tv PBS News Hour PBS February 2, 2017 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight... >> i will get rid of and totally destroy the johnson amendment. >> woodruff: president trump vows to drastically change the way church and state are separated during political campaigns. then, what we know about a deadly raid by navy seals in yemen. details emerge from the dangerous counter-terrorism operation against al qaeda. and, we travel to a corner of kentucky where many people depend on obamacare to hear their thoughts on the possibility of repeal and replace. >> some people feel that because trump's in office, why do we have to have it because they're hoping they don't get fined.
>> woodruff: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. >> supported by the rockefeller foundation. promoting the well-being of humanity around the world by building resilience and inclusive economies. more at
rockefellerfoundation.org >> carnegie corporation of new york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. at carnegie.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: from prayer breakfast to biker heaven, the president spent this day talking about religion, politics, trade and more.
john yang begins our coverage. >> yang: today, president trump revved up his new administration with a visit from harley davidson executives and workers. >> boy would you like to see me fall off these things. would that be a story. >> yang: and used the annual national prayer breakfast to re- ignite an old campaign promise: vowing to change the tax code to allow churches and other tax- exempt groups to openly campaign for political candidates. >> that is why i will get rid of and totally destroy the johnson amendment and allow for representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. i will do that, remember. >> yang: the provision was not controversial when then-senator lyndon johnson introduced it and president dwight eisenhower signed it into law in 1954. now, some religious leaders-- especially conservative
christians-- say it violated their freedom of speech. speaking at the breakfast, mr. trump also defended his immigration order against critics who say it's a ban on muslims. >> in the coming days we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious freedom and personal liberty. and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination. we want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values. not to hate us. and to hate our values. >> yang: there were also lighter moments, as when the president suggested divine intervention for the current incarnation of his tv show, "the apprentice." >> they hired a big, big movie star arnold schwarzenegger to take my place, and we know how that turned out. the ratings went right down the tubes. it's been a total disaster.
to just pray for arnold if we can for those rating okay? >> yang: schwarzenegger responded on the president's favorite forum: twitter video. >> hey donald. i have a great idea. why don't we switch jobs? you take over tv, because you're such an expert in ratings. and i take over your job, so that people can finally sleep comfortably again. >> yang: later, mr. trump met at the white house with the leaders of the senate finance and house ways and means committees. >> nafta's been a catastrophe for our country. it's been a catastrophe for our workers, our jobs, and our companies. they're leaving our country. i want to change it and maybe we do it. maybe we do a new nafta and we put an extra "f" in the term nafta. you know what the f is for right? "free and fair trade" not just free trade. free and fair trade. >> yang: the president also responded to violent protests last night at the university of
california, berkeley, that led the cancellation of an appearance by milo yiannopolous. he is a senior editor for breitbart news, formerly run by top trump advisor stephen bannon. mr. trump tweeted: "if u.c. berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view-- no federal funds?" the president may face protests in person at his mar-a-lago resort in florida, where he plans to spend the weekend. tonight there are growing indications that the white house intends to put new sanctions on iran perhaps as soon as tomorrow. just yesterday lieutenant michael flynn, the national security adviser, put iran on notice over a missile test that he said violated a united nations security council resolution. now, that violation has nothing to do with the iran nuclear agreement and administration officials say that whatever sanctions there may be will
conform with that agreement. judy? >> woodruff: john, back with something else you were just talking about, and that's the president's tweet where he essentially sounded like he was threatening the university of california at berkeley over a loss of federal funds because of those protests. what are you hearing about that at the white house? >> well, berkeley tells us they get about $600 million in federal funds, $200 million for financial aid for students and another $400 million for research, research grants. the people who know about federal funding for schools tell us it's virtually impossible for a president or even a congress by themselves to single out a university or even a university system to cut off their funds unless they violate the law. >> woodruff: separately, john, there was a recording that suggested the president might sign an executive order that
might allow businesses to not serve gays and lesbians on religious grounds. where does that stand? >> yang: today sean spicer says that's not something they're ready to roll out or say that the president is going to sign. there are no indications that it's coming soon. to put this enter a little prspective, i talk to people who work in the transition, and they said that they have been encouraged to volunteer to write proposed executive orders, that there was a book of proposed executive orders. so there are a lot of draft executive orders on a lot of topics, but as sean spicer said today is the key is whether or not president trump says that's the one i want to sign, and so far on this topic, spicer said, he hasn't said that. >> woodruff: john, a lot for white house reporters to keep track of. thank you, john. >> woodruff: in the day's other news, two more cabinet nominees
advanced to the full senate for confirmation votes. two senate committees endorsed south carolina congressman mick mulvaney to run the white house budget office. and the nomination of scott pruitt to head the environmental protection agency got through the senate environment committee. democrats boycotted that meeting, so republicans suspended the rules, and took the vote anyway. the newly sworn-in secretary of state, rex tillerson, urged his employees today to put aside any political differences with president trump. hundreds in the department have signed a note of dissent against the executive order on immigration and refugees. tillerson addressed his work force for the first time. he praised them, and said he understands their frustrations. >> i know this was a hotly contested election and we do not all feel the same way about the outcome. each of us is entitled to the expression of our political beliefs. but we cannot let our personal convictions overwhelm our ability to work as one team.
