have to do it with 60 votes in the Senate. They have to get this through -- this will not happen.
DONALDSON: So the can is back, right?
ROBERTS: Senator Toomey saying we can work with moderate Democrats, there aren't enough of them.
KARL: Absolutely not, there are two or three. And look...
DONALDSON: Do you care to name names?
ROBERTS: By the way, you should have kept on the pilgrim outfit, that was very cute.
KARL: Yes, I know, I know.
But this lame duck session they're going to face, you know, after the election, they're going to face the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which happens on December 31st, these automatic defense cuts, which happen on December 31st, and the debt ceiling is going to be needed to be raised again at the end of next year. So something will have to happen then.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask both of you, Mike and Sam, both of you have perspectives from inside the White House. Obviously, there has been from the opposite side a lot of criticism of President Obama. They say that he didn't come, bring the leadership together and get a deal done, even Michael Bloomberg has been saying that. Certainly Mitt Romney did. Let's just put up what Mitt Romney said. Let's hear what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would have anticipated that the president of the United States would have spent every day and many nights working with members of the supercommittee to try and find a way to bridge the gap. But instead he has been out doing other things, campaigning and blaming and traveling. This is, in my view, inexcusable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: From the perspective of the administration.
MICHAEL GERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's a serious point. The budget process that was designed in 1974 was designed for presidential leadership. The Congress reacts to the president's priorities. If you look at past budget deals, whether Reagan or Bush one or Clinton, these were active presidents.
You had to have an energetic executive to get a budget deal. And we have really had a power outage here, a president that alternates between indifference and being out of the country.
ROBERTS: (INAUDIBLE) out of the country, to be fair, he was dealing with foreign leaders and pre-set meetings.
GERSON: Oh, no, no, I agree with that. But he was not engaged in this process. And most Democrats on the Hill would tell you that as well.
DONALDSON: You've accurately -- I believe it describes what has happened in the past, when budget deals were made between a president and another party on the Hill, this was different.
This committee was set up by Congress and expressly -- you won't find it in the legislation, all of the sudden we want the president to butt out, we're going to take this, don't have him come down here and try to tell us what to do.
KARL: And, Mike, you've got to acknowledge that Romney is an imperfect messenger here. I mean, Romney avoided taking position on the deal ceiling itself until right before the vote. He offered no plan to the supercommittee.
GERSON: I agree with that, but...
ROBERTS: Well, the other thing that's true is that in 1992 when George Bush did engage with the Congress out at Andrews Air Force Base, and made a deal where he had to break his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge, he got defeated. And he got defeated by, you know, I mean...
GERSON: No, no, no, I think the president is calculating that he wants to run against a do-nothing Congress and that he's going to help them do nothing. But I'm not sure that's particularly...
DONALDSON: Well, they've helped him do nothing...
GERSON: Well, they reciprocated.
AMANPOUR: Put this in perspective, Ronald Reagan had to raise taxes. Now you've got this...
DONALDSON: Yes, 16 times.
AMANPOUR: And now you've got the Grover Norquist pledge, no new taxes, no raising taxes under any account. Yet Senator Toomey and others did move a little bit on revenue. Is that a major shift or is that...
DONALDSON: Well, as I understand it, they moved a little bit on revenue by saying, OK, here's about $300 billion we'll raise one way or the other, if you make most of the Bush tax cuts permanent, and so the gap would be about $700 billion or $800 billion in their favor, thanks for nothing.
AMANPOUR: Do you think it leaves open a door, and maybe Mike as well -- or Jon and Cokie, does it leave any door open for any sort of movement on this issue even after the election?
DONALDSON: Well, who is the optimistic here?
ROBERTS: Oh, after the election. After the election anything can happen, because it depends on who wins the election, both in terms of the presidency and in terms of Congress. Because we could have a very funny situation next year where a Republican wins the presidency and the Senate, and the Democrats re-take the House. So there are all kinds of permutations...
GERSON: Well, anything done by the Congress...
ROBERTS: ... and combinations.
