PBS NewsHour full episode – August 20, 2019


JOHN YANG: Good evening. I’m John Yang. Judy Woodruff is away. On the “NewsHour” tonight: a change in values. The leaders of America’s largest corporations
endorse a new vision for business, saying social concerns are as important as profits. But can they practice what they preach? Then: casualties of war. We are on the ground in Gaza, where a generation
lives with the lasting wounds of conflict. Plus: the beat of his own drum. Hip-hop artist Common on trauma, forgiveness,
and making it as a rapper. COMMON, Musician/Actor/Author: One of the
things I’m learning through the process is to be kind to myself, you know, and not just
judge everything I do. When I make mistakes, I try to learn from
mistakes and acknowledge where I was wrong and move forward. JOHN YANG: All that and more on tonight’s
“PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) JOHN YANG: President Trump acknowledged he
is considering tax cuts, but not, he says, in response to recession fears. That was just one of the topics the president
talked about today during an Oval Office meeting with the president of Romania. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
We’re looking at various tax reductions, but I’m looking at that all the time anyway, tax
reductions. Payroll tax is something that we think about,
and a lot of people would like to see that, and that very much affects the workers of
our country. JOHN YANG: We will hear more from the president
when we talk to White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor after the news summary. Wall Street gave ground today, after a batch
of disappointing corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 173
points to close at 25962. The Nasdaq fell 54 points, and the S&P 500
slipped 23. In Syria, the dominant militant group in Idlib
province retreated from a key town, in a new blow to rebel forces. The insurgents, linked to al-Qaida, pulled
out of Khan Sheikhoun under heavy bombardment and airstrikes. As they did, Syrian government troops entered
the town, backed by Russian air support. Idlib is the major rebel bastion in Syria. In Afghanistan, hundreds of people paid tribute
today to the dozens who died in a suicide bombing in Kabul. Many gathered in mosques, while others visited
memorials to the victims. Some criticized government officials, including
President Ashraf Ghani, for failing to put an end to the violence. ZIA MOHAMMAD, Victim’s Relative (through translator):
The president and his chief executive must resign. They cannot serve the nation, and they should
apologize to the people. Ghani promised to bring security during his
campaigns before becoming the president, but he couldn’t. We have had the highest number of civilian
casualties under his term. JOHN YANG: The Islamic State group claimed
responsibility for Saturday’s attack on a wedding celebration. It came as the United States pursues peace
talks with the Taliban. The State Department announced that chief
negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad is heading back to Qatar to resume those talks. Dozens of migrants made desperate attempts
today to reach the Southern Italian coast. The migrants, most of them from Africa, have
been stuck on a rescue ship for 19 days, as Italy refuses to let the vessel dock. At least 15 jumped overboard today, hoping
to reach Lampedusa Island. More than 80 remained on board, in worsening
conditions. Hours later, a Sicilian prosecutor ordered
the ship seized and the migrants evacuated to shore. Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe
Conte resigned after his far-right coalition partner quit the populist government. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and his League
Party have pushed the hard-line policy against migrants. Now, with his popularity rising, he wants
new elections. Conte accused Salvini of being irresponsible
as the Italian interior minister sat next to him in the Senate and shrugged off the
criticism. GIUSEPPE CONTE, Italian Prime Minister (through
translator): My dear minister of interior, by starting this government crisis, you are
taking a great responsibility towards the country. You have asked for full powers to rule the
country, and I have heard you calling the people in the squares to support you. JOHN YANG: Conte’s government lasted just
14 months. If Italy’s president accepts his resignation,
the country could see new elections as early as October. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: amid a backdrop
of rising income inequality, American business leaders announce a philosophical shift; on
the ground in Gaza, where gunshot wounds have become a part of daily life; tricks of the
trade with the former CIA head of disguise; and much more. President Trump continues to tout a strong
economy and dismiss fears of a potential recession. In the Oval Office this afternoon, the president
was asked if his trade policies were having a negative impact on the U.S. economy. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
So I am doing this whether it’s good or bad for your statement about, oh, will we fall
into a recession for two months, OK? The fact is, somebody had to take China on. My life would be a lot easier if I didn’t
take China on. But I like that doing it because I have to
do it. JOHN YANG: White House correspondent Yamiche
Alcindor is here. So the president said that the economy’s doing
great. But he’s also thinking about ways of boosting
it a little bit, and then seemed to acknowledge that his own trade policies may bring a recession,
a short one. What’s going on? YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The economy has been the
