JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: tensions rising.
The U.S. puts thousands of American troops on heightened alert, as the threat of Russian moves into Ukraine grows more serious.
Then: volatile markets.
Major stock indexes take a steep dive and then regain the day's losses amid ongoing concerns over inflation and interest rate hikes.
DANA PETERSON, The Conference Board: There's a lot of concern in markets about how fast the Fed is going to go in terms of tightening monetary policy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And political stakes.
Tamara Keith and Amy Walter discuss both parties' moves to punish their own members and President Biden's pledge to get out and talk to voters more.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: It is the most acute crisis between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.
And, today, both sides escalated their military deployments.
The U.S. is putting troops on higher alert.
NATO says it will reinforce its eastern flank, and Russia is adding to its already 100,000 troops on Ukraine's borders.
Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Moscow calls them drills, but they sound like preparations for war.
Russia's Defense Ministry today released new video of ships and military vehicles on trains deploying toward Ukraine's border.
These trucks will travel 3,700 miles from Russia's east.
From the west this weekend, American weapons traveled 4,800 miles to land in Kiev.
The U.S. says the additional 200,000 pounds of ammunition and other items inside these crates shows the U.S.' commitment to Ukraine.
Simultaneously, NATO's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, during a press conference with Swedish and Finnish defense ministers announced increased alliance support for NATO's eastern flank, heading to Southeast Europe:, Dutch F-35s and French troops under NATO command, heading to the Baltics, F-16s from Denmark, and deploying to the Black Sea, Spanish ships.
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO Secretary-General: These deployments are proportionate and in line with our international commitments.
And they reinforce European security for all of us.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, in a phone briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov used the announcement to call NATO the aggressor.
DMITRY PESKOV, Spokesman for Vladimir Putin (through translator): We can see the statement published by NATO on an enhancement of the contingent and the deployment of forces and hardware to the eastern flank.
All this leads to the further escalation of tensions.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But Stoltenberg called the deployments defensive.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Of course, the NATO presence is in no way threatening, because it is, compared to the significant military buildup by Russia in and around Ukraine, a very limited presence.
NICK SCHIFRIN: For years, NATO did not deploy to its Eastern European members.
But since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, NATO has deployed battle groups of at least 1,200 soldiers each to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
And after a telebriefing this weekend by his national security team, President Biden put 8,500 U.S.-based troops on high alert who could deploy quickly to Eastern Europe.
Defense officials tell "PBS NewsHour" those forces could come from bases, including Fort Bragg, Fort Carson, and Fort Campbell, destined to the NATO Response Force, or NRF.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby: JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: In the event of NATO's activation of the NRF or a deteriorating security environment, the United States would be in a position to rapidly deploy additional brigade combat teams, logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, transportation, and additional capabilities into Europe.
NICK SCHIFRIN: At the same time, the U.S. is drawing down its Kiev embassy.
All families are required to depart, and nonessential employees can leave if they want.
The United Kingdom announced the same.
Ukraine called it disappointing.
Foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko: OLEG NIKOLENKO, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Spokesman (through translator): We consider this U.S. move as premature and a manifestation of excessive caution.
In fact, there have been no cardinal changes in the security situation recently.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But the West is convinced the threat to Ukraine's government could be fatal.
This weekend, the U.K. released new intelligence revealing Russia planned regime change and had picked a pro-Russian leader.
U.S. officials tell "PBS NewsHour" the U.S. agrees with the British intelligence, which was released by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
LIZ TRUSS, British Foreign Secretary: The reason we put that out into the public domain is, we are going to call out every instance of Russia trying to influence democracy, trying to subvert Ukraine, false flag operations, and sabotage.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Calling out Russian actions, but little is stopping Russia's buildup that surrounds Ukraine.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: Jitters over Ukraine and broader economic worries sent Wall Street into a deep dive, before it climbed all the way back.
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 1,100 points in the first several hours of trading, but ended up gaining 99 on the day to close at 34364.
The Nasdaq rose 86 points.
The S&P 500 added 12.
We will take a closer look at what's fueling the market's fears later in the program.
New numbers today indicate the pandemic's Omicron wave may be peaking across the U.S., with the daily average of new cases now below 700,000.
But deaths are still rising, and hospitals across the South and the West are still overwhelmed.
The head of the World Health Organization forecast today that the emergency phase could end this year, but he also had a warning.
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO Director General: It's dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame.
On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit filed against proxy voting in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The pandemic era measure allows members to cast absentee ballots.
Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wanted the court to reject it as unconstitutional.
The High Court agreed today to hear challenges to affirmative action in college admissions for the first time since 2016.
Two lawsuits charge that using race in admissions decisions at Harvard University and at the University of North Carolina discriminates against Asian Americans.
Federal prosecutors in Minneapolis charged today that three former police officers violated George Floyd's civil rights by failing to prevent his murder.
In opening statements, they said the men did nothing when fellow officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd's neck until he died.
Chauvin was convicted of murder last year.
