tv PBS News Hour PBS May 12, 2022 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
amna: good evening. i'm amna nawaz. on the "newshour" tonight, the cost of covid -- americans reflect on hardship and loss as the united states approaches one million deaths from the coronavirus pandemic. then, joining the alliance -- russia's war agnst ukraine prompts finland's leaders to seek nato membership as soon as possible. and -- judy: i'm judy woodruff in charlottesville,irginia, where we are thinking about the legacy of “newshour” cofounder jim lehrer, and having a conversation about political polarization and democracy in crisis. prof. milkis: the system is in dire straits when each side think the other side is an existential threat to american democracy. amna: all that and more on tonight's "pbs newshour."
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by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. amna: president biden today marked the u.s. approaching one million lives lost due to the pandemic. worldwide, the pandemic has claimed more than six million lives. the world health organization estimates the real toll is significantly higher, 15 million deaths directly or indirectly tied to the virus. the white house lowered flags today to half-staff, and members of congress held a moment of silence. the president delivered his remarks at a global pandemic summit today, calling on congress to pass stalled funding for more covid-19 relief in the u.s. and around the globe. pres. biden: today, we mark a tragic milestone here in the united states, one million covid deaths. one million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable, irreplaceable
losses. each leaving behind a family, a community forever changed because of this pandemic. we all must do more. we must honor those we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent as many deaths as possible. amna: let's get some perspective on this enormous toll and where things stand right now. for that, i am joined by dr. anthony fauci, president biden's chief medical adviser. dr. fauci, welcome back to the “newshour.” this is a once-unfathomable number, one million lives lost. you see this reaction from the president, members of the -- of congress marking the day, but we're marking this moment without a national day of mourning or a place to put our shared national grief. what does that say to you about the pandemic and the toll it's taken on this country? dr. fauci: well, it's terribly tragic. i mean, the idea of one million deaths in an outbreak, that is historic in nature. we have had nothing like this in well over 104 years.
one of the parts about it that adds to the tragedy is that many of those deaths were avoidable, avoidable if people had been vaccinated. it's estimated that, if people had been vaccinated to a much greater extent right now, that vaccines would have avoided at least a quarter of those deaths, namely about 250,000. so, the tragedy of the deaths and the losses that the president spoke about today at the conference are very, very clear. it becomes even more poignant to know that we could have avoided many of those if we had had more people gotten vaccinated and boosted. amna: was this the worst-case scenario? i mean, you and other experts have been modeling this out from the beginning. i know those estimates have changed over time. one million, did you expect we would get here? dr. fauci: no, i did not. at the time, quite a while ago, in the early phases of the outbreak, i was wanting people th we could get up to 200,000 deaths. and i was criticized by many
people as being too pessimistic. and look at that. we have five times the higher level that iaid, and we're still not through this. this is terribly tragic. and i would hope that the realization of this and the commemoration of this today, as articulated by the president, would get us to appreciate that there are so many things that we can and should do to make sure that this does not go on. a lot of that's going to require resources that we're going to need to continue the vaccination program to develop better drugs so that, when people do get infected, we can prevent them from progressing to hospitalization, severe disease, and death. amna: let me ask you about what we're seeing across the country, because i travel quite a bit. when you're out and about, i have to tell you, they're -- in much of the country, it's like there is no pandemic. once states were rolling back and ask mandates, once the federal transportation mask mandate was struckown, there's a sense that the administration sort of said, ok, do what you
want, wear a mask if you want, get vaccinated if you want. i'm curious, what more do you think the administration could be doing right now? dr. fauci: well, it's doing what were doing. we are pushing very hard for people to get vaccinated. we're developing and making available in a much easier way drugs that can be given when people are infected to protect them from progressing on to severe disease. i mean, we're talking about the fact that we need to utilize much more. we're making paxlovid, which is a very good drug that can diminish by up to 90% the likelihood that you will wind up in a hospital, we're making that much, much more widely available throughout the country. and we're also putting a big deal of work on trying to get better boosters. we're doing studies right now to optimize the boosters that we ultimately will need as we enter the fall and coming winter season. there's a lot that we're doing. amna: but is there anything else you could be doing more right now?
