PBS NewsHour full episode September 2, 2019


JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff. On the “NewsHour” tonight: the coming storm. Hurricane Dorian lays siege to the Bahamas,
as it continues its journey closer to the U.S. mainland. Then: former Secretary of Defense James Mattis
on leadership, the role of the military and his work in the Trump administration. JAMES MATTIS, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense:
George Washington, the father of our country, I think, put it very well, how you have to
listen, learn, help, and then lead. That was his approach, and I think it’s one
that served me well. JUDY WOODRUFF: Plus: Parliament, the prime
minister, and the protests in the street — outrage in the United Kingdom as no-deal Brexit looms. ZOE BINNIE, Protester Organizer: I think this
is a British coup. It’s very polite, it’s very unassuming, and
that’s the worst thing. It’s very quiet. JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight’s
“PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: Hurricane Dorian pummeled the
Bahamas today, leading to several deaths and what was called catastrophic damage. Officials confirmed at least five people died
in the Abaco Islands. And there are many reports of people in serious
distress tonight. The prime minister of the Bahamas called the
storm — quote — “a historic tragedy.” The damage was also on the minds of federal,
state and local leaders in the U.S., as preparations continued for possible landfall this week. John Yang reports from Florida. JOHN YANG: Hurricane Dorian carved a slow,
destructive path across the Bahamas today. It made landfall yesterday with winds exceeding
185 miles per hour, a Category 5 storm, the strongest on record to strike the island nation. Dorian weakened to a Category 4 storm this
morning, but continued lashing the Bahamas. The winds rocked trees. Torrential rains triggered massive flooding. HUBERT MINNIS, Prime Minister of the Bahamas:
Some areas, you Cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street vs. where
the ocean begins. JOHN YANG: The storm toppled power poles and
damaged vehicles. The current forecast envisions Dorian moving
dangerously close to the Southeastern U.S. Seaboard, offshore of Florida’s East Coast
tonight through Wednesday evening. It’s expected to pass near the Carolinas,
where states of emergency have now been declared. Even a minor deviation could send Dorian onshore. But if it doesn’t make landfall, it still
has the potential to do major damage. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis: GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Hurricane Dorian has
shown what it is capable of. It’s absolutely battered the Bahamas. Our East Coast is certainly within the cone
still, and people need to remain vigilant. If you’re ordered to evacuate, you need to
do that. JOHN YANG: At the Good Samaritan Society’s
retirement community in Kissimmee, outside Orlando, a fleet of ambulances transported
seniors to a sister facility on higher ground. The community was flooded after Hurricane
Irma in 2017. Throughout Florida, past experiences are shaping
residents’ responses. Ivette Alsina of Winter Haven, south of Orlando,
stocked up on sandbags, and other emergency supplies. You got everything ready here. You’re all prepared. IVETTE ALSINA, Florida: Almost prepared. I think I’m prepared. I got the batteries, flashlight, a first kit. I got food, water. Everything is set. JOHN YANG: Alsina is among the tens of thousands
of Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida after surviving 2017’s Hurricane Maria. How did you feel when you heard about this
hurricane and that it might be coming and hitting Florida? IVETTE ALSINA: I felt fear and anxiety. JOHN YANG: Anxiety? IVETTE ALSINA: Yes, because it’s really bad. I was in Puerto Rico when Maria passed. And thinking that that is coming here right
now is really bad. JOHN YANG: She evacuated from Cayey, Puerto
Rico, 10 days after Maria to get treatment for high blood pressure. Storm warnings this week have put her back
on high alert. IVETTE ALSINA: Three days ago, I went to the
doctor. He gave me a lot of medicines, so I can be
calm through the toll of these days. JOHN YANG: Other Puerto Ricans in the area
are also feeling tense. MILLIE SANTIAGO, Florida (through translator):
I’m not the only one. I have received a lot of calls from Puerto
Rican families who ended up here because of Maria. They’re in critical states of anxiety. JOHN YANG: Millie Santiago is another survivor
of Hurricane Maria. She’s helping 22 families staying at an Episcopal
Church conference center outside Orlando, where mental health counselors are on hand. Yemanja Krasnow is a University of Central
Florida clinician and social worker. YEMANJA KRASNOW, University of Central Florida:
A lot of the Puerto Ricans that came to Central Florida post-Maria, they had some very traumatic
experience. It wasn’t just the storm. There was loss of lives. There was loss of house, of pets, of properties,
of businesses. So there was a compound of trauma going on,
not just the experience of the hurricane itself. JOHN YANG: In Jacksonville, restaurant owner
Andy Zarka is preparing for the possibility his business might end up underwater, as it
did during Hurricane Irma. ANDY ZARKA, Florida: They told us two years
ago that Irma was a once-in-a-lifetime storm, that there’s no — it’s never happened like
that and it’s never going to happen again. And now here we are two years later, and we’re
getting ready for what could be Irma 2.0. JOHN YANG: On Jacksonville Beach, residents
enjoyed a pleasant day while considering their next steps. WALTER CHOWN, Florida: We are going to take
our time on making a decision to leave. But, especially having children, we don’t
want to make — be foolhardy or make bad decisions. JOHN YANG: Others took advantage of the high
Atlantic waves Dorian churned up. But few expect the calm to last long. Here on Jacksonville Beach, the winds and
the waves already picking up, even though the brunt of Hurricane Dorian won’t be felt
for another 48 hours or so. Just a little bit ago, the Orlando Airport
announced it is suspending operations overnight tonight, which means that every major airport
on the eastern side of Florida from West Palm Beach to Daytona Beach is now closed. And, Judy, even if Dorian doesn’t make landfall,
it doesn’t mean there won’t be any damage. The track it’s forecast to take is very similar
to Hurricane Matthew about — in 2016. That storm too stayed off the coast, never
made landfall all the way to North Carolina. It caused about $3 billion of damage and claimed
12 lives — Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we remember that well. So, John, I — you were telling us you have
been talking to a lot of people there in Florida about the decisions they’re having to make
