PBS NewsHour full episode, Dec. 31, 2020
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff. On the "NewsHour" tonight: Farewell, 2020. We look back at the toll of the pandemic and the still difficult road ahead. Then: a deadly encounter. Minneapolis police fatally shoot a man during a traffic stop after he allegedly fired first, prompting unrest and questions about transparency. Plus: America abroad. We examine the Trump administration's foreign policy legacies and
the challenges facing president-elect Biden's team. SUE GORDON, Former U.S. Principal Deputy of National Intelligence: I think you have a mixed bag, but the Biden administration is going to kind of have to come in. And its
actions will dictate whether the gains will be maintained or whether the loss of leadership is going to be just devastating. JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour." (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: The pandemic year of 2020 is winding down tonight in somber fashion. As the new year arrives, COVID-19 has claimed more than 1.8 million lives worldwide. The
total includes almost 345,000 in this country. Jeffrey Brown has our report. JEFFREY BROWN: It's a New Year's Eve like never before, how it feels, how it looks, and definitely how the world is celebrating. In Australia, fireworks lit up the sky above Sydney Harbor, but this time without a crowd that in years past reached one million people. Fireworks in Melbourne were canceled. Bells
rang in the new year in Tokyo, Japan where a small number of people were in attendance. Gatherings were discouraged, as the COVID outbreak is expected to explode in the coming days. And beaches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will close tonight. COVID deaths in Brazil are the second highest in the world, after the U.S.
In Europe, where COVID cases are also rampant, a much quieter New Year's Eve is expected, with most fireworks displays canceled. Trafalgar Square in London has been closed off to the public. And parts of England entered the strictest stage of lockdown today in an effort to curb the spread of virus. WOMAN: If that is what the government want to do, then we have got to follow it. And, to be honest, we have been in lockdown for so long, I think we are all used to it now. JEFFREY BROWN: In Berlin, Germany, police enforced a ban on celebrations and fireworks sales. Angela Merkel reflected on the pandemic in what was most likely her last New Year's
Eve speech. ANGELA MERKEL, German Chancellor (through translator): What a year is behind us. The virus made normal behavior risky and unusual protective behavior normal. The year of the pandemic, 2020, was a year of learning. JEFFREY BROWN: In France, some 100,000 police officers patrolled streets to enforce an 8:00 p.m. curfew and prevent people from gathering.
But some countries with few, if any COVID cases carried on as usual. Crowds gathered in Auckland, New Zealand, to watch the annual New Year's Eve fireworks display, and in Taiwan, where fireworks shot out from Taipei's largest skyscraper. State TV in North Korea also showed large crowds watching performances and fireworks. The tightly controlled country has given no indication of how widespread COVID-19 is there.
Meanwhile, here at home, the iconic ball will drop in Times Square in New York, but, for the first time in decades, the site will be closed off to the public. The countdown will be televised, but only the production crew and selected front-line workers and their families will be in attendance. Fireworks displays in Las Vegas and San Francisco are also canceled this year. For most then, a New Year's Eve like no other to end a year like no other. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump is spending New Year's Eve in Washington, after returning early from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. He arrived at the White House this afternoon, but took no questions and gave no reason for coming back a day before he had planned. President-elect Biden spent New Year's Eve privately, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse pushed back today against fellow Republicans who are trying to delay counting the electoral votes for president. On Facebook, Sasse called it a
dangerous ploy driven by those he branded institutional arsonists. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and several House Republicans plan to object when Congress counts the votes on Wednesday. The House and Senate are expected to dismiss the objections. There was no movement today in the Senate stalemate over increasing COVID relief checks from $600 to $2,000. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell again blocked a vote on the issue. He argued too much aid would go to well-off families, and he called it socialism for rich people. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Our colleagues who purport to be the champions of vulnerable
Americans now say that what struggling people really need is for Congress to stop focusing on targeted relief for them specifically, and to instead send thousands of dollars to people who don't need the help. JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats and their allies rejected those claims. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders noted that no one making more than $75,000 will get a check.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Virtually nothing goes to the very, very rich. Overwhelming majority of those funds go to the middle class, the working class, low income people, who, in the midst of this pandemic, are in desperate economic condition. JUDY WOODRUFF: There now appears to be little chance of Senate action before the current Congress ends on Sunday. Amid the Senate debate, the U.S. Labor Department reported another 787,000 Americans filed for
unemployment benefits last week. That was down 19,000 from the previous week, but it was still nearly four times higher than a year ago. Wall Street has closed out a year that saw deep losses, and then spectacular gains. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 197 points today to another record high, 30606. The Nasdaq was up 18 points, and the S&P 500 added 24, also reaching a new high. For the year, the
Nasdaq shot up 43 percent, the S&P surged 16 percent, and the Dow added 7 percent. China's president is lauding his country's economic progress, despite the pandemic. Xi Jinping said today that China was the first major economy to resume growing this year, and he touted efforts to fight rural poverty. XI JINPING, Chinese President (through translator): Facing the sudden coronavirus epidemic, we wrote the epic of our fight against the epidemic with concerted efforts and perseverance. After a year of hardship, we can understand more than ever the significance of a community with a shared future for mankind. JUDY WOODRUFF: The International Monetary Fund estimates that China's economic growth is at 1.9 percent this year, but projects that it will hit 8 percent next year.
