January 14, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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01/14/2022 | 56m 43s | Video has closed captioning.
January 14, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: confronting COVID.
Health systems buckle under the latest surge of hospitalizations from COVID-19, as schools struggle to keep the virus at bay.
Then: a deadly drought.
Millions of Kenyans face hunger and ethnic conflict exacerbated by the global climate crisis.
NUR HUSSEIN, Resident of Wajir Province (through translator): This village was a village full of people and livestock, which depended basically on livestock for livelihood.
But for a period of nine months, we have not received any rain.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's Friday.
David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart consider the push for voting rights in Congress and the Supreme Court's decisions on vaccine mandates.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: Hospitals in at least 24 states are edging close to capacity tonight, as COVID patients keep arriving.
Government data also shows more intensive care units are running out of beds.
Meanwhile, a federal Web site will begin taking orders Wednesday for free COVID tests.
There is a limit of four per home.
We will return to the hospital crunch after the news summary.
The leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia pleaded not guilty today to a federal charge of seditious conspiracy.
Stewart Rhodes is accused in connection with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol; 10 of his followers are also charged.
A federal magistrate in Plano, Texas, ordered that Rhodes to remain in jail for now.
Another Republican congressman who voted to impeach President Trump over the assault on the U.S. Capitol is retiring.
Representative John Katko of New York said today that he will not seek reelection.
He is the third of 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment to opt against running again.
The White House warned today that Russia may attack its own allies in Ukraine and blame the Ukrainian government.
A U.S. official who asked not to be named said -- quote -- "Russia has already prepositioned operatives to conduct a false flag operation in Eastern Ukraine."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Moscow wants an excuse to invade.
JEN PSAKI, White House Press Secretary: We are concerned that the Russian government is preparing for an invasion in Ukraine that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes, should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives.
The Russian military plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The release of the U.S. intelligence came after talks involving Russia, the U.S., and NATO failed to make any progress.
In Ukraine today, a sweeping cyberattack left many official government Web sites unusable.
The hackers posted a message in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish.
It warned readers to -- quote -- "be afraid and expect the worst."
Some in Kiev quickly blamed Russia.
ANTON SERIKOV, Resident of Ukraine (through translator): It looks like a sabotage.
In the current unstable times for the relations between Ukraine and its neighbor in the east, it can be a message, I think, or it is a clear sign of instability of the relations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ukraine's state security service said that the attack does resemble previous attacks blamed on hackers linked to Russian intelligence.
Russia's FSB security service, in fact, says that it has arrested and charged members of the ransomware group known as REvil.
It said the operation was carried out at the request of the United States.
The hackers are suspected in last year's attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and on the world's biggest meat-packing company.
Some 75,000 students in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have missed class for a second day after a cyberattack.
The city's public schools said that it cannot access a database that tracks attendance and emergency contacts.
It is unclear if the hackers are demanding a ransom.
A Milwaukee man accused of driving his SUV through a Christmas parade will stand trial for murder.
The attack, in late November killed six people and injured 61.
Darrell Brooks Jr. appeared in court in Waukesha today.
The presiding officer found ample evidence to prosecute him on 77 charges.
The Supreme Court of Ohio today rejected new congressional districts drawn up by Republicans.
The court found that the districts unduly favor GOP candidates.
It gave state lawmakers 60 days to draw up a new map.
President Biden has announced three nominees to the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors.
They include a former Fed official, Sarah Bloom Raskin, and two Black economists, Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson.
If confirmed by the Senate, Cook would be the first Black woman on board of the Fed.
And, on Wall Street, stocks had an up and down day.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 201 points to close at 35911.
The Nasdaq rose 85 points.
The S&P 500 added three.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": Boston's school superintendent on the challenge of keeping COVID out of classrooms; tennis star Novak Djokovic's battle with Australia after he violated COVID rules; immersive van Gogh exhibits paint a new way of experiencing art; plus much more.
The Omicron variant is still spreading rapidly across the U.S. Free tests announced by the president today should help track what's happening.
But they will not ship until about seven to 12 days after an order is placed.
In the meantime, the Omicron surge is hitting many hospitals hard and stretching some to the edge of their capacity.
William Brangham reports on how this is playing out in California right now.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Judy, Los Angeles County is averaging over 40,000 new infections a day.
A week ago, it was just 25,000.
That tide of infections is sending some people to the hospital.
COVID hospitalizations have jumped 179 percent over the past two weeks.
Dr. Rajan Garg is the ICU medical director at Methodist Hospital of Southern California.
Dr. Garg, thank you so much for being here on the "NewsHour."
You are certainly dealing at the very front edge of that tide of people coming to the hospital.
What is it like right now?
What kinds of patients are you seeing?
DR. RAJAN GARG, Methodist Hospital of Southern California: William, thank you for having me.
Yes, we are seeing a significant higher volume of COVID patients presenting with severe disease that are requiring hospitalization, and most of the patients are presenting with either severe COVID lung infections or are presenting with stroke symptoms, M.I.s, heart attacks, or big symptoms such as blood clotting disorders.
So, our volume has gone up significantly over the past couple of months.