GERSON: ... can be undone by the Congress, and often is. So, the reality here is that the defense cuts are serious and the biggest Republican ally in opposing those cuts is the current secretary of defense, who works for Obama.
You know, if we implement these cuts, the U.S. Navy will be the smallest since the beginning of World War I. The U.S. Army will be the smallest since World War II. These are serious arguments. Republicans will be able to...
DONALDSON: Well, why didn't Republicans think of that when they made the deal that they forced on the president last August? Now, they say, well, we were wrong, gee, we have to undo this, and if he won't undo this for us, he's a bad man.
AMANPOUR: Let's just put what Leon Panetta did actually say about the cuts and the (INAUDIBLE), he said "it would tear a seam in the nation's defenses, lead to a hollow force incapable of sustaining the missions it is assigned." And he added "our troops deserve better and our nation deserves better."
ROBERTS: Well, you know, not only is he secretary of defense, but I think even more meaningful for him to say those words is that he's a former budget director. And so he was the guy with the knife and for him to say that that strongly...
AMANPOUR: And he has been quite tough on his own party as well.
ROBERTS: Yes. No, for him to say that quite strongly really means something.
AMANPOUR: Let's switch to presidential politics. Were you surprised, Jon, about the endorsement for Newt Gingrich by The Union Leader?
KARL: You know, it certainly looks like Romney had a very good chance of getting that endorsement. I know his...
AMANPOUR: But isn't it really slap?
KARL: ... people wanted -- it is, there's no question about it, especially because The Union Leader doesn't just endorse, they endorse every day. I mean, they will hammer this point home. As the editor once said, we endorse every damn day, we endorsed Reagan in 1975 and we've been endorsing every day since.
KARL: So, they will hammer Romney and support Gingrich right up until the primary.
AMANPOUR: Is Newt Gingrich the final non-Romney, anti-Romney candidate? Is he going to sustain this?
GERSON: Well, you have to admit that The Union Leader has a mixed record here. They endorsed Pierre DuPont, they endorsed Pat Buchanan. But this is an indication that there's a significant portion of the Republican Party that doesn't want Mitt Romney.
This has been true since the very beginning. About a third of the party in Iowa and South Carolina has gone to whoever candidate is currently on top who's not Mitt Romney. That's a serious challenge. And...
ROBERTS: But the question of whether Newt can sustain it or not is a serious question. We've all known him a long time, since he came here in 1978. And he is as smart as they come. He's one of the greatest strategists you've ever seen. He is so interesting. But he's undisciplined.
And it's very difficult to sustain a presidential campaign if you're that undisciplined. Now Bill Clinton did it. But it is not an easy thing to do.
DONALDSON: But they're running out of options. I mean, they've tried about five...
ROBERTS: Yes, that's true.
DONALDSON: ... including "The Donald." Now there was a moment of sanity in that last debate when Newt Gingrich said the obvious, we can't send all of those people back. Now when I say we can't do it, I think those are questions for Governor Romney and Michele Bachmann. If you don't like his plan, do you want to send them all back? And if you do, what is your plan to send them back? How do we do that?
AMANPOUR: That so-called humane approach derailed Rick Perry. Is it going to come up and bite Newt Gingrich in the back?
DONALDSON: I think a lot of other things derailed Rick Perry other than just that.
AMANPOUR: One of the things.
DONALDSON: But I agree with Cokie, he has (inaudible), he has five ideas a day. One or two of them are brilliant. One or two of them are OK. And one is terrible, but he doesn't know the difference.
ROBERTS: But in the end, that immigration thing, the person who it's going to derail is Mitt Romney, because he has been not only all over the lot on it, but the truth is--
DONALDSON: But what issue hasn't he been all over the lot on?
ROBERTS: But the truth is that that's a losing proposition in the long run for Republicans. You know, you cannot have a majority party made up of white males. They are only 25 percent of the population, white males over 30. And that does not a majority make.
GERSON: I do think this -- it indicates, the statement on immigration indicates Gingrich's lack of discipline, because there's no argument, political argument to be made, but it also indicates a certain seriousness. And you know, this is now familiar in the Republican Party, the scandal of sanity, in which Republicans say something obviously true, and then they have to retract because of their conservative base.
