March 8, 2023 - PBS NewsHour full episode
03/08/2023 | 56m 39s | Video has closed captioning.
March 8, 2023 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
Get extended access to 1600+ episodes, binge watch your favorite shows, and stream anytime - online or in the PBS app.
Already a Kansas City PBS member?
You may have an unactivated Kansas City PBS Passport member benefit. Check to see.
03/08/2023 | 56m 39s | Video has closed captioning.
March 8, 2023 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
GEOFF BENNETT: Good evening.
I'm Geoff Bennett.
AMNA NAWAZ: And I'm Amna Nawaz.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: The Justice Department issues a scathing rebuke of Louisville police for repeated civil rights violations brought to light after the killing of Breonna Taylor.
GEOFF BENNETT: Lawmakers question health and intelligence officials about the origins of COVID-19 after government agencies issue differing assessments on whether the virus leaked from a Chinese lab.
AMNA NAWAZ: And we continue our series on the deepening divide in America with an examination of how politics became personal identity.
LILLIANA MASON, SNF Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University: We are angry at one another.
Democrats and Republicans don't trust one another.
We are more likely to dehumanize people in the other party.
We think that they're a threat to the country.
(BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening, and welcome to the "NewsHour."
The U.S. Justice Department has issued a damning review of the Louisville, Kentucky, Police Department in the wake of Breonna Taylor's death.
She was shot and killed during a no-knock raid on her apartment nearly three years ago.
GEOFF BENNETT: Findings released today found a pattern of police brutalizing Black citizens and routinely violating their rights.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke in Louisville.
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. Attorney General: This conduct is unacceptable.
It is heartbreaking.
It erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing.
And it is an affront to the vast majority of officers who put their lives on the line every day to serve Louisville with honor.
And it is an affront to the people of Louisville, who deserve better.
AMNA NAWAZ: Garland announced the city will sign a negotiated consent decree to undertake major reforms.
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said he strongly supports the effort.
CRAIG GREENBERG, Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky: And I know that there will people who will look at this report and they will be eager to find some way to minimize it or dismiss it.
They will say it's all politics or that you could find examples like this in any city.
No, this is not about politics or other places.
This is about Louisville.
GEOFF BENNETT: The city has already banned so-called no-knock warrants and paid $12 million to Breonna Taylor's family to end a wrongful death lawsuit.
Kristen Clarke is the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Department at the Justice Department, and she joins us now from Louisville.
Thank you for being with us.
And this announcement is the result of a two-year investigation following the shooting of Breonna Taylor.
The attorney general said today that a Louisville Metro Police Department official told the DOJ shortly after this investigation opened that Breonna Taylor "was a symptom of problems that we have had for years."
Based on your investigation, why were those problems so persistent?
KRISTEN CLARKE, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: The problems are -- have been persistent because they have gone unaddressed.
And, today, we issued a 90-page report that lays bare many severe and significant problems with the Louisville Metro Police Department.
We found evidence of use of excessive force, we found warrants that were issued without a legal basis.
We found that warrants were executed without knocking and announcing.
We found discriminatory policing and evidence of practices that disproportionately impact Black people in Louisville.
We found unlawful stops, detentions and arrests.
We also found that people who engaged in peaceful demonstrations and protest had their First Amendment rights infringed upon, particularly when the subject matter of their protest concerned the police department.
These problems are significant and severe.
And our consent decree here will help put the city and the police department on a long overdue path to reform.
GEOFF BENNETT: You mentioned the report.
I want to read an excerpt from it.
It reads this way: "Some officers have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars, insulted people with disabilities, and called Black people monkeys, animal and boy.
This conduct erodes community trust and the unlawful practices of LMPD and Louisville Metro undermine public safety."
It again raises the question of how and why this kind of behavior was condoned.
The report cites poor oversight.
Tell me more about that.
KRISTEN CLARKE: Yes.
I mean, sometimes, you find that there are policies in place, but no training behind those policies.
Sometimes, you find that there is training but no accountability, when policies are broken.
Part of our consent decree will be about putting in place new systems that will help ensure that these kinds of problems never happen again.
I noted a number of issues that we found.
We also found that the police department discriminated against people with behavioral health disabilities and, in particular, response -- problems with respect to dispatch responses.
So now's the time where we're going to engage with the law enforcement agency here.
We're going to engage with the community and put the community and police department on a path to reform.
GEOFF BENNETT: On that point, I mean, there is a reason why you were in Louisville, are in Louisville right now, but earlier today appeared with the attorney general and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.
Also there were local leaders, the members of the police department.
It was to show that there is broad agreement at the federal and local level that there is this need for change.
There are people in Louisville who are wondering if local leaders are really up to the job of implementing that change, when many of these violations happened on their watch.
KRISTEN CLARKE: You know, I'm hopeful and encouraged.
Today marks a new day for the city of Louisville.
The mayor and the police chief joined us and committed to working with us to put in place a consent decree.
We will have court oversight.
We will have an independent monitor.
And at every stage, we're going to engage with the community.
Today, I have been meeting with community leaders.
I have met with law enforcement leaders today.
Now's the time where we roll up our sleeves and figure out, what are the reforms that help ensure that the kinds of incidents that we have seen in the past and resulting tragedies never happen again?
