August 7, 2020 - PBS NewsHour full episode
August 7, 2020 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: no deal. The White House and congressional Democrats so far fail
to reach an agreement on the next round of economic aid, as American deaths from COVID
Then: feeling the pain. The U.S. unemployment rate fell in July, but millions of Americans
are still out of work and struggling to get by.
DEANNA KORRELL-HALL, Florida: I have been fighting for unemployment for the weeks that
I did not work, rather, the months that I did not work. And I have still yet to get
money for that. It has taken us down to zero.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's Friday. Mark Shields and David Brooks assess the debate over coronavirus
spending and the upcoming political conventions.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: Negotiations on more COVID financial relief have stalled in Washington
tonight amid signs that the economic recovery has stalled as the virus surges again.
According to the Labor Department, employers added a net of 1.8 million jobs in July. That's
far fewer than the previous two months. The unemployment rate did fall nearly a full percent
to 10.2 percent, but that's still higher than during the Great Recession.
Against that backdrop, White House negotiators and Democratic congressional leaders failed
again to agree on a relief package, possibly including federal jobless benefits that expired
a week ago.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Treasury Secretary
Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. They spoke afterward at the
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We're asking them, again, to be fair, to meet us in the middle,
not to have "way or the highway" attitude, which they seem to have.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Anyway, but I have told them, come back when you're ready to
give us a higher number.
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. Treasury Secretary: We will continue to try to get an agreement that's
in the best interest of the people. And that's why we're here.
MARK MEADOWS, White House Chief of Staff: But, in the meantime, we're going to take
executive orders to try to alleviate some of the pain that people are spending -- are
experiencing. This is not a perfect answer. We will be the first ones to say that, but
it is all that we can do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And here with the latest on these negotiations are our own Lisa Desjardins
and Yamiche Alcindor.
So, hello to both of you.
And, Lisa, to you first.
What is known about what they actually were able to negotiate or discuss behind closed
doors? And what do we know about what the main sticking points are?
LISA DESJARDINS: Right.
A little bit more on what you just reported, Judy. Democrats offered to take down their
offer about $1 trillion to the $2 trillion area, let's say. But Republicans said that,
really, what Democrats were doing was changing the timeline of spending.
Some spending that Democrats wanted to have for two years, they would say limit -- or
- - I'm sorry -- they wanted three years, and Democrats were moving it to two years. Essentially,
Judy, Republicans said they don't think it's real money. They didn't see a real change
in sort of the top -- the items that Democrats were asking for.
Nonetheless, Democrats said they have made what they believe is a good-faith offer. They
are now waiting for Republicans to make the next move.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Yamiche, we heard the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows,
say that the president is prepared to take action unilaterally on his own.
What is known about how the White House sees the way forward now?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, the White House is taking the stance that Democrats are not taking
these negotiations seriously. That, of course, is something that Democrats disagree with.
I want to read to you a tweet that the president sent just in the last hour.
He wrote: "Pelosi and Schumer are only interested in bailout money for poorly run Democrat cities
and states, nothing to do with the virus. Want $1 trillion, no interest. We are going
a different way."
That different way, Judy is the executive action that you just alluded to. The president,
I'm told from -- from White House officials, is looking at several different options, including
a payroll tax initiative, something to do with student loans, some sort of movement
on unemployment benefits, as well as some sort of movement on eviction protections.
This was -- today was a self-imposed deadline for the White House to move forward on its
own, and look only to doing executive actions. I should note that the White House is saying
that they feel like they're going to be on firm legal ground when it comes to this executive
But Democrats disagree and say a lot of the things that the president wants to do, he
simply cannot do only by executive order.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, amid this impasse over coronavirus relief, there were also some new
developments today on another major issue, the security of this November's elections.
A top U.S. intelligence official, William Evanina, released a statement that details
the intelligence community's current assessment of potential foreign interference.
Evanina raised concern about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia and Iran.
On Chinese influence, he said intelligence agencies "assess that China prefers that President
Trump, whom Beijing sees as unpredictable, does not win reelection," and that "Russia
is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden."
In a follow-up statement, the two leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- that's
Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Mark Warner - - said that they -- quote -- "encourage political
leaders on all sides to refrain from weaponizing intelligence matters for political gain."
So, that's a lot to swallow late this afternoon.
But, Lisa, let me pick up with that.
What do we see in the statement from the intelligence community that adds to what we already knew
about the possibility of foreign interference in our election?
LISA DESJARDINS: Talking to Hill sources, they point out that Evanina is not seen as
political, but as someone who is almost an American patriot, a longtime civil servant.
They also say this, Judy. Democrats say there's a difference between what China is doing and
what Russia is doing, that Russia is acting on their capabilities more than China, Russia
acting to take down Vice President Biden.
One other note, Judy, though, both parties are worried that the American public is not
ready for what may be ahead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Yamiche, in terms of the White House, what are they saying about this?