GERSON: But this shows that Gingrich unplugged can actually be quite admirable, as well as undisciplined.
DONALDSON: That '97 deal, 1997 in which President Clinton and the Republicans made a deal and moved this forward from the standpoint of three years in which there was a sort of surplus, masked by Social Security but it's all right. Gingrich was part of that. What if the Republicans decide, well, he's not only bad on immigration, but he would actually raise taxes as part of a deal? That would really sink him, wouldn't it?
KARL: But on immigration, let's be clear, Gingrich goes quite a bit further than Rick Perry did. Rick Perry's thing on the narrow question of whether or not resident illegals could get in-state tuition. Gingrich is talking about -- he may not want to call it amnesty, but it's allowing people who are here illegally to be here legally.
AMANPOUR: We have less than a minute left. If the Iowa caucus was held today, it's going to be January 3rd, who would in? Sam?
DONALDSON: I don't know. Sorry.
ROBERTS: Today, it probably would be Newt Gingrich. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if Rick Santorum wins the Iowa caucuses.
GERSON: I think that Romney will come in second, and it will be good for him. Because his expectations are quite low.
AMANPOUR: Do you think he'll still be the nominee? Do you think he will be the nominee in the end?
GERSON: I think that the other candidates have proven deeply flawed.
DONALDSON: But that wasn't Christiane's question.
KARL: I'll take your bet on Rick Santorum. You know, look, Romney is absolutely correct. Coming in second will be a victory for him in Iowa.
AMANPOUR: Thank you all so much.
DONALDSON: He ducked it also.
AMANPOUR: Professional duckers. Thank you for coming in on Thanksgiving. Hope you all had a great holiday.
And up next -- a harrowing report from the front lines in Syria. As the crackdown intensifies, an ad hoc opposition is fighting back.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back. Tomorrow, Egypt holds its first election since the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak. It's been a rocky road to the ballot box. Tensions in Cairo are high after a week of clashes between protesters and the ruling military. The United States has called on the military to hand over power to a civilian government as soon as possible.
And in Syria as well, where President Bashar Assad continues a violent crackdown on his own people, the U.N. says more than 3,500 people have been killed there over the past eight months. Now, defectors from the military are forming an armed resistance, the Free Syrian Army. And BBC correspondent Paul Wood and cameraman Fred Scott are the first journalists to spends time with the rebels. They filed this report near the city of Homs, where some of the worst violence has taken place.
PAUL WOOD, BBC: Syria's border with Lebanon. These men are taking in guns to support a growing insurgency. The area is mined and full of Syrian patrols. Hours earlier, a smuggler was captured here. Each man carries two or three Kalashnikovs for the fighters inside.
Our guides are not paid smugglers but supporters of the revolution.
"The regime had us under siege for 40 years," he said, "we have been starving for 40 years."
Into Homs. The Syrian army is all around. They'll probably shoot if they spot us.
The suburb of Baba Amra (ph). The people are hemmed in by the security forces. The fear is suffocating, but the fire power is no longer all on one side. These are the men of the Free Syria Army. They don't exactly hold this area, they just hope to slow up the security forces.
Almost from the beginning, it was Syrian government propaganda that armed groups or armed gangs, as they were called, were supporting the opposition. Now, after months of protesters being shot down in the streets, that myth of an armed insurgency has become reality.
More join every day. A gun battle signals another defection. Soldiers are running into Baba Amra, fired on by their former comrades.
Five made it out. A sixth did not. "We heard him screaming," he says. "We couldn't go back, there were too many troops chasing us."
Another explains that they fled after being ordered to shoot unarmed protesters. "We're all one people, one blood. We cannot just kill them."
The rebels believe they can win if there's help from outside. They want a no-fly zone over Syria. Paul Wood for ABC News, "This Week," Syria.
AMANPOUR: And if the army does tip in a major way, that will spell the end, many analysts say, for the Syrian president, Bashar Assad.