about whether to go, whether to stay. Tell us a little about what they’re saying. JOHN YANG: Well, this hurricane has been sort
of on the news and in the headlines for about a week now. They started talking about it last Monday. The good news is, that’s given a lot of people
a lot of time to plan. The bad news may be, it’s also given a lot
of people time to worry, and anxiety levels are high. But I thought that with the — perhaps with
the storm taking so long to get here, with it slowing down over the Bahamas so much,
that some people might become complacent. But the people I have talked to say that they
know what storms can do. This is the — would be the eighth major hurricane
to hit Florida since 2000. And a lot of people say that they know what
storms can do, they respect their power. And they also point to Andrew, the storm in
1992 that did about $27 billion worth of damage, killed 65. They say, since then, they take every storm
seriously. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John, they are now issuing,
what, evacuation orders in Georgia and in the Carolinas. JOHN YANG: That’s right, up and down the coast. Low-lying coastal counties — actually, all
the counties along the coast have mandatory evacuation orders in place. And in South Carolina, they have begun what
they call contraflow. All the interstates going into Charleston,
all the traffic is outbound — from Charleston to Colombia outbound, and the other parts
of the state, the interstates all leading out of Charleston. You can’t get into Charleston. They want people to leave. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. Even with this hurricane still sitting over
the Bahamas, so much havoc it is already creating up and down the East Coast. John Yang, reporting for us tonight from Jacksonville
Beach, thank you, John. Back in the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian spent
much of this day pummeling Grand Bahama and other islands and is expected hover there
into tomorrow. The National Hurricane Center warned this
afternoon of ocean storm surges that could be 20 feet higher than normal, while wind
gusts were nearly 200 miles an hour at times. Phone service has been spotty or disconnected
there. So we check in this evening with Danica Coto,
who covers the Caribbean for the Associated Press. She’s been reporting, along with a colleague
who’s in the Bahamas. Danica joins us via Skype from San Juan, Puerto
Rico. Danica, hello again to us. So, what are you hearing about what this hurricane
has done to the Bahamas? DANICA COTO, Associated Press: Well, there’s
a lot of harrowing call for help coming out of not only the Abaco Islands, which was hit
on Sunday, but as well from Grand Bahama Island, which was affected today, on Monday — all
Monday for more than 12 hours. It’s a pretty significant amount of time for
an island that is mostly zero to 15 feet above sea levels, given that the storm surge is
expected between 18 to 23 feet. JUDY WOODRUFF: I was seeing in a report you
did with your colleague in the Bahamas there were something like over 2,000 distress calls? DANICA COTO: Correct. A lot of people were calling in for friends
and relatives, relaying messages to a radio station that was then passing on messages
to the Emergency Management Agency. These calls ranged from a 5-month-old that
was stuck atop a roof, to an elderly woman who had a stroke, to a pregnant woman, to
a grandmother with six grandchildren who had to literally cut a hole in the roof. And many of these people were asking for help. But rescue crews said that they were unable
to go out, given the current weather conditions. So, unfortunately, a lot of people were left
waiting for help. And as soon as the weather cleared, officials
said they could go out and help. And most of them went out as the eye passed
through Grand Bahama. So some people were able to be rescued, but
many are still waiting for help. JUDY WOODRUFF: What about infrastructure there? Danica, you mentioned it’s, what — you said
zero to 15 feet above sea level. How prepared are they to deal with any storm
and in particular a storm like this one that’s just sitting there? DANICA COTO: Well, the Bahamas is pretty used
to major storms. From 2015 to 2017, they were hit by three
Category 4 storms consecutively in those years. The homes are built to withstand 150 mile-per-hour
winds. But Dorian was no match. Dorian was carrying 185 mile-per-hour winds,
with gusts of up to 220 mile-per-hour winds, when it hit the Abaco Islands on Sunday. JUDY WOODRUFF: But we don’t know yet, is what
you’re saying, the extent of the destruction. DANICA COTO: Correct. Officials say they are still unable to go
to the Abaco Islands, which was hit on Sunday. And so the earliest they would be able to
go in to help these communities and the nearby keys would be around 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday. But a lot remains unknown, given that the
storm has basically parked itself over the Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands for two
days. JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it known how many people
were able actually to leave the Bahamas? I’m assuming not that many before the storm
hit. DANICA COTO: A lot of people sought shelter,
but legislators have said that many remained in the tiny keys around Abaco Island and Grand
Bahama. And they’re talking about creating legislation
to be able to enforce mandatory evacuations. JUDY WOODRUFF: But in order to do that, people
have to have the — they have to be able to afford to get on a boat or an airplane. DANICA COTO: Correct. They provide the transportation for many of
these people. And it was even up to 11:00 a.m. on Sunday,
which was the last bus leaving for shelters. And, even then, a couple of shelters in Grand
Bahama today were reporting problems with flooding. Our local reporters were saying that children
were sitting on the laps of adults as floodwaters began to rise in at least two shelters. Some people are describing the airport in
Freeport, which is in Grand Bahama. They say it looks like an ocean. A lot of areas are completely underwater. People are in the second floors of their homes. Bahama they say it looks like an ocean. A lot of areas are completely underwater. People are on the second floors of their homes
filming videos with waters rising. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s a terrible situation. And, of course, we’re all waiting to see what
more is learned. Danica Coto with the Associated Press, thank
you, Danica. DANICA COTO: Thank you very much. JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: Four
people died and another 29 are missing and feared dead after a dive boat sank off the
coast of Southern California. The 75-foot vessel caught fire before sinking
near Santa Cruz Island. The Ventura County Fire Department released
