PBS NewsHour full episode, Dec 30. 2019

PBS NewsHour full episode, Dec 30. 2019


NICK SCHIFRIN: Good evening. I’m Nick Schifrin.
Judy Woodruff is away. On the “NewsHour” tonight: under attack. Violence
in a rabbi’s home and a Texas church spark fears over the safety of sacred spaces. Then: targeting Iran. After the U.S. strikes
an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq and Syria, we examine the American strategy in the region. And the Politics Monday team breaks down the
state of the 2020 campaign as we move into the new year. All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) NICK SCHIFRIN: Federal prosecutors in New
York today filed hate crimes charges against the man who allegedly attacked a rabbi’s home
during a Hanukkah party. Grafton Thomas is accused of wounding five
people with a machete in Monsey north of New York City. He already faces state charges
of attempted murder and burglary. We will have much more on this after the news
summary. The government of Iraq today condemned U.S.
military strikes on an Iraqi militia group backed by Iran. The Sunday attacks killed
25 fighters and wounded dozens. U.S. officials said it was retaliation for rocket fire that
killed an American defense contractor and wounded American soldiers. Today, militia supporters in the city of Basra
burned American flags and vowed revenge. MAN (through translator): We would like to
tell the American troops, whatever you bombed, whatever you killed, we will stay. We are
steadfast, defending our territories, sacred places and dignity. NICK SCHIFRIN: We will take a closer look
at all of this later in the program. In Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed an attack
that killed 14 people. Hours earlier, Taliban officials had said they agreed to a temporary
cease-fire, but gave no details. The pre-dawn attack came in Jowzjan province in Northern
Afghanistan and targeted the site of a pro-government militia. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared today
to escalate threats of renewed confrontation with the U.S. He called for — quote — “positive
and offensive measures” — unquote — to ensure North Korea’s security. Kim has set a year-end
deadline for U.S. concessions in nuclear talks that are currently stalled. The White House has confirmed that President
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Sunday. A statement today
said Putin thanked Mr. Trump for information that — quote — “helped foil a potential
holiday terrorist attack in Russia.” The White House gave no additional details. A court in China has sentenced a scientist
to three years in prison after he claimed to create the world’s first gene-edited babies.
He Jiankui was convicted of practicing medicine without a license. He triggered a worldwide
ethical debate last year, saying he had altered embryos of twin girls to prevent infection
by the AIDS virus. Back in this country, Georgia Congressman
and civil rights legend John Lewis says he will stay in office after being diagnosed
with stage four pancreatic cancer. The veteran Democrat announced the diagnosis on Sunday.
He said he will begin treatment and thinks he has a fighting chance. Lewis is 79 years
old. New census data shows this year’s population
growth rate in the U.S. was the slowest in a century, at less than half-a-percent. The
Census Bureau cites fewer births, increased deaths and a drop in international migration.
Overall, the country added 1.5 million people, to reach 328 million. And on Wall Street, stocks gave ground, as
investors took year-end profits. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 183 points to close
at 28462. The Nasdaq fell 60 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 18. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: under attack
— weekend violence in what had been considered sanctuaries; targeting Iran — the impact
of yesterday’s airstrikes and on the U.S. strategy toward Iran; and much more. This weekend, two violent attacks on separate
congregations, one Jewish in New York, the other Christian in Texas. They are the latest in what some fear is a
rise in violence targeting religious groups in which houses meant to be sanctuaries no
longer feel safe. In Monsey, New York, a holiday that was supposed
to be a celebration was instead a tragedy. DEVORA PRESSER, Member of Jewish Community:
I’m so overwhelmed with emotion that this could happen that I — there are no words. NICK SCHIFRIN: But for these men, there’s
action, arming themselves with military-style rifles. MAN: It’s time that, you know, we protect
ourselves. We can’t let what happened last night ever happen again. That’s — the saying
never again is being taken serious right now. NICK SCHIFRIN: On Saturday night, a Hanukkah
party at the home of a New York state rabbi became the latest target of anti-Semitic attacks. Five people were wounded, one critically,
after a man stormed into the home wielding a machete and started slashing people. The
suspect, Grafton Thomas, was later arrested and arraigned. He pleaded not guilty to five
counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Today, authorities charged him with
a federal hate crime, after they found anti-Semitic writings in his journals. GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It’s also very disturbing. NICK SCHIFRIN: At a news conference yesterday,
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the attack domestic terrorism. GOV. ANDREW CUOMO: These are people who intend
to create mass harm, mass violence, generate fear based on race, color, creed. That is
the definition of terrorism. It’s all across the country. It is an American cancer that
is spreading in the body politic. And American cancer turns one cell in the body against
the other. NICK SCHIFRIN: But Thomas’ attorney said he
had experienced a long history of mental health issues. MICHAEL SUSSMAN, Attorney For Grafton Thomas:
I spent about 35 minutes speaking with Grafton Thomas this morning. I can tell you that I
heard nothing in that conversation that confirmed in any way, shape or manner that he’s a domestic
terrorist. This is the action of a individual who, for
a long time, has decompensated. He’s been treated in mental health facilities. NICK SCHIFRIN: On Twitter, President Trump
condemned the attack, adding that — quote — “We must all come together to fight, confront,
and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism.” In 2018, a mass shooting in Pittsburgh’s Tree
of Life Synagogue killed 11, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. This
year, there were fatal shootings at a synagogue in Poway, California, and multiple attacks
in the New York area just in the past month, including a kosher market in Jersey City,
