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Shields and Brooks - NewsHour with Jim Lehrer - PBS Podcast by Jim Lehrer

Shields and Brooks - NewsHour with Jim Lehrer - PBS Podcast

by Jim Lehrer

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Catch the most recent appearances by NewsHour political analysts syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.


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Shields and Brooks on Obamacare repeal failure, Gorsuch grilling

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Mar 24, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: But first to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields, and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, I’m sorry there is no news to talk about today, but let’s see what we can find.

Mark, seriously, the move today in the Congress and by the president to pull this health care bill, what is there to say? The Republicans wanted — they said for months that this is what was going to happen.

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: The first thing, Judy, is, I think, a general statement. The Republican Party is an opposition party. It’s a protest party.

We have a protest president. We have a protest party. It’s not a governing party. It showed itself unable to accept the responsibility and the accountability of governing.

This bill wasn’t a bad bill. This bill was just an abomination. There was no public case that could be made for the bill. There was no public argument that could be made for the bill, because nobody knew what was in it. There was no public campaign for the bill, because no organizations — every organization that cares — that was involved in medical care, whether it was the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, they were all against the bill.

It was a terrible bill. There was nothing organized. The only organizing principle is, it was against Barack Obama. And Paul Ryan, a very earnest policy wonk, showed himself to be an inept political leader. He couldn’t even lean on the safest seats in his own party’s caucus.

Those are ones you say, these are people who are really not threatened for reelection. I need you. You have to vote.

He couldn’t even do that. And Donald Trump showed he has no understanding of the legislative process. He dealt in adjectives. It was wonderful, fantastic, glorious. He had no idea what was in it. The art of the deal just collapsed, and this is a man who gave away the store to the Freedom Caucus, and got nothing in return, didn’t even get their votes.

I mean, on no count was this anything but a disaster politically, and public policy, and just for the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you explain it, David?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, all those things contributed, Trump’s bad negotiation, lack of experience, the factionalism.

And people talk about divisions within the party, blah, blah, blah, but the core problem was philosophical and intellectual. The problem was with the substance of the bill. We live in a country that has widening inequality, where there’s a lot of people very — being very insecure.

And the Republicans could have taken some of their approaches, like the tax credits, like the health savings accounts and a lot of things, and to deal with the country as it is, as, say, take those mechanisms, market mechanisms, to reduce costs, but to give people basic security and shore up the coverage that they have now.

But, instead of doing that, they gave a bill that was, like, out of “1984,” which devastated the poor, $880 billion cut out of Medicaid, while enriching the rich, increasing the after-tax incomes of people making more than a million dollars by 14 percent.

So, this was like every stereotype of the Republican Party. And so it just didn’t fit the country. And the core problem for the Republicans is they can’t figure out what they want to govern.

Even if they were the best and most efficient legislators in the history of the world, if you don’t know what you want to do, and you don’t know how you’re going to address this country’s problems, you’re going to wind up with bills which are superficial, intellectually incoherent and unpopular.

And the last Quinnipiac poll had this at 17 percent. And so it was a failure of understanding, what we do we want to do? That’s what killed this bill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And so what does that mean, Mark, for what the Republicans say they want to do next? The president and Speaker Ryan suggested tax reform. Major tax reform is the next on the agenda.

MARK SHIELDS: The deal that Republicans in Congress essentially made with Donald Trump, who they didn’t know and in most cases didn’t particularly trust, was, he will be the instrument of our achieving our agenda. He will be — whether it’s deregulation, whether it’s tax reform, or whatever.

I think that relationship was ruptured. Mutual trust, to the degree that it existed, was depleted today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Between the president and …

MARK SHIELDS: Between the president and his party in Congress, the party itself.

Judy, I don’t think it’s going to — it’s not going to be easy. I don’t think anything is going to be easy from this point forward. If you are a Republican, all of a sudden, the midterm elections of 2018 got a lot closer. Why do I say that?

Because when a president’s job approval rating is 50 percent or above, the president’s party loses an average of 14 House seats in the midterm election. When a president’s job rating is below 50 percent, his party loses an average of 37 House seats.

Donald Trump today is in — in the best polls, in the high 30s. It’s hard to see how his numbers are going to go far north from here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It is still early.

MARK SHIELDS: It is still early. It’s 64 days and all the rest of it.

But this is not a confidence-builder. This is not a trust-builder. And Republicans, all of a sudden, are starting to get nervous about 2018. They thought 2018, if you will recall, when they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win, was going to be the arrival of the golden age.

And right now, they’re going to be on defense. There is no Hillary Clinton to run against. There is no Barack Obama to run against. It’s a referendum on Donald Trump and his party. And, right now, that is not working in their direction.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What can Republicans get done now?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, if they stick with — I think Paul Ryan is a wonderful guy, a great politician, a good thinker.

MARK SHIELDS: Not a great politician.

DAVID BROOKS: OK, fair, fair.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. No.

DAVID BROOKS: OK. But people like him. People on the Hill like him.

The ones who were going to vote for the bill, a lot of it was just to support Paul Ryan. But, intellectually, he used to work at a place called Empower America, where Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett worked. And it had — it was the orthodoxy of the 1980s Republicanism.

And if Republicans stick with that, well, then they will go down to defeat after defeat. And to me, the big question is, how will Donald Trump react to this? There was a lot of enmity, frankly, between him and Ryan in the last few days, bad communication, cutting deals behind each other’s backs, mostly Trump to Ryan.

And so will he say, OK, I’m not going to do this again? I’m going to run — I’m going to govern as a true populist. And maybe break up some of the orthodoxies that separate Democrats from Republicans. Maybe I won’t try to pass bills without — through the reconciliation process, which is a technical thing, but messes up every bill you try to pass, because it’s so arcane, restrictions on what you can put in a bill. And maybe I will try to be a 65 percent — get some Democrats, get some Republicans, and violate the Republican orthodoxy.

To me, that’s the smart lesson out of this. Run or govern — try to govern the way you actually ran, which is not orthodox Republican, anybody but.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, if he does that, Mark, where does that leave Republicans, his own — his party?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I’m not sure where it does.

I don’t think he’s constitutionally capable of doing that. The time to do that, David, was after the election. I mean, the country was yearning to be united. It was divided. It was polarized. That was the time to do it. You don’t do nine rallies. You don’t do red state rallies.

On the eve of the vote, you don’t go to Louisville and have cries of “Lock her up” in the room. You don’t do that. That is playing to the narrowest base.

I agree. At the outset, on health care, he should have brought in the Democrats and the Republicans and say, look, they have to come in. But he beat up on Obamacare, said it was terrible, it was horrendous, it was awful, it had to go.

Where is the purchase there for the Democrats to say, we want to be part of it? Now he’s walking away from health care in the country. He is responsible. They are the governing party. Do Republicans understand that? If health care is in trouble in this country, it’s the Republicans.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. This is a point to be underlined that Lanhee Chen made the good point that Obamacare is not going to explode. No one — on expert thinks that. It may deteriorate over time, but it’s not going to explode. They’re not going to walk back into this.

Second, Republicans now own the health care system in this country. And so it’s not like people are going to blame Barack Obama. He’s never going to be on the ballot again.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

DAVID BROOKS: When things go bad, they’re going to blame the Republicans.

So, that’s why I think — I agree. I don’t think he’s going to pivot in some major way. But this is not brain science. Who elected him? Working-class voters, people making just above the Medicaid minimum. This bill hammered them.

Who elected him? People 50 to 64. This bill hammered those people. Why not take people who voted for you and reward them? That’s not — that’s like the normal thing to do. And he’s not doing it. And if he repeats the error in tax reform, same outcome.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, this wasn’t the only bad news for President Trump this week, Mark.

You had the FBI director come out and confirm publicly in a hearing before the Congress that they are investigating, the FBI is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, says they don’t have evidence yet of coordination, collusion, but an investigation is under way.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, the week began with the president being basically regarded and described by the intelligence chiefs of the country as dishonest, OK, I mean, that the charge was with baseless, a charge of felony he made against his predecessor, to the point where The Wall Street Journal, the organ of American conservatism, said he is on the verge of becoming — his relationship with honesty is so loose, he’s become a fake president, not a fake news president.

So, this is devastating. To say that an FBI investigation has been going on since July, since July, it’s hard to say that it’s going to come to nothing. And so this is serious stuff, and it’s hurtful.

It puts — when you doubt the president’s competence and his honesty in the same week, I mean, these are blows. Regardless of how loyal and dedicated and enthusiastic is his base, this is an erosion of public support and public trust.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How does it affect what he’s able to do?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I was trying to think of a president who had a worse week. I mean, as Mark said, like, to have your major legislative initiative die, and your first major one, and then get a scandal into your integrity in one week, that’s a rarity in American history, let alone this early in a term.

I’m not sure we’re ever going to find some smoking gun that’s going to link the Trump campaign to Vladimir Putin. I mean, there is, to me — the big mystery is the almost magnetic pull between the Trump crowd and Russia. Like, what is the basis of that? Is it because he had so many investors?

And, as I have said before — and we seem to be getting a little closer to this answer — where did Paul Manafort come from? How did he become chairman of the Trump campaign in the middle of all this, a guy who had ties to mobsters from Russia?

These are not normal things. What was the chain of events that led to that? But whether we have will actually conversations or proof or actual evidence, we — I — we have oversold this story at times. I’m not saying it’s not significant, but we have leapt to the — connecting all the dots, when the dots really aren’t there right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, one other thing I want to ask you about, in any other week, this would have been the first thing we talked about.

But, Mark, that is the nominee to the Supreme Court by the president, Neil Gorsuch, had several days of hearings, didn’t answer all the questions the Democrats wanted him to.

Where does he stand? What do his prospects look like?

MARK SHIELDS: Didn’t even answer the questions that Sam Alito and John Roberts did when they were up there.

I will say one thing that the Trump campaign did very well. They did vetting. They vetted the judges. They knew whom they had. And if they had done as well in the Cabinet, it would be different.

He was the ideal nominee. And I think in spite of his becoming non-forthcoming and said there’s no Democrat judges, Republican judges, I think he had a very good week.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You think he’s safe for confirmation?

MARK SHIELDS: I think he — unless there is something out there.

But Chuck Schumer is not a guy who goes on a quixotic journey all by himself. He said he is going to lead a filibuster. But I don’t see the votes being there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thirty seconds.

DAVID BROOKS: I think the Democrats are making a big mistake. The guy is clearly qualified. He is clearly within the realm of what any Republican would nominate. And we’re lucky to have a guy of that quality.

I thought he behaved outstandingly. Democrats should pick their fights. They will have plenty of fights in the Trump era. But to blow up the filibuster rules over this is undignified and an insult to the Senate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, thank you both, David Brooks, Mark Shields.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

The post Shields and Brooks on Obamacare repeal failure, Gorsuch grilling appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Brooks on GOP health care bill pushback, Trump’s dramatic budget

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Mar 17, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentleman.

So, let’s pick up with the conversation, David, that Jeffrey Brown was just having with the head of the American Medical Association.

President Trump is saying again today the health care overhaul is moving along very well, it’s going to move through the House.

What do you see as the prospects?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: It has no critics.

No. I’m first all amazed that they did it first. Of all the issues to tackle, health care is probably the hardest one. And so every four or eight years, some president decides, you know, let’s do health care first. And it hurts them every single time.

Whether the prospects of this bill are good, I tend to doubt. It has very few fans in the Senate. And it has two wings of opposition which are in contradiction, what we call the coverage caucus, who want a little more expensive bill that will cover more people, and the Freedom Caucus wants a less expensive bill to cover less.

You can’t — they have to win both of these groups. And how do you do this, when they are mutually contradictory? And so the Senate is very daunting. So, therefore, you’re asking the House members to vote for something that will take away coverage that already exists for a bill that probably doesn’t have great prospects in the long run.

I personally bet they get through the House, just because it’s so hard to go against the sitting president in his first major thing. But I wouldn’t want to bet on the eventual passage of this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, what we hear is the main argument they are using now in the House as it gets closer to the vote is the political vote, you can’t go against your president.

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Yes.

It’s an argument that used, used in 1993 for the Democrats and Bill Clinton on his major budget and tax increase, which, by the way, per what David was talking about, included a BTU tax that House members voted on. It passed the House in a very difficult vote and died in the Senate.

Several moderate to conservative Democrats walked away from it. And it left those House members with a vote that they really couldn’t — it became politically mortal — fatal in several instances. I think the same thing is true here, and for good reasons, Judy.

I mean, the Republicans — part of David’s answer — they pledged in 2010, they pledged in 2012, they pledged in 2016. That was the one pledge they had: repeal Obamacare. It was an applause line.

So, it really did take on almost a moral imperative, or at least a political imperative. But, Judy, this is going to radically overhaul the Affordable Care Act. It going to radically overhaul Medicaid. You heard Dr. Gurman in his interview with Jeff.

The reality is, providers are not going to provide coverage. They’re not going to take on as patients people under Medicaid, because they are not going to have the money to pay for it. They are talking — one figure that jumps out, beyond all the questions of deductibles and everything else, 24 million Americans. That’s what the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

And Republicans just kind of recoiled. That is the number that has hung around — are going to lose coverage. Lose coverage. That just is — that is truly unforgivable. It’s morally indefensible. And I think, in this case, it will be politically indefensible.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But we’re talking — you’re talking, Mark, about the bill as it sits in the House. In the Senate, we may — we’re almost certain to see changes.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, but which direction?

First, on the 24 million, it’s a neat trick to do that, because simply repealing Obamacare would have only taken coverage from 23 million. So, somehow, the replacement subtracts a million, which is an interesting trick.

The Republican Party just hasn’t figured out where it sits on this issue. I think you could have a very good free market system, sort of modeled on Switzerland, where there are a lot of individual markets, people actually pay for their health care, and there’s some cost and demand — supply and demand pressures to get costs down.

But you would have to spend more to get it — make it universal. You business have to make it universal using a free market system. But the Republican Party hasn’t gotten there, because they don’t want to make it universal, because it probably would be extensive.

And so some of them want to go sort of in that direction, but a lot, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, they want to go in the other direction. And they just don’t think it’s the government’s job to be in the field of distribution, redistribution.

And this ACA was very redistributionist. The Republican Party hasn’t figured it out. And what is interesting to me is that Donald Trump hasn’t figured it out. He campaigned partially as a populist. And if I was a populist, I would be handing things to my people.

And what this bill does is, it takes things from the Trump voters. The middle-aged people, 50 to 64, get hammered in this bill, the people just above the Medicaid threshold. The working class, they get hammered.

And so what is the one piece of the bill that has been there from the beginning to end in all the versions, is the tax cut for people making over $250,000. And so it’s a weirdly anti-Trumpian bill that he has sort of gone along with because, I guess, the House Republicans led the way.

MARK SHIELDS: I think — I can’t argue with any point that David made.

I would just say, it’s inconceivable to me. Donald Trump changed the face of the Republican Party, whatever anyone thinks of this election. He carried 403 counties that had voted for Barack Obama.

The counties he carried, Judy, were considerably more white than the country is, and they were considerably less educated. They were struggling working class. And he has turned his back, not simply on the health care, this bill does, but on the budget.

It takes from the have-nots. It takes from the have-nots and the have-lesses, and gives to the have-mores. It is absolutely a Robin-Hood-in-reverse budget.

And I just don’t understand it. It really, to use David’s word, hammers the very people who voted for him, especially in rural areas in America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, what about the budget proposal?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, just some things are mystifying.

Why they eliminated the Appalachian regional development, the thing that — why they severely cut the Great Lakes regions, Michigan, Wisconsin, why they had to put those specific cuts in the budget, let alone — fine, Republicans are going to try to get rid of CPB, our beloved CPB, Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

But why they put those things, it’s mystifying. And it seems to go in direct contradiction to everything he stood for in the course of the campaign.

And there’s a theory going around in political science which has some resonance for me today, which is that you have moments where you get a political party knows what they believe and they are all on board. Then there’s periods of disruption, where they are internally divided.

And the argument is, Jimmy Carter was an example was this. The Democrats had shifted away from some old-style liberalism. They hadn’t got to Bill Clinton’s style. And they were internally divided, and that Donald Trump is like Jimmy Carter.

He comes at a time when the Republican Party does not know what it wants, and that he himself is internally divided. And you get these weird contradictions of campaigning one way, and then governing in a very opposite way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And both of you are saying the same thing, then, Mark, about the budget.

MARK SHIELDS: I hope not. Well, I hope not.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: There’s no point in watching.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At least on this point.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: No, but, Judy, just to add to that, David Rogers, a peerless congressional reporter, wrote in Politico, these — they are turning their backs on Republican-endorsed programs.

It was President Jerry Ford who pitched community development grants. It was Bob Dole who pushed and was the champion of food aid overseas. They’re going to cut that. It was Ronald Reagan who found the money for heating assistance for poor people. It’s just — it’s amazing.

And it’s the same budget that Paul Ryan passed in 2013. But then he was negotiating with a Democratic president, because he wanted to get cuts in entitlement growth towards his dream of taming the budget deficits.

But now he’s got Republican president, and they’re passing the same budget with the same cuts. And I just — I don’t know where the pickup is.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I’m — was looking for the political philosophy that might be inherent in a budget.

And some of them are just weird, even for Republicans, as Mark said, $6 million — $6 billion off the National Institutes of Health. That is an investment in scientific advance and economic growth. And why would you do that? That doesn’t even seem particularly Republican.

But, basically, what you’re doing, they are investing in everything that is hard power. They’re investing in the military, in homeland security, everything that is about threat and fear.

And they are disinvesting in everything that has to do with compassion, with care, thinking, innovation. And it’s almost like emotionally consistent. It’s just hardness and toughness and fear. And everything else just has to go.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, even some Republicans are saying, well, this is just the first shot from the White House, and we will have our own crack at it.

In the few minutes that we have left, Mark, let’s talk about the president continuing to double down on his contention that he was wiretapped by former President Obama. He’s said it. He said it again today. His spokesman, Sean Spicer, has come up with evidence, they say, or at least cited news stories. And, of course, the British government pressed back on, pushed back on one of that — one of the claims that Sean Spicer made yesterday.

What does this say that this is something the president won’t let go of, in the face of almost universal lack of evidence?

MARK SHIELDS: It is universal. When you let — when lose Devin Nunes, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee …

JUDY WOODRUFF: Republican.

MARK SHIELDS: Republican, who has been Donald Trump’s apologist, I mean, explained that Donald Trump was actually a political neophyte, and you could take things literally, this is a man who ran as, you might disagree with him, Judy, but you know what he says. He stands — he says what he believes and he believes what he says, and he tells it like it is.

And now we’re down to literally and figuratively. Literally and figuratively, I don’t care about quotation marks. He said this about the president of the United States. He accused the president of the United States. He said it was a fact that the president of the United States had done this. It was wrong.

