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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 reconciling with Cuba, Sony censorship


Fri, Dec 19, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to talk about a full week of news, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, so much to talk about.

David, the story today, the headline story is North Korea, the administration confirming that they are behind this cyber-attack on Sony Pictures.

First of all, the president said flat out today that Sony made a mistake. What do you think?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I guess I think so.

You know, it’s — like the president said, we can’t have a country where people are self-censoring, and based on some foreign attack. If this was — if they had done a movie about a civil rights figure and a bunch of racists said, we’re going to do something to your company unless you pull this movie, and they pulled the movie, it would have been clear it would have been a disgraceful thing to do.

And I think this is somewhat similar. I do have some sympathy for Sony. They’re out there all alone against a country spending apparently hundreds of millions of dollars to target them. This is a collective action problem. The companies have to stick together. The government has to say an attack on a U.S. company or any company sited in the U.S. is an attack on the country, and the government has to step in. And, frankly, journalists have to step in.

I…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Step in? What do you mean?

DAVID BROOKS: When these — when the e-mails were leaked, I think reputable news organizations shouldn’t participate in publicizing them.

Now, obviously, they’re going to be out on the Web somewhere. Somebody is going to publicize what was in the e-mails. I do not think we should be involved in that business. It’s sort of — let somebody else do it. It is sort of aiding what is basically a terrorist act.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think David’s call for self-censoring on e-mails is high-minded. I don’t think it’s practical.

And I think this did contribute in part to Sony’s action. I mean, there’s an old Earl Long expression. Never write what you can speak, never speak what you can whisper, never whisper what you can nod, and never nod what you can wink.

And I think the e-mails were embarrassing to — not simply professionally, but personally to the people there. And I agree they’re trafficking in gossip. I think that accelerated Sony’s decision. And the question as to what happened between them and the theater owners is open, whether, in fact, Sony really did want the theater owners to say, take the pressure off us by saying you don’t want to show the film.

I mean, the president, I thought, was quite forceful. He was very measured. And he has let it know — I mean, proportionally, we don’t know what form it will take. I thought the ambassador made good points in the previous piece as to what form it can take, given the fact that there is no economic commerce between the two countries.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, is there a clear path for the — in a situation like this, David, where you have a government going after a private company?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, you know, the president said that he spends twice as much time as his predecessor as cyber-security and his successor will spend twice as much time than him.

And so this is clearly going to be a gigantic issue. And among the cyber-security people — believe me, I’m no expert — but they talk about going on offense and that you have to have deterrents. We talk so much about smart and soft power.

This is a new form of hard power. It’s a kind of warfare that is being waged on us. And you simply have to intimidate and deter. And so the U.S. has to, as it does, obviously, have a capability to deter. And that means going on offense against the people who are doing bad things whether they’re in China, North Korea, Russia or anywhere else.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, some have looked at this and said, should there be limits on what movies are made about or what books are written about? If you’re going to go after a sitting leader of a country, are you opening yourself up for something like this?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, I assume it was discussed at some point.

I mean, David’s point, are you going to be inhibited by making a biographical piece on Martin Luther King or John Lewis because some racists say you can’t do it, or Mandela, or whatever the case, you can’t be stampeded.

There had to be some consideration given to the marketability and what the impact would be of making — on a closed society, on someone who is not simply just paranoid, but obviously a self-deity as well. So, it’s a — I guess you substitute any other country. I mean, would you do it — would you make a satire on the assassination of the prime minister of Israel, of the pope, of the queen of England?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Are there any limits here?

DAVID BROOKS: No, of course not. If a guy is a dictator, a ruthless dictator like this guy, you almost have a moral responsibility to write negative things about them.

And that’s the job of what we do. Now, it’s complicated because we have had so many of these cases involving Islam. Now, in another faith, then you want to show respect, obviously, because it’s a faith. But that doesn’t mean if somebody is an Islamist radical, you couldn’t — shouldn’t go after them.

And there have been cases obviously, in Europe particularly, where theater companies, where newspapers have backed down in the face of that threat. But you sort of have a moral responsibility. And being what we do it’s not that complicated, it’s not that dangerous, but we do have some responsibility to criticize people who deserve criticism.

MARK SHIELDS: Those of us a certain age do remember Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler, and, you know, the idea, and the brilliance of a piece like “The Producers,” of being able to make — enable people to laugh at somebody, which is the last thing in the world that a despot can live with.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk another big story this week, and it’s Cuba opening up to this country, David, after 53, 54 years.

Was it the right thing to do for the president to do this on his own and to say, we’re going to — we have given it a shot for half-a-century, it’s time to do something else?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it was the right move.

Listen, this policy has been in place longer than I have been alive and it’s failed all that time. So, eventually, maybe you try something else. And so this is about regime change. And I think Marco Rubio, who objected so strongly, has a case.

Venezuela is now poor because of the price of oil. They can’t afford to subsidize Cuba. Maybe the Cuban regime would have fallen faster and maybe we’re giving them a lifeline by opening up some trade and giving them some economic support.

Nonetheless, I think the way to look at it is, are we strengthening Cuban society with American influence? That regime is going to fall. We want Cuba to be a decent place to live after that regime falls. It’s better to have American influence there economically, culturally, intellectually. It will be a better society, so when the regime finally does fall, the transition, which we now know is so hard, from communism will be a little easier. I think the president did the right thing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you say, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: David Brooks has been more successful in his five decades than has been this policy toward Cuba.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: You can make the case, Judy, that sanctions have worked economically. And I think they have — I think they’re working right now against Russia. They certainly worked against South Africa.

They worked — I think you can make the case they brought Iran to the bargaining table. They have not worked with Cuba. They were intended, when they were installed, to put pressure through the Cuban people on the Castro regime and it would topple.

The reverse occurred. It made, if anything, the administration — the regime became stronger and more entrenched. And so — and irrespective of Senator Rubio’s arguments, which may be — have historic validity, I think we want to acknowledge what we have done is wrong, it’s made no sense.

And if we do want to hasten that change and be part of that change, be an agent of that change and to make — help make Cuba a freer and fairer and better country, then I think that we believe in our exchange, a free exchange. So I commend the president for it. I think he did the right thing.

Politically, I would just point this out. John Kerry in — Al Gore in 2000 got 29 percent of the Cuban American vote in 2004. And Florida is the epicenter of what — Cuban Americans politically in this country. Al Gore got 29 percent in 2004. Barack Obama got 35 percent in 2008. And they split the vote in 2012.

So it is more of a political opportunity than it is a political liability.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, the fact the president did it on his own, he didn’t wait for Congress to get rid of the trade embargo?

DAVID BROOKS: I think that’s fine. I have conniptions when he does something on immigration, on domestic policy. But on foreign policy, the president has a lot more leeway. And I so think it’s fine that he did it.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

I mean, no, wait for the Congress, Judy? Come on.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Let’s be — I’m serious about this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Did I say something crazy?

MARK SHIELDS: We have a Republican primary coming up.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, speaking of Florida politicians — you both mentioned Marco Rubio — there is another Florida politician, David, Jeb Bush, the former governor, who hasn’t had his name on a ballot I guess in 12 years.

But he is moving closer to running. He’s going to set up an exploratory committee. What do you think? What does it look like?

DAVID BROOKS: I think he’s the favorite.

I wouldn’t say he’s a huge favorite, by any means, but I think he’s a plausible candidate. He was a successful governor from a swing state, and he has a good reputation in the party. He’s pretty conservative, not so much on immigration, but compared to Republican presidents in the past, he’s pretty conservative, not as conservative as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul,.

But he is sort of where the mainstream of the party is and I believe the party is coming back from its Tea Party phase. And it’s coming back to about where Jeb Bush is. And, basically, obviously, the obvious problem is he’s — last name is Bush. He has some hedge fund and some income issues he will have to deal with, but compared to the other candidates, the Christies, maybe the Rubio, the Paul, the Cruz, he has looked pretty — he looks less flawed than the other guys.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Whoa. That’s high praise.

MARK SHIELDS: Less flawed.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Even better than our Cuba policy.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right. That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And how do you size it up?

MARK SHIELDS: I think that Jeb Bush had a good week.

If you’re in the situation right now thinking about running for president, you want to postpone that as long as you can. You want to keep your powder dry. You don’t want to go through a two-year marathon endurance contest.