And up next -- a special focus on service this Thanksgiving weekend. We hear from two powerful voices, Colin Powell on his national call to action, and Matt Damon on his mission to bring clean, safe drinking water to millions of children around the world. Their inspiring stories coming up. Stay with us.
AMANPOUR: On this Thanksgiving weekend, we turn our focus to giving back. It's been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy urged young Americans to ask what they could do for their country.
But have these challenging economic times weakened the nation's resolve to do just that?
For Colin Powell, the answer is a resounding "no." The retired general and former secretary of state has put service at the heart of his America's Promise Foundation. I had an exclusive conversation with him just before the holiday.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, the first thing that leaps to mind is military service. And yet today, there's really only about 1 percent of Americans who go into the service.
What does this tell you about the commitment or the shared sacrifice today?
POWELL: We are able to recruit as many soldiers as we need into the military. So even though it's 1 percent of the population, that satisfies the need for troops in the armed forces. And in fact, we're looking to reduce the size of our armed forces in the months ahead.
But the issue here is not the 1 percent that are in the military. It's the 99 percent who are not. And how do we make sure that they find it to be a call to serve, a call to service.
AMANPOUR: So how does one then?
POWELL: Well, there are many things going in this country. I mean, it isn't as if the 99 percent are not doing enough. There is a huge, huge commitment to service on the part of the American people. And what we want to do is leverage it, get even more, and then make sure it is directed in ways that, you know, the service is providing a useful outcome for the American nation.
AMANPOUR: Before we get into those other ways of service, you are a military man. You've grown -- all your adult life has been devoted to this idea of military service and action.
Here we are in two wars. Maybe there are going to be others in the not-so-distant future, and yet we still have this rather small group of people sacrificing and serving for the majority. But there's so many who come back who feel they can't talk, who are taking their own lives, who are descending into dependency and addiction and homelessness, and definitely joblessness.
AMANPOUR: How does this country do the dignified and right thing by these people who put their lives on the line?
POWELL: Well, I think we're doing a lot with respect to what the Department of Veterans Affairs is doing. The Pentagon is seized with this, particularly the problem of suicides.
You have to remember that these youngsters coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan probably have seen more combat than any veteran of World War II. In World War II, there were long periods of no conflict and then war. These youngsters are facing it every single day, with the IEDs, with the ambushes and the bombs.
I was on a train the other day, and there was a G.I. there with his parents, and he had suffered traumatic brain injury. And I stopped and talked to them. And these are the kinds of youngsters that we really have to make sure we provide the right kind of government support to through disability payments and the like. And his parent are going to be responsible for him now for the rest of their lives.
But we have to ask all Americans to do more for veterans. In your community, if you see a veteran in need; if you see any veteran, shake -- shake the hand, offer to help, offer to help find a job. Can you help that person with the legal issues? Can you do something to reach out and help a veteran? Don't turn around and walk away.
The government has to do a lot, but the real support mechanism for these youngsters coming back in difficulty is within the community.
And they are coming back with post-traumatic stress disorders. They're coming back with suicidal tendencies. There is a homeless population, and that really goes back to the Vietnam War.
But most of them coming back integrate themselves back into society, go back to their families, go back to their jobs or go get an education.
AMANPOUR: General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, wrote quite a provocative essay recently.
I want to read a little bit from it, saying that, quote, "We have let the concept of service become dangerously narrow, often associated only with the military, and this allows most Americans to avoid the sense of responsibility essential for us to care about our nation and for each other. We expect and demand less of ourselves than we should."
What do you make of that?
There does seem to be a, sort of, we can hide in the corner.
POWELL: I'm sorry; I just -- I don't fully -- I know the point he's trying to make, but I don't fully agree with him. Because in the work I do with the America's Promise Alliance that I founded, at the request of all our presidents some 14 years ago, we are able to get lots of people involved in service. We see a lot of ways in which people are stepping forward to mentor kids in school, to read to kids in school, to give more of their resources to people in need.