And to give you an example, on December -- in December 2021, our COVID in-patient volume was down to zero, and, as of this morning, we have 50-plus COVID patients in the hospital.
And that includes ICU patients, of course.
And it is definitely straining our system to the maximum.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, that surge is just enormous.
Do you have a sense of the vaccination status of those patients who end up in the ICU?
DR. RAJAN GARG: Absolutely.
Yes, a majority of -- the vast majority of the patients who are either in the hospital or in the ICU are unvaccinated at this point.
And that goes along the line of -- with the national data.
If I remember correctly, I think our patients right now, more than 90 percent of the patients who are in the hospital right now with COVID are either unvaccinated or are partially vaccinated.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And we know hospitals, like employers and workplaces all across the country, are suffering because their workers are getting sick and having to stay out and isolate.
Are you having a similar issue as well with your own staff?
DR. RAJAN GARG: Absolutely.
Majority of the -- majority of our staff, we're having the same issue, actually.
Approximately 50-plus staff members for our hospital are currently out with COVID.
And I'm just talking about the nursing staff members.
And so another -- to give you an example, Methodist Hospital has a 40-ICU bed capacity.
And, right, now currently, our need is for 25 to 30 ICU beds.
But our -- we are only staffed for 18 ICU beds at the moment.
And, as of right now, we have zero ICU beds available.
And, at any given time, we have three to four ICU patients who are parked in the emergency.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Parked in the emergency room waiting for an ICU bed to open up?
DR. RAJAN GARG: Absolutely.
And that's -- which is stressing -- which is straining our already overwhelmed emergency rooms even more.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We hear this occasional statement from the senior most political public health officials in the country that Omicron is relatively mild.
It certainly seems that, while that might be true, what you're experiencing is anything but that.
DR. RAJAN GARG: So, William, yes, that is true.
Omicron, to a certain extent, is milder.
But we have to keep in mind that Omicron also has higher infectivity.
So, a lot more people are getting infected with the Omicron, which creates a larger volume of patients getting sick with the disease.
And even if it's a lower percentage of the patients who are ending up in the hospital, even that creates a higher volume because of the sheer number problem right now.
So, that's why we're seeing a huge surge, despite the fact that Omicron is a slightly milder disease compared to the Alpha and Delta disease.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, did you ever imagine that, two years into this pandemic, we would still be struggling to get our arms around it like we are.
DR. RAJAN GARG: We definitely did not imagine and -- imagine this situation.
But the virus is mutating.
And we're still learning.
And with the new variants, there are new challenges every -- along the way.
And I think one of the bigger challenges has been the vaccination rate among the community.
And, as an ICU position, I always tell my colleagues, my family and my patients that we have to keep in mind that all vaccines protect against -- provide a substantial protection against severe disease.
And by severe disease, I mean that they are very effective in keeping us out of the hospital, and especially the ICU.
So, I think that that's been the bigger challenge.
And so my message to all your viewers, as an ICU doctor, is to get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear masks while you're in enclosed spaces.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Do you take any comfort in the reports that seem to be coming out of New York and New Jersey and Massachusetts that that incredible peak of Omicron cases might be plateauing and even, in some places, starting to dip down?
Do you think that that is real and might end up in your neighborhood too?
DR. RAJAN GARG: We are hoping that's real, William, and that that -- the data is definitely promising, if you look at international data from Europe and from South Africa, or even on the East Coast in the United States.
The data is promising, but that -- the data can vary from community to community.
And -- but we're hoping that the surge starts to die down within the next few weeks, because, like I mentioned earlier, because of the staffing shortages, it has been extremely challenging to care for these patients.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Dr. Rajan Garg at the Methodist Hospital of Southern California, thank you so much for being here.
And best of luck to you out there.
DR. RAJAN GARG: Thank you very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's turn now to another important part of COVID's impact.
Most of the nation's nearly 100,000 public schools are open.
But, as the Omicron surge continues, some districts are struggling to keep in person learning going.
Stephanie Sy reports on how the Boston school district is faring.
STEPHANIE SY: Boston Public Schools have been operating in person since last spring, and aim to continue to do so.
But, as cases in the city remain sky high, the virus is keeping many teachers and staff home, and student attendance has dropped from around 90 percent before winter break to 70 percent in the new year.
Some city officials say virtual learning has to remain an option if the surge continues.
For more on the challenges facing Boston Public Schools, we turn to Superintendent Brenda Cassellius.
Superintendent Cassellius, thank you so much for joining us.
I understand the staffing shortage has been so severe that you yourself recently filled in as a substitute teacher in a school.
So, where do things stand with staffing now?
Are you still seeing a lot of COVID cases?
BRENDA CASSELLIUS, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools: Well, thank you, Stephanie, for having me this evening and for highlighting the real -- the seriousness of the challenges that school districts have across the nation to keep in person learning going.
We are still seeing challenges, although not as bad.
We had about 1,200 staff out.
We're down to about 800 staff out.
So, we're starting to see the numbers go down, only 435 teachers, so that's looking better, and 41 bus drivers today.
So the numbers are going in the right direction, but still a lot more to do.
STEPHANIE SY: Are you getting a sense you have reached a peak, then?