>> woodruff: the white house has warned the dissenting diplomats to "get with the program" or get out. the secretary of homeland security says he hopes to complete a wall along the mexican border within two years. john kelly told fox news today that he expects congress will find the funding "relatively quickly". president trump has insisted mexico will ultimately cover the cost. meanwhile, the department's inspector general says he'll review how the president's immigration order was implemented. a snowpack survey in california has found the most snow since 1995, and could put an end to a five-year drought. today's check in the sierra nevada follows major january storms that brought more than a year's worth of rain and snow. the unexpected surge in precipitation already lifted the northern half of the state out of drought. it's also caused heavy flooding and damage in some places.
the senate today gave final approval to rescinding a regulation against dumping coal mining waste into streams. and on wall street, the dow jones industrial average lost six points to close below 19,885. the nasdaq fell six points, but the s&p 500 added a point. still to come on the newshour: unraveling what went wrong in a deadly military raid in yemen. president trump's brusque manner putting world leaders on edge. the economic hurdles to replacing obamacare, and much more.
>> woodruff: president trump has made clear that he'll aggressively target terror groups like isis and al qaeda. on sunday in yemen american special forces assaulted an al qaeda compound, the first such raid authorized by the new president. but details of the planning and execution of the raid have come under scrutiny this week. hari sreenivasan has that story. >> sreenivasan: members of the elite seal team six approached a village in the yakla region of yemen's bayda province in the early morning hours on sunday their target: an al qaeda stronghold, known to u.s. intelligence since the obama administration. a firefight ensued, and the commandos had to call in fire- support from fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships. a navy seal, chief petty officer ryan owens, was killed in the battle and a transport aircraft suffered a hard landing and had to be destroyed. the u.s. military acknowledged last night that it had also likely killed civilian noncombatants during the fight. white house spokesman sean
spicer spoke of the mission today >> it's hard to call something a complete success when you have the loss of life or people injured. but i think when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life here in america and against our people against our institutions and probably throughout the world based on what some of these individuals could have done. i think it's it is-- it is a successful operation by all standards. >> sreenivasan: for more on the raid, and the strength of the al qaida branch there, i'm joined by david sanger of "the new york times" and richard atwood, of the international crisis group, which released a report today on the strength and capabilities of al qaida in yemen. david, i want to ask you first, most presidents say this is the toughest decision they have to send a member of the armed forces into harm's way. what was that decision-making process like this time? >> well, the process was somewhat unusual, hari. usually a president goes down in
the situation room, is presented with what they call a whole package for the attack. there's a legal assessment of the legal authorities under which they're doing these. there's a risk assessment to the commandos who would be doing it. there is a risk assessment of what could happen to civilians who are in the area. this particular attack had been set up by the obama administration. they had debated it, and president obama decided about ten days before the end of his term that he couldn't approve it because the pentagon really wanted to go in under the complete cover of darkness, a moonless night, and the next moonless night wasn't going to be until after he was no longer in office. so they kicked this one over to the new administration, and it looks like president trump got briefed on it by in large at a dinner, not in the situation room, not with legal advisers around. his secretary of defense, jim
mattis was, there vice vice pret pence was there, stephen bannon, the newest member of the national security council, known for for his political advice than military, was there. so was his new national security adviser michael flynn, who was a veteran of many of these. but the discussion took place in a dinner situation, and he approved the raid at that dinner. and i think one of the questions given how many things have gone wrong is would it have been different if he had been in the situation room and perhaps had a different set of briefings. the white house insists not. it's hard to call this much of a success yet because we don't know what the value was of the information they were trying to exploit, which came mostly from computers and cell phones, and from everything we've heard, they haven't had a chance to assess that yet. >> sreenivasan: richard atwood, put this in perspective
for us. how strong is al qaeda in yemen? >> we published a report today that looks at the evolution of al qaeda in yemen, and obviously there's a lot of talk about the islamic state, but in yemen it's al qaeda that's done well over the last few years. really the civil war, it's been the main beneficiary of the civil war. as fighting has escalated between the government and the saudi-backed international coalition on the one hand against the hutus and the former president, as fighting has escalated, al qaeda has been able to exploit the chaos, control territory for some time. it's strengthened its ties to some communities. it has very close ties with some of the other armed groups fighting in the anti-hutu-sally alliance. it's been able to raid banks. and it's much better armed. it's been able to gain guns and weapons that have been passed
through other armed groups in which its in an alliance. so i think it's stronger than ever. frankly, the longer the war continues in yemen, the stronger al qaeda is likely to get. i would just, on the operation yesterday, you know, i think i agree with david that it's very difficult to know whether it's a success until we know what information was retrieved. on the other hand, i think there's aspects that are clearly not a success. there are a lot of tribesmen at the moment in yemen. an operation like this is more likely the radicalize them, more likely the push them into the arms of al qaeda, particularly if it has a high civilian cost, if it kills women and children, particularly if u.s. forces are involved. it tends to feed anti-americanism and strengthen those alliances between the tribes in al qaeda, which is what al qaeda profits from. >> sreenivasan: david, did any of thing from officials say that factored into president trump's decision to do this? >> we don't have a lot of view
