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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  January 10, 2017 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, from torture to banning muslims: at his confirmation hearing to be the next attorney general, senator jeff sessions lays out legal limits to president-elect trump's campaign statements. then, our series "the obama years" continues with a look at the president's legacy on criminal justice. and, how integrating arts in the classroom helps turn around poor performing schools. >> art completes not only the education but the human being... our ability to create, and to express that creation. >> woodruff: all that and more, on tonight's pbs newshour.
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>> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> xq institute. >> bnsf railway. >> lincoln financial-- committed to helping you take charge of your financial future. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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>> woodruff: it's opening day of confirmation season for team trump and senator jeff sessions, the nominee for attorney general, was lead-off man. he went before colleagues on the senate judiciary committee, defending his views on race and civil rights and at times, separating himself from the man who chose him. lisa desjardins begins our coverage. >> reporter: alabama senator jeff sessions walked into his hearing, to some as a longtime, accomplished senator unfairly accused of prejudice; to others, as an extreme conservative who stokes racial divide. in his opening remarks, the attorney general hopeful laid out his theme to both sides, saying he would put the law above his own views. >> i have always loved the law. it is the very foundation of our great country, the exceptional founding of america.
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>> reporter: but sessions' politics and view of the law have sparked furious opposition. in 1986, accusations of racially insensitive remarks and actions led the senate to reject him for a federal judgeship. >> the committee has received letters of opposition from 400 different civil rights leaders, 1,400 law professors. >> reporter: today, the ranking democrat, california's dianne feinstein, opened by pointing to fears that sessions would not enforce laws fairly to all. sessions insisted the accusations were all false. >> this caricature of me in 1986 is not correct. i have become an u.s. attorney. i supported major civil rights cases in my districts. ( chanting and protests ) >> reporter: the hearing was interrupted regularly by
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protesters raising an array of concerns, from civil rights to immigration to marijuana policy. committee democrats like largely withheld fire today, instead focusing on questions about major issues like abortion. >> you have referred to roe vs. wade as one of the worst, colossally erroneous decisions of all time. is that still your view? >> it is. it is law of the land, it has been established for a long time. i would respect it and follow it. >> reporter: this was sessions refrain-- his view hasn't changed; his job would. similarly, on same-sex marriage: >> five justices on the supreme court, the majority, have established the definition of marriage for our country. i will follow that decision. >> reporter: and on
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waterboarding. >> that makes it absolutely improper and illegal to use waterboarding or any form of torture in the u.s. by military and other agencies. >> reporter: it was on immigration, an issue where sessions will have tremendous power, that he took a staunch stand. >> i do believe if you continually go through a cycle of amnesty, that you undermine the respect for the law. i believe the america people spoke clearly in this election, and agreed with my view. >> reporter: one question was asked by both parties: how would sessions handle any cases involving president-elect trump and his family?
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sessions insisted he would resign rather than do something unlawful. later, democratic senator sheldon whitehouse asked about russia. >> will the department of justice and the f.b.i. under you be allowed to continue to investigate any russian connections, even if it leads to the trump camp and interests and associates? >> reporter: sessions did not answer directly, and brought up another country. >> if the laws were violated and can be prosecuted, you will have to handle that in an appropriate way. i would say that, the problem may turn out to be, as in chinese hacking of millions of records, it has to be handled at political level. >> reporter: sessions told the committee he would recuse himself from cases involving hillary clinton's ail, but asked if he'd recuse himself from any trump investigations? >> i would review it and try to do the right thing, decide if it should fall under the jurisdiction of the attorney general.