So what he did was, he forced the issue. he forced the issue by his announcement of an exploratory committee. Let it be noted that no exploratory committee in the history of American politics has ever come back and said anything but, there’s a groundswell out there for you, boss. Everybody wants you to run.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: But, by doing this, he did a couple of things.

First of all, he said he was going to release all his e-mails. That puts pressure on who?

JUDY WOODRUFF: From the time when he was governor.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right, when he was governor.

That puts pressure on Chris Christie, the current governor of New Jersey, who has got some e-mails he’d just soon not have made public, and on Hillary Clinton, a possible opponent. She’s been reluctant to make public all her e-mails. He has also moved up the timetable for others to make the decision, smoked out people.

I do not see him as this great moderate. In fact, he was an ardently conservative governor of Florida. On two issues, on Common Core, the education standards test, which was a Republican embrace and has now been moved and abandoned by virtually every Republican and shoe leather, and immigration, are the two that really make him, I guess, the king of moderates in the current Republican Party.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you don’t think it hurts — or do you think it hurts that he’s a Bush, another, the father, one son and now the other son?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it hurts.

But if he wasn’t running against a Clinton, it would really hurt. But if he’s running against a Clinton, what are we going to choose? It’s George Washington vs. Thomas Jefferson. We have some old names here.

MARK SHIELDS: Franklin Roosevelt, four times president of the United States, winner of World War II, saved the country in the Depression, his namesake, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., could get elected to the House of Representatives only from New York. He couldn’t even get elected attorney general.

The idea that George Herbert Walker Bush, a thoroughly admirable and good patriotic American, would spawn two sons in the space of 20 years who become president, are we that thin on talent in this country of 315 million people  that we go back to the same family three times in less than a generation?

JUDY WOODRUFF: We may have to ponder that one over the holidays. We have got a few days to think about it.

We’re not going to see the two of you before Christmas. I want to wish both of you a wonderful holiday, a merry Christmas.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And a happy new year.

MARK SHIELDS: Same to you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And thank you for 2014, David Brooks, Mark Shields.

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you very much.

The post Shields and Brooks on reconciling with Cuba, Sony censorship appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Brooks on the CIA interrogation report, spending bill sticking points


Fri, Dec 12, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, Congress is going down to the wire again on averting a government shutdown. New and familiar divisions emerged inside both parties. And all that happened just days after a report on the CIA’s alleged use of torture went public.

For all that and more, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, Mark, we’re going right down to the wire once again on a spending bill. Was this inevitable, lame-duck session, after the midterm elections? Is this what we knew was going to happen?

MARK SHIELDS: Probably, Judy.

And it’s a great opportunity for people who have particular causes that they want to slip into the final legislation, that it’s — the train is pulling out of the station. You have to vote to keep the government going, keep it open. And so I think there’s a certain appeal, in addition to the procrastination, that contributes to this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sometimes, people want to avert their eyes, but here we go again.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, though I’m upbeat.

I think we have a right to be happy and joyful, holiday season. We had an actual government shutdown not too long ago. And this time, the odds are, we’re not going to have one. And so a couple things have happened. The center has held.

President Obama and John Boehner, Democrat, Republican, it seems like they’re going to win this thing. They’re not going to win it without blood and setbacks, but they are going to win it. Boehner clearly has much more control over the Republican Caucus than he did this time a year ago or six months ago.

And so that’s interesting and probably productive. On the other hand, the Democrats are beginning to behave like an opposition party, a party in opposition. And we’re beginning to see the shifts there. Now, I would say the big loser of the week is Hillary Clinton.

If you thought she was going to walk in, cakewalk to the coronation, if I’m mixing metaphors there, but that ain’t going to happen. Clearly, the Democratic Party is beginning to have an argument within itself with a more populist wing, a more establishment wing, so a little parallel to what happened to the Republicans a couple of years ago, but it’s really interesting.

And so we have seen a lot of the new formations of the next two years come into being here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David is referring, Mark, to Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, a darling of many of the liberals, who is taking issue with one of the easing of the financial regulations in the bill. There are other liberal Democrats who are unhappy about changing campaign finance.

Is this what we have to look forward to in the Democratic Party?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think I have a little different take on it from David, in the sense that I think the Democrats had a great opportunity here to define themselves as a party.

They have gone through an election where they’d never had an economic message. And here’s a bill presented with the amendment, quite openly written by Citigroup. The four biggest banks in the country handle 93 percent of derivatives. And this is written for them.

It’s to make their business easier and to provide backup if — in case things still go wrong, that Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer of this country will bail them out once more under — in the worst possible circumstances. They say, oh, it’s just — it’s making it easier logistically and so forth.

The Democrats had a chance to break that. Nancy Pelosi stood up on it, and I think — really think that the White House buckled too soon. I think they had the Republicans very much on the defensive. They didn’t want — wanted to deny paternity of this provision. It ties them very much into the negative public stereotype of the party as too close to big money.

And then on top of that, they quintupled or actually octupled the amount of money that millionaires and billionaires can give to party committees. So, you had two really good issues. And we have ended up with 70 percent, seven out of 10 House Democrats voting against, not simply the speaker, but voting against the president on this bill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying it’s a good thing for the Democrats.

David, a good thing?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s a good thing. Any turmoil in the Democratic Party has got to be a good thing.

It’s very much like what happened in the Republican Party. It’s the difference between, are you trying to make a statement or are you trying to pass a law? If you are progressive and you have, as Mark says, two great issues, you can make a statement.

On the other hand, if you don’t pass this right now, and you kick it over to the next Congress, say, then it’s certainly going to be worse on a whole range of other issues for Democrats because Republicans will be in control. And so the people who supported this thing, like Barack Obama, Steny Hoyer, all these people, they are looking at what is going to happen, not only those two issues, but on a whole range of issues.

So, if you’re trying to define your party, then Mark is right. Elizabeth Warren has a good defining issue there. If you’re trying to pass a law that will be good for your people on a whole range of other issues, Barack Obama is right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Weren’t we just talking, Mark, a couple weeks ago about the president making gestures to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party on immigration reform, the executive action, net neutrality?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, no question.

But I think this was a crunch question. I don’t think there’s any question the Republicans could not — this is a practical political question, rather than just symbolic and philosophical. I think the Republicans were in a terrible position. The more heat, the more light, the more attention that had focused on these two provisions would have put them very much on the defensive, to the point — there was — Tea Party Republicans were upset because of the money.

They see this opening up the money, the millionaires and billionaires’ money, to the establishment of the Republican Party, then running against them, as they did very effectively in 2014, in primaries, so that they will nominate more establishment candidates.

So I just think a missed opportunity was here. And I think that the White House, quite frankly, was eyeball to eyeball with the Republican Congress and the White House blinked.

DAVID BROOKS: But a lot of it is what’s getting your juices flowing. And for Elizabeth Warren, this issue on the derivatives gets her juices flowing. That’s like a core issue.

And for a lot of Democrats, that is a core issue. I think, for a lot of other Democrats, it’s just not a core issue. They might agree with it nominally, but they’re just not passionately involved. And that’s why I leap ahead to the primary season. And that’s why Elizabeth Warren owes it to us to run, or somebody like owes it to us to run to make our lives interesting, of course.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re going to wait and talk about that on another — on another Friday.

The Senate Intelligence report, though, Mark, on the CIA’s so-called enhanced interrogation techniques or, as others say, that’s euphemistic for torture, what do you make of the report and the reaction of the CIA, this this — a few people did it, it was legal, and they did what they had to do in a time of great stress for the country?

MARK SHIELDS: The critics have basically they didn’t talk to enough people, it wasn’t complete, it wasn’t balanced, it shouldn’t come out at this time, doesn’t — helpful.

Is it true? Yes, it’s true. Did the United States — I mean, Ronald Reagan signed the anti-torture U.N. convention as president of the United States in 1988. The Senate ratified it in 1994. Torture was declared not simply immoral, but illegal.

In 2001, we repealed it. Without any official act, it was effectively repealed. And that’s what this is about. And, on this issue, Judy, it’s very rare that this happens in American public life. There’s one figure who stands unassailable and alone as the authority. And that is John McCain.