New Jersey. Halfway across the country, on Sunday morning,
there was another attack on a different house of worship. In White Settlement, Texas, about
eight miles west of Fort Worth, a gunman opened fire during Sunday services and killed two
people. Volunteer security guards at the West Freeway Church of Christ shot him dead within
seconds. Today, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised
the new Texas law that allows parishioners to carry guns inside churches. KEN PAXTON, Texas Attorney General: We can’t
prevent every incident. We can’t prevent mental illness from occurring. And we can’t prevent
every crazy person from pulling a gun. But we can be prepared, like this church was,
and, in that way, prevent the loss of life that occurred here in 1999 and also that occurred
in Sutherland Springs a few years ago. NICK SCHIFRIN: In 1999, a gunman killed seven
people at a Baptist church in Fort Worth. And in 2017, another mass shooting in Sutherland
Springs, Texas left 26 people dead. As for Sunday’s shooting, authorities are
still investigating the motive. The attacks and incidents are by no means
limited to churches and synagogues. For example, there have been more than 200 incidents at
mosques in the past decade tied to anti-Muslim sentiment, according to the American Civil
Liberties Union. For some perspective on these crimes, I’m
joined by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree Of Life congregation, and the Reverend Ted
Elmore, who leads his own ministry in Grapevine, Texas. Reverend Elmore is the incident response
leader with the southern Baptist of Texas Convention. And he counseled congregants of
the Sutherland Springs church after the shooting there in 2017. Thank you very much. Welcome to both of you
and the “NewsHour.” Rabbi Myers, let me start with you. What’s
the mood in your community today? RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, Tree of Life Synagogue:
I would it’s combined. I don’t think there’s one adjective. There
are many who are afraid, yet there are many who are equally outraged at yet another anti-Semitic
attack. NICK SCHIFRIN: Do you feel anti-Semitic attacks
have gone up, and why do you think that is? RABBI JEFFREY MYERS: Yes, they have. The why is another complex question that I
really don’t think there is enough time on this conversation we’re having to delve into
the deep issues of why there are such great expressions of evil and violence in our country. NICK SCHIFRIN: Reverend Elmore, evil and violence
are the words that Rabbi Myers used. You’re from this community in Texas, religious
community, cultural community. You have talked about how attacks in your community are getting
worse. How have they gotten worse? REV. TED ELMORE, Ted Elmore Ministries: Well,
they have gotten worse in that there are more of them. The first I recall in Texas was in the 1980s
in East Texas, then 1999 at Wedgwood Baptist, 2017 at First Baptist, Sutherland Springs.
And then we have had school shootings, as well as two — in two cities, El Paso and
Odessa, and now another church shooting. So the time between seems to be decreasing.
And that’s very unfortunate. NICK SCHIFRIN: Rabbi, is that the perspective
you have as well, that the time between some of these incidents is decreasing dramatically? RABBI JEFFREY MYERS: Yes. Certainly, the nonstop news cycle helps to
share these on a regular basis so frequently, that it’s a constant part of our diet. NICK SCHIFRIN: And you have said that it’s
almost like “Groundhog Day,” but watching a horror film. Given, as you just said, that it is a constant
part of the diet, what is the digestion, if you will, in your community to handling these
incidents as they come more repeatedly? RABBI JEFFREY MYERS: Well, we’re rather firm
and strong, in that from an anti-Semitic incident point of view, that we’re not going to let
anti-Semitic behavior stop us from, as I call it, doing Jewish. That’s not going to change.
We’re not going to permit that to change. We can’t let that change, because, when that
happens, then all of these people who gain to — want to inflict terror on us, they win.
And we will not let that happen. So we will continue to fulfill our own destinies in our
own Jewish lives, the way that we want to. NICK SCHIFRIN: Reverend Elmore, what’s your
version of that? How do you maintain that resilience? REV. TED ELMORE: Well, I think we maintain
the resilience because of our strong faith in God through the lord Jesus Christ. And we understand that people of faith for
time immemorial have been persecuted by those with evil intent. And we certainly would stand
with our Jewish friends in expressions of resistance to any form of anti-Semitism, because,
ultimately, when evil comes for one, it comes for all. And so we are together in this. Our people
will not be restrained. We will continue to worship. We will continue to love the lord
and love our brother our ourself and struggle with our own imperfections as we seek to serve
God. NICK SCHIFRIN: Rabbi Myers, Reverend Elmore
mentioned standing with people of faith. Do you discuss with other leaders of faith
these kinds of attacks and how to deal with them? RABBI JEFFREY MYERS: Yes, we do regularly. One of the positive outcomes of the attack
in my synagogue in 2018 were that doors opened that one would have not expected or anticipated
so soon after my arrival, because I’d only been in the community for just a pinch more
than a year. Those doors opened. I entered through those
doors and continue to find ways to dialogue, to get to know faith leaders from other communities
to share in our commonalities, because, when we get down to basics, we’re all the same.
We all want the same thing for each other. And we take these commonalities. And we must
use them to better our society collectively. NICK SCHIFRIN: Reverend, those commonalities,
of course, is something that you were talking about as well. But do you have a sense that these attacks
are specific, that they are targeting people of faith, or targeting churches, for example,
rather than, for example, these people who want to kill finding some kind of opportunity
to kill many people? REV. TED ELMORE: You know, Nick, how do you
get inside the mind of someone who’s mentally disturbed? I think that’s one of the issues that we face.
And our experts in those areas are trying to figure that out. But, ultimately, people
have targets, and, it appears, targets based on their hatred and what they are opposed
to. And I don’t know how long these are planned
by certain individuals or what is involved in their mind in that makeup. But in order
to get to a synagogue or to get to a church, they pass a lot of places where there are
people gathered. So it’s more than just wanting to kill people.