It was unfounded. It was unfair. It was unjust. It was as unjust as it was when he charged that is principal opponent Ted Cruz’s father had been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, when he charged that the first African-American president wasn’t an American, was African, Barack Obama.

But now he’s president. Now he’s president. This isn’t a matter of his macho or his vanity or his toughness. This is a question, when a president of the United States says anything, it reassures allies, it confounds the world, or it reassures the world, or it alarms people.

And I said last week, I do not believe, when the crisis comes, that there’s going to be credibility for this man.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you explain it?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, there’s some fear.

One of the things that struck me this week is, Donald Trump is the most talked-about American in the history of our country. Wherever you go around the world, people are talking about Donald Trump. And every — people who go abroad, that’s all — anywhere you go in the world, people want to talk about that.

And he does it in part through this, through saying things that make him criticized and — but he is the center.

And the second thing he demonstrates through this — and, again, I’m just trying to illustrate why — A, why he got elected president, and why these things don’t seem to kill him. So, he’s first center of attention.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Figuratively speaking.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, right. Right, exactly.

And the second is that force. He shows force. I was listening to a lot of talk radio today. And there is a lot of support for Donald Trump is that that guy is tough enough to stand against everybody and be forceful. And he never withdraws, he never backs down. It’s just force, force, force.

If you remember when Jeff Sessions recused himself from that investigation on the Russia thing, Trump reportedly blew his top, because it was a withdrawal. And it was a perfectly legitimate step back, but it was a partial withdrawal. And Trump is always forward, forward, forward.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And no sign of any change on that one.

All right, David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both. Have a great weekend.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

The post Shields and Brooks on GOP health care bill pushback, Trump’s dramatic budget appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Gerson on GOP health care bill conflict, Trump’s wiretap tweet

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Mar 10, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away.

And welcome to both of you.

So, a lot going on this week, Mark and Michael.

Let’s start, Mark, though, with we got a really good sense or a better sense this week of what it is that Republicans in the House and the White House want to do in terms of replacing the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare.

What do we make of this? Is this something that has the elements of a piece of legislation that can survive?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: I don’t think so, Judy.

And I guess the one point I would disagree with you is, agreement between the White House and the Republicans in Congress. To listen to Speaker Paul Ryan, this is the last stage out of Dodge. This is the best and only chance the Republicans are going to have to repeal, fulfill that pledge that they have made now for seven years to repeal Obamacare and come up with their own plan, whereas the White House, in the words of the president, is, I’m for it, but we can deal, we can negotiate.

So I’m not sure that they’re on the same page or have basically the same commitment to this legislation. That’s why I just — I think it’s in precarious position right now.

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even though it’s moved through these two committees? And we just spoke to the chairman of the Budget Committee. And she says she expects it to go flying through.

MARK SHIELDS: She does. But the question was, how many hundred thousand Tennesseans will lose health care?

The estimates, Judy, quite frankly, range from 10 million to 15 million now. All the promises of transparency the Republicans made about going to have open hearings, open votes, they will not vote, that Budget Committee headed by Congresswoman Black, until — they will not release the Congressional Budget Office scoring to tell you how many people are going to lose it and what it’s going to cost until that happens.

It’s all being sort of railroaded through the Republican House. But I don’t see it surviving.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it on the substance, Michael?

MICHAEL GERSON, The Washington Post: Well, on the substance, there is a set of conservative reform ideas that have been developing, but this isn’t it.

This is a jerry-rigged system to try to achieve some of the goals of Obamacare by slightly modifying this, by changing that. And the result is incoherent. It has alienated the left because of the number of people that will be off the system. It’s alienated the right because there are some people that wanted a true repeal. This isn’t that type of approach.

So, I think it’s — right now, you know, it has the virtue or the drawback of pleasing no one, actually, in this system on left to right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Why did it come to this? Why after all the talk throughout the campaign? Before anything else, you knew that this president was going to be — he said, we’re going to deal with Obamacare, we’re going to get rid of it.

Why has it come to this, then?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think that President Trump said it when he acted shocked that health care is complex. You remember him saying that?

This is difficult. I mean, Obamacare has many faults and many problems, but it has succeed in creating a set of expectations about preexisting conditions and coverage that Republicans now have to respond to.

And their response, I think, is kind of a makeshift response right now. But I think Obamacare, in that way, has triumphed. It has created a set of expectations Republicans have to meet. And it’s very difficult to do, to structure a system to do that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you still have Republicans, Mark, who are arguing the whole thing needs to be completely thrown out. The Freedom Caucus group came out this week and said throw the whole thing out and start from scratch.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, in fairness, the Freedom Caucus, that’s how they won a majority in 2010, on the pledge to do that, to repeal completely Obamacare.

And I agree with Michael. I would say this. Two other things I would add, Joe Manchin, Democratic senator from West Virginia, who is in a difficult, now red-leaning state now, made an observation, I think, that is so fundamentally true.

He said people, American voters, may not remember who gave you something, but they will remember who took it away.

MICHAEL GERSON: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: And I think this is the problem the Republicans are facing.

The second point is, Judy, what’s holding this together right now is that it’s not really a health care plan. And it’s not really a repeal. What it is, is a tax cut. The top nine-tenths of 1 percent of Americans will receive $267 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years.

And, quite bluntly put, when this is scored, when the numbers come out from the Congressional Budget Office, all you have to do is go to the testimony at the hearings of Betsy DeVos and Steve Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross and Gary Cohn and all of the wealthy and exactly what this tax cut will mean for them individually, as single moms with two kids lose their Medicaid coverage under it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But it sounds like, Michael, the White House is prepared to dismiss the CBO numbers, or at least to discount them.

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, this is actually a difference in strategy.

There has been a conflict between the House leadership and the administration on whether to attack CBO or not as an authority in this. This is a tendency of this administration, to attack institutions, to undermine the credibility of institutions that are independent sources of truth and analysis.

I think that would be a terrible mistake in this case. CBO is a fairly respected approach, not perfect. But I think going after it would indicate a kind of disturbing tendency to try to undermine other institutions in our system, for their own benefit.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, where do we see this headed, Mark, politically?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think it’s going to founder. I really do.

We’re already getting the signals from the Republicans in the Senate, both for the reasons that Michael cited on the loss of coverage. A state like Alaska is going to take an enormous hit. But even from Tom Cotton, the conservative, young conservative rising star from Arkansas, saying, slow down, it couldn’t pass the Senate

So, I think there are problems. I think you don’t get Mitch McConnell, the sense that he’s waiting for it and just impatient to get it over there to pass it, because I don’t think he thinks he can.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see as the prospects?

MICHAEL GERSON: I think it had a very rocky start and it’s going to get rockier, particularly because of the CBO estimates that Mark is exactly right, could show upwards of 12 million people losing coverage.

And that will dominate discussion of this bill in the next stage, and as it gets very unfavorable to the administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You don’t think the administration will be able to, again, discount, dismiss and say, well, you know, they were wrong before? We heard that from the White House press secretary.

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, they could try to conduct a campaign, go to the districts of members, pressure them, call out their Internet legions.

They could try to press on this. But, if it happens that way, it will only happen through pressure, and not through enthusiasm. That’s not what we’re — we’re not seeing much enthusiasm.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, let’s turn to the other big story of the week. And it’s Russia in all its different forms.

Mark, you had the president tweeting last Saturday morning that President Obama was behind a wiretap as, evidently part of the Russia investigation. You have stories. We know that, just yesterday, the FBI director met with Republican leaders on the Hill to brief them on the latest. We don’t know what was said.

And there’s a story in The New York Times today that the FBI doesn’t see a clear connection between the Trump campaign and Russia, and yet all these bits and pieces keep coming. Do we have any more clarity on Russia and the Trump campaign and transition today than we did a month ago?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t see it, Judy.

I mean, I think there’s circumstantial evidence of contacts or relationships certainly with those within the Trump world throughout the campaign we have. But there isn’t a gun, let alone a smoking gun.

But we do have — as a consequence of what the president did last Saturday, we have got pressure for greater, more intense and more public hearings and investigations.

And I will just say on this the tweet last Saturday was so grave. I mean, this is the 45th president of the United States accusing the 44th president of the United States of criminal activity, and with no basis, no evidence, no context, no witnesses, nothing.

And, 30 minutes later, he tweets again about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “Celebrity Apprentice.” He has just jeopardized the relationship between the president who preceded him.

Every president needs other presidents. They need the relationship. But he’s just done something so grave and inflicted such a major wound on the body politic. It won’t heal.

MICHAEL GERSON: I think there are billows of smoke here. I mean, I think…

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean?

MICHAEL GERSON: I think there are lots of ties that are being discovered between the Trump inner circle and Russia.

And, in fact, the attorney general had to recuse himself because of unreported contact. And we have learned that Flynn, the former national security adviser, was doing work on behalf of individuals associated with the Turkish government.

So, you’re creating the impression of a foreign policy bought and sold by dictators. This is quite serious. This is an unfolding, ongoing ethics disaster at the highest levels, I think we’re seeing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, again — Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: Just one thing I want to point out, Judy.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world stood at the brink, Soviets and America, over the Cuban missiles in Cuba, President Kennedy sent Dean Acheson, a former secretary of state, to see General Charles de Gaulle to tell him exactly, brief him personally, as the president’s emissary, on what was going on.

At the end of that talk, he said to General de Gaulle, I have been authorized by the president to show you the photographic evidence we have, and for your eyes only. And General de Gaulle said, no, no, no, that’s not necessary. All I need is the word of the president of the United States.

There comes a time in every administration when you need the president to be credible, the president to have the trust and confidence of leaders around the world in a time of crisis.

And I can see no reason that anybody would ever say this about Donald Trump: All I need is the word of the president of the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael, how does this administration get beyond this? Are we looking now at something that is just going to go on for months and months, if not years?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think we’re seeing that self-investigation through the attorney general is not going to be useful in this case.

Someone is going to have to have a real inquiry here. You could do a select committee. You could do a special prosecutor. You do some other voice of authority here. The FBI doesn’t have a huge amount of credibility, particularly given what Comey did in the election, which may have helped Trump more than the Russians did.

I think the administration, whenever you hear the phrase “Sean Spicer says,” it makes the statement more incredible, not more credible.

And I think that we have a Congress that’s quite politicized on this set of issues. We’re going to need some type of independent voice to determine what’s happening in this case.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, on that note, we shake our heads.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Gerson, Mark Shields, thank you both.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

The post Shields and Gerson on GOP health care bill conflict, Trump’s wiretap tweet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Brooks on Russia investigation questions, Trump’s joint address

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Mar 03, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: From a joint address to Congress to the recusal of the attorney general, it’s been a big week.

To help make sense of it all, the analysis of Shields And brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, I thought we were going to be talking tonight, first of all, about the president’s address.

But, David, Russia, Russia, Russia, it just doesn’t go away. We now have the attorney general of the United States having to recuse himself from any investigation into what happened with the Trump campaign.

What do you make of all this?

DAVID BROOKS: This is like Napoleon and the Russian winter.

It’s just coming in droves for the past few months, just Russian issues. Now, I would draw a distinction between Sessions and a lot of the other stuff. So far, we don’t know if Sessions had any substantive contacts on the campaign stuff or anything that might be really incriminating.

And it’s worth remembering he was asked specifically did he talk to Russians about campaign stuff. And so there are a lot of pointless meetings in Washington. And he could have just had pointless meeting to see the ambassador. If he had something nefarious, would they really have done it in the Senate office?

So, I’m not sure the Sessions stuff will rise to scandal level. I think he was right to recuse himself.

On the other hand, on the general Trump world, there is contact after contact with the Russians, and some of them which are fishy. And the two questions that I’m wondering about — and I’m not sure we will ever know the answer — the first is the obvious one. Did they have contact with Russians on their campaign meddling?

But the second and the more troubling one is, who’s been investing in Donald Trump’s companies for all these years? Does he owe somebody something? Should we know about that? And why didn’t he release his taxes? Is Russia at the heart of that as well?

And so until we get to an answer of — and this is why taxes get released, so you can know if somebody is really in debt to some other foreign power. And we don’t know the answer to that because of his secrecy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, those are questions that we’re unlikely to get the answers to any time soon.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, under the status quo, I think that is true. And I think the questions David asks are salient and important.

As far as Senator Sessions is concerned, Judy, it follows the pattern that these come out after there’s a press report. It happened with General Flynn. And unlike General Flynn, where there really is strong, more than suspicion, that he discussed policy and actions with the Russian ambassador, I don’t think anybody who knows Jeff Sessions thinks that’s the case.

But there is one question that just demands an answer. And that is, he testifies before Al Franken. Yes, it’s a rambling question. But then Pat Leahy, the senior senator, pro tem of the Senate, writes it out in longhand, any contacts from campaign post-election?

Now, you leave that hearing, you give that answer, you go back to your office, staff people are with you, your scheduler is with you, your press person is with you. Why not just come out and say, hey, look, this was — I did have these meetings with the ambassador?

And the question, why? Why does it have to come out this way? And it does. It does fit a pattern. There’s no two ways about it. And I think it’s a disturbing pattern. It’s a distressing pattern.

And whether it’s Roger Stone or Carter Page or — I mean, these are not attractive, appealing people, whether it’s Paul Manafort and his Russian contacts.

It’s not a question simply of dealing with Russia. It’s a question that we have now 17 intelligence agencies in the United States of America unanimously agreeing that Russia meddled in this — and tried to discredit our democratic process.

So, I mean, you know, that’s whom they were dealing with. It wasn’t a question of just making a quick buck.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David, all sorts of questions come out of this. Is it enough for the attorney general to recuse himself? Do we need to think about something bigger?

There is a lot of conversation now about whether there should be an outside, independent investigation. I mean, what needs to happen right now?

DAVID BROOKS: I think the recusal is right. The calls for resignation strike me as completely over the top.

I think we need to know, why Russia? There are 200-odd countries in the world. Why has so much of this administration focused on Russia? Now, is it because Donald Trump is very sensitive to the charge that he was handed the election by Russia and he is sort of Russia-focused?

But the Russian obsession predates that, which is why I think, after he declared bankruptcy, a lot of Americans actually wanted to invest in Donald Trump. So who was doing all the investing? He has got all these luxury properties around the world. Who was buying?

And, so to me, it’s, why the Russia focus? Is it some ideological thing he has for Russia? Is it some man crush on Vladimir Putin? I don’t know. But, somehow, that’s the part that needs to be investigated.

I don’t — I’m not — I’m generally not for special prosecutors and things, because they tend to run out of control. But getting to the core of that issue, I don’t know how you do it, but that is how you — I think we need to do it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that’s the only way you could get to some of this.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think, Judy, first of all, I think David raises the questions that do demand an answer, and how are we going to get that answer?

The recusal, he had no choice but to recuse himself. The red Republican wall was breaking. When Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House leader, calls for his recusal, when Jason Chaffetz, one of the last defenders of Donald Trump, having said, after the “Hollywood Access” tape that he couldn’t face his 14-year-old daughter and then still support Donald Trump, then two weeks later endorsed again Donald Trump for president, he said he had to recuse — Jeff Sessions had to.

And so did Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio. So, I think this was what he had to do.

And the problem with the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee is that the White House felt comfortable enough to call them and ask them to be their character witness with the press, Richard Burr, the senator from North Carolina, and Devin Nunes, the congressman from California.

So, the question is, the only time you move to an independent, if you had an ideal Baker-Hamilton, 9/11-type group, is, quite honestly, when there is a lack of faith and a lack of faith and confidence in the existing process.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, this is why institutions matter so much.

In Watergate, you had — sure, it was partisan, but you still could go to a congressional hearing and there would be some sense there would a Howard Baker, who would be an honest broker, or Hamilton, Lee Hamilton.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s exactly right.

DAVID BROOKS: Or you had people like that.

And maybe there are people like that floating around in Washington who you could appoint, like a 9/11 Commission. But the official institutions of Congress, not a lot of credibility there right now, and not a lot of expectation they would act in any way, other than as partisan bodies.

And so this is what we see when we get the breakdown of institutions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meanwhile …

MARK SHIELDS: Angus King — Angus King from Maine and John McCain from Arizona.

JUDY WOODRUFF: An independent and a Republican.

MARK SHIELDS: An independent. Both established independents and respected, you’re going to go that direction.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But I was just going to say, the way the president is responding today is by tweeting pictures of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer meeting with the Russian ambassador a few years ago.

Let’s talk about the speech Tuesday night. It feels longer ago than that, Mark. Do we know now more about what Donald Trump’s, President Trump’s priorities are after that speech?

MARK SHIELDS: Not really.

I mean, we have absolutely — we know general objectives, but we have no idea how we’re going to get from here to there. And he got an enormous amount of praise, and which basically lasted until the stories about Russia and Attorney General Sessions came out.

But there is a low bar, Judy. This is somebody who has called other politicians, other Republicans, dopey, hypocrite, stupid, lying, weak, loser, choker.

I mean, and so he comes in, and he doesn’t do this, and, all of a sudden, my goodness gracious, you know, it is. It’s the Gettysburg Address. It’s the — FDR’s Four Freedom speech. What he did was, he was controlled for an hour. There was no invective. There was no vitriol, or very little.

But, as far as specifics, we know health care is going to be bigger, and better, and cheaper, and more access. And now you can’t even get ahold of the plan. It’s like the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. They keep it in a locked room.

Maybe David has seen it, but I don’t know anybody else who has.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: It’s in my dry cleaner.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I thought the speech was Shakespearian, Lincolnesque.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I would say I think we do have a — I got a better sense of him — or I got a lesser sense of him, because, usually, it’s all about him. And it’s about the clown behavior or the things Mark is talking about.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: But, here, you have got a little idea of the project.

And, frankly, I got a little sense of why the guy got elected, because we were all having debates about big government vs. small government, our normal debates. And Republicans were standing for certain sort of things, eliminate the national debt, be global policemen, restore the right to life.

He ignores all that. He’s just not doing any of that stuff. He’s saying, you, Americans, you feel endangered, and I’m going to protect you.

And so the line I had was that he’s privatized compassion and nationalized intimidation. And what I meant by that — probably too proud of that line.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: What I meant by that …

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re allowed to repeat your good lines on the program any time.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: What I meant, that all the compassionate parts of government, giving people a hand up or a safety net, he wants to cut all that. And that’s just not part of the emotional repertoire.

But being tough on our enemies, whether foreign or domestic, that, he’s doing in magnitudes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if that is what he is doing, if we know a little more, Mark…

MARK SHIELDS: Privatize profit and socialize loss.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: That was the Republican economic mandate for a long time.

DAVID BROOKS: Updating it.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is he in any better shape, Mark, in terms of getting his programs through? I realize we don’t know a lot of detail right now. But is…

MARK SHIELDS: Well, they have made a calculation, a political calculation. It’s hard to argue with it.