And one of the things we've been doing with the America's Promise Alliance is we made one of the key features of our program service to others among young people. So, early as possible in the life of a youngster, you start putting in place that virtue and value of service to country, service to community, service to others. And it will make a difference as these kids grow up.
AMANPOUR: What about the tone in the country right now?
It's still very divisive. It's so very, sort of, brash, some say poisonous. I mean, you can barely get anything done on Capitol Hill just behind me there. What needs to be done to actually improve the tone and the ability of people to work together?
POWELL: The tone is not good right now. And our political system here in Washington, particularly up on the Hill, Congress, has become very, very tense, in that the two sides, the Republicans and the Democrats, are focusing more and more on their extreme left and extreme right. And we have to come back toward the center in order to compromise.
A story I like to tell is our founding fathers were able to sit in Philadelphia and make some of the greatest compromises known to man -- tough, tough issues.
But they did it. Why? Because they were there to create a country, whereas we have a Congress now that can't even pass an appropriations bill, and we're running this country on a continuing resolution, which -- what else are they here for but to pass appropriations bills?
And so we have got to find a way to start coming back together. And let me say this directly. The media has to help us. The media loves this game where everyone is on the extreme. It makes for great television. It makes for great chatter. It makes for great talk shows all day long with commentators commenting on commentators about the latest little mini-flap up on Capitol Hill.
So what we have to do is, sort of, take some of the heat out of our political life in terms of the coverage of it so these folks can get to work quietly.
AMANPOUR: I get your point about heat and light. But what about the fact that, in fact, it is one of the political parties, although -- or rather the big political influence, which is the Tea Party, which quotes, left and right, the founding fathers -- they say compromise is a dirty word and they try to point to the founding fathers and the Constitution.
POWELL: The founding fathers compromised on slavery. They had to in order to create a country. They compromised on the composition of the Senate, of the House, of a Supreme Court, of a president -- what are the president's powers?
Can you imagine more difficult compromises today?
Compromise is how this country was founded. And unless two people in disagreement with each other don't find a way to reach out to one another and make compromises, you don't get a consensus that allows you to move forward. But the Tea Party point of view of no compromise whatsoever is not a point of view that will eventually produce a presidential candidate who will win.
AMANPOUR: General Powell, thank you very much indeed.
POWELL: Thank you, dear.
AMANPOUR: And up next, movie star Matt Damon on his new mission, making sure each and every child has clean water to drink. Stay with us.
AMANPOUR: Water, too often taken for granted. But in many countries the world's most valuable commodity is literally drying up. And now one of Hollywood's biggest stars is on a campaign to change that.
Some background, water covers 70 percent of the Earth's surface but less than 3 percent is drinkable. We're seeing drought and overuse from Asia to North Africa to right here in United States.
One in eight people lack access to safe, clean drinking water in large portions of Africa and South Asia. A child dies every 20 seconds because of it. These kinds of startling statistics moved actor Matt Damon to team up with environmentalist Gary White to start water.org. And I spoke to them recently about their mission.
AMANPOUR: Water. What was your epiphany, your moment where you knew that this was something that you had to do?
DAMON: I was in Zambia, and I was -- I went on a water collection with a young girl, she was 14 years old. And it was about a mile walk and we were chatting the whole time.
I started to ask what her hopes were, what her plans were. I said, are you going to live in this village when you're grown up? And she got really shy and she said -- she kind of shook her head and I said, why are being shy? And she said, I'm going to go to big city, I'm going to go to Lusaka and I'm going to be a nurse.
AMANPOUR: The capital of Zambia.
DAMON: Yes, the capital of Zambia. She said, I'm going to the big city. And it just -- I remembered that feeling of Ben Affleck and I saying, we're going to go to big city, we're going to New York and we're going to be actors. And we were that age. And I remembered how wonderful that was when the world felt like, you know, there was this world of possibility laid out in front of you.
And as I drove away, I realized, it just hit me that had someone not had the foresight to sink a bore well a mile from where she lived, she wouldn't be in school because her entire life would revolve around scavenging for water.