Back in this country, a major winter storm moved out of Texas and Oklahoma and headed east. Forecasters warned that it could dump 18 inches of snow in places and spawn tornadoes as it collides with warmer air. Another storm system dropped heavy snow across the Upper Midwest. For the first time, a woman will serve as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Retired Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben was named to the position today by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She is former chaplain of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. And former U.S. Attorney General and Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh died today. As governor, he was praised for his handling of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979. He also worked to pass the Americans With Disabilities Act and advocated for those with disabilities, after his son suffered severe brain damage in an auto accident. Dick Thornburgh was 88 years old.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": Minneapolis police fatally shoot a man during a traffic stop after he allegedly fired first; infections and deaths from COVID-19 continue to increase as the world greets a new year; the critical run-off elections in Georgia with control of the U.S. Senate at stake; and much more. City officials in Minneapolis are keeping an eye on local reaction tonight to the fatal shooting of a man by a police officer there. The man was killed during what police say was an exchange of gunfire after a traffic stop last night. It's the first police killing in the city since George Floyd's death in May.
Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has the story. And a warning: This report includes graphic images of the shooting. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Dozens of protesters gathered overnight at the scene of the shooting in South Minneapolis. The demonstrations were tense, but mostly peaceful. Some people built a fire in the middle of the street, as temperatures dropped into the teens.
Immediately after Wednesday night's shooting, details were sparse. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo: MEDARIA ARRADONDO, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Police Chief: MPD officers were conducting a traffic stop involving a felony suspect. Initial witness statements indicate that the subject involved in this felony stop fired first at Minneapolis police officers, who then exchanged gunfire with the suspect.
The subject of the stop was pronounced deceased at the scene by medical personnel. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Authorities didn't provide information on the suspect's race or the crime he allegedly committed. But family members and local news reports identified him as Dolal Idd, a Somali man in his 20s. Late this afternoon, police released one body camera video from the shooting showing multiple shots being fired. The shooting happened just a mile from where George Floyd was killed
after being restrained by officers in May. That incident touched off nationwide unrest over police violence and racism in the U.S. In a statement late Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said: "Events of this past year have marked some of the darkest days in our city. We know a life has been cut short and that trust between communities of color and law enforcement is fragile. We must all be committed to getting the facts, pursuing justice and keeping the peace." Floyd's killing led to a push for big changes in the Minneapolis police. Earlier this month,
the City Council cut about $8 million from the department's budget. Meanwhile, the city has seen a dramatic increase in violence this year, including an uptick in murders and a rash of carjackings. And an exodus of officers from the police department forced the city to bring in help from other agencies. And just a few minutes ago, the mayor and police chief ended a news conference, with the police chief saying that he believes the suspect was being pursued in a weapons investigation, that, in fact, the subject, in the chief's opinion, shot first in that exchange, and that a weapon was recovered at the scene, that scene being investigated by the state bureau of investigation, of criminal investigation, and not the police department.
Both men indicated that they had met with the family of the young man. Before sharing the video publicly, they shared it with the family first, and both men pleaded for calm in a city with frayed nerves on this, the final night of an exhausting, exhausting year in Minneapolis. In St. Paul, Minnesota, I'm Fred de Sam Lazaro for the "PBS NewsHour." JUDY WOODRUFF: Since the first reported case of COVID a little more than a year ago, the pandemic has taken a devastating toll in the U.S., far worse than in many other developed countries. The numbers are almost too large to fully comprehend, more than 3,800 deaths recorded just yesterday, on one day, an average of 2,300-plus deaths a day over the past week, and a cumulative death toll larger than the population of cities like Pittsburgh, Saint Louis, or Lexington, Kentucky, all while the country is averaging more than 183,000 new cases a day recently.
We close the year with some perspective from Donald McNeil, who has been covering this pandemic for The New York Times. And, Donald McNeil, welcome back to the "NewsHour." We did want to speak with you because you have been looking at this terrible pandemic for the entire year. As you look back on 2020, how does this pandemic come into focus for you? DONALD MCNEIL JR., The New York Times: Worst year of our national life in my lifetime.