photos of the boat engulfed in flames before dawn. All five crew members survived by jumping
into the water. But the U.S. Coast Guard is still combing
the site, looking for missing passengers. CAPT. MONICA ROCHESTER, U.S. Coast Guard: Presently,
the Coast Guard is — has full efforts in a response posture right now. We are currently still in the response phase. Right now, they are conducting shoreline searches
for any available survivors. JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s still unclear what caused
the fire. Federal transportation authorities have sent
a team to the scene to investigate. Authorities in Odessa, Texas, say the gunman
who killed seven in a mass shooting this weekend was fired from his job on the day of the attack. The shooter wounded at least 22 people before
he was killed by police. Authorities said he made rambling calls to
911 and to the FBI before the attack. CHRISTOPHER COMBS, FBI Special Agent in Charge:
He was on a long spiral of going down. He didn’t wake up Saturday morning and walk
into his company and then it happened. He went to that company in trouble. He’s probably been in trouble for a while,
which is why we have been reaching out. I talked to some of you yesterday about, we
really need the public’s help to reach out to us when they see people in that downward
spiral that may be on that road to violence. JUDY WOODRUFF: We will get a report on the
latest from Odessa later in the program. In Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed responsibility
for a massive explosion that rocked the capital city, Kabul, today, killing at least five
civilians. More than 50 others were wounded. It targeted the heavily secured Green Village
compound that’s home to several aid agencies and international organizations. The attack happened hours after U.S. envoy
Zalmay Khalilzad briefed the Afghan government about a draft peace deal with the Taliban. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson is in
Kabul, and joins us now. Jane, good evening. JANE FERGUSON: Hi, Judy. This is just the latest of a series of escalating
attacks by the Taliban in recent days, designed to keep up pressure on both the United States
and the Afghan government here in Kabul. The timing is very significant. The U.S. special envoy to those peace talks
between the United States government and the Taliban that have been taking place in Qatar,
Zalmay Khalilzad, just arrived this weekend back into Kabul, where he is presenting Afghan
President Ashraf Ghani with the initial details of a proposed agreement between the United
States and the Taliban. It’s believed they’re close to agreeing on
a U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, but have yet to finalize that agreement. In the meantime, the Taliban have marched
on two major cities in the north of Afghanistan just over the weekend as well. JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s special correspondent
Jane Ferguson reporting from Kabul tonight. Thank you, Jane. In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of students
boycotted their first day of class to join anti-government demonstrations. Their peaceful rallies followed a weekend
of violent clashes with police that resulted in over 150 arrests. Today, high school and college students wore
face masks and school uniforms, as they demanded democratic change and an inquiry into police
conduct. ANDY CHAN, Student (through translator): I
think that secondary school students are part of society, and if we secondary school students
decide to boycott classes, that shows that part of society has already stopped functioning. JUDY WOODRUFF: The mass pro-democracy protests
in the semiautonomous Chinese territory began in June. Police officials have arrested more than 1,000
people since then. Medics in Yemen pulled 88 bodies from a demolished
detention center run by Houthi rebels. The building was targeted yesterday by Saudi-led
coalition airstrikes. In all, the strikes killed over a hundred
people and wounded dozens more. It was the deadliest assault there so far
this year. And the Trump administration said today that
it’s reconsidering its decision to force immigrants with life-threatening illnesses to return
to their home countries. U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services
abruptly ended the program last month, sparking widespread condemnation from the medical community. The policy had allowed immigrants to avoid
deportation as they or relatives underwent lifesaving medical treatment. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: former Secretary
of Defense James Mattis speaks about his decades of service in the Marines and why he’s unwilling
to answer questions about President Trump; an update from Odessa, Texas, after a gunman
kills at least seven in deadly drive-by shootings; protesters in the U.K. angry over the prospect
of leaving the European Union without a deal; and much more. Now to my interview with former Secretary
of Defense retired Marine Corps General James Mattis. He resigned in protest just before Christmas
last year after President Trump announced that he would pull American forces out of
Syria. The U.S. and its allies were trying to finish
off the remnants of the ISIS caliphate, and Mattis wrote in his resignation letter that
he believed Mr. Trump deserved a secretary of defense whose — quote — “views are better
aligned with yours.” The decorated Marine served more than four
decades in uniform, including commands in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He left the Corps in 2013 after a tumultuous
turn running U.S. Central Command under President Obama. Secretary Mattis has written a new book, “Call
Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead.” And I sat down with him this morning in New
York City. Former Secretary James Mattis, thank you very
much for talking with us. JAMES MATTIS, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense:
Yes, it’s a pleasure to be here this morning. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the book is “Call Sign
Chaos.” It’s about your 40 years in the Marines. It’s also about your philosophy of leadership. And there’s a lot of advice in here with regard
to leadership. What does it boil down to? JAMES MATTIS: Well, I think leadership has
some enduring qualities, whether you’re leading a parish, or you’re leading a school district,
you’re leading a business, or you’re in the military or politics. George Washington, the father of our country,
I think, put it very well, how you have to listen, learn, help, and then lead. That was his approach. And it’s one that served me well. JUDY WOODRUFF: The book is full of so many
stories of your life, among other things, how you thought the troops and the people
out on the front lines were not being listened to by people in Washington. And one of those examples was in 2001, when