And John McCain is the moral clarity on this torture issue and on this report. And he is the one who has said, quite bluntly, yes, we should have it, we should have had this report, and what we did done was wrong, and it’s not the United States. We are better than that as a people. He believes in American exceptionalism.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you make of the report?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I will add four things.

First, the best thing about the report is, it cuts through the ocean of euphemism, the EITs, enhanced interrogation techniques, and all that. It gets to straight language. Torture — it’s obviously torture. What was done is obviously torture.

And when you cut through it, though, the technology — or the metaphor and the euphemism is designed to dull the moral sensibility. And this aroused the moral sensibility. It’s very hard to read this report and not be morally outraged. And so that does have — that had a great effect.

Second — the second issue raised, which is another issue McCain has gone to, is the effectiveness of the evidence. And I think we’re right to be agnostic about that. Brennan says he’s not sure. John Brennan says he’s not sure.

MARK SHIELDS: Unknowable.

DAVID BROOKS: Unknowable whether it helped. McCain says, from his own personal experience, that torture leads to bad intelligence. He’s probably right about that. So we’re unsure about that.

I do have some sympathy for those who say the document was too partisan. It was written by Democratic staffers. It was done in a partisan way. I’m a little bothered, as a reporter, that they didn’t interview as many people as they should have. I do — there’s some merit in that.

And then the thing they do whitewash is the role of Congress here and even the role of Democrats. At the time, the CIA claims, with some evidence, that they did brief people. And a lot of people who are now on their high horse saying how horrible that it was sat there in those rooms and didn’t say anything or even were for it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is the argument really about here? What matters in all of this, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, what matters, Judy — it was not a perfect document and I don’t think anybody is pretending that it is.

What matters is, do we confront what we have done and what was done in our name and under our flag? And, you know, to quote John McCain, this isn’t about our enemies. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.

And I wasn’t just being glib when I said he believes in American exceptionalism. A lot of people on the left who are very supportive of McCain’s position don’t think America is exceptional otherwise. But — and all the people who talk about America being exceptional and doing whatever we want militarily all of a sudden are very defensive and don’t even — don’t even pretend to hold us to a standard on something like torture.

This was torture. The United States of America does not, does not, does not hold somebody by chains to a floor half-naked and let him freeze to death in the name of the United States of America. We don’t do that. David’s right. It’s impossible to read it and not to be morally upset.

JUDY WOODRUFF: If that’s the case then, why aren’t we talking about punishment for the people who did this?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, people are put in miserable jobs and decisions were made at a political level.

And there was — a lot of what we have learned is that decisions are made, but then don’t tell me what you’re going to do, under the aegis of the decision I just made.

And I do — I would hesitate to do it, because it was a tough time. They didn’t know anything about what al-Qaida was up to. And I do think they were motivated by the national security interest. I think it was wrong. I think the people who were involved — and we know this from the report — the people who were involved were appalled at the time, but sometimes they thought, you know, they are doing the right thing.

We kill people with drones. We’re killing people all the time with drones. Killing is probably worse than torture. Those moral calculus shouldn’t be legalized, except for in extreme cases, in my view.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just very quickly to both of you, the CIA comes out of this how?

MARK SHIELDS: The CIA comes out of it, I think, damaged and wounded.

I think that’s what John Brennan is trying to do. Judy, most of all, what it hurts is the honest, effective, dedicated professionals who get intelligence without torturing people, without degrading other human beings, who do that every day, and do it well.

DAVID BROOKS: It wasn’t just the CIA. It was the whole country. There was a lot of people, and a lot of people up the political chain, a lot of people in Congress, a lot of people in the public. And so we’re trying to rediscover our moral center.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tough questions tonight.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you.

The post Shields and Brooks on the CIA interrogation report, spending bill sticking points appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Brooks on who gets credit for jobs growth, protests on race and justice


Fri, Dec 05, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Protests have sprung up this week across America, as a second grand jury chose not to indict a police officer in a killing of an unarmed black man. And in Washington, President Obama announced his choice for the new leader of the Pentagon.

We turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who joins us from New York.

Hello, gentlemen.

So we have just heard, David, the analysis on the jobs report. Do we finally have something to cheer about here?

DAVID BROOKS: I think so. We might as well take advantage of it.

We have had a lot of scuffling along. And now that seems to have stopped. And what’s impressive to me mostly is our job performance compared to Europe. If you talk to Europeans, they’re in a bit of a funk. The economy there, with the possible exception of Germany, is just in stagnation.

You have got these astronomically high youth unemployment rates. And so we’re doing pretty well. And I guess that’s partly a credit to the Obama administration. They might as well take a little victory lap out of this. They — we have come out of the recession better than our normal peers, partly to the American system, which has some disadvantages, but has some advantages, which is dynamism.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, time to take a victory lap?

MARK SHIELDS: I think so.

Judy, Reince Priebus, the Republican national chairman today, said that 300,000 jobs, 323,000 created, ought to be expected every month. It shouldn’t be an exception. And just a historical perspective, during the eight years of President Bush, there were 2.1 million net jobs created in the United States, and of that 2.1 million, 1.8 million were in the public sector, state, local or federal government.

That means there were 300,000 jobs in the private sector created in eight months — in eight years, rather, net. So, I mean, this is rather remarkable. And I just point out that in the — David touched on the fact that more jobs have been created in the United States in the last four years than in Europe, Japan, all the industrialized modern world combined.

So, it’s a record. And there’s just one other little item, and it’s not unimportant. And this is where David and I do disagree, I know; 70 years since World War II, 36 years with a Republican president, 34 years with a Democratic president, in those 70 years, there were 36.7 million jobs created by Republican — under Republican presidents, while Republicans were office, OK, a little over half the time.

In 34 years, there were 63.7 million created by Democrats. That’s 29 million more. Perhaps it’s an accident once or twice or what. But, I mean, at some point, the Democrats ought to be trumpeting the fact that they have been better on the economy and job creation than have been their opposition.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David?

DAVID BROOKS: I was afraid you were going to turn to me.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: I was waiting to see what you had to say about that.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

No, listen, if the president could turn up a dial and create jobs, that would be great. But presidents can’t do that. The correlation between policies and actual job creation, there’s a huge amount of lag and they just don’t have that ability. A lot of it is just the function of the cyclical labor market.

Mark mentioned President Bush’s lamentable job performance. But he created a bunch of jobs, and then they all got wiped out in the last year during his recession, because we had this grand recession. And so business cycles come and go. And what the government can do is create a landscape which can create long-term job growth, but it’s rare that an administration has the ability to turn it on and off in that kind of short-term way. So, I just don’t think it’s that germane a number.

MARK SHIELDS: It’s 15 years since we have had 10 consecutive months of over 200,000.

Those 15 years ago, there was a fellow from Arkansas who was the president of the United States. Those were eight years of rather remarkable sustained growth. There are certainly other criticisms of Bill Clinton’s leadership, but it’s hard to argue that the fact that there were more jobs created in Bill Clinton’s eight years than there were in Ronald Reagan’s eight years and the 12 years of both Bushes combined.

Six million more jobs created in those eight years, at some point, policy does kick in and is reflected in the results.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We may not resolve all this right here.

MARK SHIELDS: Oh, come on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to move on.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to move on to — David, to Ash Carter, the president’s nomination to be the next secretary of defense.

We just heard some conversation about how things may or may not change. What’s your sense of that?  Do you think we are going to see different policy coming out of the Pentagon out of this administration now?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, Carter has the essential qualification for defense secretary, which is that he studied medieval history at Yale…

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: … and then got a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Oxford, so obviously an academic slouch.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: You know, I don’t think things are going to change.

I think this is a very White House-centric administration. I assume it will remain that, but there’s no question he’s a very strong choice. And I think some of us have been concerned that this administration, as it has gone on, you have had fewer sort of Larry Summers, like, big personalities, strong voices. And Carter certainly qualifies as one of those.

MARK SHIELDS: I think he brings enormous credentials. And he does bring a record of having stood up to the troops, particularly in providing armor for them and armored vehicles for them against — mine resistance in Iraq.

For that, I commend him and salute him. But he also is on record in 2006 of urging the United States to bomb the nuclear facilities of North Korea. And he obviously was one of the people arguing that we should still keep troops in Afghanistan — I mean in Iraq in 2011 — after 2011.