BRENDA CASSELLIUS: We do.
We have been talking to our Boston Health Commission.
They believe that we are at the peak.
They have been looking agent the wastewater and -- predictions and other modeling from other cities and towns.
And, of course, as they look at this Omicron variant, it looks like it is going to be going down quickly, hopefully.
STEPHANIE SY: We have seen other major school districts, Superintendent, having to at least temporarily put a pause on in person schooling as they grapple with safety and the staffing issues.
At what point do you think you might have to pull the trigger and go back to online learning?
BRENDA CASSELLIUS: Well, we have been fortunate here to really have a great data process with our team.
We have our deputy of academics working with our deputy of operations and our chief of schools and our data team.
And we come together multiple times during the day to look at the real-time staffing on the ground with our leaders and then also to work with our Boston Health Commission to look at the spread of the virus within our schools.
And then we make classroom-by-classroom decisions, school-by-school decisions.
I have the wonderful support of my mayor.
So I have been able to work with her and her team as we begin to make these decisions about if and when we have to close a classroom or a school, which we haven't had to close any schools yet.
We have had to close a couple of classrooms before winter break, but we keep watching it very closely.
STEPHANIE SY: And yet there is pressure from students.
Hundreds of students, in fact, in Boston Public Schools joined the students in Chicago Public Schools to stage a walkout today.
They, along with school nurses and teachers, have expressed concern, Superintendent, about whether there's adequate testing, contact tracing N95 masks to really be back safely in person.
What are you doing to concretely allay their concerns?
BRENDA CASSELLIUS: Well, I have met with them, which is the one thing, because we value student voice here, and we're very supportive of our students.
We also are just thankful that the Biden administration has stepped up to provide additional testing for our students.
We have been working with our state partners as well to be sure that we have the test kits in place.
We provided additional masks to our students and to our teachers.
And then, of course, we have put in air quality sensors in all of our classrooms.
And we have been watching that air quality very closely with our environmental team.
STEPHANIE SY: And all of those things are in place now; those test kits are in students' hands?
BRENDA CASSELLIUS: Yes, we have our testing that we have.
We have ordered additional tests, 500,000 additional tests.
We expect to get more from the Biden administration and our state to have those available to our students.
We have had pool testing and test-and-stay programs all year.
And so that's been part of our mitigation effort, along with the masking and along with the air quality.
STEPHANIE SY: I want to ask you a little bit more about the options you have if things do take a turn for the worse.
You said that you believe the cases have peaked.
But Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, says in person school is -- quote - - "not only safe, it's healthy."
And he's referring to learning, as well as socialization.
But he's gone further by basically requiring districts like yours to remain in person.
Do you agree with that stance?
Or do you think there should be more flexibility for online learning at some point?
BRENDA CASSELLIUS: So, I do believe that in person learning is the best for our students right now.
The isolation over the past two years has been really difficult.
And having them with their caring and competent teachers in their classrooms is absolutely the best position.
I do think, though, he could build a lot of goodwill with superintendents if we had just a little bit more flexibility with the remote learning pieces as we navigate the on-ground reality of staffing and the on-ground reality of COVID spread in our schools.
STEPHANIE SY: Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, thank you so much for joining us.
BRENDA CASSELLIUS: Thank you so much, Stephanie.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The worst drought in decades is gripping Eastern Africa, parching landscapes, killing livestock, and creating a humanitarian crisis.
Driven by climate change, it's also leading to civil strife, as shepherding communities battle each other for scarce resources.
Special correspondent Jack Hewson and producer Georgina Smith begin this report in Wajir province of Northern Kenya.
And a warning: Some images in this report may disturb viewers.
JACK HEWSON: These giraffes have become a defining image of the East African drought.
At least 100 have died in the past two months in Kenya's northeastern Wajir province.
Starving and thirsty, some are coming to the only remaining watering hole for 30 miles, near to the Sabuli nature conservancy.
This morning, there's a fresh casualty by its shore.
The giraffes are dying, after getting stuck in the mud.
Weakened by hunger, they simply don't have the strength to pull themselves out.
To prevent contamination, locals drag them away.
But it's not just wildlife that are being affected.
NUR HUSSEIN, Resident of Wajir Province (through translator): This village was a village full of people and livestock, which depended basically on livestock for livelihood.
But, for a period of nine months, we have not received any rain.
JACK HEWSON: As a result, more than 70 percent of this village's livestock have perished.
Since September, much of Kenya's north has received less than 30 percent of normal rainfall.
Droughts have always afflicted the region, but, since 1999, have doubled in frequency due to climate change.
Now there is drought every two to three years.
In nearby Dagahaley, Haretha has lost more than 100 animals.
Some of the remaining cattle are so weak, they have to be assisted to stand.
HARETHA BARE, Resident of Wajir Province (through translator): Most of the animals that we toiled away for are dead.
Some of the children have been sent to other parts of the country to save them.
The younger ones, 5 or 6 years old who are here, and the lactating mothers are unable to eat the food that we cook, because it's gone bad.
JACK HEWSON: The livestock death is crippling for desert pastoralist communities.
The animals are both a critical source of wealth and nutrition.