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>> reporter: tomorrow may bring more drama and strong words as witnesses testify for and against senator sessions. >> woodruff: lisa, thanks. along with other nominee confirmations. so lisa, separately today the president-elect told "the new york times" in an interview that he wants republicans in congress to replace obamacare, the affordable care act, at the same time or very shortly after they repeal it. how does that square with what republicans are thinking and planning to do? >> that's certainly been the other big headline on capitol hill today. it is at odds with the direction republicans had been going in. right now the repeal itself seems likely to happen some time perhaps by the end of january at its fastest, and replacement, republicans haven't agreed on a time line for that. as i look at maybe even this summer. now we've had word from the house republican speaker paul ryan saying he hopes to add in some concurrent elements of the replace as they repeal. i think all in all, judy, this is sort of the longtime
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republican lead centers congress coming perhaps clashing with to some degree the new republican president. >> woodruff: so this could mean a delay in the repeal vote? >> no, i don't think so, i think it means it will be very difficult to meet donald trump's timeline of an immediate repeal. the repeal itself is probably weeks away. >> woodruff: lisa desjardins at the capitol, thank you. in the day's other news: a federal jury sentenced dylann roof to death for killing nine black worshippers at a church in charleston, south carolina. the white supremacist represented himself in the punishment phase, but he presented no case and did not ask the jury to spare his life. afterward, one man whose sister was killed, called the verdict a "hollow victory." >> my sister is still gone. i wish that this verdict could have brought her back but it can't. but what it can do is send a
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message to those who feel way he feels. that this community will not tolerate it. >> woodruff: roof is the first person sentenced to die for a federal hate crime. he still faces murder charges in state court. president obama is back home tonight in chicago, for his farewell address to the nation. he is expected to reflect on his eight years in office, before an audience of thousands of supporters. in a facebook post today, he previewed his message, saying: "we've reaffirmed the belief that we can make a difference with our own hands, in our own time." pbs will have special live coverage of the president's speech, later tonight. the man in line to be secretary of homeland security says building barriers along the mexican border is not enough. retired marine general john f. kelly had his senate confirmation hearing today. among the questions: what about president-elect trump's promise to build a border wall?
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>> certainly as a military person that understands defense and defenses, a physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job. it has to be, really, a layered defense. if you were to build a wall from the pacific to the gulf of mexico, you'd still have to back that wall up with patrolling by human beings, by sensors, by observation devices. >> woodruff: kelly also said that he does not support the idea of a registry for muslims or other religious groups. in afghanistan, nearly 40 people died today in a pair of bombings that rocked kabul. the taliban claimed responsibility. the blasts erupted near the afghan parliament complex during evening rush hour. in addition to the dead, more than 70 others were wounded. thousands of people in northern california remain under evacuation orders tonight, as heavy rain and snow roll over the region. even police vehicles got stuck in the sierra nevada mountains, where up to ten feet of snow was falling, and even ski resorts
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had to shut down. elsewhere, the flooding in sonoma county is now the worst in a decade, forcing officials to open a sacramento dam for the first time since 2005. wall street mostly marked time today. the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 32 points to close at 19,855. the nasdaq rose 20 points, and the s&p 500 was unchanged. and, the newly crowned champions of college football are back home in clemson, south carolina tonight, after an epic victory over alabama. the tigers scored last night with one second left on the clock, to win 35 to 31. it was a rematch of last year's title game, when alabama won. still to come on the newshour: u.s. intelligence chiefs lay out the case of russian hacking; iran mourns the loss of an influential moderate voice; president obama's efforts to
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reform the nation's criminal justice system, and much more. >> woodruff: the nation's top intelligence officials appeared before the senate intelligence committee today, just days after the release of a report on the alleged role of russian influence during the 2016 election. margaret warner reports. >> in any of your careers, have you ever seen this level of russian interference in our political process? and we'll start with director comey, and just go down the line. >> no. >> i have not. >> no. >> no. >> reporter: it was a unified response from america's top intelligence officers, in their first public appearance since releasing an unclassified report describing a coordinated russian
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effort to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. the report released friday determined, with "high confidence," that: russian president vladimir putin ordered the hack of american political organizations, focused on democrats; that it was designed to aid president-elect donald trump and discredit his democratic rival hillary clinton; and that stolen information was then delivered to wikileaks, and other groups, which published it online. the report stopped short of providing the evidence underlying those judgments, and that remained the case today, with director of national intelligence james clapper saying, to disclose more would jeopardize sources. >> we are very dependent-- given the nature of intelligence work-- to start with you as our overseers, to look at that yourselves on behalf of the electorate. >> reporter: committee chair,
