America's Great Divide, Part 1 (full film) | FRONTLINE

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: Tonight...

>> This country goes into 2020 as divided as it's ever been.

>> NARRATOR: From "Frontline's" award-winning political team--

a two-night special series.

Years of reporting investigating the conflicts

and crossing the divide.

>> People were angry.

>> ...cascade of outrage.

>> Outrage machine...

>> Are they going to start storming the gates?

>> NARRATOR: "Frontline" begins its 2020 political coverage

with the epic story of how we got here.

>> The nation's first African American president...

>> NARRATOR: A decade of division

defined by Barack Obama...

>> We will change the course...

>> NARRATOR: ...and Donald Trump.

>> Make America great again!

>> The third president in U.S. history to be impeached...

>> Today there's just a lack of respect.

To assume the other side is not just the political opponent,

but the enemy.

>> And what this produces is two Americas

that are separate not only in their partisan affiliation,

but in pretty much everything.

>> NARRATOR: Tonight on "Frontline"--

part one of "America's Great Divide."

♪ ♪

>> I remember when Barack Obama got the call,

uh, that he was going to make the keynote speech

at the Democratic Convention in 2004.

And as soon as he hung up the phone, he turned to me

and he said, "I know what I want to say.

I want to tell my story as part of the larger American story."

(crowd cheering and applauding)

>> NARRATOR: He delivered the speech of his life.

>> Thank you.

Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it,

my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely.

My father was a foreign student,

born and raised in a small village in Kenya.

My parents shared not only an improbable love;

they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities

of this nation.

>> The idea of Barack Obama being unique in so many ways--

unique with his funny name, unique with his skin color.

Or unique with his message:

"Look, I'm not a creature of Washington.

I'm new. I'm just showing up.

I'm willing to work across the aisle."

>> There is not a liberal America

and a conservative America,

there is the United States of America!

(cheering and applauding)

There is not a black America and a white America,

a Latino America, an Asian America,

there's the United States of America!

>> He was a star.

That we hadn't seen a politician like that before,

not in recent history.

He's going to tell it like it is, and, you know,

you can believe in what he says,

and he doesn't seem to be so wrapped up

in this partisan divide.

>> Thank you very much, everybody, God bless you.

>> He was going to be the one who was going

to try to heal that wound.

>> NARRATOR: Barack Obama arrived with a promise of unity.

>> Yes, we can heal this nation.

>> NARRATOR: But his presidency would usher in

an age of unprecedented anger...

>> Afro-Leninism. >> NARRATOR: Resentment...

>> I want my country back.

>> NARRATOR: Political conflict...

>> The Republicans messed up so bad...

>> NARRATOR: Polarization.

>> What do we want? >> Justice!

>> When do we want it? >> Now!

>> NARRATOR: A turning point...

(crowd chanting "Drain the swamp!") America's great divide.

>> Presidential contenders began their final push

in Iowa today.

>> And because somebody stood up a few more stood up,

and then a few thousand stood up,

and then a few million stoop up, Iowa, I need you to stand up...

>> I think what Obama represented

was generational change.

Here's a younger person unburdened

by some of the old fights of the past.

He obviously represented racial change in a way

that was very motivating to African Americans.

>> We will win this election,

we will change the course of history,

and the real journey to heal the nation

and repair the world will have truly begun.

Thank you, Iowa.

>> He was also just an incredibly talented

and charismatic and inspirational politician.

(crowd chanting Obama)

>> Obama's political rise came at a time

when America was increasingly divided.

>> I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and...

>> NARRATOR: At the end of George W. Bush's presidency,

the nation was reeling.

>> The country had been through eight tumultuous years.

>> NARRATOR: Steve Schmidt was a Bush adviser

and counselor to Vice President Cheney.

>> We saw a war fought over weapons of mass destruction

that didn't exist.

>> ...disarm Iraq, to free its people.

>> We saw the United States mired in a civil war in Iraq.

>> I opposed this war from the start...

>> And what Barack Obama was offering was widely appealing.

He represented generational change.

(crowd cheering and applauding)

>> We can finally bring the change we need to Washington.

We are ready to take this country

in a fundamentally new direction.

>> NARRATOR: In 2008, as Obama ran for president,

he delivered a simple message.

>> The American people are looking for change.

>> There was a real ability to project onto Obama

what you wanted to see.

And he encouraged that, I mean, "hope and change" is not a--

it's not an agenda.

You know, "hope and change" doesn't mean anything.

"Hope and change" basically says to the public,

"Whatever you think 'hope and change' look like,

that's what I can be."

(crowd chanting "Obama")

>> And the next vice president of the United States,

Sarah Palin.

>> NARRATOR: Democrats weren't the only ones

looking for a change.

For Republicans, Sarah Palin ignited a new political force.

(crowd chanting "Sarah")

>> Sarah Palin came out and brought the house down.

She electrified that G.O.P. base like no one I had ever seen,

and you recall, that was one of the times

where the prompter failed and she just ad-libbed it.

>> I love those hockey moms.

You know, they say the difference between

a hockey mom and a pit bull?


(crowd laughs)

(cheering and applauding)

>> And people loved it!

She was almost a pre-Trump, in the way that she

just sort of had this matter-of-fact,

sort of folksy, she wasn't too high-brow,

and so "real Americans,"

you know, "regular folks" could relate to her.

>> Well, I'm not a member

of the permanent political establishment.

>> She was the beginning of the shift

where the people began to believe

that they could take the power back from the elite.

>> I've learned quickly these last few days

that if you're not a member in good standing

of the Washington elite,

then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified

for that reason alone, but...

(crowd booing)

>> She tapped into a simmering grievance in the country

that's real.

There's a rebellion that's taken place

in this country against the elites.

>> Thank you, and God bless America.

Thank you.

>> NARRATOR: For her supporters, she was heroic.

>> It's Saturday Night Live...

>> NARRATOR: But in New York she was made into a joke.

>> ...Governor Sarah Palin.

>> First off I just want to say how excited I am

to be in front of both the liberal elite media

as well as the liberal regular media.

I am looking forward to a portion of your questions,

so let's get started. Yes, you.

>> You said that you like to visit the quote,

"Pro-America parts of the country."

Are there parts of the country that you consider un-American?

>> Yes, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut,

Delaware, California.

>> When you started to see the shine come off that car

was the Katie Couric interview.

>> What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read

before you were tapped...

>> Over time, as the camera usually does,

it brings out the truth.

>> Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me

over all these years-- I have a vast--

>> Can you name a few?

>> I have a vast variety of sources where we get...

>> But most Republicans, who already disliked the media,

blamed Katie for that.

>> It's kind of suggested, it seems like,

"Wow, how could you keep in touch

with what the rest of Washington D.C. may be thinking

and doing when you live up there in Alaska?"

Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America...

>> Most Republicans looked at that and said, "She was set up,

that was a 'gotcha' question," and stood by Palin,

and it just made them hate the media more.

>> I was reading today a copy of the "New York Times"...

(crowd booing)

>> If you want to pinpoint the moment

when the right completely rejected the left...

>> We have a scarcity of common sense...

>> I think it was over the Sarah Palin nomination.

>> Now, this is not a man who sees America

as you and I see America.

>> And for one brief, shining moment,

the right saw her as everything they were looking for.

Brash, tough, independent, someone who said what they meant

and meant what they said, and wouldn't edit it for anyone.

>> She's something else.

>> Sarah Palin has completely transformed Republican Party...

>> NARRATOR: McCain and Palin wouldn't prevail,

but the populist fervor would grow.

>> Boy, were you right about this one,

did you know how great she is?

>> It's the inauguration day

of the nation's first African-American president.

>> Hundreds of thousands of...

>> NARRATOR: Barack Obama had promised unity.

Much of the country seemed to believe he could deliver it.

>> I looked out, never forget, from the west front

of the Capitol all the way down to the monument.

And I think it's about a mile.

And all you could see were people.

A sea of people.

The fact that our country elected a black president

is just... it was huge in significance.

(cheering and applauding)

>> The thing I remember most about that day

was an older white man turning to me and my daughter

and him saying to her,

"Young lady, you could be up there one day.

You could be president of the United States."

I will never, ever forget that moment.

(crowd chanting "Obama")

>> Even Americans who had been skeptical of Barack Obama

were giving him a look, listening to what he was saying.

I think, there was just an enormous amount of good will

toward him and toward the possibility of what might be

under this first African-American president.

>> Congratulations, Mr. President.

(crowd cheering and applauding)

>> Obama led with that message of,

"We are now going to come together,

we're going to unify this country,

even if you didn't back me, I'm now going to usher in

this better part of your life."

(crowd chanting "Obama")

>> The first couple to arrive at the Neighborhood Ball...

>> ...the first-ever Neighborhood Ball

open to the public.

>> ♪ At last ♪

(crowd cheering)

>> He seemed like a kind of redemptive vision

for American politics.

People on the national stage saw Barack Obama

as a kind of man apart from the pettiness,

the various kinds of ways in which politics

did not reflect the highest aspirations

of the United States as a society.

And he's black.

(crowd cheering and applauding)

In retrospect, it's easy to see how that was a doomed mission

from the start.

>> NARRATOR: In fact, that very evening, across Washington,

Republican leaders gathered.

>> A meeting, a dinner, took place in a famous steakhouse

in downtown Washington.

>> The room was filled.

It was a who's who of ranking members

who had at one point been committee chairmen,

or in the majority, who now wondered out loud

whether they were in the permanent minority.

>> Many of them had attended Obama's inauguration.

They had seen that breathtaking spectacle

and it felt like a wholesale repudiation

of the Republican Party.

>> NARRATOR: As the night wore on,

they talked about a plan of attack.

>> The point I made was that we had to be prepared

to run a full-court press.

And we had to see how Obama behaved

and to offer an alternative to what he wanted to do.

>> NARRATOR: They would try to block the president,

fight his agenda, exploit the divide.

>> I thought, he could be defeated partly

by his own ideology and by his own behaviors.

>> Ball gowns are on their way to the cleaners,

the party is over for both the new president and the nation.

>> Now, he is facing many sobering challenges.

>> The economy, it's a frustration with the economy...

>> Back to the economy, then, obviously it's issue number one,

it's on the front pages of every newspaper.