And she wouldn't have any hope, she wouldn't have any dreams, she would be stuck in this kind of death spiral of poverty.
AMANPOUR: What is the depth of the crisis when it comes to water -- clean water for people around the world?
GARY WHITE, CO-FOUNDER, WATER.ORG: Well, it's staggering actually, because of the numbers, a billion people, as Matt, said -- nearly a billion don't have access to water. About 2.5 billion without sanitation.
AMANPOUR: So you can't get richer as a community, you can't get more secure, and it just -- it's sort of like a sink hole, literally.
WHITE: Yes. Whether you're in the rural areas and walking hours or whether you're in the urban slums, forced to pay, you know, seven to 15 times more per liter of water to the water mafia because you can't afford to get a house connection.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, water to all of us is second nature. I mean, we have it, we bottle it, we get it wherever we want.
DAMON: That's one of the hurdles, actually, we have to clear in terms of talking about this stuff. It's really hard for people like us to relate to it, because it has just never been something we had to think about.
You know, clean water is only as far as the nearest tap. And there are taps everywhere. There's a faucet everywhere. But the reality is the water in our toilets are cleaner than the water that most people are drinking.
DAMON: We're here with Gary. We're in (INAUDIBLE), India.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Damon's water.org co-founder, Gary White, came up with the novel idea of a water credit, a micro-financing loan system after meeting an impoverished woman in India.
WHITE: She was paying a loan shark 125 percent interest so she could get enough money to build a toilet. So we thought, well, why can't we bring more affordable credit to people like her?
DAMON: There are these market-based solutions that will really help lift people out, and it's that -- the old adage of "give a man a fish, he eats for a day, and teach a man to fish, and he eats for lifetime." And that's what -- you know, water credit certainly is that.
WHITE: If they can get a connection in their home -- because the pipes are running right by their slums, but they can't afford that $100 to connect. Once they get that water connection, they have water security and then they're out, like the women I just met in India, they're now working as day help in other people's homes. So they have taken on paying jobs. People have this newfound time that they can then turn to their economic benefit and then repay their loan.
AMANPOUR (on camera): And that's kind of the building blocks to the global economic success, I mean, right?
WHITE: Education of young girls and freeing up the time of the women to work at these paying jobs. Absolutely. It not only gives them water, it gives them more dignity. It gives them that ownership of their own lives and making their own way.
DAMON: And these loans that Gary is talking about, they're paying back at 97 percent. So these people bought their time back, but it has freed them up to have these jobs. So not only do they pay off that, say, $100 loan, but now they have extra money coming into the household.
Find out more about the water (INAUDIBLE) here in northern Ethiopia and all around the world, please visit us at water.org.
AMANPOUR: You're not just a pretty face. You're not just the face of this campaign...
DAMON: I'm barely a pretty face.
AMANPOUR: You dive deep into the issue of poverty and development and, of course, water. And from what I read, your mother had a huge influence on you.
DAMON: I started going on trips with her to, you know, Guatemala and traveling around the country, you know, seeing stuff, seeing extreme poverty, you know, when I was a teenager. And that had a big, big impact.
But then, you know, obviously I got focused on my life, my career, and -- you know, and have been focused on that for 25 years. But a few years ago I started to think, I want to go back and learn more about this. My sphere of influence has increased. I know there is something that I can be doing.
AMANPOUR: We obviously live in a time of dramatic economic crisis, whether it's here in the United States or around the world. How do you sell your idea, for instance?
WHITE: Well, I mean, so much of it is about how do you have a greater impact with a $1 that you invest? People respond to that. I think that there's an emotional element to this, of course, in terms of the suffering with it.
But people also want to know that the $1 that they're investing is going further. So that's what we're trying to do, whether it be with young people giving $25, or, for instance, you know, the PepsiCo Foundation just gave us an $8 million grant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Matter of life or death.
DAMON: Matter of life and death.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The water.org co-founders say it's about smarter giving. And Damon hopes that he can leverage his celebrity capital into more donations. He has even been known to mix his two worlds to raise awareness and dollars.