I mean, I'm not old enough to remember 1918 Spanish Flu or the Depression or World War II, but, other than that, I can't imagine a time when this many people have suffered all around the world all at the same time, and the both fear and death, as you would experience in a war, and economic crushing, as you experience in a recession. So, it's been just awful. JUDY WOODRUFF: Donald McNeil, we keep asking this question. The United States has, what, 4 percent of the world's population, and yet we have almost a quarter of all the cases in the world. How did it come to this? DONALD MCNEIL JR.: Leadership failure is the short answer. You know, Donald Trump might have been the hero of this pandemic, and we might have gotten out of it looking pretty great. I don't think we would have ever had the kind of total lockdown
and defeat of the pandemic that China managed, because Americans are too ornery to have gone along with those kinds of lockdowns. But had we -- we had a few -- we had a few weeks, even more than Europe did. We got dinged by the virus in mid-January in Seattle, but we didn't have a big outbreak in New York until the virus probably arrived in February at multiple times. And had we picked up the lessons from Italy, which saw that things were out of control and locked down really tightly, had the president and everybody around him taken everything very seriously and said, look, get indoors, the way the Italians learned to do, stop travel, adopt masks, as was done in Europe, and let's be careful, and let's unleash America's industrial and pharmaceutical might and build a vaccine, we would have done it.
And we would have probably on the order of Germany level of deaths, if we'd had that kind of leadership and that kind of determination to take on the virus. But we didn't. We lost it all in denial. And then we didn't have tests for two months, so we didn't know where the virus was. We could have avoided lockdowns in many places outside of New York if we had known where the virus was.
And then we were just a headless chicken for an enormous amount in the early days of the pandemic. And we have been playing catchup ever since, and not succeeding. And the denialism has continued even to this day. The president launched these great vaccines and hasn't taken one. JUDY WOODRUFF: And now that we have a vaccine that's beginning to be available, it's not available to as many people as we thought it would be. We're going into to 2021 with fewer people vaccinated than had been forecast. How hard, how easy is it going to be to ramp that up? DONALD MCNEIL JR.: I don't -- we're not getting very clear explanations of what the problem
is. It sounds like Operation Warp Speed is moving the vaccine to the state depots, but then just sort of dropping it off and saying, OK, governors, take it from here, which, unfortunately, has been the way the federal government has led a lot of things here, even if it's get your own PPE, find your own ventilators and masks. Here, get your own vaccine out there, and we're not giving you enough money to do it.
This was supposed to be the easy phase. Giving vaccines in hospitals and nursing homes ought to be easy. You have tons of people around who know how to stick needles in people. But we're already struggling. And I worry quite a bit about what's going to happen once
we have got the massive numbers of people outside of hospitals and nursing homes leading for vaccines. So, we don't have a clear idea, but we really need to get to about a million vaccines a day in order to hope to reach the goal of vaccinating 80 percent of this country by the -- by mid to late next year. And we're nothing close to a million a day. We're 100,000 or so right now. So it's a real problem. JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot -- excuse me -- a lot of people wonder, with different leadership in Washington, which there will be under president-elect Biden starting in a few weeks, how different will things be? I mean, can decisions be made with regard to testing, with regard to decisions made at the states, with regard to attitudes about taking the virus seriously? How much should Americans expect that things will be different starting on January the 21st? DONALD MCNEIL JR.: Well, I'm sure the attitude from the top will be very different. I'm sure there will be scientific guidance for things.
But when you have got 200,000 new cases a day, if that's still going on by the time Joe Biden comes into office, it's going to be very hard. This -- King Canute couldn't stop the waves, and you can't change cold weather, and you can't stop a virus from spreading, unless everybody changes what they do. You can't really declare a federal mask mandate. You can't force people back into their homes federally. It has to be state by state. Those are state laws. And so I'm not sure how much a change in attitude is going to make a difference. And I'm not sure that he will be able to speak to the Trump base, which is where the pandemic has been hitting in this third wave very hard.
I mean, the people who have denied wearing masks in the Midwest and the Dakotas and the places like that are the ones being hit hard in this way. It's not the same people who were being hit in the first wave that hit the cities. So, he has to find people who can speak to those groups and convince them that they have got to protect themselves and accept the vaccine. And then he's got to help roll out the vaccine.
And, hopefully, he can take some money from some budgets that -- there's always bloated budget somewhere in the federal government -- and route that into getting the vaccine into people's arms. JUDY WOODRUFF: I'm asking you this because I think some people believe that, with a change in leadership, we're going to begin to see some dramatic or at least noticeable changes. But it looks like -- I mean, with hospitals overflowing in California and other states, more people than ever in ICUs, I mean, we're still in for some rough times ahead, aren't we? DONALD MCNEIL JR.: Absolutely.