you thought Osama bin Laden, you had him cornered, in essence, in Afghanistan, but then the Bush
administration, in effect, pulled the rug out from under you. JAMES MATTIS: The Marine Corps required you
to read a lot of history. And when our intelligence services said that
they believed Osama bin Laden was in one of two valleys in an area up near Tora Bora,
having studied the Geronimo Campaign, and how you could put in outposts that would cut
him off, I pressed very hard to move against him. The challenge we face — and you’re right
to bring it up the way you did, Judy — is, oftentimes, we have 19- and 25-year-olds out
there giving 100 percent, rigorously learning their jobs and carrying them out, but I’m
not sure we have been as rigorous in setting policy. And this isn’t about Republicans or Democrats
or partisan. This goes across party lines. It even goes throughout the Western democracies
right now that seem to be stumbling in protection of democratic values and what we all stand
for. JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about a few
issues touching on American leadership today, and start with Russia. You write at the end of the book especially
about the critical importance of alliances, of America’s allies. Is it a good or a bad idea to let Russia back
into the G7, which is what the president has suggested? JAMES MATTIS: Let me answer that in two ways,
Judy. First, I believe that, when someone departs
an administration over policy differences, you have what the French call a duty of reserve,
a devoir de reserve. I don’t want to, on the outside, be making
it more difficult for our secretary of defense, secretary of state and president who have
to deal with this very complex world. There will be a time when it’s right for me
to come out on strategy and policy disagreements. But I was clear in my letter of resignation
that I believed in having alliances and staying true to alliances. And I think that, as we look at the importance
of alliances, this is critical that we work with our allies. For example, when this town was attacked on
9/11, I was joined on the battlefield very quickly by troops from Canada and the United
Kingdom, Norway and Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, and Turkey, not because their
city had been attacked, because we had been attacked. So we need to hold our allies close. In this world, if you study history, nations
with allies thrive, and nations without allies wither. And that’s a reality. JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about Russia joining
— joining the G7? JAMES MATTIS: Yes, I think I maintain my quiet
right now. I don’t want to speak to things that I’m no
longer responsible for. JUDY WOODRUFF: Saudi Arabia. Given what we know about the murder of journalists
Jamal Khashoggi, is it in the long-term interests of the U.S. to be working with Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman? JAMES MATTIS: I think what we have to look,
and what my book is written about is the lessons I learned about, how do you lead? And part of this is, at times, you have to
work with countries that you don’t share everything in common with. No doubt about that. But when you get into current policies and
that sort of — that sort of subject, the reason I want to keep quiet right now is,
we have troops all around the world engaged in operations. We have diplomats all around the world engaged
in very sensitive negotiations. And for a former sitting secretary of defense
to come out with criticism, especially when I’m not completely current — I don’t know
all the back-channel things that are going on — I think it’s unhelpful, especially when
I’m contributing to political assessments at a time when it’s — the political discussions
in this country are so corrosive. I think it is better that we all — at least
the majority of us learn how to roll up our sleeves and listen to each other, work together,
and try to support sound policies that answer the question you just asked. JUDY WOODRUFF: I hear what you’re saying,
Secretary Mattis, but your book is full of references to decisions made for ethical reasons. This is an ethical decision, is it not, given
what Mohammed bin Salman is accused of? JAMES MATTIS: I believe it would be an ethical
decision about working with him. I think you can separate that decision from
working with Saudi Arabia. And that’s difficult to do. But this is sometimes the case that those
in positions of authority, they have to make accommodations to things, where you take the
least of two bad options. JUDY WOODRUFF: North Korea. President Trump has praised Kim Jong-un as
a great leader with — quote — “a beautiful vision” and that, due to the president’s personal
diplomacy, he says he’s changed his behavior. How do you assess Kim Jong-un and the success
at this point of U.S. policy with North Korea? JAMES MATTIS: I’m going to frustrate you here,
Judy, because I don’t believe that, now in the cheap seats, is what I would call myself,
that I’m going to engage in political assessments of something like that. There will come a point where I want to talk
about strategy and policy. It’s not yet. But there will come a time. JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as you know, the election
coming up in November of next year, Americans are going to be making a very important decision
about in whom to place enormous decision-making power over the future of this country and
the world. Are you saying you don’t think it’s your responsibility
to speak up before the election? JAMES MATTIS: That’s exactly what I’m saying. I come from the Department of Defense. And this isn’t just about me. Secretary Ash Carter, the secretary of defense
under President Obama, made very clear that the defense of this country is a nonpartisan
issue. And that was our area of expertise. He studiously avoided political statements. And that — so, this is not just me trying
to be protective of the administration that I just left over policy differences, I might
add. This is a standing tradition of the American
military and the American defense establishment that goes back to century now. And in the current corrosive political debates,
it can get submerged, where everybody thinks it’s all about political assessments all the
time. That doesn’t have to be the case when it comes
to the U.S. military. They protect the experiment. And it’s pretty a raucous experiment right
now. JUDY WOODRUFF: But you also served as the
secretary of defense, a Cabinet position… JAMES MATTIS: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: … in the government with
immense responsibility. And I just want to ask you some more about
that, because you spent a lot of time with the editor of “The Atlantic,” Jeffrey Goldberg. He did — wrote a very thoughtful piece for
them. He talked to a number of your associates. They have talked to you about President Trump,