i mean, i ask that bause it seems as if people heard you say, when you were previously on the show a few weeks ago, we're moving out of thpandemic phase. i know you clarified those remarks to then say, well, we're out of this one phase. the pandemic is not over. and they now hear the administration warning there could be 100 million new infections this fall. and it feels like a bit of whiplash in the messaging. dr. fauci: well, let's try to un-whiplash that. this pandemic is not over. and if we bring down our guard and not do the things we need to do, forget about getting people vaccinated, forget about getting people boosted, we can get ourselves into the same trouble we were several months ago. so, when i was on the show with judy some time ago, i said the fulminant, acute phase of the pandemic, where we're having 900,0 cases a day, 10,000 hospitalizations a day, and 3000 deaths per day, that's not where we are right now. but with the resurgence of
cases, we could be heading in that direction. and that's the reason why we can't let our guard down. and i talk specifically about vulnerable people, about the elderly, about those with underlying conditions. we have got to make sure we don't forget about them. we shouldn't forget about anybody in the population, but particularly the vulnerable people who, if they get infected, are more likely to get a severe outcome. amna: so, when you talk about the need for funding for additional resources for those mitigation measures moving ahead, let's get specific. if that money does not come through, what kind of choices will you have to make, will medical professionals have to ma? does it mean that everyone who wants a booster won't be able to get one, everyone who's uninsured won't be able to get treatment? dr. fauci: the answer to that is yes to both of them. first of all, we won't have enough antivirals. we won't be able to develop newer and better antivirals. we won't be able to have a booster for everyone, and we will not be able to get the best possible boosters. we have studies right now that are lined up to try and figure out what the most appropriate booster will be for the fourth shot that likely people will need as we get into the fall.
if we don't get the resources that we asked for, we're not going to be able to do that. amna: so here's the pushback to that, which is, billions have already been spent in covid response and mitigation, and yet still we have reached one million deaths. so, what leads you to believe billions more would prevent additional deaths? dr. fauci: well, i'm sorry, amna, i think that's a spurious argument. we have a very, very challenging outbreak here. the billions that was put in have saved millions of lives. and more that will be put in will continue to save many, many lives. i don't think it's a really valid argunt to say, you put a lot of money in and a lot of people still died, so why put money in? i'd have to reject that argument. there is a threat and a likelihood that we'll see a surge as we get into the fall and the winter. so we've got to be prepared. and we've got to be prepared with vaccinations, with
boosters, with optimizing the therapy. and that's what i mean when we say we can't leave our guard down. even though, right at this moment, we're not in the so-called fulminant phase of the outbreak, we are still in the middle of the pandemic. amna: that is dr. anthony fauci, president biden's chief medical adviser. dr. fauci, always good to have you. thank you. dr. fauci: thank you for having me. vanessa: i'm vanessa ruiz in for stephanie sy with newshour west. we'll return to the full program after the latest headlines. a congressional report charged that the meatpacking industry and the trump administration put production over workers' health in the first year of the pandemic. the head of a select subcommittee, democrat james yburn, said plants were kept open while 269 workers died. the industry said the report ignored company efforts to retool plants and purchase protective gear.
meanwhile, north korea has acknowledged its first covid outbreak since the start of the pandemic and imposed a nationwide lockdown. state media report 350,000 cases of fever since april and six deaths, including one confirmed death from covid. meanwhile, the country's leader, kim jong un, appeared on state television, wearing a mask in public for the first time. he removed it to speak at a meeting. and hours after announcing the covid outbreak, north korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles. they landed in the sea of japan in the 16th missile test this year, and the first test since south korea's new president took office on tuesday. there have also been signs that the north is preparing its first nuclear test in nearly five years. and at least 11 people have been confirmed dead today after a boat carrying migrants capsized off puerto rico. the u.s. coast guard said 31 people were rescued. of those, at least eight haitiansere taken to the hospital.
palestinians turned out today to mourn shereen abu aqleh, a palestinian-american reporter who was shot dead wednesday. journalists were with her say israeli troops fired on the group, killing abu aqleh. today, an honor guard laid a wreath on her coffin. the palestinian president rejected israel's call for a joint investigation. and back in this country, the january 6 committee in congress subpoenaed house minority leader kevin mccarthy and four other republicans. the focus is on mccarthy's conversations with then-president trump on the day that the u.s. capitol was attacked, and on lawmakers' meetings with white house aides. mccarthy said today it's not a legitimate investigation. he did not say if he'll comply with the subpoena. some 200,000 customers in southern minnesota spent the day waiting for the lights to come back on, after a night of severe storms.
