November 5, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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November 5, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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11/05/2021 | 56m 44s | Video has closed captioning.
November 5, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: Biden agenda battle.
Speaker Pelosi announces a key vote will take place today on the president's infrastructure bill, as the fate of its passage remains in limbo.
Then: gaining momentum.
The latest U.S. jobs report shows hiring accelerating, another sign that the economy is recovering from the pandemic recession.
Plus: Taliban takeover.
Reporter Jane Ferguson is back on the ground in Afghanistan, as the country faces a dire economic and humanitarian crisis.
JANE FERGUSON: The World Food Program, the WFP, says that 14 million people in this country cannot feed themselves, they don't know where their next meal is going to come from.
That's out of a country of 38 million.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's Friday.
Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy consider this week's surprising election results and reflect on the life and legacy of Colin Powell.
All that and more on tonight's PBS NewsHour.
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: For most of today, Capitol Hill has been in limbo.
The key question, do Democrats have enough votes to pass a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill and move forward on a larger social spending plan?
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
LISA DESJARDINS: For President Joe Biden, today was supposed to bring two hard-fought wins.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: The number one priority should be seeing Congress pass these bills.
LISA DESJARDINS: House Democratic leaders said they would hold votes and pass two Biden agenda bills that total nearly $3 trillion.
To nudge wobbly Democrats, Biden went to the hill last week, made phone calls overnight, and was blunt this morning.
JOE BIDEN: I'm asking every House member, member of the House of Representatives, to vote yes on both these bills, right now.
Send the infrastructure bill to my desk.
Send the Build Back Better bill to the Senate.
LISA DESJARDINS: But, instead, a group of moderates caused a hard stop, refusing to vote on a usually simple motion to adjourn.
At least four Democratic lawmakers, including Representatives Stephanie Murphy, Kurt Schrader, Jared Golden, and Ed Case, demanded another cost estimate of the larger Build Back Better bill before voting for anything.
Thrown into limbo were two mega-bills, one, the infrastructure deal, a bipartisan, roughly $1 trillion package with money for roads and bridges, public transit and clean drinking water, and the other, the Build Back Better Act.
It's supported only by Democrats, with $1.75 trillion for child care and housing, climate change, and strengthening the Affordable Care Act.
Moderates have waited months for a vote on that first item, infrastructure, including Congressman Josh Gottheimer, who told "NewsHour" this in September.
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): You can't hold one up, this infrastructure bill, while you're working on the other one.
That just doesn't make sense for the country.
LISA DESJARDINS: Today was only the latest quicksand moment for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who last week had just gotten the other end of her caucus, progressives, on board.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is professional.
Let's do it in a timely fashion.
Let's not just keep having postponements.
LISA DESJARDINS: This was Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal a few days ago: REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): With the text, with the votes, we are ready to say, we trust you, Mr. President.
LISA DESJARDINS: But with new divides today, Pelosi signed on to a new plan, separate the bills, vote on infrastructure tonight and vote to advance, but not ultimately to pass Build Back Better yet.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: We're in the best place ever today to be able to go forward.
LISA DESJARDINS: That move toward moderates, again, was a problem for progressives, like Jared Huffman, who says both bills go or neither.
REP. JARED HUFFMAN (D-CA): This has been a bit of a curveball, this latest development, and it's unsettling and disruptive.
And I hope we can get back on that original track.
LISA DESJARDINS: Timing is also a factor at the Capitol, with the House and the Senate scheduled to be gone next week.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa joins me from the Capitol.
Lisa, it is dizzying.
So, bring us up to the moment.
Is either one of these bills going to come up for a vote?
LISA DESJARDINS: I thought of that exact same word.
I'm worried everyone is just sort of lost in the lights here.
That's the right question, Judy, yes.
The majority leader, Steny Hoyer, for the Democrats in the House, I asked him that question: Is infrastructure coming up for a vote?
He told me a short time ago 100 percent.
Listen to that, 100 percent, they will vote on the infrastructure bill tonight.
Let's take a look at the House floor right now.
Here's the thing.
They're still stuck in the middle of a past vote.
This is a procedural vote.
It's not substantive.
But the fact that they have been stuck on this vote for such a long time tells you that they are still working out the mechanics of what's ahead.
Judy, I think it will be a late night.
But we do expect both of these votes, sort of a procedural vote on the Build Back Better bill, but the major vote on the infrastructure bill, we expect tonight.
And here's the thing that people should know.
Pelosi is doing something I have never seen her do before.
It seems she is rolling the dice here.
It is not clear to those of us outside her office that she has the votes to pass that infrastructure bill tonight, because so many Democrats, including Pramila Jayapal, other progressives, have said they don't want to vote for it if these bills are separated tonight.
So Pelosi will need Republican help tonight.
Not clear she can get it.
Even if those Republicans and private support the infrastructure bill, it's bipartisan, this is a political matter tonight, and it's not clear Pelosi is going to succeed or not.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So tell us a little bit more about who had problems today and why.
LISA DESJARDINS: Right.
So the moderates had a couple of concerns.
One, we talked about before, was the cost of the bill.