It’s a Republican Congress. He’s playing very much to his base. He’s not expanding his base. He’s not reaching across the divide, except by not insulting. But he is catering to and holding and speaking to and speaking for his base, those who supported him.

So, he’s 85 or 87 to nine among Republicans. As long as he’s there, OK, as long as his numbers are that high, Republicans are going to fall in line. They’re going to support him, or they’re going to at least think two or three times before breaking with him.

But, Judy, there is no sense of how he’s going to pay for any of this. And there’s no sense of the specifics. We have no more specific idea on what he wants to do on tax cuts and tax reform than we had before the speech.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

If they can find the health care plan under the magic sofa cushion in the Capitol, wherever it’s hiding, they’re going to find a lot of opposition on the right. And this is actually going to be a trope of the Trump administration.

If they ever actually come up with an agenda, there is going to be a lot of people on his right who are Republicans who are going to be very unhappy with the levels of spending or even the levels of tax cuts — or tax credits in the health care plan.

So, I think, on substantive matters on a lot of these issues, they’re going to have a big issue, big problem. And, secondly, a lot of these programs, like the health care, it shifts risk down to the individuals.

MARK SHIELDS: It does.

DAVID BROOKS: And I happen to think it could create good markets and reduce costs. But you’re definitely shifting risk.

And a lot of Americans are like, I have got enough risk in life. No thank you.

And I think that is going to come back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re eight going to be looking at the sofa on the Hill or at David’s dry cleaner.

MARK SHIELDS: David’s dry cleaner.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.

The post Shields and Brooks on Russia investigation questions, Trump’s joint address appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Brooks on tea party lessons for Democrats, remaking GOP in Trump’s image

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Feb 24, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And, from that, let’s turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, gentlemen, Mark, let’s just talk about this right now.

What do you see this energy or this emotion and anger, what does it mean coming at these Republican town halls?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, first of all, a shout-out for Congressman Lance for doing it, and for a thoughtful interview with Lisa, for having another town meeting, because several of his colleagues have tucked tail and run and ducked it.

And so the energy, Judy, is real. There’s no doubt about it. But I think Ross Baker put the point well, the political philosopher and teacher, when he said, it isn’t as focused. It’s quite diffuse. There are those who want to impeach Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, I hate to tell people who are concerned about it, is not going to be impeached. The American people believe in giving somebody a fair chance. He’s a new president. There have been troubles, there have been problems.

And the stock market just set 10 days in a row of new records, whether because of him or in spite of him. So that’s — but the energy is real. And the question is, can it be focused, can it be disciplined, can it be sustained?

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you answer all those questions?

DAVID BROOKS: First, I think Donald Trump is not going to be impeached this month. Let’s not close out possibilities.

I would say a couple of things. I do think that what’s happening is great and that people are active and people are just involved in the democratic process.

The Tea Party thing is only apt in some ways. The activism in the town halls, that looks superficially like it. But what the Tea Party did was, they went after the party, the Republican Party, as their vehicle. And parties is how you change history.

So, it’s fine to be an activist, but you’re not — if you’re not putting up candidates, if you’re not getting political, if you’re not in your party, then you’re probably not going to have long-term change. You will probably dissipate.

And then it’s tempting to remember that the Tea Party had a peak and then the Republican Party establishment sort of beat it back down. And so these things are won in a day.

And then the final thing the Tea Party had was, they fed into the philosophy that Donald Trump now embodies. So they had a different view of how the world should be governed. And so they had a lot of things that we didn’t appreciate going for them as time went by.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it did lead to something, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: Oh, it certainly did. It led to the Republican takeover in 2010.

And Kevin McCarthy, who is now the House majority leader, was pretty open. He went out and recruited candidates who had emerged from that movement. And the Republicans in the House have paid a price for it ever since, because they cannot pass anything comprehensive or real because of the Freedom Caucus, which is the child, the product, the progeny of the Tea Party.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But to both of you just quickly, you’re hearing some Republicans, you’re hearing the White House saying, well, a lot of this is orchestrated, it’s been somebody sitting there sort of pulling the strings.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How genuine is this?

MARK SHIELDS: It’s genuine.

Judy, the argument of those who are being criticized at any time, the civil rights movement forward, the anti-war movement forward, is, it’s always outside agitators doing it.

The Wall Street Journal had a pretty good piece yesterday that this is organic. It’s not organized. It’s real.

These are — are there people nationally working on it? Sure. But people who are emerging are from those districts. When Tom Cotton hears a woman stand up in Arkansas and said three members of my family would be dead but for ACA, including me, and where do you get your insurance, Senator, they’re all going to be asked that. So, it’s genuine.

DAVID BROOKS: And there’s nothing wrong with being organized.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Things that change history tend to be organized.

And so I do think what the Tea Party also had was Obamacare and the unpopularity of that, at least at the time. And so whether there is something that is equally unpopular and equally galvanizing that is almost self-destructive from the administration, that’s another factor that we will wait and see.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will wait and see about that.

But, meantime, right now — and we talked about it a few minutes ago on the show, Mark — the Democrats are about to choose a new party chair. We were talking about the message of the party.

Do you hear a clear message coming from the Democrats? Do you think it matters whether they come together around any message right now?

MARK SHIELDS: Sure. It will, Judy.

But, no, I don’t hear any clear, coherent message. I mean, when you’re a party out of power, it’s the time to be a national party chair. When the party holds the White House, all the political decisions are made in the White House. And being a party chair, you’re just an artifact.

But, being a party chair, you really have a chance to make a difference. but what the Democrats have to do is recognize and accept the fact that they’re at their lowest point since 1928 in the United States House of Representatives and their lowest point since 1925 in states.

So, they have got to start winning elections. That involves not some great idea, but it also involves recruiting candidates. And Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, who has given obnoxiousness a new definition in his personal behavior, oftentimes in his dealings with the press, had a very good point.

And that is, the Democrats have to do what he did when he was chairman of the Democratic House Campaign Committee, recruit veterans, recruit football players, recruit businesspeople. And I think that’s what the job of the new party chair has to be.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

I guess, to me, the fundamental thing — well, I guess I see a lot of people debating this in the wrong way. A lot of the debate is, should we go to the coasts, should we go to the center, should we go to the left, should we go to the right?

But Trump is instructive here, actually. You figure out, what is the crucial issue facing the country right now? And for Trump, it was that the global economy and the international world order were failing regular people.

And so he said, that’s the crucial issue. I’m going to take a clear stand on that issue.

And he did. And it’s very internally consistent. And he won with it.

For the Democrats, they’re trying to avoid having the Sanders-Clinton debate over and over again. But, to some degree, they’re sentenced to that debate. Clinton is much more embracing of the global economy and the international world order. Sanders and Warren are much less so.

And they have got to figure out which side the party is on, if they’re going to have a clear message. I think this is probably one you probably can’t straddle.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when you hear, as we heard earlier, when they say, well, opportunity for all, you’re saying it’s got to be more specific?

DAVID BROOKS: You have got to have — Franklin Roosevelt had a pretty clear line. Ronald Reagan had a pretty clear line, people who rescue parties.

And it doesn’t have to be the same line that we have had for the last 40 years, because that clearly isn’t working on any level. But you have got to have a pretty clear line on this crucial issue.

Basically, global capitalism, basically to support it, or is it to be opposed? Is international order to be supported, or is it to be opposed? Republicans have taken a very clear line. Democrats can have a different version of the line, or they can just say, no, we are the party of international peace and activism, and we’re the party that’s going to have a civilized capitalism.

MARK SHIELDS: Two points.

First of all, that’s way above the job description and job definition of a party chair. That is. That will be fought out in the primaries in 1920 — in 2020.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Before that, in 2018 as well.

But Franklin Roosevelt also ran on a balanced budget in 1932, and the greatest president, certainly, of the 20th century. And, you know, so the idea that you lay out a predicate right now, Donald Trump has recreated the Republican Party in his image.

We saw that at the CPAC convention, Judy. That was a total surrender of the Reagan era. Ronald Reagan is gone.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Wow.

MARK SHIELDS: He is nothing but a distant memory.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Gone?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, seeing that party today, I mean, he stood up and he said, you finally have a president, you finally have a president. I am the future.

And what did he get? Hosannas and huzzahs and genuflection. It was a total takeover of the conservative movement. Like, that’s what the conservative movement has become, is basically an annex of the Trump campaign.

DAVID BROOKS: I wish I could disagree.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think the two are now one, that it’s the Trump and the conservative …

DAVID BROOKS: I don’t know if it will be forever, but, for this moment, yes, for sure.

Steve Bannon went to the CPAC this week and he said that there was a very important historical turning point, getting rid of the TPP. And the Republican Party has stood for that for as long as I have been alive.

And then Trump today, he — you know, buy American, buy American, anti-free trade, and got big cheers. They’re waving Russian flags, probably partly as a joke. But, still, the party has become an ethnic nationalist party.

And I don’t think it’s just because they, oh, that we agree with Trump on some things and not on others. I do think, over the last 10 years, a lot of Republicans have decided it’s not working, what the party believed in, free trade, global capitalism, open borders.

They looked at basically the failed wars and they said, oh, this, us being the policeman of the world, that is not working.

And so something really serious has shifted in the minds of Republicans and certainly others.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But aren’t there still Republicans who say, CPAC doesn’t represent me, that I’m not part of the conservative movement, I’m a Republican, but I’m not there?

MARK SHIELDS: Sure. Absolutely.

I mean, this is a group, don’t forget, that gave its presidential straw ballot to Ron Paul, Ron Paul, and Rand Paul and Rand Paul. So, they have abandoned what — their libertarian values and instincts to embrace Trump.

Judy, gone is any mention of American exceptionalism. I happen to believe that twice, three times in the 20th century, the United States saved Western democracy, both World War — both World Wars and the Cold War.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you’re hearing about America first.

MARK SHIELDS: But America’s exceptionalism, American leadership, the American model, the American values are not — they’re something that end at the border. They’re something that are just for us. And American responsibility is — there is no mention of it.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

We had the clip earlier in the program of Trump saying: I’m not president of the globe. I’m president of the United States.

Reagan would have never said that. Eisenhower would have never said that, because he would have said, yes, I’m president of the United States, but it’s in our interests to be securing a world order.

MARK SHIELDS: A citizen of the world.

DAVID BROOKS: And that is — the two are so intricately linked. But Trump sees an opposition between the two. It’s a very different mind-set.

The other thing that has changed — and this is more detailed to CPAC than the general Republican Party — is they have always been an outsider, Ann Coulter, sort of protest style, a little ruder than most Republicans. And this goes back all the way to Reagan.

Lee Atwater, Reagan’s strategist, had no patience for CPAC, because he thought they were sort of wild and immature, basically. And so that’s always been a strain. So, it’s interesting how identity politics and Ann Coulter-style tactics have now blossomed. But they were always there in CPAC.

JUDY WOODRUFF: OK, just about a minute, a minute-and-a-half left.

I want to quickly ask you. We are careful about how we talk about President Trump and the news media, because we think you can quickly get into a situation, Mark, where you are looking at yourself and being a little too self-referential, any of us in the news media.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what I want to ask both of you, quickly, is, is this something that the press — that’s going to begin to define the press, the president’s constant, daily saying fake news, the press is dishonest, the press makes things up?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, he’s moved from the enemy being Barack Obama, now gone, fading is Hillary Clinton, and there is no question he’s chosen the enemy.

I thought what Steve Bannon said yesterday was probably more chilling or more threatening than anything the president says, I mean, because he said, it’s a constant day. We have to defeat the press.

And President Kennedy, after the Bay of Pigs, said to Turner Catledge of The New York Times: I wish you had written more, I wish you had investigated more, because it might have saved the country of the cataclysm of the Bay of Pigs.

And, you know, that’s the job of a free press is to hold the lamp up, to investigate, to hold accountable. And denying access, as Sean Spicer did today, is the first step toward a dictatorship.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

It’s both strategic, to get people’s minds off other things, and to pick an internal enemy. It’s part of his psychodynamics to always care about his press coverage intensely. He’s more interested in that than anything else.

Will it to stick? Of course, I tend to think not, the fake media. But I’m sure little Marco didn’t think it would stick. I’m sure crooked Hillary didn’t think it would stick. These labels do have a certain power to them. And so we will see how it plays out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will see.

David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

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Shields and Brooks on immigration ban court defeat, Democrats’ confirmation hearing opposition

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Feb 10, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who joins us tonight from Chicago.

And we welcome both of you.

So, before we talk about the immigration — the president’s immigration order, Mark, which the court, appeals court, rejected the administration argument on last night, we have a short clip of what President Trump has just said a little while ago on Air Force One as he was flying from Washington down to South Florida to Mar-a-Lago.

Reporters were asking him what he plans to do now.

Here’s that clip.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will win that battle. But we also have a lot of other options, including just filing a brand-new order.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Could very well be. But I like to keep you — I would like to surprise you. We need speed for reasons of security. So, it could very well be that we do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, he says, “I like to surprise you.”

How big a setback is this for the president?

MARK SHIELDS: It’s a significant setback, Judy, in large part because it was self-inflicted.

They made mistakes, including green card holders, which weakened their argument completely, and made them vulnerable to the court’s decision. And it reflected, more than anything else, a sense of chaos and a sense of incompleteness and a sense of lack of thoughtfulness in the administration on an enormously serious issue.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, how do you see it?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, on that last clip of Trump on the plane, his staff is briefing reporters in somewhat of a chaotic manner in just the last few minutes. People are saying, oh, they are going to just take it to the Supreme Court, they’re going to rewrite it.

And the two different briefings are contradicting each other. And that’s something The Times reporters have been talking and tweeting about publicly, which is some of the White House staff is in a high state of misery because of the general lack of — chaos.

On the larger issue of the travel ban, our friend Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post I think put it pretty well. I’m not sure it’s illegal, but it’s extremely stupid.

I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of judges overruling presidents on national security matters. Nonetheless, so whether it’s unconstitutional or not, I leave to others. But it certainly has sucked the wind out of two or three weeks of this administration for no good reason.

There has never been evidence that people from these countries are disproportionately likely to commit terrorist acts. We have sent chaos to the airports. We have offended the world. We have derailed the administration. We have done it in such an incompetent way, the administration has, that people with perfectly legal residence have been widely inconvenienced.

And so it’s just been a screw-up from beginning to end, and so it’s just been a running derailment.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, it’s only three weeks in, and it’s already this way. And David referred to the, frankly, mixed signals coming from the White House today about whether they were going to appeal or not and how they’re going to — what they’re going to do going forward.

But I want to ask you both about what the president has been saying about the judiciary, calling judges disgraceful, the arguments before the appellate court disgraceful, saying the country has been put at risk by the decision.

How much should — what should we think about that?

MARK SHIELDS: It’s a real surprise, Judy.

I mean, Judge Gorsuch, the nominee for the Supreme Court, said it was disheartening and discouraging to have judges attacked for their independence and their integrity. I don’t know if Judge Gorsuch was living in a bubble in Boulder during 2016.

This is not an aberration on the part of Donald Trump. He did it to Judge Curiel. He said Judge Curiel was a total disgrace.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the judge …

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS: The federal judge in the Trump University charge — case, because his parents had been born in Mexico and because I’m going to build a wall.

He manages to personalize everything. He brings chaos. He will not admit that he’s ever made a mistake, that he’s ever been wrong. That’s what this whole thing is about whether they’re going to have a new order.

A new order, a new executive order would be an admission that the first order had been flawed, imperfect, illegal, unconstitutional and rejected. So he can’t have that.

So you’re going to kind of do a double — to me, it is reflective of this administration. It’s three weeks in. People in the White House work hard, whatever administration. They get rewarded in psychic income, a sense that they are involved in something bigger than themselves, that it’s important.

And the people in the Trump White House right now are just fighting, fighting basically to stay above water.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And there is a sense of conflict, David, virtually every day.

But what about — is there a strategy to criticizing the judiciary, the judges, the courts over this?

DAVID BROOKS: No, I don’t think there is a strategy.

There is world view. And Donald Trump’s world view is that it’s a dangerous, miserable place, people are out to get him, and he needs to strike them first. That’s been the world view from the beginning. And it’s the world view.

To me, the big event of the week is not one thing. It’s the whole agglomeration of things. It’s the rising tide of enmity in the country, Donald Trump attacking judges, Donald Trump attacking John McCain, Senator Blumenthal, the town halls, the riots in Berkeley. You have got the incivility on the floor of the United States Senate. You have got just a rising tide, every single story.

Every time Kellyanne Conway goes on TV, there’s another fight with whoever’s interviewing her that particular day. And so what you have is this just succession and a rising tide of conflict and incivility and the breakdown in the moral norms that usually govern how we talk to each other.

Marco Rubio gave a pretty good speech on the floor of the Senate this week sort of acknowledging this fact. And so it’s not one thing. It’s every day. It’s the barrage of hostility that seems to mark our politics emanating from the White House, but not only in the White House, from his opponents as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which raises a question, Mark, in my mind. Is there any historical precedent for something like this? And what do the Democrats do? Because they are getting — a lot of Republicans are saying the Democrats are holding up President Trump’s nominees for the Cabinet.

A number of them have been confirmed, but a number are still waiting to be confirmed, that they are accusing the Democrats of creating a logjam. I mean, conflict at the White House, conflict on the Hill, who comes out on top of all this?

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, I mean, it’s a Cabinet that wasn’t vetted, that wasn’t prepared, that the papers weren’t prepared for.

Democrats have to make the fight. If you only make fights that you’re going to win, there would be no women’s vote in the country, there would be no civil rights laws in the country. So, they came within one vote of denying the confirmation to Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.

She was unprepared. And so unprepared was she that Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the committee, the former president of the University of Tennessee, the former secretary of education, limited questioning of her to five minutes, so to deny exposure to what she didn’t know.

So, you vote — are you going to vote for her, you’re going to vote against her? Two Republicans crossed ranks, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, to join the Democrat.

Andrew Puzder, the secretary of labor, a multimillionaire, who eight weeks after he was nominated discovers that we, my wife and I, had for years somebody working on — undocumented in our home who we didn’t pay taxes for.

Zoe Baird, the nominee for attorney general, her career foundered on this. Kimba Wood withdrew nomination on a far less serious charge. And so did Linda Chavez.

Is there one standard for women and another for men? Men aren’t responsible, multiple millionaire men who deal in minimum wage jobs, who deal in undocumented immigrants working for them at reduced wages?

So, I think these are fights worth making.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what about that, David? Because some people are looking at Washington and saying, oh, it’s just more of the same, the wheels are not turning in the nation’s capital.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, that’s patently true.

On the various nominees, I generally think the president should get his Cabinet picks, unless they’re egregiously out of the range, either ethically or intellectually out of the range of what’s acceptable.