The defense argued that Chauvin was a senior officer and that he called all the shots.
In Iran, the government opened the door today to direct talks with the United States on restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.
The foreign minister spoke in Tehran as negotiations with other world powers resumed in Vienna.
HOSSEIN AMIR ABDOLLAHIAN, Iranian Foreign Minister (through translator): If we get to a stage where reaching a good deal with strong guarantees necessitates direct talks with the U.S., we will consider this in our agenda to lift sanctions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In response, the U.S. State Department said it remains open to direct meetings with Iranian officials.
President Biden has indicated he wants to rejoin the nuclear deal that President Trump abandoned in 2018.
Rebels in Yemen backed by Iran fired missiles into the United Arab Emirates today, and U.S. troops intercepted them with Patriot missiles.
Some of the Americans had to take cover during the exchange.
It was the second such attack in a week.
China has made a new show of force near Taiwan, sending 39 warplanes, the most since October.
The planes flew over an area near the Pratas Islands southwest of Taiwan.
The Chinese declined to say what their purpose was.
This took place as two U.S. Navy aircraft carrier groups sailed in the South China Sea, over Beijing's objections.
Back in this country, judges in Georgia approved a special grand jury to investigate whether former President Trump tried to interfere with the 2020 election results.
A district attorney requested the assistance.
The special panel will be seated in May and it will serve up to a year.
There's further evidence of the pandemic's toll on students.
Data from 26 states shows high school graduation rates fell in at least 20 of them after the first full school year disrupted by COVID.
The nonprofit education news agency Chalkbeat did the analysis.
And the world's biggest galactic observatory has arrived at its destination one million miles from Earth.
As depicted in this NASA animation, the James Webb Space Telescope reached its planned orbit around the sun today.
That critical moment came a month after launch.
The $10 billion telescope will look deeper into space than humanity has ever seen.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": what is behind a volatile ride for the major stock indexes; Tamara Keith and Amy Walter break down the latest political news; a Miami dance troupe revisits the classic ballet "Swan Lake" and gives it a new spin; and much more.
As we reported earlier, NATO is increasing its troop presence in Eastern Europe.
And the United States announced today that it is putting 8,500 troops on high alert to deploy to the region.
To discuss the details of today's developments, we're joined by two experts.
Andrea Kendall-Taylor is a former senior intelligence official who focused on Russia and Eurasia.
She is now the head of the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center For a New American security, which is a bipartisan national security and defense policy institute.
And Phillip Karber served as an adviser to the secretary of defense under the Reagan administration.
He is now the president of The Potomac Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research group.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we welcome both of you to the "NewsHour."
Andrea Kendall-Taylor -- excuse me -- to you first.
How much of a change in posture is this for the Biden administration to be making this announcement about troop readiness?
And what is your sense of how meaningful this troop deployment could be?
ANDREA KENDALL-TAYLOR, Center For a New American Security: So, I think this signals a shift in the way the Biden administration is approaching the conflict.
So far, they have been talking a lot about deterrence and laying out the cost for Putin if he should take action.
To me, this signals that they see that conflict is becoming more likely in the coming weeks.
And so they're shifting to a more proactive footing to help prepare for that conflict.
I think, at this point, the key for the Biden administration and its NATO allies is to ensure that this conflict, should it happen, remains contained to Ukraine.
And so they're starting to preposition forces and take these steps to prepare for scenarios in which conflict could potentially spill over or tax NATO member states.
So, I think this is a real shift in their footing and how they're thinking about the likelihood of conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how would the presence of U.S. troops in the region, in addition to NATO forces, keep the -- any conflict contained to Ukraine?
ANDREA KENDALL-TAYLOR: So, I think the key is kind of preparing for scenarios in which conflict between Russia and Ukraine could spill over into NATO member states, particularly Poland and Romania.
We want to be prepared for those possibilities.
I also think a key goal and objective of prepositioning forces like this is to signal alliance resolve.
I think we want to be crystal clear with President Putin that the alliance has the resolve to respond, so that he doesn't look to test any other NATO member states.
And I will just say, I also think there is one broader audience, and that is Xi Jinping.
And I think he and China is going to be watching very closely to see the United States' ability to marshal a coalition to respond.
And this is signaling the United States' willingness to move beyond sanctions and to change the security environment in which any revisionist actor would face.
So, I think, for all of those reasons, to shore up the credibility of the alliance and to prepare for potential scenarios, these steps by the Biden administration and NATO allies are important ones and welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, signals to NATO, to Russia, and, as you say, to China as well.
Phil Karber, let me bring you into this.
How do you see these troops, were they to be deployed, being used?
Where would they be?
What exactly would they do?
PHILLIP KARBER, President, The Potomac Foundation: Well, I agree with everything my colleague said.
But the response so far has been kind of underwhelming.
I mean, what they announced today is that we're preparing to lean forward, get units ready to deploy, but we haven't deployed anything yet.