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senator richard burr, also said he would investigate leaks to the media about the report in advance of its release. f.b.i. director james comey declined to say if there is an investigation into whether the russian government communicated with anyone in the trump team. that raised eyebrows with some members. >> in a public forum, we never confirm or deny a pending investigation. >> the irony-- >> i'm not saying-- >> the irony of you making that statement here, i cannot avoid, but i'll move on. >> well, we sometimes think differently about closed investigations, but you asked me if i had any pending investigations, and we're not going to talk about that. >> reporter: that was a veiled reference to comey's decision to speak publicly before the election about the f.b.i.'s investigation into hillary clinton's private email server. also at question: whether the hacks altered the outcome of the election. the trump team has characterized the report as saying the hacking had no effect on the election results. in fact, the report explicitly said it made no judgment on that. it did say there is no evidence
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that voting machinery or counting was affected. c.i.a. director john brennan also said he had recently discussed the hacking with his russian counterpart. >> and i told him clearly that if russia was doing this they're playing with fire. he denied any type of activity along these lines, but i made it very clear to him, basically, that we were onto him. >> reporter: separately, a group of ten senators from both parties introduced legislation seeking to broaden sanctions on russia. for the pbs newshour, i'm margaret warner. >> woodruff: this morning, i sat down with outgoing secretary of state john kerry at the u.s. institute of peace. he was one of many obama administration officials participating in an event called "passing the baton", focused on a smooth transition between administrations. i began by asking him just how smoothly the transition to the
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trump team is going. >> well, it's going pretty smoothly because there's not an enormous amount of it. there are some people that have been in the building for a period of time, but, you know, quite candidly i think there has not been a lot of high-level exchange at this point in time. i'm still expecting to meet with my successor at some point in the near term. >> woodruff: you haven't met with him yet? >> no, i haven't met with him yet. >> woodruff: you expect to in. >> i do. >> woodruff: what are the one or two things that you wish you had known in the very beginning that you only learn later and maybe painfully? >> what troubles me a little bit is that people are not separate ing a remarkable transformation that is taking place globally naturally from
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things that we're really responsible for. let me give you an example. arab spring, we didn't start the arab spring. we couldn't have stopped the arab spring, particularly this year. but that had nothing to do with the red line. let's make that absolutely clear, folks. president obama never retreated from his red line. he never changed his mind about his redness to bomb assad the make it clear you don't use chemical weapons. never. there's a mythology that's grown up around this. one of the greatest challenges we all face right now, not just america, but every country in the world, is we are living in a factless political environment. and every country in the world
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better stop and start worrying about authoritarian populism and the absence of substance in our dialogue, if you could call it that. >> woodruff: what can the u.s. do about that in. >> well, we're going to have to fight for it. i think a lot of people are struggling with what you do about it. if policy is going to be made in 140 characters on twitter and every reasonable measurement of accountability is being bypassed and people don't care about it, we have a problem. and it's not just our problem here in the united states. it's all over the world. >> woodruff: secretary kerry also called for a new "marshall plan" to help countries in critical regions around the world educate their exploding youth populations and prevent them from being radicalized.
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>> woodruff: on sunday, one of the founders of the islamic revolution in iran died at age 82. ali akbar hashemi rafsanjani helped lead the 1979 uprising, and went on to serve both as the powerful speaker of the parliament and as iran's president in the 1980s. he was also a mentor of their current president, hassan rouhani, who will be up for re-election in may. joining me now to discuss rafsanjani, his influence and iran going forward, is karim sadjadpour. he's a senior fellow at the carnegie endowment for international peace. karim, thank you for being back with us. what made rafsanjani the influential figure that he was? >> well, to begin, he was a close confidante of the father of the islamic revolution,
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ayatollah khamenei. what was unique is he was always the cleric in iran who was interest in the putting the country's economic interests before revolutionary ideology, but he ultimately lost that battle against the current supreme leader, who always believed that the rev -- revolutionary ideology should come first. >> woodruff: as you wrote, he helped to put the current ayatollah in power but almost immediately tried to get him out of power. it's a fascinating story. >> it really is. i call it shiite shakespeare, like a shakespearean epic, because he was the king maker. he made khomeini the king leader thinking he would be weak and pliant and rafsanjani could control him. i think he spent the last three decades of his life trying to wrestle power back from khomeini unsuccessfully. >> woodruff: they were two very different men.
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why was one successful and the other one wasn't? >> i think ultimately what was... what made khomeini successful is i think he understood an important machiavellian rule, which is in authoritarian regimes it's much more important to be feared than loved. so khomeini very carefully has cultivated the military, the revolutionary guard, so that was deeply helpful to him. at the same time, whereas khomeini had a reputation for being financially keen, rafsanjani and his family had a terrible reputation of being economically corrupt, which provoked a lot of popular resentment against them. >> woodruff: resentment, and yet you're telling us his death means a great deal for iran. >> well, he was one of the pillars of the 1979 revolution who played a very important role as a mentor to this younger generation of tech democrats and as you mentioned rouhani.
