tv PBS News Hour PBS December 25, 2015 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> ifill: good evening. i'm gwen ifill. judy woodruff is away. on the newshour tonight, old drugs with new prices; what's behind sudden price hikes on prescription drugs. also ahead, a hidden gift for the nation's bridges and roads buried in this year's massive congressional package-- how lawmakers got to "yes" after years of "no." plus, in the footsteps of our ancestors: an encore look at one journalist's walk around the world, to uncover man's prehistoric journey. >> walking has shown me that the boundaries between stories are permeable; in that, one story bleeds into another, because human life bleeds into each other. >> ifill: and it's friday. mark shields and michael gerson analyze the week's news. all that and more on this christmas edition of the
>> supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world's most pressing problems-- skollfoundation.org. >> the ford foundation. working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and friends of the newshour. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: christmas day, 2015, brought fresh appeals for an end to terror, and a new focus on peace. the theme dominated annual
messages from various world leaders, starting at the vatican. cheers erupted from the thousands in sunny saint peter's square, as the pope emerged to deliver his christmas message. in it, he spoke out against "atrocities" by radical islamists. >> ( translated ): my thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in egyptian airspace, in beirut, paris, bamako and tunis. >> ifill: francis did not directly name the islamic state group, but he did urge world leaders to focus on syria, libya and elsewhere. he also praised countries who've taken in refugees fleeing the violence. some of those refugees spent their christmas in a camp in calais, france, where they've waited for months, hoping to get to britain. across the channel, queen elizabeth took note of the hardships suffered by many, in
her annual holiday message. there's an old saying that "it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." there are millions of people lighting candles of hope in our world today. >> ifill: again this year, american troops spent christmas in afghanistan and other far- flung outposts, including kuwait. >> well, as we know, our army, our been whole military has been deployed for over the last fifteen years, so it's important to go out, and many of these soldiers have been deployed multiple times during christmas holidays and other holidays, so again we just want to thank them for their services and really tell them we appreciate what they do for our army and really for our nation. >> ifill: president and mrs. obama also paid tribute to the troops in their pre-taped holiday message, and they urged americans to come together as one family. >> caring for those on society's margins: the sick and the hungry, the poor and the persecuted, the stranger in need of shelter-- or simply an act of kindness. that's the spirit that binds us together-- not just as christians, but as americans of all faiths.
>> ifill: the obamas are spending their holidays in hawaii again this year, hiking, golfing and seeing friends. it was a far more somber day for tornado victims across the south. at least 14 are now confirmed dead in wednesday's storms. the same weather system also brought flood warnings in several states today, and much of the east coast saw record warmth again-- with readings 20 degrees above normal. in britain, the government called a rare holiday cabinet meeting, to deal with record flooding in northern england. the british army has been deployed to build barricades in cumbria. that area has already seen the wettest december since records began in 1910. a world away, the problem is fire. raging bushfires in australia destroyed more than 50 homes southwest of melbourne and forced hundreds of people to evacuate. the fires were burning near a popular tourist attraction, the "great ocean road." witnesses said some people had to flee christmas celebrations on a moment's notice.
>> they were all prepared, putting their barbecues on, they were cooking away, and all of a sudden they could see the smoke coming over the hill. they thought it was still four hours away, according to what they'd heard. and then all of a sudden it was an hour away, and all of a sudden it was half an hour away. so, they just dropped everything, stopped cooking and hopped in their car and headed here. >> ifill: crews are using water- bombing aircraft and 60 fire engines to battle the flames. but officials say it could take some time to make progress. tragedy struck in nigeria last night. an explosion at a gas plant killed dozens of people as they lined up to buy butane gas. one reporter said he saw about a hundred bodies. officials say a truck was discharging gas at the facility when it exploded. the blast touched off a fire that raged for hours before it was finally doused. there's another sign of potential warming between india and pakistan, after decades of war and tension. indian prime minister narendra modi made a surprise visit to
pakistan today. he met with pakistani prime minister nawaz sharif, and aides said they discussed the disputed kashmir region. the two also met at the climate change talks in paris this month. and an apology today from a british astronaut-- for an errant phone call. tim peake mis-dialed on a christmas greeting from the international space station. later, he tweeted: "i'd like to apologize to the lady i just called, saying 'hello, is this planet earth?' not a prank call, just a wrong number." >> ifill: still to come on the newshour: why some drug prices suddenly spike; the man who's walking around the world; what the highway bill means for the nation's roads and bridges; mark shields and michael gerson on this week's news; and the hit musical about the founding father you forgot about.