into the discussion that they had at the dinner table. but i think richard raises one of the most important points. over time presidents learn that the biggest risk out here is not only the civilian risk and the risk to american forces, but whether, as donald rumsfeld used to say, whether you're creating terrorists faster than you kill them, and certainly if you have a case like this where there appear to have been considerable civilian casualty, that may well have been the case, especially because even if some of those civilians may have taken up arms and fired against the seals, in the mythology of what went on, you're going to hear a story of seals who dropped out of the sky and suddenly attacked a remote village in yemen. you can imagine the recruiting capability of that. so, you know, part of what's
going on here, hari, is that you have in the trump administration a group that believes that the decision making in these kind of cases has to be shortened, that more of the power has to be devolved down to the pentagon, the commanders, and yet in the first case that the president approved, thing went very badly wrong, and you have to wonder whether or not that is going to have the effect of making them think that they need to slow down and think more about the effects of these and whether they're simply going to say, look, this happened some time. >> sreenivasan: david sanger, richard atwood, thank you both. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> woodruff: now, barely two weeks into his term, president trump has shaken up global affairs through a series of unilateral legal diplomatic moves, and blunt talk and
tweets. longstanding american allies and adversaries are asking what the new administration has in mind for future u.s.' relations abroad. one of several clues: iran's test-launch of a medium-range ballistic missile, which triggered a direct white house response from mr. trump's national security team yesterday and in a tweet this morning, the president wrote: "iran has been formally put on notice for firing a ballistic missile. " it's not clear just what "on notice" means, but mr. trump was asked today whether military action is off the table... >> nothing is off the table. >> woodruff: a top advisor to iran's supreme leader, ayatollah khamenei, dismissed it all today, saying: "the american government will understand that threatening iran is useless." by contrast, the administration has been relatively quiet about
new fighting in eastern ukraine between government forces and russian-backed rebels. late today the u.s. ambassador said the situation requires clear and wrong strong condemnation of russian action. mr. trump's mr. trump's conciliatory talk about russia, and his critiques of the european union, have leaders on the continent concerned. donald tusk is president of the european council. >> we should today remind our american friends of their own motto: united we stand, divided we fall. >> woodruff: meanwhile, a phone call saturday with australian prime minister malcolm turnbull is raising eyebrows. "the washington post" reports the president told turnbull: "this was the worst call by far" that he's had with a foreign leader. at issue: the obama administration's agreement to resettle refugees not allowed
into australia. >> i love australia as a country. but we had a problem where for whatever reason president obama said that they were going to take probably well over a thousand illegal immigrants. i just wanted to say why? why are we doing this? >> woodruff: prime minister turnbull played down the incident. >> the fact that we received the assurance that we did, the fact that it was confirmed, the very extensive engagement we have with the new administration underlines the closeness of the alliance. >> woodruff: separately, the associated press reports mr. trump told mexico's president he might send u.s. troops to deal with "bad hombres down there." the white house says the remark was "lighthearted". mexico denies it happened. the president's take? >> i fix things. when you hear about tough phone
calls, don't worry about it. >> woodruff: all this as the newly minted secretary of state tried to rally a work force, many of whom are already unhappy following last weekend's unveiling of extensive visa and refugee restrictions for travelers from seven majority- muslim nations. >> we're on the same team. we share the same mission. honesty will undergird our >> woodruff: tillerson began today by discussing that policy with germany's foreign minister. we take a deeper look now at trump's interaction with world leaders with james jeffrey, he served in several senior positions during his 35 year career as a diplomat, including u.s. ambassador to turkey and iraq, and as george w. bush's deputy national security advisor. he's now at the washington institute for near east policy. and wendy sherman was under secretary of state for political affairs during the obama administration. she also held senior state
department jobs during the clinton administration. welcome both of you back to the program. let me just ask you first, ambassador jeffrey, what do you make overall of the approach we're seeing from this president to foreign policy? >> well, you have to separate the drama from some of the decisions. as a long-time career guy, i like quiet diplomacy behind closed doors. this is not what we're getting. at the end of the day, it's what america does, how people perceive us, in the long run our reliability and such, and thirdly, personal relationships presidents have with their counterparts. the tweeting and some of the explosive conversations can hurt the third and can have an impact on the second, but in the end, what we really should focus on is the policies. some of them have been bad, the rollout of the immigration ban. others we have to wait and see. the reaction to the iranian, that was basically within normal
boundaries. >> woodruff: i want to ask you about the specifics. overall, wendy sherman, how do we read what's happening? >> i think republican analyst steve it? had a great line, which is americans clearly voted for change, but they did not vote for chaos. i think people are feeling unnerved all around the world because they see a chaotic set of directions coming out of the white house, and they're not sure what it all means, although i understand what ambassador jeffrey is saying about michael flynn saying, iran, you are on notice, might have been a response to the missile launch. indeed nobody knew what that meant, and it really riled people to try to figure out what was happening. when the president has leaked out what happens in his phone calls and he's really taking on some of our dearest allies and partners around the world, people don't know what to expect and whether they can rely on the united states anymore. and they need to be able to rely on us, just as we need to be able to rely on them.