They simply did not trust the initial cost estimate they were given.
They want the other from the Congressional Budget Office.
But a big issue for moderates, Judy, also are the provisions about immigration and the idea of a status for undocumented immigrants.
Some of those front-line Democrats, moderates, are worried that that would be an issue they could lose on next year at the polls.
On the other hand, progressives felt that moderates kept moving the goalposts.
And they feel like they have come to the table with earnest -- sort of being very honest about where they stood.
They want the Build Back Better bill.
And these two sides, again, as I told -- said last night, they just can't say I do to each other at the same time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, I know you have covered both the president, President Biden, and Speaker Pelosi for many years.
What does what's going on today tell you about them and about the Democratic Caucus?
LISA DESJARDINS: Fascinating.
Speaker Pelosi has a well-earned reputation as being one of the best vote-counters and schedulers, not just in this Congress, but in any recent Congress.
And I think we saw, with this situation, with this close margin - - she only has three votes that she can lose on anything -- that she really overestimated, I think, her ability to push her caucus.
I think there's something else to realize about the Democrats in the House right now.
A third of them are relatively new.
They have only been here since 2017, vs. Pelosi, who's been here for decades.
That's also a factor for President Biden.
He operates sort of on an older, I think Senate way of working things out behind closed doors calmly.
And some people I talk to here say, yes, he was involved, but perhaps he should have been less congenial and really taken more of a stand and really told, for example, moderates and progressives, you need to vote now, vs. placing that on Speaker Pelosi to do, which is how he handled it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, finally, let's just step back to understand.
Tell us again, where do these bills stand?
What needs to happen next for there to be final passage eventually?
LISA DESJARDINS: Right, .
Well, I think the first thing that needs to happen next for the country is everyone to just have a weekend break perhaps from this story.
But, after tonight, we will see, first of all, if the infrastructure bill revives the vote.
Then, on Build Back Better, we know that that's not going to pass tonight.
They won't even vote on that in the House tonight.
So, we are going to have to wait now for Democrats to get that cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.
That will take who knows how long, days.
Could even be weeks.
That is a potential time cost that could affect them.
In the meanwhile, there will still be more talks with the Senate.
I want to tell folks about that large bill, the truth is, there's a lot of support from everyone in the House in the Democrats on Build Back Better.
That will pass probably when it comes up.
The funny thing is, the House has been the easy part.
So once we get past all of this, Judy, you and I will probably be spending time talking about the Senate, where things are still very tricky on that large bill.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Follow the bouncing ball.
I have a feeling you're going to be working late tonight, Lisa Desjardins.
LISA DESJARDINS: The weekend will come, though.
We will get there.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The weekend, it will come.
Lisa, thank you very much.
LISA DESJARDINS: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The October jobs report showed a new surge of hiring, after the latest COVID-19 surge.
Employers added a net 531,000 workers, and unemployment dropped to 4.6 percent.
President Biden hailed the numbers and touted his policies.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Forecasters said it would take until the end of 2023, until the end of 2023, to get to 4.6 unemployment rate.
Today, we have reached that rate two years before forecasters thought it was possible.
I would humbly suggest this is a significant improvement from when I took office.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We will take a closer look at all this after the news summary.
Pfizer announced strong results today for an oral medication to treat COVID.
Trials show the pill cuts infections and deaths by nearly 90 percent in high-risk adults.
Pfizer said it will apply soon for FDA authorization.
Also today, at least 26 states, nearly all of them led by Republicans, sued to block a federal vaccine requirement for federal vaccine requirement for large companies.
Three white man accused of murdering a black man, Ahmaud Arbery, formally went on trial today in Brunswick, Georgia.
The prosecutor charged they jumped to conclusions that Arbery was a burglar before chasing after him.
The defense argued that they were defending their neighborhood.
They spoke in opening statements.
LINDA DUNIKOSKI, Cobb County, Georgia, Assistant District Attorney: All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions.
And they made decisions in their driveways based on those assumptions that took a young man's life.
ROBERT RUBIN, Defense Attorney: There was probable cause to believe a felony had been committed, and that this man was attempting to escape or flee.
That's why citizen's arrest is in this case.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The case is being heard by a nearly all-white jury.
Authorities in Mexico are condemning a new eruption of drug violence along their Caribbean coast.
Fifteen gunmen stormed ashore Thursday near a luxury resort just South of Cancun, and killed two rival gang members.
Tourists and resort staff took refuge in a hotel and waited for the shoot-out to end.
The attackers escaped by boat.
Thousands of young people demanded stronger action on climate change today outside the ongoing global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
The protesters marched, carrying signs and calling for world leaders to do more.
They warned that the summit is falling far short of what is needed.
The U.S. State Department is moving to heed appeals that it do more on so-called Havana Syndrome.
American diplomats and intelligence officers have reported hundreds of cases, starting in Cuba in 2016.
No one has identified a cause.
Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new coordinator of the investigations.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. Secretary of State: These incidents have left our colleagues with profound harm.
They have experienced serious physical consequences, including persistent headaches and hearing loss.