>> ifill: we now turn to a story that continues to worry and anger consumers-- soaring drug prices, even sometimes for new versions of old drugs. the latest case involves a drug that helps treat a rare autoimmune disorder. until recently, its manufacturer often offered it at minimal, or no cost. but now another pharmaceutical company, catalyst, says it wants the f.d.a. to approve a modified, and likely more expensive, version of the drug. i recorded this conversation yesterday, with reporter sabrina tavernese of "the new york times." sabrina, i'm going to start out by asking you to define something most people have never heard of which is orphan drugs. what are those? >> the orphan drugs is a law passed in the early 1980s to try to stimulate development of
drugs for rare diseases. so it was specifically meant to get drug companies to come up with new ideas and new inventions for small populations of patients that wouldn't have otherwise been profitable, so it gave some advantages to companies that wanted to -- that agreed to develop these drugs. >> brown: so now what you see is some companies are repurposing some of these old drugs that were created with this protection under this umbrella for profit? >> so, essentially what's happened, gwen, is the companies are just sort of scouting around in the landscape looking for older drugs to get approved under this law. so, essentially, not really doing any development work, not really doing any of the hard, you know, invention required to come up with something new, taking something that was old that was already on the market and getting it approved, getting it special status under this law and, so, that gets them seven
years of market monopoly which is actually a very, very long period of time for the drug industry. >> reporterindustry. >> ifill: you wrote in the "new york times" about a particular drug designed to help patients suffering from a specific syndrome. tell us about the drug. >> the drug, it's for a neuromuscular disorder, people having trouble walking, confined to wheelchairs or beds. the drug is quite old. the u.k. developed it and the earliest traces of it i could find were in france and scotland in the 1970s. essentially, the drug has been effectively given away for free to patients since the early 1990s by an unusual family-owned drug company in new jersey called jacobous.
that was the situation for many years. a wall street-traded company swept in and has seen that the drug did not have fda approval and decided to get it approved under this special law, so kind of racing to approval and taking the drug off the market for patients that currently are getting it for free and starting to charge what most patrick analysts think will probably be $100,000 a year. >> ifill: exorbitant costs. who controls this? i know it's the fda but is it also the market? maybe these companies have a right to charge what the market will bear? >> that's a good question. effectively, they do. it's not illegal. the fda, when it decides what drugs to approve, doesn't look at price. that's not something that it considers. it's not -- it never has.
so, effectively, the united states is really the only rich country in the developed world that country have any -- where the government has no control over drug pricing, none. and this is a vulnerability in our system that effectively companies that are really, really out to get very high profits for their stockholders has taken advantage of. >> ifill: so it becomes out of the good of the company's heart if they want to guarantee access for people who need this medication? >> essentially what the companies have done is they agree that, when a person is uninsured or if a person's insurance company won't cover the drug, the company has what they call a financial assistance plan that will help, essentially, apply for various subsidies, rebates and often the company kind of chips in some money to help patients pay for these things, but for the most part insurance companies do pay for the drugs, particularly under the orphan drug act, the
populations are fairly small, the prices are exorbitant but the insurance companies say, okay, there are not that many people so we will cover this. but what economists say is this comes out in everybody's premiums and in everybody's healthcare costs. the price of having insurance has gone up and up and up and why is that? this is part of what's going on, it's part of the dynamic of rising costs in healthcare in the united states. >> ifill: is there any way of knowing how widespread this is? i know it shows up in our premiums, but if you put together all these different orphan drugs, you end up with quite a population of affected people. >> well, some of the kind of gaining of the system that drug companies have been doing under this act is they will take a broader disease, say breast cancer, and slice it into narrow definitions of smaller kind of subsets of that disease, then they can qualify for afterren drug status when, in fact, the population is much larger. another example is a drug that's been approved for some other
treatment that they just want to extend their monopoly on and under the act get it approved for a new treatment, but effectively it's the same drug, no new research or work or inveges has gone into it, it's just a repackaging. so this is ways the drugs are used. >> ifill: sabrina tavernise, thank you very much. >> thank you so much. >> ifill: a journey of a lifetime: journalist paul salopek spent his career covering the news overseas and jetting around the globe, until he realized that walking around the world might provide deeper insight. earlier this year, hari sreenivasan traveled to the republic of georgia to take a stroll with salopek. it was such a memorable walk that we decided it was worth showing it to you again tonight.