So, to answer your question, I think the options, the most effective options would be to move air units, particularly fighters, into Romania, Poland, perhaps F-18 fighters with Harpoon anti-ship missiles into Bulgaria, and get more AWACS aerial surveillance, so that the Ukrainians, who are basically blind and in terms of having a long-distance identification of where attacks might come from, could get - - that we would pass that intelligence to them.
So those would be the most significant and fastest things we could do.
But, so far, they haven't left yet.
Then, of course, there's the option of having a ground forces, but the most I think they're talking about is one brigade unit.
And that's not very much.
So it's -- has a limit.
Lastly, there is an ongoing naval exercise that we're participating in, in the Mediterranean.
So that's helpful.
And the Danes are sending some naval units to the Baltic to try and shore up them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Phil Karber, just stay with you for a moment, so air surveillance, sending in air -- potentially air support, sending in naval support in -- what, surrounding Ukraine?
I mean, how do you see this geographically playing out?
PHILLIP KARBER: So, that's the problem.
I do not see a naval forces going into the Black Sea.
I think that would be -- it's just too dangerous and too outnumbered, frankly.
But having AWACS flying in over Ukraine and being able to give them early warning of the impending attack and also help their air respond, their small air force respond to a much larger Russian attack, would be enormously helpful, and also having our fighters there to protect the AWACS, so they aren't taken potshots at.
And that sends a very strong message.
Our airpower is our strongest message-sender in terms of military capability.
And yet it's still in a defensive posture deployed into NATO countries.
And it also gives them a sense that -- people say, oh, trying to assure the allies.
Well, when you talk to the allies, they say, we don't want assurance.
We want deterrence.
If this war comes to our border, we're not looking for speed bumps.
We want real help.
So I think that's the key.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quick questions.
One is, how quickly do you see this kind of support being deployed and making a difference, because it clearly would have to integrate with what else is on the ground there with NATO?
PHILLIP KARBER: So, in terms of the air, we could probably get a number of squadrons, maybe a couple of wings, within three to seven days.
And that would be very, very quick and very powerful.
The ground forces take, obviously, a lot longer.
We have prepositioned equipment in Germany and Poland.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
PHILLIP KARBER: But whether the Germans would allow us to fall in on that equipment and then move it across Germany, who knows.
Likewise, it takes time to move troops from essentially Western Poland to anywhere near the Belarusian border or Ukrainian border.
(CROSSTALK) PHILLIP KARBER: I'm sorry?
JUDY WOODRUFF: No, I was just going to say, and other one other question, in terms of military balance.
These numbers are a lot smaller than the 100 - - or more than 100,000 troops the Russians have around there.
So, in terms of military balance, you see them making a difference?
PHILLIP KARBER: The air could seriously make a difference over Eastern Ukraine, and give the Russians a real second thought about whether they want to launch a major air offensive, which a lot of people are warning about, flying in over Belarus, over the Mediterranean, hitting Ukraine from all sides.
If we had strong AWACS early warning and also strong fighter capability, I think that would give them severe warning.
One other thing that should be noted is, we just sent some supplies to Ukraine.
Those supplies had been ordered and purchased by Ukraine as part of their military aid literally months ago.
So we haven't sent any new stuff yet to Ukraine.
And we really -- that -- everything we send right now is helpful.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And final quick last question to Andrea Kendall-Taylor.
Is this -- what the U.S. and NATO are announcing today, is this likely to change Putin's thinking?
ANDREA KENDALL-TAYLOR: I don't think so.
I mean, I think, at this point, if he's going in -- and, of course, we should note that only Putin knows the answer to that.
He keeps us on our toes because that works to his strategic advantage.
But I would say, kind of given senior Russian official statements, and certainly the continuing buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border, it does appear that we are headed towards conflict.
And so I don't think that we are going to deter the conflict.
So, then what we're looking to do, I think, at this point is through sanctions and changes in our U.S. force posture, is to make this as costly an action for Putin as possible.
He is taking a great risk here.
And we need to do everything we can to raise the costs for his actions, to reassure our allies, and, again, to make sure that this conflict stays contained to Ukraine.
So I think that's the shift that we're seeing from this administration, moving towards just deterrence to recognizing that we're going to have to kind of manage and navigate the situation, thinking about refugee flows and prepositioning humanitarian aid.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
ANDREA KENDALL-TAYLOR: So I think the conflict is coming.
We're getting closer.
And the steps that the administration is talking about doing, I think, signals where their thinking is, that we're getting closer to conflict.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sobering.
Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Phil Karber, thank you both very much.
ANDREA KENDALL-TAYLOR: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we have reported, it was a wild ride for the markets today.
Amna Nawaz looks at what's behind this volatility and the market's recent slump.
AMNA NAWAZ: Judy, at one point, the Dow Jones was down more than 1,000 points, and the S&P 500, which is a wider gauge of the stock market, had fallen into correction territory, which is about a drop of 10 percent from its previous high.
All of the major indexes came back, though, finishing on a positive note.
But they are down since the start of the year.
To understand more about all of this, we turn to Dana Peterson.
She's chief economist at The Conference Board.