>> The economy that Barack Obama inherited, I think,

is the defining event of this generation,

even more so than 9/11,

and it profoundly reshaped American politics.

>> Anger from the U.S. public towards bankers is high.

>> NARRATOR: The economy was collapsing.

>> The growing backlash against Wall Street...

>> NARRATOR: Trillions of dollars had been used

to prop up Wall Street.

Middle-class Americans were angry.

>> They took to the streets to express their anger.

>> Frustration with financial bigwigs continues to grow.

>> The way it looked from ground level was that the big banks,

the people who had created the financial crisis,

were being bailed out

when the little guy was being screwed.

>> On the heels of growing public anger aimed at banks...

>> ...backlash against Wall Street...

>> NARRATOR: Before he could deliver on his promise of unity,

Obama had to confront the economic crisis.

>> The banks need to be held accountable.

>> We were told by our economic advisers

that there was a one-in-three chance that the country

would slip into a second Great Depression.

We were on a ledge and we could fall off that ledge.

>> NARRATOR: His new secretary of the treasury was overwhelmed.

>> We'd already thrown trillions and trillions of dollars

at the problem.

I think it was, you know, it was a very perilous moment,

a very existential moment at that point.

>> How do you respond to that?

Not only how do you respond to it in terms

of getting the economy moving again,

but how do you respond to it in holding people accountable

for what happened?

And that was a definition moment.

>> NARRATOR: Some of his political advisers argued

for what they called "Old Testament justice"--

punishing the banks.

>> David Axelrod, Obama's top political adviser,

very much wanted some scalps.

Robert Gibbs, who was the press secretary

but also a very senior political aide, wanted scalps.

>> NARRATOR: Geithner told the president taking on the banks

could make the economic crisis much worse.

>> You had to make sure you kept concentrated

and focused on the core basic imperative

that was going to affect the fortunes of, you know,

hundreds of millions of Americans--

not get too wrapped up in trying to design political theater.

>> NARRATOR: In the end, the president would be cautious.

>> Barack Obama is inherently very conservative.

And he also wants to believe the best in other people,

and he really does believe that everybody can ultimately find

common ground and work together.

I think it was a mistake,

because the bankers really got off very easy.

And the public knows it.

>> There was a perception that President Obama flinched

at that point.

That, that in one way or another,

he was not prepared to go there, to, to go after C.E.O.s,

or to take people to court and to charge them with,

with things.

>> NARRATOR: Anger and distrust of the government would grow.

(crowd chanting)

>> It was deeply, deeply unpopular.

And this came at a time when people were losing their homes,

were losing their jobs, and felt like they had been abandoned.

(tambourine banging)

>> The rich and the powerful get away with anything.

Oops! Oops!

They F up and, and I have to share in the losses.

And every American does.

I mean, that just-- it just burns up ordinary people.

It is just ordinary middle-class people thinking,

"I can't get away with that!"

>> The government is promoting bad behavior, because we...

>> NARRATOR: And on cable television, the talk had already

begun of something they called "a Tea Party."

>> ...and think that they ought to save it.

>> The word "Tea Party" is born in a CNBC moment

when Rick Santelli, a somewhat agitated--

even under the best of circumstances--

reporter for CNBC in Chicago starts to... starts an uproar.

>> This is America!

How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage

that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?

Raise their hand!

(others booing)

President Obama, are you listening?

We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July.

All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan,

I'm going to start organizing.

>> This created a level of anger

like I haven't seen since I got involved in politics

in the 1980s.

People really, really resented this president

for siding with the rich and powerful, and forgetting them.

That was the onus where the Tea Party was created.

>> You gotta be kidding me!

What are we putting up with, America?

>> Like, that will get the economy kicking.

Well, did it?

No, it didn't-- $450 billion down the crapper.

>> Give us a trillion dollars

and, oh, everything will be great.

Well, exactly the opposite happened,

so can we revoke that bailout now?

>> NARRATOR: Even as the economic crisis was roiling

the country, on Capitol Hill,

Barack Obama wanted to push Congress

to take on another divisive issue--

overhauling healthcare.

>> I was his political adviser,

and I understood how much political currency

it would take to pass that law.

And he said, "Well, what are we supposed to do,

put our approval rating on the shelf and admire it

for the next eight years?

Or are we supposed to draw down on it to try and solve

some of these really big, intractable problems?"

>> Let there be no doubt: healthcare reform cannot wait,

it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

(cheering and applauding)

We can no longer afford to put healthcare reform on hold.

We can't afford to do it.

It's time.

>> There is nothing more fraught than healthcare,

because it is so personal and it is so intimate.

And every political party that decides to take on healthcare

in some massive, poorly understood way,

reaps both the backlash and, and political retaliation.

>> Americans are seriously worried

that this is going to destroy the healthcare...

>> This has been on the left's to-do list

since either FDR or LBJ got it done.

They have just been waiting, waiting, waiting.

"When we have the presidency and both houses of Congress,

we are going to push this through."

>> It's about too much power going to federal government.

>> The whole point of this is to get everybody enrolled

in the government healthcare plan.

>> NARRATOR: From across the divide, Sarah Palin reappeared,

wielding a new political weapon.

>> She was a maven on Facebook.

The original politician who saw that you could skirt the media,

and you could get the message out unfiltered,

uncut to the public, was Sarah Palin.

She did that with Facebook.

(keys clicking)

>> As more Americans delve into the disturbing details

of the nationalized healthcare plan,

our collective jaw is dropping,

and we're saying not just no, but hell no!

>> NARRATOR: She exploited fear with a new phrase

that went viral-- death panels.

>> The America I know and love is not one in which

my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand

in front of Obama's "death panel."

>> NARRATOR: It wasn't true.

>> She is the first of a generation of politicians

who live in a post-truth environment.

>> NARRATOR: Steve Schmidt had also been a top campaign aide

for John McCain's presidential run.

He had pushed McCain to select Sarah Palin.

>> She was, and there's no polite way to say it,

but a serial liar.

She would say things that are simply not true.

Or things that were picked up from the internet.

And this obliteration of fact from fiction, of truth from lie,

has become now endemic in American politics.

But it started then.

>> She introduced the term "death panel"

when referring to it.

>> NARRATOR: The right-wing media ran with it.

>> And we're going to have a government rationing body

that tells women with breast cancer, "You're dead."

>> We now have leftist radicals in charge

of your healthcare decisions rather than doctors.

We're hanging by a thread.

♪ ♪

>> If you think this country is great,

but Obama and the tsars are marching our country

right off a cliff, save your life.

Grab the parachute, pull, and come follow me.

>> NARRATOR: Glenn Beck was a former top-40 disc jockey.

He rose to the pinnacle of Fox News

during the presidency of Barack Obama.

>> To watch the coverage from the right-wing media

of the Obama years now is to experience true hysteria.

To see Glenn Beck every day

and the things he was saying about the president...

>> I've got my little Messiah here, my dashboard Obama.

I'm going to pray to him later,

maybe get some universal healthcare.

Now, for more insanity

and blood shooting out of your eyes, Obama.

>> You would have thought the nation was collapsing.

>> President Obama, why don't you just set us on fire?

For the love of Pete, what are you doing?

This is not the America I grew up in, or you grew up in.

When we said change, we didn't mean this!

Nobody meant this!

>> It would never have happened without Glenn Beck.

Glenn Beck was the catalyst for the uprising.

>> If you want to understand Barack Obama...

>> Glenn had the perfect phraseology

that took this anger and channeled it

into an organization that rose up from nowhere.

>> NARRATOR: For Beck and Fox-- record ratings.

>> Glenn Beck was the kind of seeding

of this conspiracy theory.

>> NARRATOR: Ben Rhodes was one of Obama's closest aides.

>> "Obama is seeking to control your lives."

You know, "Obama has a secret plan to do X or to do Y."

Or, "This shadowy figure in the Obama administration

wants to regulate every aspect of your life."

And it kind of starts there.

And then it, it gets darker and darker.

>> NARRATOR: Facebook and welcomed Beck

and other angry Americans.

Now they would organize.

>> You had this vast outrage machine that arose on the right.

And this, this outrage machine, you're talking about, you know,

not just the Tea Party, but talk radio, Fox News,

really changed the nature of our politics in ways

that I think we're living with, with today.

>> We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!

>> NARRATOR: The outrage machine online.

>> You want to kill my grandparents,

you come through me first!

>> NARRATOR: Anger on the ground.

>> You dirty thieves!

>> We can't afford it!

>> Afro-Leninism!

>> There is an ugliness with these fringe people

who are comparing the president to Hitler.

>> This is not simply a disagreement about policy,

this is a repudiation of Obama and, more significantly,

a repudiation of Obama's race.

>> His church was based on racism.

>> They're depicting Obama as an ape, you know, on, on signs

that they're carrying.

There are pejorative stereotypes about Africa and Africans.

>> NARRATOR: Obama's election offered hope of racial harmony.

But in that first year,

it was clear that race was a central part of the divide,

and his presidency was a flash point.

>> Obama was a big symbol.

You know, every time you turned on your TV,

you were reminded that the country was changing

in fundamental ways.

I mean, we had had 200 years of presidents.

We had never had one that looked like Barack Obama.

And his just mere presence in the White House

was a daily reminder that this is a different America

than many people had grown up with.

And it scared the hell out of a lot of people.

>> Prominent African-American Harvard scholar

Henry Louis Gates, Jr...

>> NARRATOR: One early incident enflamed both sides.

>> Arrested in his own home.

>> His arrest is prompting outrage.

The story grabbed national headlines

because the man in question

is one of the nation's most prominent

African-American scholars.

>> Professor Henry Louis Gates is arrested in his own home

for trespassing.

And Barack Obama says what virtually every black person

in the country thought.

>> That the Cambridge Police acted stupidly

in arresting somebody when there was already proof

that they were in their own home.

Thank you, everybody.

>> All of a sudden, there's pressure on the other side.

There are people who are saying that he's anti-cop,

there's a concern that he's racist.

>> This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy,

over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred

for white people or the white culture,

I don't know what it is.

This guy is, I believe, a racist.

>> People lost their minds.

He had the largest drop in his polling numbers

of anything that happened

in the eight years of the Obama presidency.