Are they saying that they're -- they plan to take any particular steps to address it?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The White House, today, officials tell me, are really focused on making
sure that our elections are safe. They say they're not going to tolerate any sort of
foreign interference and that they're working with all 50 states, as well as social media
companies, to keep the election safe.
That said, President Trump has been loath to talk about election interference, first
in 2016, when the intelligence community said that Russia was interfering on his behalf,
and now in 2021, when they say Russia is doing the same thing.
The president instead has been focused on mail-in voting and saying that there's widespread
fraud there, even though there is no evidence of that. So, Democrats and critics of the
president say he's not focused enough on this issue.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.
Well, it certainly has raised a lot of questions. And I know both of you are going to continue
to follow that, as well as these -- the path forward on these negotiations over COVID relief.
Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor. Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
LISA DESJARDINS: Sure thing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The death toll from the massive Beirut port explosion
reached 154, with more than 5,000 hurt. More bodies were found today, as French rescue
teams and others searched the area.
With that operation under way, the head of the powerful Hezbollah militia insisted that
his Iranian-backed group is not to blame.
SAYYED HASSAN NASRALLAH, Hezbollah Leader (through translator): I wholeheartedly deny
that there is anything that belongs to us in the port, no warehouse for weapons, rockets,
no guns, no bombs, no bullets, no nitrate, nothing, absolutely, not now and not in the
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lebanon's President Michel Aoun vowed to investigate all possible causes.
An Air India Express passenger jet crashed and broke in two today trying to land in heavy
rain in Southern India. At least 16 people were killed, and more than 120 hurt. Doctors
and rescuers worked through bad weather to reach survivors. The 190-passenger flight
carried people who'd been stranded abroad by the pandemic.
Britain says that it will crack down on a wave of migrants crossing the English Channel
from France. Authorities yesterday picked up at least 235 people in small boats. That
is a one-day record. More migrants were found at sea today. British officials say organized
smuggling and good summer weather are behind the increase.
China has fired back after President Trump banned U.S. companies from doing business
with the Chinese owners of WeChat and TikTok. New executive orders could bar distribution
of the social media apps within the U.S. in 45 days. Mr. Trump charges that they share
data with the Chinese government.
But Beijing says that the accusation is baseless.
WANG WENBIN, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman (through translator): Under the pretext of
national security, the U.S. frequently abuses its state power and unjustifiably cracks down
on non-U.S. companies. This is a blatant act of bullying, and China is firmly opposed to
JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Carrie Lam. She's the
pro-Beijing leader of Hong Kong. She's accused of helping implement a tough new Chinese security
law in the city.
A federal appeals court in Washington says House Democrats may pursue a fight to subpoena
former White House counsel Don McGahn. They want to know whether President Trump tried
to obstruct the Russia probe. The White House argues that McGahn has legal immunity. Today's
ruling revives the Democrats' lawsuit, but there's little time to resolve the issue before
the current Congress ends in January.
Jerry Falwell Jr. is taking an indefinite leave of absence as president and chancellor
of Liberty University. The evangelical Christian school in Virginia issued a terse statement
this afternoon. In recent days, Falwell apologized over photos he posted online. One showed his
pants unzipped and his arm around a young woman.
Wall Street struggled make headway today, as investors pored over the July jobs report.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 46 points to close at 27433. The Nasdaq fell
97 points, and the S&P 500 added two.
And Brent Scowcroft has died. He was the only person to serve as national security adviser
in two administrations. His first stint came under President Gerald Ford in 1975. He served
again under President George H.W. Bush, 14 years later.
Scowcroft helped fashion U.S. policy on the end of the Cold War, the first Gulf War and
other critical events. And he remained a close observer of the world.
In 2011, he talked with Jim Lehrer on the "NewsHour" about online organizing in the
Arab Spring protests.
BRENT SCOWCROFT, Former U.S. National Security Adviser: Now the world is politicized. For
most of our history, the average man didn't know what was going on in anything other than
his own village. And he didn't care much. Now everybody is within eyesight of a TV or
earshot of a radio. They hear what's going on.
JIM LEHRER: Or one of those little -- those little instruments.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: That's right. Whatever. And they're moved and they're activated by it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Brent Scowcroft was 95 years old.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": Americans struggle financially, as unemployment claims
top one million for the 20th straight week; Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine discusses
the ongoing response to the coronavirus; an unexpectedly contentious election in Belarus
could mean the end for a president known as Europe's last dictator; and much more.
The economy is getting back some of the jobs lost
during the start of the pandemic and the shutdowns that followed.
But, as we reported at the top of the program, that job growth seems to be slowing. Millions
still don't have work yet. And many have lost some financial aid and benefits.
Given both of those problems, we wanted to hear from viewers about what you're dealing
with right now.
Here's what you -- some of you told us.
D'AARON HART, Michigan: My name is D'Aaron Hart.
AMY SCHEIDE, Wisconsin: My name is Amy Scheide.