That's a nonpartisan business think tank.
Dana Peterson, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thanks for being with us.
I want to ask you about what we saw before that late rally this afternoon, which was a continuation of a weeks-long slide.
Help us understand that.
What was behind that?
What were investors watching and worried about?
DANA PETERSON, The Conference Board: Sure.
I think investors are watching and worrying about a number of things.
Certainly, tech stocks have sold off, certainly as borrowing costs are set to rise, with the Fed raising interest rates.
There's been a lot of misses in terms of earnings, given the fact that the Omicron variant really disrupted business activities.
Many workers said that they were sick and they -- or they were quarantined.
And that really affected profits.
And, also, there's a lot of concern about geopolitics and certainly what's going on in Europe and implications for financial markets.
AMNA NAWAZ: And what about uncertainty overseas as it relates to the U.S. weighing a response to Russian aggression in Ukraine?
Is that playing into all of this as well?
DANA PETERSON: Yes, I think so.
And certainly, in Eastern Europe, the standoff, if you will, the issues between Russia and the Ukraine and NATO and the U.S. are putting upward pressure on gasoline prices, not only in that region, but also globally.
And that's all feeding into inflationary pressures that we're feeling right here at home in the U.S. AMNA NAWAZ: So what about that late rally today?
What were you thinking as you saw that?
And what does that tell you?
Does that tell you all those concerns among investors are gone, are fading?
DANA PETERSON: Well, certainly, you can have a lot of volatility from day to day.
Indeed, you could have had some good earnings news.
But I think, overall, there's a lot of concern in markets about how fast the Fed is going to go in terms of tightening monetary policy.
We all know that they are going to finish up the Q.E.
taper by March and probably start raising interest rates.
But how many interest rate hikes are we looking at?
And, certainly, the Fed has talked about reducing the size of its balance sheet.
And that will probably happen through allowing assets to just kind of expire and mature and roll off, but still and all, those are all forms of tightening.
And markets, I think, are getting a little concerned about what that means for them.
AMNA NAWAZ: Let me ask you about the larger sort of Omicron and pandemic impact on that weeks-long slide that we saw, because even without lockdowns, right -- the big concern was lockdowns would create economic holdup.
Even without the lockdowns, we have seen some major economic disruptions, both in supply and in labor.
When you look in late December and early January, something like nine million Americans weren't looking for work because they were either sick with COVID or caring for someone who had COVID.
So, even as cases of this latest variant could be cresting in parts of the country, is there a longer term cumulative economic toll ahead?
DANA PETERSON: Well, our thoughts that this is probably going to be pretty short-lived.
Certainly, the Delta variant kind of swept through the world and really impacted the U.S. in the third quarter of last year.
We did see a spell of kind of tepid growth relative to other growth rates we have been seeing during the pandemic, around 2 percent.
So we're looking at 2, 2.5 percent for the first quarter.
But when we look at Omicron, at least experience in South Africa, it was very intense, but it was also very short-lived.
So, hopefully, by the time we reach the second quarter, we will see better activity.
Indeed, when we asked consumers -- our last survey was back in December -- how they were feeling, they were still looking forward to buying goods and services and going on vacation six months hence.
So that's really constructive for the second quarter.
AMNA NAWAZ: Dana, what about the Fed's response that we're anticipating here?
Obviously, inflation is running at the fastest pace in 40 years.
We know they gather tomorrow for a couple of days.
Do we have any idea of when they will start to raise those interest rates, and by how much?
And are you worried that if this downslide continues, they could act more aggressively?
DANA PETERSON: Sure.
Well, tomorrow, they will begin their two-day meeting.
And I think it's pretty anticipated the Fed is going to give very strong signaling that the taper, once it's finished in around March, that the Fed is going to start raising interest rates probably by quarter percentage points, 25 basis points, potentially every other meeting.
That would get us to three or four hikes for this year.
But a big concern is, as you said, what if inflation doesn't cool off?
What if we continue to see inflation that's notably above 2 percent towards the end of this year?
Will the Fed go more?
Would they go 50 basis points?
Well, right now, what we're hearing and at least what the Fed is signal is that we're looking at a good three to four interest rate hikes for this year.
But, certainly, there's risks that we could see more.
AMNA NAWAZ: Dana, what does all this mean for Americans, for working American families?
Because they see what's happening in the headlines.
They are paying more for goods every day.
They're living through this same uncertainty in the economy and the pandemic.
What does everything that we're seeing in the markets, this volatility, that weeks-long downslide, what does that mean for that?
DANA PETERSON: Sure.
So, if you own assets, then, certainly, this has not been the best few weeks for you.
So certainly, if you own stocks or bonds, with the sell-offs, you have lost some interest and you have lost some capital.
But, certainly, if you have savings accounts or checking accounts that have interest, higher interest rates are good for you.
But it's really about sentiment.
Do people, even average Americans who may not own any financial assets, if they believe that the stock market is an indicator or harbinger of weaker growth going forward, then they may become concerned about their jobs prospects.