>> Hey. Cameo appearance.

>> NARRATOR: He apologized.

>> These are issues that are still very sensitive

here in America.

And, you know, so, to the extent that my choice of words

didn't illuminate but rather contributed

to more media frenzy, I think that was unfortunate.

All right?

Thank you, guys.

>> NARRATOR: Then he went even further: a photo op.

>> Obama did this very awkward thing

where he called in Henry Louis Gates and the police officer,

and they had this beer summit.

>> He would probably say that that was one of

the most ridiculous moments of his presidency.

Not so much that he brought a black Harvard professor

and a white Cambridge cop together,

but the fact that the media anointed it a "beer summit."

>> NARRATOR: It was a painful lesson.

>> And the lesson he took from that is, like, "This is a loser.

If I'm weighing in on these racial issues,

it's only going to galvanize the, the forces against me."

>> What I didn't appreciate as much then

was just how much Obama would become

a symbol of change in the country,

a change from a, you know, a white America

to a more diverse America, a more cosmopolitan America.

I think he became a symbol for segments of our country

of change that they did not welcome.

>> Time for a little healing over some beers, my friends.

He wants you to pay attention

because his poll numbers are tanking.

>> This is just-- folks, it is a lousy, lousy image

to present to America.

>> Now they're using the poor cop as a, you know, a stooge

here to make believe he did it all.

We are skating on very thin ice with this man

in the White House, and you've only seen the beginning of it.

>> Madam Speaker.

>> The President of the United States.

(crowd cheering and applauding)

>> NARRATOR: Healthcare reform was stuck.

The divide with the Republicans was widening.

Obama would demand action.

>> The time for bickering is over.

The time for games has passed.

Now is the season for action!

Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties

together and show the American people that we can still do

what we were sent here to do, now is the time to deliver

on healthcare!

>> NARRATOR: But at that moment, the outrage machine arrived

on the floor of Congress.

>> There are also those who claim that our reform efforts

would insure illegal immigrants.

This, too, is false.

The reforms...

(members murmuring)

The reforms I'm proposing would not apply

to those who are here illegally. >> You lie!

(audience exclaiming)

>> It's not true.

>> A member shouted, "You lie!"

>> You lie! (audience exclaiming)

>> NARRATOR: It was Republican Representative Joe Wilson

from South Carolina.

>> Well, the Tea Party experience came right into

the, you know, the House chamber,

but to see that sort of disrespect

on the floor of the House directed towards

the president of the United States, I think,

caused everybody's head to snap.

>> You lie!

(audience exclaiming)

>> Not too many years before,

he would have resigned in disgrace from the Congress,

and he would have been called upon to do so

by leaders of both parties.

Instead, what happened?

He raised a couple million dollars overnight.

What's the lesson there?

There's no longer a punishment for dishonesty, for craziness.

It's rewarded.

>> NARRATOR: The president faced an emerging reality.

The Republicans' inauguration day pledge to oppose him

was coming true.

There was no way health reform would be bipartisan.

>> He wasn't going to get a Republican vote for anything.

If you're going to tell Barack Obama that you can't do anything

without a Republican vote, you're telling him,

"You cannot do a single thing as president,

that you just... you're just going to sit there

and do nothing."

Because the Republicans weren't going to give him votes

for anything.

>> Barack Obama came into office thinking,

"Well, I can reason with them.

If I've got good arguments, they're reasonable people,

and we'll come to some reasonable conclusion."

Well, he was wrong.

That was not there.

The Republicans didn't want to give him any victory.

It had nothing to do with reason or logic,

they just didn't want to give him a victory.

>> NARRATOR: He would fight back,

rallying his Democratic supporters--

including many young, diverse liberals.

>> Do not quit! Do not give up!

We keep on going!

We are going to get this done!

We are going to make history!

We are going to fix healthcare in America with your help!

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America!

>> Down to the wire on healthcare reform.

The House votes just hours from now.

>> After months of rancor in the streets,

the vote takes place in just a few hours.

>> NARRATOR: It had consumed the first year of his presidency.

>> Members will record their votes by electronic device.

On this vote, the yeas are 219, the nays are 212.

The motion is adopted.

>> It's 219 to 212.

No votes from Republicans.

>> All Democrats, no Republicans.

>> This is a huge victory for this president.

>> For decades, they've been trying to do it.

It has now been done.

>> This legislation will not fix everything

that ails our healthcare system.

But it moves us decisively in the right direction.

This is what change looks like.

>> Obamacare got shoved down our throats

without majority support in the country, which was a huge thing.

And people were angry.

Republicans were angry.

And I don't think Republicans have ever forgiven him for it.

>> ...what many call socialized medicine.

>> It's the most brazen assault on a fundamental aspect

of our republic...

>> ...every single Republican senator votes consistently

against government-run healthcare

should be a clear indication.

>> This is going to be the end of the economy as we know it.

>> By passing a healthcare program essentially on

the strength of one party, it was fated, destined

to become a continuing partisan divide,

part of the issues that would come up

in election after election from then on.

>> ...the perfect title, "Lies, Damn Lies,"

that's what Obamacare was all about.

>> NARRATOR: The anger directed at Obama was growing.

There were even questions about who he really was

from across the divide.

(crowd cheering and applauding)

(crowd cheering and applauding)

>> The birther movement was so powerful

was because it spoke to all types of other anxieties

that many white Americans had about Barack Obama.

"Well, he's not even from here, he's not one of us.

Prove it.

Prove you were born here."

>> NARRATOR: Right-wing websites picked it up.

>> He won't even produce a birth certificate,

don't you love that?

>> NARRATOR: Talk radio joined in.

>> Something there that the president doesn't want

people to see on that birth certificate.

>> If you have nothing to hide, why won't you show...

>> NARRATOR: Before long, it caught the attention

of reality TV star Donald Trump.

>> He asks me about it.

He says, "Have you read this stuff?

It's very interesting, there's a lot of odd questions here."

But he brings the issue into the mainstream.

>> NARRATOR: Roger Stone was a longtime political adviser

to Trump.

He has since been convicted of lying to Congress.

>> Trump understands among Republicans

there's a very substantial majority

who have questions about Obama's origins

and how he just pops up out of nowhere

to become a national figure, and whether he was in fact eligible

to serve as president.

>> We thought that Trump needed an issue

that resonates with people.

The birth certificate meant a lot of different things

to a lot of different people.

Overall, it talked about how Obama was different,

he was a different kind of person,

he was a Manchurian-type candidate.

>> ...they release the birth certificate.

>> NARRATOR: Trump was thinking of running against Obama

in 2012.

>> It doesn't matter whether I have doubts or not.

>> Please welcome my friend Donald Trump.

>> NARRATOR: He made himself the face of the birther movement.

>> Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?

I think-- I think he probably... >> Why should he have to?

>> Because I have to and everybody else has to, Whoopi.

Why wouldn't he show...

Excuse me.

No, excuse me.

I really believe there's a birth certificate.

Why-- look, she's smiling.

Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?

>> I never heard any white president asked to be shown

the birth certificate.

>> Everybody does.

>> When you become a president...

>> You are not allowed to be a president

if you're not born in this country.

He may not have been born in this country...

>> That was the racist manifestation

of resistance to the president.

Donald Trump was at the forefront of it.

I think it, it rankled President Obama

because the birther stuff was just a pure

racism-slash-xenophobia, and it was based in nothing.

>> More than 40% of the population still question

whether he's actually an American or not.

>> NARRATOR: Obama had already released his birth certificate

during the presidential campaign.

But the issue wouldn't go away. >> Obama was furious.

It wasn't Trump. It was the media.

If Trump couldn't get booked on all those shows,

he'd just be some... another whack job,

you know, tweeting about conspiracy theories.

And maybe getting booked on Fox.

He's a-- Donald Trump is a creation

of the American political news media.

And that's what angered Obama,

that's what angered us in the White House.

>> The great part about a guy with your resources

that you were able to deploy people to go and find out

what is actually going on

with Barack Obama's birth certificate.

What did you find?

>> Well, we're looking into it very, very strongly.

Nobody knows who he is.

It's very strange.

The whole thing is very strange.

And she was saying he was born, essentially, in Kenya.

And if he wasn't born in this country,

it's one of the greatest scams in the history of politics

and in the history, period.

The more I go into it, the more suspect it is.

>> NARRATOR: Obama reluctantly released more proof

of his citizenship.

>> Now, as many of you have been briefed,

we provided additional information today

about the site of my birth.

This thing just kept on going.

Yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii, August 4, 1961,

in Kapiolani Hospital.

We've posted the certification

that is given by the State of Hawaii.

>> NARRATOR: Three days later, it was time for payback.

>> The president uses the White House Correspondents' Dinner

that year, with Donald Trump in the room,

to completely ridicule Donald Trump

in front of this audience that, you know,

that, you know, journalists and lobbyists

and government officials.

And people who, at that time,

Trump wanted to have the respect of.

>> All right, everybody, please have a seat.

(crowd cheering and applauding)

Donald Trump is here tonight.

(cheering and applauding)

No one is happier, no one is prouder,

to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald.

And that's because he can finally get back to focusing

on the issues that matter--

like, did we fake the moon landing?

(audience laughing)

>> I was two tables away from Trump.

The conventional way in Washington of absorbing a joke

at the White House Correspondents' Dinner

is to keep your chin up

and at least pretend to have a sense of humor about it,

even if you go cry into your pillow that night.

Trump was steaming.

His face was all locked in-- he was not having a good time.

>> All kidding aside, obviously,

we all know about your credentials

and breadth of experience.

(audience laughing)

For example...

No, seriously, just recently, in an episode

of "Celebrity Apprentice," at the steakhouse,

the men's cooking team did not impress the judges

from Omaha Steaks.

And there was a lot of blame to go around.

But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem

was a lack of leadership.

And so ultimately you didn't blame Lil' Jon or Meatloaf.

(audience laughing)

You fired Gary Busey.

(audience laughing)

And these are the kind of decisions

that would keep me up at night.

(audience laughing)

(cheering and applauding)

Well handled, sir.

Well handled.

>> But it just kept going and going

and he just kept hammering him.

And I thought, "Oh, Barack Obama is starting something

that I don't know if he'll be able to finish."