It's quite -- and unless people get scared. There are some hints. You can see, looking at the maps today, that cases are dropping in places like the Dakotas and Minnesota and around the Upper Midwest. I think they got very scared by what happened around Thanksgiving and how their hospitals got filled. And if that fear causes people to protect themselves better, then we will do better. But got to see if that happens, and got to see how Mr. Trump handles it when he's out of office. If he's mocking the efforts to stop it, is -- it may thwart the new administration's
efforts to do things better. JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Donald McNeil, if there's one thing -- I know it's impossible to boil this down to one thing, but if there's one thing that people should be thinking about as we close out this year and go into the new one about this pandemic, what do you think it would be? DONALD MCNEIL JR.: Get the vaccine, and protect yourself until you do. My daughter, who works at a hospital in Los Angeles, got the vaccine yesterday. I'm thrilled. It'll be quite a while before I do, but I'm very happy for her and hope that everybody else gets the same thing soon, and that they protect themselves until then.
And let's hope next year's better than this one. JUDY WOODRUFF: For sure. And, in the meantime, as you say, everybody stay as safe as we possibly can, wear masks, keep socially distanced, don't gather tonight on New Year's Eve. Donald McNeil with The New York Times, we thank you very much. And we...
DONALD MCNEIL JR.: Thank you for inviting me. JUDY WOODRUFF: ... wish you and all of us the best. Thank you. DONALD MCNEIL JR.: Happy new year.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We're now just days away from the final elections of the 2020 campaign, two critical run-offs in Georgia that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. Today is the final day of in person early voting in the state, and more than 2.8 million people have cast ballots so far. For an update on what's at stake, I'm joined by Stephen Fowler. He is a political reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting. He's also host of the "Battleground: Ballot Box" podcast.
Stephen Fowler, welcome to the "NewsHour." I guess the news today is that Senator David Perdue is quarantining after being exposed to COVID. Where does that leave this contest? STEPHEN FOWLER, Georgia Public Broadcasting: For the last several weeks, really, all of the candidates have been crisscrossing Georgia, trying to squeeze out every vote that they can get. And David Perdue announced today that he -- one of his campaign staffers tested positive for COVID-19. He and his wife both tested negative today, but, out of an abundance of caution, they are going to be quarantining.
Now, the last day of early voting is today, and the next big day is Tuesday, January 5. But the night before, Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler are supposed to headline at a big get-out-the-vote rally in Northwest Georgia headlined by President Donald Trump. It's unclear at this time whether David Perdue will be in attendance, but it's definitely something that you don't want to have happen days before the biggest election. JUDY WOODRUFF: No question, a complicating factor. President Trump, he has been critical of the governor of the state and others who didn't want to challenge the victory of Joe Biden in Georgia. The two senators -- it's put the two senators, you were telling us, in very much of a box.
How is that working? The president's been tweeting about Georgia. How do you see the president's role right now in this race? STEPHEN FOWLER: President Trump has put Perdue and Loeffler between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, you have President Trump attacking Georgia's elections, attacking the Republican governor, the Republican secretary of state, and claiming that the election was rigged and there was fraud and that people shouldn't trust the outcome. On the other hand, you have plenty of voters that are turned off by that kind of rhetoric and are saying that they're going to stay home and that they're not going to participate in this election or they're going to vote for the Democrats because the Democrats aren't trying to undermine democracy. So, Perdue and Loeffler have been trying to make sure that they capture enough of Georgia's Republican base in this run-off by siding with the president and calling for our secretary of state to resign, but, at the same time, they have to try to remember that Georgia is a very, very purple state right now, and they can't turn off those moderates by making false claims of election fraud.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we have been reading about concern among Republicans about what the president's going to say when he is in Georgia. But let's talk about the Democrats today. Big turnout, we have seen throughout the early voting period right up through today. What does that tell you in terms of these long lines, Stephen Fowler, and where they are? STEPHEN FOWLER: Well, Judy, there are three key constituencies to watch for in Georgia. One is what you're seeing right now in suburban Atlanta. Those are the voters that voted for
Joe Biden in the presidential race that may end up still voting for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in this election. And Metro Atlanta is turning outs in full force. Another one to watch is down in Southwest Georgia, the Black Belt of Georgia, where there's a large African American Democratic population. They have been turning out in force as well, coming very close to the general election levels. In fact, some of the early voting data that I have looked at suggests that there are about 3 percent of the electorate is higher -- there's about 3 percent more African American percentage of voters in this election than in the general election, which is a good sign for Democrats. And the final one is up in Northwest Georgia, the Republican base, where turnout is lagging behind, and Republicans hope that a big Election Day surge can counteract this huge Democratic early vote.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's a challenge without President Trump on the ballot. STEPHEN FOWLER: That's right, without President Trump on the ballot, and with President Trump saying don't trust absentee-by-mail voting or Georgia's election system and the voting machines, which are, frankly, the only two ways to vote. JUDY WOODRUFF: That coupled, as you say, with the remarkable turnout in communities where Black voters are turning out in large numbers is something everybody's watching. But, very quickly, Stephen Fowler, to what the candidates are saying. We have seen the Republican candidates going after the Democrats, calling them radical liberals. And we're seeing
the Democrats push back. Let's just listen to a short clip of each one, of each side. SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): Radical liberal Raphael Warnock. Radical liberal Raphael Warnock. Radical liberal Raphael Warnock.