They have also experienced psychological harm, including trauma, anxiety, depression.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This month, President Biden signed a bill to improve medical care for those reporting symptoms.
Boeing has agreed to pay nearly $238 million to settle a shareholders lawsuit over safety oversight of the 737 MAX.
The settlement also calls for a new director with safety expertise and an ombudsman program.
The 736 (sic) MAX planes were grounded for 20 months after two fatal crashes.
And on Wall Street today, stocks reached more record closes after the October jobs report.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 203 points to finish at 36328.
The Nasdaq rose 31 points.
The S&P 500 added 17.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": a firsthand look at efforts to address Afghanistan's growing humanitarian crisis; Nicaragua's leader further dismantles the country's democracy and tightens his grip on power ahead of elections; Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Louise Erdrich discusses the importance of indigenous literature; plus much more.
As we reported, the latest jobs data showed significant growth across different sectors of the economy, a promising sign of recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 Delta variant surge.
Amna Nawaz explains.
AMNA NAWAZ: That's right, Judy.
Not only did the government report stronger-than-expected gains last month, but it also found more jobs were created in August and September than had been previously estimated.
Last month, the private sector picked up momentum, with the leisure and hospitality sector adding 164,000 jobs.
The professional business sector grew by 100,000, manufacturing by 60,000 more jobs.
Joining us from Chicago to explain what this means is Diane Swonk.
She's the chief economist at Grant Thornton.
That's a financial services firm.
Diane, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Thanks for being with us.
I wonder, big picture, you see these job numbers growing, unemployment dipped slightly.
Overall, when you look at these, where are the picture it paints of where we are in the recovery?
DIANE SWONK, Grant Thornton: Well, it means that we're finally making more progress again towards healing.
We haven't fully recouped all the jobs lost, but we're whittling away at it much more rapidly.
And I think we're going to see an acceleration once we go into November and December.
The number of people who actually couldn't work because they were ill actually fell by 150,000 between September and October, again, a sign of the Delta wave easing its pressure on the U.S. economy that we saw over the summer.
And even then, as we already heard, the economy was much more resilient during the summer.
Also more important to note is how the private sector accelerated job gains and offset declines in education, which is a problem, but the good news is, they're picking up the baton from the public sector at a critical time, when many people have lost, millions have lost the unemployment benefits they had in September and the supplements to those benefits that lapsed in early September.
AMNA NAWAZ: A few details that add some nuance to that report related to that, in fact, labor force participation did remain flat, right around 61, 62 percent.
So about 100,000 more people did enter the work force, but millions still stayed out.
That means there were still worker shortages.
A lot of people thought that would change when those unemployment benefits went away and school started back up.
How do you look at that work force number?
DIANE SWONK: That is one of the biggest problems out there.
Not only did we have 1.5 million excess retirements above the trend we had seen pre-pandemic during the pandemic.
We don't know if those workers that are staying on the shadow, on the sidelines are actually going to come back.
We also had lost a lot of workers to long-haul COVID as well.
There's over a million workers that currently are struggling with long-haul COVID, which is a disability.
They have not applied for disability yet.
But that may be something we see going forward.
But most importantly are the -- is the need to provide care, child care in particular.
Not only did we see education employment continue to fall.
School districts across the country have struggled to try to compete with the Amazons and Walmarts of the world to put support staff in place for many of the after-school programs that make it possible for low-wage parents and single parents to actually get back into the work force.
That's really a hurdle out there.
We also saw child care continue to decline, so -- in terms of employment.
So that child care aspect of it, getting women back in the labor force, although they upticked in their participation a bit, that was after losing ground in September.
We're still missing a lot of women that were hardest hit by the initial layoffs.
AMNA NAWAZ: Diane, we know the recovery has not been equal for everyone.
I want to take a look at some numbers from earlier this year to see if it remains the same.
When you look at states that had higher vaccination rates vs. lower ones and how the recovery is going -- this is according to Fitch Ratings, a market analysis firm, numbers between March and August.
Vermont, which had a very high vaccination rate of 75 percent, saw an increase, 23 percent of those jobs coming back.
Wyoming, on the other hand -- and this is, again, from March to August -- a very low vaccination rate of 44 percent, and they saw an 8 percent decrease in the number of jobs.
Has that trend, Diane, higher vaccination rate, faster recovery, has that continued?
DIANE SWONK: Well, what we're seeing out there, that is part of the trend.
And it's layered on top of the idea that, when we have less fear of contagion, we can congregate more and go to places that are vacation hot spots.
We can travel more.
We can do all the things that we want to do, see each other more.
We can go and get medical visits that we deferred during the crisis.
That didn't happen as much during the summer during the Delta wave.
And those vaccination rates did play a role because they happen to be in places that also were hit hardest by some of these service sector losses.
We are seeing places that do have higher vaccination rates, like New York City, where people aren't returning as much to their offices.
The work-from-home phenomena has also been a problem of getting workers -- not having workers where the jobs are.
The jobs are in the suburbs and vacation hot spots now.
And, of course, the workers in urban areas don't have a way of getting there.