Without them, they are left destitute and hungry.
The U.N. says more than 26 million are struggling to find food across East Africa, while, here in Northern Kenya, almost half-a-million children are acutely malnourished.
Isnina's 5-year-old daughter, Fratun, is among them.
ISNINA HARE, Mother of Fratun (through translator): Initially, when there was milk from the cattle, she could support herself and walk around.
But now, without any milk, she can't support herself.
When she wants to sit, we have to help her sit up.
When she tries to stand up, she just collapses.
JACK HEWSON: But the drought isn't just prompting a humanitarian crisis.
It's also intensifying ethnic conflict.
We traveled northeast to Turkana, a remote province bordering Uganda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia, where pastoralist migration has no respect for national boundaries and increased cattle raiding is costing lives.
Digging for water in this dried-up river bed, these Turkana women said they were constantly on the lookout for cattle raiders.
KACIMAPUS ICHOR, Turkana Pastoralist (through translator): Two tribes from Uganda are attacking us here.
We don't even sleep.
They might be watching us here as we speak.
JACK HEWSON: Raiding has always been a part of pastoralist culture, but increasingly severe droughts are intensifying competition among rival nomadic groups.
Researchers estimate that just one degree of global warming will increase the likelihood of conflict by a minimum of 17 percent.
Animosity here is already running high.
KACIMAPUS ICHOR (through translator): The enemies are taking our animals to eat and sell them.
They go get rich, while leaving us poor.
JACK HEWSON: Adding to the lethality of this conflict has been the growing prevalence of automatic weapons.
When pastoralists started fighting with AK-47s in the 1970s, violence as a cause of death among their men jumped from 22 percent to 35 percent.
For these men, it remains a leading cause of death.
We're with the national police reservists here on the Uganda-Kenya border, where there have been multiple raids, cattle raids, in Kenyan territory recently.
Many people have been killed in these clashes.
LONGOLEIN NGISAAJA, Turkana Pastoralist (through translator): In December, Ugandan pastoralists came with about 600 armed warriors and attacked Turkana people on this mountain.
They made off with 140 cows, killed one person, and injured four more people, who are still hospitalized.
The cows they stole have not yet been recovered.
JACK HEWSON: Authorities report a steady stream of killed and injured pastoralists.
Visiting a remote local hospital, we found one young man injured in clashes with a South Sudanese clan.
EKIDOR ESEKON, Turkana Pastoralist (through translator): The Toposa clan are also searching for water for their cattle.
So, when they find a water point where we are tending to our cattle, they steal them.
JACK HEWSON: Ekidor was treated for a gunshot through his lower abdomen, but has returned to hospital after developing a septic infection in his foot due to internal injuries.
EKIDOR ESEKON (through translator): Every day they come, they come stealing, they come with force, and they come with bullets.
Every day, they fight with us.
JACK HEWSON: Incident numbers are difficult to verify.
One study said that annual deaths from pastoralist conflict across this region spiked from 500 to more than 3,000 over the past decade, but much remains unreported.
Timing with our visit to Turkana was its annual cultural festival attended by clans from across the region.
It's a show of pride and exuberance aimed at promoting tribal unity.
In attendance was Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, canvassing votes ahead of next year's election.
On the event's sidelines, we asked him about the climate crisis.
Much of the problems caused by climate change here are from emissions that come from the global north.
What would you like to see done by those countries to improve the situation here?
WILLIAM RUTO, Deputy President of Kenya: Well, the effects of climate change are real.
You know, I was talking to one of the gentlemen here a few minutes ago about the seasons.
And this is supposed to be a very wet season now, but there isn't any rain.
And climate change is slowly becoming a very harsh reality.
And, hopefully, those of us in this part of the world expect the people in the north to do their portion in carrying the challenges that currently bedevil our region.
JACK HEWSON: But exactly what Western nations will do remains to be seen.
According to the International Panel on Climate Change, unless there are immediate large-scale reductions in emissions, limiting warming to 1.5 or even two degrees Celsius will be beyond reach, leaving the harsh likelihood of yet more drought and more conflict in the Horn of Africa.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jack Hewson in Turkana, Kenya.
This week, Democrats renewed their push for voting rights legislation, the Supreme Court ruled on vaccine mandates, and new data showed inflation at its highest rate in nearly 40 years.
For a deeper look at all this, we turn to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart.
That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.
Very good to see both of you.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us on this Friday night.
Let's start with voting rights.
David, it hasn't been a good week for the Democrats, despite the fact that President Biden went to Atlanta, made, I think it's fair to say, his strongest remarks yet on why voting rights matter.
What was your take on what he had to say?
DAVID BROOKS: I thought 80 percent of it was fine, a very good speech is.
There were some rhetorical flourishes at the end that went over the top and they were too partisan.
If we're going to have a clean election and a fair election and a properly certified election, we're going to need Democrats and Republican officials across the country to do their job.
And, in 2020, most Republicans did their job.
And to make this a partisan issue and to have, to me, supercharged rhetoric about, are you on the side of Abraham Lincoln or are you on the side of Jefferson Davis, that offended a lot of Republicans, made them extremely angry, and I think it makes it harder for the Republican officials who are going to do a good job to be in their party.