JASON WILLIAMS, California: My name is Jason Williams.
ANTONIO CRUZ-MARTINEZ, Utah: My name is Antonio Cruz-Martinez.
DEANNA KORRELL-HALL, Florida: My name is Deanna Korrell-Hall.
D'AARON HART: The extra $600 in unemployment benefits was extremely helpful. I was able
to spend a little extra on some groceries, you know, get a little bit more food to have
JASON WILLIAMS: The standard unemployment wasn't going to cover our household bills.
But then, when they gave us the extra $600 a week, that didn't replace my entire salary,
but it was really, really close to what I made after taxes.
AMY SCHEIDE: I own a catering company and bistro. We spend every moment trying to figure
out how to make this dream stay alive and how to come out of it in a way where we will
eventually be able to retire.
It's emotionally exhausting.
DEANNA KORRELL-HALL: I have been fighting for unemployment for the weeks that I did
not work, rather, the months that I did not work. And I have still yet to get money for
that. It has taken us down to zero. Our -- all of our accounts are zero now.
ANTONIO CRUZ-MARTINEZ: I have been a deejay for the last 10 years.
I haven't received any federal COVID relief funds or any funds of any sorts. And I don't
even know where to start, as a gig worker, like, on how to get money. The wait line for
the unemployment is just so long. And having to sell things is one of the things that I
have unfortunately had to resort to, which is ultimately very heartbreaking.
D'AARON HART: The extra $600 was -- it ended July 31. And my lease agreement is up August
I have had to decide to move back in with my mom, which, luckily, she is totally fine
with that. But it still is stressful, because I don't know what's next.
JASON WILLIAMS: The extra unemployment has been -- yes, it's been awesome. But, if that
goes too far down, we will definitely be back underwater.
AMY SCHEIDE: The kinds of conversations that we have had to engage in since this began,
both with customers and with staff and family, I have to come home, take a minute, breathe,
steel myself, and then dial that phone, and hang up and sob.
ANTONIO CRUZ-MARTINEZ: If I don't find something like within the next, I guess, five to six
months, then I will have nothing left.
DEANNA KORRELL-HALL: It's like, OK, I'm down to my change jars now, and I'm going to have
to cash my change jars in. I'm going to have to recycle the metal that's sitting in my
I'm just worried that I'm not going to have enough money to just survive. It's not even
to be able to do anything extra.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's hear about the fallout of all of this and how it's playing out in
the heartland from the governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine.
He tested negative for the coronavirus last night, just hours after testing positive.
And, Governor, we're glad to know that you did test negative.
And I want to ask you about testing in just a moment, but let's start with the economy
and employment, because we do have new unemployment numbers out today. They did slightly improve
this past month.
But, overall, as you just heard, a lot of Americans still feeling very stressed. Tell
us what you're hearing from Ohioans about the jobs picture and unemployment.
GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Well, we have some people like those that you just interviewed
who are very worried. They're worried about paying the rent.
When we look at our state revenues that are coming in, one of the things that our economists
say is that it's clear that this money that Congress -- extra money, extra unemployment
money, was very valuable for the individuals who got it and was also, frankly, very valuable
for the economy and for other people, so it had a real ripple effect.
People spent it. And it really was very, very significant.
So, we hope Congress comes up with a compromise here and gets something done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor, let's talk about your test.
As we said, you first tested positive yesterday, then negative. And I understand you're going
to have another test tomorrow. What does this experience, though, tell you about the state
of testing right now in this country?
GOV. MIKE DEWINE: You know, Judy, the second test I had, which is kind of the gold standard,
is the test that almost every one of your viewers who are watching this, at least those
from Ohio, have gotten.
About 1.3 million Ohioans have been tested. Over 90 percent have been this particular
type of test. So, the first test I took was a quick test. And not all quick tests are
the same. But this was an antigen test.
I'm not a scientist, but what they tell me is that you're -- basically, they're measuring
the protein which is on the coronavirus itself. And they're not as reliable. I'm told they're
roughly 70 percent reliable.
Usually, if it's wrong, it's a false negative. I guess I'm one of the strange ones, I got
a false positive. But the test that we took yesterday at Ohio State afterwards -- and
then they ran it twice -- and my wife was tested as well -- that really is the gold
standard. And it's what most people, the test most people have received.
I think all the states are really looking at, how do we improve the testing, but how
do we ramp this testing up? And this antigen test may play a role. We're looking at it
to see maybe how we can use it.
But you have to accept the fact that you get a quick result, but the result is not nearly
as reliable as it would be in a diagnostic test.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I know you and five other governors have just come together to sign
I guess a kind of a compact where, you're going to work together, pool your resources
to try to ramp up testing in all five or six of these states.
But here we are, Governor, we are more than six months into when the first case of COVID
was discovered in the United States, and we still are behind on testing.
Should something have been done sooner at the national level or in some nationally coordinated
way to get us to a better place than we are right now?