And I say that with full acknowledgement that being a police officer is not an easy job.
And most officers carry out their jobs with duty and integrity.
But what our 90-page report makes clear is that there is a systemic problem, that there has been a pattern and practice of conduct that runs afoul of the Constitution, that violates federal law, and that disrespects people's civil rights.
And we're putting an end to that.
And today marks a new day for the city.
GEOFF BENNETT: You are a lifelong civil rights attorney.
Why does it take the police killing of a Black person, whether it's George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Freddie Gray, to spur federal action?
Is there anything that can be done preemptively?
KRISTEN CLARKE: You know, these tragedies, the tragic death of Breonna Taylor -- and I met with her mother today -- George Floyd, these people should be alive today.
Breonna Taylor should be alive today.
George Floyd should be alive today.
The Justice Department's work to ensure law enforcement accountability and constitutional policing is one of our highest priorities.
We will not turn our back on this work.
It is hard work.
It is hard work.
And we are in it for the long haul.
And we look forward to working and engaging with the community and with the police department and city to ensure that tragedies that unfolded in the past never happen again.
GEOFF BENNETT: And, lastly, what is the record on these consent decrees?
How much do they effect change, and how do they work in the long term?
How well do they work in the long term?
KRISTEN CLARKE: Yes.
The consent decrees that we have secured in the past have proven successful.
We have seen success in places like Seattle and Baltimore, where there have been reductions in the use of force against ordinary citizens, where there have been efforts to de-escalate situations to prevent violent outcomes.
So we are very confident that the consent decree that we put in place here will help to put the city and the police department on a path to reform, on a path to ensuring that people's civil-rights are respected, and on a path to ensuring that the police department can carry out their job of ensuring public safety, and do so in a way that garners trust from the community, and doing so in a way that complies with the Constitution.
GEOFF BENNETT: Kristen Clarke is the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Justice Department.
Thanks so much for your time.
KRISTEN CLARKE: Thank you for having me.
AMNA NAWAZ: In the day's other headlines: The Justice Department announced it's reviewing the Memphis Police Department over use of force and other issues.
That follows the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in January.
Six officers have been fired in the case, including five charged with second-degree murder.
President Biden will propose slowing the growth of federal deficits by $3 trillion over the next decade.
The White House announced that today, ahead of releasing the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.
The plan is likely to rely on higher taxes for corporations and the wealthy, but it's unclear if Congress will go along.
On the war in Ukraine, mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group claimed today they have won control of eastern Bakhmut after six months of fighting in the ravaged city.
At the same time, the group's own video showed fighters using up their ammunition.
It underscored divisions between the mercenaries and Russia's military over strategy and supplies.
Ukraine's government is denying any role in last year's attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.
There's been a rash of reports that a pro-Ukrainian group was involved.
The pipelines linking Russia to Germany were hit by explosions.
But the German defense minister also counseled caution today about who was responsible.
BORIS PISTORIUS, German Defense Minister (through translator): I know the reports about this investigation.
And we have to distinguish clearly, yes, whether it was a Ukrainian group or a pro-Ukrainian one without the knowledge of the government, there is also talk that it could have been a so-called false flag operation.
AMNA NAWAZ: Russia also questioned the findings.
The Kremlin has accused the U.S. of staging the attack.
Strikes across France paralyzed parts of the country again today.
Train and metro drivers, oil refinery employees and others stayed off the job to protest raising the official retirement age.
They used trucks to block access to ports and oil refineries.
The strike also snarled train and commuter rail service, leaving travelers struggling.
Tens of thousands of people also marched in Greece to protest country's worst train disaster.
Students and labor unions organized the demonstrations to demand better rail safety measures after last month's crash that killed 57 people.
STELLA VALAVANI, Greek Protester (through translator): This crime should not be forgotten.
Those at fault should be held accountable, and we are now demanding safety on all levels, on transport, and schools, in our very lives.
AMNA NAWAZ: Greece's transport minister, along with several top railway officials, have resigned since the collision.
The world marked this International Women's Day with protests and celebrations.
Around the globe, hundreds of thousands of people joined rallies carrying signs and chanting slogans demanding equal rights.
They also hailed the many achievements of women.
At the same time, the United Nations named Afghanistan's Taliban regime as the most repressive for women and girls.
Back in this country, employers posted 10.8 million job openings in January.
That was down from December, but still more than expected.
And on Wall Street, worries about interest rates kept stocks mostly in check.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 58 points to close at 32798.
The Nasdaq rose 45 points.
The S&P 500 added five.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": the Senate moves to override Washington, D.C.'s controversial crime law, with Biden's support; we examine deepening divisions in America, as politics become intertwined with personal identity; Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai discusses her Oscar-nominated film about overcoming hate; plus much more.
GEOFF BENNETT: The country's top intelligence officials testified in the Senate today, assessing Russia's plans in Ukraine, the threat of TikTok and the origins of COVID, which, as Nick Schifrin reports, was also the subject of its own hearing in the House.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Good morning.
I'm going to call this hearing to order.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In the Senate Intelligence Committee today, the woman and men who lead the country's intelligence community detailed a world full of threats, starting with Russia's war in Ukraine.