My friend and colleague Tom Friedman wrote a column advocating for a Biden-Liz Cheney ticket in 2024.
And I don't think he meant that literally.
But what he pointed to the fact was, in Israel, they -- there was a broad coalition that said, we cannot have Bibi Netanyahu as prime minister again.
And so they formed a broad coalition to make that happen.
If we're going to prevent Donald Trump from being president again, we need a broad coalition.
And I thought this speech was unhelpful, especially coming from a man who said he's going to unify the country.
So, most of the speech was good, but those rhetorical flourishes, partisan, I think, detract.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jonathan, too much partisanship in what the president had to say?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: I don't think so, Judy.
In fact, what David calls rhetorical flourishes and over the top, I thought was probably the most powerful part of the president's speech.
Remember, President Biden, to my mind, is never more clear, passionate, focused and determined than when he is talking about what he calls the soul of America, started with his campaign talking about Charlottesville, talking in his run against Donald Trump about who we are as a people.
And I think a lot of people make a mistake in terms of focusing in on the politics of this speech, and not understanding that it's as much political as it is moral for this president.
And we can focus in on what happened in the 2020 election, but the fire that's coming from the president, the fire that is coming from millions of Americans has to do with what Republicans in particular have been doing in states since the 2020 election.
For a lot of people, what is happening at the state and local level in terms of not just voter suppression, but voter subversion, is what is animating this entire debate.
And so for people to be upset because the president drew a very stark and clear line in the sand that you are either with, as he said, Dr. King, in terms of opening up the promise of America to everyone, or George Wallace, who was about holding on to power for power's sake, and holding it in the hands of an elite few, particularly a white male elite few, this is where we are right now.
And the last thing I will say on this is, after four years of a president who took a blowtorch to the American presidency, to the Constitution, to our values, to the peaceful transfer of power, to decency in general, for people to be upset with President Biden for fighting for American values and for American democracy, it's a little hard for me to take them seriously.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, David?
Because what we have seen Republicans doing in a number of states is cutting back on early voting, the number of days, cutting back on things like mail-in -- the ability to do mail-in voting.
What about that?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Well, I'm not here to defend that.
And I certainly have not been defending it lo these many months.
But I do think rhetoric like comparing Republicans to Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis is not helpful.
It's not 1861 anymore.
I even think the trope that he has that, well, the Georgia law is Jim Crow 2 is also not helpful.
The Georgia law was a big step backward.
And I would condemn it in the strongest terms.
And I agree with Jonathan about 80 percent.
But the Georgia law, it's compared -- I have read an article -- an analysis recently comparing it to the New York law.
And there are some parts where Georgia makes it easier, some where New York makes it easier.
And the -- it's true that Georgia is going backwards and New York is going forward.
So I don't want to justify that.
But the overheated rhetoric, I think, has the effect of making this just a Republican-vs.-Democratic issue.
And it should not be a Republican-vs.-Democratic issue.
It should be a Republican and Democrats on one side and the cult of Trump on the other side.
And making that clear, I think, is the right thing -- the right way to approach this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jonathan?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, I mean, all I can say is, we can polite ourselves to oblivion.
And, at some point, it is imperative that the president state clearly what's at stake here.
And when it comes to Georgia, let's keep in mind, Georgia didn't institute its new laws, propose them and pass them into law until after Georgia voters voted for President Biden to make him the next president of the United States and after they elected two Democrats from that state.
So, this is what we're talking about here.
And what -- 19 -- what is it, the stat I'm looking for?
Nineteen states have passed 34 restrictive laws in 2021 alone.
So, that is what's animating this entire discussion.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David, I want to ask you about... (CROSSTALK) JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead, David.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, maybe I will get to what we're going to.
But we have an ethical responsibility here to make sure we actually effectively repulse what's being -- happening.
And (AUDIO GAP) is now in a position where nothing's probably going to happen in Washington, because they couldn't get Sinema and Manchin to sign off on the filibuster changes.
So it's likely that we will have no voting rights bills this year.
And so we have to figure out ways to actually pass things.
And I think alienating the center is probably not the way to go.
Now, in retrospect, as I look at the Biden presidency, and especially the terrible events, in my view, of not having these voting rights bills, it seems clear to me the whole Biden presidency, and, on Inauguration Day, they should have sat down with Manchin and Sinema and said, where can we go from here, and what can we do together?
That is to say, they should have started at the center and gone outward.
Instead, they started at the left and went centrist.
And I -- that's looking like an unfortunate strategy both on voting rights and on Build Back Better.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that brings up what Sinema had to say, Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
Jonathan, in her speech on the Senate floor this week, where they need -- they need her, they need Senator Manchin to go along with any change in the Senate rules, in the filibuster.
But she essentially argued that it's more important to work on partisanship than it is to do something about voting rights.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Sure.
And her speech could have been delivered from fantasyland, this idea that the Republicans who sit there now have any interest in working with Democrats on this issue in particular.
In 2006, the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized unanimously in the Senate.
Republican President George W. Bush had a South Lawn signing ceremony with Reverend Al Sharpton sitting in the front row.