Or, if they do, the cost of commuting has gone up so much that, even with the wage gains we have seen at those lower wage jobs, are making it a hard time for them to apply for them.
AMNA NAWAZ: And even with the picture of recovery, I believe we're still four million jobs below where we were at that peak back in February of 2020.
Diane Swonk joining us tonight, chief economist at Grant Thornton, from Chicago, thank you so much for your time.
DIANE SWONK: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It's been nearly three months since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and the country is in economic and humanitarian freefall.
Our Jane Ferguson was there in August.
And, with the support of the Pulitzer Center, she's now returned to report on the increasingly dire situation.
And Jane joins me now.
Jane, it's so good to see you.
You have been in Afghanistan now for over a week.
Give us a sense of just how serious this humanitarian crisis is.
JANE FERGUSON: A number of factors, Judy, have come together to make it an absolute economic freefall here.
We just returned from Herat, where the drought has meant wheat has reduced by about a third in the country.
Most people here rely on bread as a staple.
As a result, hospitals across the country, those that have managed to remain open, are finding malnutrition wards filled with tiny, sick babies, with mothers who can't feed their babies, with many families that are struggling to feed their families at all.
Also, the aid community largely left.
I mean, many of the aid organizations are still here, but in a much smaller capacity.
People who worked with organizations that were being funded by the international aid community have had their salaries stopped.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jane, in addition to that, there's the issue of terror threats.
There was an attack in Kabul last week that left over two dozen people dead.
Give us a sense of the nature of the threat now that the Taliban is in control.
JANE FERGUSON: Well, despite the fact that the Taliban used to undertake these kinds of attacks on a regular basis for years in Kabul, they now find themselves having to repel these attacks that are being carried out by the Afghan version of ISIS, or ISIS-K, as they call it here.
On Tuesday, there was a huge attack, as you have said, in a major military hospital here, the Daud Khan Hospital in the center of Kabul, and that killed about 25 people, including a senior commander within the Taliban.
So that was a major victory for ISIS over the Taliban, and only underscores the pressure that the group is under.
They're meant to be the group of law and order, of bringing an end to this war.
That's what they said whenever they entered Kabul.
But if people here continue to see these attacks, it continues to undermine their grip of power across the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jane, you were telling us it's not just ISIS.
There are other challenges facing this new government.
JANE FERGUSON: There are huge challenges facing the Taliban, arguably even larger than the ISIS threat at the moment, existential challenges to their control of this country.
Many of the technocrats, most of them are not back in their jobs.
Many of them got on those C-17 flights out of this country.
When you go to major government ministries, the huge buildings here in Kabul, most of them are empty.
There are not people here running the country.
Added to that is the fact that, even if they weren't here, they wouldn't be able to pay their salaries.
And they're only going to come under more pressure from the public if people face extreme economic hardships and famine.
They're also -- they're also struggling to really build an international entity for themselves, or at least to be accepted internationally.
They very much so want to be taken seriously diplomatically.
However, their moves since taking over the government here have not made that easy for the international community, banning girls from school from a certain age.
Teenage girls are not allowed to go to school, university.
Forming a government that doesn't represent the various ethnicities in the government - - in the country across Afghanistan, many of these moves have been seen as isolating them even further from diplomatic communities.
And that only cuts them off from the likelihood of aid and finances even further.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, it just sounds like problems from every direction one can imagine.
Jane Ferguson, who is reporting for us back in Afghanistan.
Jane, thank you so much.
JANE FERGUSON: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nicaragua is days away from holding an election that the U.S. government calls a sham.
President Daniel Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term, and silencing the opposition before the first vote is cast.
He has jailed opposition leaders and attacked critical media, and his inevitable victory has implications for the U.S. Nick Schifrin reports.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Nicaragua has become a police state.
And for these relatives of opposition politicians who've been detained, the crackdown is complete.
CARLOS FERNANDO CHAMORRO, Nicaraguan Journalist: There is no democracy.
Democracy has been demolished.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Carlos Fernando Chamorro is a Nicaraguan journalist now in exile.
His is one Nicaragua's most prominent families, now the target of authoritarianism.
His mother, Violeta, became president in the '90s by defeating Daniel Ortega during his first term.
Carlos' cousin Juan Sebastian was an opposition candidate, before he was detained in June.
And his sister Cristiana was an opposition candidate before she was detained and charged by Ortega's government with money laundering and ideological falseness.
CARLOS FERNANDO CHAMORRO: He cannot face the leadership that are trying to represent this aspiration of democracy and justice.
He cannot risk power in a competitive election.
So he basically decided to cancel the electoral role.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In all, this year, Nicaraguan authorities have detained seven presidential candidates, 39 leaders perceived as government opponents, ruled major opposition parties illegal, shut down dozens of non-governmental organizations, and raided major media organizations, including Chamorro's.
CARLOS FERNANDO CHAMORRO: There is an order of arrest against myself for being a journalist.
We have a new political majority in Nicaragua.
It was very clear from that moment when people took up the streets and they protested in different forms.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The majority was born in 2018 protests.