There is a target based on an emotion, I believe, of evil and hatred that causes them to enter
churches and synagogues and mosques. NICK SCHIFRIN: Rabbi, that emotion of evil
and hatred, as the reverend just said, targeting specifically churches and mosques, how much
fear does that create in your community? And how do you get over it? RABBI JEFFREY MYERS: I have noticed over the
past 48, 72 hours that there are many Jews who now are afraid to practice their faith
publicly, and have been driven underground, so to speak, afraid to put a menorah in a
window, afraid to go to synagogue. In the end, when we do that, we let the terrorists
win. NICK SCHIFRIN: So, Reverend, to you. Quickly,
in the time we have left, what is overcoming fear for you? How do you overcome those fears
that the rabbi just mentioned? REV. TED ELMORE: Well, we certainly take precautions.
I believe that prayer is a first-line response of all people of faith. We seek consolation.
We seek strength from God and through his word in the Scriptures. But our resolve is — we get the resolve from
prayer and Scripture to continue and keep on. And that doesn’t mean that we’re not asking
questions and we’re not taking precautions. But we will not let evil win. We will not. NICK SCHIFRIN: It’s an important message to
end on. Reverend Ted Elmore, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of
the Tree of Life, thank you very much to you both. REV. TED ELMORE: Thank you, sir. RABBI JEFFREY MYERS: Thank you. NICK SCHIFRIN: As we reported earlier, the
U.S. has launched its first military strikes against Iranian allies during the recent round
of tensions. Today, Iran and Iraq objected. Today in Basra, angry Iraqis condemned the
United States for attacking a foreign adversary on Iraqi soil. On Sunday, the U.S. bombed
this military base, home to an Iranian-backed Shiite militia. It was one of five U.S. targets
in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. says the strikes were in response to a Friday attack on an
Iraqi base that killed one American. The U.S. blames the group Kataib Hezbollah
and says it’s organized, trained, and equipped by Iran, and has attacked the U.S. in Iraq
11 times in two months. An official with an Iran-backed Iraqi militia
called for the U.S. to leave the country. ABU MUNTAZAR, Border Operations, Popular Mobilization
Front (through translator): This is a transgression on the security forces and on the sovereignty
of Iraq. The Iraqi government must carry its responsibility and take the crucial procedure
to demand the occupier to leave the Iraqi territories. NICK SCHIFRIN: In Russia for a meeting with
his counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the attack. And for, I’m joined first by Brian Hook, the
State Department’s special representative for Iran. Brian Hook, welcome back to the “NewsHour.” Why did the U.S. launch these strikes? BRIAN HOOK, State Department Special Representative
for Iran: Well, I think, over the last couple of months, you have had 11 attacks on Iraqi
bases that are hosting coalition forces, which include American forces. And President Trump has shown a great deal
of restraint over a number of months in the face of the various Iranian provocations.
But, during that time, he’s made very clear that we will attack in self-defense if we
are attacked. And on December 27, an American was killed
and a number of soldiers were injured in one of the bases. And this was an attack by an
Iranian proxy, and so the president took decisive action and conducted strikes against targets
in Syria and Iraq. NICK SCHIFRIN: Brian, Iran has vowed to fight
the maximum pressure campaign of the U.S. administration with maximum resistance. Are you worried these could start an escalation,
a cycle of escalation, if Iran responds with its own attack? BRIAN HOOK: Well, Iran has been escalating
for some time. And I think what we’re trying to do is send
a message of deterrence to the Iranian regime that they’re not going to be able to conduct
these attacks with impunity. And so the Iranian regime has been rejecting diplomacy for many,
many months. They have been making a lot of bad choices, and the maximum pressure campaign
will continue. NICK SCHIFRIN: Brian, you just mentioned deterrence,
but Iran shot down a U.S. drone earlier this year and attacked an oil facility in Saudi
Arabia, and there was no U.S. military response after those two incidents. Have you been worried that Iran feels that
it could get away with these attacks? BRIAN HOOK: Well, what we saw was an erosion
of deterrence for the many years preceding the president’s election three years ago. What we have done is, we have now sanctioned
over 1,000 individuals and entities as part of the Iranian regime. We’re trying to restore
deterrence. We’re trying to reverse the gains made by the Iranian regime over the last many
years. Iran today faces its worst financial crisis
and its worst political unrest in its 40-year history. But if we’re attacked, then we’re
going to respond, as the president did yesterday. NICK SCHIFRIN: But I know that you want to
talk ability deterrence after the Iran nuclear deal a few years ago, but the deterrence over
the last few months, I have heard from military officials fearing that that deterrence has
been lost. Do you worry that that deterrence, that the
fact that Iran felt it could get away with these attacks, do you feel like that was happening
because the U.S. wasn’t responding to previous attacks? BRIAN HOOK: Well, I think we did respond. We certainly increased the number of sanctions
on the regime. We enhanced our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. We
also put more troops in the region. We removed the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group.
So we did a number of things. But during that same period of time, the president
and Secretary Pompeo made clear that we will use military force if we are attacked. And
that happened then a few days ago. The president, as I said, has shown a great
deal of restraint, because the last thing America is looking for is another conflict
in the Middle East. NICK SCHIFRIN: Iraq’s prime minister has come
out against this today. Iraqi parliamentarians have used these strikes to argue the U.S.