shining example that President Trump has been able to point to amid scandals and controversies. He’s been able to say, look, even though you
don’t like my rhetoric or my racist tweets or maybe women alleging that I sexually assaulted
them, at least the economy is doing well. What is happening now is there are signs the
economy could be slowing, and that’s making President Trump and Republicans very, very
worried. And, as a result, he’s essentially making
the case, China made me do all this. These farmers that are frustrated in the Midwest
because their markets have gone away as the trade war with China has dragged on, it’s
not my fault. It’s that China made me do this. So, I think that they’re — the Republican
Party is really trying to find a message that is going to help them if there is a recession. Also, for Republican lawmakers, they have
been able to point to the economy and say, I know I don’t like President Trump’s racist
tweets, or maybe I don’t like the fact that he separated thousands of immigrant families,
but, again, the economy is doing well, so we should all just think that everything is
going well. That’s starting to crumble. So this is the president trying to really
save his presidency and save face, essentially. JOHN YANG: Another topic that came up in this
conversation in the Oval Office was his stand on background checks, gun control. Let’s take a listen to what he said. DONALD TRUMP: We have very, very strong background
checks right now. But we have sort of missing areas and areas
that don’t complete the whole circle. And we’re looking at different things. And I have to tell you that it is a mental
problem. And I have said it 100 times. It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger. It’s the person that pulls the trigger. JOHN YANG: Immediately after El Paso and Dayton,
he seemed to be saying that he expected the Senate to act or Congress to act on stricter
gun control. But now he seems to be backing off? YAMICHE ALCINDOR: There’s no question President
Trump has completely pulled back his support for background checks. And it comes down to three letters, NRA. That group has had a stronghold on Republicans. They have backed President Trump. And now we at the “PBS NewsHour” can confirm
the president called Wayne LaPierre, the head of NRA this afternoon, and told him universal
background checks are completely off the table. That’s a complete 180 from what the president
was saying just two weeks ago. He said that there would be tremendous support
for commonsense background checks. That’s gone away now. And the president essentially is now using
talking points from the NRA. He said that there’s a slippery slope when
it comes to gun legislation, and that if they start messing with guns — with background
checks, Democrats might take away the Second Amendment. On the White House lawn just a few weeks ago,
he said this isn’t about the NRA or Republicans or Democrats. And that’s just completely changed. So I think it’s going to be very interesting
once Congress comes back to see what the president does. But we have a pretty clear sign. And that is that the NRA is on the phone with
the White House, and they are completely changing their tone. JOHN YANG: White House correspondent Yamiche
Alcindor, thank you very much. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Thanks. JOHN YANG: For decades, maximizing profits
for stockholders has been the driving goal for corporate America. But there’s a growing populist backlash, as
more and more Americans believe that goal has led to great social inequality. This week, nearly 200 of the country’s most
prominent companies issued a joint statement that represents a major philosophical shift. The CEOs said that corporate leaders should
take into account all stakeholders. That means employees, customers, suppliers,
and society in general. That’s the focus of this week’s Making Sense
segment. And for it, we turn to Steven Pearlstein,
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post, professor of public affairs at George
Mason University, and author of the book “Can American Capitalism Survive?” Steve, thanks for joining us. STEVEN PEARLSTEIN, Columnist, The Washington
Post: My pleasure. JOHN YANG: A year ago, you wrote in your column
that the decision to declare maximizing value for shareholders as the sole purpose of a
corporation is the source of much of what has gone wrong with American capitalism. How big a deal is this shift? STEVEN PEARLSTEIN: Well, it’s a big deal not
so much because of this — what the roundtable says has any legal force on any of its members. It’s important because it signals a shift
in attitude in norms. That’s already occurring. It’s sort of confirming something that’s happening
that’s, I think, the pendulum swinging back in the right direction, after having swung
too far in favor of shareholders. So it’s important for this sort of signaling
value and for the signaling to other kinds of businesses and other businesses that this
is now a new norm, and signaling to the other stakeholders to begin to, I think, assert
some of their influence and their leverage. JOHN YANG: Now, after you wrote that column,
Jamie Dimon, the chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase, reached out to you. What happened? STEVEN PEARLSTEIN: We know each other. And I was having breakfast. And I picked up the phone and somebody said:
“That was the stupidest column I ever read.” And I said: “Good morning, Jamie. How are you?” And we had a frank discussion. At the end of it, I said: “Look, why don’t
you have a dinner somewhere? You can come in here. I will host one here. Or we will do it in New York, and you have
some of your guys and I will have some of the other journalists there.” And the reason was because he thought we journalists