GOV. MIKE DEWINE: Well, Judy, we all wish we had more testing. It's been a problem for
most states, maybe all states.
We have lagged behind in testing. Frankly, we have never been a state that was red hot.
So, the priorities have never been towards Ohio. And we like it that way, in the sense
we don't want to be red hot. But we need more testing in Ohio.
Now, we have tripled the testing in Ohio. We're averaging now about 22,000, 23,000 tests
a day. Frankly, we need to double it again, and then we probably need to double it after
So, we're moving. We're trying to grow some of our own, in the sense of expanding our
labs in Ohio. I try to own some of that. We're also reaching out to a lot of different companies.
The market is starting to move, finally. More companies are offering different types of
tests that are out there.
But the lesson, I think, from what happened with me is, we have got to be careful. We
have got to make sure we have got reliable tests. And we have got to try to get our times
down. It's two things, get our tests back quicker and also get more tests and more capacity.
That, plus the social distancing and wearing the masks, those are the three things, the
masks, the social distancing and the quicker tests, and get those tests back, that's the
key to us being able to go out and resume our lives.
I tell people, that's the -- that's freedom. The masks are freedom. Social distancing gives
us freedom, and these tests give us freedom.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Governor, there have been a couple of in-depth reports that have been
published in the last few days looking at why the United States, with all of our resources
and all of our wealth, is one of the worst countries on the planet with regard to COVID.
And it points to mistakes made in the beginning and throughout.
What do you look to here? I know we don't - - you said a moment ago you don't want to
spend a lot of time looking back, but could, should Washington, should the leadership at
the national level have been more forceful in taking this seriously and getting people
to respond and pouring more resources into it?
GOV. MIKE DEWINE: Judy, I think there's a couple of big lessons that we need to take
away from this.
One lesson is, we have to invest in public health. Democrats and Republicans alike have
not invested in public health the way we should. We have got to do it at the national level.
We have got to do it at the state level. And we have got to be committed to that for the
And the other, of course, long-term lesson is, we can't rely on other countries to manufacture
all our products that we need in regard to medical care. We have got to make more of
them right here in the United States.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Governor, very quickly, presidential election.
President Trump was in Ohio yesterday talking about the campaign. Among other things, he
spoke about Joe Biden, said that Joe Biden is against the Bible, against God, that he
wants to hurt God.
Is this the kind of message that you think is the path to victory for the president?
GOV. MIKE DEWINE: I think the path to victory is for the president to focus on the basic
The president -- until this coronavirus came along, our economy was doing well. I'm optimistic,
we get this thing behind us, we are going to see our economy flip back. I think the
president needs to talk about that, his vision there.
For those of us who are more conservative, we're very happy with his court appointments
to the -- to not just the Supreme Court, but to the circuit court and the district courts.
I think those are the -- some of the things that the president will focus on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio.
GOV. MIKE DEWINE: Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, glad that test came back negative.
GOV. MIKE DEWINE: Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On Sunday, voters in Belarus head to the polls in the most contested election
there in decades.
President Alexander Lukashenko has been called Europe's last dictator. He has led Belarus
with an iron fist for 26 years, accused of human rights abuses, stifling dissent, and
running sham elections. But he now faces an unprecedented challenge.
And, as Nick Schifrin reports, the opposition is led by women, who have taken up the mantle
NICK SCHIFRIN: In Belarus, behind every good man is a better woman in this case, three
of them, Veranika Tsapkala, Maryya Kalesnikava, and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, three women
who just a few months ago were in the background, now saluted as superheroes, taking on Europe's
longest serving leader.
SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, Belarusian Presidential Candidate (through translator): The government
got rid of strong candidates. But they didn't know, every strong man has a strong woman
that supports him.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thirty-seven-year-old Tsikhanouskaya was a former English teacher and homemaker
who was married to an opposition politician running for president, when he was arrested
in may in broad daylight.
Now, as a presidential candidate herself, Tsikhanouskaya is trying to turn her husband's
moment into a movement, with the help of Kalesnikava, who managed the campaign of another opposition
candidate before he was arrested, and Tsapkala, who managed the campaign of her husband, an
opposition candidate forced to flee the country with their children.
Together, they have helped inspire the largest protests in decades and called for a national
IGOR, Rally Participant (through translator): As long as I can remember, I have been living
a lie, this endless lie. I want this lie to finally end.
SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA (through translator): I am tired of being patient. I am tired of
being silent. I am tired of being afraid. And you, are you tired of being patient?
MATTHEW ROJANSKY, Director, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:
The three of them together have just mobilized the Belarusian people like we have never seen
NICK SCHIFRIN: Matthew Rojansky directs the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute. He says
the government's targeting the original male opposition candidates helped crystallize longstanding
MATTHEW ROJANSKY: They became political martyrs, being arrested, being pushed out of the country.
That was obviously a slap in the face to Belarusian people.