needs to leave Iraq. Do you worry that these strikes will make
it harder for the U.S. to stay inside Iraq? BRIAN HOOK: Well, two important points. One, American troops are in Iraq at the invitation
of the Iraqi government. Two, the Iraqi government has the responsibility to ensure the safety
of American troops. And so we took the measures that were necessary for our own safety. And we think it’s important for the Iraqi
government to arrest and bring to justice those people who are responsible for attacks
on Iraqi bases that are hosting American forces. NICK SCHIFRIN: Are you suggesting that the
Iraqi officials failed in their job to protect U.S. forces? BRIAN HOOK: Well, there’s certainly more that
the Iraqi government can be doing. NICK SCHIFRIN: Brian Hook, U.S. special representative
on Iran, senior adviser to Secretary Pompeo, thank you very much. BRIAN HOOK: Thanks, Nick. NICK SCHIFRIN: And now, for a different perspective,
I’m joined by Vali Nasr, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International
Studies, who formerly served in the State Department during the Obama administration. Vali Nasr, welcome back to the “NewsHour.” VALI NASR, School of Advanced International
Studies, Johns Hopkins University: Thank you. NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you very much. You heard Brian Hook talk about 11 attacks
in the last two months. Surely, the U.S. had to respond? VALI NASR: Probably, but they should have
done it through the Iraqi government, rather than taking it upon themselves to attack groups
that they call Iranian-backed clients , but which are obviously Iraqi, and they were actually
mobilized by decree from Ayatollah Sistani, the most senior cleric in Iraq. They fought against ISIS. They’re part of
Iraqi security forces. And the casualties are also Iraqi. So, the U.S. took a unilateral
action in another country, embarrassed the government of Iraq, and, in the view of Iraqis,
violated its sovereignty. NICK SCHIFRIN: I asked Brian, as you saw,
whether that might mean the U.S. has a more difficult challenge moving forward in Iraq,
staying in Iraq. The U.S. needs Iraqi help. He said that the
Iraqi government was not doing enough to defend U.S. troops. VALI NASR: It probably wasn’t. But, still,
embarrassing the Iraqi government does not help. And making the Iraqi government look
impotent does not help. Iraq is in a very fragile state right now.
It doesn’t have a prime minister. It only has an interim prime minister. It has to find
a new government. This will make — weaken America’s hand at this point in time. Iraq has been going through violent anti-Iranian
demonstrations for the past few months, which the United States celebrated as something
positive in Iraq. Now the United States has managed to make
itself the problem in Iraqi politics. The focus is going to shift from Iranian behavior
in Iraq to American behavior in Iraq. And that doesn’t serve American interests in the
region. NICK SCHIFRIN: Let’s shift over to Iran policy
— or U.S. policy on Iran. Over the last couple months, Secretary Pompeo,
even President Trump has set this red line that, if a U.S. soldier or service member
is killed, or an American is killed in any attack by Iran or Iranian-backed militias,
for example, in Iraq, they would respond. They set the red line. Do you give them credit
for keeping it? VALI NASR: Well, yes, they should keep their
word. But the bigger problem is that, where is this
policy going? The United States put maximum pressure on Iran to change Iranian behavior
and to bring Iran to the table. And that’s not happening. Instead of that, we’re seeing an Iran that
is becoming more adventurous, more risk-taking, and more dangerous. And the region around
Iran and the United States is collapsing into instability. The United States did not start the maximum
pressure strategy to go to war with Iran. But it increasingly looks like that’s where
it’s heading. This policy has failed. It hasn’t achieved
what it set out to do. And the administration refuses to acknowledge that more sanctions,
more pressure would only create more conflict and escalate this into something that neither
side may want. NICK SCHIFRIN: What you’re suggesting is,
there’s no off-ramp and that there is a fear of escalation. I asked about the fear of escalation. And
Brian Hook suggested that well, actually, it was the Iran nuclear deal that diminished
deterrence, that it was the Obama administration’s policy that allowed Iran to get away with
things and get more money. VALI NASR: Well, it seemed like things were
much more calm, much more stable in the region when the nuclear deal was there. And Iran and the United States didn’t see
eye to eye. But their situation is right now much worse. I mean, to claim that we are deterring
Iran at this time is not — is not really credible. Iran has shot down a U.S. drone, attacked
oil facilities, is attacking American troops in Iraq. How is this a deterrence? In fact,
it looks like Iran is putting deterrence on the United States. NICK SCHIFRIN: And just very quickly, what
Brian Hook and what others in the administration I think would say right now is, actually,
no, Hezbollah, for example, has less money to be able to do what it’s doing. Iranian
proxies around the region have less money because of the Trump administration policy. VALI NASR: But those are marginal gains. Has Lebanon become Hezbollah-free? Have the
militias in Iraq left? And has the Middle East actually become safer? And are we farther
away from a war with Iran than we were in 2015? The answer to all of these are no. This is a policy that has taken the region
and U.S.-Iran relations in the wrong direction. NICK SCHIFRIN: Vali Nasr, professor at the
School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, thank you very much. VALI NASR: Thank you. NICK SCHIFRIN: And on Instagram, we conclude
our series on global unrest with a report on demonstrators in Iraq calling for less
sectarianism and the end of corruption. You can find all that and more when you follow
the “NewsHour” on Instagram. NICK SCHIFRIN: Stay with us. Coming up on the “NewsHour”: political stakes
— assessing the state of politics on the last Monday of the year; and “Circe,” the
December pick for the Now Read This, the book club from the “PBS NewsHour” and The New York
Times. Nashville’s Thistle Farms is no ordinary business.
It’s a nonprofit staffed by women who have survived addiction, sexual abuse, or trafficking,
and are in need of a second chance. John Yang has an encore report on a sisterhood-based
community. JOHN YANG: It’s the morning rush at Thistle
Farms in Nashville, Tennessee. The cafe is open for breakfast, while the adjoining shop
sells hand-crafted home and body products made across the street. But, first, workers gather in a circle for
a moment of reflection. WOMAN: Good morning. I’m Jennifer. I’m on
the development team. I’m a 2012 graduate. WOMAN: Good morning. I’m Kristin, 2015 graduate. JOHN YANG: Thistle Farms is no ordinary business.