Wagner private military contractors are besieging the eastern city of Bakhmut, the longest and deadliest battle of the war.
Ukraine is trying to inflict heavy Russian losses.
Those losses are adding up, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said today.
AVRIL HAINES, U.S. Director of National Intelligence: It will be increasingly challenging for them to sustain even the current level of offensive operations in the coming months.
And, consequently, they may fully shift to holding and defending the territories they now occupy.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Haines said Russian President Vladimir Putin is focused on -- quote -- "more modest" military objectives, but warned he could fight a long war.
AVRIL HAINES: Putin most likely calculates that time works in his favor, and that prolonging the war, including with potential pauses in the fighting, may be his best remaining pathway to eventually securing Russia's strategic interests in Ukraine, even if it takes years.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Could they use TikTok to control data on millions of users?
NICK SCHIFRIN: The hearing also focused on technology companies that answer to the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, especially the hugely popular video app TikTok.
A new bipartisan bill could lead to a complete ban, and is supported by the White House.
Today, Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco Rubio asked FBI Director Chris Wray about the app's potential threat.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Could they use it to control the software on millions of devices given the opportunity to do so?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI Director: Yes.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Could they use it to drive narratives, like to divide Americans against each other?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY: Yes.
This is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government.
And it -- to me, it screams out with national security concerns.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): The fact that the intelligence community still disagrees on the origins of COVID is concerning.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Senators also asked about the origins of COVID-19, which began spreading at the end of 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY: The FBI has long assessed going all the way back to the summer of 2021 that the origin of the pandemic was likely a lab incident in Wuhan.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But the intelligence community remains divided.
The FBI concluded with moderate confidence that COVID leaked from a Wuhan lab, an assessment now shared by the Department of Energy with low confidence.
But other agencies have assessed, also with low confidence, COVID likely occurred naturally.
AVRIL HAINES: China has not fully cooperated.
And we think that is a key, critical gap that would help us to understand what exactly happened.
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH): Where did COVID-19 come from?
NICK SCHIFRIN: It was also the subject of another, more politicized hearing by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Republicans and their witnesses went beyond the intelligence community conclusions and argued the Wuhan Institute of Virology, with U.S. funding, artificially combined viruses in a process known as gain of function, and those experiments created viruses that mirrored COVID-19's unique attributes.
Robert Redfield is a virologist and was the director of the Centers for Disease Control when COVID began.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, Former Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: While many believe that gain of function research is critical to get ahead of viruses by developing vaccines, in this case, I believe it was the exact opposite, unleashing a new virus of the world without any means of stopping it, and resulting in the deaths of millions of people.
REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ): Do you believe there was a cover-up?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Republicans repeatedly accused Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former head of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of promoting the naturally occurring theory and silencing the lab leak theory.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD: I don't think I used the word cover-up, OK?
I think there was an attempt to misguide, redirect the debate.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Last night, in The New York Times, Dr. Fauci called Republican allegations false and misleading, and said he's always kept an open mind on COVID's origins.
China has largely stonewalled efforts to investigate independently.
Jamie Metzl is an Atlantic Council senior fellow.
JAMIE METZL, The Atlantic Council: And if we make it primarily about Dr. Fauci, we will be inappropriately serving the Chinese government a propaganda coup.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Most leading scientists still argue COVID spread naturally from humans to animals.
But, regardless of the cause, finding the origin is still critical.
Paul Auwaerter was the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
DR. PAUL AUWAERTER, Former President, Infectious Diseases Society of America: We can learn valuable lessons from these investigations to prevent outbreaks and pandemic's of any origin.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But it's not clear if the world will ever know the origin of a disease that has killed nearly seven million people and counting.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
AMNA NAWAZ: A U.S. Senate vote today means, for the first time in 30 years, Congress and the president will block a Washington, D.C., local law, a bill that would overhaul the city's criminal code.
Lisa Desjardins explains the policy and politics at play.
MAN: I move to proceed to H.J.Res.26.
LISA DESJARDINS: The U.S. Senate today legislating for a single city, but on a national issue.
Senators from both parties were poised to reject Washington, D.C.'s criminal code overhaul.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Now is not the time to get soft on crime.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): This body now,in a rush of politics, is going to prevent a city from protecting itself.
LISA DESJARDINS: The rare congressional bloc comes amid national headlines and political pressure over crime.
But this issue affects only Washington, D.C., and raises another justice issue: Is it just that Congress overrule the city's wishes?
TROY BURNER, Criminal Justice Advocate: My name is Troy Burner.
I'm a fourth-generation Washingtonian.
LISA DESJARDINS: What's that mean to you?
TROY BURNER: The nation's capital.
There's so much pride and history here.
LISA DESJARDINS: Troy is proud of the city, but not its justice system, which sent him to prison for 24 years in connection with a murder he was nowhere near.
Did you have this with you when you were in prison?
Troy was convicted based on false testimony, and his sentence was long, due to this, a paragraph in D.C. code that is very broad, saying essentially that people associated even indirectly with a crime, like murder, should be charged as if they pulled the trigger.
Now fully exonerated and a criminal justice advocate, he's a, strong backer of D.C.'s reform.