But, so far, many people are working.
We do have the Great Resignation.
Yes, people are resigning, but they're going off and finding new jobs.
And the economy, certainly, at the end of last year -- well, the last quarter was still doing quite well.
And even with this first-quarter weakness, 2, 2.5 percent growth is actually pretty good for the U.S. economy.
But we do anticipate stronger growth in the second quarter.
So it's really about how long these disruptions last and certainly how ordinary Americans perceive what's going on the stock markets.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Dana Peterson, chief economist of The Conference Board, making sense of a wild day on Wall Street for us.
Dana, thank you so much for joining us.
DANA PETERSON: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: After Senate Democrats were unable last week to change the Senate rule the filibuster to make it possible to pass voting rights legislation, Arizona's state Democratic Party censured Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
She, along with Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, made up the only two Democratic holdouts on that major vote.
The move in Arizona is part of a growing trend of political parties taking on their own members over key issues.
To help us make sense of this and other news brewing in politics, I'm joined by our Politics Monday duo, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.
Hello to both of you.
Let's pick up on this, Tam.
It is starting -- as we said, starting to be a trend.
The Republicans have been going after their members who voted to impeach former President Trump.
Now we're seeing the Democrats do that.
What do these kinds of moves say about the parties?
Do they end up helping them politically?
Do they end up healing?
I mean, what are we seeing?
TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Yes, as you say, this is primarily been a Republican trend.
In particular, Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump have been targeted by their state parties.
And now Sinema -- Senator Sinema being censured by her party, the Arizona Democratic leadership in that party believes that voting rights is one of the existential issues.
And so they are censuring her.
She isn't up for reelection this year.
What this signals is she is out of sync with at least part of her party.
And, certainly, the state parties, whether it be Republican or Democrat, that is where you're going to find the activists.
That is the most active activists.
They're the people who are volunteering their time and being part of these state parties.
And they are expressing frustration.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy, is there a cost to the parties for doing this?
Does it end up strengthening them?
How has it worked out?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, Judy, that's a great question, because I think there is a cost, in some cases, for the party, and there is also a cost for the way that Congress works, or, in this case, doesn't work very well.
Arizona is a great example of this, right?
This is a 50/50 state.
We had Donald Trump narrowly win there in 2016, and, in 2020, Joe Biden narrowly wins in that state.
It is a true purple state.
The last three elections there for senator, John McCain, Kyrsten Sinema, Mark Kelly this last year, they all narrowly won.
But all three outperformed the presidential nominee of their own party.
In other words, they got voters to cross over and support them who didn't support the presidential candidate.
So, you would get a Trump and a Kelly voter.
You could also get a voter who voted for Hillary Clinton, but also voted for John McCain.
By the way, Arizona is also a state that has censured three of its last four Senate candidates - - or members of the United States Senate, not Mark Kelly, but two Republicans, and then, of course, Sinema.
So it is completely out of step with where the state is.
The state, you win by attracting independent and crossover voters.
So I don't know that it is particularly good politics.
But, to Tam's point, the parties now have become really just about what the activist basis wants, much more than whether or not this is the kind of candidate who can win in that state, number one, and a candidate who can deliver for the state on the most important issues to people there.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will see how this plays out at some point down the road.
But I do want to bring up something that -- in fact, first, I was going to ask you about something President Biden said at his news conference last week about a change in approach, but I have to bring you a little bit of breaking news from the White House this afternoon.
President Biden was meeting -- having a meeting the East Room talking about the economy.
And I guess, as the room -- as the press was leaving, FOX News reporter Peter Doocy asked the president -- a question about inflation.
This is one of those "I didn't know I was on live mic" moments.
But here it is.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: That's a great asset, more inflation.
What a stupid son of a bitch.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I don't know if you could hear the whole thing, but Peter Doocy was asking if inflation -- the fact that inflation keeps going up is an asset.
And you heard the president's answer.
Tam, I'm reminded of Ronald Reagan, "We're going to start bombing in five minutes."
Every -- I think every president, every politician has done it.
Do these kinds of things matter or not?
I'm told that Peter Doocy laughed it off on the air later.
TAMARA KEITH: He did.
And former vice president, then Vice President Joe Biden, also had a hot mic moment with an even naught naughtier word when Obamacare passed.
And that became part of his signature.
I'm not sure that is where this is headed.
But President Biden said right before that, I don't want to answer a bunch of questions about Russia because I don't want to distract from this event that I'm doing about inflation.
Then he has this hot mic moment that is absolutely going to distract from the event he is doing about inflation.
The critique that the Biden White House is trying to respond to that has come through in focus groups from voters is that the president is not directly addressing the issues they care about most enough.
The White House has tried to remedy, including with this event.
And now we're talking about Peter Doocy and a bad word.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy, a quick thought on this before I ask you about something else?
(LAUGHTER) AMY WALTER: No, I agree with that.
And, also, I think you're going to hear some frustration, especially in conservative circles, that, look, President Trump said bad things about the press all the time.