>> there is something not in your brain, but almost in your backbone, about the rhythm of walking, this a/b, a/b. it's the pace of a heartbeat. >> sreenivasan: on a high country cool morning, paul salopek is out for a walk. but his walk is unlike any you or i might take. on this morning, he is nearing mile 4,000 of a trek that began in january 2013 in ethiopia's great rift valley, the wellspring of ancient humankind. >> this whole project is about two things. it's about the past and the future. and the past element is following our first ancestors who spread out of africa during the stone age, so, following the footsteps of some very old and intrepid pioneers. >> sreenivasan: he calls this project the out of eden walk, and he will end it some time in six or seven years at the very southern tip of south america, after logging 21,000 miles. that's about 30 million footsteps, for those of you
counting yours every day. the two-time pulitzer prize- winning foreign correspondent was used to dropping into war zones and driving his way out as fast as possible. but so far on this trip, he's walked through some of the conflict zones of the middle east, now on an assignment that is his lifetime. with support from the national geographic society, the nieman and knight foundations and others, he has walked across deserts and mountains. so, why do this? >> there has got to be a space for us to slow down, analyze and absorb more meaningful information. i don't think we need more information. i think we need more meaning. >> sreenivasan: what kind of context are you able to get when you are walking vs. when we get there in cars and planes and trains? >> walking has shown me that the boundaries between stories are permeable, in that one story bleeds into another, because human life bleeds into each other. and so walking between stories
shows me connections that didn'- i didn't used to see when i would parachute in. >> sreenivasan: and what are we saying? what is humanity telling you? >> the same stories over and over again. it's the same classic stories of complaint, of joy, of aspiration, of hope, of hopes dashed. and i never get tired of them. >> sreenivasan: we caught up with him in southern georgia's caucasus mountains, near armenia, where the walk was stopped late last fall at this destroyed soviet-era building. >> last november, we had just crossed the turkish border, and it was very bad weather. it was snowing, it was sleeting, very cold both during the day and at night. we came down, and with frozen feet had to break through a frozen river, plunging in up to our thighs. and we were very afraid of hypothermia. >> sreenivasan: salopek and three walking partners found this spot. one man set his gloves alight to start a fire and stay warm. >> on a november night a year ago, this was heaven.
this was better than a five-star hotel. >> sreenivasan: then he waited here in tbilisi, the capital of georgia, for a lot longer than he planned. he was stuck in what he calls a geopolitically-induced storm, waiting for visas that would determine the rest of his route. a hundred thousand years ago, the problems were different here, in this land littered with volcanic boulders from ancient eruptions. >> when our ancestors, the first people who walked out of africa, passed through this region, their big obstacles were glaciers and big animals that would eat them or droughts or famines. today, mine is these ethnic fault lines and these imaginary walls, these imaginary glaciers called borders. and they have knocked me sideways, way off my intended track. >> sreenivasan: months of back- and-forth talks with regional governments made it clear that his original plan to walk across iran and points east wouldn't work. finally, he set a route from georgia that will pass through azerbaijan, on to kazakhstan and
beyond. >> it doesn't look like much, but this ruin on the high plateau of southern georgia is the beginning of phase two of the out of eden walk. so this is the gateway to the orient for me. from here, i'm leaving the caucasus, going on the old silk roads to china. >> sreenivasan: so at mid- morning on october 20, salopek set out, with the world revealed before him one step after the other; on this day, up to a mountain pass at more than 9,000 feet. down the other side, salopek and his walking partner spent the night in the small village of mamishlari -a village of ethnic azeris, from azerbaijan. they were taken in by the nasibov family. 72-year-old ziauddin nasibov, and his wife, 70-year-old wife azmat married as teenagers. it is a tough farm-life, on the edge, really, of civilization. >> we came around the corner of this mountain river and here was this village that we didn't even
know existed. their first reaction was curiosity. when i finally told him "well, actually, i've hiked all the way from africa," that was the surprise moment and there was laughter around that table. and there was a lively exchange about "oh, you've got to be crazy!" >> ( translated ): i don't think he is crazy. i actually thought he was quite enlightened because they actually want to walk across the world and see what's out there! you might not notice a place, but when you walk by on foot you see it, and appreciate it for what it actually is. >> and ziad has really joined the walk because he's shown us the way. >> sreenivasan: all along his route, salopek has been joined by walking partners, who function as guides, translators and companions; in georgia that partner was dima bit-suleiman. what is the reaction of most of the people you bump into when you tell them what he's doing? >> they go "yeah, yeah, yeah coming from africa...on walk? what do you mean?!" they kind of don't believe it: "why is he doing it? what is he trying to find out?" >> sreenivasan: what about when
they figure out he is trying to walk to the end of the world? >> and then, it's even worse! and then they really ask "what is he searching for? like, why is he doing that?" i don't think there is an easy answer. >> sreenivasan: after passing through boggy lowlands where horseman emerged from fairytale fogs, salopek arrived at a village: ipnari, largely abandoned since stalin's time. it revealed a much deeper history. nearby, a bronze age wine store. 5,000-year old fermentation vats sunken in the ground. >> you're talking about the beginning of civilization, and georgians were already drinking! the walk has opened up the vista to me in both space and time where i can see the connections between all of these stories and i see how history informs everything that's happening today. time pools in certain valleys, and it runs like a river through certain canyon systems, certain
>> you're talking about the plains and every step you take could be in a different era. so here we are coming up to another one and i think that the task now is to kind of go slowly. >> sreenivasan: but for now, his steps were taking him toward the village of boslebi, georgia. and as the evening gathered, salopek explained one mind- boggling facet of this grand experiment. more often than not, when he sets out each morning, he has little idea where he will sleep that night. >> we're gonna draw attention, obviously, and just star greeting people and start striking up conversation. and every single village is different. >> sreenivasan: and it is this exact moment, first contact in a village, that salopek was hesitant to have us film up close. it's hard making a first impression with a camera crew in tow. this day, five minutes after this scene and after meeting two other people in town, he had a place to stay for the night. you don't plan out every step of the way?