That was when voting rights was bipartisan.
All the Republicans in the Senate voted for it.
As the president pointed out in his speech in Atlanta, 16 of those senators still serve.
And yet 16 of those senators won't even vote to allow those two voting rights bills to even be debated.
They don't have to vote for them, but why shouldn't they debate them?
Why shouldn't the American people at least get to hear what's in those bills, what's wrong with those bills, where could there be areas of compromise?
And when it comes to Senator Manchin, at least he worked with Republicans.
They had three bites at the apple on the Freedom to Vote Act.
And Senator Manchin gave Republicans, after talking to them, many of the things that they wanted, including voter I.D.
And yet no Republican voted to allow that bill to even be debated.
So, for Senator Sinema to say, look, we have to work with Republicans, and I will only do this if there's bipartisanship, well, where's it going to come from, because it's not it's happening now?
JUDY WOODRUFF: David?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, I mean, her argument is not an implausible argument.
And it's not really about these two particular pieces of legislation.
Her argument is that if the -- if we change the filibuster rules, and the majority party basically gets to control the Senate, and never has to work with the minority party, that would be bad for the country and bad for the Senate, because you basically have sort of one-party rule.
And that's not an implausible argument.
Whether she's right to not pursue a carve-out for voting rights, I think that's a mistake.
I wish they -- she would do a carve-out just for voting rights to get this issue off the table.
But her defense of the filibuster is the traditional defense of the filibuster.
And, in my view, having covered this issue for a long time, in my view, almost every effort to reduce the filibuster over the course, whether on judges or anything else, has had long-term negative effects.
So I wish we had had a carve-out, but then kept the filibuster.
But now we're seemingly getting nothing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jonathan, do you want to -- do you want to... JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes, real quickly.
All anyone right now is asking for is a carve-out for voting rights.
And for Senator Sinema to go to the floor and say, no, I'm not for a carve-out for voting rights because of what it might do to the Senate as a body flies in the face of what she did earlier this month in terms of voting for a carve-out to raise the debt ceiling, which is something that needed to be done and absolutely had to be done.
So, why aren't voting rights considered to be something that absolutely has to be done, and it absolutely needs -- there absolutely needs to be a carve-out in the filibuster to make it happen?
That's my problem with Senator Sinema.
DAVID BROOKS: Jonathan and I are in violent agreement on this subject.
(LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what you call it?
All right, well, we have only got about 30 seconds left.
So, there's no time to ask you about the Supreme Court decision the vaccine mandate and inflation.
But I promise you we're going to come back to that next Friday.
(LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: You have got a whole week to think about it.
Thank you both, Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks.
We appreciate it.
Have a good weekend.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: You too.
DAVID BROOKS: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The best men's tennis player in the world has been caught up in a legal battle in Australia, as the first of this year's Grand Slam tennis tournaments is poised to begin.
Novak Djokovic is not vaccinated.
He is a skeptic.
Australian officials are not skeptics, and demand proof of vaccination to enter the continent.
Nick Schifrin tells us more.
STEPHEN COLBERT, Host, "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert": Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Novak Djokovic.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) NICK SCHIFRIN: He is one of the world's most famous athletes, but also one of its most famous vaccine skeptics, as he told fellow Serbian athletes on an April 2020 Facebook Live.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC, Professional Tennis Player (through translator): Personally, I am opposed to vaccination.
I am curious about well-being and how we can empower our metabolism to be in the best shape to defend against impostors like COVID-19.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In December, the man who called COVID an impostor tested positive the same day he celebrated his official postal stamp by walking around a museum unmasked.
The day after that, he posed for a French magazine.
In fact, in late December, Djokovic was training in Belgrade, as seen in social media videos and photos, and Spain.
But on his visa applications, he claimed he had not traveled for two weeks before arriving in Australia in January.
WOMAN: Whatever way you look at, Novak Djokovic is a lying, sneaky (EXPLETIVE DELETED) NICK SCHIFRIN: This viral TV clip reflects Australian fury at Djokovic receiving an entry exemption, while other Australians and immigrants face tight border controls and have lived through one of the world's longest lockdowns.
But the criticism extends to the government's own back-and-forth.
On December 30, state authorities granted his visa.
When he landed on January 5, federal authorities rejected it.
On January 10, a judge reinstated it.
And, today, the immigration minister personally canceled the visa for -- quote -- "health and good order."
Djokovic's team has argued his exemption was valid because he had natural immunity from his prior infection, and that errors on his visa forms were -- quote -- "an administrative mistake."
They also said the conditions in the hotel where he was being held were unfair, as his mother, Dijana, said in Melbourne.
DIJANA DJOKOVIC, Mother of Novak Djokovic: They are keeping him as a prisoner.
It's just not fair.
It's not human.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Now we turn to Mary Carillo, the Grand Slam-winning former tennis player and now commentator for NBC sports.
Mary Carillo, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Djokovic's fate will be decided by a court this weekend.
MARY CARILLO, Sportscaster and Former Professional Tennis Player: Yes.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But you do not believe that he should play on Monday, when he's scheduled to start the Australia Open.
MARY CARILLO: I don't.