He was rebuked for it.
This is following a behavior that the then-candidate and newly elected President Biden said he wouldn't engage in.
So I think, again, lowering the temperature was supposed to be his calling card and unifying the country.
He's got to do more to convince voters that he's doing both of those things.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of convincing voters, one of the things the president spoke about, talked about in that news conference last week that went on for almost two hours was talking about how he hopes next -- this year to get out and connect more with voters.
Here's what he said.
JOE BIDEN: Part of the problem is, as well, I have not been out in the community nearly enough.
I've been here an awful lot.
I find myself in a situation where I don't get a chance to look people in the eye, because of both COVID and things that are happening in Washington, to be able to go out and do the things that I've always been able to do pretty well, connect with people, let them take a measure of my sincerity, let them take a measure of who I am.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tam, so does the White House think -- I mean, is it thought that getting out more, talking to voters could make a difference in how the president is seen?
TAMARA KEITH: Every president believes that, if they could just get out and talk to voters more, give more speeches, they could convince them.
But this White House also realizes that the last three months or so have been completely consumed by negotiating with Democrats, negotiating with their own party in Congress, trying to get legislation done that they haven't yet gotten done.
And there has been a widespread perception among voters expressed through polls and focus groups that the president isn't talking about the things that they care about most, because they were so focused on these legislative negotiations.
And so President Biden is probably going to keep calling senators, but the White House is now insisting they are not going to tell us about every conversation, in hopes that, if they don't talk about it, if you don't talk about Bruno, you don't talk about the calls to the senators, then maybe people will pay attention to something else.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy, what do you -- what's your take?
Can this kind of thing make a difference?
AMY WALTER: So, in talking to Democrats up next year myself and then watching this weekend Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, who's in a very competitive district outside of Detroit, what they will tell you is, we need something tangible, just one or two things for the president to focus on that we can pass.
Make it something that voters understand and that it relates to their lives, whether it's about child care, prescription drugs, were the two things that Congresswoman Slotkin pointed to.
That's what they're desperate to see of this president.
The challenge for the president right now, in looking through some of the polls that have come out in these last few days marking the year anniversary of his presidency, is that voters have essentially lost confidence, not in his ability to be effective on certain issues, but they have lost confidence in him to actually do his job effectively, to actually be an effective president on issues like being a good commander in chief or being able to do a good job handling a crisis.
He's dropped significantly among voters on those issues.
He's got to show an ability to get some wins on those fronts.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's the kind of thing that takes more than traveling around the country.
AMY WALTER: That's right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, we thank you both.
AMY WALTER: You're welcome.
TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As COVID rages on this winter, the Miami City Ballet continues to dance, preparing to perform "Swan Lake" in February under the careful eye of celebrated choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.
Jeffrey Brown spent a day with Ratmansky and dancers to see how they have brought this traditional ballet going back to its rediscovered historical roots.
It's part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
ALEXEI RATMANSKY, Choreographer, "Swan Lake": Yes, now, almost good, except that you will like to exit with your feet going back.
JEFFREY BROWN: A dance studio several weeks before opening the classic ballet "Swan Lake."
ALEXEI RATMANSKY: You make it clear for the audience that that is how the love is born.
JEFFREY BROWN: And Alexei Ratmansky, one of the world's leading choreographers, was working with dancers of the Miami City Ballet to bring to life this fairy tale of a prince, young women turned into swans, and doomed love.
ALEXEI RATMANSKY: We should get the feeling that the movements are born from the music, or, vice versa, the music is born from their movements.
JEFFREY BROWN: But they go together.
ALEXEI RATMANSKY: Yes, exactly.
JEFFREY BROWN: Ratmansky, now 53, was himself a dancer, trained at Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet school, before turning to making dances.
Choreography, for him, begins with the music.
ALEXEI RATMANSKY: I put on my headphones, and I have this little TV in my head.
JEFFREY BROWN: In your head?
ALEXEI RATMANSKY: And I see the little figures of dancers doing steps.
And then I need to find good combinations of steps, remember them, develop them, explain what I mean, explain well to the dancers, inspire the dancers.
JEFFREY BROWN: But, with "Swan Lake," he's done something different, returning to the origins of one of ballet's best-known and most-loved works.
Composed by Tchaikovsky, "Swan Lake" was given classic shape in 1895 by choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in a production at St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre.
And then it took wing.
It's been reworked and restaged for more than a century, with subtle and larger changes to both story and choreography.
It got the over-the-top treatment in the 2010 film "Black Swan."
Ratmansky, a student of dance history, wanted to explore it anew, and found early notations in an archive now at Harvard University.
ALEXEI RATMANSKY: It's the quality of this ballet, which is a masterpiece.
You always want to learn from the masters.
JEFFREY BROWN: Was there a moment where you went -- you were surprised and kind of shocked yourself?
ALEXEI RATMANSKY: Absolutely.
Yes, I just -- I finally saw the logic in everything.
JEFFREY BROWN: His new/old version, first put on by the Zurich Ballet, strips down some of the action and emphasizes the pantomime and acting.