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he was a counter-weight to more radical forces in iran. i think the obituary writers are very confused about rafsanjani because on one hand he had blood on his hands. he ordered the killing of dissidents and intellectuals within iran. he was implicated in terrorist operations overseas, but at the same time in the context of the islamic public of iran, he was morede moderate than his peers. >> woodruff: that is my next question: how moderate was he truly? >> in a western liberal context, he was a jeffersonian democrat. he favored putting the country's economic interests before revolutionary ideology, which meant he was supportive of detente with the united states. he was supportive of a cordial relationship with saudi arabia. and he differed on these issues of revolutionary ideology in contrast to the supreme leader. >> woodruff: i think we mentioned he was a mentor to the
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current president, president rouhani. what does it mean now that he's gone from the scene? what do you expect to see in the months to come? >> i think in may 2017 will be the first litmus test that iran's presidential elections. i think we've learned in the united states that predicting presidential elections... >> woodruff: we've learned that. >> even in a democratic system is difficult, let alone in an opaque authoritarian system like iran. you know, i made the comparison or make the comparison with bill clinton, you know. rafsanjani was an elder statesman. he served as president of the country. but his political... he didn't have political future. he had a prominent past. and so i ultimately don't think that this is a game changer for iran in that the powers that be currently, the supreme leader, the revolutionary guard, are going to remain the main powers that be, but you know, an influential counter-weight
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against them has now been removed. karim sadjadpour, thank you very much. >> thank you, judy. >> woodruff: stay with us. coming up on the newshour: what to expect from president obama's farewell adress; and using art to boost math skills. but first, as president, mr. obama made a pledge to "shine a light" on mass incarceration and criminal justice issues. among other things, he has used his executive power to grant clemency to more people than any other president in modern history. as part of our series, "the obama years," the newshour's hari sreenivasan begins our coverage.
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>> sreenivasan: norman brown is reading the letter from president obama that gave him his life back. for 24.5 years he was in federal prison for selling drugs in washington, d.c., specifically six counts of distributing cocaine. it was his third strike, and that meant life without parole. >> i never thought that i would get no more than maybe 15 years. >> sreenivasan: while he was in prison, his parents, his grandmother, his brother all died. his children grew up, and the men sentenced with him were released. >> i wanted to get out to move to people that i had a monster sentence, but i wasn't a monster. >> sreenivasan: brown took class, taught others, earned certificates for trade skills and was a model prisoner. >> it is my strong belief that by exercising these presidential powers, i have the chance to show people what a second chance can look like. >> sreenivasan: the president explained his motivation this year at a lunch with clemency recipient, including brown.
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in 2014, mr. obama began a large-scale clemency project, reducing the sentences of mostly non-violent drug offenders. after his administration's efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system failed in congress the previous year. >> being an example for y'all is part of my duty. >> sreenivasan: brown has been out for a year now. he mentors kids in the juvenile justice system as a volunteer for the washington department of youth rehabilitation services and helps former prisoners like him reenter society. >> it's about growing up. >> sreenivasan: steve wassermann of the national association of assistant u.s. attorneys defends the strict sentencing guidelines that put people like brown behind bars for so long. >> when you look at recidivism rates in this country, they range anywhere from 50 to 75%. the statistics would indicate that a large number of them will reoffend. and they will reoffend in a variety of different ways, which will victimize people, the
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public, and that's where our core concern is. >> sreenivasan: president obama has received more than 35,000 petitions for clemency in the past eight years. he's granted 1,324, 1,176 of those are commutations that simply shorten a sentence. 148 are presidential pardons, which forgive a person's conviction and reinstate civil liberties like voting. there are still 12,000 come commutation petitions awaiting a decision before the end of obama's term. darren perkins has filed for one. in 1993 he was sentenced to life without parole on conspiracy charges for distribution of crack cocaine in washington, d.c. mandatory guidelines in effect at the time made it difficult to sentence him with anything less than life in prison without parole. perkins' family still lives in the same d.c. neighborhood and have stood by him for the almost 26 years that he's been locked up.