Time -- when you run this kind of tight-fist authoritarian regime, and you leave no room
for dissent, no room for people to voice their opposition in a meaningful way, almost any
pressure release valve is going to get a lot of pressure coming through it.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Alexander Lukashenko took power in 1994, only three years after the country's
independence from the Soviet Union. He was elected on a platform of anti-corruption.
But his critics called him a European dictator, rigging elections, and enabling widespread
graft. For months, protesters sick and tired of authoritarian governance and a weak economy
wielded slippers to squash a president they called a cockroach.
Police responded in force. Plainclothes officers detained journalists and activists and made
widespread arrests. Last week, authorities also arrested Russian mercenaries, accusing
them of terrorist attacks to destabilize Belarus. But, days later, Lukashenko pledged allegiance
ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, President of Belarus (through translator): Russia has always been
and will always be our closest ally, no matter who is in power in Belarus or Russia.
NICK SCHIFRIN: COVID has further eroded public trust. Belarus has one of Europe's highest
per capita infection rates. Lukashenko eventually tested positive, but, at first, he called
the virus a psychosis, and said it was treatable with vodka and saunas.
And at a crowded hockey game, he denied its existence.
ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO (through translator): I don't understand. There are no viruses here.
Did you see any of them flying around?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Individual Belarusians came to the rescue.
ANNA GORCHAKOVA, Director, Belarusian Children's Hospice: We try to survive. We like -- we
are really interesting. We help each other.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Anna Gorchakova is the director of the Belarusian Children's Hospice. She
contracted COVID and told me, conditions in the hospital were so bad, she had to help
Civil society groups like #ByCOVID19 prepared meals for poorly supplied health care workers
and gathered supplies for overwhelmed hospitals. The shortages cemented anger at an ineffective
ANNA GORCHAKOVA: And now is the time to think who I am, what I want. Am I ready to change
country? I am ready to change health system?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Early voting is already under way. And despite the opposition's momentum,
Lukashenko controls the election apparatus, and is expected to be declared the winner.
The extent of protests will determine what comes next.
MATTHEW ROJANSKY: If you have tens of thousands of people pouring into the streets in Minsk
and in the major cities across Belarus, that's when I might expect him to turn out the Belarusian
paratroops and the Belarusian riot police en masse.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Whether or not it's the end of the line for Lukashenko, for Belarusians,
there's hope in the first real alternative in decades.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yesterday marked 75 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. The
attack shocked the world, but it would be another year before Americans would get firsthand
accounts from people who lived through it, thanks to trailblazing reporting by "New Yorker"
writer John Hersey.
Author Lesley Blume has a new book about Hersey and how his reporting exposed the bomb's lasting
damage, which the U.S. government tried initially to downplay.
And she spoke with Jeffrey Brown as part of our continuing coverage of this solemn anniversary.
This is also part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
JEFFREY BROWN: August 6, 1945, the future of warfare and humanity itself would change,
when the U.S. detonated a single atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan.
But while everyone saw the mushroom cloud, it would be a year before the world fully
understood what had happened on the ground that day, a story told in the pages of "The
New Yorker" magazine by journalist John Hersey.
LESLEY M.M. BLUME, Author, "Fallout": We know what the aftermath of nuclear warfare looks
like because John Hersey showed us.
JEFFREY BROWN: In her new book, "Fallout," author Lesley Blume explores how Hersey came
to write a profoundly influential work. She calls it one of the most important works of
journalism ever created that has shaped generations since.
LESLEY M.M. BLUME: Even if people, his eventual readers, could not understand the physics
that went into the nuclear bomb, they could certainly relate to the stories of six regular
JEFFREY BROWN: The bomb in Hiroshima, followed days later by one destroying Nagasaki, led
to Japan's surrender and ecstatic celebrations of a hard-earned American victory.
The U.S. government justified use of these experimental weapons as necessary to end the
war, but, Blume writes, covered up the bombs' horrifying impact on humans, including the
after-effects of radiation.
LESLEY M.M. BLUME: On the one hand, they wanted to showcase the might of their weapon, because
they now had a weapon that nobody else did. But, on the other hand, they didn't want to
reveal the true devastation of the bomb, and also reveal the fact that it was a weapon
that went on killing long after detonation in a really gruesome way.
JEFFREY BROWN: Hersey was just 31, but already a veteran war correspondent.
LESLEY M.M. BLUME: He had seen the worst of human nature. And he felt that, at the end
of what remains the deadliest conflict in human history, the only way that human civilization
had a chance of surviving is if we began to see the humanity in each other again.
JEFFREY BROWN: He was also a writer. His 1944 novel, "A Bell for Adano," won the Pulitzer
Prize for fiction.
Working with legendary "New Yorker" editors Harold Ross and William Shawn, Hersey proposed
a novelistic approach, tell the intersecting stories of six individuals who'd crossed paths
LESLEY M.M. BLUME: A lot of the reporting that had been done on the major devastation
caused by the bombs, it was rendered in a very eye-of-God kind of way. This is the end
of days, and you were just seeing massive, roiling mushroom clouds.