that they believe what you believe about him is that he is a man of limited cognitive ability
and of generally dubious character. JAMES MATTIS: Number one, I never said that. And I’m not going to comment on who might
have said it. But I wouldn’t tolerate, when I was on active
duty or as secretary defense, any condemnation or characterization like that of any elected
commander in chief. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, to those who would — and
some are writing this right now — who say that you have a responsibility, because you
have worked so closely with this president, to speak candidly about what you have seen? And some of them are saying, you’re trying
to have it both ways, that you both enjoyed this position of enormous influence inside
the administration, but now you’re out, you don’t have that responsibility anymore, and
you’re not speaking to the American people about what you know. And allies of this country could be asking
the same question. JAMES MATTIS: Well, I — frankly, I determine
my own responsibilities. And I have lived what I believed is a responsible
life. The area of expertise that I had had to do
with the protection of this experiment that you and I call America. It’s the protection of it. And, at times, it’s very raucous. But I also have a lot of confidence in the
American people that they can select who they think is the best president, without me coming
in from the outside on a — as a defense official, whether active or former or whatever, and
start sounding like I’m the one who is able to evaluate those who have the toughest job
in the world. JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you confident this is a
president who can be trusted with the nuclear codes, a fateful responsibility? JAMES MATTIS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: You want to expand on that,
why you believe that? JAMES MATTIS: You know, the responsibility
that lies — and that’s a very grave one. I have not heard anything that would indicate
there was some irresponsibility there. The thing is, Judy, that we live in a time
where every word is taken apart. And I realize we have an unusual president,
and he talks openly about many things. But, at the same time, in the privacy of the
office, he has to deal with the reality of competing factors. And I would bring the grim realities of war
into that office. At the same time, political leaders are elected
to try to bring human aspirations to bear, of a better economy, of pulling troops out
of wars. This is the normal — to me, this is the normal
tension between human aspirations and war’s realities, those grim realities. And it’s something that, I like being hard
on the issues. I don’t believe in being hard on the people. JUDY WOODRUFF: If you believed that this president
or any president wasn’t a fit commander in chief, would you say so? JAMES MATTIS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: In other words, you think he’s
fit? JAMES MATTIS: No, I’m not saying that. I don’t make political assessments one way
or the other. I come from the Defense Department. We protect this experiment in democracy. We don’t make assessments of the people’s
choice to serve as the elected commander in chief. JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Secretary of Defense
James Mattis, thank you very much for talking with us. JAMES MATTIS: You’re welcome, Judy. Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: The weekend shooting rampage
in West Texas has left two more American communities in mourning. Seven people were killed in Odessa and nearby
Midland on Saturday, and another 22 people were wounded, including a 17-month-old girl. It came after state troopers stopped the alleged
shooter for driving his car erratically. He shot one of the troopers and then sped
away, firing at people randomly. William Brangham gets an update. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Judy, there was an emotional
vigil last night for victims of the shooting. The gunman’s motive is still unknown. He was apparently fired from his job just
before the traffic stop that started the shootings. This, of course, all comes less than a month
since the massacre at the Walmart in El Paso that killed 22 people. Mitch Borden of Marfa Public Radio joins me
from Midland via Skype. Mitch, thank you very much for doing this. Could you just tell me, first off, what we
know about the seven victims who were killed in this rampage? MITCH BORDEN, Marfa Public Radio: We know
they ranged in age by quite a bit, the youngest being 15 and the oldest being 57. The youngest was a high school student, a
sophomore at a local Odessa high school. And other than that, information is coming
out slowly about the victims. There are fund-raisers. But, so far, at least from what I have seen,
they haven’t released a complete list of the names of the dead. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And this is such a strange
type of mass shooting, where it’s going sort of between these two cities from location
to location. How are the two communities of Midland and
Odessa doing, grappling with all of this? MITCH BORDEN: Just to clear things up, the
traffic stop probably started in Midland County, but it mostly took place in Odessa. The shooter never went to the city limits
of Midland. And both communities, I think, are just in
shock. After being at the vigil last night, people
are ready to heal, but people are scared. This happened in so many places, so quickly,
so many people were affected, that, you know, it’s only, what, two days later. Like, people are trying to still just understand
how this happened. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And Governor Abbott today
said we still don’t know anything about the motive of what drove this man to act this
way. But he did say something, that they found
out something about him failing some background checks for purchasing guns. Can you tell us more about that? MITCH BORDEN: Yes, it does — it did come
out in a presser held earlier today by the — by law enforcement officials that he had
in the past failed a background check. They didn’t release any more information. They also said they didn’t know how he obtained
the assault-style weapon that he used in the shooting. Other than that, we will just have to wait
for them to release more information. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So this massacre, following
El Paso, also occurs right when a series of new state laws go into effect that would loosen
prior gun regulations in the state of Texas. What are those changes? MITCH BORDEN: There’s a lot. There were eight laws that came into effect
on September 1. But a lot of them make it easier to carry
guns in certain settings, such as houses of worship during a disaster. One increased the amount of school marshals