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his youngest child, brandy patterson, was born after perkins' incarceration. >> my dad's been in jail for 26 years. i think he's definitely served his debt. he's paid his debt to society. he wasn't able to see his children grow. i feel like the little bit of time he has left with us, he should be able to experience it. >> sreenivasan: perkins' eldest son delawn they simon knows his father was far from perfect but wonders what life would be like if his arrest never happened. >> me and brandy talked about if our father was out, how would we be our how would things be with our family? would we be the same people? would our family be as strong as it is now in we don't know, but at the end of the day, everything happens for a reason. >> sreenivasan: even the judge who sentenced him to life sent a letter to the president saying he would have imposed a shorter sentence if the law allowed it. perkins told the "newshour" he will continue to fight for his freedom but is unsure what a trump administration will mean for his future. >> i am the law and order
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candidate. [applause] >> sreenivasan: president-elect trump has been silent on his plans for clemency, but his pick for attorney general, senator jeff sessions, made it clear in a 2014 press release that the current administration has overstepped. sexes called the president's sentencing reform efforts "a thumb in the eye of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, court and prison personnel." wassermann says the reason why president obama is granting massive amounts of clemency are the major problem. >> he's granting essentially mass commutations simply because he disagrees with the law as dual passed by congress, and we believe that that is an historical break from previous presidents exercise of that power. >> sreenivasan: while perkins and his family wait and hope to receive a letter from the
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president... >> i am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential your life around. >> sreenivasan: norman brown knows the responsibility that comes with it. even the president in his letter tells you, people are going to doubt you, whether you are reformed, whether you can live a clean, good life. it's a challenge. >> yes. i wouldn't want to let him down. i wouldn't want to let... because the let him down means that the process of clemency doesn't work. and i say that because of the fact that if we are not given a second chance, that means a lot of us who have talent that society can use will just dry rot in jail. society needs what we have to offer. yes, we made a mistake, but who hasn't? godspeed.
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sincerely your, president obama. >> sreenivasan: for the pbs news hour, hari sreenivasan, waldorf, maryland. >> woodruff: in addition to the president's record on executive clemency, we wanted to take a broader look at his overall record on criminal justice reform. william brangham has that look. >> brangham: president obama often points out that the u.s. is 5% of the world's population, but has over 20% of the world's prisoners. his administration has tried various initiatives to change that reality. but how successful has that effort been? i'm joined now by wesley lowery, he's a reporter for "the washington post," who won a pulitzer prize for his work on policing, and the author of the book, "they can't kill us all;" and i'm joined by bill mccollum, he's a former congressman from florida and former attorney general of the state. he's now a lawyer in private practice. welcome general plen to you both. wesley lowrey, i would like to start with you. one of the things that is one of the most dramatic efforts that the obama administration has made is the department of justice intervening in local
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police departments to try to stamp out what they see as abuses there. this has happened in almost two dozen police departments around the country. broadly speaking, can you tell us, what are they trying to this and how successful has that effort been? >> what we see in these cases has been a very aggressive civil rights division of the department of justice. what they would do in a case like ferguson or baltimore is send federal investigationers to that city or town to conduct investigating. they would request reames of data. they would dig through internal documents. they were essentially preparing a prosecution document, these reports you would see, in which the department of justice would lay out their case for litigation. they would argue a police department is violating the civil rights of its residents, whether it be a few traffic stops or through use of force, and it would lay those things out with the threat to sue the city and sue the department in order to prevent that lawsuit, many of these departments and these cities would enter federal
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consent decrees in which the city and department agree the a certain set of reforms and degree to some type of federal monitoring for a period of time, something the obama administration has used very aggressively in order to try the force change to departments that otherwise might not have seen it. we have to remember, the federal government has very lift l power over local police departments based on kind of our system of government. policing is a small government, local issue. this is one of the few ways the federal government can actually make the police in your town or your city behave differently. >> brangham: bill mccollum, i wonder what your take on that is. what is your sense of how the obama administration has handled its efforts to reform police in the country? >> i don't think, first of all, that the need of reform of the police is very strong. they've gone into a few communities. i don't doubt that out of the thousands of local police and sheriff's departments that some need some kind of attention. the biggest problem with the obama administration's approach is all civil rights focused. it does not recognize that the police do a terrific job and
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need more support. morale is at an all-time low around the country as a result of the president's lack of leadership or his misdirection in that will leadership in the face of some very serious incidents that i think did need some attention. >> brangham: wesley lowrey, in defending his own record, the president cited that we've seen historically low levels of crime during his presidency. can the president take credit for that? he is taking credit for it but is that a legitimate thing to claim? >> it is certainly accurate and true that we are seeing some of the lowest levels of crime in the history of the united states of america. the obama years are some of the most peaceful years in american history as it relates the crime. i think new york city just had the least violent year in its modern recorded history. that means very little to a family living in west englewood chicago or in many of the neighborhoods in baltimore and even here in d.c. we have what we have seen is that the majority of the country has become safer, and yet the places that are dangerous have become more dangerous. >> brangham: bill, one of the other things that president