And I have to say a lot of these nominees are not necessarily my cup of tea, but I think they’re clearly within the range. Jeff Sessions has some problematic spots on his history, but he has been a pretty normal, respectable senator, more conservative than a lot of us, but a respectable senator for a long period of time.

So, one could — I think the Democrats are right to protest, but I don’t think he’s so far out of the range of normalcy that he shouldn’t be confirmed.

Betsy DeVos is not the most informed person on education policy, but I have seen her present a few times, and she presents as a pretty respectable, intelligent person who has cared passionately about education and cares about charter schools. The teachers union may not like her, but she’s clearly within the range of Republican policy-makers.

As for multimillionaires, a lot of us hope to be a multimillionaire some day. Again, spotty records, but it seems to be not without the range. I don’t blame the Democrats for fighting. They have got a very energized base. And there is a lot to complain about a lot of these nominees. But I think, if you are actually going to turn someone down from a president’s own Cabinet, it better be a lot more egregious than the cases we have seen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that’s my question, Mark. Where draw the line? Where should Democrats say no?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, they have drawn the line, Judy. They have confirmed — Tillerson is confirmed. They backed Mattis. They’re not going to fight Ben Carson.

I think these — I disagree with David. I agree with his assumption and his premise that a president is entitled to a Cabinet, obviously, but it’s not a rubber stamp. And I don’t think anybody could watch the confirmation hearings of Betsy DeVos and say that this is somebody qualified to be secretary of education.

Ninety percent of children in America go to public schools. She knows nothing about public schools and apparently cares less. And her position on guns in schools, got to — for potential grizzlies, we should have guns available in schools?

And Andrew Puzder, this is somebody who basically has just broken the law, and he’s going to be held to no standard at all, whereas women nominees have been rejected in the past.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I think even Republicans are saying Puzder may have a problem.

David, what about the point that Mark is making?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, in some cases, I agree. On the Puzder point, I do agree there has been a double standard.

On the DeVos case, I agree that the gun — her gun position is kind of weird, kind of crazy, but I do think she does know about public schools. The reason the Betsy DeVos case was the centerpiece case for the Democrats wasn’t about her weakness as a knowledgeable person on education policy.

She does care about charter schools, which are public schools. She does care about choice, which is a perfectly legitimate thing to care about. It’s because it’s the one issue where the Democratic donor base was really energized, which was the teacher unions.

People ask, quite legitimately, why DeVos and why not a lot of the others? But it’s because it has to do with the special interest groups that run a lot of Washington.

Would she be my first pick? No. Is she someone who has dedicated her life to education policy? Yes, actually, she has. I have seen her present a few times. I don’t really know her. But I have seen her present on education policy, and she’s not a stupid person.

She’s quite a smart person, capable, pretty sophisticated in subtle thought. And so to me, that puts her in the realm of policy. But we’re in a climate where, as today, she tries to visit a school, and she can’t even do that because protesters are blocking that.

And that’s what I mean about the rising tide of incivility that’s sweeping over politics.

MARK SHIELDS: That was wrong. She should have been allowed to go in a public school. It would have been a novel experience for her.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: And this is not about the teachers unions alone. That’s a very convenient punching bag, to say that Democrats are just jumping at strings.

Yes, the teachers unions opposed her, and for good reason. They don’t think that her commitment to public education exists. So — you know, but they’re not simply responding. They have confirmed all sorts of Republican secretaries of education in the past who favored choice, including Lamar Alexander.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, you want a final 20 seconds here?

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: No, I’m willing to respect Mark’s disagreement. We’re not going to be like the rest of the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, we have a little bit of comity in the United States tonight right here, right here on the NewsHour.

MARK SHIELDS: What is Donald Trump going to give President Putin for Valentine’s Day? I’m interested.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Maybe David’s got an idea.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will know by next Friday, because Valentine’s Day is Tuesday, in case the two of you have forgotten.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on Democrats’ Gorsuch dilemma, refugee ban backlash

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Feb 03, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome to both of you. So much to talk about.

David, week two of the Trump administration.

Let’s start with his pick for the Supreme Court, federal Judge Neil Gorsuch.

What do you make of him?

DAVID BROOKS: Clearly qualified, first-rate legal scholar, first-rate judge, first-rate mind, apparently a first-rate person. He’s what any — the best any Republican president would have done. So, I thought a very good pick for Donald Trump.

The Democrats have a challenge. They can either behave the way the Republicans did to Merrick Garland, which would be disgraceful, but that would blow up the system. They have a loyalty either — I think a primary loyalty to the Constitution and basically to the norms of how we have done justice constitutional — or justice confirmations for the past many decades.

And that is, if the president picks someone who is basically qualified, basically a good person, then you confirm that person even if you don’t agree, because your side lost the election.

Now, I understand the Democratic thinking. The Republicans didn’t behave this way. But I guess my belief is that two terrible behaviors don’t make a good behavior.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What’s your take on Judge Gorsuch?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, first of all, I agree with David on the assessment of him.

He went to Georgetown Prep, which is a rather exclusive local prep school, then on to Columbia College, and then to Harvard Law School, then to Oxford.

But the vice president made a point when he was interviewed by you in this show, emphasizing he’s a fourth-generation Coloradan, because his resume sounds very much like all the other justices on the Supreme Court.

And as somebody who said that we ought to have somebody on the court who went to night school or went to public school — but, nevertheless, he does seem by temperament — and I will say this. In an administration that has been marked by total chaos and is unsettling in the way it’s behaved and the impulses it’s shown by its president, this was the exception.

It was incredibly normal. They did it well. The announcement was done well. He’s being — the Sherpa he has on Capitol Hill is former Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who is well-respected with moderates and Democrats, and Ron Bonjean, who was Trent Lott’s adviser and spokesman.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: So, that’s been well done. And he seems to be a quality product.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you agree with David, a tough call here for Democrats?

MARK SHIELDS: It’s tough in the sense that, I mean, the Republicans were reprehensible, what they did to Merrick Garland, reprehensible, indefensible. They never even gave the man a hearing, a man with a distinguished career. They ignored the Constitution.

The temptation is enormous. The pressure is enormous from the Democratic base of the party. And don’t forget, I mean, the Republicans responded to the Tea Party, which was the base of their party. And I can understand that.

But I think that — you know, I think, unless there’s something hidden about him that nobody seems to know and nobody seems to even be suggesting, I think he’s going to be awfully tough to defeat. And he’s a quality nominee.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re going to watch that one unfold.

I do want to get, David, to the executive orders. They have been coming at us fast and furious just about every day. But the big one I want to ask you about is the immigration order. It’s created a firestorm. We just — we announced — we just reported a few minutes ago a couple of federal judges have ruled on it because of legal challenges.

There have been protests. You have got State Department employees who have signed a letter of dissent.

Is the administration getting off on the right foot or not with this statement?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, you know, I have been inundated by 18 inches of orders, like we all have over the last couple of weeks, and some of them are good.

I think some of them are completely toothless and symbolic. But this one on the refuges is the one that’s truly abominable and reprehensible. We can’t remind people enough that it responds to a problem that does not exist, that refugees in from these countries have killed no one in a terrorist attack. That’s not where the threat has lain.

It’s from homegrown people. It’s maybe from other countries. The 9/11 people were from Saudi Arabia and some other places. And so it’s a response to nothing.

And so you have to think that it’s just an outgrowth of nativism. And there has been a whiff of nativism, to put it politely, in a lot of the measures that this administration has done. And it has offended our career people in the State Department. It has offended our allies. It has offended a lot of people around the world, for no good effect.

Usually, when there’s some policy, there are pros and cons. There are literally no pros to this one.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Any good effect?

MARK SHIELDS: No good effect.

And both the president and his vice president made the mistake of referring to it as a ban, then tried to — Muslim ban — then tried to walk it back. No.

And, Judy, the irony is, in a week where the president says he wants to unleash churches politically from being hobbled, and goes to the National Prayer Breakfast, I mean, forgotten is the message of Christ, that — how you treat the stranger among you. Whatever you do for the least of these, that of Moses, that you shall not oppress an alien, because you yourselves have been aliens.

This has been the hallmark, this has been the defining value of the United States. We had six Nobel Prize winners American last year. All six were immigrants. Immigrants have been the sustenance and the survival and the treasure of this country.

And Donald Trump is appealing, as he did during the campaign, to the basest, the most selfish and the most literally un-American of instincts.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, I wanted to ask you about foreign policy, but I have to come back to what you were just saying, an outgrowth of nativism.

You wrote a very tough column this week, saying this is not just a Republican administration; it’s an ethnic nationalist administration. You talked about Republicans making a Faustian bargain to go along with Donald Trump.

It’s a pretty dark picture, isn’t it, that you have painted?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

And I just think they’re in an untenable position. Listen, I grew up with Ronald Reagan. And he’s one of the reasons I think it was very encouraging to be a conservative back in those days. And he had a refugee crisis when he first came into office from Cambodia and Laos and other parts of the world. And he said, we’re going to welcome them. And he did welcome them.

And that was a Republican Party that did welcome the refugee because it basically believed in opportunity. It believed in possibility. It was a hopeful party.

This is not a hopeful party. It doesn’t believe in opportunity and — it does see possibility anywhere around the world. It sees threat and menace.

And, frankly, it reminds me of some of the reactionaries in Russia who think that the purity of the country is in the dark soul of the people who have been here for centuries, and everything outside is a threat.

That’s not been the American myth. That’s not the way we have defined our country. And so I do think we’re in the middle of a big argument over how we define the American idea. And what Bannon and Trump have presented us with is an idea of America that’s not been the traditional idea, not the Walt Whitman idea, not the George Washington, Abraham Lincoln idea, which is one of welcoming because we’re the last, best hope of Earth.

And so we have hit the opposite of Emma Lazarus. And that debate about the American idea, seems to me, the core debate under this whole administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, the opposite of Emma Lazarus.

MARK SHIELDS: The opposite — yes.

Now, Americans — Americans have gone through nativist streaks before. The Know-Nothings in the middle of the 19th century were a dominant political influence of many Northern states, held every seat in the Massachusetts legislature, alarmed about the influx of Irish immigrants and Catholics coming into the country.

But I do think that one major difference between our handling of civil rights in the 1960s, when America rose to one of its most magnificent eras and challenges, and immigration in the 21st century is the economy, I mean, that the measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, but whether, as Franklin Roosevelt said, we provide enough for those who have too little.

And during the ’60s, the median income was doubling of the American household. And we have seen the stagnation. We have seen what has happened. And it comes at a cost. And it comes at a cost in the psyche, that Americans are less welcoming, we’re more fearful.

And I really think that income inequality is — and the disparity in income and the growing gap has contributed to that political climate that Donald Trump has exploited so brilliantly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and while we’re watching this immigration ban, or order, however you’re describing it, David, we have also watched a flurry of statements and tweets about foreign policy, and reported angry phone calls between the president and the prime minister of Australia and the president of Mexico.

Today, the White House issued sanctions, heightened sanctions against Iran. There seems to be a consensus that that’s a good idea.

But do you see an emerging — what do you see emerging in terms of foreign policy from this White House?

DAVID BROOKS: I have to say it has been an extremely unnerving week on the foreign policy front.

The fight with the Australian ambassador — or with the Australian prime minister was emblematic. Trump is right at some level. That was a bad deal that the Obama administration cut. I understand why they cut it. But, for the Trump administration, it was a bad deal.

But that doesn’t mean you get in a fight and get in some temperamental hissy fit, as apparently happened, with probably our most loyal ally in the world, who’s been with us at every fight basically throughout our history.

And so that’s a sign of characterological problem. And then you switch to the real problems in the world. We’re not going to get in a war with Australia.

But, as Steve Bannon said, we might get in a war in the South China Sea. And, as Mike Flynn said, we might get in a war in Iran. And we have to be tough with those countries, but you would like to feel there is some control in our toughness, that there’s some strategy, that we’re not at the whim of one person’s pique.

And so, when we even take what seem to be sensible actions in Iran — or against Iran, I have no confidence, and I don’t think any of us can have confidence, that there is something steady and temperamental and in control about that.

And, as I had mentioned on the program a few weeks ago, the number of use of force decisions the president has to take is large. And none of us can be sure that the sane choices will be made, let alone reasonable ones.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, in just a minute, how are you seeing this emerging national security vision from this administration?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, I mean, we want a president with a steady hand on the tiller. I mean, that’s what we want. We want the captain who is — who is stable, who inspires confidence. And that has not been the case.

This is the biggest betting week of the year. This is the Super Bowl week. And anybody would have given — would have won a fortune on the over-under that the country you’re going to pick an argument with is Australia.

It just — it’s incredible. But it’s all personal, because all politics isn’t local, as Tip O’Neill said. All politics is personal with President Trump. And that carries with it great, great problems.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are just at the beginning. And we thank you both for your insights and we hope you have a good weekend.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on Trump’s first week, the future of ‘alternative facts’

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Jan 27, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: From executive actions to early morning tweets, the first week of the Trump administration has been marked by a flurry of twists and turns.

To help make sense of it all, the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

And welcome to both of you.

And I guess you could say, Mark, from Mexico to Russia, from oil pipelines to health care, it has not been a quiet first week. How’s it gone?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, if you’re a Trump supporter, it’s gone terrific.

He’s done what he said he was going to do. He was — honored his campaign commitments on the wall, on keeping the borders secure, or safe, or limited, and stopping immigration as much as possible, and building the pipeline and going ahead. I mean, so, in that sense, he didn’t lose any support among his supporters.

Among his critics, I think whose doubts were very much, in large part not simply ideological, but about the temperament of Donald Trump, it’s reinforced those doubts, his performance, especially the smallness of his preoccupation about the size of the crowd, which he keeps returning to in a rather bizarre fashion.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this first week, David?

DAVID BROOKS: We were here a week ago together, and it feels like a century.

And I wonder, over the course of his presidency, can he keep up this pace of news and busyness and conflict without just exhausting everybody?

And I will say, among businesspeople I have spoken to, among political class and among the Republicans on the Hill, just a great sense of being unnerved, unnerved at the instability.

Partly, he’s done what he said, as Mark said. He’s undermined the post-war international order pretty quickly. Tearing down TPP was a bill that I think economists say would have produced hundreds of millions — billions of dollars of earnings every year for Americans.

Picking a fight with our second biggest export market, very unnerving. I don’t see the — but then I think the two other things I would say is, the general sense of chaos and incompetence on how you do it.

OK, you want to pick a fight with Mexico. Do you have to do it by tweet? Do you have put forward a proposal that would have Americans paying for the wall, and then sort of withdraw it, and then sort of not withdraw it, do in a way maximally designed to polarize Mexican opinion against the United States?

And then the final thing is, I wonder, I’m left wondering, how much of this is real? OK, he signs a series of papers that Steve Bannon and others wrote for him, but who is going to implement it? Does it make any sense? We saw that with the Syrian ban in the discussion earlier in the program.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

DAVID BROOKS: How much of it is the government just going to let him sign papers and then it just goes along their merry way?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to ask you both about that.

But I think, Mark, coming back to something you — well, both of you have referred to this. Should everyone who voted for him and who watched him for months have really expected what we have seen this week? He’s — it’s the full Donald Trump coming forward, isn’t it?

MARK SHIELDS: No question.

I mean, you know, we have talked about the disenchantment, the alienation of American voters because voters — Republicans — how long have Republicans promised a balance budget? How long have Republicans pretended they care deeply about budget deficits, or Democrats on their issues about the poor, about really doing something about those in poverty and income inequality?

And then they get elected, and, no, you can’t do it, you can’t do it.

I mean, whatever else, I mean, he has certainly been against the grain on that. But I don’t think the temperamental — the divide on this week, Judy, I think, is those who look at Donald Trump and see somebody who goes to the CIA and…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Last Saturday.

MARK SHIELDS: … and lashes out at the press and complains about the coverage of the size.

Here he is, going to the Wall of Heroes, sends out his press secretary for his debut looking like a hostage tape complaining about the — about press coverage of this, insisting it’s the biggest crowd ever.

Nobody has ever measured crowds, except Barack Obama, because it was a historic turnout. But the biggest crowd before that was Lyndon Johnson. Nobody knows that. Donald Trump all of a sudden is preoccupied by it.

And there’s one thing that happened this week, I think, that, if I were in the White House, I would be deeply concerned about. And that was the Dallas Stars hockey team, the National Hockey League team, plays in the American Airlines Center in Dallas that has a capacity crowd of 18,562.

They had a capacity crowd last Saturday night right after Spicer, right after the CIA. And they put up on their JumboTron, on the big screen, attendance, 1.5 million.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: And the whole place erupted in laughter.

And that’s — when you become a punchline 30 hours into your presidency in Dallas among hockey fans, that portends a problem.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does he run a real danger, David, of that happening? Or are people saying, OK, let’s give him — it’s only the first week, let’s see what happens?

DAVID BROOKS: No. No. People are in more panic mode than before.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: He’s just picked fight after fight. This was an example.

And there are sort of two theories of he tells things that are false all the time. Is it because he’s sort of an Orwellian figure, an authoritarian figure who is twisting words in an Orwellian manner, “1984,” to exercise power and control people’s minds, or is he a 5-year-old who has an ego that needs to be fed, and the universe has to warp around his ego needs so he can feel good about himself, and everybody has to produce photos to make the monarch feel like he’s made of gold?

MARK SHIELDS: Which do you vote on?

DAVID BROOKS: I vote on the 5-year-old kid.

MARK SHIELDS: King George III?

DAVID BROOKS: The madness of King George III.

And so I think, when we see that distortion, it’s because he just needs the ego fed all the time.

And I don’t if anybody saw the — after the CIA, he gave an ABC interview where he talked about the standing ovation …

JUDY WOODRUFF: I watched it.

DAVID BROOKS: … at the CIA, the longest ever …

MARK SHIELDS: Peyton Manning.

DAVID BROOKS: … since Peyton Manning.

Well, first of all, the employees couldn’t sit down because he didn’t tell them to sit down. So, they’re standing. Of course it’s a standing ovation. They can’t sit down.

But then the way he went on and on, that was a home run, and, I mean, it’s — it’s weird.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which leads, Mark, back to, I think again, what both of you were talking about, and that’s this question of facts or whether they call them alternate facts.

Are we going to continue to debate this kind of thing for the duration of the first year or the rest of his presidency?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, we are, Judy.

I will tell you why, because Steve Bannon, the president’s senior counselor, chief strategist, said something this week that was absolutely true. He said that there is no opposition party.

The Democrats lost 958 legislative seats during Barack Obama’s eight years. The Democrats went into the election of 2016 holding control of seven states where they have got the governorship and both houses of the legislature.