I do think, Judy, David is absolutely right about the White House. They’re on — notice, now, they have had three different, entirely different secretaries of defense, all with the identical criticism of micromanagement from the White House.

They’re on notice on that. But, hey, it all begins with Barack Obama. Every administration, every White House is ultimately a mirror reflection of the man at the top. This is what he is comfortable with. This is what he has encouraged, condoned. And this is the structure he’s created. If it’s going to change, it has to begin by changing with him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to — I want to bring up something — something else that of course we have been covering every night this week. And that is, for the second time, we have had a grand jury, David, decide not to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black man, most recently Eric Garner in New York.

I guess my question is, in this case, they listened to testimony for a couple of months. They listened to 50 witnesses. But when you look at this on top of Ferguson and some of the other cases around the country and look at these protests which are continuing night after night, how widespread is the problem with police use of deadly force against unarmed blacks in this country?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it’s obviously widespread.

I watched the protests on 14th Street here last night and then in Midtown. And what struck me and what I was curious to see was whether the protesters, who were pretty angry, were taking it out on the local cops, whether there was sort of a class conflict between the protesters and the cops, which is the sort of thing we saw in 1968.

And I have to say there wasn’t. The protesters were angry, but very well-behaved, not hostile to the cops who were guarding them or supervising the thing. And so it was actually a good sign that the protesters, it struck me, were angry, but mature and civil and just trying to make their case.

And I say that because there are two issues here. One is the racial issue, which I think in the Staten Island case is blatantly obvious. But then there’s the second issue of cop behavior. How do you restore order when — to the streets?  Do you always have to go to maximum force?

And I covered cops early in my career, and they have to armor up. They’re in a tough job in tough situations all the time, so they put an emotional armor, and they’re sometimes very cynical about the people they have to be around, just because they couldn’t survive it emotionally if they weren’t.

And yet that, I think in this case, can lead to a callousness. And so I think we need to have this racial conversation we’re having, but also an authority conversation about how police restore order and whether they’re just too macho.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How widespread, do you think, this — is this isolated incidences or is this in many, many parts of the country?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know, Judy.

I would say, given the reaction from people in the minority community, not only African-American, but Latino as well, that enough feel that there is a pattern. I — it’s hard to look at the Staten Island film and not believe that this was wrong.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is Eric Garner.

MARK SHIELDS: Eric Garner.

That this was — this was a man who was not a threat. He wasn’t physically threatening. He was not menacing. He was selling individual cigarettes to homeless people. So the crime is tax evasion.

If this is the biggest crime of tax evasion in New York City going on at any given moment, I would — I would frankly be astounded. And the idea that you’re going to use a chokehold — it seemed that the first police officer was actually talking him down. And then the officer went from behind and grabbed him with the chokehold that ultimately was fatal.

I mean, it’s hard to look at this and say that this wasn’t overreaction on the part of the police. Ferguson is conflicting testimony. You know, we heard different things. This one just does seem, quite frankly, clear-cut. And it’s hard. David’s right. The police put their lives on the line in difficult situations.

This wasn’t a life-threatening situation. There was no way that any of the — either of the police officers — any of the police officers there felt that he was personally threatened by this situation. This wasn’t a menacing figure or a violent man.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, you were saying we need to have a conversation about race and another conversation about authority and how authority is exerted.

You now have the Justice Department investigating on its own after these grand jury decisions. Is that a way to have these conversations?  Is that part of the way we come together on this?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

I think it’s — I don’t know if we will come together, but we can certainly change policy. And I — Washington has had a very corrupting influence here. Washington has armored, literally armored up. I talked about emotional armor, but this is literal armor. The federal government has given a lot of the police forces or sold this big weaponry.

And with that weaponry goes a swagger and goes a distance from the people that are being policed. And so we have hyper-militarized. I think we have, in some cases, hyper-machoized. There’s just a lot of testosterone floating around. And whether it’s Ferguson of Staten Island, there is a time when the police officer has to be secure enough to take a step back and try to defuse.

The Ferguson case is complicated, but in the Staten Island case, clearly, with petty authority comes the sin of bullying. And this guy seems to have just used that petty authority and been corrupted by it and brutalized by it, frankly. And so that has to go into the training. And it’s almost like the moral responsibility of people with small amounts of authority, but possibly life-threatening ones.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, only 15 seconds.

MARK SHIELDS: Oh, 15.

Oh, the reaction, Judy, of the two cities, I mean, a reflection to some degree of the — I think the political leadership of de Blasio in New York, who has a racially mixed child himself, who is different from the Ferguson, where the police force was overwhelmingly white, where the political leadership was white, and where — David described the demonstrations in New York, which have been quite civil and quite orderly and not illegal, and as opposed to Ferguson, where the first protest involves breaking into a liquor store.

I think the situations are far from identical, but reflective in both cases of the situations of political leadership, as well as the relationship to the police in both cases.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Hopefully a lot of reflecting going on right now, as well as both protesting and reflecting. It’s a time, it’s certainly a time for people to think some more about this.

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

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Shields and Brooks on the Ferguson ruling, Hagel resignation


Fri, Nov 28, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, chose not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the death of a black teenager, Michael Brown, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced his resignation.

For that and more, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

We welcome you both on this day after Thanksgiving.

So, Mark, the aftermath, the reaction to the Ferguson grand jury decision not to indict, we’re watching reaction all over the country. What does it say about the state of race relations in this country today?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know if it says as much about the state of race relations as it certainly does about race perceptions.

There are two different Americas when it comes, for example, to the performance of the police. A majority of Americans, white Americans, strong majority, believe that the police treat everybody the same. Black Americans do not see that the case. They see that blacks — that are treated disproportionately, with greater force than are whites.

There is less confidence in the police on the part of blacks than there is whites. And, Judy, it’s borne out by the numbers in Ferguson; 86 percent — this a city that is two-thirds black. Out of the 53 officers on the police force, three of them are non-white and 86 percent of all the traffic stops were of black motorists.

So there is that sense of the widening gap. I think we were all euphoric in 2008, the election of the first African-American president, who since has been reelected with a majority, that somehow race relations in the country have been resolved and we’re over — as an open wound. But on something like police treatment of black Americans, it obviously is two different countries.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it mostly, David, about perception of how people are treated by law enforcement?

DAVID BROOKS: I think a little, yes, obviously, but not so much from the grand jury.

I thought the grand jury report had — it angered a lot of people, but I think introduced a note of ambiguity to more people because it really did put some facts in front of the case and I think it made us cautious. I think one of the things it did for a lot of people is made them separate the episode from the condition.

The episode was what actually happened that night between Wilson and Brown. And I think we learned that Wilson — Brown definitely went into the car, tried to seize the officer’s gun. And that makes it very hard to indict the police officer in those circumstances.

We don’t know whether Wilson was attacking — or Brown was attacking Wilson when the final shots were fired, but we know there was a pretty ambiguous confrontation there which probably made conviction impossible. So we have some facts about the episode.

The larger conditions, I think we still have a lot to say about, which is that there’s the legacy of distrust, the legacy of racism, the impact of poverty, the impact of inequality. And I think what’s happened with the larger condition is the distinct issue of civil rights has become embedded in a whole series of social problems, having to do with poverty, having to do with concentrated poverty, having to do with family structures, having to do with schools, having to do with disappearing jobs.

And it’s become a lot thornier. And so what was a very simple good vs. bad civil rights story has become a much more complicated domestic policy story, really.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, is it possible — I was going to…

MARK SHIELDS: Just — I just wanted to say on David’s — David makes a good point, but I think the difference is seen in the way he presented it.

Whites look at this individual episode and the grand jury report, and I think the points he make are absolutely valid ones. But blacks, I think, have an understandable tendency to look at it as a pattern. In other words, there’s a presumption on the part of blacks that they’re not going to be treated as well or as fairly when dealing with the police.

And i think that’s a major, major gulf. And make no mistake about it, Judy. The traditional ladder of — when America gets a cold economically, black America gets pneumonia. And the traditional road up, through factory jobs, manufacturing jobs that so many African-Americans have used to climb into the middle class, then educate their children in college, is no longer available.

It’s no longer available for white working-class Americans either. The changed economy has compounded the problem.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We have heard from some viewers.Go ahead, David. Yes, go ahead. I want you both…

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it’s compounded the problem economically and led to the widening inequality.