>> Say what you will about Mr. Trump,

he certainly would bring some change to the White House.

Let's see what we've got up there.

>> I think that is the night that he resolves

to run for president.

I think that he is kind of motivated by it.

"Maybe I'll just run.

Maybe I'll show them all."

>> Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down

to President Trump.

It's everyone who's ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed,

who ever challenged him, it is the ultimate revenge

to become the most powerful man in the universe.

>> God bless you

and may God bless the United States of America.

(audience applauding)

>> NARRATOR: Neither Trump, nor the birther issue,

were going to go away.

>> Back to this birther business for just a second.

>> Obama is an unknown man, may not be a citizen,

surrounded by radicals, surrounded by terrorists.

>> If Obama were such a shoo-in,

Donald Trump would not have had any jokes told about him

on Saturday night at the White House...

>> ...the copy of the new fake birth certificate.

Now, we've looked at it, we're going to go over why it's fake,

how it's a composite...

>> Democrats are nursing a major midterm hangover.

>> No sense in sugarcoating last night's...

>> NARRATOR: Out in the country and in Washington...

>> Tuesday's election was a game changer...

>> NARRATOR: The divide was growing.

And in the midterms, angry Republicans rose up.

>> A repudiation of the president and his policies.

>> That is a very unhappy electorate.

>> NARRATOR: Democrats lost control of the House.

>> Democrats of every stripe were voted

out of office last night.

>> NARRATOR: Obama called it a "shellacking."

>> Voters, they went to the polls tonight to send a message

to Barack Obama.

>> I can tell you that, you know, some election nights

are more fun than others.

Some are exhilarating, some are humbling.

>> In 2010, it became an election very much about

President Obama and about how his administration

was much more liberal than what the country wanted

or had voted for.

It was as if, you know, "We've been betrayed,

this is a president who's going to take us off

in a crazy dangerous direction, and we can't let that happen."

>> And we won races in every corner of the nation,

in such a broad and wide victory,

that the outcome is unprecedented.

>> NARRATOR: 87 new Republicans joined what became known

as the "Tea Party Congress."

>> The Tea Party movement has given life

to the Republican Party.

>> The Washington leadership of the Republican Party

saw energy and enthusiasm amongst the grassroots,

so the leaders sought to capitalize

on the energy of that movement.

>> NARRATOR: The 87 were rebels who had run

on changing Washington.

But their first challenge was their own leader,

the Washington insider John Boehner.

>> I now pass this gavel and the sacred trust that goes with it

to the new speaker.

God bless you, Speaker Boehner.

(members cheering)

>> NARRATOR: Boehner had a reputation as a dealmaker--

someone willing to work with Democrats.

>> I didn't need to be speaker

because I needed a fancy title or a big office.

I wanted to be speaker so I could lead an effort

to deal with the serious issues that are facing our country.

>> Obama used to tell me, "John Boehner is just like

the Republicans that I worked really well with

in the Illinois State Senate,

a Midwestern country club Republican.

He's not a racist, he's a good and decent man."

He has serious ideological differences with Obama,

but they could get stuff done together, right?

>> I'll be working with a bipartisan...

>> NARRATOR: And Obama believed he knew just how to reach out

to a country club Republican: golf.

>> Before the golf match started, I told the president,

I said, "Mr. President, this is about golf,

not about anything else."

And he and I were partners.

We played well and we won.

>> NARRATOR: Obama had more than golf on his mind.

He wanted to make a deal

to solve the country's fiscal problems.

>> I suggested to the president, you know,

"Why don't we have a conversation?"

And he agreed.

>> NARRATOR: But it would be dangerous for Boehner.

The Tea Party faction was watching him.

They would have to meet in secret.

>> Well, that was Boehner's decision, not ours, obviously.

It's not every day that the speaker comes

to see the president quietly and says,

"I'm willing to do a deal,"

that everybody knows is going to be dangerous

for him politically.

>> NARRATOR: The speaker secretly entered the White House

through a side entrance.

>> Because it was so difficult for John Boehner to be seen

as working with Barack Obama, he would be snuck in the back door

of the White House.

He'd come in on the weekends, or he'd come in at night,

and kind of sneak the guy through and, like, sit there

with Obama, and negotiate or have a drink, right?

>> NARRATOR: They talked of a "grand bargain,"

a once-in-a-generation deal to reduce the deficit.

Obama would agree to cut entitlements,

Boehner to raise taxes.

>> The Republican leadership was willing to make a deal.

John Boehner was willing to make a deal.

And the president was able to get Democratic leaders

in Congress to sign off on that deal.

>> NARRATOR: But back at the Capitol,

Boehner was confronted by resistance

from his Tea Party members.

>> There was support for what was being discussed

at the White House was not there in the Republican conference.

There was no way that a majority of Republicans

were going to support what the president was talking about.

It just wasn't going to happen.

>> It was absolutely scuttled by Boehner's own people.

But the fact was, he couldn't get it done.

He didn't have the strength or the conviction

to, to have a fight about it in his own party,

and it, and it fell apart.

>> It's a bad idea for Speaker Boehner

to meet alone with President Obama.

>> Tea Party nation calling for John Boehner to step down.

>> ...and the screw-up is the leadership

in the House of Representatives,

rather than trashing conservatives.

>> Boehner's a complete fraud.

The Tan Man always claims to have the pulse

of the American people...

>> He never had any control of this caucus,

and whenever he took anything back to his caucus,

they just tore him apart and ate him alive.

They would lose their minds.

And so then, we realize there is no "grand bargain" to be had

with these people.

>> I just got a call about a half-hour ago

from Speaker Boehner.

It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away

from this kind of deal, and frankly, I think that, you know,

one of the questions that the Republican Party's going to have

to ask itself is, can they say yes to anything?

Can they say yes to anything?

Thank you very much.

>> The Republicans were more than happy

to take the votes of the Tea Party members

and the Tea Party freshman class.

But it changed the nature of the caucus in fundamental ways.

You now had a hard group, hard group of congressmen and women

who were really not interested in governing.

They were more interested in taking a stand,

and frustrated one legislative procedure after another.

>> The establishment part of the Republican Party

didn't understand that by allying themselves

with the Tea Party, they were, in a sense,

writing their own death certificate in a way

that would lead to the takeover of the Republican Party

by Donald Trump.

>> He has no one to blame but himself.

I'm not going to do the waterworks of John Boehner.

>> I want to salute the Freedom Fighters

in the House of Representatives, and they're not going to take

John Boehner's crap sitting down anymore.

>> ...gone along just to get along with President Obama,

like Speaker Boehner.

You know, we need to thank them for their service,

and say, "Okay, time for new energy."

♪ ♪

>> Tonight on "Nightline." License to kill?

It's the shooting death that's sparked an explosion of outrage.

Good evening, I'm Terry Moran.

It's the story that's ignited fierce passions

across the nation, as allegations of racism

and miscarriage of justice tear apart a small Florida town.

>> NARRATOR: For Obama, once again, the issue of race.

>> Trayvon Martin was walking back from a convenience store

when he was allegedly shot by a Neighborhood Watch...

>> Police have the gun, they've got the shooter,

but they have not arrested him.

The dead man's grieving family wants to know, "Why not?"

>> President Obama, as the first African-American president,

had been very careful not to talk too much about race.

It was frustrating to some African Americans.

Then Trayvon Martin is killed in Florida, and the country gasps.

The country is, is really on edge.

>> Here's a teenager walking through the neighborhood

where his father lives, committing no crime,

bothering no one, who is followed, confronted,

and ends up in a physical altercation with a stranger

where he ends up killed.

And then the person who killed him

is allowed to go home that day.

>> The contradiction of this happening in the midst

of a black presidency sharpened the irony

and intensified the pain I think people felt around this.

>> African Americans who had turned out in record numbers

for him, who, in some ways, Obama owed his presidency to,

felt as though he wasn't saying enough about race.

>> People were pushing him.

"Say something.

Are you going to say anything?

You're a black man.

A young black boy has been murdered

by a guy who's a hyped-up, you know, neighborhood watchman.

Black America is traumatized by this."

Silence from the White House.

Nothing-- no leadership, no, no insight.

(cameras clicking)

>> NARRATOR: Finally...

>> Good morning, everybody.

>> NARRATOR: Nearly a month after the killing,

the president was publicly confronted about it.

>> Can you comment on the Trayvon Martin case, sir?

>> My main message is, is to the parents of Trayvon Martin.

Um... You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.

And, um...

You know, I think they are right to expect that all of us

as Americans are going to take this

with the seriousness it deserves

and that we're going to get to the bottom

of exactly what happened.

All right, thank you.

>> It showed and it underscored the complications,

the difficulties of the first black president

weighing in on issues of race.

That by his very presence, by his very willingness to discuss,

he himself was bringing the partisan guns to the fight.

And suddenly, an innocuous statement

became deeply inflammatory to half of the country.

>> ...the president had a son,

he wouldn't look anything like Trayvon Martin.

He'd be wearing a blazer from his prep school.

He'd be driving a Beamer.

>> We have a president who has, who has frozen racial tension

in our country instead of thawing racial tension.

>> NARRATOR: It blew up on Fox.

>> The president's goal is to heighten

African-American turnout by stoking a feeling

of victimization in the African-American community.

>> NARRATOR: And it took off on an increasingly powerful

new platform: Breitbart.

>> We were the blog kind of for the Tea Party.

This Tea Party energy, you know, right after

the financial collapse.

We caught on with this kind of working-class,

middle-class audience.

>> NARRATOR: They were the voice of the populist outrage

Sarah Palin had activated,

running stories that stoked fear and division--

black-on-black crime, Islamic terrorism,

violence by immigrants, a culture under assault.

>> "Hispanic and black thugs

tend to attack Asians because ..."

>> "Blacks are incapable for being responsible ..."

>> NARRATOR: Breitbart's comment sections became notorious

gathering places for extreme viewpoints.

>> "The towel heads are taking over because we've let them."

>> "Gayness is a cancer..."

>> I mean, it reads like you've walked into a hate club

gathering of some kind.

>> "How stupid are women? Let's find out."

>> They were appealing to the segment of the population

that are racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic--

really, the worst among us.

Creating this congregating space every day,

where people from that worldview can go and rally around

one another to find content that validates their worldview.