From radical liberal Raphael Warnock. JON OSSOFF (D), Georgia Senatorial Candidate: Hear's the bottom line, Kelly Loeffler has been campaigning with a Klansman. Kelly Loeffler has been campaigning with a Klansman. And so she is stooping to these vicious personal attacks to distract from the fact that she has been campaigning with a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Stephen Fowler, that comment yesterday from Jon Ossoff, who, of course, is running against David Perdue. The Kelly Loeffler comments which we put together were
from a debate a few weeks ago. But it gives you a sense of the flavor of this contest. STEPHEN FOWLER: The key to trying to define the opposition from both Democrats and Republicans is these short-and-sweet phrases. In the one debate David Perdue did conduct with Jon Ossoff, he kept calling him and his radical socialist tendencies over and over again. So the Republicans are trying to paint Ossoff and Warnock as these two extremely liberal, radical, out-of-touch politicians that aren't good for Georgia. And Ossoff and Warnock are trying to paint Perdue and Loeffler as crooks who don't have Georgia's best interests at heart and are out of touch with reality.
So, the key message also that we're seeing there are really resonating on both sides with this turnout that we're seeing and with the closing messages of this campaign. JUDY WOODRUFF: You were telling us, Stephen Fowler, I mean, this is a state, of course, Georgia has voted red, has sent mostly Republicans to Washington. So, for the Democrats to be holding their own at this point is somewhat remarkable in the state of Georgia, isn't it?? STEPHEN FOWLER: Well, to the outsiders, perhaps, but, in Georgia, for the last two years, it's been something building.
The demographics of Georgia have changed in the last decade .There have been a million so voters that have come in Metro Atlanta alone, two million in the state overall. And in the 2018 governor's race, where Stacey Abrams narrowly lost to Brian Kemp, the Democrats invested in parts of the state that didn't normally get a lot of attention. And they put grassroots campaigns and door-knocking and canvassing, and slowly started to eat into the margins there, while ramping up operations in Metro Atlanta.
And that's only built up for the last two years, where you have got a competitive infrastructure, and you have got Democrats showing up in force, and ultimately putting about 12,000 votes ahead to give Joe Biden the electoral votes. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is a race, two races that the nation is watching very closely. Stephen Fowler with Georgia Public Broadcasting, thank you so much. And happy new year. STEPHEN FOWLER: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, the U.S. military began drawing down in Somalia as part of President Trump's vow to reduce overseas deployments. Some 700 U.S. troops have been training Somali forces. But now they will have to do that
mission from elsewhere. And, as Nick Schifrin reports, some Somalis fear that that will leave them vulnerable. NICK SCHIFRIN: Along Africa's east coast, Somali forces are learning to lead the fight. Their trainers are American, equipping them to defend their own country from Al-Shabaab.
Since the early 2000s, al-Qaida-linked Shabaab, or Youth, has killed thousands across Somalia and sought to create an Islamist government. And they have also attacked over the border in Kenya, including killing two U.S. soldiers earlier this year on Manda Bay Base, as seen in these propaganda photos.
WOMAN: This morning, we will recognize the soldiers of the Danab Special Forces. NICK SCHIFRIN: The Somali troops trained by U.S. special operations forces were Somalia's own elite unit, the Danab. COL. AHMED ABDULLAHI SHEIKH, Former Danab Commander: The U.S., everybody knows their capabilities in the military, and they bring really the best to train and advise our forces. And it has been very beneficial.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thirty-seven-year-old Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh used to command the Danab. He says he grew close to his U.S. officers through training, mentoring, and advising. COL. AHMED ABDULLAHI SHEIKH: You build a bond. So, working together is -- has been very beneficial for the Somali forces.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But U.S. Special Operations forces are now leaving. The U.S. military released photos of a carrier strike group and its 5,500 sailors off the coast of Somalia, protecting some 700 U.S. troops as they withdraw to neighboring countries and consolidate onto U.S. bases.
Ending the train-and-equip program is self-defeating, says Abdullahi. COL. AHMED ABDULLAHI SHEIKH: It's coming abrupt, and it comes very sudden and without any warning. Al-Shabaab pledged that they will keep the pressure on the Americans. This decision will
embolden them. NICK SCHIFRIN: And the decision could weaken the three-year-old U.S.-allied Somali government, because it precedes upcoming elections, says Horn of Africa analyst Omar Mahmood.