TROY BURNER: It was a thorough, comprehensive, progressive effort to reform the criminal code, consistent with the natural -- the national standard.
LISA DESJARDINS: D.C. spent 16 years on a Herculean rewrite of its outdated code that is over a century old.
The resulting plan more clearly defines crimes, erases most mandatory minimum sentences and lowers some maximum penalties in exchange for a tiered, more tailored system.
City Council passed it overwhelmingly.
Violent crime is down in the District compared to last year.
But homicides have spiked, prompting Mayor Muriel Bowser to veto the measure.
MURIEL BOWSER (D), Mayor of Washington, D.C.: Any time there's a policy that reduces penalties, I think it sends the wrong message.
LISA DESJARDINS: City Council doubled down, overriding her veto.
KENYAN MCDUFFIE, Washington, D.C., City Council: So, all the fearmongering is totally unnecessary, hyperbolic.
LISA DESJARDINS: Then, D.C., hit a bigger hurdle.
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): The D.C. Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 is irresponsible.
LISA DESJARDINS: Congress got involved.
The Constitution gives it direct power over D.C. laws, and the Republican-led House pounced.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): We see stories of carjackings every day.
And what did the D.C. Council do?
They passed a resolution to get rid of mandatory minimums on many violent crimes.
LISA DESJARDINS: Last month, 31 House Democrats joined Republicans to override the D.C. crime bill, including Congresswoman Angie Craig, who was attacked in her D.C. apartment building the morning of the vote.
After that came the pivotal defeat.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, White House Press Secretary: The president does not support the D.C. Council, the changes that they -- that they put forward, over the mayor's objections.
LISA DESJARDINS: President Joe Biden announced he'd sign the congressional override.
He said it was about keeping communities safe.
That move blindsided many Democrats, including those on the D.C. City Council.
PHIL MENDELSON, Chairman, Washington, D.C., City Council: Democrats who have been our friends have not supported us on this legislation because it has become a political issue for them.
LISA DESJARDINS: D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said this was about fear of ads like these that ran in 2022 attacking Democrats as weak on crime.
NARRATOR: Helping criminals and hurting cops.
LISA DESJARDINS: He says their bill was deeply misconstrued, that it would not lower most sentences.
For example, armed carjacking, a concern in D.C., has long had a maximum penalty of 40 years there.
But the average, actual sentences have been around 15 years.
Thus, advocates say the D.C. plan to lower the max from 40 years to 24 years is still well above most actual sentences.
And Mendelson points out that's tougher than some red states, like Tennessee.
PHIL MENDELSON: Their maximum for carjacking is, I believe, 12 years.
Well, which is it?
Our average sentence is 15.
Our maximum is going to be 24.
Yet the message that we're soft on crime, while inaccurate, sticks.
LISA DESJARDINS: Back at Troy's house, I ask if he thinks lowering max sentences could lead to more crime.
TROY BURNER: Can we talk?
LISA DESJARDINS: Let's.
TROY BURNER: That's the most asinine stuff that I have heard in my life.
So what we're saying is, that upon committing the crime, somebody is going to take it in their head to say, oh, well, they reduced the time on this.
That's not going to happen.
That's not realistic.
LISA DESJARDINS: Troy still works in D.C., but now lives in Maryland and has some peace.
But he's disheartened that reforms he sees as critical have hit a wall and that others are controlling D.C.'s fate.
TROY BURNER: To have Congress or anyone else outside of who the people of the District of Columbia chose to represent them, have their authority to usurp is a total smack in the face to democracy.
LISA DESJARDINS: Can I ask you what you think about President Biden?
He himself could have prevented this.
Troy is still looking ahead, but no one knows how, if or when D.C. will again try to fix its criminal code.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.
GEOFF BENNETT: The country's divisions often go beyond disputes over policy, regularly spilling into clashes over identity and culture, and pitting friends and family against one another.
Judy Woodruff explores how that came to be and what it means for our shared future in her latest installment of America at a Crossroads.
CLAIRE JERRY, National Museum of American History: Every president has encountered division of some type, much of it partisan, protests, civil unrest, much of it rooted in those very things Washington was concerned about.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Inside the exhibit on the presidency at the National Museum of American History in Washington, curator Claire Jerry hears echoes of the divisions today in our country's past, starting with our very first president, George Washington.
CLAIRE JERRY: In his farewell address, he said it was really worried about three things for the country.
He was worried about regionalism, partisanship and foreign entanglements, and especially the partisanship issue.
He was not a believer in parties that would take the lead over ideas, and one of the things he says in the address is that the unity of government made us a people, and we should be justifiably proud and committed to that.
CARROLL DOHERTY, Director of Political Research, Pew Research Center: The country is more divided, certainly along partisan lines, than we have seen it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In our first story, we heard from the Pew Research Center's Carroll Doherty and Jocelyn Kiley about how divided the country has become and how hostile members of both parties now are to the other side.
JOCELYN KILEY, Associate Director of Research, Pew Research Center: I think one way to think about this is that people have internalized partisan identity maybe in a way that we didn't really see, say, three decades ago.
MICHELLE VITALI, Pennsylvania: I do think that things have broken down.