>> it's hard to explain to readers who think that i've got a team back in the states with a big map with blinking lights and computers plotting out my route. they would laugh if they saw how "seat of the pants" this is. this is truly sort of strolling across the world, and seeing how far i get before nightfall and then looking for shelter. the world is, by and large, a hospitable place. merab, this is my friend hari, from the united states. >> sreenivasan: hari. pleased to meet you. paul introduced me to his host for the night before i arrived, merab saaladze, a retired deputy governor of the local municipality. you just invited him into your home? he's a total stranger? >> ( translated ): i asked him who he was and he said he was from the u.s., so i immediately invited them in. >> sreenivasan: is it common to be this hospitable to take in a stranger? >> ( translated ): for me, it was the first time. >> sreenivasan: after tea and a bit more conversation, we set
out for the next waypoint: the ancient village of dmanisi - which we'll tell you about in our next story - about six miles away. >> so, basically, there is no shortcut. merab said, well, yes, you have to cross the river. >> ok. >> sreenivasan: but, as we soon found out, even the most precise directions need updating, which we were given by a man with hands stained from a lifetime of gathering walnuts. and that, says salopek, is just part of the plan. you've got g.p.s., you've got maps, you've got guides, you are still going the wrong way sometimes. >> being found is overrated. being a little lost is good because it keeps you alert, keeps you looking around. it keeps you scanning the horizons about to find your bearings and you are not sleepwalking through the world. >> sreenivasan: so how many pairs of shoes do you think you've gone through? >> this is the fourth. somebody brought me these from
the states, so they're kind of special. >> sreenivasan: do you get tired by the end of an average day or has your body gotten used to this pace? >> i do. you know, it depends on my physical condition. you know the walk has kind of turned into my life, so it's a complicated question to answer. it's like you - you have good weeks and bad weeks. like, you have good weeks and i think i'm in pretty good condition, but i get tired, and my job in quotes is to write, not just to walk. so at the end of the day it takes a special effort to sit down and write a story. >> sreenivasan: those stories - dispatches from this ambling eden - are being followed online by a growing group of digital companions. young people in particular, students, catch up with salopek along the way. the tools of the trade are the heaviest thing he carries in his backpack: a laptop, cameras, notebooks and not more than a single change of clothes.
he stops every 100 miles to record a "milestone," a panoramic photo that includes an exhausted newshour crew and a wayward pig, in this case. then some video, and a brief interview with the nearest person. this one, number 29-- after 2,800 "air" miles traveled-- came outside a truck driver's house near a georgian mining town. and after a few questions and a handshake, salopek is again on his way, the rhythm restored. >> sreenivasan: what makes a human want to go over the next ridge? >> ah, the eternal question. the one that probably doesn't have a rational answer through science. the walk is part of that exploration, the impulse, not even rational to know what's over the mountain. why, why paddle into the sea? we've set out again and again and nobody came back and yet, we set out. and once scientist geneticists said we're just crazy. and i think that magical wonderful craziness is part of
the joy of this project, and i think it's something that also binds us together. >> sreenivasan: for the pbs newshour, i'm hari sreenivasan, in southern georgia. >> ifill: after leaving georgia, paul salopek traveled through azerbaijan-- the 10th country he's crossed-- and will soon continue his walk across central asia on the road to china. >> ifill: that trip over the river and through the woods might go a little more smoothly in future years, thanks to the big highway bill that became law this month. it is the largest deal of its kind in a decade, and as political director lisa desjardins reports, it's attracting both cheers and concern. >> reporter: the scope of this highway bill is vast-- over $300 billion that will touch roads and bridges in every state and
most counties for half a decade. a dramatic law that hits very familiar places to americans. >> behind me is one of the most congested intersections in the state of maryland, and we have had design-- we've had the designs completed for this upgrade of this intersection for maybe ten years. it's shovel ready. >> reporter: meet hans riemer, a man who thinks about transportation a lot. he has to, as a councilman for traffic-heavy montgomery county, maryland, north of washington. riemer showed us this intersection that is a major bottleneck each morning. the county has had a fix ready for years, but has been in limbo waiting for stable federal funding to help. because-- listen to this fact-- since 2009, congress has limped through 34 short-term highway bills, and no stable funding to back big projects like this... until now. >> if the concern is, the federal government is not going to be there on the other end,
then there is a lot of pressure not to spend the money locally. and that is, you know-- that is just a downward spiral really for everybody, so the fact that bill is done at least for a temporary funding fix is a great step forward. >> it will be the longest term bill to pass congress in almost two decades. >> reporter: senate majority leader mitch mcconnell pushed the highway bill as a priority-- and the mega-deal was put together by usual adversaries, democrat barbara boxer of california and republican jim inhofe of oklahoma. they hashed out a final agreement with house members and the new speaker. >> we're going to have a highway bill which will help families and workers by rebuilding our infrastructure and giving a boost to our economy. >> reporter: it's good news for american drivers, counties and states-- five years of stable federal funding for highways and bridges. but critics question where that funding comes from, and say it may lead to bigger problems down the road.