extreme winds and possible tornadoes blew down trees and power lines, and smashed homes. dawn: we heard crack -- i heard a cracking, and then the next thing i knew the tree topped. it did lean the right way, it could've been much worse. it could've fell on the house, it could've fallen on the fence, it could've fallen on the power lines that are strictly straight across. it just went in a diagonal and it just fell perfectly. vanessa: one person, a storm chasing weather specialist, was killed in a car wreck during the storms. a nationwide shortage of baby formula moved high on the agenda in washington today. president biden spoke with formula makers and retailers, and aides said they're considering using the defense production act to boost supply. republicans charged that the president hawaited too long to take action. the shortage stems from supply chain disruptions and a safety recall. and in economic news, the labor
department reported wholesale prices rose 11% in april from a year earlier. meanwhile, the u.s. senate easily confirmed jerome powell to a second, four-year term as chairman of the federal reserve. and, astronomers have captured the first image of the gigantic black hole at the center of the milky way galaxy. radio telescopes showed an orange-red ring surrounding total emptiness. the black hole consumes all light and matter and is four million times larger than the sun. still to come on the "newshour," how religion is being used in russia's war against ukraine. also, new mexico and arizona struggle against raging wildfires as evacuations continue. and, a new exhibit portrays the controversial and confrontational paintings of philip guston. and much more. >> this is the "pbs newshour"
from weta studios in washington and in the west from the walter cronkite school of journalism at arizona state university. amna: finland's president and prime minister announced today the country would end its decades-long neutral status and seek to join nato. the full government will make a formal declaration on sunday. and its neighbor, sweden, is expected to take similar steps next week. for many years, finland has opted out of defense pacts, even when the cold war divided east and west. in 2017, 22% of finns backed nato membership. but russia's unprovoked war in ukraine pushed public support for the u.s.-led alliance up to 76% this month. if accepted, finland and sweden would join a cluster of new nato members in eastern europe since 1997, just what president putin had sought to prevent when he invaded ukraine. russia has vowed to retaliate, saying finland's decision -- quote -- "definitely" posed a threat to its security.
for more on all of this, we turn to eric edelman, who served as was also undersecretary ofand defense for policy during the george w. bush administration. ambassador edelman, welcome to the "newshour." thanks for joining us. so, in terms of strengthening this defense alliance, tell us about finland and sweden's militaries. what do they bring to the table? eric: well, finland and streaming sweden bring geostrategic and military capability to the alliance. unlike some other of the recent ditions to nato, it is very serious military capability. from the geostrategic point of view, finland and sweden provide a strategic hinterland for the baltic states, making it easier to defend them with conventional means. and they also provide the ability to close the danish straits and, with the presence of gotland, a swedish possession in the baltic, in the case of a conflict with russia, to bottle up the russian baltic fleet. in terms of capability, finland is able to bring, when fully
mobilized, an army of about 280,000 or so into the field. but it also has a commitment to total national territorial defense and can mobilize up to 900,000, if necessary, in extremis. and it also brings a capability in the air. it is flying currently 62 us f-18 aircraft, but it has agreed to purchase f-35 as a fifth-generation fighter, as the f-18's age out. and it has about 1500 artillery pieces. and if we have learned anything from the war in ukraine, artillery matters. amna: what about the russian response that we have heard so far? this -- russian leaders have said that this would inflict serious damage to the russian-finnish relationship and that russia would be forced to take what they called retaliatory steps if this moves forward. what does that mean to you? eric: i think, so far, it's really mostly bluster, frankly.
there is certainly an issue here of imposing costs on russia by having finland and sweden join nato. but we have had nato troops in the baltic states, for instance, cheek by jowl with russia, and it hasn't led to any particular military outbreak. i think this is mostly jawboning. right now, the russians have their hands full in ukraine. amna: what about that finnish defense? i mean, we noted that, basically, since the cold war, they have had this policy of nonalignment. what has their defense strategy looked like? they have an 800-mile border with russia, right? if russia were to attack, what would they do? eric: well, finland, like the united states, not a signatory to the land mine convention. and i think their plan is to seed that 830-mile-long border withines right at the outset of any conflict to impede a russian advance, as would the forests that divide finland from russia. that's something the russians
learned about in 1939 in the winter war, when they had a lot of difficulty moving their forces into finland. but finland has operated on the basis of very close cooperation with nato since the cold war ended, maintaining the option for membership, and now russia's actions have actually led them to seek that membership. amna: ambassador, officials seemed to say this could happen quickly, within a matter of weeks. so i guess the big question is, what kind of impact, if any, would sweden and finland joining nato have on the war in ukraine? eric: well, again, it's kind of cost imposition for president putin, who has said, ostensibly, one of the reasons he went into ukraine was because he didn't want nato military coming closer to russia's borders. well, now it will be along an 830-mile border. so there's some cost imposition. but finland has also provided military support for ukraine. i would expect that to continue. but, other than that, i don't think there'll be any immediate
impact on the war. amna: and in just the few seconds we have left, does it mean anything for ukraine's future potential membership in nato? eric: well, i think the fact that a country that went through the kind of unprovoked premeditated aggression that russia today has inflicted on ukraine in the past, which is finland in 1939 and 1940 and then again in 1944, has the ability to join nato, should hold out hope in the long run that, depending on the outcome of this conflict, depending on developments in russia, at some point in the future, ukraine might be able to aspire to nato membership, particularly given the military account they have given of themselves in this fight with russia. amna: that is former u.s. ambassador to finland eric edelman joining us tonight. ambassador edelman, thank you so much. eric: thank you.