And so what Hersey decided to do was to dial it back from sort of a point-of-view-of-God
narrative to the point of view of six regular folks on the ground.
JEFFREY BROWN: The subjects included two doctors, two clergy, a widow caring for three children,
and a young clerk.
The humanizing style is there from the famous first line: "At exactly 15 minutes past 8:00
in the morning on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed
above Hiroshima, Ms. Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia
Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office, and was turning her head
to speak to the girl at the next desk."
LESLEY M.M. BLUME: And instead of being incinerated on the spot, she was almost crushed by falling
bookshelves and was covered in books. And when Hersey met her and heard her story, he
found himself thinking that it was incredibly ironic that this life was nearly taken by
books in the first moments of the atomic age.
And even when he was still in Hiroshima, he knew that he was going to write about that
in his own article.
JEFFREY BROWN: That article would take up the entire issue of "The New Yorker" on August
31, 1946, and would itself become a bombshell, capturing headlines around the world. In book
form, it has sold more than three million copies to date.
There is much more to the tale Blume tells, including the surprising role of General Leslie
Groves, one of the leaders of the Manhattan Project, who tried to suppress information
about the bomb, but then saw benefits to Hersey's reporting.
And years later, a bizarre appearance by one of Hersey's subjects, Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto,
on an episode of "This Is Your Life."
LESLEY M.M. BLUME: They trotted out not only people from his life, but they even trotted
out one of the bombers from the Enola Gay, who had bombed Hiroshima, and forced a meeting
between the two, the two gentlemen. And it's some pretty skin-crawling stuff, for sure.
JEFFREY BROWN: John Hersey donated part of the proceeds from his work to the American
Red Cross. He didn't return to Japan for 40 years, wrote many more books, and died in
It's been argued that that article and then the book afterwards played an important role
in the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used since.
Do you believe that?
LESLEY M.M. BLUME: Well, John Hersey definitely believed that.
I know a lot of people don't realize how perilous the nuclear landscape is right now. The Bulletin
of the Atomic Scientists, which has its famous doomsday clock, has now set it closer to midnight,
i.e., nuclear apocalypse, than it has ever been since its advent in the late 1940s.
One of the things that John Hersey was especially worried about by the time the Cold War accelerated
again in the 1980s was that the memory of Hiroshima was fading. And if you didn't have
the memory as a deterrent anymore, was it going to be as potent a deterrent? And I think
that remains a really crucial question today.
JEFFREY BROWN: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we turn to the weekly political analysis of Shields and Brooks.
That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Hello to both of you.
So, David, let's start by looking at what hasn't happened between the White House and
Republicans and the Democrats in the Congress on what kind of, if any, relief to continue
to offer Americans in this pandemic.
I guess the evidence couldn't be any plainer. More than 30 million Americans are out of
work, but still no agreement. What do you make of it?
DAVID BROOKS: Every sort of system in this country failed during the COVID, and one thing
didn't fail, and that was Congress.
Congress actually got some money out the door. And for -- one part of our system worked,
and now it's not working.
And it's going to apparently go to the White House with executive orders, which is a disaster
on two levels. On the first level, it's a breakdown of our democracy. We have a strong
congressional system, where the Congress is supposed to spend the money. And that isn't
Second, you just can't do that much with an executive order. We have got 10 percent unemployment.
We have got whole industries shut down. There's just not a lot that Donald Trump can do without
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we're hearing, Mark, that we may be just moments away from the president
talking in a news conference at 7:00 Eastern about what he proposes to do. We're not sure
what that is.
But here we are, as David said. And they have been talking for days and days. The House
passed legislation back in May, and here we are in August, and there's nothing. Why?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, obviously, it's not going to be of any political advantage
to either party to stalemate in Washington.
But I think that the truth has to be addressed. And that is that the Democrats did pass a
plan. They do have a plan. They do have a united position. And there is no Republican
plan. I mean, it's a repeat of health care. There is no Republican plan.
The president, the author of "The Art of the Deal," has been missing. He hasn't even participated.
And Mitch McConnell, in a moment of -- a burst of candor, said that he did not have the votes.
He would have to pass anything with Democratic votes. And that's the political reality of
It is -- David is right. The legislative process is infinitely preferable to executive orders.
I mean, it just is. And this is no -- this is no answer, but, I mean, that is the political
reality of the situation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, you know, we're not in the room. We don't know what exactly
is being said.
But the Democrats report they have offered to cut their $3 trillion down to 2. They're
- - cut it by a trillion and say, is there some way to find compromise? They are saying
the Republicans said no to that.
Why can't they get something done, I guess, is my question?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, the Republicans have the $1 trillion apparently on the table. And
why they just couldn't split the math is a bit of a mystery.
But I guess there are two things. A lot of Republicans are worried about deficits. A
lot of Republicans are worried that, if you give people a lot of money, they are not going
to go back to work, something economic studies have not found so far.