when created in the 1950s, the highway trust fund was meant to rely on the federal gas tax for funding, but with lower gas prices and more fuel efficient cars, the money coming in has dropped. despite less gas tax money, this deal increases highway funding for the next five years. that may sound good, but it does this in controversial ways. one: it sells oil from america's strategic petroleum reserve. that sale won't happen until 2023-- but the law spends the money now. another issue: it takes $53 billion from the federal reserve's surplus accounts. >> so unfortunately, instead of financing this in an honest, straightforward way, we're relying on budget gimmicks, one-time funding mechanisms, short-term measures that really are going to make the problem more difficult in the longer term, instead of fixing it. >> reporter: maya mcguineas is the president of the committee for a responsible federal budget. her organization wrote its own report, saying highways should
be funded, but only by reliable sources. their idea-- raise the gas tax. >> the reason that makes sense is: the biggest burden of that tax falls on the people who use the highway system. it's not quite a user fee, but it acts like a user fee in a lot of ways. the gas tax hasn't been increased in quite some time, so one of the proposals that is on the table, and that we think makes an awful lot of sense, is to gradually increase that gas tax. >> reporter: back in maryland, the state gas tax just went up this summer, specifically for transportation. county councilman hans riemer is grateful for the new federal highway law and hopes it brings changes to his most-hated intersection, but he is already thinking of five years from now, when the money runs out. >> i think the most important thing, of course, is a sense of stability to the commitment of the federal government to meet transportation needs. and whether that budget funding sources comes one way or the other, i am less concerned about that, than the fact that the commitment is solid.
>> reporter: that concern goes beyond drivers, to the economy. the new law, and the highway trust fund supports over half a million jobs across the country, making it both a public and political need. for the pbs newshour, i'm lisa desjardins. >> ifill: now, for our weekly political analysis of this week's news, we turn to shields and gerson. judy spoke with them earlier this week. >> woodruff: the presidential candidates, and voters, are enjoying a brief holiday break from campaign season. but just before they left the trail, candidates were reacting to the final debates of the year. and in just the last few days: a new war of words erupted, between hillary clinton and donald trump. that brings us to the analysis of shields and gerson. that's syndicated columnist mark
shields, and "washington post" columnist michael gerson. david brooks is away. gentlemen, welcome to you both at this christmas week. let's talk first about the democratic debate, mark, of last weekend. did it change in any way the arc of this democratic contest? >> not apparently and not obviously, at least to me. i thought all three candidates had respectively the best debate show they have been showing so far -- excellent presentations, command of the facts, seemed comfortable. but is hillary clinton entered as the dominant national leader according to every survey and she emerged as the dominant national leader among democrats. one question i don't know is it affected something in new hampshire that will fester, or iowa, but those are the only two contests now.
>> woodruff: did you see anything i in the debate to chae where things, are mikele? >> no, it confirmed the arc but it's an interesting arc. i think bernie sanders is not going to be the nominee but i think he's affected the debate in the discussion. he's pulled hillary clinton toward the progressive side on a number of issues. she was not distinguishing herself the way her husband did by going to the middle. she's a very conventionally progressive in this debate. that shows bernie sanders' influence. >> woodruff: and, mark, so neither one of you mentions martin o'malley. >> martin o'malley was better than martin o'malley has been. i thought he was good. for whatever reason -- and bernie sanders, i agree with michael, bernie sanders has had an influence quite beyond anything, anybody predicted when he came into this race. over 2 and a quarter million
contributors, clinton people are now sending out direct mail requests for money complaining -- not complaining, but comparing the fact they had fewer contributions than bernie and that bernie's raised more money. he has certainly influenced and shaped the debate and is ahead in new hampshire. i pointed out for historical purposes that no president since dwight eisenhower has been elected to the white house who did not finish first or at least second in new hampshire. not that that affects hillary clinton at this point but it certainly affects the republican race. >> woodruff: we appreciate the history. >> i think there were two minor gaffes hillary had. one on the glitches on obamacare. there are more than glitches we've seen. and the other is where we need to be on i.s.i.s., which she doesn't agree with, she supports a "no fly" zone. both those show the dynamics of a third term when you're defend you can immediate predecessor.