Today, as we sit here, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon, California, and Hawaii are the five states that have Democratic governors and Democratic legislatures. It’s 2,500 miles from Hartford to Sacramento, and there’s not a single Democratic-controlled state in between that.

So, the opposition really is — Marty Baron, the editor of The Washington Post, is the leader of the opposition, or David’s paper, or mainstream media, because they’re the ones that have to call them account. There are 214 committees and subcommittees on the Hill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he called — Steve Bannon called the press the opposition party, but he meant it, I think, as a …

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS: Well, he meant it, but I think he — whether he meant it or not, he spoke the truth, because accountability and facts are going to be maintained and insisted upon. It’s only going to come that way.

The Democrats are — on the Hill are powerless. They couldn’t pass salt if they asked for it. They couldn’t. I’m sorry. They couldn’t pass the sugar. That’s how weak they are.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it that bad?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I do think there is another opposition more effective right now, or more important, which is people who work in government, some of the civil servants.

They have to — if we’re going to impose a visa on European countries, they have got to process it. And, believe me, civil servants have many ways to not do something. And it’s easier for them not to do it.

The second is Congress, and not only the Democrats, but — that’s important, but also the Republicans in Congress. The Republicans in Congress, A, they believe in Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party, not Donald Trump Republican Party or Steve Bannon’s Republican Party.

Second, they have made this Faustian bargain with the guy. They think, we’re going to tolerate him, and — but just as long as he signs our legislation. And if we can get some health care that we like or a tax reform that we like, all that chaos is worth it.

But the chaos may turn out to be too high a price to pay. And so now we get in a big fight with Mexico, and some members of Congress are very upset that we have upset this, needlessly started a trade war, which could go totally out of control.

And some of them would love to go down to Mexico and say, hey, he doesn’t speak for us. And they are not going to do it now because they’re pausing to see what happens, but six, eight months, a year, they could decide, this is too much for our country, we have to go down, and we would go to Mexico or whoever the next 18 fights he picks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David makes a point, Mark. You both talk about how much of what Donald Trump is saying is going to become reality. His own party is going to have a lot to say about how much of it becomes reality.

MARK SHIELDS: They are.

And David is a very cheerful optimist on the subject of Republican backbone.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: I have seen — this man has taken over the Republican Party. He’s transformed the Republican Party.

It is not — Donald Trump is an independent presidential candidate who ran on the Republican label. He really did. He took it over. He transformed it into his image, in his likeness.

He will toss a deferential nod once in a while. But it’s Trump’s agenda. It isn’t Paul Ryan’s agenda. It isn’t Mitch McConnell’s. They can stop him. I mean, as they have already stood up, McConnell has, on sanctions to Russia.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank God for Jim Mattis. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On torture.

MARK SHIELDS: The now secretary of defense on torture, Trump has at least deferred to him, while expressing for the first time ever an American president’s support, the full-throated support of torture, endorsement of torture.

At least Cheney, Dick Cheney, the vice president, used the euphemism of enhanced interrogation for torture, which has been outlawed, which is illegal, which is immoral, which is diplomatically disastrous and militarily counterproductive and hurtful.

So, I’m still waiting. Thank God for John McCain, quite frankly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, what makes you think that Republicans are going to have, as Mark said, the backbone to stand up to him?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, A, because I hear rumblings of it. I hope rumblings lead to backbone.

But, second, if present is prologue, then Trump is this whirling dervish of chaos. He picked a fight with Mexico. Germany is not far behind. He will pick a fight with them. He will pick a fight with China, which would be truly cataclysmic.

Vietnam has been severely hurt by what he did this week on TPP. So just a series of big fights just in the international arena. And, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, the president makes a lot of decisions about use of armed force.

And some of those are going to go — for him to make decisions on questionable information is going to happen. He’s going to have to make those decisions. And it will just feel like the whole American project, I believe, is weirdly under threat.

Now, it could be that he just does this in the realm of media, and he lives up there, and Steve Bannon runs policy down here. And that would just have a Berlusconi destabilizing effect on our culture, and have no practical effect.

But I do think he is a fundamentally unstabilizing force and that the people who swore to uphold the Constitution are going to have to take some measures at some point.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, in just the minute left, he still has the support — the polls support he still has the support of the people who voted for him; 80 percent of the Republicans say he’s doing a great job.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, this is the honeymoon.

The troubles that he’s inflicted this week and counting were totally unforced errors upon himself. So, this really is a time. Americans want the country to do well. They want the president to do well.

We just had — broke the 20,000-point barrier, and he stepped all over the story. I mean, if you were counseling the president and you’re there when the Dow Jones breaks 20,000, you go to, gee, I had nothing to do with it, but I’m loving that the American people express confidence and optimism in our future.

Instead, he’s doing something with David Muir complaining about the coverage and telling everybody to watch FOX News. So, it’s all — he’s as high now with no problems. They haven’t had a crisis yet.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, this is the happiest week for the presidency.

If Mr. Rogers is having a week, this should be his Mr. Rogers week, and it wasn’t exactly Mr. Rogers.

Had to get that PBS reference in.

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS: I liked the PBS reference.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I like both of you.

David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.

DAVID BROOKS: It’s Barney.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Next week, an exclusive conversation coming up. I sit down with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House.

That is on Tuesday, January 31, right here on the PBS NewsHour.

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How did President Trump fare in his first day on the job?

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Jan 20, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what to make of this day one of the Trump presidency?

Here with me now are NewsHour regulars syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, and from our politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report. Also joining us, Barry Bennett. He was campaign manager for Ben Carson in the Republican primaries. He then served as an adviser to the Trump campaign.

From George Washington University, politics scientist Lara Brown. Karine Jean-Pierre, she was a senior adviser to MoveOn.org during the 2016 elections. And Matt Schlapp, he is chair of the American Conservative Union. He joins us from downtown Washington.

We can see the Capitol behind you, Matt.

So, let me start with the NewsHour regulars, Mark Shields and David Brooks.

David, I will start with you.

What is the main takeaway from this day?

DAVID BROOKS: I feel underdressed.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS: You have got that blue-collar Republican look.

DAVID BROOKS: It’s the new populist moment.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: The story of the day was the really unabashed populism and nationalism of the Trump speech.

And so I’m left with two big questions: How big is this nationalist moment? It’s been spread around the world. Theresa May just gave an anti — how they’re going to withdraw from Brexit, the U.K. Le Pen is looking good in France. Putin is riding high.

There’s an international movement. A lot of sort of dismiss as sort of a product of a receding bit of history, but maybe it’s the 21st century. And maybe Trump is riding something, and he will be able to marshal a left-right populist movement. That’s a possibility we should be open to, especially because the anti-populists, people who believe in global trade and global movements, have no guts, no articulation, and really no opposition.

And then the second thing, how is he going to turn this into policy? How does an outsider who runs against Washington actually rally Washington to launch his agenda? That’s just a gigantic challenge.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields?

MARK SHIELDS: In 1940, there were 137 million people in the United States of America and — 132 million — and there were 600,000 more factory jobs than there are today.

There were eight million more factory jobs in this country than when Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. So, Donald Trump represents a real grievance, a real constituency.

But what I could not get over in the speech today — and I don’t know what the global impact or meaning is, but I do know that it was unlike any inaugural address I have ever heard. It was a call to arms to those already enlisted in his army. There was no attempt to reach across the divide. There was no attempt to heal wounds. There was no attempt to reassure or allay fears of those who were apprehensive and not supported him.

So, in that sense, it was almost unique, at least in the speeches I have heard. And it was an unbridled attack upon those presidents spoke of who were — in William’s piece who were sitting on the dais with him, having praised the Obamas in one sentence for being magnificent, and then saying that this small group who have profited in Washington have been indifferent, and almost cruelly so, to the rest of the country.

So, I just stand in the midnight in America, American carnage, which is, I think, soon-to-be canceled TV series, but I just have never heard language quite like it or a tone quite like it in an inaugural address.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Matt Schlapp, since you’re so well-dressed, I’m going to call on you next.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you hear? What are you taking away?

MATT SCHLAPP, Chairman, American Conservative Union: Boy, I just — what I would say to Mark is, is that I think one of the things that was ironic is, you had Donald Trump up on that dais, who hasn’t been a Republican for very long, and who is basically a function of the fact that both those parties and many of those party leaders and some of those former presidents didn’t listen to the American people.

President Obama will leave office with higher approval ratings, but still two-thirds of this nation believe that we’re on the wrong track. And I think the demonstration of the economic pain and the unrest and unease about what’s happening overseas is high.

And, really, what struck me about the address, about the speech is that he is connecting to the political moment. The political moment is not about morning. It’s about — a little bit about M-O-U-R-N-I-N-G, and the fact that there is nothing wrong with a Republican connecting to the fact that a lot of Americans are hurting.

Now, I agree you have to offer solutions and you have to be optimistic and you have to lead them someplace, but it’s important to listen to them and to connect to them. And that’s why Donald Trump is the president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter?

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes.

And to Matt’s point, there was a lot of Donald Trump on the campaign trail where he seemed to switch positions. We really didn’t know — and I still think we don’t know — where exactly his ideological core is.

But there was one thing that was consistent throughout. It’s the same message we saw today in his inaugural speech was the message that we saw on the campaign trial, was the message that we saw at the convention. That has never changed at all.

It’s what won him the nomination, when nobody thought he was going to be able to do that. And it’s what won him the presidency, when, quite frankly, even going into the election night, nobody really believed that he was going to be able to win this.

And so he is taking that same message and he is going to bring it to the White House with him. This was something that he truly, you know, as I said, has stuck with throughout the course of his campaign. And he believes that, if he succeeds, other people are going to join.

The reaching out is not about reaching out to say, well, I’m going to take other people’s opinions and views. It’s, I’m going to do so well, I’m going to be so — we’re going to make America so great, that people who oppose me now are going to have to come on board.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what’s going to happen, Karine Jean-Pierre, somebody who worked against his election?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, Democratic Strategist: Yes, look, it was — and I said this before — it was very disappointing.

It was a right-wing nationalism speech. It was very reminiscent of the RNC convention speech, when he accepted his nomination, had that dooms and glooms type of feel. And I think the most disappointing part of it was, there are people here who are genuinely fearful because of the type of campaign that he ran and the people that he insulted.

And he didn’t do anything to mend those wounds. And, as president, that’s what people look to our leader to do. And I think he missed a really important opportunity as we were going through the peaceful transfer of power.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Barry Bennett, missed an opportunity?

BARRY BENNETT, Former Trump Campaign Senior Adviser: I don’t think so.

I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder here. His supporters, me included, we don’t want to half-a-loaf, right? We want him to fight. And today was the beginning of a fight. It wasn’t the end of a campaign.

We’re going to see from the left the protests are big and energetic, and they are going to be so tomorrow. But we want him to fight back. And I think what we saw today was, Monday morning, the fight is still going to be there. And that’s what we — I think the country needs.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Should people be fearful, as Karine was just saying?

BARRY BENNETT: I don’t think so, no.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You shake your head no.

BARRY BENNETT: No.

I mean, I think no. There are people here illegally. They should be fearful that they’re here illegally, because, you know, they should be deported. Or, you know, the law says they should be deported. But, I mean, if you’re here illegally, of course you’re not going to be deported. That’s silly. That’s fear-mongering.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We are looking at — we have been interspersing our conversation with pictures of that inaugural parade still going on an hour after sunset here in Washington, but it’s still going on, members of the Trump family seated at that reviewing stand just literally right in — built right in front of the White House.

We’re watching that. We’re keeping half-an-eye on the parade, but we also really want to hear what everybody here has to say.

Lara Brown, it is dark at the White House, but Donald Trump is going to bring light to America.

(LAUGHTER)

LARA BROWN, Director, George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management: Well, I think that that’s precisely the problem.

Maybe he is going to continue to bring the fight to Washington, but there was no acknowledgment that he had won. His party has won. One of the most important aspects of an inaugural speech is to actually end the campaign, to move beyond the campaign, to bring about a sense of reconciliation and unity with all of those who fought fiercely against you.

And I think there is also this other piece where he failed to recognize his moment in history. He didn’t acknowledge past presidents, those who are sort of lions in the pantheon of presidents, whether it’s Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln, or George Washington. He didn’t notice or witness the ceremony as being important in history.

You know, Bill Clinton, who came to office with only 43 percent of the popular vote, began his speech by talking about how this speech takes place in the dead of winter, but that part of the words and the faces of the people are about forcing the spring, that there is a sense of renewal. And Trump didn’t provide that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Matt Schlapp, and we should say the reason you are dressed up is because you are going to one of the inaugural balls. And I failed to point that out earlier.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Or maybe…

MATT SCHLAPP: No, I think it — Judy, I think it’s because they think people like me live like Thurston Howell III.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about Lara Brown’s point, though, that we didn’t hear from the new president…

MATT SCHLAPP: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … a connection to history, to his place in the grand pantheon that is the history of the United States?

MATT SCHLAPP: Look, if you want poetry, there was another candidate for you.

Donald Trump was the candidate of very blunt, realistic talk. And I think, if you look through what politicians tend to do — and, obviously, I worked for President George W. Bush in the White House, with Barry Bennett’s wife, I might say.

And there is definitely thought, great thought that goes into these speeches. But so many times, what the voters — what the voter hears and then what they see in their lives, there can be a bit of phoniness, obviously, to politics.

And I think what Donald Trump did, I think what everyone on the panel is failing to understand is that I think the biggest part of the speech was that he broke it down in very basic terms for them, and he made a pledge to them. He said he’s going to fight for them, and he’s not going to let them down.

Boy, it’s not a small pledge. This is a high bar, to me, which is he’s going to change, literally change society and change the way government does these things. And I think that it was bold for him to do that.

And I think there was a lot of people — I will tell you, I talked to a lot of people out on the street today, and they just like the fact there is an authenticity and a directness. We will see how it works over the years, but I think it’s very promising.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, bold and authentic.

DAVID BROOKS: Utopian. He’s going to eradicate disease. He literally said that.

So, I think it was authentic. And I do think it was bold, a bold — boldest mostly on its attack on the Republican Party. It’s a party that has always — never believed in zero sum thinking. It started as the Whig Party, which was based on the idea in part that labor and capital didn’t have to fight. There was enough for all of us in the growing pie.

The Republican Party, through all its permutations, has basically believed in that. Since the Cold War, it’s believed in growth abroad is good for growth at home, democracy abroad is good for democracy at home.

That’s not an America-first philosophy. That’s not the zero-sum philosophy that we heard from Donald Trump. That’s not the combative philosophy we heard from Donald Trump.

So, it’s a stark and a bold attempt to reshape his own party. Whether he can successfully do that, I’m, frankly, dubious about. And whether he can successfully effect change in government, when he’s so anti-institutional and not even willing to embrace the institution of the presidency, it’s — again, I’m dubious about.

But bold, I give him credit for.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, just quickly, did you hear signs, signals — did you signals today that Donald Trump will be able to make the changes he says he’s going to make?

MARK SHIELDS: No, I didn’t.

I didn’t see anything unifying or uplifting in this speech. And I think that successful inaugurals in the past — I mean, they may be writing a new chapter, but I didn’t — I thought that was missing from the speech.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re saying that’s what we should be judging the speech on?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think you have to view the speech as identifying yourself in history, acknowledging who you are, acknowledging humility, acknowledging the importance of the country and its diversity and its strength through that diversity, and your appeal to the people who didn’t support you and your pledge to them.

And I just — to me, it’s politics 101. I mean, he was playing to his base. He’s continuing to play to his base.

And if Matt isn’t too busy going to his nighttime affairs, he could tell us who the candidate of poetry was in 2016.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Was that Rick Perry? Did I miss it? Or was it Scott Walker? I missed it.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: I wish we — do you want to answer that, just quickly?

MATT SCHLAPP: It wasn’t Hillary Clinton. It definitely wasn’t Hillary Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will bring you back on. You can answer that. I won’t put you on the spot.

We have only got about a minute left.

Amy, I’m hearing two very different sets of views here about what Donald Trump accomplished or didn’t today.

AMY WALTER: If his goal was to — and it’s been his goal from the entire course of this campaign. He has a vision and a message about shaking up Washington. He’s going to do things differently. He’s not going to do it in a traditional manner. He doesn’t care about the trappings of this.

And you either believe that or you don’t believe that. And he will be successful based on a Washington working for him, despite the fact that he doesn’t think Washington works.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we have how many days, 365 times four, to talk about what he accomplished today and what he may accomplish in the future.

I want to thank each one of you, Mark Shields, David Brooks, Amy Walter, Lara Brown, Karine Jean-Pierre, Barry Bennett, and Matt Schlapp.

You all get a chance to come back and weigh in one more time — or many more times on this.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.

LARA BROWN: Thank you.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Judy.

The post How did President Trump fare in his first day on the job? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Brooks on Russian intrigue in American politics, Obama’s farewell

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Jan 13, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

And welcome to you both. There is so much to talk about, but let’s start with talking about the president-elect and Russia.

We had the news today — on top of all the confirmation that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election, today, we learned — and we talked about earlier it on the show — David, that General Michael Flynn had phone conversations with the Russian ambassador in December, several of them.

Tonight, we’re learning that the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to expand what was already an investigation into the Russian interference into in election to look at any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians and the Clinton campaign, although the main focus is Donald Trump.

What do we make of all this?

DAVID BROOKS: I was first struck by David Ignatius’ comment earlier in the program that they just could be trying to be destabilize the United States across the board. And that’s a — I hadn’t heard that thought before and it’s a live possibility.

Putin is someone who has been undermining the norms of what we consider the world order since he got into power and in increasing success. What’s interesting about the Trump administration is how bitterly divided they are in their attitudes towards Putin.

Steve Bannon and General Flynn have warm feelings. Putin has been — and with a lot of the groups, the conservative groups, the more extreme conservative groups that underlie Trump, he’s a bit of a hero because he speaks for traditional values, he’s against the global institutions.

They see him as someone who has been on the defensive from an aggressive E.U., an aggressive NATO. And there is a lot of sympathy there, actually.

And then, if you look at the more establishment Republicans, they see him as what I just described, subversive of the world order. And so to me the question will be, will Trump and Bannon control policy toward the foreign policy, or will everyone else basically?

And my money is on everyone else, because I think Trump’s attention span is super low. I don’t think he has the expertise to actually run a foreign policy. And at the end of the day — and I think this is a major story of the Trump administration — he’s going to want the affirmation of the establishment, as he always has.

The reason he had Clintons at his wedding because he wants that affirmation. When he gets the chance to have it, I think he will bend gradually in that direction.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How are you looking at all this?

MARK SHIELDS: Donald Trump is to traditional values what I am to marathon running.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: It just doesn’t — it doesn’t fit.

I have to say, Judy, I am perplexed, and I think an increasing number of Republicans are perplexed and actually nervous about Donald Trump and Russia, nervous in the sense that he is gratuitously giving Democrats the national security advantage, that they’re standing up for the country.