>> woodruff: jim jeffrey, what about this comment the president made reportedly in the phone conversation with the prime minister of australia when he said, "this is the worst phone call i've had with any world leader." is this the kind of back-and-forth that lendings itself i guess to, you know, good work happening between these two countries? >> secretary sherman and i know that presidents often have really bad phone conversations. what they usually don't do and go out and talk about it. that gets to my point about doing some damage on the periphery of our core policies. >> woodruff: so you're saying what he said is really no different from what other... the kind of thing other presidents would have said in. >> no, presidents always... not always, but often have bad conversations with counterparts. they just don't go out and embarrass their counterpart by talking about it. they find other ways to work it out, which is what we're trying to do right now. it's this public airing of the dirty laundry that is a problem.
>> woodruff: and it's not only, that wendy sherman, it's the phone conversation, the hour-long phone conversation with the president of mexico. we later learned the president said something to the effect of we'll send u.s. troops down there if you don't take care of those bad hombres. >> if you read donald trump's book "the art of the deal," he believes in what he calls truthful hyperbole. he thinks all press is good press, and i think he believes he's putting everybody on a psychological disadvantage so he can have some advantage in negotiations, and that's just high on his agenda, but if he goes too far, i think the president of mexico and the mexicans will decide they just as soon get out of nafta, and we don't want that either. there may need to be some changes, but to reimagine the entire world as ambassador jeffrey said, we have had an international order, if not perfect, but for 70 years which
has kept europe whole and free and safe, and we need to keep it in place. >> woodruff: ambassador jeffrey, what's the difference between having a vigorous conversation and doing real damage? i'm just looking again at what the president said this morning at the prayer breakfast. he said, "don't worry about the reports of tough phone calls. he said we have to be tough. it's time that we're a little tough. >> again, it does some damage, but as wendy sherman said, behind the fires,, -- fireworks, there are ideas they are pushing. it's a vision of a 19th century world where great powers do transactional issues. it's very different than what we've been doing for the last 75 years. >> woodruff: what concerns you? >> i'm concerned about a relationship with russia that ignores its aggressiveness abroad. i'm concerned about the willingness to question alliances and the value of
allies, require them to pay more or they don't get to play. >> woodruff: in reference to nato? >> exactly. >> woodruff: and we were just looking at a news wire report a moment ago, wendy sherman, where we're told that the vice president mike pence had a meeting with the german foreign minister in which they discussed nato. this just happened within the hour, and among other things, they talked about the importance of nato members paying up. is this something donald trump talked about during the campaign? >> absolutely. so did president obama talk about it. and push countries to pay their fair share. we should all push every member to do that. but the nato alliance is not just a transactional relationship. that alliance serves our interests. that alliance has been critical to keeping security in europe so that we do not face another world war. so it is in our national security interests and, yes, we pay a lot for it, but when we
had afghanistan, nato troops were by our side from almost all of the nato members, and they put their life and treasure on the line for us. >> woodruff: so i come back to the question, ambassador jeffrey, at what point... how far can a president go with tough talk that's helpful for the united states, that builds the reputation and stands the united states in good stead, and when does it go too far? where do we draw the line? >> again, it's a judgmental question. each of us have a different reaction to tough talk, and our friends abroad have a different reaction, too. at the end of the day, it is what he does or doesn't do as crises come up and as he tries to advance his agenda. he can hurt it on the margins by this kind of talk, that's my view. he could help it with a different approach to our allies and friends and our foes, but at the end of the day, it's going to be what sort of decisions
does he take in response to the relly great threats we have in the world today. >> woodruff: and is there a risk or how much of a risk, i should say, wendy sherman, is there to damaging personal relationships. >> woodruff: or is that not really an issue in. >> i think that's an issue. i think it's already happened. one should talk tough to friends in private, but as the first phone call as the president of the united states, you're trying to build your personal relationship. you're trying to build on the alliance and the partnerships that we have. usually that tough talk doesn't happen with your friends and partners, and people wonder why the tough talk is happening with mexico and happening with germany and happening with our pals, but it's not happening with russia. >> woodruff: is that a concern for you? >> absolutely. russia is the biggest threat right now to the international order, not the islamic state, not iran, although i have problems with iran, and not china. it's russia. >> woodruff: we'll be hearing a lot more about the islamic state and al qaeda this week. all right.