amna: for the 70% of ukrainians who are orthodox christian, the celebration of easter this year was fraught with extra meaning. ukraine's orthodox church split from its russian parent when vladimir putin first invaded ukraine eight years ago. and now religion's role in the conflict is front and center. here is nick schifrin. nick: in the center of ukraine's capital, where even the divine needs defense, a priest leads soldiers seeking blessings. on orthodox easter last month, those who need the most protection found a quiet moment to request it. ukrainians are fighting a war that threatens their very existence. and in the presence of god, they pray not only for restoration, but also judgment, which is what father feodosii provides. he blesses ukrainians and scorns russian soldiers accused of war crimes. father feodosii: it is tragic that people who call themselves
christian allow themselves to do such things. nick: metropolitan epiphanius, thhead of the ukrainian orthodox church, goes further. he condones killing russian soldiers in the name of saving the country, and has likened russian president vladimir putin to the antichrist. putin replies with his own judgment via his own ally. on orthodox easter in moscow, the service is led by patriarch kirill, a longtime kremlin partner. he portrays the war as part of moscow's defense of eastern ukraine from what he disparages as western ideals. patriarch kirill: the donbass is a rejection of the so-called values offered by those who lay claim to global domination. today, there is a certain test for loyalty to that power. do you know what that test is? it's a gay parade. cyril: putin and his confederates, including those in the church, present the war as almost like a sacred crusade against the presumably godless
west. nick: cyril hovorun is a ukrainian orthodox priest and professor of theology at university college stockholm. i spoke to him from ukraine via skype. cyril: they believe ukraine is the cradle of what they call the russian civilization, and it has a kind of mystical, i would say, mythical connectedness with modern russia. i personally would call this ideology "make russia great again." i think that is a kind of the essence of what putin tries to achieve with the support of the church. nick: patriarch kirill gives religious cover to putin's political ambitions, as he did on sunday. patriarch kirill: i wanted to say my heartfelt gratitude to those who are here today, but even more so wanted to say thanks again to the government and the army of ours, that today, in practically war conditions, defend our country. nick: he also repeats putin's etoric of self-defense. patriarch kirill: we are a very peace-loving country and a peace-loving and long-suffering people. nick: the reality?
kirill utteredhose words the very day ukrainian authorities in bucha exposed mass graves full of executed civilians bound and shot. hovorun used to work for kirill, and quit in 2012. cyril: i tried to convince him that this ideology is going to be extremely dangerous, destructive for the church, for himself, for russia, and for ukraine. we see this outcome, this result of this ideology moving masses of people, masses of russian soldiers to fight in ukraine and securing a very wide support for putin in his war. nick: for more than 1000 years, ukrainian orthodox churches sat inside a larger russian orthodox church. but then russia annexed crimea from ukraine. by 2019, ukraine's president and the overall head of the orthodox church in constantinople declared the ukrainian orthodox
church independent. that means at this ukrainian orthodox service in lviv, father viktor kayda can feature the ukrainian language and speak freely about russia. as seen on a local tv report, he used to lead a ukrainian orthodox church in the southern city of kherson, parts of which aroccupied by russia. he says religious vides became political. father kayda: belonging to either the russian or ukrainian orthodox churches makes a big difference. russia knows that. and that's why it is so important for them to maintain its influence. when the priest says, this is good and this is evil, people listen and believe. it's an element of control over a large number of people. let's be frank. it's brainwashing. nick: pope francis has also criticized the russian orthodox church and recently warned patriarch kirill against becoming putin's -- quote -- "altar boy." in 2016, the two broke years of schism between the vatican and the orthodox church, but recent attempts to meet have failed. and pope francis, the leader of
a billion catholics, repeatedly condemns an unnamed aggressor. pope francis: peace upon tormented ukraine sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged. nick: dragged, but not defeated. and on this recent orthodox easter, the flock was reminded of ukrainian tradition. father kayda: even before this war, for generations, we've had this saying, christ has risen, ukraine will rise too. we have hope that, maybe, after having celebrated the resurrection of christ, we will have our own resurrection. nick: for the "pbs newshour," i'm nick schifrin in lviv.
amna: and a reminder that our coverage of ukraine is supported in partnership with the pulitzer center. as we approach the tragic milestone of one million deaths from covid-19 in the u.s., we wanted to bring you reflections from some of the people we've met over the past two years of this pandemic -- a paramedic, a nurse, a single mom, a sister, a daughter, a student, all facing their own challenges and carrying their own hopes for what comes next. adam: i'm adam bliden. i'm a paramedic. i'm in piermont, new york. and it's been two years, april of 2020, that we last spoke. andrea: i'm andrea shiloh, and i live in houston, texas. dave: my name is dave cayton. i'm a registered nurse. i live in maple grove, minnesota. lori: my name is lori bebko, and i'm in bradford, pennsylvania. john: my name is john meng. i'm currently a business school student here at the university of chicago. yvette: my name is yvette paz. i live in fresno, california, and i spoke to you in august of 2020.