We have testimony of General Mattis, the nominee for secretary of defense, asserting that the objective, the stated objective and the mission of Vladimir Putin’s Russia is to destabilize the North Atlantic Alliance, and he, who believes in NATO and believes it’s been one of the great alliances in modern history, that Putin represents a threat to this, that Russia today is nothing but a propaganda arm, that General Flynn went to celebrate its anniversary, sitting at Putin’s table for money, paid to show up.

So, I mean, these questions, essentially, they have just given it to the Democrats to stand up and say, wait a minute, where do you believe in this country, plus the suspicions, and real, about in fact the involvement of Russia in this election.

The question, the real moment of truth is going to arrive very shortly, a couple of weeks, when sanctions arrive on Donald Trump’s — President Donald Trump’s desk passed by a Republican Congress. Is he going to oppose those sanctions? What’s he going to do?

I just think it’s inexplicable and irrational, his policy on Russia.

DAVID BROOKS: I would say it’s a theory. He has got a theory of it, which is the theory of UKIP in the United Kingdom, the theory of Le Pen in France, which is that the global establishment has basically failed people, and that, all around the world — it’s a little like Marxism in reverse — global movement is arising that’s against these institutions which have failed people.

And Putin is part of that movement. And that’s the theory of the case. I don’t think it’s true, but they do have a theory of what is happening. And I don’t know if they will be able to enact it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But David’s argument a moment ago, Mark, is that the establishment is going to win out because Donald Trump, he said, just can’t organize a foreign policy.

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know.

That, of course — you know, the White House, as Warren Harding said, and I think accurately, is an alchemist. We find out the strengths, the weaknesses and the smarts and the dumbs of whoever those occupants are under the pressure of the presidency.

I don’t see — I was encouraged as a citizen by the selection of General Mattis, by the nomination of him, by the command of subject matter he displayed, and his independence, independence of thought. And so…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we saw that from several of the…

MARK SHIELDS: We did. We did.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … choices.

MARK SHIELDS: Less convincing from some others. Mike Pompeo, who had been an advocate of waterboarding as a House member, has backed off and said, oh, Donald Trump would never — if he ever heard Donald Trump on the stump, Donald Trump was a champion of water-boarding and more, as he put it.

But, nevertheless, he did establish that rule of law.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, just quickly, you did see a number of these Cabinet choices, and you’re referring to that, put some distance between themselves.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

And I think it was — I agree with Mark. It was a good week, I think, for the country and, frankly, for the Trump administration. A lot of us expected a lot of extremely confrontational hearings this week. And that really didn’t happen. They sailed through, by and large.

And that’s because they did distance themselves. They behaved like responsible — even Tillerson, who was probably the weakest, because he just doesn’t know that much about foreign policy.

But he apparently in the private meetings with the senators has made a good impression on people. He’s a professional. He’s obviously a very intelligent, polished man. And so the other — I hate to praise Trump so much, but I have always wanted administrations to admit, yes, we have differences.

There’s always been this locked uniformity, oh, we all think alike and that, if we disagree, it’s somehow a scandal. But, yes, people have differences. And Donald Trump didn’t emerge from the orthodoxy of the Republican Party. And so there’s going to be bigger differences than normal.

And if they can have those differences out in the open, I actually think it would be kind of a good thing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re right. He tweeted today, this morning, early, that he thought it was a good thing if they spoke for themselves.

But back on Russia, quickly, Mark, the civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis of Georgia in an interview today with Chuck Todd at NBC said that Donald Trump is not — he doesn’t view Donald Trump as a legitimate president, he said, because the Russians interfered with the U.S. election. He said the results don’t represent legitimacy.

MARK SHIELDS: It’s a legitimate argument, that Russia’s involvement in our election, it’s open to question whether, in fact, it was influential, determinate.

The fact that they tried and were involved and tried to influence and subvert our democratic processes is indisputable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying it’s not settled?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t — no, but I do think that there is a certain irony and perhaps a little payback in the fact that John Lewis, a certified icon of the civil rights movement, questions the legitimacy of the man who questioned the legitimacy and led the fight, falsely, unfairly, and repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama as president.

There is perhaps a little sense of getting even here.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: Whatever happened to when we — they go low, we go high?

No, I think if you’re going to question the legitimacy of somebody, you better have some evidence. And John Lewis is obviously a hero. But the bias that, when we have an election result, has to be that the election results is legitimate.

And whatever the Russians did, it didn’t probably affect the outcome. If we actually have some evidence to counter that, then you can say it’s a legitimate — but the bias has always got to be to respect the process, to respect the voters and to assume, if they make a call, that some deference has to be paid, unless there is evidence.

And as I understand it, John Lewis, none of us know whether the Russian activity, which was malevolent, had any huge significant determining effect.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Two more major things I want to ask both of you about.

The first one is what Donald Trump said, Mark, this week about his business interests. He said he’s basically turning everything over to his sons, that it will be a kind of a blind trust. Did he go far enough?

MARK SHIELDS: Of course he didn’t, Judy.

He said after eight years, he will grade his sons, and if they didn’t perform well, they’re fired, sort of an offhand line, but showing that he did have a continuing interest.

There’s never been a sense of public service about this man. And I don’t think there is in this alleged arrangement. It’s anything but a blind trust. It’s a seeing-eye trust.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

It’s a blind trust. I’m giving it to my closest relatives.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: It’s not really serious.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He said he’s not going to talk to them about it.

DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, right.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: He has a different model.

I mean, most — the way the laws are envisioned, they are for people who work in the government — or work in a private sector, and then they cut it offer and they go to public service. And that’s how you’re supposed to do it.

But he has a pre-modern monarchic family structure. His business is a monarchy with family members all around. His administration is a monarchy with family members all around. So the laws are just not going to apply to him. And he will wind up with some corruption problems, probably.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Last question is about the man who Donald Trump is succeeding as president, Mark, and that’s President Obama. He gave a farewell address in his hometown of Chicago this week. It was a call to citizens to pick up their, I think, clipboards, he said, and get involved.

MARK SHIELDS: And get out of their bubbles. I thought that was one of the more — that, in fact, we have become bubbles, whether, as David has pointed out in the past, sorting ourselves into neighborhoods, or places of worship, or campuses, or occupations.

And the venue just amazed me, why he would do a speech of this seriousness and importance in a crowd of 18,000. I understand it was Chicago and all the rest of it.

But it is a reminder that the difference today from eight years ago, the sense of hope and pride in the nation, an unrealistic hope, and perhaps unrealistic self-congratulations on his election. But he leaves at close to 60 percent approval, at a time when confidence in public institutions is at its lowest, in private institutions.

So he is a major figure going forward. And he’s 15 years younger than the man who succeeds him, and he promises to be engaged, far more than going to write his book or just go into a paint lesson.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What did he leave you with?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think we saw in the speech an outstanding man.

And he leaves this presidency with the respect of almost everybody as a human being. I think he will get very high marks, as he mentioned in the speech, for the handling of the financial crisis, the auto bailout, all that stuff. We’re in much better shape than we were. I think his foreign policy will be regarded more failure than success, in part because of reasons we heard earlier.

And I think, from a progressive point of view, to have a Democratic Congress and a Democratic White House, and to have spent the time on Obamacare, which had real benefits, 20 million insured, but not on inequality, was a major cost to the Democratic Party, costing them their majorities, but also a bit of a cost to the country, because it didn’t address the fundamental issues that led to Donald Trump and that led to a lot of unhappiness, just the continued widening inequality.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And inequality, you’re referring to?

DAVID BROOKS: Income inequality, social inequality, all the things that really have shaped this whole election year. It is a fact that these problems, this sense of fragmentation and segmentation happened and were exacerbated, got worse under President Obama’s…

JUDY WOODRUFF: He has seven more days in office.

And we thank both of you, David Brooks, Mark Shields.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

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Shields and Brooks on Trump’s ‘disdain’ for the intelligence community

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Jan 06, 2017


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Happy new year, gentlemen.

MARK SHIELDS: Happy new year, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Good seeing you in 2017.

So, let’s start by talking about this intelligence report.

Mark, the entire intelligence community is behind it. They’re saying without a shadow of a doubt, in so many words, they are confident the Russians tried to interfere in the U.S. election and they developed a clear preference for Donald Trump.

What are we to make of this? Does it change the way we look at this election?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know if it changes the way we look at it, Judy. It certainly changes the way we look at the United States’ relationship with Russia, I think, and in this sense, that the intelligence community said it made these findings with high confidence.

Ever since the weapons of mass destruction era and the decision on invading Iraq, the intelligence community has been very, very careful to avoid high confidence. That’s saying, we really believe this to be true. They have been more tentative.

There was no question. They were unequivocal and emphatic. Every American ought to be angry, ought to be concerned that an unfriendly nation, a nation that has cooperated with us certain places, but doesn’t wish us well, sought to sabotage American democracy, American confidence in our own democratic institutions, and to influence the outcome of the election.

That’s a cause of concern and worry and anger. And I would hope that we would respond, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans, to make sure it never happens again.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, how should Americans look at this?

DAVID BROOKS: I agree with that, with anger, with shock.

We have sort of gotten used to the idea, because of the news leaks before this report. But the idea that Russia felt emboldened and apparently fearless to go into our election and manipulate our own election process, whether successfully or not, is a sign that they are outside the norms of normal society.

There’s always statecraft. There’s always disinformation. But this is a step up, a Russia that feels completely free to do this, a Putin who feels completely free to do this, without fear of penalty, and so far paying little penalty.

Partly, it’s motivated, I think, by animus toward Hillary Clinton, as we heard earlier in the program, things she said in 2011, 2012, partly, frankly, a desire, a belief that feeling Donald Trump will be tougher on ISIS.

But the thing that should most concern us is a shift in American foreign policy. We have had a bipartisan belief in American foreign policy based on the post-World War II institutions that believed in democratic global world, which Russia and the Soviet Union was often seen as hostile to. And most Republicans and Democrats have always basically believed in this world order.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and maybe Marine Le Pen do not agree with this basic structure of the world. They seem to have no respect for the institutions that were created after World War II, and they see a potential alliance of populists around the world who would fight Islam and restore a certain semblance of traditional values.

And so we could be seeing a pivot in American foreign policy that may be on the mind of Donald Trump, certainly seems to be on the mind of Steve Bannon, his ideologist. And this is a piece of that larger shift.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, Donald Trump, the president-elect, does have his own reaction to this report.

I mean, you know, joining in with what David’s saying, I mean, he started out by calling it a political witch-hunt. And then after he was briefed about it, he said — he made a very short comment and said, in so many words that, well, it didn’t affect the outcome of the election.

MARK SHIELDS: As usual, he takes the big picture. In other words, I won, and anything that in any way diminishes or tarnishes my personal victory, I reject.

His disparagement, make that disdain, openly, for the American intelligence community and its work is damaging to national security. I mean, the intelligence community, for the security of our nation, for the well-being of our nation, for the economic prosperity of our nation, competitiveness, depends on sources in other places.

And other nations depend upon our intelligence. And here we have the president-elect dismissing, disparaging, disdaining openly because it somehow, in his way — his perspective, diminishes his victory, is just astonishing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David.

DAVID BROOKS: It’s happening on three levels, like, this story.

There is the big strategic level, which I described. Then there’s the Donald Trump ego level. And his ego is like a comet the size of Jupiter just traveling through the solar system, and we all have to be affected by its gravitational pull. So all of American foreign policy has to remind us that Donald Trump really did win this election all by himself, and nobody else could have helped, and so it was all me, me, me.

And that seems to be the center of his views. And then the third is, this is a guy who’s going to be taking over a public office, presidency of the United States. He is going to have a system built around him. He will have employees.

And he, as a public servant, will work with other public servants, presumably the intelligence community. But he seems completely uninterested in being part of this system which our founders set up. And so he seems to still be a lone wolf insulting his future employees.

And, believe me, woe to you who insults the intelligence community, if you’re president. You do not want to get on their bad side, because, A, they leak a lot. B, you actually need them to learn about the world. And he seems to be on purpose alienating the resources he’s going to have to draw upon.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as we just heard from John Kerry, Mark, the world is a more complicated place than it’s maybe ever been.

He talked about the number of different places that the U.S. now has to worry about its relationship with. And, right now, we’re at this critical point where we’re changing from one administration to the next. It’s always, I guess, a fraught time, but it just seems especially so this time.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, it does, and I think, in part, because of the reasons David announced, observed earlier, that the changing sort of organizing principle of postwar world and the United States. And we know, I think, probably more keenly and more acutely, the limits of our power.

If I could just add one thing to David’s observation earlier. And that is, Judy, I have lived through an awful lot of transitions from an election to inauguration. It is a period during which president-elects follow a pattern. They become more popular. What they do is, they submerge partisanship. They reach across the line. They do all sorts of symbolic things to unite the nation.

This president-elect has done just the opposite. He continued his rallies, apparently for self-gratification. He fired up his true believers. He continued to disparage and belittle his defeated opponent openly.

And toward what end? There’s been no symbolic reach. He’s had interviews, I guess, with Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic senator from North Dakota. But there’s been no sense of any strategic sense of where the country is going or what it’s about.

Here he is tweeting about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “The Apprentice?”

JUDY WOODRUFF: This morning.

MARK SHIELDS: He’s interfering? He’s making 12 calls into Ohio to defeat John Kasich’s Republican state chairman in the Republican state committee vote.

This is pettiness. And this is — this shows just no largeness of vision. And it’s really distressing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, yesterday, David, in conjunction with this, he tweeted another criticism, I guess, of the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. He called him the head clown in talking about the way the Democrats are handling Obama.

I did interview the vice president yesterday, who looked right into the camera and said, grow up, Donald.

You know, is that the kind of comment that’s likely to make a difference, do you think?

DAVID BROOKS: The vice president?

JUDY WOODRUFF: The vice president.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I’m sure Donald Trump is growing and maturing as we speak.

You know, I — we have gotten used to analyzing presidential statements in a certain way. Like, what is the policy implications? And we take them all very seriously, because, when a president speaks, as Mark said a couple of weeks ago, that usually means a lot.

But I have come to think we have to treat Donald Trump’s tweets like Snapchat. It’s just something that is going to go away. And it flies out of some region of his brain and it goes out into the ether. And usually it’s on the realm of media.

Even in his tweets of Russia, he was attacking CNN and NBC for their coverage. He’s a media commentator a lot of the time, even with Schwarzenegger. And so it will exist, and it will fill conversation for a moment. And then, like Snapchat, it will just go away.

And so I think, until he can give us something real, it’s sometimes best to just let them go with the wind.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when he calls Chuck Schumer the head clown, Mark, we just ignore it, or…

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, what does it help? How does it possibly help? He’s going to need Chuck Schumer.

Chuck Schumer is a proud and able and dedicated and skillful leader, and you don’t want him as an opponent. You don’t want him as a sworn adversary. And he’s a formidable figure legislatively. Why do it? It’s gratuitous.

On the Joe Biden interview, of all sad words of tongue and pen, these are the saddest that might have been. We went through an election where we had the two least-liked nominees in the modern history of American polling.

And you could not watch the interview — and I commend you for it last night — with Joe Biden without saying, I like this guy. I mean, he is a thoroughly likable man. And when he says, grow up, I mean, it wasn’t said — there was nothing mean about it. It was just — it was absolutely what a grownup would say.

This was a grownup talking. And the way I thought he talked about Democratic values was missing in the campaign of 2016, sorely to the Democrats’ disadvantage, it was just a — it was a marvelous — I commend it to anybody who missed it for any reason to watch it online.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the things I talked to the vice president about, David, was Obamacare and what the Republicans are going to do about it.

The administration is saying they’re afraid that they can’t make any changes unless they make bad changes to it. What do you see going on with it?

DAVID BROOKS: First, on the interview, I was struck by the way he kept emphasizing the Democrats did not campaign on the dignity of the working class.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

DAVID BROOKS: The policies of the Democratic Party have always been in cultural consonance with the culture of the working class. And, somehow, they missed that. And I thought he was very honest.

But also on the part of the interview — you saw a man who has been in governance, as he said, since he was 27. And when you’re in governance, you understand the limitations and the complexities of governance. It’s hard.

And on Obamacare, I’m not sure the Trump administration has thought in any complex way about how to repeal and replace. Repealing first and then replacing later doesn’t strike me — and a lot of the Republican health care experts I talk to — doesn’t strike them as just a workable thing to do.

You repeal some of the things, like maybe the — some of the premium supports that are in Obamacare, and then you replace it with something later, that seems likely in the short term to create exactly the sort of death spiral and destabilization that we’re all worried about.

And so it seems to me and it seems to a growing number of Republican senators, including Bob Corker and John McCain, that you have got to repeal and replace at the same time. You have to have a plan, or else you’re just creating a recipe for chaos.

And it’s not clear how much either the House leadership or the Trump administration has thought that through how exactly how it’s going to work.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just 10 seconds, Mark. We will be watching.

MARK SHIELDS: What’s the big rush, Judy? What’s the big rush on the health care plan?

It’s been eight years. So they have had a lot of ideas. I mean, Paul Ryan said that. They have got ideas everywhere. They have no idea what they’re going to do. Repeal is low-hanging fruit. They have done it. They have done it 60 times. They will do it 60 more. They have no plan.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.

The post Shields and Brooks on Trump’s ‘disdain’ for the intelligence community appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Brooks and Corn on Obama’s active final weeks and the Trump-Putin ‘bromance’

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Dec 30, 2016


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HARI SREENIVASAN: Next, to the analysis of Brooks and Corn. That’s syndicated New York Times columnist David Brooks, and “Mother Jones” Washington bureau chief David Corn.

All right, David Brooks, let’s start some of the unilateral steps that President Obama has taken just in the last few weeks. We are talking about everything from the Russian sanctions to the U.N. Security Council condemnation — or allowing the U.N. Security Council to go forward in the condemnation of the Israeli settlements, preserving large swathes of land.

As the paper of record, The New York Times, said, is this about boxing Trump in?

DAVID BROOKS: I guess a little. But what can be done by a president can be undone by a president.

What’s sort of remarkable is that, especially in the Israel and the Russia cases, you have got a U.S. citizen, Donald Trump, siding with a foreign leader against the U.S. president.

There is a reason why president-elects have tried to remain mute during their transitional periods, relatively, because you just don’t want to be for somebody — some other country against your own government, and especially when you’re about to take the helm of that government.

And there will be a lot of permanent people who are just going to be stuck there who are now in a war between the president-elect and the guy they’re currently serving.

HARI SREENIVASAN: David Corn, does this violate the spirit of that smooth transition that both gentlemen had that photo-op in the White House?

DAVID CORN: Well, President Obama is still president until January 20, and the world keeps turning.