And I think that's what they were building, ultimately.

>> Think that there was a failure to appreciate

the extent to which these online communities were forming,

and these online ecosystems were forming.

That if you were someone who spent all day in your car

listening to Rush Limbaugh and got home and watched Glenn Beck

at night and then opened your Facebook page

and saw a bunch of Breitbart links, it didn't really matter

to you "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post"

had said that birtherism wasn't true.

Didn't matter how many Pinocchios that FactCheck

had gotten of Donald Trump's latest talk show appearance.

>> There's a story on Breitbart,

Republican National Committee declares war...

>> This was provided to me by Breitbart...

>> Breitbart breaking more stories in the past few years

than most journalists who like to dust off their awards

on their shelves.

>> They're going to keep the race business alive,

and it's going to prosper during the Obama administration,

'cause that causes more chaos.

>> They want to stir up racial hatred in the country,

and you know what?

I'm not afraid to talk about race--

let's talk about it, let's see.

♪ ♪

>> President Obama is battling for his own second term...

>> in such difficult shape right now...

>> President Obama's approval ratings have hit

an all-time low...

>> ...Obama out on the campaign trail today, then we saw...

>> NARRATOR: By the time he was running for reelection

in 2012...

>> A difficult road ahead for the president...

>> NARRATOR: The divisiveness was rampant.

He had dramatically dropped in the polls.

>> President Obama faces an uphill battle.

>> NARRATOR: He was fighting to keep his job.

>> It was a much different President Obama

out on the campaign trail today...

>> We were in bad shape politically.

Nate Silver wrote a piece on the cover

of the "New York Times Magazine," and the headline was,

"Is Obama Toast?"

>> NARRATOR: A very different Barack Obama headed out

to do battle with the Republicans.

It was not a campaign about unity.

>> We knew that we had to run

a very hard-edged reelection campaign

that posited the president as someone who was battling

for the middle class.

(crowd applauding)

>> If I said, "The sky was blue," they said, "No."

If I said, "There were fish in the sea," they said, "No."

They figured, "If Obama fails, then we win."

>> President Obama decided,

"We're going to have an argument in 2012.

We're going to win that argument if we can.

And if we win it, we are then going to do what we want to do,

or, or push in the directions we want to push."

(crowd applauding)

>> Because of their policies,

the Republicans messed up so bad...

>> He's a more scarred president who has become himself

frustrated by the way Washington works,

no longer quite so believing in the idea

that bipartisanship is possible.

It was a different message than it was in 2008.

It was not a "Come Together" message.

It was not a "Hope and Change" message.

It was a "Stop the Other Guys" message.

>> It's the same agenda that they have been pushing

for years.

>> NARRATOR: As Obama attacked,

Republicans were also at war-- with themselves.

The establishment had gotten behind one of their own,

wealthy businessman Mitt Romney.

>> Barack Obama has failed America.

This country we love is in peril.

(crowd cheering and applauding)

>> NARRATOR: The Tea Party saw him as out of touch.

>> He verges on hysterical.

Mitt Romney has never done a single thing

to favor the conservative cause...

>> I swear, every time Mitt Romney opens his mouth,

I have no... I think he's running against me.

>> I don't think that Romney was somebody who understood

the angst of the American people.

He didn't understand what, what, especially the Republicans in,

throughout the United States, were feeling,

how, how disaffected they felt.

>> What does Mitt Romney believe?

>> And is he truly a conservative?

>> Not exactly a person of conviction, not even...

>> NARRATOR: Romney needed the Tea Party

and its populist base.

Trying to win them over, he went to Las Vegas

for an endorsement-- from the man who put the birther movement

on the map.

(audience applauding)

>> Mitt Romney looks completely uncomfortable.

Donald Trump is totally in his element.

It's, in a curious way, it's Donald Trump's event,

not Mitt Romney's event.

He, you know, he, he commands the stage.

>> It's my honor, real honor, and privilege

to endorse Mitt Romney.

>> It was literally one of the most bizarre

political scenes I'd ever seen.

>> And by the way, this is a great couple...

>> Mitt and Ann Romney were standing up there.

And I kept looking at Ann Romney,

who looked like she was using

every single bit of energy she had not to start

cracking up uncontrollably.

At that moment, it seemed like, you know, not unlike Sarah Palin

four years earlier, kind of a comic diversion,

something that was different.

>> So, Governor Romney, go out and get 'em, you can do it.

>> It was hilarious; it was bizarre.

In retrospect, I guess it represented

some kind passing of the torch.

>> There are some things that you just can't imagine happening

in your life.

This is one of them.

(crowd laughing)

Being in Donald Trump's magnificent hotel

and having his endorsement is a delight.

I'm, I'm so honored, and...

>> It was a tacit endorsement in the other direction

of Mitt Romney to the kind of rhetoric

that Donald Trump was vociferous in trafficking in

around Obama's birth certificate--

the, the perpetrator of a blatantly nativist campaign

against the president of the United States.

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: But on election night at Romney headquarters

in Boston, there was no victory party.

>> Romney was the worst candidate.

>> He got his clock cleaned.

>> Today I'm pissed off, and you should be, too!

>> NARRATOR: Establishment Republicans were reeling.

>> ...especially when you look at the turnout...

>> NARRATOR: And one particular Republican was making plans

for the future.

>> There's serious soul-searching going to happen

in the Republican Party, and the...

>> Donald Trump went to Boston, in fact,

to be at the victory party that never occurred.

He got on his plane, turned around,

went back to New York City, and he started tweeting.

>> "This election is a total sham and a travesty.

We are not a democracy!"


"We can't let this happen.

We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.

Our nation is totally divided!"


"We should have a revolution in this country."


>> NARRATOR: It was an opening salvo

in a campaign to capture the conservative base.

And just six days later,

Trump signed this trademark application

for the phrase "Make America Great Again."

>> Right after Romney lost, we had a brief chat.

"Can Hillary be beat?

Who else is going to run?"

He's already handicapping.

Romney's body isn't even cold yet,

and he's already handicapping this election.

It was clear to me then he was going to run.

>> The president of the United States has been reelected.

Barack Obama wins...

>> ...defeating Mitt Romney following an often nasty...

>> NARRATOR: Obama's coalition had prevailed.

>> Another four years for President Barack Obama.

>> NARRATOR: Now he would test whether the election

had consequences.

>> Obama gets reelected, you know, rather decisively.

And, you know, he was hopeful that this fever would break.

He kept saying, like,

"Hopefully, this breaks the fever."

>> NARRATOR: To win, Obama had energized Latino voters.

Republican leaders had taken note.

Now the president hoped they might be willing to work

with him on immigration reform.

>> Everybody understood that there was an opening,

a political opening, because Republicans were ready

to come to the conversation.

And so the president's marching orders to his team

were very clear: "This is a priority.

I want to get it done."

>> The Republicans did a sobering study

of where things stood, and they realized,

after 2012, that America's changing,

and that if you wanted to win the White House,

not just Congress, you had to appeal to younger voters,

Latinos, and women.

>> "We must embrace and champion

comprehensive immigration reform.

If we do not, our party's appeal will continue to shrink."

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: GOP power brokers like Majority Leader Eric Cantor

laid out the party's problem.

>> Too many millennials, minorities,

and others have rejected us at the polls

because they sense that somehow we're not inclusive.

And unless we show the American people

that conservative principles actually help them

in a real, and not just theory,

we'll never get the majority confidence back.

>> Today, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a plan that...

>> Now Republicans and Democrats set to announce

a major compromise surrounding immigration.

>> one of those issues...

>> NARRATOR: Republican Senator Marco Rubio

was the face of bipartisan immigration reform.

>> (speaking Spanish):

>> The political class was sure that immigration reform

was going to be like falling off a log.

>> NARRATOR: Even on Fox News,

support for the softer immigration approach.

>> And even people like Sean Hannity went on the air

and said, "We need to rethink our position

on immigration.

I was wrong to take such a hard line on, on immigration."

>> You create a pathway for those people that are here.

You don't say, "You got to go home."

And that is an... a, an, a position that I've evolved on.

>> NARRATOR: Sean Hannity invited Obama's nemesis

and Fox regular onto his show.

And even he seemed to favor immigration reform.

>> I think it's getting very tough to win as a Republican.

Look, they've lost on immigration.

They're going to have to do something on immigration.

Because, you know, our country is a different place

than it was 50 years ago.

So we'll see what happens.

>> Mr. Trump, always a pleasure. >> Thank you very much.

>> NARRATOR: Obama's wish in the aftermath of his reelection--

that the fever would break-- seemed like it might come true.

But there was a new wrinkle.

>> What was interesting is, the fever broke

among certain Republican elites, right?

The problem is, that's not where the Republican voters were

or the majority of the Republican House caucus.

>> NARRATOR: At Breitbart, the chairman, Steve Bannon,

was sowing division, rallying the populist base

against the Republican establishment.

>> I said, "Let's attack the real enemy,

and the real enemy's the Republican establishment.

What we're going to do is just go after the House leadership,

we're going to go after the Mitch McConnells,

we're going to go after the donors.

We're just going to go hard at kind of this

Paul Ryan philosophy."

>> NARRATOR: Bannon and Breitbart weaponized

immigration against the establishment.

>> We spent a lot more time talking to the public

than we spent talking to the elite.

>> NARRATOR: The issue lit up Breitbart's already

incendiary message boards.

>> "Illegals kill 12-plus people a day in this country."

>> "Torturous, murderous, rapists.

This president calls them 'Dreamers.'"

>> "Deport all of the illegal aliens."

>> It is potentially, the threat of an open border

is pretty catastrophic.

Immigration, to Republican voters, by a mile,

it's the number-one issue, even ahead of tax cuts.

>> This was some of the brilliance of Bannon.

He recognized an anxiety that had been building

in the heartland for years.

The country itself felt like it was changing, and,

"Are these people here illegally?

Did they skip a step in line?

Did they follow all the rules?"

Again, the, the economy for so many Americans has still

been so frustrating.

So all of this is happening while people have real questions

about their own security.

>> NARRATOR: Bannon decided it was time was

for a show of force, to use immigration

to take down a central figure in the Republican establishment.

>> And when they looked around, the guy that they thought

was most vulnerable was Eric Cantor,

the House majority leader.