adam: i don't think a single one of us was ready for the cost of working through this. it is a hard job to begin with, always wondering, is this going to be the one that gets me? every little cold, every little sneeze is going to lead to being out of work, to being laid up? yes, it's hard. lori: my brother charlie, who was developmentally delayed and autistic and immunocompromised due to diabetes, died on december 28, 2020, of covid. i got covid. i was exposed when he got sick. it's so much worse than people understand. i think you have to go through it to really understand it. john: a day doesn't go by that i don't think about covid in some way or another. and, oftentimes, it's really in relation to how it's affected my mental state, as well as my, like, physical body. yvette: i actually was one of the very first cases that was reported here. it is almost like i don't recognize myself health-wise.
yes, i'm thankful, yes, i'm grateful, but there also is a little bit of survivor's guilt that you get left with. you know, you think back, and you think about how many moms, single moms just like me, are not here, how many parents and grandparents and even children, yes, children, they're not here anymore. dave: i started grad school, and i ended up changing jobs from working in the intensive care unit to now working in surgery. there were other reasons that i left the intensive care unit as well. one of those was just this continuing feeling of tryingo do more with less. and this is a feeling that i know that covid definitely amplified. andrea: i had been working really diligently to get my then-97-year-old mom vaccinated. she got her first dose of moderna, and then, 30 days later, her second. i felt like i had scored the winning touchdown at the super bowl.
i had this odd sense of freedom. john: i'm a guy in my 20's, and i have never had to deal with this kind of like long-term, lingering disease before. the way that i am coping with it is trying to not think too far ahead, trying to just live my life day to day, trying to be as optimistic as possible. lori: i have mostly spent the time trying to get well and to deal with my grief in a healthy way, because the day that it happened, when i came home, not only was i in the middle of this terrible grief, but i was furious. i was in a rage. and i have been very angry for the last year. dave: there was honestly still kind of a feeling of guilt. i felt like i was kind of abandoning the other staff, and i mean the other bedside nurses, because i relied on them when i was working in the icu, and they
relied on me. but, ultimately, i kind of came to the conclusion that it's not worth putting myself at risk, putting my mental health at risk, my family's health, my wife's health. andrea: sadly, my mother has since passed away, but not from covid. and that was the thing, to get her through another year. she said to me one time, "i want to live as long as i can." and she did. she did. and i'm going to claim this year as a victory. john: i consider myself pretty fortunate to have gotten the covid actually twice at this point, and that i'm still here. of course, i feel like the disease itself has really wrecked my body and my mind. but i try to kind of find the silver lining in things,
specifically that i'm still living, i'm still breathing, that there is still a future for me, though the future is very uncertain. yvette: to hear the number a milln, it's just heartbreaking. if i were to go back to myself the first day in the hospital and say, hey, this is something that's real, and it's going to be big, i don't know ii would have believed it. adam: something told me in the very beginning of this pandemic that it was not going to be quick and it was not going to be easy. i'm not surprised that we hit a million. to think about one person who i know who died of this would be unfair to the rest. it's so much of a -- almost like a blur, where the fog is still there, and normal needs to be reestablished. amna: in the days ahead, we will continue to mark this tragic moment and remember some of the people who have lost their lives in this pandemic.
there's been an unusually early start to fire season this year, with blazes already burning for weeks in the southwest, mainly in arizona and new mexico. the nation's largest wildfire continues to rage in new mexico near santa fe. it has burned nearly 260,000 acres, and there is no end in sight. on the ground, stephanie sy reports on the toll the massive blaze is taking on both the land and its people. stephanie: for more than a month, the winds have own and the flames have lit up the sangre de cristo mountains in northeastern new mexico, consuming an area larger than new york city. those winds, gusting more than 50 miles per hour, threatened this week to push the fire to communities closer to the city of taos, putting more communities on notice to evacuate.