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obama has taken great effort at is trying to reduce what he believes is an epidemic of mass incarceration. he signed laws to reduce mandatory minimum sentence, change these sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine versus powdered cocaine. what do you make of that effort over the past eight years? >> well, i think he's right to try to reduce the differences between crack and powder cocaine. i don't have a problem with granting clemency on a case-by-case basis. as the attorney general of florida, that's something i did. i was part of the clemency board that met every month, but i do believe in minimum mandatory sentences. i do believe in deterrents that will come out of a determinant citizen. when i was on the crime subcommittee in congress several years ago, we didn't have that, and instead we had judges that were widely varied in the kind of sentencing that they did. and the message was terrible. one of the reasons we have this lower crime rate is because we've locked up a lot of the bad guys for long sentences, and we
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have seen fewer of them out on the street to commit those crimes. i fear we're going back into a new cycle where everybody is saying, let's turn everybody out, and you jn rehabilitated anybody in prison. >> brangham: wes lowrey, obviously we're coming to the end of the obama administration the trump administration has signaled at least in several potential employees a different tide. what do you think we're likely to see in this next administration? >> well, i certainly think we're going to see a very different tenor and tone from the administration. we've already begun to see this in terms of how many of these issues are framed. all right. so while president obama or eric holder was much more likely to be talking about something such as a police shooting or community distrust, president-elect trump and his incoming attorney general jeff sessions have shown they are much more likely to talk about things such as supporting police officers, so-called war on police and the idea of, you know, violent crimes. i think very often our partisan political lens, we talk about one of those things or the other
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one of those things, when in reality most police chiefs you talk to will note both of those things are things that deteriorate the relationships between police and communities. in the trump administration, it will be fascinating to see what the posture of the department of justice is. in jeff sessions you have an attorney general who is one of the people on the hill who has prevented the criminal justice reform package that has been proposed by a bipartisan set of senators and congressmen from happening. it will be interesting to see what in terms of federal leadership in terms of walking back mandatory minimums which has been a major focus of the obama administration, issues of clemency and also issues of data collection. it will be interesting to see what if at all is pursued by the trump administration in those spaces. >> woodruff: bill mccollum, what do you think the trump administration will do in this regard? >> i like to think they'll return to the policies of the reagan and bush administrations in the '80s and early '90s.
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and that is to look at local departments like boston and say, here's some local money, like the police bloc grants given out, not without some strings, but we want cops out on the streets, walking those beats, instead of being afraid to do your job, which they are today. i also believe they're going to focus on the block and hispanic community and the minorities. that's where i think president-elect trump has said he's going to do things. the best thing he can do is to address the black-on-black crime, the hispanic-on-hispanic crime, the gangs there, try the prevent the crime in the first place and deter it and arrest those who really are the ones making the trouble. >> brangham: bill mccollum, wesley lowrey, thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: president obama will deliver his farewell address to the nation this
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evening to a room full of supporters in chicago. we discuss the obama legacy and look ahead to tonight's speech with two historians: newshour regular michael beschloss, and annette gordon-reed of harvard university. and we welcome both of you back to the "newshour," michael, let me start with you. how often do presidents give farewell addresses? >> well, george washington began the tradition, but it's really been more a thing of modern times begun by harry truman who did one from the oval office when he retired in 1953, but they don't always work. the ones that really work are when you have the sense that the president is sort of leveling with you in a way that perhaps he wasn't able to during his four oring a years in office. so he's saying something you haven't heard before with new candor, and the other thing is that when he says something that sounds as if it's alessson he's learned that perhaps he didn't know before. the best example, eisenhower in
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1961 said, "worry about the military industrial complex." it was something he had been increasingly worried about for a long time, but this was the first time he said it to the public. >> woodruff: annette gordon-reed, it's speculation, but why do you think president obama wants to do this? >> well, he's in an interesting position. the election didn't turn out the way he probably thought it was going to turn out. this is a chance to cement his legacy and talk about the kinds of things he wanted to do as president. and he is facing a situation where people might try to view a good amount of that. so i think this is a good way for him to lay a temp lat for historians later on, even though that's almost an impossible thing to do, but i think it's a way for him to talk about his legacy, to say to the american people what was important to him, what he thinks he accomplished as president. >> woodruff: michael, there is some reporting over the last few days that the president may be rethinking how he wants to spend his post-presidency, given the
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outcome of the election. could this be part of that? >> it might very well be. he might spend a lot more time criticizing things that donald trump may be doing as president. >> john: and if that's true, he's got to have some kind of foreshadowing of that in this speech tonight. one thing everyone will be wondering is what is his current thinking about trump? right after the election he seemed quite moderate, hoping to coax donald trump to make more moderate appointments and more moderate policies than he was expecting to, but that's all over now, so if barack obama gets through this speech and there's not some, you know, genuine statement from him saying, you know, the country has to worry a little bit about what the new president is doing and, you know, perhaps think about a different direction, then i think we may not feel he's really leveling with us in the way other presidents have. >> woodruff: annette gordon-reed, the white house did release a small portion of what
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the president is going to say. it's basically he's saying he talks about the beauty of democracy and the experiment itself. he says this is a great gift the founders gave us, the freedom ochase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil and imagination, but is michael right? he's going to need to say more than that about what he's got in mind for the future? or else people may be disappointed? >> well, i think we're in unchartered waters here. we have a president who has never held office before. this is one of the things that was apparently one of his attractions to people. we don't know what to expect. and so i think michael is right. we really do expect to have him say something that indicates what kind of role he's going to play after he leaves office, because we're in an unprecedented era, and the president has to be different perhaps. the post-presidency has to be different, not just matter of a person getting their library together or whatever.