>> NARRATOR: Cantor was up for reelection.

Tea Party challenger Dave Brat was more than 30 points behind

in the primary.

>> I... he definitely knew it was coming.

(stutters): That was, also happened to be my home district,

but I could feel it.

I knew that, that a guy like Brat could... they were...

they were very weak.

>> Cantor, can you believe this guy?

Can you believe Ryan?

>> NARRATOR: Breitbart swung behind Brat.

>> Eric Cantor, he's all in for amnesty.

>> NARRATOR: They set the agenda for right-wing radio.

>> You're a coward, Eric Cantor. You only...

>> ...Eric Cantor, who wants amnesty; Paul Ryan, who I...

>> Anything that became talking points on conservative radio

were coming from Breitbart.

And you had a transformation where conservative radio hosts

weren't clicking on Drudge Report on what to say,

they were clicking on Breitbart.

>> NARRATOR: It worked.

>> History-making upset--

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost...

>> This was a seismic shift that took

all of the establishment figures...

>> NARRATOR: Cantor's defeat sent a message to Republicans.

>> ...a new Republican Party, with fresh faces...

>> NARRATOR: Bipartisan immigration reform was dead.

>> House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's defeat

is the end of immigration reform.

>> I knew that night when I heard.

I was talking to my Republican...

they were, basically, "There's no reason

for us to talk anymore.

This is not going anywhere."

>> You can almost feel the Capitol shake.

I've never seen so many people crying with long faces,

all upset on Capitol Hill.

I mean, that's, I think, the worst drubbing

the establishment has had in, in many years.

>> It was the elected Republicans and talk radio

realizing that the people who vote for them

and watch their media hated their guts.

Absolutely hated their guts.

>> It was clear that the voter base was throwing out

the Republican establishment's ideas on immigration.

That's what that represented.

And it was stunning, it was one of the biggest upsets

in the history of American politics.

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: President Obama's advisers understood

what it meant.

>> The second that Eric Cantor is defeated in that primary

was the death knell of immigration reform,

and also was a signal that the Republican Party

was no longer just kind of talking publicly

about Obamacare and spending,

and a little quietly to their base about immigration.

This was going to become what the party was about,

which is racially or ethnically fueled grievances

with immigration at the center.

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: The divide was widening.

But outside of Washington, in Newtown, Connecticut,

in one tragic event, shared national grief.

>> What's your emergency?

>> Sandy Hook School, I think there's somebody

who's shooting in here.

>> Sandy Hook Elementary School, inside,

I believe there's shooting at the front.

>> Please hurry, please hurry. >> Please.

(gunshots echo over phone)

>> I need assistance here immediately.

>> I still hear him shooting.

(siren blaring)

♪ ♪

>> Newtown was the worst moment of the presidency.

It was unfathomable to imagine 20 children,

six- and seven-year-old first-graders

being gunned down in that violent and destructive way.

And then six adults who were trying to help.

>> I remember seeing Obama several times that day,

and he was, like...

I've never seen him as much of an emotional wreck.

>> When I got a email from the president saying,

"This is the first time that I cried in the Oval Office."

>> I mean, he was just bursting into tears throughout the day.

>> He always told me that if something happened

to one of his kids, he didn't think he could get out of bed.

And here are all these beautiful, young kids who were,

were slaughtered.

And he was, he was sad, and he was irate.

And he kept saying, like, "All I... I, I don't think

I can talk about this publicly,

because the second I start talking about those kids,

I'm just going to be thinking about my kids."

♪ ♪

>> The majority of those who died today were children,

beautiful little kids between the ages of five

and ten years old.

They had their entire lives ahead of them:

birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.

As a country, we have been through this too many times.

May God bless the memory of the victims,

and in the words of Scripture,

heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.

>> NARRATOR: For Obama, Newtown was a test--

whether a tragedy could bring the country together

around another contentious issue-- gun control.

>> He was so moved by what happened in Newtown,

and he thought the country was, as well,

that this would be a chance to do something

that Democrats would have loved to have done before,

but never thought was possible.

>> NARRATOR: The president wanted gun legislation.

But by now, he had become so polarizing,

he told Vice President Joe Biden to take the lead.

>> It was in a context of sorrow,

extreme, I mean, anger and frustration about,

"Why can't we do something about this?"

It was, like, "Enough is enough is enough.

Put together something for me, Joe."

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: Biden turned to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin

and Republican Senator Pat Toomey to draft it.

>> We have what looks to be a model of bipartisan action.

And they propose a modest change in the gun laws,

but one that would begin, at least, to turn an issue

that had gone entirely in one direction

in a somewhat different direction.

>> NARRATOR: Public support was strong.

Republicans were signing on.

>> Everyone felt like the world was going to change.

Everyone felt like, "This is going to be the mass shooting

that makes America really look at its gun laws

and change something."

>> I was optimistic.

Over 91% of the American people supported

expanding background checks,

80% of the households that had an NRA member supported it.

>> I've had enough of all these people, all their talk...

>> NARRATOR: Then, the blowback.

Breitbart, talk radio.

>> ...always try to hide their agendas behind women

and children and most of all victims...

>> They apparently don't believe liberty's on the line,

they apparently don't believe the Constitution

and the Bill of Rights are on the line...

>> NARRATOR: Fox News.

>> It's about the ideology.

It's about stripping law-abiding American citizens

from their, their legal right to have a gun.

>> And they're very eager to use whatever tragedy they can

to advance their cause.

>> Their gun, gun laws are going to hurt the,

the defense of the innocent.

>> It's got "inside job" written all over it.

>> NARRATOR: And on the fringes, outrageous conspiracy theories,

denying the shooting had actually happened.

>> Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors--

in my view, manufactured.

>> I have no faith in these people, none.

You would think now, if ever,

that a so-called conservative Republican in the Senate

would have learned the lesson that this president

cannot be relied on to follow the law.

>> NARRATOR: One by one, Obama watched key Republicans--

and even some Democrats-- back away from the bill.

>> Cutting deals over what?

Over the Second Amendment?

I despise these people.

And the older I get, the more I despise...

>> Here was a moment where 80%, 90% of Americans, I think,

would have supported some sort of a reasonable compromise

about it.

And yet, nothing happened.

So, this is where you have the Republican Party held hostage

by its base, and American politics held hostage

by that Republican Party.

>> Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Isakson.

Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. Leahy.

Mr. Lee.

Mr. Wyden.

(gavel banging)

>> The amendment is not agreed to.

>> NARRATOR: The bill fell five votes short.

>> "How could they vote that way?

Don't they understand what happened?

How can they do that? How can this be? "

I mean, it was disbelief and a sense of betrayal.

That was the mood.

♪ ♪

>> It was an emotional setback for the president.

It was a huge political setback for the president.

And, and in some ways, helped to set the tone, again,

for what was going to come after, in other areas.

>> NARRATOR: Obama invited the Newtown families

to the White House.

>> Daniel was a first-grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I know that he felt, he felt a sense of responsibility to us

and, and to the nation and to that 90% of the country

that, that wanted this.

You know, I think he felt a, a strong sense of responsibility

toward that, and his, his disgust was palpable.

>> It came down to politics--

the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners

would come after them in future elections.

So, all in all, this was a pretty shameful day

for Washington.

Thank you very much, everybody.

>> Great presidents have been able to forge compromise.

President Obama was not able to do that.

And the reason may well be the implacability of the people

sitting on the other side of the table from him.

Sometimes, you can't get to "Yes"

with someone who won't say anything other than "No."

♪ ♪

>> We're supposed to believe

that if only these background checks were in place, all...

Newtown wouldn't have happened,

none of this would have happened.

>> There wasn't one part of this bill

that would have stopped what happened at that school.

>> "Won't you just turn your guns in for my son?

Why'd you do it to him, gun owners?"

Listen, I didn't kill your kids.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

>> From NBC News world headquarters in New York,

this is "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt."

>> There is growing outrage tonight

after an unarmed African-American teenager

was shot and killed by police in the St. Louis suburb

of Ferguson, Missouri.

>> St. Louis County police have taken over the investigation

of a shooting by a Ferguson police officer

that left a teenager dead.

>> Witnesses say the teen was not armed

and had his hands up in the air when a police officer

fatally shot him.

>> NARRATOR: Once again, race would emerge and sow division.

>> Ferguson becomes a tinderbox, explodes.

People want an immediate reaction from Barack Obama

and his administration.

>> He ain't armed, he don't got no gun, they just killed him.

His blood everywhere.

>> Ferguson became a metaphor for this entire complex

of relationships between black people and police,

and the criminal-justice system.

And it becomes a kind of Rorschach test.

Michael Brown is unarmed.

He is fired upon by the police officer

who says that he attacked him.

There are varying eyewitness accounts that dispute that.

What is not in dispute is that his body lays on the street

where he was shot in the sweltering heat

for multiple hours.

>> What do we want? >> Justice!

>> When do we want it? >> Now!

>> What do we want? >> Justice!

>> When do we want it? >> Now!

>> What do we want? >> Justice!

>> NARRATOR: Night after night,

the streets of Ferguson were a war zone.

(fireworks exploding)

(people clamoring)

The president remained silent.

>> When Ferguson blew, it exploded his inability

to grapple straightforwardly with the issue of race.

He was contorted and tragically twisted

when it came to, um, to Ferguson.

>> The difficulty of this situation for Barack Obama

is that it exposes him, again and again and again,

to the most inflammatory thing about his presidency,

with, you know, the beer summit and Skip Gates,

with Trayvon Martin, and now with Ferguson,

that he is brought again and again

back to this third-rail issue of the disparities of race

in this country.

>> NARRATOR: Finally, after five days...

>> Good afternoon, everybody.

>> NARRATOR: ...he went before the press.

>> There is never an excuse for violence against police

or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover

for vandalism or looting.

>> NARRATOR: He chose a cautious route.

>> ...hold ourselves to a high standard.

So, now's the time for healing,

now's the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.

>> He's trying to thread this needle.

And it feels as though both sides end up

being disappointed by what he does.

>> Thanks very much, everybody.

>> I was once interviewing Obama in the White House, and...

I asked him a question about race.

And his answer was unusually, uh... guarded.