that can carry a firearm. And at a presser — a presser yesterday, Governor
Abbott addressed a crowd and talked to them about action was needed, but he didn’t specify
what type of action. And when asked about, like, these regulations,
he stated that some of them make situations safer, such as the school one, where school
marshal — more school marshals can be armed. So he didn’t want to really engage on the
idea that maybe these regulations make things unsafe. And, so far, there hasn’t been any more comment
around Odessa on this matter. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, calls for new gun
control measures always follow these types of shootings. We saw that after El Paso and Dayton, and
we certainly saw it here. And I know former Congressman Beto O’Rourke
was in the region. I know you were with — I take it, with him
earlier today. He has made much of his presidential campaign
based on gun control. He’s called for some very aggressive measures,
like mandatory buybacks of assault-style weapons. Did he talk about that today? And, if so, what is your sense of, how does
that play in Texas to Texas ears? MITCH BORDEN: You know, I — when I saw him,
he was visiting a Labor Day celebration, a potluck at a union hall — or, like, a celebration
put on by unions. And he was just there trying to spread support
from all of West Texas, El Paso. The shooting in El Paso happened less than
30 days ago. And it was just about trying to bring the
communities together. And he also said action needed to be taken. He didn’t go into, like — and during his
speech, he didn’t go into the certain policies, but he did express like, yes, more things
need to be done on a policy level. He wasn’t shy about that. I don’t think he’s usually shy about that. How that will play in Texas, I think Texas
is a red state. I think a lot of people love guns in this
state and are very protective of their Second Amendment rights. At the same time, two mass shootings in less
than 30 days. I think some people do want change. And I think you can get really granular when
you go into what type of change people want. But I think people are getting to their wit’s
end with this violence. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Mitch Borden of Marfa Public
Radio, thank you very much for your time and for your reporting. MITCH BORDEN: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: Britain has begun a critical
week in the battle over its planned exit from the European Union. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered members
of his governing Conservative Party to back his efforts to secure the best possible Brexit
deal. The state of Britain’s democracy is now under
severe scrutiny, after Johnson obtained the queen’s permission to suspend Parliament,
in an apparent attempt to halt debate over Brexit. As special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports,
that move led to dozens of demonstrations over the weekend. MALCOLM BRABANT: Members of Boris Johnson’s
Cabinet were summoned to his Downing Street residence for an emergency session. He told them he’s optimistic of getting concessions
from Europe, so that Britain can leave on October the 31st with a deal. But his plans are being threatened by an opposition
bill due to be tabled by the Labor leader, Jeremy Corbyn, tomorrow. With demonstrators jeering in the background,
the prime minister urged his party to back him. BORIS JOHNSON, British Prime Minister: But
if there’s one thing that can hold us back in these talks, it is the sense in Brussels
that M.P.s may find some way to cancel the referendum or that, tomorrow, M.P.s will vote
with Jeremy Corbyn for yet another pointless delay. I don’t think they will. I hope that they won’t. But, if they do, they will plainly chop the
legs out from under the U.K. position and make any further negotiation absolutely impossible. MALCOLM BRABANT: The implied threat was that,
if the government fails to defeat the bill in Parliament tomorrow, he will seek a general
election. BORIS JOHNSON: I don’t want an election. You don’t want an election. Let’s get on with the people’s agenda. MALCOLM BRABANT: Johnson spent the weekend
war-gaming with his closest advisers at his official retreat, Chequers, after he decided,
controversially, to suspend Parliament for five weeks. His ultimatum is a response to plans outlined
by Labor’s Brexit spokesman, Sir Keir Starmer. SIR KEIR STARMER, Brexit Spokesperson, Labor
Party: The legislation is simple and straightforward, the purpose of which is to ensure that, if
we get to the 31st of October without a deal, we do not crash out. There’s no mandate from the referendum for
crashing out without a deal, nor is there a mandate from Parliament for that. So, actually, Boris Johnson has no mandate
for this at all. MALCOLM BRABANT: Two opinion polls conducted
in recent days indicate that Boris Johnson is gaining support for his tough stance. Despite the resistance to the suspension of
Parliament, one of those polls suggests that Johnson would win a general election. He’s buoyed by reactions like this from businesswoman
Kindi Kaur, a Conservative supporter. She’s from Gravesend, a district east of London
that voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. KINDI KAUR, Brexit Supporter: I think Boris
has done a fantastic tactical move here to make everyone pull their acts together and
give us a good deal. Otherwise, thank you very much. We’re leaving, whether you like it or not. And we are strong enough to survive this. MALCOLM BRABANT: The shockwaves of Boris Johnson’s
nuclear option to suspend Parliament have reverberated nationwide. There may not have been thousands on the queen’s
doorstep at Windsor Castle, but the symbolism was obvious. PROTESTERS: Stop the coup! Stop the coup! ZOE BINNIE, Protest Organizer: I think this
is a British coup. It’s very polite, it’s very unassuming. And that’s the worst thing. It’s very quiet. They slip things through the door. Before we know, we have accepted things that
we didn’t realize were going to happen. MALCOLM BRABANT: The precise verb to suspend
Parliament is prorogue. The prime minister insists it’s a standard
procedure, leaving ample time for lawmakers to debate Brexit. But protesters don’t believe him. CLAIRE PATON, Teacher: It’s the most vital
time in our recent history, and he’s just shut everybody up. He’s shut everybody out, so he can force through
what the vocal minority of people want, which is a no-deal Brexit. MALCOLM BRABANT: Architect Matthew Taylor
is concerned that Johnson is flouting the conventions of Britain’s unwritten constitution. MATTHEW TAYLOR, Architect: In the past, it’s
relied lots of trust and good faith, a belief that the people in charge are doing the right
thing. But if they switch to not doing it, it’s very
easy to start abusing a system like that, because there aren’t enough checks and balances