So much about ballet is different now, he says, dancers' bodies, training, even their toe shoes.
So, he calls this a historically informed production.'
ALEXEI RATMANSKY: I try to use all the historical materials available, but, when we get into the studio, we need to make it live theater.
JEFFREY BROWN: And that, in an exclusive North American premiere, is now in the works in the art deco Miami beach home of the Miami City Ballet, a company that's taken on old and new ballets and been acclaimed for its artistry and energy.
The company houses a school for the very young up to dancers like these, age 16 to 18, working under Spanish-born Arantxa Ochoa to prepare for auditions with ballet companies far and wide, training in technique, but also, she says, mental preparation.
ARANTXA OCHOA, Artistic Director, Miami City Ballet School: We not only care for the training that is how do they do that perfect peg or how that leg is up there, pointed toes, all of that, but also that they're in the right place, because that's -- once that you get in the company, a lot of them, they get to the company, but then they have to survive in the company.
JEFFREY BROWN: Artistic director Lourdes Lopez knows the ballet life well.
Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, she became a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.
A painting in her office shows her with its legendary leader, George Balanchine.
She returned home 10 years ago to take the helm here.
LOURDES LOPEZ, Artistic Director, Miami City Ballet: And, somehow, it felt organic.
The art form has given me so much as an immigrant.
It has changed my life and it continues to change my life every day.
I mean, I'm sitting in front of you today because of ballet.
JEFFREY BROWN: A ballet company, she says, feeds and feeds off its city.
And this one is very much Miami in its energy and style.
LOURDES LOPEZ: I think American dancers have a sense of urgency.
At least, certainly, Miami City Ballet dancers have a sense of urgency when they're on stage.
There's a youthfulness.
There's a hunger that they're just going to eat space and they're going to just go for it.
JEFFREY BROWN: There's also an energy and pride here in the diversity of talent, Latina leadership, dancers from all over, especially Central and South America.
KATIA CARRANZA, Miami City Ballet: For me, it was -- to come to Miami City Ballet changed my life.
JEFFREY BROWN: Katia Carranza came to Miami from Mexico at 19.
She'd had plenty of classical training, but found a new world of dancing here.
What was the biggest difference?
KATIA CARRANZA: Well, for me it was like everything.
It was much faster than what I knew.
And here I realized there is a lot of ways to move your body, and it was a little bit more exciting and more energy and different, different for me.
JEFFREY BROWN: Nathalia Arja came from Brazil at 15.
Now she and Katia are company veterans, getting the extraordinary experience of working with Alexei Ratmansky to create his new-old vision of "Swan Lake," especially honing their mime movements to convey the emotions he wants.
NATHALIA ARJA, Miami City Ballet: We will spend hours just having a conversation of, how do you say, you promised to love me, so what... JEFFREY BROWN: Without the words.
NATHALIA ARJA: Without the words, just body language.
And "Swan Lake" nor is also -- it's difficult technically, but, most, there is an extra layer of how -- being clear of how you tell the story.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
Can you say that to me right now?
You promise to love me?
NATHALIA ARJA: It would be you, to me, promised to love.
But there are so many ways to do that.
JEFFREY BROWN: Of course, the real black swan in the studio, COVID.
This production has already been postponed due to the pandemic and several weeks out, Lourdes Lopez knew it could happen again.
LOURDES LOPEZ: It's like the bird just doesn't want to land here, but... (LAUGHTER) JEFFREY BROWN: But you're going to bring her down at some point.
LOURDES LOPEZ: I'm going to bring her or him down, whatever it wants to be.
JEFFREY BROWN: For now, the hard work and the giant leaps go on.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown at the Miami City Ballet.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Originally from Mexico City herself, Gaby Hernandez understands firsthand the challenges immigrants can face in the U.S. As the executive director of the Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition in California, she empowers those in her community to push for better resources and protections.
Tonight, Hernandez shares her Brief But Spectacular take on immigrant justice in the U.S. GABY HERNANDEZ, Executive Director, Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition: Being undocumented and being vocal about it is just one of my identities.
But it's one of the identities that shapes who I am and what I do.
The immigration system, many people say it's broken.
It's not broken.
It's exactly working how it was designed to work.
And that is to work against poor immigrants of color.
It's risky to be so vocal about this, right?
But, at the end of the day, I know that citizenship is not going to be the savior of everything.
I see a lot of Black and brown communities still being impacted by the systems even while they have citizenship.
It definitely does provide an avenue of resources for folks, but there's more that we need to do.
And I think the key is to work towards dismantling the systems that are oppressing us beyond citizenship.
I'm from Mexico City.
Little did I know how much I was going to have to face in this country.
I didn't speak any English at all.
And I came here when it was seventh grade.
I wish I would've had support from counselors, from more mentors in the school.
That didn't actually happen.
They place you in ESL classes, and then that's all you take.
The realization that I had was that the system wasn't set up for me.