It’s a nonprofit staffed by women who have battled addiction, sexual abuse or trafficking. WOMAN: Come next month, I will have five years
clean, yes. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) JOHN YANG: For these women, Thistle Farms
is more than just a paycheck. It’s a lifeline. WOMAN: The love, the compassion that I was
shown. JOHN YANG: Kimberly Simkins works on the production
line. Two years ago, she was in the throes of addiction. KIMBERLY SIMKINS, Thistle Farms Employee:
It was either, I was going to make a commitment and get this right and really try to rebuild
and reshape my life in the path that it was on, or I was going to give up and die in addiction. JOHN YANG: Thistle Farms’ two-year program
provides group housing and access to free therapy and medical care. Shamika Simpson, who works on the logistics
team, is about to graduate. SHAMIKA SIMPSON, Thistle Farms Employee: I
got so used to living life in addiction and like with my eyes wide shut, just living life
every day, but you’re not seeing anything. And I lose — I lost touch of everything.
I lost my kids. You know, they were taken by the state, and then dysfunctionality just
became a way of life. JOHN YANG: She says not having financial worries
allowed her to focus on her recovery. SHAMIKA SIMPSON: What they taught me was,
during these two years, I don’t want you to worry about how you’re going to pay your rent.
I don’t want you to worry about how you’re going to buy groceries. What I want you to
worry about is how you’re going to heal yourself. JOHN YANG: Episcopal priest Becca Stevens
started the program 22 years ago, driven, she says, by her own history of being sexually
abused as a child. REV. BECCA STEVENS, Founder, Thistle Farms:
It was awful. It was scary, but also there’s some gifts in it about how you read the world.
I can use it for the good, I can transform it, I can do all kinds of stuff, but I don’t
have to get over it. JOHN YANG: At first, it was just a single
home providing shelter and a safe place to recover. REV. BECCA STEVENS: Five women came in, all
with criminal histories of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. And everybody stayed. Nobody
left. JOHN YANG: The business came later. REV. BECCA STEVENS: Four years into it, we’re
like, we cannot talk about that we love women if we’re not concerned about their economic
well-being. Nobody would hire them. They had no work experience. They knew how to hustle. And that’s when we thought, we will just start
our own company and make something beautiful for people’s bodies. JOHN YANG: Thistle Farms aims to do well by
doing good. In the last fiscal year, product and cafe sales topped $4 million. That accounts
for about 70 percent of the total operating budget. In 2017, Thistle Farms CEO Hal Cato led a
$3 million expansion. HAL CATO, CEO, Thistle Farms: There are a
lot of businesses that have a mission. We’re a mission with a business. We’re not here
to make candles, you know? That’s not what we get up every day. We get up every day to make candles because
we know the sale of that candle is going to help the next woman come in and be a part
of this community. JOHN YANG: Bill and Evie Harman sell Thistle
Farms products at their store in Lynden, Washington. They came to Nashville for a first-hand look. EVIE HARMAN, Thistle Farms Vendor: We recognize
that women especially have a hard time finding a place where they can thrive. We have so
much to learn about how — how can we make this world work for these women who aren’t
thriving? And Becca has figured out how to do it. JOHN YANG: Cafe manager Angela Camarda didn’t
go through the program, but she has her own history of drug addiction and time in federal
prison. When she applied for a job at Thistle Farms, she found a welcoming environment. ANGELA CAMARDA, Thistle Farms Employee: My
boss told me whenever she interviewed me that it didn’t matter what my past was. That has
nothing to do with this job. Tell me what you’re doing now. Tell me what you’re doing
for your recovery now and how you take care of yourself. JOHN YANG: Women in the program say the most
powerful thing it provides is a feeling of sisterhood. KIMBERLY SIMKINS: Even before my addiction,
I was always searching for something. And when my sister from Chicago came to my graduation,
she, like, looks at me and tears running down her face. She’s like: “You have finally found
your people.” I said: “Yes. Yes, I did.” JOHN YANG: From a single residence, Thistle
Farms has grown to five homes in Nashville, but the demand is still far greater. REV. BECCA STEVENS: Honestly, some of the
women die waiting to get in this program. There’s over 100 women on the waiting list.
It says that the demand is far exceeding our resources. JOHN YANG: Thistle Farms now has more than
50 affiliated groups across the country, and 30 more partners around the world, from Rwanda
to Ecuador and Cambodia. REV. BECCA STEVENS: It’s never going to be
the woman just comes off the streets by herself, because she didn’t get out there by herself.