george bush did it in 1988. al gore didn't do it well in 2000 dealing with the clinton record and background, and she's going to have to deal with that as the case goes forward. >> woodruff: the other thing that hillary said that continued to get picked at after this debate is her comment that i.s.i.s. is using video of donald trump speaking against muslims as a recruiting tool. he's come back and demanded an apology, said this was outrageous. where does this go from here? we have a war of words going on. >> you have to come down on donald trump's side because he's so fastidious with the facts and apologized so frequently for his ohno occasional misstatements. where this goes, judy, is something that hillary clinton did not need. hillary clinton's strength to the candidate that she's experienced, strong, smart and in command. her weaknesses are that she is
not particularly likable to the majority of voters and not seen as honest and trustworthy. she and trump had the most identical stories in the last quinn pi piiac poll -- quinnipiac poll. she doesn't need fuel to the blaze that she's not forthcoming. she cast it she is running against trump which is to her advantage. >> woodruff: she brought him up several times during the debate. this erupted into a real battle between the two of them. trump has gone on and used earthy language talking about hillary clinton's loss in 2008. >> well, i think that mark is a minich and that's my limit on yiddish here. i think we all learned yiddish we didn't need to know here. some of this is a back and forth
in politics but donald trump is an innovator in contempt and the decay of american discourse. when it comes to knocking the disabled or when it comes to comparing another candidate to a child molester or his raw misogyny. this is not normal. this is getting rid of the guardrails of american politics and life, and then to complain when they're gone and not used, it's not credible in his case. >> mark, can he basically just say whatever he wants and get away with it? the polls out this week have him up again nationally. now, there was another poll. there was one poll that came out this week that showed half of americans would be embarrassed if he were elected president. meanwhile, the polls when matched up with other republicans have him out front. >> no -- yes, he does, he has
strengthened. this year repelled every rule i've known about politics. before they vote for you, they have to like you. donald trump is not liked. in new hampshire, you have to go there and be there, whoever is there most often, they expect to see candidates. he's been there less frequently than either scott walker or rick perry, both of whom have withdrawn from the race yet he's ahead by a commanding margin in the polls. his language -- harry truman was roundly roasted in the editorials of the country for saying "damn" and ike used "hell." this is the jersey shore version of reality tv politics. i mean, it's the mad housewives of one of the cities you want to name, being sort of verbally abusive. the other thing is every presidential candidate is about capturing the future, and donald trump is sort of a restoration
of this earlier america where america was dominant, america could do whatever they want, america showed the earth and didn't have to pay attention to anybody else economically, politically or militarily. i don't know, as of now, he's defied gravity. >> it does express something deep and disturbing about american life and that is contempt for institutions. we've had a lot of institutions come under attack for a certain segment of the public. donald trump shows disrespect. that's an advantage. that's what appeals to them because they have such disrespect for the system it'sself. that i think is dangerous and sad. >> is there something to be said, michael, about the rest to have the republican race? we do spend a lot of time talking about donald trump. do we see any new shaping ben carson's been slipping in the public opinion polls? what do you see? >> i was in iowa recently. you could feel some gains for
cruz. religious conservatives and religious right people. that's a broader coalition than huckabee had, his was more narrow. i think cruz has a good chance in iowa. you could sense carson is slipping. i don't know about trump. big question is does donald trump's poll numbers translate into caucusgoers and builders. normally his group, blue-collar voters, non-college educated vote least of many groups. will he be able to get them out to the polls through twitter and other messages that we don't know? i think that's what republicans are really wondering. >> woodruff: how do you see the rest of republicans? >> i think the cruz surge has been documented. >> woodruff: how do you explain it? >> i think there are three dprowms he's done well with. the tea party conservatives, he went up a score there.
among religious and cultural conservatives, especially evangelicals who had been leaning strongly toward ben carson and then away from him. thirdly, conservatives, and that will serve him well in iowa and the southeastern states on march 1. it's not much help in new hampshire. pat robinson and mike huckabee and rick santorum did well in iowa, and all foundered in new hampshire, which i believe -- you can check this out, judy -- is beautiful, white congregational churches on the green, made great paintings but they're quite empty. >> woodruff: i'm going to check it out. >> another big question, who can solidify the republican establishment vote in about four people now.