I have neighbors that we sort of wave to each other, and that's the extent of our relationship now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: That's a feeling we have heard from our viewers too, that conversations about current events and politics have become far more divisive and personal.
FABIAN GONZALEZ, Texas: Those items that are in the news today, COVID, immigration, politics, abortion, and the list goes on, I'm not free to speak about any of those things, because I fear the consequence of a conversation I don't feel like I can have.
KARA ELLIS, Ohio: It's really hard, because these are people I care about.
These are -- these are people I'm close to that I -- that I have grown up with, I have lived in the same house with.
The underlying currents between all of us is very tense.
SUDHANSHU MISRA, Massachusetts: I would like to talk about politics with my -- discuss politics with my friends.
I would like to share ideas, exchange notes with them.
But, unfortunately, we are at a dead end, where there is a wall.
LILLIANA MASON, SNF Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University: Decades ago, we disagreed over things like the role of government or the size of government or what we wanted the government to be doing, and with those types of divisions, we can find a compromise.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lilliana Mason is a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University who draws on social psychology to try to better understand our political divisions.
LILLIANA MASON: What we're seeing today is, the divide is much more about our feelings about each other.
We are angry at one another.
Democrats and Republicans don't trust one another.
We are more likely to dehumanize people in the other party.
We think that they're a threat to the country.
And these types of feelings are not the kind of thing we can compromise with.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mason opened her first book, "Uncivil Agreement," with the story of Robbers Cave, a famous social science experiment from the 1950s, when researchers brought fifth grade boys to a summer camp outside Oklahoma City.
The boys, all white, were separated into two teams, one calling itself the Rattlers, the other the Eagles.
They were allowed to bond.
Then, after a week, the groups were introduced to each other.
LILLIANA MASON: And they immediately wanted to start competing.
So they wanted to have baseball games, all kinds of different kinds of competitions to prove that they were the best.
So they started calling each other names.
They accused each other of cheating.
They tried to sabotage each other.
The competition got so intense that, ultimately, they had to stop the experiment because they were throwing rocks and they were becoming violent.
And that experiment was used to talk about the sort of innate nature of humans to form groups, to become proud of the groups that we're in, to want our groups to be better than the people that are not in our group, and, ultimately, to compete against another group, if we feel like they are -- they are threatening the status of our team.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jumping ahead from George Washington's warning at our founding about the danger of political teams... MAN: It is with pride that I place before this convention for president of the United States The name of Dwight David Eisenhower.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) JUDY WOODRUFF: ... the 1950s, when our political parties were a far more ideological mix than today, with conservative and liberal wings in both camps, and when someone like General Dwight Eisenhower was courted by both parties to run as their standard-bearer.
CLAIRE JERRY: Eventually, he chose the party, but yet was still elected with overwhelming support from the American people.
And that would have been true, I think, regardless of which direction he had gone.
LILLIANA MASON: In 1950, the American Political Science Association actually put out a report saying, we need the parties to be more different, because people don't know which party to vote for because they can't tell the difference between them.
And so they can't make a responsible decision.
And, ultimately, what they suggested was that the two parties should really stand for some very different policy ideas.
LYNDON JOHNSON, Former President of the United States: We must not fail.
Let us close the springs of racial poisoning.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the 1960s, the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act by Democrats helped usher in a major realignment of the parties, with many Black Americans becoming Democrats, as many white Americans opposed to integration left that party.
Layered on top of that broad reorganization along racial lines, the 1980s witnessed the mobilization of the socially conservative Christian right, as well as business interests aligned with Republicans.
And eventually came the rise of partisan talk radio, cable TV news, the Internet and social media, exacerbating the divide along partisan lines.
LILLIANA MASON: And, ultimately, what ended up happening is that our society changed in such a way that our parties started becoming different on their own, not based on the policy preferences, or not only based on policy preferences, but based on what Democrats and Republicans looked like, what kind of religious services they attended, what kind of cultural television shows they watched, where they lived.
And so they started really becoming different from each other in a social way, not just in a sort of policy way.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lilliana Mason argues that this stacking of identities on top of one another into what she calls a mega-identity has reinforced our basic human instinct for inclusion and exclusion, and that that helps explain the tribal politics we see today.
MICHELLE VITALI: I was a practicing Catholic for most of the years that I lived here.
And I just needed to bow out completely, because I don't understand where this sort of militancy is coming from.
And, in fact, it seems to have been created out of whole cloth in order to get people to show up at the polls, show up at events, show up at March For Life in Washington or whatever the cause may be.
EDWARD JACACK, Ohio: Everything from dating sites, right?
I have been single through a lot of this Trump era.
And the first time on the dating sites, no Trumper, Trumper, no Trumper.
I get it, but probably you and I -- and, by the way, I'm not a Trumper -- but you and I could probably agree upon 70 percent of how society works and the things we go ahead and want.
FABIAN GONZALEZ: Whereas, before, we are Americans, we're going to make us win, and now it's going like, no, it's about this little faction of political idealism, and my side is right, and your side is wrong, and there ain't no middle.
LILLIANA MASON: Not that we have never had partisan animosity.