So I think we need a system that is actually welcoming families in a dignifying way, and that gives people the resources that they need once they get here to thrive.
And, also, I say a lot of times we're here because you're there.
And that's the reality of it.
We're in this country because the U.S. has put their hands in our countries for many, many years and many generations in many ways.
And that's through policies.
That's through interventions.
And I think, for me, it's important to have that context in mind to then work towards abolishing it, because it's not working for us.
We know that.
We have seen that.
I think it's in my blood to do organizing, and I think, when I realized that the resources don't really come to you unless you're demanding them.
The organization that I serve as an executive director for is the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, led by immigrant women, women of color, undocumented women, immigrant women, first-generation women.
And we're not only fighting for immigrant policies.
We're working with immigrants and fighting for those policies.
For us, safety is somebody having housing, right, not being kicked out of their home, someone not having to fear that police is going to collaborate with ICE, and then end up deporting them, right?
For us, we're looking at the bigger picture.
And I think that's what makes us unique too as an organization.
We are combining immigrant justice work, along with criminal justice, right, because we know that our communities are impacted by both.
And, sometimes, there's that separation that exists.
And, for us, we want to highlight that, no, actually as a person of color, as an immigrant, you're impacted by many systems in this country.
So, there's more.
And it's intersectional, and our lives are intersectional.
And so our hope is that we're able to help people have the tools to organize in their communities and their own neighborhoods, because that's really going to get us to the real change.
My name is Gaby Hernandez, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on immigrant justice in the U.S. JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch all our Brief But Spectacular episodes at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.
The pandemic have been difficult for all of us, but particularly for students, who have experienced major disruptions to both their education and their social lives.
In a special program, our Student Reporting Labs team explores how young people are dealing with this new normal.
Here's a slice of their reporting, a look at one teacher taking an unconventional approach to learning.
SKATEBOARDER: Go do some tricks.
KENDALL VANVALKENBURG, Teacher, Red Canyon High School: During the pandemic, I noticed that a lot of students were skateboarding.
I can see the skate park from my house.
So, when I see kids interested in something, I'm going to figure out a way to brick that into the classroom.
NARRATOR: Ms. V. is a teacher at Red Canyon High School in Gypsum, Colorado, trying to solve a problem that students know all too well.
KENDALL VANVALKENBURG: There is something missing in the education system.
Kids find themselves not wanting to go to school and at the skate park.
Why can't we take that something else that makes school a part of it?
NARRATOR: While the class may just look like students fooling around at the skate park, they're actually learning about urban planning, design and how to build a stronger community.
KENDALL VANVALKENBURG: We talked about barriers that stand in the way of kids being able to skate.
And then we came up with solutions to those barriers to make skateboarding more accessible to all kids in our community.
CLAIRE EVANS, Student: Mostly, what we're doing right now is trying to get a skate park in Avon to make things a little more accessible to kids there and also help reduce the crowding.
We are working on getting funding from Tony Hawk Foundation to revamp this place that we're standing at right here.
And we -- my group specifically has been working on a design that we think could be really cool.
DAVID CARRILLO, Student: I'm actually, like, doing work for my community.
And it's not really like just a class anymore.
I'm part of something bigger than just this class.
NARRATOR: With each new trick, students understand more about themselves, as well as how to connect, how to teach, and how to learn from one another.
KENDALL VANVALKENBURG: It's hard.
If you're learning to do from the most basic skill to a really difficult skill, it takes a lot of resilience to get back up and try again.
CLAIRE EVANS: It's one of those things where, if you could put your mind to something and just kind of get into it, you can really prove to yourself that you can do whatever you want.
CALVIN PARRISH, Student: I always thought it was like super cool.
And I thought the skaters were super cool.
So it just -- it makes me feel good.
And I like learning new things.
CLAIRE EVANS: School can be stressful for kids these days.
And I think it's really important that we have these days to be able to just be able to relax, because it's not like we get recess anymore.
We don't get to go play with our friends and use our imaginations.
If we get rid of that creativity, by the time we're adults, we're not going to be doing anything useful with the world.
We're not going to be able to solve these world problems because we're all looking at the straight -- what's ahead of us, just not taking time think about things that are outside the box.
JORGE JIMENEZ-VELAZCO, Student: It helps a lot with conquering your fears, because it's scary to do some things.
And when you finally own up to it, it is relieving.
I recently learned how to drop in.
It's really scary, but I did it.
NARRATOR: And while Ms. V is teaching her students how to face their fears, at the same time, she had to do it herself.
KENDALL VANVALKENBURG: I learned how to drop in.
And I was scared, because you fall.
And I'm looking at a student who is a language learner who I have watched take so many risks in the classroom, and I have watched sit there and struggle when he was younger.
And I have, like, forced him to read and write and grow.
He's got the drop in.
He totally can do it.
And he's cheering me on.
And so, of course, I'm going to take that risk.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What a great teacher.
And this program is exceptional.
You can watch Student Reporting Labs' full program, "Our New Normal," tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
And that's on our YouTube channel.
And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.