Ortega announced changes in the country's pension system that ignited national demonstrations.
The response was brutal.
Police and pro-government paramilitary groups killed more than 300 people.
WENDY ACEVEDO, Director, Nunca Mas (through translator): Nicaragua is currently living and suffering a dictatorship, because there are no independent, autonomous democratic institutions that guarantee the rights of citizens.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Wendy Acevedo has been a human rights activist for 20 years.
In 2018, police raided her office and accused her group of what she calls trumped-up charges.
It forced her into exile.
She now helps leads a group that documents human rights violations.
It's called Nunca Mas, Spanish for Never Again.
WENDY ACEVEDO (through translator): Never again, because never again do we want dictatorship in our country, never again impunity, never again to be forgotten.
And one of our main areas of work is the recovery of the historical memory, so these situations we Nicaraguans have experienced never happen to us again.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Ortega's been at the center of Nicaraguan history for decades.
He came to power as a Sandinista guerrilla commander who helped overthrow a dictatorship and became president in 1984.
After losing to Violeta Chamorro in 1990, he returned to power in 2006.
Over time, he consolidated power, muzzled dissent, and oversaw modest growth.
But, today, Nicaragua is the region's second poorest country; 30 percent live below the poverty line.
And since 2018, there's been a steady economic downturn, aggravated by COVID and two Category 4 hurricanes that struck within weeks of each other.
That helped lead to a mass exodus.
In June and July, the Department of Homeland Security says more than 20,000 Nicaraguans attempted to cross the U.S. border, the highest number ever.
TIZIANO BREDA, International Crisis Group: Under the circumstances, this is not sustainable.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Tiziano Breda is the Central America analyst for International Crisis Group.
TIZIANO BREDA: The country and the government resulting from this one-sided election is unlikely to attract and to restore the sort of economic buoyancy that he experienced before.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The Trump and Biden administrations imposed targeted sanctions and travel bans on Ortega, his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, and other senior officials.
And just this week, lawmakers approved new legislation calling for more sanctions on Nicaraguans responsible for unfair elections.
Today, a senior Biden administration official said the president would avoid signing the bill before Sunday's election, in order to avoid giving Ortega a justification for future crackdowns.
But for an American president who's been focused on promoting democracy, Sunday's elections is a direct challenge, says Breda.
TIZIANO BREDA: It could be used by others, like either one of these authoritarian, to follow Ortega's footsteps, if they perceive that the cost of doing that would not be so high.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But the cost has been high for the activists.
You have been fighting for human rights for decades.
You had to flee your home with your family.
Why is it worth it?
WENDY ACEVEDO (through translator): I want a free Nicaragua, a democratic Nicaragua that respects human rights.
May my daughter and son live in peace and freedom, that they can have education, health, and all the rights that every people should have in any country in the world.
And I really believe that this can bring about profound changes in our society.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But, right now, change is not coming.
This weekend, Ortega will declare victory and try and entrench his rule even deeper.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats and Republicans across the country are examining Tuesday night's surprising election results, with an eye toward crafting their strategies for next year's crucial midterm election races.
Meanwhile, dignitaries in Washington today gathered to remember the life and legacy of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Here to add perspective on all this and more are Capehart and Abernathy.
That's Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post, and Gary Abernathy, an Ohio-based writer and contributing columnist for The Washington Post.
David Brooks is away.
It's very good to see both of you.
And, Gary, you're here from Ohio, and we're glad to see you.
GARY ABERNATHY: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what a week, as the three of us were just saying.
Jonathan Capehart, you have now had three whole days to think about what happened, what the voters said on Tuesday, and what do you think it was?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: So, I split it between Virginia and New Jersey.
With Virginia, governor-elect Glenn Youngkin showed that it's possible to embrace Trump voters with -- but, at the same time, keep Donald Trump out of your -- physically out of your state.
He showed, as I mentioned last week, the role of playing on racial fear to drive people out to the polls, particularly when it comes to so-called Critical Race Theory.
In New Jersey, the near political death experience of Governor Phil Murphy, Democrat, to my mind shows the larger, bigger national -- the problem that the national Democratic Party has.
Governor Murphy is popular in New Jersey.
He was running on the president's agenda, basically, and the fact that he squeaked it out says that folks in New Jersey are tired, seemingly, of the dysfunction of Democrats arguing with each other over bills, not being able to show they can get anything done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We saw more of that today.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes, and still going on today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: And so the party has to figure out how to reach those voters that Glenn Youngkin reached, be able to talk to them, but also show the country that they're competent, that they are worthy of being entrusted with governing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gary Abernathy, what messages do you think the voters were delivering?
GARY ABERNATHY: Well, a lot of Democrats are saying that the message was: We need to do more.
We haven't done this.
We were punished for not passing these bills we promised we were going to pass.
I think it's the opposite.
I think voters were saying: We don't like what you're doing.
Now, there are two different things here, and the Democrats try to tie them together, the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill, two different things.
The infrastructure bill has tremendous bipartisan support.
They should pass that.
They should pass that tonight and show they're doing something, not just politically, but the country needs this infrastructure bill.