well, subject very much to be continued, ambassador jeffrey and wendy sherman. thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> woodruff: stay with us, coming up on the newshour, a woman's mission to help girls in liberia. and a letter to five presidents who owned slaves. but first, can the healthcare law be replaced and work without a mandate? that's something the president and congressional republicans seem to be trying to do, although just how is not clear yet. as the annual enrollment season for buying insurance has come to a close, there are very real questions about how this all would play out once the law is changed. our economics correspondent, paul solman, went to kentucky to explore that further, part of
his weekly series, "making sense." >> folks, folks, we want to end obamacare, we want to go to a plan that is so much better and so much less expensive, right? >> reporter: throughout the campaign, donald trump promised to repeal and replace the affordable care act. >> so help me god. >> reporter: and sure enough, on inauguration day, he signed his first executive order, directing government agencies to begin scaling back the law. that was good news for trump voter perry partin, a security guard from corbin, kentucky. >> it was forced on me, shoved down your throat whether you wanted it or not. >> i'm with perry. >> reporter: bobbi smith, who owns an antiques store, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2015. a year in which, having missed the open enrollment deadline, she'd accidentally gone without health insurance. she waited until january to buy
coverage on healthcare.gov and get treated. but, says this trump voter... >> i think if i were to walk around here with no health insurance and that's what i choose to do, then that's my right. >> reporter: but you're thankful you have that insurance? >> oh yes! i am, yes. >> reporter: so you're kind of torn here? >> that's right. >> reporter: elizabeth easton has no such conflicts. >> i love it. the only thing that trump would be able to do for me would be universal healthcare. >> reporter: easton didn't vote for trump. she didn't vote at all, she says, because she was high and suicidal, having relapsed into drug abuse following a painful spinal infection. she's now in recovery, her addiction treatment covered by medicaid, which was expanded under obamacare. >> i've been a user since i was in high school. and i was able to check into treatment because of it. >> reporter: and you would not have been without the affordable care act? >> it saved my life. yeah, it's great. >> reporter: we came to this corner of kentucky last week, famous as the birthplace of colonel sanders' kentucky fried
chicken, because it's seen one of the biggest drops in the uninsured rate due to the affordable care act. kathy oller says she herself has signed up thousands, including on this day mall jewelry store worker aaron lewis. >> to me personally it was worth the peace of mind to have some sort of safety net in case something did happen to me or in case some illness or accident happened, i'd be a little bit more covered rather than susceptible to bankruptcy. >> reporter: but when we visited, with just over a week to go before the deadline for 2017 coverage, the enrollment rush had stalled, in part due to the trump administration's cancellation of ads urging people to sign-up. but there's another reason says oller. >> some people feel that because trump's in office why do we have to have it because they're hoping they don't get fined. >> reporter: in other words, they're counting on repeal to kill the mandate-- the requirement to buy health insurance, or else pay a penalty to the government. >> we get this letter, you got to get insurance, which instantly infuriated me.