It took a whole community of brokenness to get her out there. So why can’t there be this
whole beautiful community welcoming her home? JOHN YANG: And women about to graduate from
Thistle Farms are looking toward the future. Kimberly Simkins plans to pursue a degree
in clinical social work. KIMBERLY SIMKINS: I would like to think that
I am some sort of mentor, that the things that I experienced in the program and have
been through, and was able to push through all of those challenges and complete the program,
that it’s going to give motivation to somebody else, like, hey, she did it. Maybe I can too. JOHN YANG: Shamika Simpson’s future includes
her children, who were returned to her last year. SHAMIKA SIMPSON: It’s taught me how to love
myself, taught me how to be a mother again. All my kids are back now. So, doors that I
thought were shut forever have opened back up. JOHN YANG: Opened with the power of sisterhood
and the support of the community. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang in Nashville,
Tennessee. NICK SCHIFRIN: Just days before 2020 begins,
the Democratic presidential hopefuls were out in full force in early states. Lisa Desjardins begins her report on how the
candidates are making their case. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), Presidential Candidate:
Thank you all very much. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) LISA DESJARDINS: This weekend, a year-end
push, with 2020 Democratic candidates podium-hopping and handshaking their way across Iowa and
New Hampshire. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), Presidential
Candidate: I ask you, get in this fight. Commit today to caucus for me. Go to ElizabethWarren.com. LISA DESJARDINS: In Iowa, Massachusetts Senator
Elizabeth Warren is counting on a highly organized team, but South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete
Buttigieg feels momentum swinging his way. PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), Presidential Candidate:
Iowa, I think you will make me the nominee, the president, and then we will be able to
make history together. So thank you for being part of this. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), Presidential Candidate:
All right, thank you everybody. LISA DESJARDINS: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar
just completed an important mark: visiting all 99 of Iowa’s counties. Former Vice President Biden also made news
this weekend, backtracking after initially saying he wouldn’t comply if subpoenaed to
testify in President Trump’s impeachment trial. Biden had said his role and his son’s role
on an energy board in Ukraine are not relevant, but later: JOSEPH BIDEN (D), Presidential Candidate:
I would honor whatever the Congress, in fact, legitimately asked me to do. LISA DESJARDINS: The candidate told reporters
that he would comply with a subpoena, but believes there is no basis for one. The issue
has come up on the trail. In New Hampshire, a voter asked how much money
the Bidens made in Ukraine. The former V.P. responded: JOSEPH BIDEN: I released 20 years — 21 years
of my tax returns. Your guy hasn’t released one. What’s he hiding? (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) LISA DESJARDINS: There are other dynamics
in the campaign, one being a fund-raising deadline for all candidates tomorrow. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We have now, as of today,
received more contributions from more Americans than any candidate in the history of American
politics. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) LISA DESJARDINS: Another dynamic for Bernie
Sanders nearly three months after a heart attack, his health. Today, the Sanders campaign
released letters from three doctors recently concluding he has recovered well, his exercise
capacity is average for a man his age, and he is more than fit enough to campaign and
become president. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I’m going to beat Donald
Trump. LISA DESJARDINS: One more dynamic, the group
of candidates outside the top five working overtime as well. New Jersey Senator Cory
Booker has launched a new positive ad in Iowa. SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), Presidential Candidate:
The call of this election is the call to unite in common cause and common purpose. LISA DESJARDINS: A sentiment echoed in New
Hampshire by Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), Presidential Candidate:
A house divided against itself cannot stand. And, sadly, this is exactly where we are as
a country. Our country is deeply divided. LISA DESJARDINS: Some 15 candidates remain
in the Democratic race for president, with just over a month until the first votes begin. But we will now begin with the final Politics
Monday of the year. To do that, I am joined by Susan Page, USA
Today’s Washington bureau chief, and Domenico Montanaro. He is the senior political editor
at NPR. Let’s start with something unusual, shall
we? Let’s talk about the candidates who are not
in the top tier. I want to take a look at the eight candidates who didn’t make the December
debate, Michael Bennet, Mike Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi
Gabbard, Deval Patrick, and Marianne Williamson. These candidates are still out there doing
the work. They are still in the field. Susan, let me start with you. Could any of them see a surge before Iowa? SUSAN PAGE, Washington Bureau Chief, USA Today:
It’s possible. There are some impressive names here, people
we have taken seriously as presidential candidates. But it’s hard if you’re not on the debate
stage, because that is one to have the main ways to get attention, that you show the contrast
with other candidates. I think the candidate not on stage with the
best pathway to becoming a major candidate is Bloomberg, just because he has all that
money. And if there’s a stumble by Joe Biden, he would have the resources to take advantage
of it. DOMENICO MONTANARO, Political Editor, NPR:
I would say that Cory Booker probably is one of the candidates who has an opportunity,
anyway, to make some headway. Now, his campaign sees it sort of a triple
bank shot, where Joe Biden would have to do colossally badly in Iowa and New Hampshire,
be out of the race, and have the black vote essentially up for grabs. And Booker feels
like he could be positioned pretty well in the south and do fairly well. That’s a triple bank shot, not really seen
as a viable path at this point. But you never know. I mean, we have four candidates who are essentially
the top tier in Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. And there are
lots of different scenarios for whether this becomes a short race or whether this goes
on for quite some time. SUSAN PAGE: You know, we could also see them
come back as the running mate. Cory Booker, for instance, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro,
those are all options, I think, as possible running mates. They will have been vetted somewhat by having
run. They will have some experience on a national stage. So even if they don’t become the nominee,
we may not have heard the last of them. LISA DESJARDINS: It’s interesting. They’re
still putting up a fight. Michael Bennet announced just today he’s going
to have the first town hall of the year 12:01 p.m. in New Hampshire, so they’re still out
there. But one thing they all face is a looming Senate
impeachment trial for this president. Domenico, I want to start with you. What does
that mean for these candidates, especially the senators? DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, I mean, I think,
when we talk about that top tier, Elizabeth Warren obviously is one of those senators. And if she’s — the last thing she wants to
do is be shackled to a jury seat, essentially, in the Senate, when she’s really made hand-to-hand
campaigning a hallmark of her candidacy. She’s really been able to connect with a lot of
Democratic voters on the campaign trail. She touts the number of selfies she’s taken,
tens of thousands at this point. And that’s really helped to sort of help her image in
what kind of candidate she can be. If she’s stuck in the Senate in January, before
Iowa and New Hampshire, that’s really not good for her. LISA DESJARDINS: Susan. SUSAN PAGE: And the problem these senators
have is, Senate trials, impeachment trials traditionally are not a chance to make a big
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” kind of speech on the Senate floor. You’re supposed to sit there and listen. It
makes it hard to get the kind of viral moment that might help them. It’s also not the topic
Democrats want to talk about. It’s President Trump being impeached. Democrats, however,
do not see this as big political asset for them. They would much be — prefer being — talking
about something like health care. LISA DESJARDINS: Let’s talk about someone
else who’s prominent during impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Susan, you are working on a biography of her.