DAMON: Listen man, did you get the stuff that I sent over to Ari? It's the foundation that I'm working with. The One by One Foundation, the kids' foundation.
Vince, this is Matt Damon. I'm in Haiti at moment. I understand your check has not come. I can't believe I have a (expletive deleted) Academy Award and I'm calling you back! Send me the check!
AMANPOUR (on camera): Is it a heavy lift trying to convince, I don't know, your friends or the people who you meet in so-called your day job?
DAMON: If you can prove that there's a solution that works, people are into that, and people want to help with that. AMANPOUR: When you help a local community with their water, what kind of, to coin a phrase, trickle-down effect does it have on the community?
DAMON: Oh, well, I mean, everything changes. Everything changes. I mean, suddenly, you know, the girls who are collecting water all day suddenly are in school.
AMANPOUR: Because particularly for girls and women it has an effect.
DAMON: It's a huge, huge, huge issue for girls and women. And as a father of four girls, I'm obviously very -- you know, that resonates with me. But, yes, you see, it's the -- the joy is kind of -- it's the other side to these trips. You see some really hard things. But to see the life-changing joy is really, really quite something.
AMANPOUR: Will you encourage your children to going there? Do they know what you do?
DAMON: They all will and they all will start coming with me to these places, because -- you know, like the gift that my mother gave me, I think it's a really wonderful thing to share with your children and to give them some context about the world they're living in and understand just how lucky they are and we are to be in this country.
AMANPOUR: And in all of the work that you do, both philanthropic work and your movie work, which gives you most satisfaction? Which is most rewarding?
DAMON: When you see the difference that water can make in a community, that feeling of pure joy, there's nothing really that competes with that in my day job.
Thank you so much for inviting us here today and for sharing this issue with us. And it made a huge impact on us.
AMANPOUR: And for more information, visit abcnews.com/thisweek.
Last Thanksgiving we introduced you to the Giving Pledge, a campaign to get the world's wealthiest to pledge most of their fortunes to the world's poor. The movers and shakers behind the mission, Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. And since it was launched, some boldface names have signed up: George Lucas, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. All good news for Bill Gates, who recently gave me an update.
BILL GATES, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Well, we have over 70 people, these are people who have substantial wealth, generally over $1 billion, we had our first get-together and talked about some common causes, education, what people had learned, what had gone well, the environment, international giving.
And so it was very successful. We continue to recruit new people. It is a group that's much smarter about their giving because we're sharing with each other.
For a lot of people, listening to a story from another giver, about the different path you go through and how they develop passion when they could see the impact they were having, I think that will get people giving sooner.
And the younger you give, the more you're likely to provide your talent and influence as well as the check.
AMANPOUR: Bill and Melinda Gates have already donated tens of billions of dollars to their own foundation. We'll be right back with the Sunday funnies.
AMANPOUR: And now the Sunday funnies.
JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: President Obama preparing a big Thanksgiving. He has a lot to be thankful for this year -- Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann. It's like a feast.
JIMMY FALLON, TALK SHOW HOST: Herman Cain said that presidents don't need to know every detail of every country. He said we should focus on our neighbor to the south, Mexico, and our neighbor to the north, cold Mexico.
DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: Newt wants to repeal child labor laws. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the man that we need to lead us into the 18th century. This is the guy.
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AMANPOUR: We'll be right back.
AMANPOUR: And now, in memoriam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM WICKER, NEW YORK TIMES: We're human beings first and journalists second. Otherwise there's something entirely wrong with us.
The oldest rule of politics is, you can't beat a horse with no horse. And the other side doesn't seem to have a horse yet.
MAGGIE DALEY, CHICAGO'S FORMER FIRST LADY: Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
AMANPOUR: We remember all of those who died in war this week. The Pentagon released the names of four soldiers and Marines killed in Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: We'll be right back.
AMANPOUR: That's our program this week. Remember, you can follow us anytime on Facebook, Twitter or at abcnews.com. Be sure to watch "World News" with David Muir tonight for all the latest headlines. For all of us here, thank you for watching. We hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday and we'll see you next week.