I just think it's gone on way too long.
This has been so chaotic and unnecessary and unfair to all the other players in the locker room.
And Novak himself, look, he's had terrible preparation for this.
This is a tournament he's won nine times.
He's trying to win his 21st major, which would put him beyond Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
This is a guy who is so precise in his footwork on the court, but he has made so many missteps.
He's lost the favor of the country and the locker room, in my opinion.
And, yes, I think he -- I think he's got to pull out.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And I think it's not only about missteps, nor is it really just about his vaccine skepticism, of course.
He lied on his immigration forms.
He went to an event the day after testing positive for COVID.
Do you think that he just doesn't care, or does he believe the rules don't apply then?
MARY CARILLO: Oh, I -- he regrets what he did, that he -- after he knew he was COVID-positive, that he went unmasked, and he went to a couple of different events.
He had an interview with a French reporter, didn't tell the guy that he was COVID-positive.
These are huge mistakes.
I think, in the beginning of the week, when all this nonsense was happening, the locker room thought, well, it was a loophole, it's kind of kind of sketchy, but it would be good to have him in here now.
I think everything's moved away from that.
There was a poll taken.
More than 60,000 Aussies were asked what they thought Djokovic -- should happen to Djokovic, and 83 percent of them want him to leave the country.
And, again, I cannot imagine that this man, who I think is the greatest player of all time, certainly the best hard court player I have ever seen, and he does so many things so well, man, he really screwed this up.
NICK SCHIFRIN: There's a lot of faults, pun intended, to go around.
State authorities, Tennis Australia clearly wanted to get around the rules.
MARY CARILLO: Yes.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The prime minister now being criticized for using Djokovic to make a political point during a COVID surge.
MARY CARILLO: All that is true.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Where do you ascribe the most blame?
MARY CARILLO: All that is true.
I agree with all of that.
Novak tried to come into this -- the country of Australia thinking he had the requisite paperwork.
He thought that the state of Victoria, where the Australian Open is played, in Melbourne, he thought he was all set.
And then it turns out he couldn't get into the country.
I mean, Novak was trying to get into that country, thinking he was cool, he was all set.
And he wasn't.
And I blame Tennis Australia.
I blame the tournament director, Craig Tiley.
Everybody seems to be tone-deaf.
I mean, the back-and-forth on this stuff has been rough.
And the absence of Serena Williams and Venus Williams and Roger Federer, I mean, Novak - - obviously, this was going to be a big, big story.
And now it's all this other stuff that's become the big story.
And it's -- as somebody who loves my sport, it's just been so painful to watch this.
It just seems unending.
At a certain point, we will know what happens.
But it's gone on too long.
And I feel badly about that.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And, as someone who loves tennis as well, it's painful for me, and someone who likes to watch him.
MARY CARILLO: Right.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But he's got 20 Grand Slams, as you said, tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Federer is not playing.
Nadal is playing.
MARY CARILLO: Yes.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Djokovic this year likely to win number 21.
Bottom line, will this controversy cost him his legacy?
MARY CARILLO: It will cost him, I think, his personal legacy.
You cannot take away all the majors that this remarkable tennis player has already won.
But this is a big smear.
And he's been controversial for years now over all manner of things.
He got thrown out of the U.S. Open a couple of years ago for inadvertently hitting a lineswoman.
I think it -- yes, I think it stains his legacy.
And, God, I just -- the interesting problem for him now is, if he is to be deported, it means he can enter the country of Australia for three years.
That's a potential.
And this is the tournament where he's won his most majors.
And other nations, other countries, other Grand Slam events, they're -- they seem to always be shifting their goalposts on what's what's possible to get into a country or not.
So, oh, boy, he's a very intelligent guy, but this has just been -- there have been so many mistakes made and so many, to use tennis terms, unforced errors on his part, and a lot of the people around him.
Everyone seems tone-deaf on this.
It's a great, great pity.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Mary Carillo, thank you very much.
MARY CARILLO: My pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Vincent van Gogh, he is the quintessential art world phenomenon, both for his art and life story.
But now he's everywhere in a new way, the center of a boom in what are called immersive art experiences.
Jeffrey Brown immersed himself in Seattle, before the Omicron surge, for our arts and culture series, Canvas.
JEFFREY BROWN: Blossoms waving in the wind, sunflowers falling all around, a starry night, the likes of which you have never seen.
JOHN ZALLER, President, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience: For us, what this immersive experience is, it's from the minute you walk in to the minute you leave that you're fully enveloped in the spirit of van Gogh.
JEFFREY BROWN: John Zaller is executive producer of Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, a van Gogh, he says, for our age.
JOHN ZALLER: We're doing what van Gogh might have done if he had the technology that we have today.
We're using his works to create the next version of his works by adding the motion, adding the animation, adding the energy to bring the life to his work that is already there.
JEFFREY BROWN: We met Zaller in Seattle, one of 10 cities now hosting his company's exhibition.
But even that is just a small part of the immersive boom in nearly 40 cities in the U.S.
In addition to Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, there's the Immersive Van Gogh, Beyond Van Gogh, Van Gogh Alive, and Imagine Van Gogh.