I guess what's missing is an underlying analysis, an economic analysis, about how much we need.
And I'm not sure we need 3.4. Some economists think we only need a trillion right now. And
so the numbers seem to be untied to the level of need.
What's serious, what is clear, though, is that we are in the midst of a -- just a tremendous
economic crisis. The idea that the crisis is over is not true, and that this is a time
to err on the side of largeness.
But why they just can't split the difference is a mystery to me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, who will pay a political price, or will anybody pay a political price
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think, when people start suffering, and there's graphic evidence thereof
of people without shelter, children going hungry in this country, then it will come
back to the president and his administration, because, in the final analysis, he is the
single national leader.
So, in that sense, it will redound to the detriment or disadvantage of -- I think of
the Republicans. But, you know, it's a human tragedy we're talking about, Judy. It really
And it's one that the president is ill-fitted for. Donald Trump is talking about optimistic
projections, opening schools, returning to work, and that isn't his stock and trade.
His stock and trade is doom and gloom. He's a five-minutes-to-midnight Republican, not
a five-minutes-to-sunrise Republican, like Reagan or Jack Kemp.
And so, unlike Bill Clinton, who had a great gift for empathy, for actually feeling the
pain of citizens with problems, Donald Trump has translated into the: This is a great disadvantage
to me, and it's my pain, and I'm feeling it.
And I really think he's headed for political disaster, but, more important, a public tragedy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, as we have been reporting today, there was some -- yes, the
unemployment rate has dropped, but the number of new jobs being added is not as much as
it had been. This recovery seems to be slowing.
What do we see in terms of leadership, either from the president or anyone else, that is
going to pull the country through this? The pandemic is continuing -- continues to rage
around the country.
DAVID BROOKS: It's weirdly a failure of political opportunism.
It's clearly in Donald Trump's interest to get federal money out the door and get the
economy going in the fall, so he can claim the economy's coming back. And so he's not
doing what's in his clear political interests, probably because the party has convinced itself
right now that deficits are more important than the immediate crisis.
That goes to a larger failure of the Republicans. For decades, political psychologists have
said Republicans are different from Democrats because Republicans have a sense of menace.
They're quicker to perceive threat.
That has not happened. In this case of COVID, whether it's economic or health-wise, the
decades of political psychology have totally been turned on their head. And they have been
turned on their head for one reason, Donald Trump. He's the one who decided it wasn't
a severe threat, either economically or physically. And the Republican Party has followed him.
It's a lesson in how powerful partisanship is, that the basic psychology of a movement
can suddenly change if one leader says, change.
MARK SHIELDS: Judy, if I...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, go -- yes, go ahead.
MARK SHIELDS: I just wanted to pick up on David's point.
It's obvious to me that the Republicans think the Democrats are going to win in November.
Why do I say that? Because the only time -- history, check it out -- the only time that Republicans
talk about deficits is when there's a Democrat in the White House.
They're just coming off four years of Republican control. And what did they do? They ran up
the deficit in a time of incredible national prosperity, of low national unemployment.
They increased the national deficit, the annual deficit, and the national debt.
But now the prospect of Joe Biden and the Democrats taking over, deficits become a moral
issue to the Republicans.
A little hypocrisy here? Maybe.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David, speaking of Joe Biden, the Democratic National Convention,
such as it is, is going to start about 10 days from now, a week from Monday.
We have learned that not only that no major speakers, including Joe Biden himself, are
not even going to Milwaukee; it's going be a convention like nothing we have ever seen
The Republican National Convention, the president has said he may give his acceptance speech
from Washington, from the White House.
Is all of this going to have a bearing on how this election unfolds, or how do you see
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think so.
First, Donald Trump should not be allowed to give it from the White House. We have a
very strict bifurcation between political office and governing bodies. And you should
not do politics from that kind of office.
Even congressmen have to go across the street to raise money, because we have that strict
bifurcation. It's an important principle to keep.
As for the conventions, people are now asking, do we even need them? And I have to confess,
I do mourn the loss. The conventions are part of the education of the electorate. And they're
an important part, even when they don't actually make any decisions.
Now they may turn into a minor TV show. And that -- I think that -- the power of them
will be diminished. And, with them, the power of the party will be diminished, because it's
an opportunity for an entire party to express itself, and not just a leader.
And so I stick with -- I want to stick with the conventions, so maybe we can have them
normally. I hope we go back to that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I'm actually with you on that.
And we're going to be -- you and Mark are going to be with me and our entire team for
the week of the Democratic Convention, three hours every night, or as long as it goes,
and the same thing for the Republican Convention.
But, Mark, how do you see this sort of shrinking convention in person, but more of a program
online and on television? How do you see that affecting this election?
MARK SHIELDS: I think, Judy, the whole election is affected, beginning with the conventions.
I agree totally with what David said. Politics is a contact sport. It's schmoozing. It's
arm around the shoulder. It's getting together, whispering in each other's ears. There is
none of that.