in place. MALCOLM BRABANT: Another reason for staging
the protest here. Just opposite the queen’s favorite pad in
Windsor lies Eton. The very name exudes privilege in class-obsessed
Britain. That Ivy-est of Ivy League schools, Eton College,
is where Britain’s royals and upper crust send their heirs to learn about gaining and
using power. It’s produced 20 British prime ministers,
including the latest, Boris Johnson. PROTESTERS: Hey, ho, Boris Johnson has to
go! ANGUS CAMERON, Chairman, Windsor Labor Party:
The idiot that got schooled just down the road has in one or two weeks destroyed everything. We are supposed to be the home place of democracy. OK? No longer. CRAIG MACKINLAY, British Parliament Member:
This has got nothing to do with outrage about democracy. This is all to do with trying to stop Brexit. And it’s not going to work. MALCOLM BRABANT: Craig Mackinlay is a leading
member of a hardcore conservative group of lawmakers? known as the Spartans. They helped depose the previous prime minister,
Theresa May, because they thought she wasn’t tough enough on Brexit. Mackinlay defends Parliament’s suspension
as normal, and applauds Johnson’s push for a better Brexit deal from Europe. CRAIG MACKINLAY: Everybody goes to look at
new houses, new cars. You don’t go into that showroom to buy a new
car and saying, I’m not leaving here until I buy it. If you’re not getting the deal you want, the
price you want and the extras you want, you walk away. So what Prime Minister Johnson has done is
trying to get that no-deal threat back on the table, because only if you have that no-deal
threat, in my view, have you got any chance of getting a deal that would be acceptable. MALCOLM BRABANT: There are fears that a no-deal
Brexit would cause hold ups at ports like Dover. The government has promised there will be
no food shortages. But Matthew Taylor is not convinced. MATTHEW TAYLOR: If anything, civil unrest
is likely to start when there are food shortages and stuff. Only a few months ago, we had people phoning
the police because KFC ran out of chicken. So, if people are going to react like that
about that, their idea of this Blitz spirit, where they all kind of survive on homegrown
vegetables, it’s not going to happen. MALCOLM BRABANT: They’re not starving just
yet, but there’s increasing worry, in picture-postcard Britain, that the country’s destiny is about
to change forever. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Malcolm Brabant
in Eton. JUDY WOODRUFF: From coast to coast, the 2020 presidential candidates celebrated Labor Day. But a weekend of breaking news turned their
attention to guns once again. Lisa Desjardins brings us this campaign update. LISA DESJARDINS: There they were, at work
today, among the crowds and parades charming potential voters. But, listen closely. On this Labor Day, Democratic candidates for
president focused less on jobs and wages, and more on the gun debate, after Odessa,
Texas, became the latest site of a mass shooting on Saturday. Take former Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa. He said the Constitution doesn’t protect semiautomatic
rifles, like the one used in Odessa. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), Presidential Candidate:
Having assault weapons on the street and multi — magazines carrying multiple bullets is
irrational. There is no need for it, and your Second Amendment
rights are in no way violated. LISA DESJARDINS: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar,singled
out Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on guns. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), Presidential Candidate:
Mitch McConnell is going to have to decide what side he’s on. He’s going to have to explain to the people
of this country why he wouldn’t let that bill that just passed the House come up for a vote. LISA DESJARDINS: And all this follows the
comments from former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who used an expletive on CNN Sunday
while reacting to another mass shooting in his home state. BETO O’ROURKE (D), Presidential Candidate:
So, yes, this is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up. And if we don’t call it out for what it is,
if we’re not able to speak clearly, if we’re not able to act decisively, then we will continue
to have this kind of bloodshed in America. And I cannot accept that. LISA DESJARDINS: In Los Angeles, California
Senator Kamala Harris hit several notes, vowing executive action on guns if Congress doesn’t
act, while commemorating the holiday. SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), Presidential Candidate:
We are celebrating the leadership of organized labor that brought all of us, whether you’re
member of a union or not, better conditions, better wages, better benefits. LISA DESJARDINS: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth
Warren sent out a Labor Day video to her supporters, while, for another candidate, Labor Day was
about their work force. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
is expanding in Iowa. PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), Presidential Candidate:
That starts with the folks who are gathered here. And it starts in this, the first of 20 field
offices that we’re going to be opening over the next few days. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) LISA DESJARDINS: In the meantime, Vermont
Senator Bernie Sanders focused on New England, stumping in the first-in-the-nation primary
state of New Hampshire. And that brings us to Politics Monday. Our Politics Monday team is back, Amy Walter
of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio’s “Politics With Amy Walter,” and Tamara
Keith from NPR. She also co-hosts “The NPR Politics Podcast.” Multimedia women, thank you for working this
Labor Day. We appreciate it. TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Absolutely. LISA DESJARDINS: Let’s start with unions on
this Labor Day. And, Tam, what do we know about President
Trump’s relationship with unions? He talks a lot about them. Is he keeping those voters right now? TAMARA KEITH: He does talk a lot about them. And what he talks about is how he really identifies
with the rank and file. And he is constantly saying, well, the union
bosses, they don’t like me, but the rank and file, they’re my people. The numbers don’t exactly bear that out. Certainly, some rank and file union members
and union households did support President Trump and no doubt continue to. But he’s really pushing the idea. And his idea, I think, the image in his mind
of a union worker is somebody with a hardhat and a lunch pail who takes a shower at the
end of the day. Now, that isn’t necessarily reflective of
union workers as a whole in America. (CROSSTALK) LISA DESJARDINS: And that’s what I want to
talk to you about, Amy. In your podcast, “Politics With Amy Walter”