there is some expectation rubio had some traction here by chris christie could do well in new hampshire and cmple kate rubio's plan here. governor bush is still significantly back. so that is the open question, will that lane be filled by a strong candidate that can contend for this nomination? >> and is it a viable lane in this atmosphere, when you have so much insurgent anti-establishment support already wound up with cruz and trump and ben carson. >> woodruff: last question -- it is christmas and, so, i have to ask you two, what gift would you give? michael, it's been an up and down year for president obama. what gift would you give to the president and what gift would you give to the republicans? mark? first, the president. >> i don't think any democrat deserves anything in their stocking this year because they've already got donald
trump. that is christmas gift, birthday gift, valentine's day. i think anything more would be greedy. >> grecian formula. (laughter) the president, certainly careful about his appearance, mentions more than once his greying hair. if it bothers him so, at least if he can't 60% favorable job rating, we could give him black hair. >> we love grey hair on this program. the republicans, what gift, michael, for them? >> wouldn't want normally this, but i think a lump of coal because republicans love coal. (laughter) >> that was good. >> woodruff: you're going to have a hard time topping that. >> i am going to have a hard time topping that. i would say the recorded speeches of abraham lincoln from whence they came.
>> woodruff: coal -- i didn't record the speech. maybe morgan freeman. >> woodruff: we wish both of you a merry christmas, best of holidays and we'll see you again in the new year. >> ifill: next, what happens when you take a look at america before and after the revolutionary war, throw in a little hip-hop, dance and attitude? just the biggest box office draw in new york city, that's what. jeffrey brown has this encore look at the musical "hamilton," and the man behind it. ♪ >> it's the coolest american history you're likely to get, and the hottest ticket on broadway. "hamilton" a kind of hip-hop musical, tells us of alexander
hamilton, immigrant, ambitious young rebel, a founding father who arguably never got the recognition he deserved. >> i'm actually working on a hip-hop album. it's a concept album about the life of someone who i thinks embodies hip-hop, treasury secretary alexander hamilton. ( laughter ) you laugh. >> "hamilton's" creator and star, lin-manuel miranda, performed an early version of one of the play's songs at the white house in 2009. ♪ i was the son of the scotsman ♪ ♪ dropped in the middle ♪ in the caribbean ♪ to be a hero and a scholar >> brown: when we talked recently, he told me how hamilton's life came to be about so much more. >> the joy of discovery of, oh, if i tell hamilton's story, i actually tell the story of the forming of our country, that was a joyous experience. and i think, honestly, that's the secret sauce in the score.
i was learning this stuff as i was researching it to write the show. i knew the basic outlines that everyone knows. he was on the $10 and he died in a duel. that's pretty much anyone knows about him. >> brown: but were you thinking from the beginning that this larger story was what would emerge? >> i knew that reading-- reading ron chernow's biography of his life was like a dickens novel, such humble beginnings to such incredible heights, and such incredible incident throughout, that, you know, i always tell people i feel like i'm a mosquito that hit an artery. like, there's so much here. how am i going to get it all? >> brown: story-wise, there's so much there, yes. >> absolutely. what i'm always on the hunt for when i'm writing a song are details, and really attacking every moment in the most original way and theatrically compelling way possible. so, our mantra is, the political always has to be personal. so if you're going to write a song about the compromise that led to hamilton trading his vote for the debt plan for the capital of the u.s. being down here in the newly
formed d.c., well, that's easy to say in a sentence, but let's tell it from the perspective of aaron burr, who wasn't in the room, and desperately wants to be in that room. and, suddenly, we can get away with anything, because we have got dramatic tension. ♪ ♪ i want to be in that room the kind of life he knew. (singing) ♪ i want to be in that room >> brown: miranda, now 35 and the son of puerto rican immigrants, is an actor, composer and playwright. he first made his name with "in the heights," an exuberant
musical of life in new york's latin american community, the kind of life he knew." hamilton" is set several hundred years earlier, but miranda found a similar connection. >> i would argue that hamilton feels twice as autobiographical as "in the heights" does. >> brown: really? >> yes, absolutely, especially-- i actually think we kind of double down on the themes of "in the heights," and sort of blow them up to a grand scope. we're not going to tell the story of an immigrant neighborhood. we're going to tell the story of the first american immigrant and the formation of our country. and so, in that sense, it felt intensely personal. it's not the story of people who have been here for generations, but what it feels like to land here and make your way. >> brown: and the language, the rhythms of hip-hop? >> it's the best form for hamilton. and when you extrapolate from him, it's a wonderful language for our revolution. we need a revolutionary language to describe a revolution.