It's getting to meet people from the same party from different parts of the country,
from different points of view. It is -- it's very, very important in that sense.
The other thing that's been overlooked is, conventions are a great showcase. Two American
presidents in the past 40 years would not have been elected, in all likelihood, but
for the appearance at the convention.
In 1976, at Kansas City, after he challenged President Ford in a bitter fight all the way
to the end, in a gracious and generous off-the-cuff speech to that convention, Ronald Reagan endeared
himself and set himself up for 1980's victory.
And Barack Obama -- I remember sitting there with David in Boston at the Boston Garden,
when he, as a Senate candidate from Illinois, brought down the house and electrified the
nation with a speech, which projected him into a major candidate for 2008. We never
would have heard of Barack Obama but for that.
So, I mean, I think that the conventions and the campaigns are changing. The idea of volunteering,
for kids to go door to door and canvassing, how are they going to do it? This is going
to be a bizarre political election.
Finally, I would just say, rallies are what conventions are. And if there's anybody who
needs rallies, psychologically and politically, it's Donald Trump. And the White House is
not the best place to stage a rally.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, whatever the convention looks like, we're going to cover it from top
to bottom. And those speeches, I guess, will come from living rooms and kitchens.
But, just quickly to both of you, before we go, now that we know this pandemic isn't going
away anytime soon, I just want a few words from both of you about how you're getting
through this time.
David, what do you tell yourself every morning when you get up and when you go to sleep at
DAVID BROOKS: Well, weirdly, it's -- the hardest thing is not personal. It's a sense that our
nation has gone through crises, and has always pulled through them. And, this time, I'm not
sure we're pulling through them.
And the thing that gives me hope is that, somehow, the African American racial equity
situation has become the central moral challenge, even in the midst of everything else. And,
somehow, healing that divide is the healing of the nation.
And it's just a spiritual sense I have that, out of this moment, we can come to a much
better place, at least racially, if not in other ways.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, as a loyal son of the University of Notre Dame, I rely on the words
of a Protestant theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who said, God, grant me the serenity to accept
the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to
know the difference.
I just think it's genius.
That and large samplings of Graeter's ice cream have kept me sane.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Words to live by.
Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.
As another difficult week comes to a close, we want to take the time to share the stories
of five individuals who lost their lives to the coronavirus.
Jennifer Robin Arnold was creative, fun, and a little outrageous. A friend called her a
live wire. Jennifer was born into a family of dancers in New York City. In her 20s, she
toured through Europe and South America as a professional dancer.
She went on to help make costumes and work backstage on Broadway's "Phantom of the Opera"
as a dresser for more than 30 years. A lover of Coney Island, Jennifer was 67 years old.
After long days working as a registered nurse, Joshua Obra often retreated to the Happiest
Place on Earth, Disneyland. His photographs of the park posted on Instagram under the
account Disneylandpanda earned him more than 20,000 followers.
As a child in Gardena, California, Josh begged his parents for a sister. He eventually got
his wish in Jasmine. They were eight years apart, but inseparable. Josh was 29 years
Forty-eight-year-old Abraham Martin Vega of Texas will be remembered as a peacemaker,
his daughter Cori said. At the age of 19, Abraham entered law enforcement and worked
his way up to being elected Lynn County sheriff in 2016. Cori said that anyone who came in
contact with her father instantly felt his affection, whether at Sunday church services
or the grocery store.
A husband, father and grandfather, Abraham's family was his pride and Joy.
Cynthia Gutowski was known for gifting homemade treats all around town, from friends' houses
to the doctor's office. That kindness extended to her lifelong career at Livonia, Michigan,
public schools as a dedicated aide to students with special needs.
Her family says she was never able to sit still, even after her retirement in 2007.
She loved boat rides and traveling and, with a recent trip to Alaska, she accomplished
her lifetime goal of visiting all 50 states. Cynthia was 70 years old.
Robert Kirkbride was gruff, but compassionate, his daughter Martha said. He and his wife
of 67 years, Patricia, worked to teach their three children the importance of church and
community. Robert, or Bob, served in the Army, the Air Force, and as a police officer. He
was a member of his local fire department for more than six decades, serving as chief
for part of that time.
Honored last year as the state of Vermont's longest serving member of the Knights of Columbus,
Bob was 93 years old.
And thanks to these families for sharing these wonderful stories with us.
And, of course, our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones in this pandemic.
On the next episode of "Beyond the Canvas," we hear from some bright stars and how chasing
their dream has led to success. Gloria and Emilio Estefan talk about their partnership
as musicians and as parents raising their family.
That is this weekend, only on PBS. Please check your local listings.
But, first, you can go online, where there is more with Gloria Estefan, including a look
at her new album, paying homage to Brazilian music. That's on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight.
We will be back on Monday with a look at what steps the Smithsonian Institution is taking
as it begins to gradually welcome back visitors.
I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.
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