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when he's talking about the experiment, the american experiment, the question is how does it continue in this particular moment, and so i expect he will say something like that. >> woodruff: michael, looking at what presidents have done through history, post-presidency, have their actions been affected by the outcome of the election? >> there sure have. i mean, eisenhower said that when kennedy defeated his vice president nixon, he felt as if he had been hit in the solar plex sis but a baseball bat. i think in barack obama's case, if we hear him tonight not saying essentially i didn't expect to finish my presidency, giving this office over to a successor who wants to destroy much of what i have tried to do and who is in many ways almost the opposite of me, if he just sort of plays cool or he's unruffled by that, the best obama speechs have been, and this is true of most presidents, when you really feel that you are hearing his inner monologue.
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if this is too rhetorical, if he's trying too hard to imitate say george washington's farewell address, this will not be a success tonight. >> woodruff: annette gordon-reed, how much of presidents in the past have been able to sort of, i don't want to say tinker with their legacy, but say shape their legacy post-presidency? i'm thinking about jimmy carter, but there are other examples. >> well, jimmy carter has done a wonderful job with his legacy and sort of changing what people think about him and his postpresidential years. but for the most part it's very difficult to set your legacy. because every generation of people asks different questions and is concerned about different things. so a president could say, oh, this is what i want people to focus on, but other generations aren't really as concerned about that. so it's, you know, it's a gamble. they do the best they can do, but historians are going to do what they're going to do and write what they're going to write based upon the needs of their particular generation. >> woodruff: what about that, michael? >> that's absolutely right.
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we cannot be spun or at least we'd like to think we cannot be. the presidents who are trying to overtly say, here is what you historians and what you later americans should think of my presidency 3 or 40 years later, they look silly. >> woodruff: and finally, annette, the fact he's doing it in front of an audience of supporters, we have not seen many presidential speech. s in that form, have we? >> no, we've not, but this is a special moment, and he's in a special place, the place where he began his life as a public servant. and so it's fitting that he would be here. >> woodruff: annette gordon-reed, thank you very much, michael beschloss, thank you. >> thank you. >> woodruff: and we want to add, before the president's address tonight, head to our website, where we have compiled the best moments from his speeches over the years. that's at
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>> woodruff: now, using the power and appeal of the arts to boost low-performing schools. arts frequently get cut from schools due to money and time, but a pilot program around the country is trying to use music, performance and other arts in dozens of schools to motivate kids. jeffrey brown has the story, part of our weekly series on "making the grade." >> ♪ 9, 18, 27, 36, 54, x, 99, 108. >> brown: making music and using the arts to build math and other skills, that's the theory here at the renew cultural arts academy, a public charter school in new orleans-- not long ago, one of the lowest performing schools in louisiana, a state ranking near the bottom in the
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nation. it's a school now showing measurable signs of educational advancement. why does the singing help you do math? >> because at my old school, when we didn't have any songs for multiplication, half my class used to get, like, "unsatisfactory" because they didn't remember it for multiplication. but now that i'm at this school, i'm singing songs, and i can memorize it more. >> brown: a floor above, an eighth grade social studies class uses the musical "hamilton" to make history come alive. >> i'm obsessed with "hamilton," and, so, rap battles were just a perfect way to bring them into what a debate actually is and how to do it. it triggers their listening skills, too, and their writing skills because they're going to have to write their own.