were misportraying this issue, that he said: “We don’t run our companies in the ruthless,
profit-maximizing way that you suggest.” And I said: “Well, first of all, I’m not sure
that’s always the case, but even if it were, then why don’t you just say that is not the
— that that shouldn’t be the norm?? And he didn’t really have an answer for that. And that’s sort of what — what — eventually,
we did have this meeting in New York in his office, and we hashed things around. And I think, you know, we acknowledge that,
no, they don’t all run their companies in a ruthless way 100 percent of the time. And he acknowledged that maybe they needed
to think about reframing the purpose of a corporation. JOHN YANG: You say this move has — this shift
has been going on for a while. So why now? Why make this formal declaration now? STEVEN PEARLSTEIN: Well, several, but one
of which is the political environment, where, you know, you have the two leading — or two
of the three leading Democratic presidential candidates going around saying the big problem
is corporate greed. And they probably overstate the case and are
pretty harsh about their populist complaint. But, you know, that’s added to fact that for
years businesses and business leaders have been held in lower and lower regard by the
public. And I think, you know, they have had a period
of time, John, as you know, for the last 20 years, where their allies in the Republican
Party have pretty much controlled things in Washington, particularly in the Congress. And they’re looking at a period of time where
that might not be the case. And so I think they probably need to establish
some credibility in the public marketplace, because they have been playing an inside game
for the last 20 years, quite successfully. But they probably have to start playing an
outside game. And they need to establish legitimacy with
the public for, you know, the views that they have. JOHN YANG: And are the — are they also getting
pressure from within from employees? STEVEN PEARLSTEIN: Yes, I think that’s the
other thing. I’m not a big fan of social media, but social
media has made them extremely sensitive to the reactions of consumers, consumer boycotts
or threats. They read their social media very carefully. And it also — and I think this is perhaps
the most important thing — companies are in a battle for talent, for top talent. And there are a lot of young people — I know
this as a college professor — who won’t go work for a company that they think is a ruthless
profit maximizer. And so they also need that to recruit talent. JOHN YANG: So, they’re getting pressure from
below. But so many of the incentives at the top,
profit — you know, compensation, bonuses tied to hitting stock prices, hitting quarterly
earnings marks. How much is really going to change? STEVEN PEARLSTEIN: Well, the incentive structure
has changed. They don’t — in fact, they have tried over
the years — and this is something under criticism. They have made the stock-related compensation
much more long-term. So it isn’t quarterly anymore. And, you know, I think those improvements
have been there. But, you know, they can still do really well
under these compensation things by changing things a little bit. And, you know, it’s a sort of collective action
problem. They all know, frankly, that they needed to
change the way they behaved. The problem was that no one could do it, because,
if one did it, and the others didn’t, then they would get called out, and their stock
price would get hammered, and they would be criticized by Wall Street. So, one of the reasons something like the
roundtable exists is for them to do it collectively, so it’s a sort of mutual protection society. They can do what they think is the right thing
and not get called out individually for it. JOHN YANG: You mentioned the political environment. The two Democratic candidates — the Democrats
may take Congress back. Why shouldn’t we just see this as a P.R. gimmick,
as trying to get out ahead of an issue, of trying to trying to look good? STEVEN PEARLSTEIN: Well, to me, that’s progress. When the corporate community tries to get
out ahead of something like that and acknowledges that they may have overdone things, and then
that’s a win. I mean, I don’t know how that — yes, it is
good for P.R., but if they don’t follow through, if we continue to see companies that say,
I’m giving up my American citizenship so that we don’t have to pay U.S. taxes anymore because
our shareholders are making us do it, if companies say, we’re going to crush our unions because
our shareholders are making us do it, they won’t be able to get away with that anymore. JOHN YANG: Steven Pearlstein of The Washington
Post and George Mason University, thanks so much. STEVEN PEARLSTEIN: Thank you. JOHN YANG: For many months now, Palestinians
in Gaza have regularly protested their conditions along the border fence with Israel. Those protests have often turned violent,
resulting in deaths and permanent injuries. Militant Palestinians have lobbed rockets
and gunfire at Israel, especially targeting the soldiers at the border. But some international observers say the response
of late has taken a disturbing turn. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson was there
last year when the conflict first ratcheted up, and returned recently for another look. JANE FERGUSON: In Gaza, soccer is a crucial
part of life. For many, it’s an escape from the hardships
here. With few prospects for a job, it’s a way for
young men to pass the time, and a way to still feel human even after devastating injuries. Playing with one leg is not easy, but, then,
nothing about life is in Gaza. AHMED ABU NAR, Soccer Player (through translator):