jonathan: if they evacuate us from here, we don't know where were going to go. stephanie: yesterday, in the nearby village of eagle's nest, residents at this econo lodge, who had already fled their homes days or even weeks before in mora, were trying to decide what to do next. hailey: there is a rumor going around that the house has and so s idbued.plern have sa that they saw it burning. and so it very well could be gone at this point. jonathan: we don't know what to do. they're evacuating us from here. and we don't know if we're going to go to albuquerque, colorado, or wherever the hell were going to go. wil: they told us three days here, but that fire over there is what's controlling everything. stephanie: the blaze, now approaching the size of the largest wildfire in new mexico's recorded history, has grown at a terrifying clip. after more than a month and with more than 1800 firefighting personnel from states across the country, the wildfire is less than 30% contained. ryan: in my 25 years of
experience, i have never seen a fire grow like this in early may, late april, especially in new mexico. stephanie: ryan berlin is a fire spokesman for the incident management team. a confluence of climate change, weather, and human decisions appear to have caused the blaze. ryan: the fire loves the wind and loves the topography. and we have had a lot of low relative humidity here too. so, when this all lines up, it's just allowing for the rapid-fire growth. stephanie: in addition to that low humidity, higher than average temperatures, and a series of days of gusting winds have blown the embers and sparked new fires. meanwhile, those winds have also kept firefighting aircraft grounded for days. closer to the southern end of the massive wildfire, another evacuation center been set up at a middle school in the city of las vegas -- population, 13,000. 63-year-old andrew vigil has been volunteering here, helping evacuees like this
8th-generation new mexican carry food for his grandkids to the car. he's doing so with a sprained foot and a heavy heart. a few weeks ago, the calf canyon fire blew a column of smoke within sight of his home, the home he'd built with his own hands and lived in for eight years. andrew: i told my wife, you better get in your car, and because i hear the wind, but i hear something like a torch behind it. so i jumped on my pt cruiser, got the dog, and we were out of there, barely. we made it. thank god we're alive. stephanie: but the house didn't make it, nor did his new truck, or the winnebago he'd used as his man cave, nor did almost anything else andrew vigil possessed. andrew: i lost everything. and it's not fair. we were so happy there, me and
my wife. stephanie: speaking to evacuees, an undercurrent of anger runs as word spreads that the wildfire was at least in part caused by a prescribed burn. that's the practice of using controlled burns to thin out the forest and reduce wildfire fuel. the u.s. forest service lit a prescribed burn in early april. that fire merged with another wildfire, becoming the conflagration now threatening a way of life for new mexicans. wil: somebody just made a bad decision. i think somebody's got to pay for this. stephanie: in a statement to the "newshour," the forest service defended the use of prescribed burns, but said, "an unpredicted in winds caused multiple spot fires that spread outside the project boundary." an investigation is under way. michael: around here, everybody knows that you don't light a match in march or april. those are the windiest months of the year every year. stephanie: michael montoya is las vegas city council member.
like many locals, his family hails from the early spanish and mexican settlers who lived in the mountains here since well before the founding of america. his own family ranch is within a mile of the eastern flank of the fire. michael: around here, in the northern part of the state, is -- we maintain the land, and we maintain it, a we leave it better than when we found it. so, that's really hard for a lot of us, people that are losing their properties. stephanie: and, for many, those properties were nearly all they had in this poor region of a poor state. donations have poured in to the evacuation center in las vegas, where janna lopez, an evacuee herself, has been coordinating free meal service with the world central kitchen. janna: this community has been through so much sorrow, so much devastation. a lot of our people can't afford
house insurance. it's pay your medical bills or pay to keep the lights on, so they don't have insurance, including myself. i didn't have home insurance. so, it's just amazing the way that the services have come together. stephanie: food is plentiful, shelter is available, and a helping hand, even from those who themselves have lost everything, is never far away. the hardship is far from over. while the winds are expected to die down this weekend, fire officials say they may not be able to fully contain the blaze until july. for the "pbs newshour," i'm stephanie sy in las vegas, new mexico. amna: nearly 250 years ago, america's founders came together to declare tt everyone has unalienable rights. just what those rights are has
been debated ever since. judy woodruff looked at those questions and more today in a visit to the university of virginia in charlottesville. judy: thanks, amna. i came here to uva to take part in a program honoring the "newshour"'s co-founder and former anchor, the late jim lehrer. and, while here, i had the chance to speak with a professor who's long been interested in america's polarization, which has only grown sharper in the past few years, including just last week with the supreme court and the abortion rights draft. he is political scientist sid milkis, whose latest book is "what happened to the vital center?" sid milkis, thank you very much for talking with us. you have studied, you have written so much about democracy, about -- you have looked really hard at what has held us together and what has driven us apart. where are we right now? prof. milkis: we are fighting over the meaning of our rights, the meaning of the constitution.
i think what strikes me as different about the contemporary period of polarization is that -- is, our democracy is so unfiltered now, if you will, that many of the institutions that in the past have constrained our battles, as fundamental as they have been, have been weakened considerably. and i look to the 1960's as an important period that began to weaken some of the key institutions that have been critical to building a consensus in american politics. judy: and you also write about the growing importance, the growing power of the executive branch, the presidency. prof. milkis: yes. judy: how -- what effect has that had on our democracy? prof. milkis: yes. for a long time, until the 1960's, there was some obligation on the part of the president to stand above partisanship, to moderate conflicts.