The difference is that now, because of our sort of progress in terms of civil rights, not just for Black Americans, but for all Americans who have previously been marginalized, including women, is that we have associated the two parties with different sides of that story.
Essentially, the left is now taking the position of, we want a fully egalitarian, pluralistic, multiethnic democracy.
We have never fully had it, but we want to make it happen.
And what Trump has been saying, right, make America great, again, is the definition of going back in time.
And so there is this conflict between, do we want to move forward or do we want to move backward?
That means that, every time we have an election - - and an election is basically a status competition, right?
There's a winner and a loser.
Rather than it's just being our party that wins or loses, now it feels like our racial group and our religious group and our cultural group is also winning or losing.
So that makes the stakes feel a lot higher to us on a psychological level.
We don't have a place to go together, right?
That's much more of a tug-of-war, rather than a negotiation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in a storage room inside the museum, among collections of presidential fine china, history that is not yet fully written or understood.
CLAIRE JERRY: We're always looking for what sort of says the moment.
And these two slogans certainly say the moment of January 6.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Signs collected after the insurrection of January 6, when supporters of President Trump attempted to stop the transfer of power.
Mason's most recent book predicts that our divides today over our identities and competing visions for the country's future will likely lead to more political violence, but that it's ultimately up to our leaders.
LILLIANA MASON: People listen to leaders.
We have run some experiments where we have had people read messages from Joe Biden and Donald Trump, for example, a message that tells them, violence is never OK, we should never engage in violence.
When people read that message, they become less approving of violence.
Our leaders are able to guide their followers toward violence or away from violence.
Whether or not they encourage their supporters to engage in violence is actually up to them.
And our future is going to depend on that outcome.
MICHELLE VITALI: The divisions in the country are definitely causing me a lot of anxiety and lost sleep, but I also -- I'm a hopeful person, and I'm a solution-oriented person, and I'm a person who tries to take action where I can be done.
SUDHANSHU MISRA: A lot can be done organizing at the grassroot level, and we need a leader, someone like Martin Luther King or Gandhi.
KARA ELLIS: I do think there is probably a solution or better days ahead.
I just can't visualize it yet.
And I'm not sure I have the road map or know anybody who has the road map for how to get there.
FABIAN GONZALEZ: Can we get better in time?
God, I hope so.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
AMNA NAWAZ: Among the slate of films that could win an Oscar on Sunday, one new documentary looks at how a potentially deadly encounter led to a surprising and inspiring ending.
I talked to the duo behind the film "Stranger at the Gate," as part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
What if people responded to hatred with kindness and acceptance?
Could that approach change lives, or even save them?
The film "Stranger at the Gate" explores what happens when a man ready to commit mass murder is welcomed by the very same people he was targeting.
"Stranger at the Gate" was just nominated for an Academy Award.
It is produced by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and directed by Joshua Seftel, who both join me now.
Thank you so much for joining us.
And, first and foremost, congratulations.
Malala, I will start with you.
How did you learn the news of the Oscar nomination, and what did you think?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI, Nobel Peace Prize Winner: So, I have entered the world of production now, and I receive requests on most every day.
And when I got the chance to watch the documentary "Stranger at the Gate," I remember I was in my living room watching it on my laptop together with my husband, and I was just completely moved and inspired by this story.
And I knew that it has to be shared with everybody.
So I jumped in and I said, I want to support this movie.
And I'm so proud to be part of it.
AMNA NAWAZ: Joshua, this is a true story.
We have to stress this to people.
It's about a former U.S. Marine named Mac McKinney.
He suffers from PTSD.
He carries some incredibly hateful Islamophobic beliefs back to his hometown of Muncie, Indiana, and decides he is going to bomb the local mosque.
Tell us what happens from there?
And how did you first hear about this story?
JOSHUA SEFTEL, Director, "Stranger at the Gate": I heard about this story.
We found it in a newspaper article.
And the first thing we thought was, how can this be true?
Because the story is just incredible and inspiring.
And what happens is, he goes to the mosque to do reconnaissance, because he's planning to bomb it.
He's already built the bomb.
And when he arrives at the mosque, he is welcomed by the congregants there.
And they meet him with compassion and kindness.
MAC MCKINNEY, "Stranger at the Gate": He hugged my leg.
This guy doesn't know me.
Hugged my leg.
That was pretty heavy.
And they don't even know the truth.
JOSHUA SEFTEL: And, in fact, he starts coming back to the mosque on a regular basis because these people are so nice to him.
In fact, ultimately, he becomes president of the mosque.
And we just found that the story is just so timely.
You know, in a moment when division is at a fever pitch and hate crimes are happening, to find a story that is -- has a beautiful message and a beautiful outcome is just something that I personally needed this story and wanted to share it with others because I found it to be a very hopeful message.
AMNA NAWAZ: In fact, a lot of your work focuses on this issue about overcoming hatred.
Tell me a little bit about that.
JOSHUA SEFTEL: Yes.
So, when I was a little boy in Upstate New York, I faced antisemitism.
You know, kids called me names, and someone threw a rock through the front window of our home.
And those memories, they stuck with me.
And after I became a filmmaker, and then 9/11 happened, I saw my Muslim friends facing a similar kind of hate.