Before the injury, I loved playing soccer. But, after my injury, it became difficult. But, with this team, I can return to it, and
I love the sport. From this sport, we get an outlet for our
feelings, and that’s necessary for everyone. JANE FERGUSON: Seven thousand have been shot
by the Israeli army while taking part in protests along the border of Gaza in the last 15 months. Dozens of those have lost a limb. Ahmed did everything he could to save his
leg, travelling to Turkey and Egypt to try to find a surgeon who could do the job. He says he will never forget the day he was
shot. AHMED ABU NAR (through translator): I was
taken to the hospital, but there was such a large number of injuries, I had to wait
24 hours for my operation. JANE FERGUSON: That was May 14 last year,
when Gazans took part in a march of return protest along Gaza’s border with Israel to
demonstrate for the right to return to their family’s ancestral homes inside Israel, homes
their forbearers fled when Israel was formed in 1948. The Gaza Strip has been under blockade by
Israel since June 2007, when Hamas took control of the territory, violently evicting the Palestinian
Authority. It is one of the most densely populated places
in the world, nearly two million people packed into a sliver of land 25 miles long and five
miles wide. Unemployment is at a staggering 52 percent,
leaving young men like this feeling they have nothing to lose. The day Ahmed was shot, the Trump administration
formally moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinians have long declared that Jerusalem
would one day be the capital of their future state. Until that point, official U.S. policy on
claims to the city had always been neutral and a subject for final negotiations. We were there on that day as tens of thousands
marched towards the border fence; 73 Palestinians were killed and over 2,500 injured. In the makeshift field hospitals, the wounded
arrived at an alarming rate, almost all shot in the leg by snipers. Israeli sharpshooters hit so many, the hospitals
couldn’t cope. DR. ADNAN AL BORSH, Surgeon: I never forget this
day, because it was bloody. JANE FERGUSON: Dr. Adnan Al Borsh was the
lead surgeon on duty that day in Gaza’s main hospital. DR. ADNAN AL BORSH: My department, in that day,
we have done about 85 surgeries in one day. Myself alone, I have done 28 surgeries in
that day. I started surgeries at 9:00 a.m., and the
last surgery was in 1:00 a.m. after midnight. So, really, it was — really, it was tough
fatigue, and it was instruments — lack of instruments and lack of antibiotics and lack
of medication and even anesthesia medication. JANE FERGUSON: At the end of his long, exhausting
day, Dr. Al Borsh fell asleep in a chair and a colleague took this picture. It’s the nature of the wounds that most disturbed
Dr. Al Borsh. Despite fighting for lives through three wars
in Gaza, he had never seen anything like this before. DR. ADNAN AL BORSH: The entry point, or the entry
— entrance from the bullet, it was one centimeter, and the exit more than 15 and 20 centimeters. In that way — in its way, it take bones,
it take arteries, it take vessels, it take nerves. So, its future is for — uncertain, really. I think, because such bullet which was used,
when entered in the body, it explodes inside the body, and it takes everything in its way. JANE FERGUSON: So, even if the limb is saved,
it will never be of use and will need surgery after surgery to avoid amputation. At a nearby clinic run by Doctors Without
Borders, young men with similar wounds fill the waiting room daily. It’s hard enough to find a job in Gaza, where
most work is manual labor. These young men will struggle now more than
ever. The bullet wounds were so large and grievous. Dust and dirt from the protest site means
nearly half of them have serious infection in their bones. Helle Poulsen is the Doctors Without Borders
coordinator in Gaza. HELLE POULSEN, Doctors Without Borders: So,
they are very difficult to treat. Even the best resources in the world would
be overwhelmed, and it would be impossible to manage the complexity and the number of
these injured people. JANE FERGUSON: Waleed Al Ramlawi is waiting
to see a doctor and showed us his injury. The huge square of skin patched up where the
bullet tore out large chunks of his leg. WALEED AL RAMLAWI, Injured (through translator):
Up until now, my wound has not recovered, and it has been 10 months. I have had more than one surgery, and nothing
has been achieved. JANE FERGUSON: Waleed and his friends say
they were unarmed, protesting near the border fence, when he was shot by a sniper. WALEED AL RAMLAWI (through translator): The
Israelis were dealing with us as though we were an army. They were not dealing with us as peaceful
protesters. We had no weapons, just our bodies. JANE FERGUSON: Human rights groups say this
is a war crime. Saleh Hijazi heads Amnesty International in
Israel and the Palestinian territories. SALEH HIJAZI, Amnesty International: The willful
cause of injury and the willful cause of death is a war crime. And so, it is in both instances that we have
found, both in terms of the killings and the injuries, that Israel has violated international
law. Many of these killings appear to be willful
killings and, therefore, a war crime. JANE FERGUSON: The Israeli army denies this. They wouldn’t grant an interview to the “NewsHour,”
but released a statement saying: “For over a year, the Israeli Defense Forces have been
operating against violent riots and terrorist activities under their auspices, which include
shooting at soldiers, attempts to penetrate into Israel, attempts to damage the security
infrastructure, burning tires, throwing stones, throwing Molotov cocktails and grenades in