But people thought -- we have to remember, the 2020 election was a referendum on Donald Trump.
It was not about issues.
It was not about what Biden was promising to do.
It was, we either want Trump, more of him, or we're going to kick him out.
They voted to kick him out.
The majority did.
But they thought they were getting a safe alternative with Joe Biden.
And he turned out to be a guy who's been much more aggressively liberal with the Bernie Sanders wing than people were voting for.
One key thing from the exit polls on -- the Edison exit polls that I think The Washington Post used and other networks... JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
GARY ABERNATHY: ... said that Trump is still unpopular in Virginia.
Seven out of 10 voters thought that Youngkin's policies and ideas were much like Trump's.
Didn't hurt him a bit.
People are OK with Trump's policies.
They just didn't like Trump.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about what the Democrats are offering?
I hear you, the two of you, saying different things about whether Americans want what the Democrats are debating and still haven't been able to pass yet, Jonathan.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, I think that's the problem.
They still haven't been able to pass it.
If you tease out every little thing out of both the infrastructure bill, which we know has bipartisan support, but even what's in the Build Back Better Act, last I checked - - there are so many things in it -- but if you tease out the individual pieces, they have popular support.
It's just that, if you're going to go for it, and you have got the House and you have got the Senate and you have the White House, to the larger American public who doesn't follow the stuff the way we do, they sit back and think, why can't you get anything done if you have all three of these branches?
And that is why this is such a problem for Democrats and the president.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What I hear you saying, Gary, is, even if they pass this other piece of legislation, that that may not help the Democrats.
GARY ABERNATHY: I think it hurts them.
I think that it's -- again, I'm going to say - - and Jonathan and I are disagreeing on this, but the message Tuesday was: We don't like the direction you're going.
The Democrats, really, if they stopped to evaluate what happened Tuesday, they would be better off sitting and letting Joe Manchin lead the discussion, while Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez kind of sit to the side a little bit and listen, because I think Manchin, to his credit, kind of has a pulse on where America is at now.
And, no, the Democrat Party doesn't have to become the Republican Party, but Joe Manchin is a pretty centrist Democrat who's trying to wave the red flag and ring the warning bells, and no one's listening to him yet.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: OK.
The Democratic Party, in the Build Back Better plan, for instance, would love for there to be paid family leave.
And I guess conservatives look at paid family leave as paying people to stay home, instead of looking at the domino effect of what it means in order for a family to not risk their job in order to stay home for whatever -- for whatever reason, grieving the loss of a parent, a new child coming into the family.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: There are economic benefits that the American people want, the Earned Income Tax Credit for children, any number of things.
It's not -- I don't think it's that the American people don't want these things and that these aren't a grab bag of things to just give away.
They have a benefit for the long-term health and security, economic well-being of this country.
GARY ABERNATHY: I think Americans do want a lot of those things, and they do poll as popular item by item.
But Americans love ice cream.
If you did a poll, you would find out almost 100 percent of Americans love ice cream.
It doesn't mean they approve of spending trillions of dollars to give everyone free ice cream.
Not everybody can have things that we all agree, gee, that would be nice.
But, at some point in time, there comes a point where we have to say, we don't have any money.
I mean, we're -- I don't care if we're talking $6 trillion, $3 trillion, $1 trillion.
It doesn't exist.
So I think the American people know that too.
Yes, we'd like to have all these things, but our great-grandchildren pay for it?
JUDY WOODRUFF: One other piece of analysis that's been out there, and it came from James Carville, a longtime Democratic strategist on this program Wednesday night, Jonathan, essentially said this woke business has gone too far, the focus on injustice in our society.
Does he have a point or not?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: He has a point up to a point.
I understand where James Carville is coming from.
I have heard the quote in full and in context, I get where he's coming from.
But what he's done is, he's basically said to the base of the Democratic Party: Who cares what you think?
He calls it wokeness.
Is it -- it's not wokeness to want to be treated fairly by the police.
It's not wokeness to want law enforcement to not view you instantly as a criminal, instantly as a bad guy.
It's not wokeness to demand that our nation's history be taught and reflected accurately.
That's not wokeness.
That's -- at a minimum, it's asking for dignity and respect.
And so for someone, a Democratic strategist like James Carville, to say those things basically to the base of the Democratic Party is really unfortunate, because I think we can talk about these issues of injustice and talk about how to move the country forward together.
These don't have to be two separate conversations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This is a larger debate that's been out there, Gary.
GARY ABERNATHY: And I actually agree with a lot of what Jonathan just said.
I think that we can talk about the role of slavery, the role of racism in this country.
And we should do more of that.
I agree with that.
But there doesn't have to be -- I think what happens is with the wokeness, what a lot of us think of as the wokeness, the cancel culture, is that we have to create villains.
We have to demonize.
To lift up one set of people means we have to demonize another set of people.
And that's what turns a lot of people off to having the conversation.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: No, I mean, I understand where the sentiment comes from about demonizing people.
But -- the people I talked to and the people who I'm associated with and related to, we're not about demonizing anybody.
We're about - - could you recognize for a hot minute what we go through?