It’s also led, I think, for whites and blacks and Hispanics as well to a widening sense of disrespect, that not only is there no opportunity, but they’re being disrespected by people with authority. And that’s especially true with African-Americans because the legacy, the historical legacy of racism in this country.

And it does make me think that, across a range of issues, but especially law enforcement issues, we have two models, the sort of dominant force model, which is what the police are used to using, and a model that gives much more emphasis on respecting people in the community, which is probably a little less aggressive sometimes, and which may be risky, but in the long run, that more respectful model may be the stronger and the healthier model for the communities.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s interesting. We have been hearing some viewers this week who are saying they don’t think the news media is reflecting the whole spectrum of the position that law enforcement is in.

But, Mark, I guess my question, the next question for me is, can this country have a constructive conversation about this?

MARK SHIELDS: You know, I hope we can, Judy.

I think we’re capable of it if we — and acknowledging right up front that police officers have a tough job. When they get a 911 call or just any kind of a call, they’re going into a situation that’s laden and fraught with violence.

And I in no way, I mean, intend any dishonor or disrespect to them and to the incredibly tough job and good job that they overwhelmingly do. I hope we can. It’s something that an African-American president — the only — only two Democrats in our history have been elected and reelected with a majority of the popular vote, Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama.

I would hope the president could help initiate and inspire such conversation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think it’s possible, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

And let’s start with the police. I do think it’s valid to say their view had not been represented. Like a lot of people in my business, I started as a police reporter in Chicago and spend a lot of time around police. And one of the things that has to be said about them, they spend a lot of their time in extremely unpleasant circumstance with extremely unpleasant people.

And they have to wade into that to keep us safe. And God bless them for it. It does often mean that they have a very negative and sometimes a cynical view and armor, an emotional armor they put on about the communities they go into.

And I suppose they need that for survival, but it does sometimes lead to a small authoritarianism, if you want to put it that — a little bullying sometimes in police behavior. And so, like everything else, the way the police behave, they’re human beings, and so some of it is incredibly normal and noble. And some of it is brutalizing. And they sometimes in some cases a brutalizing effect on the people they’re sort of lording over.

It’s a human story of good and bad.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me turn you both to running the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Mark, steps down this week. He’s the third secretary of defense in the Obama administration to be leaving the position. They are now looking for a fourth. What does this say, does Chuck Hagel’s experience say about the administration, say about him?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, you know, I should acknowledge right up front I’m a sympathizer, supporter of Chuck Hagel, and have been for a long time, admired his own service both to the country politically and publicly and volunteered in the military to serve as heroically as he did in Vietnam.

But, Judy, when you’re looking for your fourth secretary of defense in less than six years, which is what this administration is doing, and the previous two, Hagel’s two predecessors, both went public with charges of micromanagement from the White House, that — Bob Gates, a reasonable man, said it drove him crazy.

When — when Leon Panetta said it’s leading to an exclusion of other voices, just a limitation, that the president is sort of surrounded by this clique of very hyper, uber loyalists, but with very few other people, that the Cabinet is excluded, I think it’s a comment on a situation that is serious to the president.

And I really…

JUDY WOODRUFF: A situation that…

MARK SHIELDS: A situation that he is in a bubble that is very, very narrowed, that they’re trying to run everything out of the White House.

And I think this is a — I think it’s a problem that they had that Gates complained of it, that Panetta complained of it. And it didn’t change under Chuck Hagel. And they can fault Chuck Hagel. The president praises him and then immediately the White House staffs starts sniping that he wasn’t up to the job, he didn’t have the substance, he wasn’t proactive, whatever the hell that means.

So, they immediately accuse the president of dissembling — their — their loyalists are suggesting the president was being disingenuous when he praised the president and — the secretary as an exemplary defense secretary.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Well, each administration over the last 30 years probably has concentrated more and more power in the White House. For a long time, most of the other Cabinet secretary jobs have been neutered. But it used to be, you had the big three, secretary of state, secretary of defense, and the surgeon general, had some independent authority.

Under this administration, I think even the big three have been severely weakened, none more seriously than Chuck Hagel. There are people who follow this who say he underperformed in certain roles, especially the outside roles.

But it’s certainly true that he wasn’t consulted in all sorts of policies concerning the Defense Department, that decisions were made in the White House both here and abroad and then he was told about them later. And he tried to be a good soldier. And so if you are going to hire somebody to be a good soldier, you can’t really fault them for not being proactive, because you’re not giving them anything to do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, do we look for the next secretary of defense to be somebody who very close — already in close with the White House, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, ironically, the next secretary of defense is probably Chuck Hagel.

I mean, we have had two — Jack Reed, senator from Rhode Island, rejected it 30 microseconds after he was floated. Michele Flournoy, the former deputy secretary of defense, said she wasn’t interested. So, I don’t know who is going to be and then confirmed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Quick thought, David?

DAVID BROOKS: I agree. They’re having trouble, because who wants to be a weak person with only two years left?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Less than a minute.

To both of you, it’s the day after Thanksgiving. You have to tell me what you’re thankful for, Mark, and what you’re not thankful for.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, I am thankful for — I am thankful that American graduation rates in high schools are up dramatically, that our crime rate is down, that people are covered in health care.

I’m grateful for the “NewsHour.”

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: And not grateful for?

MARK SHIELDS: I’m not grateful for David’s constant interruption and carping.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: No. No. There’s nothing I’m not grateful…

JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s nothing — I think that’s…

MARK SHIELDS: … I’m not grateful for.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On that positive note, David, it’s your turn.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I was going to thank — be thankful for Mark Shields, who has been a great partner and friend for many years.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: But I think I may retract that now.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: The thing I’m not thankful for is that we don’t have 30 minutes on the show, which I think the viewers really demand.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Not just 12 or 14.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m going to take to our executive producer. I think that’s a great idea.

MARK SHIELDS: Please.

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

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

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Brooks and Marcus on executive action precedent, prospective presidential candidates


Fri, Nov 21, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: From a failed vote in the Senate to green-light the Keystone pipeline, to the president’s call to arms on immigration, it was another week of conflict among the politically powerful.

To analyze it all, Brooks and Marcus. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.

And we welcome you both.

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, now that you have had a whole day to think about it, David, how is the president’s announcement on immigration sitting?

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I have utterly changed my mind. It’s a great thing.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: No, I still think it’s terrible.

First, constitutionally, my paper did a good story on whether this was constitutional. And the White House did get 10 pretty serious legal scholars to say it was. There’s a vast number who think it wasn’t. And so I guess the legal scholars are divided.

I think the ones who think it was an unprecedented grab of executive power are probably on the right side, but that’s me. Politically, we have had four years without a single law being passed in this country, a major piece of legislation. We’re now going to have two more.

This is going to end. This is going to — this period of gridlock is going to end some day, and people will actually cooperate, they will do things, they will build coalitions, they will pass things by a majority vote by the way the Constitution designed.

But what happened last night will make that harder and push that date further on. The sort of unilateral action the president took will make passing immigration reform harder and it will make other reform harder.

The number one issue in this country is restoring the legitimacy of government. And I don’t care whether he thinks he was — whether the president thinks he was justified or not. By the way, the Republicans did — and the somebody have certainly behaved as obstructionists at times. Somebody’s going to step out of this cycle, and he just embedded the cycle another few feet deeper.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to get to the bigger picture in a minute.

But for immigration — from the standpoint of just immigration, Ruth, what do you see?

RUTH MARCUS: Well, it’s hard these days to vote against gridlock in Washington. Nobody ever went broke voting on the theory that we’re going to have more gridlock.

And so I think David is right on that. On the immigration front, I think I see it slightly differently than David, which is I thought the president made two very powerful points last night. The first is the humanitarian point on the implications of just allowing this situation to fester, which both of us obviously feel is a problem.

The second is to put what he did in context of what presidents, Republican and Democrat, have done before on immigration. And so there I think you’re a little bit overstating the case of the president overstepping his executive authority.

And the final important thing that happened yesterday wasn’t what the president said, but what he did, because they didn’t just have the 10 legal scholars. And we can argue about how many legal scholars each side has. They put out a memo from the Office of Legal Counsel explaining and supporting the legality of what the president did.