order to harm IDF soldiers.” But in a damning report released in March,
the United Nations’ independent commission of inquiry disputed that, saying the Israeli
military sniping at protesters was unlawful and unjustified, and should be referred to
the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The U.N. noted that some protesters threw
stones and lit kites on fire to send across the fence, but the majority were peaceful
civilians. Israeli soldiers, the commission said, shot
and killed children, paramedics, journalists and the disabled, fully aware of who they
were. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
rejected the report, saying it was motivated by — quote — “an obsessive hatred of Israel.” Despite the dangers, protesters still show
up here every single Friday. The Israelis have reinforced the borders along
here, and they still shoot at protesters who make it too close to them. On this day, the numbers are down to just
a few hundred people, mainly young men and boys inching towards the fence in a dangerous
game of chicken. Most of these kids have never seen the outside
world, trapped in a tiny strip of land under blockade by the Israeli government and ruled
over by the militant group Hamas. Flaming kites are still sometimes sent across
the fence, causing Israeli farmers’ crops to burn. The most cynical here encourage the smallest
to approach the fence, goading Israeli guards. Israel says the protests are organized by
the militant group Hamas, but the people we met here deny that. AMIN ASLEEM, Protester (through translator):
I come every Friday, and I would come every day if the protest was every day. We in Gaza have nothing to do, no work. All of these people around don’t have a single
shekel, because we are living under the siege. And the siege is constant. JANE FERGUSON: For as long as the protests
continue, so will the bloodshed and also the efforts to save lives. DR. ADNAN AL BORSH: As a doctor, as a surgeon,
I try to save my people. I try to save my homeland, to help my people,
by my experience, by my hands, to live without disability, without pain, without suffering. When I see a patient who was going to amputation,
and I save his limb, I become happy. Really, I become happy, because I saved not
a patient. I save a family, but this patient has wife
and has sons and has relatives. JANE FERGUSON: The lasting legacy of these
demonstrations is a generation left with lifelong challenges, a generation that continues to
suffer inside this cruel conflict. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jane Ferguson
in Gaza. JOHN YANG: Stay with us. Coming up on the “NewsHour”: hip-hop artist
Common on music, activism, and his newly released book. JOHN YANG: Jonna Mendez is one-half of a legendary
espionage power couple. She and her husband, Tony, met as American
spies in the Soviet Union and took turns as the CIA’s chief of disguise. Before Tony died earlier this year, the couple
wrote a book about living undercover at the height of the Cold War. Their work is now enshrined in a permanent
exhibit at the International Spy Museum in Washington. That’s where Nick Schifrin caught up with
Jonna and her trove of cloaks and daggers. NICK SCHIFRIN: For 27 years, across Cold War
hot spots, Jonna Mendez worked undercover for the CIA. But while the blonde from Kentucky was always
pursued, the master of disguise was never caught. JONNA MENDEZ, Former CIA Chief of Disguise:
With disguise, we just surpassed anyone’s dreams. I mean, we some had amazing successes. NICK SCHIFRIN: The we were Jonna and Tony
Mendez, spouses and stars of the CIA, both former chiefs of disguise. They were married for almost 30 years, before
he died in January. JONNA MENDEZ: Tony had creative energy that
he spread around like fairy dust. I give him credit for a lot of really innovative
ideas that we worked with. But I take some responsibility for seeing
that they happened. We were a good team. NICK SCHIFRIN: Their team was part of the
CIA’s Office of Technical Service, or OTS. They built the tools of espionage, the disguise
kit, the cameras that could hide anywhere, the underwear to pretend to be pregnant, secrets
used in Soviet Moscow now at the International Spy Museum in Washington. JONNA MENDEZ: We’re not trying to say that
OTS won the Cold War. But the tools that we provided to our case
officers that let them get out on the street, that let them in fact meet face to face with
some of our Russian sources made an enormous difference. NICK SCHIFRIN: The first challenge was right
outside the embassy’s gates on the streets of Moscow. The Russians were always tailing them, so
they got a little help from their friend Jack. JONNA MENDEZ: Jack in the Box was every HOV
commuters’ dream. It was a pop-up dummy that would emerge out
of various things. NICK SCHIFRIN: Everywhere agents drove, a
Soviet car would follow. So, the Mendezes created a gap. As the Americans turned a corner, the Soviets
were blind just long enough for the American agent to jump out of the car, and Jack in
the Box to pop up in his place. JONNA MENDEZ: It looked like a person. It was three-dimensional. It were real clothes. It had a face. It had hair. It could look exactly like the person who
had just left that seat. NICK SCHIFRIN: In pop culture spies have catchphrases,
like James Bond. SEAN CONNERY, Actor: Bond, James Bond. NICK SCHIFRIN: And big explosions like Jason
Bourne. But Mendez says there’s only one spy who gets
it right. JONNA MENDEZ: The male star in “The Americans”
had this wonderful ability to put on these nothing disguises, and then he became nothing. He became almost invisible. He was perfect. And if he got on the elevator with you and