Some cities, including Seattle, even have competing exhibits.
It's a bit confusing, but, like the artist himself, very popular.
Zaller's company estimates about 50 percent of its audience has never set foot in a museum before coming to see this van Gogh.
JOHN ZALLER: He is such a public figure.
He is kind of like a rock star or a brand name in the art world.
It's incredibly emotive, and people can connect with it.
It doesn't necessarily require an art degree to approach and engage with a van Gogh, a van Gogh painting.
JEFFREY BROWN: In one sense, it's nothing new.
From "Lust For Life" in 1956 and a slew of other films, books, and exhibitions, the fascination has continued, the art, with its vibrant colors and textures, the drama of van Gogh's life and early death.
Now, in immersive experiences like this one, guests come face to face with a giant 3-D bust of the artist himself, move past projections of his most famous works, and put on headsets and take a virtual reality walk through the countryside he painted.
You can personally enter van Gogh's bedroom in Arles, and sit as long as you want in front of 30-foot walls of moving images, with mood music.
ACTOR: I put my heart and soul into my work, and I lost my mind in the process.
JEFFREY BROWN: And lines from van Gogh's letters, recited by an actor.
You can also color your own masterpiece, which is where we met Joseph and Kaiden Aksama, happily here on an anniversary date.
JOSEPH AKSAMA, Exhibit Visitor: I think there's no beating seeing the actual paintings in person, but seeing them come to life like this is definitely something I have never seen before and absolutely something that I would do again.
KAIDEN AKSAMA, Exhibit Visitor: I think it really enhances the experience, to see what art looks like in another way like that, animated, and it's just... JOSEPH AKSAMA: Truly, fully immersive.
JEFFREY BROWN: But, remember, these are digital representations.
There are no actual artworks here.
So just what is this experience?
We asked University of Washington Professor Marek Wieczorek to take a look.
MAREK WIECZOREK, University of Washington: I was curious.
I must say, as an art historian, I might have had a slight bias, you know, thinking, OK, I teach van Gogh in the classroom.
How is this immersive experience going to compete with what I do?
I really enjoyed going, because what I saw was people who enjoyed themselves.
And, ultimately, I think that's what any experience with art is about.
On the other hand, there were a lot of things where, as an art historian, I thought, OK, this is not right.
Are we really getting the experience of Vincent van Gogh?
If we look at Starry Night on the museum of modern art Web site and compare it to the video you see in the exhibition, it's like two different paintings.
JEFFREY BROWN: Wieczorek, a modern art scholar who happens to be Dutch, just like van Gogh, wants us to see both what this is and what it's not.
MAREK WIECZOREK: It is cool.
But when you stand in front of a van Gogh painting, the light doesn't have to come from that light box, but from the color, the optical mixing of complementary colors.
In thinking about what is lost in translation in this exhibition, the light box effect, which is what makes light come at you in an over -- overall almost overwhelming way, the scale, the materiality, but especially the optical mixing.
JEFFREY BROWN: Compare, for example, a photo shown of a painting sold at auction and the projected version of it nearby.
The colors, he points out, are completely different, The texture of the brush strokes lost.
It may be very cool, indeed, but it's not what van Gogh created.
MAREK WIECZOREK: It's like, wow, what is this?
I would say van Gogh's work, in itself, is fireworks.
What you lose in this exhibition, in a way, what is taken away from you by being presented an image of van Gogh that is not van Gogh is the essence of your participation.
In a way, you're robbed.
JEFFREY BROWN: But neither the professor nor we want to spoil an experience people like Johanna Fagen and Constance Trollan, veteran museum-goers and van Gogh aficionados, clearly enjoyed.
This isn't going to change you going to museums?
CONSTANCE TROLLAN, Exhibit Visitor: No.
JOHANNA FAGEN, Exhibit Visitor: No.
No, no, no.
We will always go to museums.
CONSTANCE TROLLAN: We will -- yes.
We will always go to the museums, but it is different to be here and to sit in one of those projections.
It's a much different experience.
JEFFREY BROWN: And it's an experience that's only growing, with more artists being brought into the act all the time.
John Zaller's company is producing exhibits with new artists.
JOHN ZALLER: There's an expectation on the part of the public for these more immersive experiences.
And that's going to drive -- that's going to continue to grow.
I mean, we -- you look around at other things that are happening with virtual reality experiences and augmented reality.
Everything is -- every level of experience is being elevated or more is being added onto it.
So, I think it will continue.
JEFFREY BROWN: And if this isn't for you, or you prefer a curated, digital experience at home, Marek Wieczorek recommends museum Web sites that capture in fine detail masterworks by van Gogh and other artists.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown in Seattle.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Either way, it is fascinating.
And on the "NewsHour" online right now: 2021 was another year of extreme weather, with 20 notable billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. We break down the numbers behind the human and the financial toll.
That is on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
And for more on the seditious conspiracy charges leveled against far-right militia members involved in the Capitol riot and on the president's attempts to rally support for voting rights legislation, join my colleague and guest moderator Amna Nawaz on "Washington Week" tonight on PBS.
And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online, and again here on Monday evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, and have a good, safe weekend.