Inconsequential, and, for journalistic purposes,

almost useless.

>> NARRATOR: Later, as Remnick was leaving the interview,

Obama stopped him in the hallway.

>> He says to me, "You got to remember,

I am the president of the United States--

I'm not the president of black America.

Everybody knows who I am, 'cause they look, they can see me.

I'm black.

But anything I say on race, anything I say on race,

I have to be extremely careful and calibrated

in what I say."

(clamoring, horn honking)

>> NARRATOR: And as the anger in Ferguson grew out of control,

on television, Obama remained careful and calibrated.

>> To those in Ferguson, there are ways of channeling

your concerns constructively

and there are ways of channeling your concerns destructively.

>> The split screen was the line that showed his disconnect

with America.

One side of the screen, you're seeing

the nation's black president begging that a city

do not go up in flames.

And the other side of the screen,

you're seeing young black people saying, "We're done waiting.

We're not putting up with this anymore."

>> We elect a black president, and eight years later,

we have this?

>> I remember talking to activists who said,

"I voted for Barack Obama twice, and Trayvon Martin's still dead,

Michael Brown's still dead."

It was this sense that simply having representation,

even at the highest levels, didn't necessarily mean

that these issues were going to be addressed.

>> He was really frustrated.

And, you know, we would talk.

And he would just say, you know,

"Well, cops need to stop shooting unarmed black kids."

Like, that's what he thought.

But he also recognized and was very disciplined about

the fact that he was president of the United States.

>> NARRATOR: The anger transcended Ferguson.

Online, Black Lives Matter emerged-- activists connecting,

sharing and uploading videos of police killings

around the country.

(shouting, guns firing)

>> I've been recording...

I've been recording.

>> I can't breathe... >> Get out of the car!

>> Get that gun off of there.

>> Shots fired!

(radio squawking)

>> Oh, my God!

>> And within moments, the entire world could see it.

And it forced white Americans to see things

that their eyes never would have seen.

>> Black lives matter!

Black lives matter!

Black lives matter!

>> NARRATOR: Across the divide, the blowback.

>> They hate police officers.

>> Well, they have strong feelings about...

>> No, they hate them-- they want them dead.

They're a hate group, and I'm going to tell you right now,

I'm going to put them out of business.

>> Their agenda is, "It's okay to go ahead and kill cops."

>> No, nobody said that. >> Oh, really?

"Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon?"

When they act like that, they're criminals,

and they're calling for the murder

of hard-working police officers...

>> I don't believe that.

>> We now have to counter this slime,

this filth coming out of these cop-haters.

>> A Black Lives Matter protest shut down traffic

in Frederick, Maryland.

>> Black Lives Matter is just a complete fraud.

>> Are you going to riot, loot, roast more pigs, what?

>> Absolutely unbelievable-- all lives matter!

>> See, to me, dividing lives

that matter by color sounds downright racist.


♪ ♪

>> Republicans tore it up at the polls--

historic midterm election victory,

taking control of the Senate.

>> NARRATOR: Fall 2014.

Republicans had captured the Senate

and now held both houses of Congress.

>> A wave of voter frustration

has all but washed off the Democrats.

>> Republicans beat the Democrats in states

that were both blue and red,

including many states that President Obama won...

>> All was lost.

It was our darkest moment.

We found ourselves alone in the world.

Congress had gone in a different direction,

and, um, we weren't sure if we'd ever get them back on anything.

>> The mood of the country was nasty,

and the country took most of it out on Barack Obama.

>> President Obama was heading into a, a place

where he was going to be opposed by Congress,

by the Republican majorities in Congress,

over virtually everything he tried to do.

And I think the handwriting was on the wall

that his presidency was going to come to an end

with really bitter split between the two political parties,

like nothing we had ever seen.

>> NARRATOR: Over six years, the promise of hope, change,

bipartisanship, had been confronted by fear,

anger, division.

>> Barack Obama said he would try to bridge these divides.

He couldn't.

It wasn't for lack of trying.

I mean, just the fact that it was six years

before he really just said, "I'm going to stop trying."

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: He would go around the Republican Congress,

go his own way.

>> The president is, is saying,

"I'm going to do what I'm able to do

with the tools available to me.

I'm never going to get, from a Republican Congress,

much progress on the things I think are very important."

>> He wasn't satisfied to sit there and have people play

"Hail to the Chief" when he walked in the room.

And he was determined that he was going to use

every bit of power that he could legitimately claim.

>> My fellow Americans, there are actions I have

the legal authority to take as president.

Tonight, I'm announcing those actions.

>> President Obama signed a landmark climate-change deal

on his final trip to China today.

>> Breaking right now, executive action on gun control...

>> ...change the lives of millions

of undocumented immigrants, but the move bypasses Congress.

>> President Obama says the Keystone XL Pipeline project...

>> NARRATOR: Obama's actions energized his supporters,

but provoked outrage on the other side.

>> He couldn't get anything through Congress, true.

But the congresspeople represent the American public.

What did Obama do?

"I take out my pen and my phone."

That's what he kept saying,

"I'll take out my pen and my phone,

I'm going to do an end around Congress."

Meaning, "You people, I'm going to do an end around you,

the American public."

>> I've got a pen to take executive actions

where Congress won't, and I've got a telephone

to rally folks around the country on this mission.

>> He gets shellacked.

He loses the Senate, he shows back up, he gets smoked,

he calls a press conference, and all, CNN and everybody,

"New York Times," "Is he going to listen

to what the people are saying, the country going

in a different direction, Obama going to listen?"

He gets up there and he goes, "Okay, guys, here's how it is.

I'm president of the United States, and you're not."

He goes, "Here's ten executive orders

I'm going to sign immediately."

I'm sitting there going, "This guy's my role model."

I said, "He just got smoked, and he comes out

and hits you right in the mouth.

This is a leader!"

>> The Constitution is going to cease to exist as we know it.

Obama is going to start shooting a BB gun at it.

>> Where does this end? Does it ever end?

At what point do we roll back this homegrown tyranny?

>> ...executive order.

What they are really are, are imperial fiats.

This is what we have to fear.

>> And now he has to use executive action,

and this is a very, very dangerous thing.

I mean, I think, certainly, he could be impeached.

("For the Love of Money" playing)

♪ Money, money, money, money money ♪

>> Good morning. >> Good morning.

>> Everybody's saying I should run for president.

Let me ask you a question-- Meatloaf,

should I run for president? >> Absolutely!

>> Now, you would definitely vote for me.

>> I would vote for you, in fact,

I'll, I'll help you with your campaign.

>> What do you think...

>> NARRATOR: It was Donald Trump's moment.

>> Who would not vote for me?

>> NARRATOR: The reality TV star was making his move.

>> All right, good.

>> A hot hint-- don't raise your hand.

>> I would say, anybody that raised their hand

would immediately be fired, 'cause they're stupid.

>> Trump is a showman.

This is TV gold, right?

Who would not watch this?

He's interesting, and he's dynamic,

and he knows how to work the cameras.

And he's been the number-one show on NBC

for all these years for a reason.

>> Another political story making news this morning:

Donald Trump's growing poll numbers on a list of possible...

>> Donald Trump's serious about a run for the White House.


>> ...Donald Trump, who may run for president

in the Republican primaries.

>> Donald actually told me in 2013

that he was going to run for president,

and I thought he was kidding.

And then he argued that it was based on his Twitter feed

and Facebook posts-- that so many people were posting

on social media that he should run,

that he thought maybe he should.

>> As promised, Donald Trump speaking now

in Portsmouth, New Hampshire-- let's listen.

>> You ready? >> Yeah, we're ready.

>> You get ready-- whenever you're ready, I'm okay.

>> He says to me, "My effective television career,

me as a television star is over, I'm running for president"--

I laughed.

Looked right in his face, I laughed.

(phone ringing)

And then he proceeded to tell me that he had a, a base

of operations built in the Trump Tower.

That he had hired Roger Stone and Sam Nunberg

and Corey Lewandowski.

>> You had a perfect storm.

In almost 40 years in American politics,

I'd never seen the voters in this bad a mood.

They were sour, very suspicious of political institutions--

whether it's Congress, whether it's the two parties.

>> NARRATOR: Trump had used the birther movement,

and now seized another hot-button issue

for the conservative base-- immigration.

A top aide, Sam Nunberg, helped him package it.

>> Nunberg had realized that this issue of immigration

has real salience with Republican voters.

The problem they had was, they couldn't get Trump

to stay on topic-- famously short attention span.

And so Sam Nunberg came up with this idea,

essentially a mnemonic device to keep Trump focused

on the issue of immigration.

>> Next year...

>> So, I said, "Well, why don't we say you're going to build

a wall, because it's bigger?

You're going to build a wall.

And we'll, like... and you'll get Mexico to pay for it."

>> NARRATOR: Trump took it on the road,

testing out different versions of the line.

>> We have to build a fence, and it's got to be a beauty.

Who can build better than Trump?

I build; it's what I do.

>> He said it in Iowa that day, and the crowd went nuts.

You can watch it, the crowd went nuts.

>> If I run, I will tell you, the king of building buildings,

the king of building walls,

nobody can build them like Trump.

That I can promise you.

(crowd cheers and applauds)

I can promise you that.

>> He said to me, "You know what?

I'm talking about immigration, I feel it.

Sam, this is a movement.

This is a movement.

They, they get it, they get it."

(crowd cheering and applauding)

>> NARRATOR: Obama had promised unity,

but as Trump announced his intention to run,

it was clear his candidacy would be about exploiting division.

(applause continues)

>> If you look at Sarah Palin talking to "real Americans";

the Tea Party talking about taking the country back;

the birther movement itself that launched Trump;

by the time he came down that escalator,

he was the obvious Republican front-runner.

He was the guy saying the same thing

that they'd all been saying on Fox and on talk radio

and on Breitbart for the last six-and-a-half years.

>> When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best.

They're not sending you, they're not sending you.

They're sending people that have lots of problems,

and they're bringing those problems with us.

>> When he starts doing the over-the-top stuff, and I go,

I said, "You watch, they're, they're going to bite hard,

and they're going to bite hard and blow this up."

>> They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime,

they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.

>> Oh, my God, I said, "This is ..." I said,

"He's just, he's just buried every...