got off two floors later, you would never remember that he’d even been on the elevator. He just could disappear into his disguises. NICK SCHIFRIN: That disappearing act is what
she perfected at the height of the Cold War for American agents and their Russian assets. Moscow became so dangerous, it was a denied
area, meaning CIA officers couldn’t meet Russian informants face to face. In Cold War Moscow, every face was watched. So Jonna and Tony gave their colleagues more
than one. JONNA MENDEZ: We didn’t need to use masks
in any other place. But we needed them in Moscow, because it was
a solution that was almost forced upon us. Without disguise, our case officers would
have been totally stymied. That was the intention of the KGB. They wanted us to be unable to collect intelligence. NICK SCHIFRIN: Mendez even came to the White
House disguised in her own handiwork. JONNA MENDEZ: A woman who worked with me who
gave me her face as a farewell present. NICK SCHIFRIN: So this is a real person’s
face? JONNA MENDEZ: Yes, that’s her. NICK SCHIFRIN: In Moscow, they followed a
set of informal guidelines, which Tony wrote down and turned into “The Moscow Rules,” the
name of their new book, rules like, don’t harass the opposition. JONNA MENDEZ: Don’t mess with them. Something bad will happen to you. Maybe you’re going to get beat up in front
of your own embassy, and medevaced the next day with a broken clavicle. NICK SCHIFRIN: Their most sacred mission,
keep Soviet agents alive. JONNA MENDEZ: There’s something so personal
about the Russian side of it. Taking care of those people, that was basically
what our office did. We provided them with the technology to be
safe, with tradecraft and methods of communication that would allow us to keep a distance between
us and them, so we wouldn’t contaminate them. NICK SCHIFRIN: One of their best assets, Alexander
Ogorodnik, code name Trigon, a Soviet diplomat who shared thousands of sensitive cables. He hid from the KGB with Mendez’s help. JONNA MENDEZ: He was the first one I know
of who said: “I will take these risks, but I’m not going to let them kill me the way
they want to do it. If they arrest me, I want an L-pill.” NICK SCHIFRIN: Cyanide pill. JONNA MENDEZ: That was a cyanide pill. NICK SCHIFRIN: That pill was hidden in a pen. When he was caught, he went to write a confession
and bit down on the pen. He died in seconds. JONNA MENDEZ: People look at like poison pens
in the pop culture, and they go, do we really do that? Well, yes, we did. NICK SCHIFRIN: That’s when Tony Mendez broke
one of his own Moscow rules. He mourned Trigon’s death. JONNA MENDEZ: The rule is, never fall in love
with your with your agent. And it didn’t mean fall in love. It meant almost like a doctor-patient relationship. Don’t ever let it get personal. Tony was so attached to Trigon. And when they lost Trigon, it was tragedy. NICK SCHIFRIN: Tony was the central character
in the movie “Argo” about how he rescued Americans hiding in Tehran after the 1979 hostage crisis
by disguising them as a Canadian film crew. BEN AFFLECK, Actor: You have to know your
resume back to front. ACTOR: You really believe your little story’s
going to make a difference when there’s a gun to our heads? BEN AFFLECK: I think my story’s the only thing
between you and a gun to your head. NICK SCHIFRIN: He was part spymaster, part
ringmaster, had the flair of a magician and the eye of an artist. He carried his disguises in this painter’s
case. JONNA MENDEZ: We used to say that you had
a problem, an operational problem, and you could have a meeting and solve it, get Tony
in, make sure he’s at the table, because everybody knows that artists think just a little differently. NICK SCHIFRIN: And Mendez helped CIA think
differently. This painting commemorating his work hangs
on the wall at Langley headquarters. How important are the lessons that you and
Tony learned and wrote about? JONNA MENDEZ: One of the big lessons is that
you do nothing alone. It’s a team. It’s always a team. And this book is trying to call out that OTS
team, the people behind you or beside you, or maybe even the people that you were supporting
that were in front of you. But everyone in OTS knew that you don’t do
anything alone. NICK SCHIFRIN: Jonna and Tony Mendez never
did anything alone, and they never stopped living by the Moscow rules. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Nick Schifrin. JOHN YANG: Now a conversation with a rapper
from the South Side of Chicago, who’s branched out beyond music and has a new book and album
that explore his own personal history. Amna Nawaz’s interview with Common is part
of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas. AMNA NAWAZ: He’s one of the biggest names
in hip-hop, known for the rhythm and rhymes he’s created over a 27-year career in music. Over the decades, Common the rapper has added
actor, activist, and author to his resume, and the awards have followed. He’s won an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe
for “Glory,” the powerful theme song he co-wrote with John Legend for the 2014 film “Selma.” He’s also appeared in movies and on TV, including
“The Chi,” a series about South Side Chicago, Common’s hometown. COMMON, Musician/Actor/Author: It took me
12 years in Stateville to find my way to Allah. AMNA NAWAZ: Lonnie Rashid Lynn, better known
as Common, first emerged on the rap scene in the ’90s. In 2000, his first major label album, “Like
Water for Chocolate,” brought big success, and his 2005 album, “Be,” was a commercial
hit, leading to one of several Grammy Awards. As his fame has grown, Common has used his
growing platform to become more politically vocal. A frequent guest at the Obama White House,