I know because I have seen you there doing the work. I’m curious what your thoughts are
now, as we have this historic speaker, Nancy Pelosi, really kind of going head to head
with a historic majority leader, Mitch McConnell, two figures that I think will be in the history
books. Right now, Speaker Pelosi has not yet transmitted
the articles of impeachment. We don’t know when she will. What do you make of this strategy
by Speaker Pelosi? Are there political risks here? What’s going on? SUSAN PAGE: I was surprised when she decided
not to send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate. It’s not really a delay yet. It’s not really
a delay until we get into next week, when Congress comes back. I think she is trying
to be helpful to Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, to try to change or
effect, at least to some degree, the rules that will come — rule during the impeachment
trial there. But it’s a weak hand in a way, because Speaker
Pelosi doesn’t want impeachment be the topic hanging over the House. She would like this
to be off her plate over on the Senate side, so that her candidates, her Democratic candidates
in the House can turn to the issues that they know matter more to voters. DOMENICO MONTANARO: If she hadn’t brought
it up, you wouldn’t have someone like Lisa Murkowski right now coming out saying that
she felt that it’s disturbing that her Republican leader in the Senate said that he wouldn’t
be an impartial juror, that he wouldn’t be — that he’d be somebody who’s in lockstep
with the White House. That’s not the role that they’re supposed
to take. So Nancy Pelosi maybe buying some time for Chuck Schumer. LISA DESJARDINS: So, you see some real gain
potential here? DOMENICO MONTANARO: I mean, I think you can’t
over — you don’t want to overplay your hand and hold it out for too long, but she’s at
least raised the issue, even though people — but people in her caucus obviously expect
that she’s going to send it over pretty shortly after the holidays. We should also say, by the way, that Bernie
Sanders is one of the — going to be one of the jurors in the Senate trial as well. And
he is somebody I think you really need to watch in the campaign, because you have seen
his poll numbers come up. And you have seen this activist base. The
volunteer organization that he has in Iowa is really unparalleled. And to see him potentially
do well in a place like Iowa, potentially in New Hampshire, you could have a Sanders-Biden
race, for example, that reflects and looks a lot like that Sanders-Clinton race in 2016. LISA DESJARDINS: 2019 has not been a fast
year, at least not for me, probably not for our viewers. But it is ending. And with it
also ends a decade in politics. I want to ask both of you, going back to the
past decade in U.S. politics, what stands out to you about where we are and where we
have been? SUSAN PAGE: You know, the thing that surprises
me is that we had the election of Barack Obama followed immediately by the election of President
Trump, two men, both of them visionaries in their way, with such different visions of
what the country should be and where the country should go. And I think that’s one reason we have stoked
these tribal — this fierce tribalism, where no one seems to see any common ground between
the two sides, because their visions of the future have been so different. DOMENICO MONTANARO: You know, I think it was
a decade of polarization and partisanship. And it really took hold in the 2010s. You have President Obama signing into law
the Affordable Care Act at the very beginning of the 2010s. In March of 2010, he did that.
And that really set off the entire decade for what was to come. And you had — as Susan notes, you go from
George W. Bush. Who could be more opposite of George W. Bush than Barack Obama in 2008?
To then the rise of the Tea Party, which was really a backlash to President Obama, and
that gave rise to President Trump and one last backlash. In all of that has been the rise of progressivism,
which has been really pugilistic, and not wanting to compromise, seeing how Republicans
and the Tea Party didn’t. And we’re at this point where you have got a lot of clashes
to come. LISA DESJARDINS: A difficult question with
just one minute left. One thing I have seen in the last decade is,
it seems sort of a fear of leadership in Washington. I don’t think we see — we see people more
coached and less willing to take hard stances. Why do you — what do you make of that? What’s
happening there? SUSAN PAGE: I think it’s a time when our politics
are so frayed that it makes people cautious. People who speak in a spontaneous way, who
reach across party lines often have gotten punished. And I think that may have made — had
an effect on people’s desire — politicians’ desire not to — to keep to the script of
their side. DOMENICO MONTANARO: I mean, people get punished
for speaking out and trying to build a bridge, rather than blowing it up, as Amy Klobuchar
said in the last debate. So, until that kind of process changes, until
the type of politics we have changes, until the type of people who participate in elections
change, until the voters vote in different ways, you’re going to see, I think, more acrimony
before you see anything of going in the way back. LISA DESJARDINS: Well, you two trying to build
a bridge in our knowledge tonight, we appreciate it, Susan Page of USA Today, Domenico Montanaro
of NPR. I wish you a happy and hopefully very healthy
new year. SUSAN PAGE: You too. DOMENICO MONTANARO: You’re welcome. Same to
you. LISA DESJARDINS: And for more on the “NewsHour”
online, you can subscribe to “PBS NewsHour”s politics e-mails to receive weekly analysis
and commentary from the campaign trail, Capitol Hill, and the White House, as well as updates
on the impeachment investigation. NICK SCHIFRIN: Next, Jeffrey Brown has the
December selection for our Now Read This book club. JEFFREY BROWN: She was a relatively minor
character in one of world literature’s earliest and greatest epics, “The Odyssey,” but in
a novel published in 2018, Circe is at the center of story, telling her own tale of sorcery
and life among the gods and men. Author Madeline Miller joins me from Philadelphia
to answer some of the questions from our readers. Madeline Miller, nice to see you. Nice to
talk to you. MADELINE MILLER, Author, “Circe”: It’s so
lovely to be here. Thank you. JEFFREY BROWN: So, one — I want to go right
to the questions, because one of the questions we got allows us to get just at what you were
after. It comes from Christie Woody of Petersburg,
Virginia. She says: “Circe is a minor character in ‘The Odyssey.’ What attracted you to her
enough to make you want to write her story?” MADELINE MILLER: Well, it actually goes back
to when I was a child. The first time I read “The Odyssey,” I had
been really excited, because I knew there was this witch who turned men into pigs. And
I thought, ooh, wow, that sounds like a really interesting and meaty and complex character,