and this was-- >> brown: you mean hundreds of years later? >> we're separated by an ocean from britain, so this wasn't a fist-fight. this was a war of ideas, in a sense. and so we needed not only great fighters, but great thinkers to navigate us from rebellion to the forging of a new nation. and so hip-hop is uniquely suited to that, because we get more language per measure than any other musical form. >> brown: what about the casting of the founding fathers as latino, as black? is that an important part of this to you? >> i think so. i think one of our overarching goals with this show is-- with any show-- is, you want to eliminate any distance between your audience and your story. and so let's not pretend this is a textbook. let's make the founders of our country look like what our country looks like now. this is what our-- >> brown: so, it's not a costume epic with a distance. >> correct. correct. and this is what our country looks like now. it looks like, you know, we are-- we are every shade and every color.
and it also comes organically out of the music. this is hip-hop and r&b music. these are the best people to sing this type of music. >> brown: these days, miranda is himself a new kind of rock star vetted all over. we joined him in washington as he received an ingenuity award from the smithsonian institution, and gave a talk to an adoring audience. i asked him about the use of the word ingenuity to describe his work, and that brought on a characteristic riff on how he develops his own word play. >> i remember there is a lyric in our show where lafayette say" ingenuitive and fluent in french." and i remember having a fight-- not having a fight, but having a debate with my collaborators, because one of them was like, well, that's not a word, ingenuitive. and i was like, i think it is. and then we were split two-two whether ingenuitive was a word. and we looked it up. and it is an archaic conjugation of ingenuity. and i was right. and i don't know why i knew that word, so-- and other people didn't, but--
>> brown: and, therefore, you use it. >> and, therefore, we use it. yes. >> brown: but you can make up words if you want, can't you? >> well, shakespeare did it. and it worked out pretty great for him. ( laughter ) >> brown: so, writing musicals, entertaining musicals, telling stories, and now filling in large gaps in american history. is there a hierarchy of that for you? what's most important for you? >> the most important thing for me, honestly, is meeting those expectations every night. you know, we're not film actors in that show. it's not like you get it once on camera in the can and we're done. we're shots. and we have to make the experience happen for the audience that i'm going to see tonight after i get on the plane, for the same audience that-- you know, for a difference audience that i saw last night. >> brown: i saw where you said you think to yourself, what's the thing that's not in the world, that should be in the world? that's a big idea, right? >> yes. >> brown: i mean, do you feel that? like, what's missing in our world? >> absolutely. i mean-- and it goes back to i hope that what i can contribute is something that hasn't been seen before.
you know, "in the heights" very much, came out of me wanting a career in musical theater, but there's only about three great roles for latino men in musical theater. >> brown: yes. >> you're bernardo, you're paul in "a chorus line" or, if you can really sing, you're man of la mancha. i can't sing well enough to be the man of la mancha. >> brown: so you did two out of three. >> so, i wrote-- i wrote something that had so many parts for latinos, because i knew there was a void there. i knew it because i was going into that world, and i was scared. >> brown: but it's also a big idea to think that you can fill a vacuum. >> i think that's what we do about artists. it's, what the thing that only i can contribute? it's not about the confidence to like, hello, world, here's this idea that never existed. it's, this is my brain, and unless i express it, it's only going to stay in my brain. it's more about personal expression than imposing your will on the world. it's more about, you know, if i don't get this idea out of my head and on to paper, it dies with me. >> brown: all right, lin-manuel miranda, thanks so much. >> thank you.
on the newshour online right now, some beautiful pictures of tonight's christmas moon. it is the first full moon on a christmas night in nearly four decades, and it won't happen again until the year 2034. we have collected images that some of you have been taking and uploading online from around the world, and the images are truly stunning. take a look. you can find all that, and more, on our web site: www.pbs.org/newshour. >> ifill: on pbs newshour weekend saturday, an ambitious plan to find homes for all of the homeless vets in los angeles. and we will be back, right here, on monday, with a look at a new tool to help people with celiac disease and food allergies dine out safely. that's the newshour for tonight. i'm gwen ifill. have a great weekend, and a very merry christmas. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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>> this is "bbc world news." >> funding of this presentation is made possible by -- the freeman foundation, newman's own foundation, giving all profits from newman's own to charity and pursuing the common good, kovler foundation, pursuing solutions for america's neglected needs, metlife premier client group, and sony pictures classics, now presenting "the lady in the van." cliques just until you sort yourself out. >> and educated woman and living like that. >> merry christmas. >> shut the door. i am a busy woman. >> i am a sick woman, dying, possibly. "the lady in the van." rated pg-13.