Can you recognize that there was a clip of a Youngkin supporter saying, well, if young people just treat police with respect when they're stopped, everything will be OK?
No, that is not true.
That is not true.
And so for -- until someone like her is able to see that perspective, we're always going to have this problem.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Like that young person.
GARY ABERNATHY: Yes.
We tend to -- on all things, whether we're talking about Critical Race Theory, which is not a thing being taught in Virginia schools, but it's a thing.
I mean, it's a theory that a lot of people would like to have taught.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: In -- well, it... GARY ABERNATHY: Go ahead.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: It's taught in law school.
GARY ABERNATHY: Yes.
But there have been -- I mean, there have been pushes to get it more into curriculums.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, that's a larger conversation that we don't have time for.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It's a larger conversation.
GARY ABERNATHY: But there are -- it's like one extreme and the other -- or the other.
We need to talk, to recognize more about what?
As I said, slavery and race and racism have played a role throughout history in the building of this country, and do that honestly.
And white people shouldn't be afraid to say, you know what, we really haven't done that well, and we need to do a better job of that recognize it, but without making us feel like the villains for doing it.
And I think there is a lot of that.
There's a lot of emphasis on white people need to feel a certain amount of guilt over this.
And we need to get past that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want you to make a comment, and then I want to bring up something else.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Sure.
I'm not -- I'm not asking for guilt.
But I do think white people have to get over the - - feeling villainized just even when the word race is used in a sentence.
GARY ABERNATHY: And you may be right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It's a conversation we should continue to have next Friday.
(LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: But speaking of all this, someone who I think represents what black Americans have meant to this country was memorialized today.
And that was, of course, Colin Powell.
There was a service for him.
He was remembered as someone who is an example for generations to come, someone who worked across party lines.
In just a few words, Jonathan, what is his legacy?
What should we take away from this man?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: He was a statesman.
He was a warrior statesman.
He was the best of this country.
He -- when he was thinking about running for president in 19 -- in the '96 election, you know what?
I was a young editorial writer at The New York Daily News.
I was a big fan of President Clinton.
But the idea that a black man would run for president and had a chance to win left me a little conflicted, because he was a walking role model of who we should be as Americans, but also a walking role model for me, a young black man, seeing a black man like him walking through the corridors of power as if he was just walking in the park.
We need more -- we need more people like Colin Powell, regardless of party.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Admired by so many.
Just 30 seconds.
GARY ABERNATHY: Yes, I can't improve on that, but -- other than to say, to me, Colin Powell always represented a very classy person, just conducted himself with class.
Even when he was upset about something, even when he was angry about something, even in his criticisms of people, it was done with style and class, which is why I think he was so widely admired across the divide.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we remember him fondly today.
GARY ABERNATHY: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gary Abernathy, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks, Judy.
GARY ABERNATHY: Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A new novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Minneapolis resident Louise Erdrich reflects on the city's upheaval in 2020 amid the pandemic and the police killing of George Floyd.
Jeffrey Brown has this look, as part of our ongoing arts and culture coverage, canvas.
JEFFREY BROWN: Another day in the life of a small independent bookstore, but this one in Minneapolis is a bit unusual.
It has a confessional and a canoe overhead.
It specializes in Native American literature and subjects.
And there's a ghost who hovers in the fiction section, a former customer who died, but refuses to leave.
The store is real enough.
It's called Birchbark Books.
The ghost story is fiction, titled "The Sentence" written by a store owner and acclaimed novelist Louise Erdrich.
LOUISE ERDRICH, Author, "The Sentence": I was always going to write a book about a ghost in a bookstore.
JEFFREY BROWN: You -- because -- well, because... LOUISE ERDRICH: Why wouldn't you?
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
LOUISE ERDRICH: Why wouldn't you want to write about a haunted bookstore?
Because there's so much life in a bookstore.
Now, a book is so much more than transactional object.
The words are flooding in, and ideas are filling you and emotion.
It's haunting in a good way.
JEFFREY BROWN: But her story is also about a deeper and more painful hunting, of the city in which she lives in works, amid pandemic and the murder of George Floyd in South Minneapolis and the protests that followed.
It's told through the voice of a character named Tookie, a Native woman with her own difficult past.
LOUISE ERDRICH: This is the first book I have ever written in real time.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
LOUISE ERDRICH: I'm still kind of aghast, because I didn't know how to handle all of this at all.
So, all I could do was try to keep it very narrowly focused through the eyes of one incredibly fallible character, one woman.
JEFFREY BROWN: Was it hard to do?
Was it a good escape from what was happening?
LOUISE ERDRICH: It wasn't an escape.
It was - - it was the most difficult piece of writing I have ever done.
JEFFREY BROWN: Erdrich grew up in the Red River Valley of North Dakota, daughter of a German American father and Chippewa mother.
She's a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, a tribal nation near the Canadian border, and much of her prolific and often bestselling writing novels, children's books, poetry is centered on the experience of indigenous people in the Upper Midwest.
"The Round House" won the 2012 National Book Award, "The Night Watchman" the 2021 Pulitzer Prize.