They're going to go nuts.

CNN is literally going to broadcast 24 hours a day."

>> Donald Trump's comment about Mexican immigrants

has created controversy nationwide...

>> Donald Trump's comments have triggered outrage...

>> Donald Trump not backing down from his controversial,

some say racist, language...

>> I was waiting for Trump to take it back and say,

"Oh, no, no, I didn't mean that Mexico's sending rapists;

they're sending Rhodes Scholars,

they're so much better than we are."

And damned if he never took it back!

So, I had to say, "Okay, I'm for... I'm for this guy."

>> Ann, which Republican candidate has the best chance

of winning the general election?

>> Of the declared ones, right now, Donald Trump.

(audience laughing)

♪ ♪

>> I said, "This is our guy.

He's a very imperfect instrument,

but he's a armor-piercing shell."

(crowd cheering)

I tell the guys, "He's going to go through this thing

like a scythe through grass."

>> I'll tell you what I like about him,

he doesn't take any crap from Obama.

>> He's the leader right now of the entire

conservative movement in America...

>> Donald Trump has changed the entire debate on immigration.

>> He might be blunt, he might be inartful at times,

but he's channeling the viewpoint of, I would say,

the majority of Republican voters.

♪ ♪

>> (on radio): I copy, several victims

regarding that active shooter.

Give me at least four medic units, plus two supervisors.

>> All units responding, 110 Calhoun Street.

>> We have breaking news.

Police and emergency responders are on the scene of what police

confirm is a shooting inside a church in downtown Charleston,

South Carolina. Dispatchers tell...

>> Nine people are dead,

and there's a massive manhunt underway...

>> The shooting happened at the historic

Emmanuel A.M.E. Church-- the pastor, a...

>> Charleston represented a lot of things coming together.

It was race, it was guns, and it was the great divide.

(siren blaring, radio squawking)

>> NARRATOR: Eight African-American parishioners

and their minister.

(siren blaring)

Murdered in a church by a white supremacist.

They found the shooter's journal.

>> "The event that truly awakened me

was the Trayvon Martin case.

How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case,

while hundreds of these black-on-white murders

got ignored?"

>> He is driven to violence by the fact that-- he says this.

He says that black people are taking over the world.

Reverend Pinckney was dead, in large measure,

because Barack Obama was the president.

♪ ♪

>> That massacre in South Carolina let Obama finally know

that "black Americans are the proxies for me."

And I think that he was aware of the fact

that he had to address this, he could no longer avoid this,

that this was something that we as a nation must grapple with.

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: He would head for Charleston

and the collective grief at the memorial service.

>> He told Valerie Jarrett on the way down,

he was thinking about singing "Amazing Grace."

>> Well, he mentioned it to, to me and to the First Lady,

and he said, "There's a moment in my eulogy

where I think I might sing."

Well, and I'd said, "Don't sing, don't sing."

And he goes, "I think I'm going to sing."

>> He'd built the speech around this concept of grace.

And he said, you know, "Maybe I'll sing 'Amazing Grace.'"

>> Here was a moment where the nation needed its president.

And for one of the first times in the nation's history,

the president was completely prepared to provide the comfort

needed to black Americans.

>> The president of the United States of America,

the honorable Barack Obama, will come at this time...

(congregation cheering)

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: Obama would speak about race in a way

he never had as president.

>> It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson

and shots fired at churches.

>> Amen.

>> Not random, but as a means of control.

>> Amen.

>> A way to terrorize and oppress.

(congregation applauding)

An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination.

Violence and suspicion.

An act that he presumed would deepen divisions

that trace back to our nation's original sin.

>> The shooting in Charleston was a moment for him

to, to show the, the fullness of his feelings, of his emotions,

and his identification with, with his community.

And to speak for them, um, in a way

that he probably hadn't done in his presidency.

>> As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy,

God has visited grace upon us.

(congregation agreeing)

For He has allowed us to see where we've been blind.

(congregation applauding)

If we can tap that grace, everything can change.

Amazing grace.

Amazing grace.

>> He paused.

And I remember thinking, "Is he thinking, 'Am I going to sing,

or am I not going to sing?'"

>> ♪ Amazing grace ♪

♪ How sweet the sound ♪

(congregation and organ join in)

♪ That saved a wretch like me ♪

♪ I once ♪

♪ Was lost ♪

♪ But now I'm found ♪

♪ Was blind ♪

♪ But now I see ♪

(organ concluding)

>> It was like in those notes of "Amazing Grace,"

the entire history of the Obama presidency,

all the adversity he'd faced, all the opposition he'd faced,

everything he'd repressed, was coming out.

>> Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

(congregation responds)

Susie Jackson found that grace.

(congregation responds)

Ethel Lance found that grace.

(congregation responds)

Depayne Middleton Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr., found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

>> I remember just sitting there and sobbing at my desk,

in a way that I never did, because it was, like,

he's finally being his complete self

in full view of the country.

>> May grace now lead them home.

(congregation agreeing)

May God continue to shed His grace

on the United States of America.

(cheering and applauding)

♪ ♪

>> Having a black president has no effect, no effect,

on what's going on in some of our cities, zero.

>> You know they're ramping it up for the 2016 election.

Every speech they've given has fanned the flame

of racial enmity.

>> He's not the man of compassion and empathy

that he claims to be.

♪ ♪

>> The race is well underway,

with a new Republican candidate...

>> You know the race for president is underway

when Donald Trump begins flirting...

>> Trump's campaign blitz in Iowa,

promising a "big, special announcement."

>> Well, he says there'll be a big announcement

at the last event...

>> NARRATOR: Early days on the campaign trail--

Trump had plenty of money and celebrity.

He wanted one more thing.

("Eye of the Tiger" playing)

>> Governor Sarah Palin, special, special person.

Thank you.

>> Thank you so much, it's so great to be in Iowa.

We're here just thawing out, lending our support

for the next president of our great United States of America,

Donald J. Trump.

>> For her to endorse Donald Trump

was a way for her to say...

>> Heads are spinning.

Media heads are spinning.

This is going to be so...

>> "He's, he is doing the kinds of things I'd wanted to do.

He is saying the kinds of things I wanted to say."

But I think most important was,

"His constituency and my constituency are,

are one and the same."

>> Being here tonight, supporting the right man

who will allow you to make America great again,

God bless you, God bless the United States of America,

and our next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

>> Donald Trump is running against the establishment...

>> The Republican Party better pay attention...

>> If you wanted the exact opposite of Barack Obama,

it's Donald Trump.

Obama was cool, Trump is hot.

Obama was cerebral and laid-back,

Trump is rough and in-your-face.

Obama is Mr. Teleprompter.

Donald Trump is a no card and no limits,

no boundaries, no editing.

>> Obama is a tremendous divider--

you can't get much worse.

He's been a great, great divider.

I think President Obama has been the most ignorant president

in our history.

He will go down as one of the worst presidents

in the history of our country-- it is a mess.

ISIS is honoring President Obama.

He is the founder of ISIS.

He's the founder of ISIS.

♪ ♪

>> He just couldn't believe that the Republican Party

would nominate Trump.

The idea that the American public would elect twice

Barack Obama, first African-American president

in history, and then turn around and pick Donald Trump,

who played to racial resentment and anxiety,

it just didn't compute for President Obama--

it just didn't make any sense to him.

He couldn't imagine it.

♪ ♪

>> He looks at me, and he says,

"You know, what if we were wrong?"

He's, like, "You know, well, what, what if people just want

to fall back into their tribe?

What if people's identity,

their kind of sense of racial or ethnic identity,

is just more powerful?"

>> We just have to be honest: it has been difficult

to find agreement over the last seven years.

>> NARRATOR: In his final State of the Union address,

he said it out loud.

>> It's one of the few regrets of my presidency--

that the rancor and suspicion between the parties

has gotten worse instead of better.

>> Along the way, President Obama tried to do things

that didn't sit well with a chunk

of the American electorate.

We saw the, the rise of the Tea Party,

you had the birther movement.

It all became angry.

It became this sort of angry stew

that dissolved into disagreement and, and worse, division.

♪ ♪

>> Democracy grinds to a halt

without a willingness to compromise.

Or when even basic facts are contested.

Or when we listen only to those who agree with us.

>> He meant, and he really, truly believed

that he could bring about meaningful change in discourse

and attitude and the politics of politicization.

He became enormously frustrated, enormously discouraged,

enormously pessimistic about his prospects for doing just that

over the course of his eight years.

So, while he started filled with hope

and filled with this enormous desire and determination

to do just that, he acknowledged defeat,

he acknowledged his collapse,

his inability to bring his country together.

And that was deeply disappointing.

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: He left with a warning.

>> There will be voices urging us to fall back

into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens

who don't look like us or pray like us or vote like we do

or share the same background.

We can't afford to go down that path.

It contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

♪ ♪

>> Donald Trump will be

the 45th President of the United States...

>> NARRATOR: In part two, the story continues.

>> Whoa, everyone got this wrong and this is a huge story.

>> NARRATOR: Donald Trump inherits

the deeply divided country Obama warned of...

>> Trump didn't create this,

but he leaned into it and everything he has done

has deepened this trench.

>> We didn't win an election to bring the country together.

>> You are fake news.

>> It's time to take on the elites,

hit them with a blowtorch.

>> I think there is blame on both sides

and I have no doubt about it.

>> It's probably the first time where the country realizes,

this is going to get bad.

>> NARRATOR: The conclusion

of "Frontline's" epic investigation.

>> ...a very bitterly divided America...

>> No matter who is elected president,

they are going to face this deep divide

and that it could shape their entire presidency.

>> NARRATOR: "America's Great Divide."

>> It's only going to get nastier.

>> NARRATOR: Now streaming on "Frontline."

>> Go to

for the latest "Frontline" Transparency Project.

See key quotes from the film in context.

>> Obamacare got shoved down our throats.

>> This entire complex of relationships

between black people and police.

>> He's a very imperfect instrument.

>> Connect to the "Frontline" community

on Facebook and Twitter,

and watch anytime on the PBS Video App


♪ ♪

>> For more on this and other "Frontline" programs,

visit our website at

♪ ♪

"Frontline's" "America's Great Divide"

is available on Amazon Prime Video.

♪ ♪