Now, the Republicans wanted to call his presidency over last February, when he nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. The U.N. sanction vote came up. It wasn’t scheduled by Obama. And a lot of people think he should have responded to the Russian hacking of the U.S. elections weeks ago, months ago.

So these happened on his watch. There’s nothing wrong with him dealing with it. The Trump side now seems to be whining that he’s violating the smooth transition and trying to delegitimize Trump. But coming from Trump, who pushed the racist birth conspiracy theory for years against Barack Obama, I think Obama has been very much a gentleman. And he has a lot of reason to just not even bother to deal with Trump.

HARI SREENIVASAN: How different is this from previous presidents on their way out? Is it fairly traditional to leave an exclamation point at the end?

DAVID CORN: Well, it’s kind of.

And I think, depending what is happening — when George W. Bush left, he left Barack Obama two raging wars. And the biggest fight he had was inside his own government about whether or not to pardon Scooter Libby. And he was sort of consumed fighting with Dick Cheney about that, and didn’t do a lot I think externally.

And I think he was focused on trying to, from a national security perspective, bring Obama and his people up to speed, so they could take control of these wars.

Bill Clinton had the controversy with pardons when he was walking out the door, Marc Rich and others, that certainly tarnished his reputation. But I think Obama is just doing what he should be doing at this point.

HARI SREENIVASAN: David Brooks, it almost seems like there is a first 100 day strategy and at the end of four or eight years the last hundred days, to do all the things that you wish you could have done, but this is on your way out.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

That is not abnormal. If you look at regulations that come out of White Houses, even Republican White Houses, there is a ton right at the end as they try to jam everything in at the end. That’s reasonably standard.

But there certainly is a pattern of administrations that have good transitions, George W. Bush to Barack Obama, and administrations that have really bad transitions, I would say Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy.

I would say this is beginning to look like a bad transition, as they begin to argue even at the presidential level, which is more or less unprecedented.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Let’s start talking a little bit about Russia.

Will the sanctions that we have imposed keep the Russian hackers out?

DAVID BROOKS: No. No.

It’s so disproportionate. They interfered in our elections, and we like penalized a few of them. Whatever they’re doing underground, we don’t know. No, this is going to be a big issue.

And I have to say the Obama — the Trump position is, A, mystifying, but, B, doomed. He has a nice little Putin romance going on right now. I think we’re going to get out the hankies, because this is going to turn into an ugly relationship within a year or two.

The things that make them similar — their machismo, their expansionary braggadocio — is going to turn them I think into bitter and dangerous enemies. We will look back on this moment where we thought Putin and Trump were sort of close as a moment of bitter irony, when they get into a schoolyard display against each other, amping up each other’s worst tendencies and putting the two countries in some sort of scary position.

That’s just my feel of how things are going to get in the next year.

DAVID CORN: That may be the best-case scenario.

I don’t necessarily see things going that way. I still am mystified, to use your word, about why Trump is out there tweeting praise of Vladimir Putin these days, and still kind of denying and dismissing whether the hacking happened or the seriousness of it.

And people out there keep asking, what is behind this bromance? Before the election, I reported on a story about a counterintelligence officer from another service sending reports to the FBI saying that his sources in Russia were saying that Moscow tried for years to cultivate and co-opt Donald Trump.

I’m not saying that happened. I’m saying I hope the FBI took a strong look, because it is really hard to believe that a president-elect would be so callous in how he approaches this issue and so dismissive of the seriousness of it.

And so maybe he will turn on Putin, as you suggest, but maybe there is something else there in which he is enamored with Putin for some reason that we really don’t understand yet.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the president-elect’s position that we have got to move on, these are all essentially ploys to try delegitimize my win?

DAVID CORN: Well, I think he should be delegitimized for many reasons.

And his response to this hacking is also cause for delegitimization. But to say we should move on, when the bedrock of American democracy, the sanctity of our elections, has been messed with, just raises suspicions.

It would be so easy for him to say the obvious thing: This is terrible. We’re going to look into it. And then we’re going to try to prevent this from happening again in the future.

But his denial of it happening or its seriousness shows that there is something really amiss from his end of it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: David Brooks, what happens in that conversation with intelligence officials that Donald Trump said he is going to take in order to get to the bottom of this or get to a common set of facts? It’s already a fairly tense relationship with the intelligence community.

DAVID BROOKS: Of course I don’t know what’s going on in that meeting on in the mind of Donald Trump.

But I do know one of the things President Obama was struck by was how much time he spent on cyber-security as president. It was one of the big surprises as president. And one of the things he said was that, in the years ahead, the next president will be spending even more time.

And cyber-security isn’t a thing that goes away after this election. It’s a constant flow. And Russia has a very sophisticated, advanced attack on U.S. businesses and U.S. government and U.S. institutions. And it’s not like Donald Trump is going to be walking away from this. He will be spending a lot of time on it, if he’s any sort of normal president.

DAVID CORN: Well, maybe, but we don’t know.

He keeps dismissing the seriousness and even tweets out or puts a statement saying, you know, computers, it’s kind of complicated. You know, a lot of things happen.

It remains to be seen what he is serious about on any policy level.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, speaking of policy level, one of the things that we saw was that the U.N. Security Council was allowed to go forward with the condemnation of Israeli settlements, that the United States didn’t use its veto power.

Right move?

DAVID CORN: I think it’s a policy that’s very defensible, in that, right now, the settlements are a complete obstacle or a threat to a two-state solution.

Now, I think Netanyahu and the far right of Israel don’t believe in a two-state solution, and they just can’t come out and say it yet. Now, Donald Trump’s designated ambassador to Israel has said that quite clearly.

But if there’s no two-state solution, then Israel is on the path to being an occupying nation without full political rights for all its inhabitants. And, you know, there have been other Israeli leaders who have talked about the prospect of a form of apartheid in Israel.

So, I think the Obama position and the majority position of American Jews and a lot of Americans is a two-state solution. Settlements get in the way of that. If they’re not stopped soon, there is no prospect for that type of solution.

DAVID BROOKS: Now we disagree.

I think it’s a completely indefensible policy. Settlements are an obstacle to peace and to a two-state solution. There’s no question about that. They are about the fifth or sixth most important obstacle right now.

The fact that there could be an ISIS West Bank, the fact that the Palestinian government in Gaza doesn’t even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, the fact of constant terror, delegitimization campaigns in the Palestinian schools, these are all much bigger facts.

And for the Obama administration to focus on this one fact, almost, not to the expense, but to diminish some of the others which are much more important, is to cast all the blame on Israel and to take the U.N. policy toward Israel, which has been longstanding, and sort of surrender to it.

Netanyahu, Bibi Netanyahu, froze the settlements and offered to go toward a two-state solution. The Palestinians didn’t take him up on it. Historically, we have had a series of these offers. And the settlements themselves are not the keystone here.

And it seems to me myopic and bizarre that at the last moment, the Obama administration would surrender the whole balanced array of policies that are obstacles to peace and focus on the one that is most detrimental to Israel.

DAVID CORN: Well, I think John Kerry’s speech was not just about settlements. It was about the whole large path to peace and what’s been happening to it.

And it was one of the — I think one of the most thorough policy statements that you have seen from any secretary of state on a contentious issue. So, I think that it’s not just myopia.

The vote obviously was not scheduled by the administration. I’m sure they would rather it had not happened. But I think they also wanted to send a clear signal, because they don’t believe Netanyahu is serious about a two-state solution. And the rapid expansion of the settlements is something that actually could be stopped, and may not even be up for negotiation, but would be a good unilateral move on Israel’s part.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the choice of David Friedman as the ambassador? What does that do to the situation?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, that just shows how polarized the whole situation has become, because the Obama administration has focused the onus on Israel and the settlements.

And then the Trump potential administration apparently is pro-settlement, and almost against a two-state solution. So we have got two polar opposite Israel policies, which really break what had been a pretty decent bipartisan consensus that we have got to have a two-state solution, we sort of know what the border is going to look like, we sort of know what East Jerusalem is going to look like.

And no administration has ever said, as the Obama administration sort of implied, that Israel wouldn’t have access to the Western Wall, to the East Jerusalem. And that was also in the resolution. And all administrations have not really gone on the U.N. train.

And so what we’re seeing is a complete bifurcation to two wrong Israeli policies.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, finally, staying in the neighborhood, does it matter that the U.S. is not a part of whatever this cease-fire in Syria is at the moment?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it matters, in that, if you withdraw from the game, you’re out of the game. And we have withdrawn from the game. And we said Assad has to go. He’s going to stay. So we’re out of the game. And they don’t have to deal us in when it comes to finding a solution.

But that was our choice. That was our choice to withdraw from that particular game.

DAVID CORN: We were behind two cease-fires this year, one in February that lasted a few months, and one in September that lasted about a week.

We have no idea how long this is going to last. There’s a great possibility that some on the rebel side will start fighting amongst themselves, because some of the rebel groups, the more fundamentalist, are not part of the cease-fire.

So, if there is anything that stops the fighting and stops the civilian casualties, that’s a good thing now for a pause. But I’m not very optimistic this is going to last.

And I do think John Kerry has tried awfully hard to work with Russia and others to have a lasting, significant cease-fire.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David Corn of “Mother Jones,” David Brooks of The New York Times, David and David, thank you very much.

DAVID CORN: Happy new year.

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Happy new year.

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Shields and Brooks on Trump’s unprecedented transition

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Dec 23, 2016


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome.

So let’s start out talking about two major foreign policy waves, I guess you could say, that Donald Trump is making today, David. He directly intervened with the White House as they were deciding how to handle this U.N. resolution on Israel. There is now an open rift with President Obama. This is different, isn’t it, from the way we see a transition normally work?

DAVID BROOKS: Certainly, the country can’t have two presidents at once, so the tradition has been to hang back if you’re the president-elect and wait for your time in office. Trump is not a hang-back kind of guy.

And he has shifted — President Obama has shifted American policy in a much more critical way in Israel with the settlements than the previous presidents. But we’re about to get a head-snapping shift the other way. President-elect Trump’s ambassador to Israel is further to the right than almost anyone in Israel, further to the right than Bibi Netanyahu on the settlements, and almost opposes the two-state solution, doesn’t he?

So, we are about to see a tremendous shift in American policy toward the Middle East.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this, Mark? Are there consequences of this or is this going to be something we look back on and say, well, that’s what happened?

MARK SHIELDS: No, I mean, I think Donald Trump is sui generis. I mean, he is acting by president or tradition. He’s acting as Donald Trump has throughout his entire public career of, what, a year and a half, and that is to be impulsive, be spontaneous, keep his opponents or adversaries off balance. That’s his approach. He is not into nuance, that is not his strength.

And the president said this week, he’s entitled to his own policies and but just hope that it’s deliberate and thoughtful. And this strikes me as anything but.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in addition to Israel, what we were sitting here talking about nuclear policy because Donald Trump tweeted, as far as we can tell, out of the blue yesterday, David, that the United States needs to beef up its nuclear arsenal. He did an interview with Mika Brzezinski of NBC this morning and I’m just reading the quote here. He said, “Let it be an arms race, we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

So, what does this say?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, one of the things I think about with Donald Trump is what are his words actually attached to? With a normal president like President Obama, he says a word, and that’s because there has been some thought that he’s done and there had been policy papers and there’s been aides and there’s been advisors and then there is a connection to an actual set of policies. And so, the words like have roots into actual stuff.

With Trump, I’m not sure the words have roots. They are emanations of his psyche, but has he thought it through? Is there an argument, is there a policy implication?

Even in this nuclear thing, he says we should be stronger and expand. What does that mean? So, what is concrete in what he’s saying?

And I think as we interpret him and frankly as the world learns to interpret Donald Trump, are these just words that are enigmatic things floating on air or are they actually shifts in policy and will they change moment by moment, day by day without any underlying connection to the actual stuff of governance? I don’t know.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, we’re talking about nuclear arms policy. This is something that in the past, it was something that people spent time thinking about before statements were made. You know, you said a minute ago, you think he’s keeping everybody off balance. Is this a deliberate strategy?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think that’s part of it. The points David make I think really deserve reflection and consideration. I think Donald Trump, we have to understand, has not had experiences like any other president we’ve ever had. He’s never been accountable to anybody, save Donald Trump.

I mean, he has no investors. He has — he has debtors, but he doesn’t have a board of directors. He doesn’t have a corporate structure he’s had to answer to. So he’s been able to kind of wing it at every stage.

I just don’t think he understands — the point David was making is when a president makes a statement, Judy, it is studied around the world, the nuance and was there an emphasis here, and what was in the last statement that’s missing — perhaps overly done, maybe overly analyzed. But because the president’s words are pretentious, they really carry with them enormous significance and are usually reflective of great consideration and even arguments within that one side is wanted, one particular paragraph or sentence, while the other said, no, that shouldn’t be in there.

So, I just think that Trump — he has not made the transition, it seems to me, from candidate to even president in waiting. He has been a sore winner. He continues to in his rallies to berate Hillary Clinton. That sense of gracious, generosity or larger vision has eluded him so far.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, some — not but — and some people, David, have looked at what he’s doing and they said, this is really part of a strategy. Keep people off balance, keep them guessing about what you’re going to do.

DAVID BROOKS: I think that’s a rationalization for just the way he is. But it does have the effect of keeping people off balance. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing.

And to bring us back to the nuclear thing, keeping people off balance with nuclear weapons is not a good thing at all.

MARK SHIELDS: No.

DAVID BROOKS: And — so I would say, given, as Mark describes, sort of — he’s not part of a process. And so, I think there are two things that could happen as a result of this.

One, it’s possible to imagine him having relatively little influence on his own government because he will be off in his own world and the agencies and the permanent bureaucracy will just go on and do its merry way. There is a lot of passive aggressive behavior in all governments. It’s very hard to get things done.

But at the same time, because he’s not tied down, there could be a lot of erraticness and he could get caught up, just the macho thing, especially, let’s say Vladimir Putin, or somebody like that, and then more and more erratic with, you know, potentially, some sort of nuclear weapons attached.

MARK SHIELDS: It was even suggested to me, apropos the point David was making, that Republicans and Democrats have been adversaries for a long time on foreign policy. But, I mean, it could be a common interest at some point in sort of uniting in solidarity. I mean, we’ve had every president, Judy — I mean, John Kennedy began in 1963 with a nuclear test ban treaty banning, you know — agreeing with the Soviets to ban all testing in the atmosphere or space or underwater. I mean, that has been the guide of every president.

I mean, Ronald Reagan who came in as the leader of the toughest Soviet bloc, the evil empire — I mean, ended up as really a possible arms reduction advocate, a champion of it. When Mikhail Gorbachev — you know, I mean, it’s been the policy of both parties, presidents of both parties, and just to see something like this cast aside as an aside, as his own people are going on the air last night explaining what he actually meant was to stabilize or modernize.

Then, he goes on with Mika Brzezinski this morning before the show and says, no, no, what he said originally he meant. I mean —

JUDY WOODRUFF: An arms race.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we’ll outlast them all.

So even he’s got — he seems to have a lot of support among Republicans and even Democrats for his position on Israel, nuclear — nuclear is something different.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about incoming Trump administration potential conflicts of interest. Story in the “Wall Street Journal” this week, David, about Tom Price, the congressman from Georgia having done stock trading in the last few years and health medical companies, he’s going to be overseeing these policies — he was voting observe these policies as a congressman, he will be overseeing that at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Carl Icahn named as an informal to the president on business regulation. He’s somebody who’s got enormous business interest.

And then there’s the story about Eric Trump, his son and the charitable organization. Do we — how do we even get our arms around all this?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, to me, it’s mostly about public trust. Do — can you trust people to do their public service roles in a pretty much straight-up, honorable way on the merits of the issues? And I happen to think most people go into government do it for the right reasons and they really do things as they see them on the merits of the issues.

But it doesn’t help if there’s the appearance and it doesn’t help if the standards by which we separate public and private life begin to erode. And that generally was the course — you leave private life behind when you go into public life, because you’re not just a person. You’re inhabiting a role that the Constitution gave you.

And I’m not sure Trump has had that distinction between private and public life in his head. And so, I think there’s likely to be an erosion of just that standard, that different standard, consciousness, and I think it’s likely we’ll see what we haven’t seen in the last eight years and even the last 12 or 16 of private enrichment in office and scandals where people have to resign and things like that, because just once the standards go, behavior tends to go.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, are his supporters prepared to accept a different standard for Donald Trump?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, no, I think part of Donald Trump’s appeal is that he’s a guy that does cut corners, that he’s the guy that does get deals and maybe does break a speed limit. I think there was sort of a roguish, rascally, but I get things done even if I break the rules.

But I do think, you know, the words of Jefferson echo even today, when a man assumes a public trust, he must assume he is public property, and that’s exactly what’s the case here. I mean, Tom Price, I don’t know he had time to make votes on the floor, he had such an active stock portfolio and in areas that he was legislating on. I mean, so that will be a subject of hearings.

But Donald Trump’s statement that Carl Icahn, because he’s not taking a salary doesn’t have a conflict of interest — I’m sorry. I mean, Carl Icahn has major oil interests. He urged and recommended the appointment of the EPA administrator, and, you know, he was championed for him.

Of course, there are conflicts of interest. It doesn’t come down to a salary. It comes down to your own enrichment. And is there a difference? Is there concept in Donald Trump’s mind of public policy that there is a public interest that is separate and distinct from personal interest?

I don’t know if there are people around him, who — certainly they haven’t been throughout his career, who are saying this is in the greater public interest. It just doesn’t seem to be part whether in his personal behavior, personal comportment, doesn’t seem to be a strong commitment or value of public service.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We seem to keep coming back, David, to this question of what he was used to in the private sector and what now he faces in the public sector.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. He’s one thing. Some people are very different in different circumstances. He’s not. He’s one thing.

And he’s been one thing. Remember, we were talking about he’s got to moderate his campaigns. So, it’s worked for him, at least by his lights. So, I imagine he’s going to be this way all straight through. I can’t imagine a 70-year-old guy is going to change.

And so, he’s going to be this way and we’re going to have to cover it and the world is going to have to — I keep coming back to the world literally — how much of this is actual literal and how much is a marketing guy who treats words as tools for money? And so, we’re going to have to adjust and not react a lot of the time and think that something’s substantively actually happening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. Gentlemen, we wish you a merry Christmas, happy New York and happy Hanukkah and every holiday that’s coming. Thank you both.

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

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Shields and Ponnuru on the ‘dark cloud’ of Russian cyberattacks

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Dec 16, 2016


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to the analysis of Shields and Ponnuru. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru of “The National Review.” David Brooks is away.

Welcome to both of you.

Let’s start out, Mark, by talking about this back and forth. Every day, there’s a new piece of information about it did between what Donald Trump is saying about whether the Russians were involved in this hacking of the Democratic National Committee and what the CIA and now the FBI, President Obama weighed in today on this. What are we to make of all this?