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we provided the model for them, and they love it. >> brown: samantha king works for kid smart, a consulting company that's helped craft the curriculum here and at other schools. >> the general idea of arts integration is to appeal to different modalities of children's learning so they get to get up and use skills that they love or are drawn to-- theater, dance, visual arts, music. and we find that when you put both things together, it sticks. i mean, they remember things. it's in their body memory. >> brown: kathy fletcher is national director of turnaround arts. >> the idea is really simple, and it is that the arts and education can be used not just as a flower-- something to do after math and science scores are up-- but actually as a reform strategy, something that can really help to reach and teach and engage children. >> brown: turnaround arts is a five-year-old program created by the president's committee on the arts and humanities.
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it's the first federal effort to use arts education as a tool to boost achievement in the nation's lowest performing schools. private foundations make up 70% of the funding with public funding from the department of turnaround began in eight schools around the country. the number recently rose to 68 in 15 states and the district of columbia. >> in the decades past, the first thing to get cut when budgets are going are the arts, and i think a lot of people thought that families would get their own art lessons and dance classes. but there are about six million kids in this country who are in public schools, charter schools, who don't have those opportunities, so they don't get any arts in school. and to have something that positive and that joyful to kickstart literacy and a lot of the other core content subjects, it just seems like a smart way to teach. >> brown: that strikes a
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personal chord in the turnaround artists, accomplished professionals who volunteer their time to work with students and teachers. at renew delores t. aaron academy, we watched actress alfre woodard, singer graham nash and our own david brooks, the "new york times" columnist, in action. >> let me hear the sound it makes. ah, never hold sound in! >> can you feel the vibrations on the guitar? put your hands on the body. >> brown: woodard, known for her award-winning film, stage and television roles, is a veteran of the program. why is this work important? >> somebody showed up for both of us, that's why we're here. art completes not only the education but the human being,
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our ability to create and to express that creation. and we also have all the visuals now of channels of your brain opening up when you're doing a particular discipline. so, once we had that, we wanted to come into schools to put it to the test. >> you know, this particular school, it was one of their very first projects. when they first came here, the windows were blacked out and the skylight was blocked off and the rats were running along the top of the wall. and now look it. >> brown: graham nash of crosby, stills, nash and young is a two- time rock and roll hall of fame inductee but never forgets his "bleak" childhood in post-world war ii england. >> i like to go into a thing not knowing exactly what's going on, but i'll deal with whatever it is. so, one of the kids comes up to me, and he goes, "you know, mr. nash, we've rewritten your song 'chicago,' and here it is. we're going to teach it to you." >> ♪ will you please come to new orleans just to dance. ♪
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>> i went, "okay, let's go," you know, because you can either stop it right there and say, "look, you can't rewrite my song, blah blah blah," or you can just go with it and see what happens. and when you choose that moment, that's when the world opens up and all kinds of opportunities come your way. >> brown: an independent evaluation of the original eight turnaround schools conducted showed early success. half the schools improved their attendance rates, with an average attendance rate of 91%. the average improvement in math proficiency was 22%, and reading close to 13%. and discipline problems fell. at renew cultural arts academy, for example, suspensions were down 51%. and the kids themselves? new orleans ninth grader jared mullins has seen his own turnaround through the arts. >> i'll be thinking what more can i do? i want to see how far can i go
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because there is more in life that you can experience. when i'm in the arts, i'm focused. ♪ i'm by myself. i'm alone. >> brown: singing for first lady michelle obama, an early backer of the turnaround arts program. months later, in new orleans, mullens sang to a packed crowd of a different sort: a high school gymnasium filled with students, teachers, parents and turnaround artists. ♪ turnaround arts will expand to 20 more schools next fall, and, in a step to ensure its future, the john f. kennedy center for the performing arts in washington will help manage and host the program. from new orleans, i'm jeffrey brown for the pbs newshour.
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>> woodruff: later tonight on pbs, "american experience" presents a film about an accident in an arkansas missile silo that almost led to terrifying consequences. "command and control" details the 1980 story of maintenance workers who dropped a wrench socket, causing a hole in the fuel tank, and the heroic efforts to prevent the nuclear warhead from exploding. on the newshour online right now, we remember the life of british journalist clare hollingworth, who broke the story of the start of world war ii. read about her life as a war correspondent on our web site, and that's the newshour for now. join us right here at 9:00 p.m. eastern for special coverage of president obama's farewell address to the nation. i'm judy woodruff. join us online, and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, and see you soon.
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>> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh
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