>> reporter: don't tread on me. >> yeah. >> reporter: health care worker anthony flannery refused to buy insurance each of the last two years. >> i was looking at like $280 with a $6,000 deductible that would then pay 60% of any medical expenses i may incur. i was like, no. i'm not doing it. so i'll pay the penalty. so last year come tax time, i owed $652. >> reporter: for tax year 2016 the fine will be higher. but so what? says perry partin. >> it's cheaper to pay the fine than it is to pay for the insurance. >> reporter: so are you going to pay the fine instead of the insurance? >> i probly will. you know, because i mean, my cups about run over with insurance. >> reporter: but can whatever replaces obamacare accommodate perry partin while also caring for beth easton... >> this time last year, i was in the hospital, almost died several times. >> reporter: ...with her many pre-existing conditions? >> if you don't have a mandate, you cannot have an insurance system. >> reporter: to an economist like bob frank, cases like
easton's make the logic behind the mandate crystal clear. >> the only way a system of insurance can work is if everybody's in the pool together, healthy and sick people alike. and if you want healthy people in the pool, you've essentially got to mandate that they be a participant. >> reporter: it's simply how insurance works, he says. >> the insurance company needs a large number of people, only a few of whom are going to make claims against it. >> reporter: but if it were mainly sick people in the pool, the costs per person would skyrocket. moreover, poorer people, who also tend to have poorer health, need financial help to pay their premiums. >> there's no way to insure people who have lower income are able to get it without increasing taxes on somebody. >> reporter: in the case of obamacare, increasing taxes on top earners, who help subsidize most of the 20-plus million people who gained coverage under the affordable care act. >> and so there you have the three basic components of the
affordable care act: mandates- you have to buy insurance, the guarantee that if you have pre- existing conditions you can't be denied coverage and then subsidies if you can't afford to buy insurance. if you take any one of those away, the whole system collapses. >> reporter: and if the current system is repealed but not replaced, at least 18 million people stand to lose their insurance within a year, according to the congressional budget office. which might feel worse than never having had insurance at all. >> i think it's such a backwards step because they are now excited because they have the opportunity to sign up for healthcare. and if they take it away it's just going backwards instead of forward. >> reporter: behavioral economists call this "loss aversion," illustrated in this youtube cartoon. >> it's more painful to lose something than it's joyful to gain something. >> reporter: to most people, it turns out, losing $1,000, say, hurts far more than the pleasure of $1,000 dollar windfall. and bob frank applies this
attachment to what we have to threats to obamacare. >> millions have coverage now for the first time and if they take people's coverage away from them with this new repeal measure, you're going to see a political firestorm unlike anything we've seen in recent history. >> reporter: it was enough to scare elizabeth easton straight. >> i had an epiphany like, the world's gone completely mad, and i've got to get better. seriously. i'm not joking. so thank you, mr. trump. (laughter) you got me sober, so i can like, try to save healthcare. >> reporter: no wonder republicans are having such a tough time coming up with a replacement plan. and how hard it is for working folks like anthony flannery, who finally joined the insurance pool this year. >> if we want to look at this from a standpoint of doing my part to fit into this pool in this social responsibility, i can handle that. >> reporter: but to bobbie smith
and perry partin, it's the very principle of a mandate that rankles, no matter the economics. how can there be health insurance if the healthier people don't participate? because then it's just going to be the sicker people who are going to be insured, and then the cost is going to be too high, no? >> you made a point. (laughter) i didn't say i necessarily agreed, you made a point i'll think about. >> i'd say you're right. but, i'm just like her, if you want insurance, it would be your option. >> reporter: for the pbs newshour, economics correspondent paul solman, reporting from corbin, kentucky. >> woodruff: liberia has had more than its fair shares of challenges: a 14-year civil war, an ebola epidemic that left
nearly 5,000 people dead. but on a recent trip there, special correspondent fred de sam lazaro found one american woman trying to help the country rebuild, focusing on one particular vulnerable group: young girls. it's part of fred's series "agents for change." >> reporter: 34-year-old katie meyler is a well-known figure in westpoint, one of the poorest slums in monrovia. with freckled face, strawberry blonde hair, combat boots and a dress, she stands out. >> tell lucy and susan i said hello. >> reporter: but meyler feels right at home here. and there's no greater proof of that than her decision to remain even remaining here during the ebola epidemic that ravaged the city two years ago. the virus took thousands of lives. most outsiders were evacuated, including journalists. meyler filled that void with regular social media posts and interviews. >> i'd rather die at 30 years old living for what i really believe from head to toe in
every single way possible than to live to be 90 years old and not really fulfill what i was born to do. benu is number one in her class. >> reporter: for the past 11 years, meyler has made young women like benu her cause. she is the founder of what she called the "more than me academy," a private school which provides free education for kindergarten through sixth grade girls and then scholarships for them to go on to high school. most of the girls come from large families and would normally be selling food and water in the streets, or something worse. meyler says the extreme poverty in liberia leads to particularly troubling behaviors. >> how bad when you're trying just every single day to get a cup of rice to stay alive? i've seen and heard and know of mothers that have ended up prostituting their own children just to survive. it sounds horrific to anybody on the outside. how can a mother do that? but how could a mother let her
daughter die too? >> reporter: meyler's passion for social justice began more than 20 years ago as a teenager in suburban new jersey where she was raised by a single mother. often the family was dysfunctional, she says, often they had to go on welfare. meyler says she found solace at her church >> it felt good to help others and it helped me get out of my own things that were going on in my life. i got addicted to making other people happy. >> reporter: she went on to graduate from college, the first in her family to do so, and took a paid internship with the charity "samaritan's purse," which assigned her to liberia. >> i didn't know where liberia was on a map. i googled it. >> reporter: it was meant to be for six months? >> yes. >> reporter: it's been 11 years. what happened? >> there's a saying that nobody chooses liberia, that liberia chooses you. i think part of it is you come here and you see the amount of need the place has and the people are warm and open.