OMAR MAHMOOD, International Crisis Group: Pulling out troops in such a way, especially such a rushed way, can create quite a vacuum. Al-Shabaab very much also watches these developments, uses them in their propaganda, so would very much present this as a victory on their part, that they were able to drive out U.S. troops from Somalia.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But critics of the Somalia mission argue U.S. troops are not the solution to solving the civil war and a new strategy was overdue. SALIH BOOKER, President and CEO, Center for International Policy: The troop withdrawal could represent the beginning of a new policy, a policy aimed at achieving some kind of political reconciliation and peace negotiations. NICK SCHIFRIN: Salih Booker is the president of the Center for International Policy, an independent research center. He says some Al-Shabaab fighters have local grievances, such as government corruption, others have regional Islamist goals, and the conflict has no military solution. SALIH BOOKER: The military victory is out of the reach of the federal government. It's
out of the reach of the U.S. government. But it's also unlikely that Al-Shabaab can achieve a decisive military victory. And, therefore, it's time to change the strategic goal to one of political reconciliation and peace negotiations. NICK SCHIFRIN: Booker argues the U.S. military's Africa Command, or AFRICOM, has for years overstated the Al-Shabaab threat. SALIH BOOKER: There is not any clear indication that Al-Shabaab has attempted to organize any international terrorist activities targeting U.S. assets or the so-called U.S. homeland.
AFRICOM is engaged in threat inflation in order to justify their continuing focus on a misguided strategic goal of defeating Al-Shabaab militarily. NICK SCHIFRIN: But the U.S. military argues the counterterror mission inside Somalia is essential and will carry on. The U.S. can continue to conduct airstrikes in Somalia from neighboring Djibouti. From 2007 to 2015, the Bush and Obama administrations acknowledged launching 21 airstrikes in Somalia. In 2016 alone, the Obama administration launched 19. The Trump administration accelerated that
trend, launching in four years nearly 200 airstrikes from drones. SALIH BOOKER: There's no evidence that this strategy has achieved the strategic objective, and, all the opposite, it's raised enormous questions about the legality of this kind of targeting through airstrikes. It's raised questions about the number of civilian casualties. NICK SCHIFRIN: Many Somalis argue the civilian death from U.S. airstrikes is underreported. Back in 2017, Halima Mohamed Afrah said the U.S. had the wrong targets. HALIMA MOHAMED AFRAH, Mother (through translator): The U.S. forces killed my first born son in
1992. And last Friday, they killed 10 innocent farmers. NICK SCHIFRIN: The current mission began in 2017, the first regular deployment to Somalia in decades. That effort ended in the 1993 battle that became known as Black Hawk Down. Eighteen U.S. soldiers died. Today, Abdullahi fears the Danab could be exploited by Somali politicians to do personal bidding, and the relationships the U.S. troop presence created will be lost.
COL. AHMED ABDULLAHI SHEIKH: By having the U.S. forces based across Somalia, they were really the faces you saw. And if somebody have a grievance, they could come to them to talk to them. And now that relationship will not exist anymore. NICK SCHIFRIN: The withdrawal also comes at a fragile time regionally. In neighboring Ethiopia, battles between the national government and a rebellious regional government led to hundreds of thousands of refugees. SALIH BOOKER: The region is a tinderbox. It could easily go up into flames further than
it already is. So, the United States should focus not so much on weapons and violence as its ability to project power to solve problems in the region, but on relationships between nations, between peoples. This is a strength the United States has that it is simply not using that it needs to use.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The U.S. drawdown from Somalia will conclude before president-elect Biden takes office, but he will inherit the violent regional challenges. And those aren't going away. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin. JUDY WOODRUFF: During the early days of the 2016 campaign trail, then candidate Donald Trump assured his supporters that he would pursue an America first approach to foreign policy.
But what legacy does President Trump leave behind? What are the main foreign policy challenges facing Joe Biden? And how is America's role in the world changing? To assess all of this, I spoke with four foreign policy experts. Susan Gordon served as principal deputy director of national intelligence until August of last year. She spent most of her career before that at the CIA. Charles Kupchan was special assistant to the president on the National Security Council during the Obama administration. He's now a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. His latest book is "Isolationism: A History of America's
Efforts to Shield Itself From the World." Rebeccah Heinrichs, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, she also served on Capitol Hill on the House Armed Services Committee staff. And Sam Vinograd has served in the Bush and Obama administration in several national security roles, including senior adviser to the national security adviser. She's now a senior adviser at the University of Delaware's Biden Institute. And we welcome all of you back to the "NewsHour." Thank you very much for joining us.
Sam Vinograd, I'm going to start with you with a pretty simple question. What is the legacy of President Trump and his foreign policy? SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, Senior Adviser, Biden Institute: Judy, I think that President Trump's foreign policy legacy is really defined by a historic level of systemic incoherence, hypocrisy, as well as a unilateralism across the board. On the systemic incoherence front, we have seen a historic number of instances in which the foreign policy establishment within the administration pursued a bifurcated foreign policy. We had the national security apparatus going one way, and then President Trump going the other. That was confusing to everyone abroad, as well as here at home.