as theodore roosevelt put it in kind of a beguiling way, the president was supposed to be the steward of the -- of public welfare. presidents didn't completely live up tohat, but there was an obligation to a least transcend, to a degree, partisanship. and i think that has changed in the -- since the 1960's. we have seen a merger of partisanship a executive power. and i think that is a very combustible combination. judy: and i think some people have been tempted to say former prident trump is the zenith of that. prof. milkis: yeah. yeah. judy: your argument is that it -- this all started before he came along. prof. milkis: yeah. a lot of the issues that forr president trump made central to our political battles really start in the 1960's and really have their ogin with the conservative reaction to the dramatic social and cultural changes that take place in the 1960's, civil rights being most -- the most dramatic example of
that. judy: right. prof. milkis: and, in response to that, a conservative movement has emerged. they emphasize things like law and order, protecting family values, protecting the right of parents to have some influence on the curriculum. all of these issues are there in the 1960's. and they have kind of filtered through our political system ever since. and i think what happens is, president trump brings them to a head in a way that had not occurred before his presidency. judy: how -- i mean, given where we are and the corrosive effects on, it seems to me, our ability to work together, how far do you think this could go? prof. milkis: yes. judy: some people have said, maybe, we will have another civil war. what do you think? prof. milkis: yeah. it is really frightening, judy, that a lot of commentators have referred to this period as the cold civil war in american politics. and the question is, could a cold civil war become a hot
civil war? and, of course, what happened on january 6 was a really serious foreboding of such a possibility. the foundation of self-government in the united states was challenged in a way that hasn't happened before. the challenge to the notion that we had a free and fair election, when all evidence pointed to the fact that we did, suggests that we are in a really dangerous place in american politics. i don't think we are at the place where we are going to be shooting at each other, but i definitely think a political system is in dire straits when each side views the other as an existential threat to american democracy and to their understanding of what american life is all about. judy: i was struck in the book that, at one point, you quote two other scholars saying -- i think this is right at the end -- saying, "few other societies in history have managed to be both multiracial and genuinely democratic." prof. milkis: yeah. yeah.
judy: that is something. prof. milkis: yes, it is really something. and it is hard to find reason to be optimistic in american politics, but i'm less opposed to polarization than a lot of my colleagues, because i think, in a sense, a democracywhat should be understood as democracy, takes flight in the 1960's. before the 1960's, if you look at comparative politics and the way democracy is measured, given the jim crow system and the other discriminations against people of color, we were not a democracy until the 1960's. and so it seems -- it is not surprising that, since self-government in america really took flight only 50 years ago, that we are having these struggles over these issues. and i think it is something we have to have, because what would really make us exceptional, if we can find a way to reconcile democracy in a multiracial, multiethnic society.
judy: given what you said a moment ago, that you are noto discouraged about the polarization, that it is a healthy thing maybe that is going on right now, where are we headed? i mean, how -- do you see this being healed in coming years? prof. milkis: yeah, you know, i am a lot better at explaining diseases than coming up with remedies for them. i don't see anything immediate that is going to heal us. but, in addition to the fact that we are having a very important conversation -- and that may be resolved by things like massive demographic shifts. i mean, if you look at the -- my students, for example, i don't think they're nearly as polarized as the rest of the country. i think they look at us with a bit of a disdain that our generation is -- our generation -- the generations before them are so divided. a lot of these social issues that we have -- that i have talked about, they -- they're
very comfortable with them. they're pretty comfortable about having hard conversations. so that's one hope, generational change, which is the way american democracy has developed throughout our history. new generations have -- and jefferson felt this was absolutely essential about american democracy, that every generation would have the opportunity to define the meaning of the declaration that fit their circumstances. so that's one thing that makes me -- gives me some optimism. judy: it's a good note to end on. prof. milkis: yes. judy: professor sid milkis, thank you. thank you very much. prof. milkis: oh, it's been an honor to be with you, judy. thank you. judy: it's been an honor to be here at the university of virginia, where, earlier today, i took part in a program honoring my late colleague jim lehrer. you can watch my conversation about how we at the "newshour" work to live up to the standards jim set. that's at pbs.org/newshour.