It's a fictionalized account of her grandfather, Patrick Grouneau, a tribal leader, and his generation's struggle in the 1950s against so-called termination, an effort by the U.S. government to tear up treaties and take back tribal reservation lands.
Her way into difficult subjects, she told me on a walk along the Mississippi River, is always through stories.
LOUISE ERDRICH: If you're going to talk about termination, it's really very technical and boring.
JEFFREY BROWN: Right.
LOUISE ERDRICH: But if you are seeing it through the eyes of someone who is suddenly faced with termination and really the extinction of one's standing in the world, and one's way of life, and one's very lives depend on the land, then it's very different.
And then it becomes not a matter of politics, but a matter of what this does to a human being.
JEFFREY BROWN: In "The Sentence," as in real life, Erdrich's Native characters join the protests, with a deep sense of a long history of police brutality aimed at American Indians who migrated or were pushed into the Twin Cities.
The characters to them, what's happening in real time, Minneapolis 2020, feels very familiar to them.
LOUISE ERDRICH: Yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: Did it feel familiar to you?
LOUISE ERDRICH: Yes, in a terrible way.
I think I felt like so many people did, that I felt a sense of failure.
JEFFREY BROWN: In what sense?
LOUISE ERDRICH: Well, I love this city.
And the people who live in the city and work in the city, I think, feel a sense that the city failed miserably.
We can't live with this.
Nobody can live with this.
And, as well, we live in a city that has been divided, redlined.
So many things that have been handed down through these decades and decades of systemic racism, it all came bubbling up, as it would.
JEFFREY BROWN: There are also more hopeful themes embedded in "The Sentence" about the love of books.
LOUISE ERDRICH: Do you like science fiction?
JEFFREY BROWN: Erdrich herself loves nothing more than offering recommendations to an eager reader.
Also, and especially, there's the portrait of those she calls Indigerati.
JEFFREY BROWN: Native literature lovers, right?
(LAUGHTER) LOUISE ERDRICH: Yes, and immersed in their language and immersed in their worlds and setting their own agenda for life.
But I have four daughters.
So, I was very - - I was really touched by them all the time.
JEFFREY BROWN: One daughter, Persia, studied and now teaches the Native Ojibwe language to young children.
LOUISE ERDRICH: There's a very deep thing that's happening there, because my grandfather was the last person in our family who spoke Ojibwe fluently.
And my daughter would have been able to speak with him.
He had no one to really speak with at some point.
But my daughter would have been able to speak with him.
They're speaking the same language.
JEFFREY BROWN: Her bookstore also exemplifies an exciting new chapter in American literature, an explosion of works in recent years by a new generation of Native writers.
LOUISE ERDRICH: That was something that I always thought, it's going to happen, it's going to happen.
And it started happening.
And then, all of a sudden, it just -- it just blew up, as they say.
(LAUGHTER) JEFFREY BROWN: With Louise Erdrich, writer and bookstore owner, helping to lead the way.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown in Minneapolis.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we were discussing earlier, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., today, family, friends and colleagues of the late Secretary of State Colin Powell gathered to memorialize him.
Presidents Biden, Obama and Bush and another secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, were among the guests.
As some of Powell's favorite songs played, a handful who knew him well shared stories about who he was as a statesman, friend, and father.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Former U.S. Secretary of State: My heart is sad, for I have lost a friend.
He and I were shaped by different experiences and had different ideas and represented different departments.
But over the past quarter-century, we also became very close friends.
The reason is, that beneath that glossy exterior of warrior statesman was one of the gentlest and most decent people any of us will ever meet.
RICHARD ARMITAGE, Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State: Secretary Powell, General Powell, Colin, C.P., however you knew him.
And visiting the foreign minister of Sweden, Anna Lindh, was in.
And she knew of Secretary Powell's affection for ABBA.
So she opened up a full C.D.
set of ABBA and presented it to him.
Colin immediately went down on one knee and sang the entire "Mamma Mia."
(SINGING) MICHAEL POWELL, Son of Colin Powell: Not long ago, he was driving his Corvette on the Beltway and got a flat tire.
A young disabled veteran saw him and pulled over to help.
A few days later, to thank him for his help, my father invited the vet and his entire family over to the house for dinner.
I have heard it asked, are we still making his kind?
I believe the answer to that question is up to us.
I hope we recommit ourselves to being a nation where we are still making his kind.
Colin Powell was a great lion with a big heart.
We will miss him terribly.
(SINGING) JUDY WOODRUFF: A life that brought so much to all of us.
And on the "NewsHour" online: While social media giants like Facebook have been facing increased scrutiny about sowing misinformation, we took a look at how misinformation is spread on private messaging apps like WhatsApp and how falsehoods affect the millions of people who use them, particularly the international diaspora communities who use these apps as a primary way of communicating with family.
You can read more at PBS.org/NewsHour.
And for more analysis on Tuesday's elections and the latest from Capitol Hill, join moderator Yamiche Alcindor and her panel on tonight's "Washington Week" on PBS.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again here Monday evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and have a good weekend.