Second, we had the president and his national security team inconsistently apply international rules and U.S. values. People that President Trump found to be politically expedient were treated one way, and everyone else was treated another. In terms of the hypocrisy, we saw individuals like Secretary of State Pompeo and others ask foreign leaders to do things that President Trump wasn't doing here at home. That particularly relates to advancing democratic freedoms, like free and fair elections, freedom of the press, and the freedom to peacefully protest.
Overall, that undermined U.S. credibility abroad and undermined the ability of the president's foreign policy team to execute the policies that they saw fit overseas. JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of points there to digest and to think about. Rebeccah Heinrichs, what would you say is the president's legacy? REBECCAH HEINRICHS, The Hudson Institute: I think President Trump's rhetoric sometimes could have distracted from a lot of the policy, good, sound policy that came out of his administration.
And I think a lot of what he did, this America first, really translated into a correction of the liberal internationalism that was ongoing, not just the Obama administration, but really before him in the Bush administration as well. And what President Trump's foreign policy did was it reestablished that the United States is not going to remain the world's preeminent power just by default. We have to fight for it, and that our primary rival is China, and that China, combined with Russia, presents a very formidable challenge to the United States economically, militarily, and so that the United States has to fight for that. That became the thing that pushed American foreign policy and really established the United States on much sounder footing, and then also countered Iran very effectively and worked with our Arab allies, which is why you see a lot of these great normalization agreements between Israel and these Arab states, because they were -- the Trump administration really created conditions that were conducive to establishing this great -- these great accomplishments.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Charles Kupchan, pick up on that. And we have heard the word unilateralism. You have written, you have said that what we're seeing now in President Trump may not be so much an outlier, when you compare it to the sweep of America's foreign policy since the founders. CHARLES KUPCHAN, Former National Security Council Official: Well, when he said America first in his inaugural address, Trump was really going back to 1940, the America First Committee that formed to keep the U.S. out of World War II.
And although we have lived in an America that's been very engaged in the world, from 1789, when we began life as a federation, right up until Pearl Harbor, the U.S. tended to shy away from engagement. We were very much connected to the world commercially, but not strategically. That changes in '41. Then it changes even more after the end of the Cold War and after
9/11. And I would agree with what Rebeccah said, that Trump was trying to correct for what I see is overreach, overreach strategically, overreach economically, trade deals that didn't work for average Americans, overreach perhaps in immigration, where many Americans felt we didn't have control of our borders. Where I think Trump went wrong is, he vastly overcorrected. Instead of pulling back, instead of judiciously trying to correct, he took a wrecking ball to the world America built, the institutions. He pulled out of the Middle East without any real strategy. So, I think his instincts politically were correct. The American people said, hey, let's tap on the brakes, let's pull back from the world a little bit. But he went way too far
in the implementation. JUDY WOODRUFF: Sue Gordon, it's a lot to ask you to pull all that together. (LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: But, from your perspective, someone who's worked so closely in the intelligence community for so long, how do you see it? SUE GORDON, Former U.S. Principal Deputy of National Intelligence: So, I think Sam, Rebeccah and Charles all made great points.
One, I think history is going to decide what his legacy is. And President Biden is going to have a lot to say about it. I put his actions in three bins. I think there's some good. Clearly, the national security work he did to highlight the threat that China posed is going to be one of his greatest legacies. I think you have to say that the Middle East, despite the lack of orthodoxy, is a more peaceful place than it was when he took office. Certainly, the Islamic caliphate has been tamped down. And I think North Korea, even though you could give it a neutral grade, you do have to admit that there has been in the last three years no nuclear tests of any weapons. So, I think
there's some good there. I also think there's some massive failures. I think his work on Russia, Russia is more brazen. The cyberattack shows it. NATO, even though you're seeing more European contribution, you have almost broken the spirit of it, whether it's going to come along. Alliances that are so necessary have been really broken.
So, I think you have a lot of viewers so I think you have a mixed bag, but the Biden administration is going to kind of have to come in, and its actions will dictate whether the gains will be maintained or whether the loss of leadership is going to be just devastating. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Sam Vinograd, I'm thinking back to what you said. And what we're hearing from our other panelists is that there is a rationale for at least some of what President Trump has been doing. What about that? And what about whether one
can look at this as an attempt to pull back from what had been an overreach? SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: Well, I think that President Trump certainly felt that there needed to be a review of existing U.S. commitments around the world. We saw that with respect to alliances like NATO, Germany and South Korea, in which President Trump tried to review the funding commitments that the United States made, in light of what our partners were putting forward. We saw President Trump review our commitment to key multilateral institutions, including the U.N. itself, as well as various entities within the United Nations. It appeared to be that he was trying to cut overall U.S. funding to these entities. He
was successful in some regards. NATO allies have increased their contributions to the NATO budget. But, overall, President Trump seemed to be pursuing policies that he viewed as benefiting him or benefiting the United States, and acting alone, and trying to pull other countries in with him after the fact. I think that approach was dangerous. Our alliances are built around coordination, cooperation and discussion. And I don't think that our allies appreciated being told what they had to do.