you can make a big difference here. >> reporter: she saw a need for education. ten years ago, more than half of all primary school aged children did not attend, collateral damage from this country's 14- year civil war. so meyler began raising money, at first mostly through her church for scholarships. but she quickly became disenchanted with the existing schools. >> they're not really learning anything at school because the teachers don't come on time. both in public and private schools, it's very rare that teachers show up and are accountable. >> reporter: meyler decided she had to start her own school. she raised money from both small and large donors in the united states, purchased a building and hired teachers. the school provides breakfast and lunch, medical services and after school programs. there's a strong emphasis on empowering girls to stand up against sexual abuse. the school can accommodate 180 students. hundreds more wish they could
attend. >> she sells popcorn during the day. >> reporter: we met one of them on our trip to westpoint. >> she stopped going to school in third grade because her family doesn't have any money. >> reporter: so what can you do for a child like this? >> unfortunately, our school only has 180 spots and at this point we don't have any space. >> reporter: and her students are still playing catch up. ebola shut down all schools in liberia for a full year-- a period when educating girls took a back seat to saving their lives, she says, even as she feared for her own. >> i think what defines you the most is what you do despite your fear. i was extremely afraid. i signed my power of attorney away just in case something happened. there was a real, legitimate concern that i might not return home. >> reporter: she had to bribe her way into the westpoint neighborhood where most of her students live. it had been quarantined and, she discovered, had virtually no
health services or equipment. she raised money to buy ambulances and medical supplies and turned the school into a disaster response center >> our plan was to do everything you can to keep everybody alive and then when you can't do anything else, bring dignity in death. we did a lot of that too. singing to people, praying with people while they died. the children were just laying outside the overflow center. the ones inside were actually worse off because they were the dead mixed with the living. they could barely move, barely speak. >> reporter: how do you recover from that? >> i don't want to get over it. because we have to do something to make sure it doesn't happen again. i think that remembering and feeling what it felt like and to see that national emergency motivates me and fuels me to fight to ensure that it doesn't happen again. >> reporter: meyler believes one of the main contributors to the ebola crisis was the lack of education. so she went to the government to propose that some private groups be brought in to overhaul the system. a pilot project began this past
fall using seven different organizations to revamp 94 schools. more than me was put in charge of six of those schools. we met up with meyler at a back to school celebration in the rural village of bogbeh. >> most in the community here don't read or write and didn't get basic education. so they're really excited that out of 2,750 public schools in the country, theirs was selected. >> reporter: meyler and her staff have helped oversee school repairs, the development of new curricula and installation of teacher trainers at each of the six schools. the attention she earned during the ebola crisis, including being named a "time" magazine's person of the year, has opened the doors to philanthropists. meyler hopes to raise $25 million over the next five years to expand to 500 schools.
but ultimately, she hopes the partnership project is so successful that the private partners can relinquish their roles. >> our goal here is to go out of business. i can tell you for us, we're successful when we're not needed anymore. we're successful when liberia's government can run these schools and the teachers are at capacity and liberia doesn't need to have the external support. that's what we are working toward. >> reporter: while she hopes to go out of business in a more prosperous, future liberia, for her own future, meyler says she has no plans to leave her adopted country. for the pbs newshour, i'm fred de sam lazaro in monrovia, liberia. >> woodruff: fred's reporting is a partnership with the undertold stories project at the university of st. thomas in minnesota. >> woodruff: now to another in our brief but spectacular
series, where we ask interesting in honor of black history month, we turn to poet clint smith, a doctoral student at harvard university. he studies racial inequality in the u.s. and his first full- length collection of poems, "counting descent" was published in 2016. >> a letter to five of the presidents who owned slaves while they were in office. george washington, when you won the revolution, how many of your soldiers did you send from a battle field to the cotton field? how many had to trade in their rifles for plaques? can you blame the slaves who run away to fight for the british because at least the red posts were honest about their oppression thomas jefferson, when you told sally hemming that you would free her children to your major mistress did you think there was honor in your ultimatum? did you think we wouldn't be able to recognize the assault and your signature that's raping your slave when you disguise it as bribery and make it less of a crime. when you wrote the declaration of independence did you ever intend for black people to have freedom over their bodies james madison? when you wrote to congress that black people should count as free fits of a person, how long