he’s faced criticism from Republicans. He’s performed at the March for Our Lives
gun safety rally. and he’s been outspoken when it comes to the
Trump administration’s immigration policies. Through it all, Common continues to make music. His new album, “Let Love,” accompanies his
new memoir, by the same name. He recently came by the “NewsHour” to talk
about both. Common, welcome to the “NewsHour.” COMMON: Oh, man, I love hearing that. Thank you for having me. (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: I want to ask about your memoir
now. It’s called “Let Love Have the Last Word.” There is an accompanying album coming out
with it, too. What was it about this stage of your career,
this stage of your life that made you want to sit down and write this book? COMMON: Well, I think it’s a lot of what we
see going on in the world, like the divisiveness, the anxiety, a lot of the — including the
attacks and things. I really wanted to put — instill something
that was hopeful, instill something that could be solution-oriented, and something that has
been an antidote for me, a resource for me to overcome, you know, tough times in my life. I wanted to share with other people, because
so many of my conversations was based around anxiety, and so many of the conversations
I was having with people, and I was like, hey, you all, we can do it. We can — like, I got hope. We can do it as people, as human beings. Let’s find the common place for us and, like,
start from there. AMNA NAWAZ: It’s also a very intensely personal
book, this memoir, right? COMMON: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: And I was reading that your daughter
actually inspired a lot of what you shared in here. Tell me about that. COMMON: Yes. Well, we had a conversation, my daughter and
I. She really challenged me as a father where
she told me places where she didn’t think I was, like, showing up as a father. And, you know, initially my emotion was, wait,
but I love you. And I was hurting, defensive, and even, with
some things, angry about some of the things she said. But somewhere during that course of the conversation,
I just looked at her and said, man, this is my daughter. Let me listen to her. I knew I wanted to write about love, but not
just romantic love. So, when that incident happened, it just gave
me like more things to talk about how it can be an action, how it can be a practice. AMNA NAWAZ: One of the other things that you
share for the first time, speaking publicly about it, was that, as a child, you suffered
a very serious trauma. COMMON: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: You were molested when you were
9 years old. COMMON: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: What did it take for to you get
to a place where you felt like you could talk about that? COMMON: I felt that, if I decided to talk
about it, it would be healing for me, but also healing for others, because other people
experience sexual abuse, molestation, just physical abuse. And I knew, as a black man, me talking about
it would give a gateway and an opening for other men, black people, brown people, you
know, just to be able to talk about it, because — and I bring us, you know, black people
into the equation, because, for us, in our culture, it’s not really discussed. Like, when those things happen, it’s not talked
about as much on, how do we solve this? How do we, like, stop the cycle? So I really knew that, if I told my story
and told it in a way that is really just raw and truthful, and still acknowledge that I’m
in the process, and it would allow other human beings to come out and talk about it, and
hopefully be a part of the healing, because my ultimate goal is to, how do — to stop
the cycle, yes. AMNA NAWAZ: Do you feel like you’re still
going through that healing? Where do you feel you are right now in your
personal journey? COMMON: I feel like I’m in a great place of
forgiveness. I’m still learning, like, what — how this
affected my life in different ways. And, you know, one of the things I’m learning
through the process is to be kind to myself, you know, and not just, like, judge everything
I do. When I make mistakes, or just to beat myself
down, like, I try learn from the mistakes and acknowledge where I was wrong and move
forward. Now, this is something where I wasn’t wrong,
but I still — as a human being, you hold guilt, you hold shame. And I just try to make sure I’m being loving
to myself, and in the process deal with each emotion that I have. And I think, overall, I feel like this is
bigger than me anyway. AMNA NAWAZ: You have never been afraid of
tackling the tough stuff in your career, whether it’s about your own personal journeys. You mentioned your criminal justice reform
work. You tweet a lot about immigration detention. You were tweeting about the ICE raids recently
and injustices that you see going on around you. Where does that come from? Do you feel, like, a sense of responsibility
to pay attention and be engaged? COMMON: Yes, I think — you know, I grew up
on the South Side of Chicago, a community which I really love. And that community is like many other communities
that suffer from being marginalized, being treated less than, having lack of opportunities
and resources. So, when I see somebody being pushed down,
I just relate to it, and I don’t like it, meaning, like, when I see what’s going on
with the people that’s trying to get into in the country and families being separated,
it’s just — it’s not fair life. It’s not good humanity to other people. So I have to speak up. It’s my duty as a human being, as an artist,
and not only speaking now. To me, my speaking has to become action, and
that’s what I’m in — more involved in. Like, I have Imagine Justice. That’s why I went to the prisons. That’s the organization I’m a part of, where