That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I have some concerns along the lines of what David has about what I call the constitutional prudence of what he did. I have fewer doubts about the legality. My concern is what future presidents are going to — how future presidents are going to use this precedent to do other things, to ignore other laws.

But, on immigration, maybe the time just had to come to act.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David, should more to have the focus be on the constitutional question and legality, or should more of the focus be, OK, it’s happened, let’s deal with it politically?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Well, first, I think it should be on the Constitution. As I say, the number one issue — there are two issues. One is the substance of the status of the five million people who are affected. And on the substance, I’m totally with the president on that.

But the larger issue is, do people have faith in the government, does our government function, does our legislative process function? And the Constitution is not just a legal argument. It is a set of norms and practices. And it’s also — it’s a political document. And it seems to me that what the president did violated the spirit of the politics of that document, which is that we go through the legislative process.

RUTH MARCUS: But in terms of faith in government, David, I guess I just have to argue with you a little bit, though I share your concerns.

When people see government not functioning, their concern is not what the checks and balances are between the branches. Maybe it should be. Their concern is, there is a problem, there is an injustice, there is a health care portal that doesn’t work. We want to see that work. There are people flowing through the border.

It’s not — they want government to act and act effectively. Here, I think, you could make an argument that the president was acting in a way to restore some faith in the ability of government to rectify injustices.

DAVID BROOKS: No, I disagree with that.

RUTH MARCUS: All right. Well…

DAVID BROOKS: So, we don’t have a government of a dictatorship. We don’t even have a parliamentary system. So you don’t get one person saying it’s my way or the highway. Pass the bill.

RUTH MARCUS: Of course you don’t. Of course you don’t.

The question, though, is he does have this document from the Office of Legal Counsel. They serve — their job is to sort of serve presidents of both parties. They tell him, you can do this and this, you can’t go this far, you can’t help the families of the dreamers.

He stuck by that. So I kind of have a hard time completely dinging him, the way you do.

DAVID BROOKS: OK.

Well, but…

RUTH MARCUS: We’re just going to hijack this whole thing.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we want to hear you two argue this out.

Finish your point.

DAVID BROOKS: His first three years basically were the opposite position of what he has now, semi, at least semi.

RUTH MARCUS: Semi.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: At least semi.

And we will have one day. OK. We have one day where maybe five million people get helped, but we’re now going to live with another two years where on a zillion other issues nothing is going to happen.

RUTH MARCUS: Was anything going to happen on those zillion issues absent this?

DAVID BROOKS: Potentially. Potentially.

A couple things on trade policy could have happened, a couple things on patent reform, which is boring, but important, maybe tax reform. And there was a sincere attempt I think by the Republicans, not only out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of their own self-interests, to have normal budget rules, to have a budget process that worked, and a congressional process that looked normal where bills went into committee, they came out of the committee, they were voted on by the floor.

They really wanted to do that. That is probably not going to happen now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re saying — but you’re blaming — and you’re blaming it on the president’s decision?

DAVID BROOKS: Not only on the president.

RUTH MARCUS: And I’m going to be uncharacteristically optimistic here in this sense.

(LAUGHTER)

RUTH MARCUS: I’m going to be pessimistic in the sense that Washington is and was and will remain for the most part gridlocked, whether or not the president did this.

But I would also argue that all of the things that — all of the forces that gave the Republicans an interest in showing that they could govern, showing that they could pass laws, showing that they could be effective prevail even in the face of this action.

It certainly doesn’t make it easier. It certainly makes it harder. But I would point there on — to things like getting trade agreements passed. There, the president disagrees with the base of his party. He can make a coalition with the Republicans. There are still reasons on that and on getting the normal budget process done to actually at least hope for some progress.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And isn’t there disagreement, seriously, among Republicans over how to deal with this?

Some are them are ready to just slam the door and say, we’re not doing anything, we’re going to sue the president, we’re going to impeach the president. And others are saying, no, we recognize this has happened, and we have got — there are some things that we want to do business with…

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

And I think there’s the Michele Bachmanns of the world. I don’t know what they want to do, chop off New York and Illinois and send it off to another country or something.

But the John Boehners and the Mitch McConnells are not going to let that happen. There is not going to be a government shutdown. They’re probably not even — going to fund the immigration agencies that are involved in this. So, the extreme will not happen. The Republican Party has changed a lot in the last year. It’s a much more establishment party.

The leadership is back in control. But they will have to do something. And they will have to change their posture. And their confrontation with the president over the budget issues to come will just be more hostile, because the tit for tat of hostility has increased.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meanwhile, they’re suing the president over health care. This was this lawsuit that was threatened some months ago. And now that is finally under way.

RUTH MARCUS: Right.

And my attitude towards that is, fine, go ahead and sue. It’s actually — it’s not going anywhere, I’m sorry to say. There’s a lot of rules that courts have that say basically, we don’t want to get involved in refereeing your disputes between these two branches, so leave us alone.

But if that drains off some of the energy, I say, go ahead. Don’t only sue him over health care. Sue him over this, too.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s — OK, let’s…

DAVID BROOKS: Lawyers are always for suits.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, 2016, I just…

RUTH MARCUS: I have a good law firm to suggest also.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Can’t do it on this show.

All right, we want to show everybody. There was at least one person who came out in support of the president. And that was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who tweeted just an hour or two before the president’s remarks, she said: “Thanks to POTUS for taking action on immigration, in the face of inaction. Now let’s turn to permanent bipartisan reform.”

All right, 2016, David, everybody expects that she’s going to run. But my question is about the Republicans. How much are they hurt, or are they, by taking this — this very anti-position on immigration right now?

DAVID BROOKS: In 2016, they are not hurt. They might be hurt in 2024 or 2030, but I don’t think they will be hurt particularly. The electorate this past election was 75 percent white. And the American whites are overwhelmingly Republican.

RUTH MARCUS: That was a midterm, you think?

DAVID BROOKS: That was a midterm, yes.

RUTH MARCUS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: No, that’s true. But — so they will be hurt, but I don’t think that will be a — the ruinous thing that it will be in the years to come. They still have the long-range problem, but I don’t think it will be crucial thing in the next — even in this presidential.

RUTH MARCUS: Boy, it can’t make it easier.

And it seems to me that the question that’s going to be asked during Republican primaries in every single debate is, will you rescind what the president did to help five million people, some of whom, children and spouses and everything will be able to vote?

And they’re all going to have to say, yes, I will rescind it. And they will compete to explain how quickly they are going to rescind it. And that is not going to be good for the Republican Party.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. We will see.

RUTH MARCUS: Meanwhile, I think there is going to be pressure on the Democratic candidates.

It’s interesting. Hillary Clinton had been under pressure from some Hispanic groups to press the president to act before the election. I think she is going to be asked, will you go further, will you go further, what more will you do?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it — let’s look at those.

You have already got some Republicans. It’s only two weeks almost since the midterms. You have already got Republicans out there talking about whether they’re going to — or people talking about whether they’re going to run, whether it’s Jeb Bush. John Kasich won by 30 points in the state of Ohio, won reelection.

Are we beginning, David, to see the shape of who may run on the Republican side? We know, on the Democratic side, Jim Webb, the former United States senator from Virginia, formed an exploratory committee.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I don’t know how much a threat you think he is to Hillary Clinton.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

Well, on the Republican side, the great and the good are hoping for Jeb Bush, very pro-immigration, by the way. And I think he would…

RUTH MARCUS: … Jeb Bush.

DAVID BROOKS: If he runs, he would be strong.

John Kasich has been undertalked about. He is — knows Washington very well, was a senior budget official, a congressman. He has been a very successful governor, very popular, won by huge margins in the swingiest of the swing states, has strong connections in among religious conservatives, is just quirky enough for a country that’s kind of angry, but just establishment enough for a country that doesn’t want a crazy person.

I think he’s actually — the more you think about John Kasich, the — the well-positioned I think he is. Webb is fascinating. He’s a Jacksonian. He’s a Scots-Irish Jacksonian. I’m not sure those people exist anymore in the Democratic Party.

But it would be fascinating for him to run. He would run from the left. And the big room for Hillary is on — he would run from the right of Hillary.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

DAVID BROOKS: The big room is on the left. And we will see if anybody leaps into that, aside from Bernie Sanders.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see any outlines out there?