did you have to look at your slaves to figure out the math, was it easy to chop them up? did you think they would be happy being more than just half human james monroe? when you proposed sending slaves back to africa to black the bodies feel like rented tools, when you branded them did the scar on their chest include an expiration date? when you named the country liberia were you trying to be ironic? does this really count as liberation andrew jackson? was a trail of tears not enough for you? was killing cherokee, chop talk, creek, semanose, not enough to quench your imperialism? how many brown bodies do you have to bulldoze before you can call it progress mr. washington, jefferson, madison, monroe, jackson, when you put your hand on the bible and swore to protect this country let's be honest in who you were talking about. when the first independent state fireworks set the sky to flame don't forget where we were watching from. so when you remember jefferson genius don't forget the slaves who built the bookshelves in his library. when you remember jackson's victories in war don't forget what he was fighting to preserve. when you sing that this country was founded on freedom, don't
forget the duet of shackles dragging against the ground my entire life. i have been taught how perfect this country was, but no one ever told me about the pages torn out of my text books, how black and brown bodies have emblazoned for three centuries and find no place in the curriculum. oppression doesn't disappear just because you decided not to teach us that chapter. if you only hear one side of the story at some point you have to question who the writer is. i'm a third year graduate student at harvard university and i study broadly the history of racial inequality in the united states. i taught high school english for several years in prince george's county maryland and part of what i always think about is how important it is to complicate history, the presidents and the founding fathers and all of the people we sort of raise up as false idols. we don't wrestle with the fact that many of these were brilliant men but they were also
men with deep prejudices against people of color against indigenous people, against women. the jefferson i learned about was the intellectual founding father of this country responsible for the conception of the declaration of independence in the constitution and we never talked about the fact that he owned slaves. only after we understand where we've come from can we understand how we need to move forward. my name is clint smith and this is my brief but spectacular take on complicating the history of the united states. >> woodruff: you can find additional brief but spectacular episodes on our website, pbs.org/newshour/brief.
asking for help. he turned them over to his sister who has been responding ever since as part of a foundation. tina martin from wgbh in boston has the story. >> we can help. >> reporter: these letters are from people from all across the country who are desperate for help, noni campbell with the letters foundation says. >> somebody would say i'm on disability and i need dentures and i don't have any money, ey all come to the letterstures. foundation, run by billionaire doris. buffets older sister she started reading letters at the request of her brother who was flooded with pleas for help. noni campbell is a longtime friend of doris who is lovingly called "do-do" they met more than a decade ago she says, >> she had a blue sofa in her condo up in maine and she would be sitting in one little corner of it and the entire sofa was piled with letters from people. boxes and boxes. >> reporter: and all of those boxes came with doris buffet when she moved to boston last year but she needed help reading them. 1200 people volunteered. emily holland was one of them she says.
>> i think we don't want to believe how easy it is to fall into a situation that's overwhelming or that we feel like we can't get out of. >> reporter: volunteers are being trained over the next several weeks, but amy kingman with the letters foundation says not everyone will read letters, >> we actually created a new role which is the group a number of people here training today and those are our researchers. >> reporter: the researchers will verify people's identities and stories. they also make sure requests fulfill the foundations mission of making one time grants to help them get back on their feet. unfortunately, tevis spezia, >> since we've been in boston we have given out about 260,000 in the fiscal year of 2016 in total we have given out a little over 300,000 now. so we give any sorts of grants upwards of 35,000 in a case like that that's a handicap van and you have to spend a little bit, and then smaller amounts to cover some utilities to help
people get back on their feet can be as small as 200 and 300. >> reporter: while the letters foundation operates with a strict budget, there is no budget when it comes to giving >> if anyone has worked closely with doris she always speaks about how she wants her last check to bounce. >> reporter: the buffet family is also very hands on. now 89, doris isn't always in the office but she talks with staff daily. it's part of her personal touch like how people are required to make a request, with old fashioned letters. her >> she really loves the personal connection of a hand written letter that's how the program really started with warren was people writing and sending in physical letters. and rozek says they read every letter. >> it's very humbling and at times it's a little bit stressful sometimes we can't help with all of them for various reasons, but the vast majority we are able to help.
>> woodruff: and that's the 9newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> 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. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
>> rose: welcome to the program. neil gorsuch has been nominated to be a justice of the u.s. supreme court. we'll take a look at the confirmation battle with david boies, paul clement, adam liptak a n d jan crawford. >> this nomination is now before the senate and as adam suggested, they're confronting an eminently qualified individual in judge gorsuch. and i think, i'm sure there's going to be a lot of discussion about politics and pay back and a lot of discussion of judge garland who is also a terrific jurist. t of criticism of judge is a gorsuch because he really is just a top caliber individual and a judge who has really proven, as adam suggested, to be somebody who is admired across partisan lines.