amna: well, two years ago, four museums were set to present a retrospective of painter philip guston. and then, in one of the biggest controversies to hit the art world in the last few years, it all imploded. now the show has finally launched at the museum of fine arts in boston. special correspondent jared bowen of gbh boston has the story for our arts and culture series, canvas. and a warning -- some of the artwork may be disturbing to viewers. jared: philip guston was the jewish son of immigrant parents from present-day ukraine, who learned early on what it meant to be a jew in america. ethan: the seminal moment for him is in 1933 in l.a., when he submits a work showing klan violence to an exhibition, and it's vandalized by the red squad of the lapd, which has affiliations with the klan. jared: the event marked him deeply enough that, within four years, the then-phillip goldstein changed his name to
guston, and he embarked on a career that, alongside his high school friend jackson pollock, would make him one of the most famous names in 20th century art. ethan: guston is, in the 1940's, 1950's, one of the great abstract expressionist painters, selling out shows, but always feels the limits of that approach to painting. jared: ethan lasser is co-curator of the nationally touring exhibition philip guston now, which recently opened at the museum of finerts boston. it's a retrospective that charts how hate and antisemitism churned within guston. ethan: in 1968, as he's watching tv, he's watching kent state, he's watching vietnam, and he says, what kind of man am i going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue to make abstract paintings? what can an abstract painting actually say in the world of civil rights? jared: so the painter made a pivot, walking away from abstract expressionism. it was abrupt and, to the art world, unforgivable. taking cues from the sunday comics, and "krazy kat" in particular, he started painting cartoonish images, often in pink, a comics color, but one
that can also be read as fleshy and raw. and, in a motif that would appear throughout most of his 50-year career, he painted the ku klux klan. guston did not discuss his work. that's been left to interpreters like lasser. ethan: what he paints are images of klansmen who had haunted guston since he was a young artist, images of himself in a hood, as a klansman, painting images that call to account the underlying, i think, structures of racism in the art world and in america in general. matthew: how do you create a way for those images to be understood? jared: matthew teitelbaum is the mfa's director. he, along with the heads of the three other presenting museums, were caught in a firestorm of controversy in 2020, when the show was set to open at the national gallery in washington, d.c. >> we're marching for black life. jared: in the wake of george floyd's murder and ensuing protests, the muums, which also included mfa houston and
london's tate modern, chose to postpone the show four years, when, they announced, the work, including its kkk imagery, could be -- quote -- "more clearly interpreted." matthew: we felt it was a very charged moment to talk about race and to not have the community voices helping us interpret how these images would be received. it was never about whether or not guston had a voice that we needed to hear at any time and at all time. jared: but that's not how the art world saw it. thousands of artists, curators, and writers signed a petition blasting the museum's decision and accused them of -- quote -- "lacking faith in the intelligence of their audience," and worse. how much did it hit you when you wre accused by artists, you being the four institutions, of cowardice? matthew: i never had anybody say that about me before. and it wasn't something that i even thought about. it wasn't about avoiding something. jared: instead, the mfa is now launching the national tour two years ahead of schedule. it's curated the show unlike any other, inviting museum staff to
weigh in, engaging a trauma specialist, and expanding the curatorial team to four, including guest curator terence washington. terence: the debate around the controversy talked about this exhibition as being the one that would start a conversation about whiteness, and it would hold up a mirror to people who had stormed the capitol, dot, dot, dot. and i just thought, yes, but, like, are those people coming in? this feels really abstract. jared: washington's approach had less to do with guston than museums themselves. are they, he wonders, as accessible as they claim? terence: to me, that's the central thing. how do we undetand why exhibitions are done and for whom they're done? all these places are open because they're supposed to be for everybody. and i'm just not sure that that's the case. jared: each of the four museums is devising their own plan for showing the work. here at the mfa, some of guston's most searing hood paintings are on view in a single gallery.
if visitors prefer to avoid them, they're invited to circumvent the space. if thedo enter, it's deliberately claustrophobic. terence: we hope that will cause people to be a little less comfortable, or cause people to aestheticize them and neuter the paintings a bit less. jared: because washington wants to ensure that we never get so used to seeing klan images that we don't really see them anymore, just as he doesn't want museums to get used to programming with the same old limited perspective. terence: whiteness is not stract. whiteness is structuring the conversation around this exhibition. it's not something that we can put on and take off. jared: for the "pbs newshour," i'm jared bowen in boston. amna: and on the "pbs newshour" online, thousands of kids lost a caregiver to covid, and doctors are pushing to get them the care they need. read about how counseling centers in louisiana are handling the rise in demand for eir services at pbs.org/newshour.
and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm amna nawaz. join us online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the "pbs newshour," thank you, and see you soon. >> major funding for the "pbs newshour" has been provided by. >> for 25 years, consumer cellular has been offering no-contract wireless plans designed to help people do more of what they like. our u.s.-based customer service team can help find a plan that fits you. to learn more, visit consumercellular.tv. >> the ford foundation, working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide. and with the ongoing support of these institutions. and friends of the "newshour."
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