we do social activism in different spaces, including immigration as one of the spaces
we are now in the process of figuring out, how can we be a solution to this issue? AMNA NAWAZ: It’s fair to say music is still
your first love? COMMON: It’s my first love, but I love, like,
acting just as much as I love music. So, I’m not going to deny that. I love acting. It’s fun. (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: You did say something in your
book I wanted to read to you, though, about sort of the roots of where your music comes
from, which is freestyling. COMMON: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: Talking about rapping, you say:
“I have been rapping for more than 25 years now. I would rap for free. I would rap if I lived on the streets. I would rap if I were a preacher or a prisoner
or a politician.” You say it’s your release, that, sometimes,
even if you can’t do it in the studio, you just hop in the car and you go and you do. You really just do that? COMMON: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: You just get out in the car and
freestyle? COMMON: Yes. I mean, I love — that’s actually how I write
my songs, is, like, I get in the car and I just, like, put on a beat, and I say my raps
out loud. I just start freestyling whatever lines I
like. I do believe it’s a divine expression, meaning
I’m only creating when I’m at my — when I’m in like a pure place and I’m feeling like
this — I’m not thinking too hard. AMNA NAWAZ: Yes. COMMON: It’s just coming out. It’s just flowing. Like, there’s no way to, like, try to describe
the process, besides I can tell you the steps, but I can’t really tell you how it’s done. AMNA NAWAZ: Common, I can’t thank you enough
for coming by. The new book is called “Let Love Have the
Last Word.” COMMON: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: Thanks for your time. COMMON: Thank you for having me. Sometimes, she might even ask if I can come
here and rap off facts. I’m going to tell you this. Even sitting in the booth, any time I talk
about facts, I speak truth. That’s what it is. I spring truth to power. I came to do this at the “PBS NewsHour.” JOHN YANG: We will be back shortly with how
the mayor of Los Angeles sees homelessness as a humanitarian issue. But, first, take a moment to hear from your
local PBS station. It’s a chance to offer your support, which
helps keep programs like ours on the air. (BREAK) JOHN YANG: We close tonight with a look at
the personal side of politics. The latest episode of our Facebook show “That
Moment When” is out today. And
in it, the mayor of Los Angeles tells Steve Goldbloom how he came to
see homelessness as a humanitarian crisis. Here’s a preview. ERIC GARCETTI (D), Mayor of Los Angeles: When
I was 14, I started volunteering on Skid Row
here in Los Angeles, people who were sleeping at that time in cardboard boxes, folks who
I was giving socks to and talking to for the first time and engaging with them. I think I couldn’t believe that, in our city
of so much, there are people who live that way. I took that with me to college in New York,
where I did a lot of work rebuilding housing and helping folks who were experiencing homelessness
come home, and then came back to L.A. I think I recognized that this was a humanitarian
crisis, not just in America, but in work that I did around the world, that war, economy,
sickness, lack of a social safety net, or just people’s own indifference is what causes
people to stay on the streets. STEVE GOLDBLOOM: Who are the people working
every day that you want to call out to — working to reverse the seemingly intractable problem
of homelessness in Los Angeles? ERIC GARCETTI: People are beautiful and complicated. And people aren’t homeless for one reason. They’re experiencing trauma that might come
from war or the foster care system or sexual and domestic violence, or losing your job,
or going through a divorce, or having a health challenge, a mental health crisis, addiction. All of these things conspire together and
can result in somebody experiencing homelessness. But what solves that? One person who stays with somebody, even when
they doubt that the help is there, when they question why somebody even cares anymore,
who stays with them until they know their name, know their story, and help them write
a new chapter off the streets. STEVE GOLDBLOOM: How are you working with
the city to reduce the use of L.A. County Jail as a mental word? ERIC GARCETTI: The largest mental health facility
in the United States of America is Los Angeles County Jails. Here in
the city of L.A., we’re prioritizing helping people get jobs working for the city and other public agencies when they
come out of jail, because nothing stops recidivism better than a job. In California, you have a two-thirds chance
of going back behind bars when you get out if you don’t have a job. We know how we can stop this cycle. JOHN YANG: You can find all episodes of
this series on Facebook Watch @thatmomentwhenshow. And we have a developing story tonight. Philadelphia’s police commissioner, Richard
Ross, is resigning. The city’s mayor made the announcement in a statement, citing new allegations of sexual
harassment and racial and gender discrimination against others in the department. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Ross was
made aware of the allegations — or was aware of
the allegations, but didn’t act on them. So far, no specific details about the claims
have been made public. And that’s the “NewsHour” for tonight. I’m John Yang. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour,” thanks. See you soon.

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