And I thought, as a filmmaker, maybe I can do something in some small way to help.
And so, since then, for the last eight years, really, I have been making films with my team about American Muslim stories in order to shatter the negative stereotypes that we see of Muslims.
AMNA NAWAZ: Malala, of course, so many people know your story so well, surviving against all odds when you were targeted by hatred, right?
The Taliban tried to kill you by shooting you for your education activism.
You not only survived.
You have become one of the most recognized faces on the global stage in this advocacy for women and girls.
What is it about this story that you think is particularly important at this moment in time?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: We all know that extremism and violence are prominent.
And it's really difficult to address those issues, because, oftentime, the reason behind the violence and the extremism is the dehumanization of a certain individual, or a group of people, or a religious group, or an ethnic group.
But, at the same time, when we connect with people, we see them in person or through our TV screens, and we realize that they are just the same as us.
They have the same moments of joy and sadness.
They have the same family life.
They have kids.
They share meals together.
We connect with them, and we realize that we are all human.
BIBI BAHRAMI, Co-Founder, Islamic Center of Muncie: He didn't know anything better.
That's exactly what he said.
"Sister Bibi, what if -- if I had met you, meeting someone like you, if I had that much understanding, I would have never thought about this."
MAC MCKINNEY: You showed me the right way.
You showed me what true humanity is about.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: What Mac was planning to do, that could have caused such a huge damage.
It could have costed so many lives.
But it was the act of kindness that changed the whole story.
And it was really the willingness of Bibi Bahrami and her family to welcome Mac and to show him that kindness and to give him a chance to get to know them.
And it was also the willingness of Mac to actually know the people.
AMNA NAWAZ: Joshua, we are speaking at a time of rising antisemitism, of anti-LGBTQ action.
We know, 20 years after 9/11, Muslims still face discrimination and attacks.
And the kind of, quite frankly, domestic terrorism that Mac was planning is on the rise here in America.
And a lot of folks will say, this is asking a lot of people who are feeling unsafe and who need protection, that they should open their hearts and their homes to people who might wish them harm.
What would you say to that?
JOSHUA SEFTEL: The message of this film, for me, is to ask everybody to look at themselves and say, what can I do?
What can I do to help build bridges in our society, to help connect with people that maybe seem different from us, or look different, or believe in something different than we do, or vote for a different political candidate than we do?
Because I think that, right now, we live in a time where we have separated ourselves.
And I think, to me, this film is saying, let's reconsider that, because there's a power in connecting with people.
And, in this film, we see that it actually saved lives.
AMNA NAWAZ: The documentary film is "Stranger at the Gate," directed by Joshua Seftel and executive produced by Malala Yousafzai.
Thank you to both of you for joining us.
And good luck at the Oscars.
JOSHUA SEFTEL: Thank you.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Thank you.
GEOFF BENNETT: And we will be back shortly, but, first, take a moment to hear from your local PBS station.
AMNA NAWAZ: It's a chance to offer your support, which helps keep programs like ours on the air.
GEOFF BENNETT: For those of you staying with us, we take another look at the ongoing debate over how and when to repatriate art that was looted from other countries.
Jeffrey Brown went to a museum confronting the controversial origins of some of its collection.
Here's an encore of that report.
JEFFREY BROWN: A 17 century brass head of a ruler, or oba, from the empire of Benin in modern-day Nigeria, a treasure exhibited in a famed American archaeology museum.
But note the placard underneath telling us how this came to be here.
After looting by British troops, it was later sold to the museum.
TUKUFU ZUBERI, University of Pennsylvania: We need to come to terms with both the history and potential of the museum.
JEFFREY BROWN: What stories do museums tell us?
And what should they tell us?
One answer comes at the redesigned Africa Galleries at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, known as the Penn Museum.
Lead curator Tukufu Zuberi: TUKUFU ZUBERI: How do we take that activated conversation and transform the narrative in here, seize this moment to transform the museum, the narratives in the museum, and the service we can provide to the community about the national narrative, about the international narrative, about the narrative of humanity?
JEFFREY BROWN: Zuberi as a professor of sociology and Africana studies at the university,also one of the hosts of the long-running PBS series "History Detectives."
TUKUFU ZUBERI: One ivory armlet is one of the key items in our new galleries, beautiful.
JEFFREY BROWN: His starting point here?
TUKUFU ZUBERI: If we're going to tell the story of human civilization, we must reconfigure these spaces to speak to various audiences in ways that remove the race bias and prejudice which are the foundation of museums everywhere.
These museums were to justify empire.
They were to justify the colonization.
They were to justify the marginalization of certain groups of people.
We have to challenge that.
JEFFREY BROWN: That's done in different ways to make clear the history of colonialism and enslavement that led to these objects being here and reframe the objects themselves, for example, through photographs showing how they would have appeared in their original religious functions.
There is also an effort to connect past and present through the commissioning of works by contemporary artists from the African diaspora.
TUKUFU ZUBERI: We wanted a story that said, this past is in conversation with our now, that we here are standing here looking at these objects, and they have a meaning now.
JEFFREY BROWN: And the idea then?
TUKUFU ZUBERI: Is an introduction.
So, it's an invitation.
Come on in.