President-elect Biden is going to have to contend with pursuing his affirmative foreign policy goals, while reacting to President Trump's somewhat instinctual desire to focus within our borders. So, we could see president-elect Biden try to undo some of what President Trump did with respect to our commitments abroad. JUDY WOODRUFF: Rebeccah Heinrichs. I would like to turn to what the challenges are that lie ahead for president-elect Biden. Based on what you're all saying in your own ways, what should President Biden's priorities be? Where should his focus, his main focus be? REBECCAH HEINRICHS: I think President Trump's administration really laid bare, if it wasn't clear before, that China is the number one geopolitical rival for the United States.
It will be for our generation. We have to understand that China is contesting the United States militarily in the Western Pacific economically and diplomatically, and that the United States needs to fight for American preeminence and with our allies and partners to deter Chinese aggression, certainly against Taiwan, but then also be prepared to fight and win a military contest, if deterrence fails. There are a variety of other ways and fronts in which the United States needs to shore up our sovereignty, our industrial base, our technological edge vs. China. And I am afraid that, mainly because some of the signaling coming out of the president-elect Biden's appointments, especially John Kerry's appointment to lead this climate change envoy, that climate change could be the driving force vs. China, and that China then therefore might take a sort of a backseat on these other issues.
That would be a grave mistake. The last point I would make is, President Trump got into a lot of -- he was criticized heavily for a lot of the things that he said and did against our allies and some institutions he pulled out of and arms control deals he pulled out of. Many of those things were right, though, and long overdue. And he made a lot of good points about our allies and partners needing to invest in their militaries to help the free world defend against these autocratic regimes. And so president-elect Biden, when he becomes president, needs to make sure that he doesn't just go back and try to rejoin these bad deals and agreements that the Russians, et cetera, were cheating on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Charlie Kupchan, do you think there's a chance that that's what Joe Biden is going to do? I know you have told us that you think one of -- the first thing that's going to happen is the unilateralism that was a -- such a feature of the Trump presidency is going to go away quickly. CHARLES KUPCHAN: Yes, I think the most destructive part of Trump's foreign policy has been the unilateralism, pulling out of pacts, isolating the United States from its key allies, pulling out of the World Health Organization in the middle of the greatest pandemic since 1918. It just -- it didn't make any sense. So, I think the U.S., on day one of the Biden administration,
will go back to being a team player. Another big change is that democracy will be back. Joe Biden will restore a sense of liberal democracy, of republican values to the country. We still have a sitting president
who has yet to admit that he just lost the election. Most of the world is staring at us with amazement. Where I think you will see more continuity than change is continued pullback from the Middle East, because Democrats and Republicans alike agree it's time to end the forever wars, standing up to China, as Rebeccah was saying, particularly on the trade front. And I also think you're going to see Biden focus heavily on trying to make the case that American foreign policy works for average Americans. That probably means more money
on things like cyber, on things like global health, on things like climate change, probably less on defense spending, and also more investment in America's middle class, making sure that our trade agreements work not just for big corporations, but also for working Americans. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Sue Gordon, you touched on some of these things in your remarks a moment ago. But bring us, finally, back to this question of America's role in the world. And to what extent does -- should Joe Biden have a fixed idea in his own mind of what America's role is in 2021 and in coming years? SUE GORDON: So, I think the first thing that I hope the president-elect realizes is, this is a changed world. There is no going back to before 2016. If I were to say three things, it would be, number one, there are few in the world that can offer the leadership in these disruptive times than the United States can. So, figuring out our leadership role, our value proposition, our support for democracies is one.
The second is, invest in trust and truth. That goes all the way from trusted technologies to keeping your word. There is so much untruth that is governing what we do. And the third is, I really do believe, in the midst of COVID and the economy and climate and societal unrest, there has to be room for national security. There has to be room for rebuilding the institutions that are actually responsible for effecting his policies that have been so distant from the -- from President Trump's policies.
So, just a few of the things. Easy day. I'm sure he's up to it. (LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: It's a full plate, for sure. Well, we want to thank all of you for giving us this important look as we begin this next year.
Sue Gordon, Charlie Kupchan, Rebeccah Heinrichs, and Sam Vinograd, thank you very much. And, again, our thanks to all four of them. And on the "NewsHour" online right now: Sometimes, the ordinary objects of our lives hold extraordinary meaning. We asked you, our audience, what mementos you would save to tell your story
of 2020. And we selected some of your answers to share. You can find them on our Web site. It's PBS.org/NewsHour. And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff. On this last night of 2020, thank you for joining us. We at the "NewsHour" wish you
safety and good health. And we all look forward to a much better year ahead.