which are kind of thin on the ground in general in Greek mythology. But when I got there, I was really frustrated
about how sort of flattened the portrait was and how it was really still just Odysseus’
story. And so there was this piece of me from the
very moment, the first time I read “The Odyssey” as a 13-year-old, that really wanted to go
in and explore this character and find out, well, who is she? Why is she turning men into
pigs, which is the most notable things she does in “The Odyssey,” but which is never
addressed at all. JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so a number of readers
and I myself wondered how you then went about constructing her life. How much research,
how much leeway did you allow your own imagination to fill in that kind of story? MADELINE MILLER: Well, I had kind of four
basic pillars that I was using from the mythology, one of which was her appearance in “The Odyssey.” But, otherwise, I was doing a lot of sort
of adding and extrapolating. So one of the scenes in the novel which was really quite
a lot of fun to write was a scene where Circe helps her sister give birth. And this is a
little bit of a spoiler, but her sister is giving birth to a very unusual child. Now, her sister in mythology truly is the
parent of the minotaur. There is no myth that Circe was there at the birth, but I was looking
for opportunities like that, moments where I could sort of weave Circe in, given mythology
that was already existing. I did a lot of that. JEFFREY BROWN: You alluded to this earlier
about there not being the stories of women fleshed out very much in “The Iliad” or — I
mean, “The Odyssey,” or “The Iliad,” for that matter. You wrote an earlier novel about — based
on “The Iliad” about Achilles. “The Odyssey,” of course, really focuses on the story of
a man, his wanderings, his love — his loves and hates. How much did the desire to tell it from a
woman’s point of view motivate you in this story? MADELINE MILLER: Very much. I really wanted
to kind of put it in her voice in particular. I knew I wanted it to be a first-person narrator. And, you know, what we see is that Circe,
in “The Odyssey,” she’s really just a cameo in Odysseus’ life. He shows up, he has an
interaction with her, he leaves, and she disappears from the story. And what I wanted to do was flip that completely
and put her at the center of the story and make Odysseus the cameo. So, I wanted him
to occupy the same space in her life that she occupies in his, i.e., not very much,
and to really focus on sort of a woman’s life. I see Circe as a coming-of-age story, the
story of a woman in a society that is really hostile to her power and to her wielding power
and having independence, finding a way to power and independence, and sort of discovering
who she is. JEFFREY BROWN: Janell Bailey of Green Bay,
Wisconsin, asks: “Did you always envision these lives from the gods from first reading
mythology yourself, or did the idea for this come later?” Now, you were talking earlier about your own
reading as a child, but when did you think about, well, now I can write it myself? MADELINE MILLER: It came fairly late. So the whole time I was a child, I was having,
you know, these wonderful adventures in my mind for these gods and goddesses characters.
And I eventually grew up and became a classicist and ended up studying it. But it didn’t really occur to me that I could
sort of write my own version, that I could then adapt it myself, until actually theater.
And I directed a production of “Troilus and Cressida,” which is Shakespeare’s version
of “The Iliad.” And getting to work with that as a director,
as a storyteller, for the first time, getting to shape how Cassandra or Helen or Achilles
or Ajax were delivering their lines, how they were standing on the stage, how they were
coming off, suddenly made me realize all these things that I have been wanting to say about
these characters, yes, I do want to say them in an academic essay, but also I want to say
them in a novel. And I think that there’s some things you can
say in a novel with an emotional force that you can’t necessarily get across in academic
writing. And the story of Achilles and Patroclus and their love. And then the story of Circe and her life as
a woman and as a goddess and as a witch were examples of that. JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that leads to a question
that came from a teacher, but a teacher of younger children, Iris Butler of Astoria,
New York. She says: “I am currently teaching ‘Circe,’
your book, in my 10th grade classroom in the South Bronx. My students frequently ask me,
why are we reading this, because they always push back on the books we read” — not your
book, in particular, all the books, I think. But the teacher, Iris Butler, asks: “What
do you hope students will take from your novel?” MADELINE MILLER: I hope a couple of things. First of all, I think that these stories can
sometimes be intimidating. They have a lot of names and sometimes the names are really
long, and it’s unclear how to pronounce them. And I think some students feel alienated from
this. The “Percy Jackson” series and Rick Riordan
has done an amazing job of bringing classics and these myths back to everybody. But I hope
that my novels can be part of that too, and sort of saying, these stories are for everyone.
These stories are for you. You don’t have to feel alienated from these stories. I think I would also want them to take in
the timelessness of these stories, that, unfortunately, many of the things that Circe endures, being
belittled, undermined, kept from the halls of power, sexually assaulted, these are all
things that we are still dealing with today. And I think it’s really important to look
at sort of the fact that this is — there’s a historical through line here, and maybe
some things that we can learn as well. JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we’re going to leave
it there for now and post our entire conversation later online. Madeline Miller, author of “Circe,” thank
you very much. MADELINE MILLER: Thank you so much. JEFFREY BROWN: And now our selection for the
new year. “Heart Berries” is a bestselling memoir of
a young woman’s experience growing up on an Indian reservation in British Columbia. “It’s
tender and raw, a slender book,” wrote a New York Times reviewer, “with the power of a
sledgehammer.” Author Terese Marie Mailhot will join me here
in January. And, as always, we hope you will join us on
our Facebook page and read along with Now Read This, our book club partnership with
The New York Times. NICK SCHIFRIN: And that’s the “NewsHour” for
tonight. On Tuesday: life under the Taliban, Jane Ferguson’s
report from Taliban-held Afghanistan. I’m Nick Schifrin. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at “PBS NewsHour,” I hope you had a good day. Thank you, and see you soon.

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