Check us out.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
Here, as elsewhere, a major question surrounds the Benin Bronzes, the name used for a wide variety of artifacts that day to at least the 16th century.
Their story is one well-documented, an 1897 British invasion, the looting of as many as 10,000 objects, and ultimate dispersal to many of the world's leading museums.
In recent years, some institutions have begun to return the treasures, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
It held a ceremony in October to hand over 29 objects to Nigerian officials and a member of the royal family of the Benin.
Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch: LONNIE BUNCH, Smithsonian Institution Secretary: What this really is, is a reckoning for museums, for museums to say, we no longer say -- collect things just because we think it's right.
But now we marry the relationships with the communities.
And then, as we collect, we're ultimately doing a better job, because it's about not so much what we collect, but what we preserve.
JEFFREY BROWN: The Penn Museum, founded in 1887, holds some one million objects spanning 10,000 years of history, and it's also a leading research center.
It's been undergoing a major renovation in recent years, updating its exhibition spaces, reevaluating its collection and the information it offers the public, while also addressing several controversies surrounding its holdings.
One involved the Morton Collection, more than 1,300 human skulls gathered in the 19th century and used to advance racist eugenics theories.
It came to the Penn Museum in the 1960s.
More recent research suggested it includes the remains of 13 Black Philadelphians.
Plans for a reburial are ongoing.
Another recent revelation, that the museum held the partial remains of victims killed in the 1985 bombing by the Philadelphia police of a residential row house, home of members of the Black liberation MOVE organization.
The remains were returned last year, but the university and museum face continuing lawsuits.
Museum director Christopher Woods, who arrived a year ago, has a simple policy mantra for all repatriation questions: Let's do the right thing.
CHRISTOPHER WOODS, Director, Penn Museum: I think repatriation work is increasingly going to be a big part of what this museum does and what museums like ours do.
JEFFREY BROWN: His museum has agreed to return all its Benin Bronzes.
The best scenarios, he thinks, could be a win-win.
And when we talk about repatriation, it can be a kind of all or nothing.
CHRISTOPHER WOODS: Right.
JEFFREY BROWN: Send it all back, it's gone, issue ended.
CHRISTOPHER WOODS: I think that is the wrong way to think about it.
And it's not simply a matter of FedExing the material back.
It's about building these types of partnerships and collaboration.
In an ideal situation, we'd be allowed to keep some portion of the material on long-term loan, acknowledging the ownership of that material.
And the ability to have, say, a conservation training program or to conduct archaeological fieldwork in Nigeria, to have an exchange of personnel and ideas with our counterparts in Nigeria, this is exciting, and it really enhances the portfolio of projects that a research museum engages in.
JEFFREY BROWN: But it's complicated.
The Benin Bronzes are a clear-cut case of looting.
So much else here and elsewhere was collected in ways that were then legal that now, at the very least, raise questions of power imbalances and collection practices that are no longer considered ethical.
And Tukufu Zuberi seeks to complicate it further.
Yes, the Benin objects must be returned, he says, but that can't be the end of the conversation for museums.
They must engage more with African American communities, for one thing, and rethink their entire mission.
TUKUFU ZUBERI: Restitution can become whitewashing the issue if we forget that these objects came with people.
The enslavement of Africans, the enslavement of Africa, and the colonization in Africa are part and parcel of what we're looking at when we see these objects.
So, you can't now just sever that relationship.
JEFFREY BROWN: Send them back and then forget about it.
TUKUFU ZUBERI: And then forget about it.
(CROSSTALK) JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
That would be bad.
TUKUFU ZUBERI: That would be bad.
It is bad where people are doing it, because they're not creating a conversation.
It's too late to just see, you're going to put things back the way they were, because they are not like they were.
JEFFREY BROWN: In the meantime, negotiations continue for the return of the Benin Bronzes.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia.
AMNA NAWAZ: Thanks to some unusual sunspot activity, the aurora borealis, or northern lights, have been putting on a show much farther south than usual, giving more people more chances to catch a glimpse.
John Yang first reported on this phenomenon for "PBS News Weekend."
In case you missed it, here now is a second look at the dazzling display.
WOMAN: Look at -- they're everywhere.
JOHN YANG: Recently, they put on a dazzling display.
WOMAN: Oh, my gosh.
JOHN YANG: These time lapses taken by amateur photographers of the aurora borealis are stunning, from the deck of a cruise ship in Norway, to the Isle of Skye in Scotland, to the skies over Anchorage, Alaska.
The dancing shimmer across the night sky originates on the sun in a solar storm.
The colors and patterns come from ions and atoms being energized as they collide with the Earth's atmosphere and magnetic force.
Different altitudes result in different colors, below 60 miles, violet and reds, between 60 and 150 miles, bright green, higher than that, ruby reds.
In space, the colors were on display for astronaut Josh Cassada, who had one of the best seats in the house on board the International Space Station.
JOHN YANG: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.
GEOFF BENNETT: Seeing that in real life is on my bucket list.
(LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: Mine too.
GEOFF BENNETT: And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Geoff Bennett.
AMNA NAWAZ: And I'm Amna Nawaz.
On behalf of the entire "NewsHour" team, thank you for joining us.