MARK SHIELDS: I think what we’re to make of it is, to me what’s fascinating is not what Donald Trump is in no particular position to know, but what’s most alarming to me is Donald Trump will become president of the United States, he won the election. This is not about who won the election. He will become the 45th president the 20th of January.

It is about whether the sovereignty and self-determination of the United States was compromised by an organized at the highest Russian levels, which means the imprimatur of Mr. Putin, espionage, sabotage of the American democratic system. And there is an office in this country that’s higher than that of president and it’s patriot, and John McCain is filling that right now, and John McCain is saying, these are questions that must be answered, that these are questions that demand an answer.

And the idea, as Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, says, sending it to the Intelligence Committee is a way of sending it to limbo because we had — we spent $40 million in five years in the Intelligence Committee investigating torture at Abu Ghraib, we have yet to get a report about it. That’s a nice way of saying, oh, it’s national security, we can’ t talk about it. We will not get a 9/11 Commission. But I think John McCain and the Armed Services Committee with Jack Reed, the Democrat, with Lindsey Graham and others, and Tim Kaine in a pretty damn good committee, I think you will get an honest hearing and we need it.

The idea people are so concerned about a $500,000 contribution to the Clinton Foundation changing and influencing American policy somehow indirectly and incurious about Russia’s involvement and sabotaging an American election is unforgivable to me and irrational.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ramesh, do you think this will be investigated thoroughly?

RAMESH PONNURU: I think this controversy is expanding in all directions. You’re going to have an investigation. You’re going to have a report from the administration.

During the a press conference, President Obama said there would be a report tying loose ends, tying it all together before he leaves office. And then you’re going to have the hearings over the configuration of Trump secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, where I believe the number one topic and probably number two topic as well is going to be the administration’s intentions toward Russia.

Trump is going to be our third president in a row coming into office wanting friendly relations with Russia. But, of course, this incredible backdrop now is going to color everything.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Mark, getting to what both of you are saying, this does leave a cloud — a dark cloud hanging over the question of our democracy. I mean, if another nation, unfriendly, to put it I guess in the best terms, can come in and leak and get information and have it leaked at will, what does that say about our system of government?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, it says — no, I mean, it says that, A, we’re vulnerable to such attacks and, B, that we’re manipulated and could be manipulated by Russia. I mean, Russia, this is not a one-off for Russia. I mean, Russia’s done it already in Germany and Italy and democracies in Western Europe and Eurasia.

I mean, and it’s — and they’re good at it. Let’s be very blunt, it’s not a major investment of time or money. It is of talent and skill, and they have been very good at it.

But, Judy, I mean, the question is — obviously, it’s on everybody’s mind — is why did they just reveal John Podesta’s and the Democratic National Convention and Debbie Wasserman Schultz —

JUDY WOODRUFF: Exactly.

MARK SHIELDS: — and the Democratic campaigns, and only attempt, according to reports and the best evidence, to get into one Republican staffer’s email who had long since left the committee? And if, in fact, they did have Republican — why that wasn’t leaked? So, it does raise questions about where Putin’s affections and loyalties lay in this election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ramesh, the president was very careful about the way he spoke about it today. He mentioned in his news conference, but a lot of people are just — are saying they’re now convinced that the Russians, Vladimir Putin was trying to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

RAMESH PONNURU: Well, yes, that does seem to be the view, at least based on the latest reporting of the U.S. government.

I think, though, that one of the things that President Obama was trying to do is to not allow that to be the conversation that consumes the Democrats as they figure out what happened in this election. He also made a big point of talking about the mistakes the Democrats made, although was careful about that, too, since he didn’t want to personally criticize Hillary Clinton.

If the Democrats obsess about the Russian role in this and they take their eye off the ball of some of the reforms they need to undertake themselves.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But it does — again, as both of you were saying, the suggestion is if, indeed it is known, if they conclude at the end of the investigation the Russians were behind this, something is going to have to be done. President Obama said he told Vladimir Putin, Mark, to cut it out, but beyond that we don’t know —

MARK SHIELDS: No, something has to be done, there’s no question, and whether it’s revealing Putin’s own financial situation, his wheeling and dealing, embarrassing him, whatever form of retaliation.

I thought what was most interesting, Judy, was Donald Trump’s official response which was an attack upon the CIA.

Now, Donald Trump has never spent time in Washington, so he’s never been to Langley, Virginia, where the whole CIA headquarters. He would find on the wall of stars 113 names of American CIA operatives and employees who died defending this country.

And one of them, Hugh Redmond, was 19 years a prisoner in Shanghai where he was tortured by the Chinese communists. I should not get ahead of myself because Donald Trump doesn’t like people who were captured. He likes people who weren’t captured.

But, I mean — but these are patriots, these are people who work hard and no president coming in should ever disparage or demean or denigrate the heroic efforts these people go to, to keep us safe.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ramesh, Mark mentioned Rex Tillerson who is the choice by Donald Trump to head the State Department. There are going to be these hearings, his confirmation hearings. What do you think is going to come out of that? Do you think he’s going to sail through knowing what we know now about his close connections with Mr. Putin?

RAMESH PONNURU: My suspicion is he will not see this process as one of sailing through. I think there’s going to be tough questioning. I do think he comes with some real advantages. I think the Republicans, who, of course, have a majority in the Senate, tend to think well of businessmen, successful businessmen which he certainly is. He’s got the support of some leading Republican foreign policy establishment figures. Apparently, former Vice President Dick Cheney is making calls on his behalf.

But absolutely, there are going to be these questions about the Russia policy. I was saying how Trump will be the third president in a row coming in wanting friendly relations. It didn’t work out for the previous two.

So, one has to ask whether this is an ambition that makes sense for our country right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What else about Mr. Tillerson, Mark, and then the other I guess prominent appointee this week is former Texas Governor Rick Perry to run the Energy Department. We’re just about finished now filling out the Trump cabinet, at least those he’s nominating, to take these positions.

Do you think we have a pretty good sense of where Donald Trump wants to take the country from looking at it?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t, Judy. I think Mr. Tillerson in all likelihood will be confirmed for all the reasons that Ramesh addressed. He’s got a strong — Bob Gates recommended him. He’s got Jim Baker and Condi Rice weighing in and it appears the Republican establishment is certainly. He doesn’t need Dick Cheney’s support now as much as the Gates-Rice-Baker backing.

But that aside, there is always a presumption in favor of a president and the cabinet because the president gets to choose the cabinet is. They don’t last — unlike a judge who’s appointed a life time, that this greatest group may attach to.

Rick Perry, irony of ironies, who can forget 2011 in Auburn Hills, Michigan, as every Republican does in a presidential debate talked about all the agencies he was going to get rid of them, you recall there was Education and there was Commerce and that third one — whoops — and it was Energy. But here he is and instead of getting rid of it — maybe he’s going to get rid of it.

But the irony, the man who called Donald Trump a cancer on the conservative movement, who had to be excised, is now nominated by Donald Trump showing what a big person Donald Trump is to be his secretary of energy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The last thing I want to talk to you about is Syria, President Obama, Ramesh, was asked about this today. We see Aleppo, which is the rebel stronghold finally all but completely falling today to the Assad regime. President Obama says, yes, I take responsibility. I take responsibility for everything that happens on my watch, what — I mean, how do you read the Obama administration and the story of what’s happened in Syria?

RAMESH PONNURU: I don’t see how this is anything other than a black mark on the Obama administration’s record. Of course, there is a temptation for Americans to think that everything that happens in the world is somehow, you know, our responsibility, our fault or our credit. But here we have a situation where the administration pursued a policy that by his own admission today was ineffective and where his continual, even now he wants to work with the United Nations while admitting the Russians are going to prevent the United Nations from doing anything.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: The villains of the piece remain Assad himself, Putin, Iran, al Qaeda, and ISIS. I mean, you’re talking about the death. But the failure of the United States to be able to lead any kind of movement, to save the humanitarian tragedy, to avoid and rescue the innocent suffering there is a failure, is a real failure.

I mean, it is — Aleppo will be in the same category as Dresden. It will be remembered as a humanitarian disaster. But the president gets responsibility, the Congress are the cowardly lions in this.

I mean, they talk a big game and none of them steps up. Very few. I mean, there was Jeff Flake and Tim Kaine who were willing to lead an authorization of military force, but the others talk a good game. And as far as the “no fly” zone, there wasn’t the will to impose it, let’s be honest, and there wasn’t the leadership.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I was struck the president said today, every day, he thinks about, you know, what more he could have done and in particularly, I was struck by he spoke about the children who have died in Syria.

Well, it’s great to have both of you here. Ramesh Ponnuru and Mark Shields, Friday night. Thank you both.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

RAMESH PONNURU: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

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Shields and Brooks on Trump’s understanding of presidential power

Author: PBS NewsHour
Fri, Dec 09, 2016


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, let’s talk about the Trump Cabinet.

We know that Rudy Giuliani’s out, took himself, they said, out of consideration. But we have got several names, Mark, of people who are in at Labor, at the EPA, HUD, Housing and Urban Development, Small Business, and they all seem to be people who don’t necessarily agree with what the mission of these agencies has been during the Obama administration.

What are we to make of them?

MARK SHIELDS: We have to make of them they’re very personal choices by Donald Trump.

Ben Carson is a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, 400 surgeries a year. Surgeon General? No. Housing and Urban Development. And he’s owned several houses. He’s lived in a house.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know what the other qualifications are.

Particularly interesting to me was, after he met — the president-elect with Al Gore, probably the most prominent environmental voice in the entire Democratic Party, he then chose the Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, to be director of the Environmental Protection Agency. I think protection is a key word there.

And when you think of pristine preservation of America, you immediately think of Tulsa and Oklahoma.

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Be careful, my birthplace.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: I know it’s your birthplace, Judy. But let’s be very frank about it. It hasn’t — it’s not a vanguard state. It’s not a forefront state in environmental protection.

It’s a state that has been very big on fracking, that has had 907 earthquakes in the last year, which is more than they had in the last 35 years, under fracking, a 3.0-magnitude.

And I would say, if he’s not a denier of climate change, then Attorney General Pruitt is certainly a serious skeptic.

So, I don’t know if there’s a pattern here. Maybe David can figure it out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Pattern?

DAVID BROOKS: I rise to the defense of Oklahoma.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you. I’m glad to have one of you.

DAVID BROOKS: And it’s exactly the sort of coastal condescension toward the beauties of Tulsa that has created the Trump phenomenon in the first place.

First, agencies and these issues, whether it’s environmental or labor issues, they have — it’s a tradeoff. And Democrats in environmental agencies tend to favor — be more sensitive to environmental harm. And Republicans tend to be more sensitive to business harm.

And so I don’t know if they’re going against the mission of the agencies. It’s just a different set of priorities, and it’s legitimate.

Trump has picked the more extreme versions of all Republicans so far, the more aggressive. And I think the thing to watch out for is, I could totally paint a scenario where Trump runs an authoritarian regime. I can totally paint a scenario where he has no control over his own government.

And that’s in part because of his attention span problems, but in part because running an agency is very hard. Cabinet secretaries often have no control over their agency. And it becomes doubly hard when you’re really out of opinion with the people who actually work in the agency.

And it becomes triply hard, as I think may happen, a lot of people will leave the government. There are a lot of people in a lot of these sorts of places that are weighing, do I really want to serve here?

And I have certainly heard from people who say, I really don’t. Yes, I’m a career person, I respect the political process, but I just don’t feel comfortable working here anymore.

MARK SHIELDS: It’s a reasonable point.

I do want to say one thing about the secretary of labor. I just wish once, when they pick a secretary of labor, they would say, gee, who’s the best boss in America? Who has great relations?

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: He runs two, what, food companies.

MARK SHIELDS: He runs — no, and he’s been — his relations with workers are not a hallmark of his career. He’s been very successful in maximizing profit. But there is no particular encomiums to him about…

JUDY WOODRUFF: We should say, his name is Andy Puzder.

MARK SHIELDS: Andy Puzder — to his relationship with his workers.

Aaron Feuerstein, who was head of Malden Mills at Lawrence, Massachusetts, when the mill burned down, the first thing he did was to keep all his employees on the payroll for 60 days while he rebuilt on the spot. He didn’t take the insurance or go offshore.

Or Dan Price in Seattle at Gravity Payments, who cut his own salary by 90 percent to give everybody a 70 percent — $70,000 minimum wage. I mean, just once, I would like to have somebody who says, I really do care about workers.

And Puzder has been very successful franchising Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., but there’s no particular record of his consideration or concern for workers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, the other point that was made about Linda McMahon, who was chosen for the Small Business Administration, she’s a billionaire with her husband. They were wrestling — professional wrestling entrepreneurs.

And then the question is, there are now four or five billionaires in the Trump Cabinet. Do we think that’s just the way it’s going to be?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, he likes his fellow billionaires, assuming he is one.

I do think, generally, populist movements don’t — are not against billionaires. They are not against self-made billionaires in particular. They’re certainly not — the Trump movement is certainly not hostile to professional wrestling.

What they tend to be suspicious is professionals and what they see as the managerial class. So, if he picked a lot of people who went to Harvard Law School, worked in the academy, worked in the media, then I think his supporters would be restless.

But they’re not — they’re sensitive to people they think are looking down upon them, basically the professional class. And so I don’t think it’s entirely inconsistent that — or out of spirit of his movement to have these Linda McMahon-type people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Ike had nine millionaires and a plumber in his Cabinet, Martin Durkin, the president of a plumbers’ union.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Eisenhower.

MARK SHIELDS: Eisenhower did.

It is. And the — Goldman Sachs is probably over-represented, considering it was part of the vast conspiracy with Hillary Clinton to rob the United States of its sovereignty, according to candidate Trump. And now he’s finding that they’re a personnel supplier for his administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The other thing we saw a little bit more of this week, David, was this continuation of Donald Trump tweeting criticism of Boeing aircraft over the cost, what he says may be the cost overrun for the new Air Force One, and then getting into a spat with a local union president in Indiana who had said, you know, you’re not really going to be saving as much jobs at the Carrier Corporation as you said you were.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

A friend of mine who’s a political strategist in town said to me, you know, half my conversations are about the dissent of fascism in America, and maybe that is going to happen, and then half are normal policy discussions about how to reform health care.

And so the Trump administration could go off in both directions. We could be seeing something entirely new, something entirely authoritarian, something that looks more like Ukraine or Russia than anything we’re used to seeing here.

And these tweets are to me one of the telltale signs of whether we’re going off in that direction. If he’s just tweeting about a union guy, then he’s just being the bully we have seen. But if he uses the power of the presidency to back up some of those tweets and he’s really, really coming down with a hammer on people he doesn’t like using the power of the presidency, then we’re seeing something very new and very different.

And it’s too soon to tell whether he is going to start doing that, but that, to me, would be an indicator of something very troubling, if he does that as president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, cyber-bullying, the emphasis on bullying here, going after Chuck Jones, the president of Local 1999 of the Steel Workers, is punching down.

It’s somebody in a powerful, omnipotent position punching somebody who’s a lot less important, and putting them not only as the object of ridicule, but open threats that Chuck Jones has received as a consequence of the president doing this — president-elect doing this.

And he just doesn’t seem to grasp or understand, Mr. Trump, the majesty and the power of the office.

And I think Bob Dallek, the presidential historian, very respected, said that this behavior is beneath the dignity of the office. And it really is. And I don’t think he grasps it and understands it, the Boeing thing being one example, where you can move stock by just an idle comment.

But it’s intimidating. It’s silencing. It’s a chilling effect. And it’s decidedly unpresidential.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, go ahead.

DAVID BROOKS: To a lot of people, it just seems like an active presidency, like he’s being active on behalf of the American people.

And I do think, oh, the Carrier thing, I hated it as a policy matter, but at least he’s hammering — he’s saving jobs. He’s doing stuff. Obama never did any of this stuff.

People have a different conception of what the presidency should be.

MARK SHIELDS: But it isn’t Carrier. I’m talking about tweeting.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m talking about tweeting against an individual and holding that individual — like Jeff Zeleny of CNN, terrific reporter, holding him up to ridicule for doing his job.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and in connection with that, I want to ask you quickly, we did a segment, Hari did an interview about this earlier in the show, Mark, about the — we call it fake news. And we were just sitting here saying that doesn’t do justice to what’s been going on.

MARK SHIELDS: Lying.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s lies that are out there.

MARK SHIELDS: Right. Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Flynn — General Michael Flynn, who has been chosen to be the president’s national security adviser, his son was actively tweeting, repeating some of these stories that were completely false about a pizza place in Washington being a place where there was a pedophile ring going on involving Hillary Clinton and her chief of staff.

A man from North Carolina — this was all in the news last week — comes to Washington with a gun, shoots it inside. This is a family place.

MARK SHIELDS: It’s a family place, where — Comet Ping Pong, where — pizza — where my 10-year-old granddaughter, Frances, I attended her 10th birthday party there recently in the back room with the ping-pong. It very much of a family — it has great pizza. It’s a very popular place.

It’s a total fabrication. It’s worse than a fabrication. It’s a slur and a libel. This — Alex Jones is involved in this, the radio personality, talks about Hillary Clinton murdering young children.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: I mean, it just has to be confronted.

And I thought Marc Fisher did a great job in The Washington Post, and he with his interview with Hari, in shooting it down. But if you have got to spend all your time shooting this stuff down, Judy…

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Somebody wrote a story about me where I allegedly called for Donald Trump’s assassination. And it was a long 1,500-word, very carefully written piece of reportage, where I allegedly gave an interview to a radio station that doesn’t exist.

And it was like being in a different, alternative — alternative universe in a novel, like some other novel, when, suddenly, the effects come back and hit me in real life.

And what’s troubling is the professionalism with which it’s done and how distrust of the media then leads to this extreme naivete, where people will believe anything.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re all used to people stretching the truth in what we do in journalism, but it’s just — it’s beyond the pale.

Just 40 seconds left, Mark. John Glenn, we lost a great American hero yesterday. What did he represent to this country?

MARK SHIELDS: Twenty-three years as a Marine jet pilot, combat pilot, 149 missions in two wars, first American to orbit the Earth, at a time when the United States was feeling — more than that, it gave the country a lift.

And, most of all, all he was about, he was everything that he seemed to be and more. He was the genuine article.

The thing, Judy, to remember about John Glenn is that he had had the ultimate in praise and national attention. He was an icon. All he wanted to do — he didn’t need validation. He didn’t need an ego fix. All he wanted to do was public service. And he did it. And he was a great senator and a great American.

DAVID BROOKS: Just Midwestern decency, yes.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you.

And we remember John Glenn.

The post Shields and Brooks on Trump’s understanding of presidential power appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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