from “The Takeaway”… (LAUGHTER) AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes. Thank you. LISA DESJARDINS: … you spent the whole episode
last week looking at this. And the face of actual union voters is not
what people think it is. AMY WALTER: Right. I mean, Tam is right that Trump has made inroads
with rank and file members, especially in places that we know are key to the presidential
election, in those battleground states. In Ohio, according to the exit polls, he actually
won union households by 13 points. This is a group of voters that four years
earlier Obama had won by 20. So there is something going on there. He did much better overall with labor voters,
for example — or union households is how exit polls ask that — than Romney did four
years earlier. So, yes, he’s been able to make some inroads. But Tam is also correct that this image of
the hardhat — and, really, we’re talking about a white guy with a hardhat or a white
guy who’s coming out of the mines — doesn’t reflect, I think, where labor currently is
in terms of its membership. It’s becoming much more female-centered. Certainly, for — people of color are much
more significant influence and force within the labor movement than they have been ever
before. And think about where — if you’re looking
to what the most high-profile union-organizing or labor issues have been in the last year
or so, it’s been the teacher strikes, again, a profession that’s heavily female, and the
Fight for 15, this — the organizing of fast food workers for minimum wage of $15 an hour. So, the service industry also very influential. And we know that, in 2018, women were a very
big source of Democratic votes and energy. And I think we should be looking also to those
women who are part of labor as a another piece of this. One more thing about the labor makeup that’s
interesting, I think part of the reason that Joe Biden has done as well — or doing as
well in the Democratic primary is that he’s seen as the candidate, the one candidate who
can win back those guys with lunch pails and hardhats in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in
Ohio. And that has, I think, helped submit his front-runner
status. TAMARA KEITH: And he obviously pushes that
image, that sort of Scranton Joe, middle-class Joe. AMY WALTER: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely, TAMARA KEITH: Like, he really — that is part
of his pitch. AMY WALTER: That’s right. TAMARA KEITH: And, in part, that pitch isn’t
just to white voters who fit the image. He’s also pitching that to voters of color
who just want to beat President Trump. LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. He’s saying: This is how we can win. I can get these voters. AMY WALTER: That’s right. TAMARA KEITH: Yes. LISA DESJARDINS: Another way that Democrats
are hoping to get attention and energize at least their base, maybe some suburban women
voters, is the issue of guns. We are here yet again on another Monday after
another weekend with more gun deaths in this country. Tam, where exactly do you think the White
House really is on wanting to get legislation through Congress of any kind? TAMARA KEITH: In part, I think the White House
is still trying to figure that out. I know that they — and I have spoken to people
who’ve been in meetings. The White House at a staff level has been
having meetings with gun rights people, but also with victims families and other advocates,
staff of members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. But what they think they can actually do,
what they think the president will actually get behind, that’s not clear. It’s — there’s sort of a disconnect right
now between the president and the staff, and sort of a disconnect between the president
from one moment to the next. And what I mean by that is, he keep saying
different things that are seemingly quite contradictory, saying, well, we do want to
do background checks, but then saying, except, you know, background checks wouldn’t have
prevented any of the recent shootings, so I guess maybe, well, we need to protect the
Second Amendment. It’s not clear exactly where he stands. The issue right now is that the White House
keeps saying, we need to know what is politically feasible. We need to know what can pass Congress. You talk to people over in Congress, and they
say, we need to know what the president would actually support. LISA DESJARDINS: Amy, yes. AMY WALTER: Doesn’t that sound familiar? (LAUGHTER) AMY WALTER: It feels like we have this conversation
a lot. The interesting element here, too, is what’s
happening on the Democratic side. And when we have talked to before about, this
is a really unique period of time where you have all the Democratic candidates running
for president pretty much united around the issue of guns, that’s brand-new. But now you see somebody like Beto O’Rourke
from Texas, who has retooled his campaign since the El Paso shooting, and is running
essentially on the issue of gun control, moving even farther than we have heard previous Democratic
candidates on issues like having buybacks for assault weapons. Will this become part of the debate? He’s no longer in Congress, but are there
other members of Congress who will say, huh, maybe we should put that into the mix, too? That’s probably — that is certainly too far
for Republicans. The question is, will it be too far for many
Democrats too? LISA DESJARDINS: This is a good transition
to another thing we have seen in the last week, which is more retirements from Congress,
especially by Republicans. I believe we’re at around 11 right now. I know it’s still early, but lightning round,
ladies. Are we going to see another record year retirements
from Congress, or no? TAMARA KEITH: Well, what I will say is that
some of these retirements are based on personal factors. Other retirements appear to be based on, well,
it’s just not that fun to be in the minority. AMY WALTER: Yes, that is absolutely true. I think we will know if there will be another
slew of retirements. There’s a special election in North Carolina
in a very Republican district on September 10, next week, right? TAMARA KEITH: Yes. AMY WALTER: That’s next week. (CROSSTALK) TAMARA KEITH: Already. AMY WALTER: I know. It feels like it’s already coming up on it. I think, should Democrats win there, that
would be another alarm bell and a real worry spot for Republicans, maybe another incentive
to pack it in. LISA DESJARDINS: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith,
thank you. Enjoy the rest of your holiday. TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome. AMY WALTER: Thank you. You too. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we thank Amy, Lisa, and
Tam for coming in on this Labor Day. And that’s the “NewsHour” for this day. I’m Judy Woodruff. Thank you, and we’ll see you soon.

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