RUTH MARCUS: So, I think Kasich is really interesting, I think especially if Jeb Bush decides not the run. There was — the Republican Party would do well to think really seriously about John Kasich, said pro things about immigration, even this week at the Republican Governors Association, supports Common Core, expanded Medicaid in his state.

Those are some pretty interesting positions for a Republican. Jim Webb, if I were Hillary Clinton, I would lose not a nanosecond of sleep about Jim Webb.

(LAUGHTER)

RUTH MARCUS: I think a man who wrote an article called “Women Can’t Fight,” albeit in 1979, who supported don’t ask, don’t tell in 2006 is not going to be the Democratic Party’s nominee.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And somebody remembers all this.

RUTH MARCUS: Somebody remembers.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Her name is Ruth Marcus.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ruth Marcus, David Brooks…

RUTH MARCUS: That’s because I can fight.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: You certainly can.

And David Brooks, we thank you both.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I’m a lover, not a fighter.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thanks.

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Shields and Brooks on the China carbon deal, Obama’s immigration action


Fri, Nov 14, 2014


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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama strikes a climate change deal, with talk of executive action on immigration, as Congress returns to take on Keystone.

To analyze it all, Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

And, Mark, since you look like you’re climbing out of the banks of Charles River behind you in Boston, I will start with you.

(LAUGHTER)

HARI SREENIVASAN: This deal the — the climate deal that was struck at the Asian summit with the president and the Chinese president, Xi, big deal?

MARK SHIELDS: I think it’s a big deal.

Let’s first understand you don’t cobble together something of this significance on the spot or over the weekend. They have been working on it for months, and I think credit, or blame, I guess, in some quarters has to be to the president, John Kerry, the secretary of state, to John Podesta, for whom it’s been a priority at the White House.

But I think it’s significance because one of the principal arguments against moving on carbon emissions has been that the United States, to act unilaterally, that would let China off the hook. And now with the United States and China, the two biggest polluters globally, moving together, it puts pressure. It blows the cover of those other countries. It puts pressure on India and other places.

HARI SREENIVASAN: David?

DAVID BROOKS: I hope so.

Well, first, it’s a big deal just because we reached a major agreement with China. U.S.-China relations have been deteriorating, not because of anything the U.S. has done or Barack Obama has done, because of what China has done. They have gotten more aggressive on all sorts of military fronts, in the oceans.

And there was some danger that the U.S. and China could just have a much more hostile relationship. So, it’s good to see some positive agreement. It’s good to see goals. And that’s what sad.

I guess my question is, what exactly — what’s changing? China promised in 15 years to — or a little more than 15 years to set some targets, no interim targets, just some big target a chunk of time away from now. We have agreed to set targets, but what policies are actually going to change? Will there be a carbon tax? How aggressively will China move to get away from coal toward oil and natural gas or other cleaner forms?

It’s hard to know. But at least they got a deal and at least they set a vision. So, it’s more like a precedent, but it’s sort of hollow in the middle.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So, because of those lack of targets, do you think that Congress will be easier on them?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, the targets are there. What’s not there is the means to reach the targets.

And so it depends what the means are. And so will we get a big global climate deal? Well, clearly, it makes more likely. The big global climate deal was pretty much dead. But when you got — as Mark said, when the two largest polluters are on board, that at least creates a little life. Will Congress ratify that? No way. We’re not going to do that.

And so we’re not going to get a big global climate treaty. But at least, nation by nation, you can begin to see China actually moving toward cleaner forms of energy, which they have to do both for economic reasons, but also so they can breathe in their cities.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark, do you think he’s going to get pushback in Congress for this?

MARK SHIELDS: I think there will be pushback in Congress. There’s no question, especially with Jim Inhofe, the new chairman of the Environmental Committee in the Senate, who is essentially an archfoe and a denier on climate change.

But I think that — two things. China is under the gun. I mean, they’re under the gun at home, as David put, on their own air. They had to close down the industrial plants 400 miles away to clean up the air just so they could have the economic — the Asian economic conference there in Beijing. That’s how bad it is.

And let’s be very blunt about it. They’re going to be competing now on alternative energy, which I think, as the president has pointed out, is good for the United States as well. If there’s a competition in that area, it can only be good for humankind.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

Shifting gears about energy, let’s talk about the Keystone XL pipeline. The House voted on it today. It’s likely to get to the Senate floor, at least on Tuesday. Is this purely political? I mean, it was motivated in part by the race that is happening in Louisiana with Mary Landrieu and her competitor.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, it’s purely political in the timing. There’s nothing wrong with politics. It’s interest people — interest groups trying to get their interests advanced.

And so the timing is political. I happen to think the president’s opposition is purely political. There is a big State Department series of reports, gigantic reports on the effect of the Keystone pipeline. They found, economically, it would create thousands of jobs, not huge amounts of job, but thousands of jobs. The economic damage, they found, would be none.

The greenhouse gas emissions, that oil is going to be pumped or not pumped depending on the price of crude, not depending on whether we have a pipeline. It’s either going to be pumped and sent through hundreds of thousands of train cars or be sent in a more environmentally friendly way under the ground.

And so the environmental rationale for the pipeline seems to be strong. The economic rationale is not huge, but it’s significant. And so if you follow the science, if you follow the research, the case for the pipeline is overwhelming. The president is not doing it to secure his left base, because it’s a good a fund-raising tool for a lot of people. Not for very good reasons.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: This has to be the most thoroughly researched, meticulously studied idea, this pipeline, in the history of humankind.

It’s been slow-walked to the point of a standstill. And now it’s going to come to a vote finally in the Senate because Mary Landrieu, who is in a runoff for her Senate seat and an underdog in Louisiana December 6, has pushed it and is going to demonstrate her own independence from the White House and her clout or leadership or however you want to put it.

And the senators who want to vote against it will get a chance to vote against it. And people who want to vote for it will vote for it. And I think the president will veto it. And I think that will be the end of it, other than it won’t be built, and it will not be a major issue in the 2016 campaign.

But I do think that the argument basically politically is on the side of those who want to build it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

Something that will likely show up in the 2016 campaign is immigration. The president has said he plans to use an exclusive order to deal with immigration. We don’t know exactly what day that will show up. But do you think that there’s a chance for comprehensive immigration reform without an executive order, or does an executive order actually decrease those chances, David?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it decreases.

I support president’s the position on the policy, on the substance of it. A lot of what it does is going to keep families together. And so, on the substance of it, I think it’s fine. On the politics of it, on the effect on our country, I think it’s just a terrible, terrible idea, sort of a Ted Cruz stick in the eye of any chance we would have bipartisanship.

The Republicans were saying reasonable things after their victory:  We want to start out small. Let’s try to pass some legislation on things where we agree on.

And they weren’t major pieces of legislation, but they were pieces. It would be nice to pass a law. We haven’t passed a significant piece of legislation in this country in like four years. It would be nice to do something just to get something done.

I think this very aggressive way the president has led with a very difficult issue makes that much less likely. Second, I do think it takes immigration reform much less likely over the next five or 10 years. I think the Republicans were eventually going to have to get around to it. Just — they just know eventually they have to get around to passing this thing. That makes it much less likely.

And then, finally, I just think it’s constitutional overreach. Basically, five million people, maybe six million people are going to be affected by this. I think it just, constitutionally, for the sake of our system, when you have something that major, redefining the status of five million or six million people, I think it should go through the legislative process. I’m not a constitutional lawyer. I don’t know the effect of that.

But I just think it’s a major change in American policy, and it would be nice to go through Congress, rather than just by the signature of a pen.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think it’s always nicer to go through Congress.

I would just point out that, after the 2012 election, Republicans went through a period of deep introspection. They concluded as a party that they had to do something on this issue, that they had — were seen as anti-immigrant, not only to Latinos, but also to Asians and other minorities in this country.

And so they didn’t do anything about it. They — some Republicans joined the 68-32 majority in the Senate on June 27, 2013, to pass a really comprehensive immigration reform bill. And John Boehner, the speaker of the House, had negotiations with the president, couldn’t bring it up for a vote, couldn’t bring it up for a vote. It had the votes to pass in the House, but it wouldn’t pass with a majority of Republicans.

The House voted 54 times to repeal Obamacare, 54 times, but they couldn’t vote once on immigration. Obamacare was never going to go anywhere in the Senate, the repeal of it, that is. And this is something that could have become law.

And the president had told the speaker that — in private conversation, that he was going to act. He didn’t act before election because of, quite frankly, Democratic senators in red states were concerned about it. But he’s not the first president to do it.

Ronald Wilson Reagan in 1987 unilaterally moved to protect 200,000 Nicaraguans from returning to the Sandinista regime. So — and so did President Kennedy and President Johnson and President Clinton and President Bush.

So, you know, I think it wasn’t going to happen anyway. I agree with David. It would be nice to have harmony, but when the principal priority of your opposition is to repeal the signature legislation of your administration, Obamacare, you know, I think the hopes for that are probably pretty unrealistic.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark, what about the fact that, if this comes through an executive action, that it could be rescinded by the next president?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. And that’s the key point.

I mean, any time either side advocates executive action — Republicans did it under President Bush, and Democrats are certainly doing it under President Obama — it’s with the understanding that, A, you’re expanding executive power, and that — usually at the cost of the legislative power and regular order.

But you’re also risking it’s just going to be repealed. But I think, quite frankly — and I think David would agree — that it’s unlikely whoever is elected in 2016 would set about repealing that law — that act.

HARI SREENIVASAN: David, the topics that we’re all talking about in the context of the results from the midterm elections that just happened, do you see a general pattern here? Is this part of a more concerted strategy from the White House, saying, here’s the two years that we have got left, here’s what Congress looks like, here’s what we can do, and let’s just start going out and doing it?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Well, there are a couple ways to interpret that, and I suspect all these things are part of the thinking. One is, there’s a lot of stuff we want to do. We held back just for political relationships. As you say, let’s just get it done. We believe in this. Let’s do it.

The second, more cynical strategy is the idea that the Republicans have a strong incentive to get stuff done. Anybody who wins elections, they want to pass stuff. And if you can obstruct, it seems you can hurt them. The Republicans obstructed President Obama when he won. Now President Obama is going to obstruct the Republicans.

And that’s a tit for tat. And the problem is, we’re stuck with that. We’re stuck with World War I, essentially, with everybody obstructing the other.

The third fact factor here is money. The — my newspaper has a story on the powerful — the $300 million the immigration groups have pumped into some of the immigration reform. The Keystone pipeline is a big fund-raiser. And so every politician is thinking about, how do we keep the donor base going? And I wouldn’t say that’s the major element here, but that is certainly an element here.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

Mark, we have got about 30 seconds.

MARK SHIELDS: I think there’s no question that the tension in immigration is between the Republicans in the Senate and Republicans in the House.

Mitch McConnell’s on record saying, under no circumstances will we close the — shut down the federal government, will we default on the federal debt, on the national debt. The speaker, with a — as he calls them, 16 knuckleheads in his caucus, probably more after the election, is in a position where he says, we can’t take anything off the table.

And he has got members now talking about impeachment. So, that — and there’s no question there’s been mischief created in the Republican ranks by the White House.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, “New York Times” columnist David Brooks, thank so much.

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Shields and Brooks on Republican victory, immigration confrontation


Fri, Nov 07, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: The midterm elections came and went this week, as you may have noticed, and Republicans rode the wave to control Congress.

To break it all down, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, you have had three whole days to digest the results of this election.

What was the main message, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think it was just the breadth of the Republican victory.

We were all focused on whether it would be seven or eight seats in the Senate. But the more impressive thing, they obviously won the Senate, they won the House, they have kept the House. But just in the states, I didn’t expect the governorships in all these Midwestern states, Bruce Rauner’s win in Illinois, the win in Maryland.

They control two-thirds of the governorships. They have never had, at least not in the last century, this many state legislators, this many legislators in all the different states. They control unprecedented levels of state legislators. They have now got a farm team across the country of rising politicians who will rise.

And so they have become, with two-thirds control of all these states, these governorships and now majority control in both houses of Congress, the governing, the dominant governing party in the country.

And what they do with it remain to be seen, but a lot of people have said, oh, the Republican is so extreme, it’s a dinosaur, and I have even said some of that, over-relying on some of the demographics. But they are the dominant party in this country right now. And how can you be out of the mainstream if you dominate that much?

JUDY WOODRUFF: What was your main takeaway 72 hours later?

MARK SHIELDS: Thrashing, trouncing.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: You used wave.

No question about it, it was a repudiation of Democratic governance. And I — like David, I was particularly struck and impressed by the Republican victories in deep blue states, in states that Barack Obama carried twice, and deep blue states like Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland in particular, but the reelection of controversial Republican governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Rick Scott in Florida.

Beyond that, there were 256 Democrats in the House of Representatives the day that Barack Obama took oath of office in 2009. There will be about 185 six years in. So the Senate goes from 60 Democrats to 45. I mean, those are numbers that are just of hemorrhage, dimensions and proportions. And it’s a real rejection of Democrats.

The president, I thought, was rather cavalier in his press conference when he said, the Republicans had a good night. The Republicans have had a good six years at the polls, with the exception of the president’s election and reelection.

I just think it’s — for Democrats, it’s a terrible, terrible, crushing defeat, and one that leaves them, I hope, engaged in serious introspection, because they went through a campaign where they had no economic message.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, something else the president said was that, yes, he hears what the people who voted said, but he also notices the two-thirds who he said didn’t vote.

So, is this — David, is this a diminished result? Does it mean less because you had a lower turnout, I guess the lowest turnout in decades?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I don’t think so. First of all, you win. You get the power. You have control of the office.

Second thing is, not turning out is a vote. The president failed to mobilize, the Democrats failed to mobilize their people. And the Republicans succeeded in mobilizing their people. And that’s because there was so much disappointment and dispiritment even on the Democratic side with the Obama administration.

And so I don’t think it invalidates what happens. And even in states where the turnout was pretty good, like Colorado, Republicans did quite well. Now, if they had a presidential year, turnout, would it look different? Obviously. But an election result is an election result. That’s an excuse.

The core problem for the Democrats is that they have — they’re intellectually exhausted. They have a diagnosis of a big problem of inequality. They have — they’re on the heels of a financial crisis caused in part by Wall Street. This should be a golden left-wing moment. This should be a progressive moment in this country.

And they don’t have even the twinkle of a big agenda. And they don’t — the instrument they rely on, government, is mistrusted. And so it’s not a progressive era, but this should be a big left-wing era, if they had a set of ideas.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, just an excuse that the turnout was low and you didn’t really hear — you didn’t hear from as many voters as you needed to, to understand what the American people really want?

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, you only get to complain in democracy if you vote. I mean, it’s that simple.

Now, I’m not talking about efforts to suppress people or make it difficult for them to register. I’m talking about — which I think we all abhor, and I know everybody on this panel does. But I’m talking about people who just don’t disturb themselves.

But you have to give people a reason. It’s great to have the mechanics and slice and dice the electorate and to find out that this voter likes foreign movies and is a vegan and goes to church every other Sunday, but unless you have got a message for them — now, I don’t — I, quite frankly, don’t see what the Republicans — the Republicans who won don’t come with any cohesive message themselves.

All 14 of the ones who were running and the ones who won, with the exception of Shelley Moore Capito…

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean in the Senate.

MARK SHIELDS: In the Senate — all want to repeal, are on record wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Every one of them is against any legal status, citizenship, path to citizenship under immigration. So Domenico’s observation and report earlier that there would be nothing on immigration reform is just borne out. I mean, these are not people who came on a — running on a platform of, we’re going to cooperate with the president, we want to work closely with the White House.

Quite the opposite. And they going to take the party — I think Mitch McConnell and John Boehner right now realize that, as David has pointed out, that the Republican Party has to show some governing capability, and — but these are people who didn’t come here to establish a record of collegiality.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think I disagree a little on those big issues that Mark mentioned, obviously. I mean, I agree with Mark that, on the big issues of immigration, on whether they are going to repeal health care, there’s going to be no cooperation.

I do think those opportunities — and I think the Republicans, especially Boehner and McConnell, have done a reasonably good job in the days since the election of indicating a willingness to cooperate on at least on some things. There are some things for which there is bipartisan support, the Keystone pipeline, patent reform, trade policy, the medical devices tax.

There is maybe a half-dozen medium and small things to be done. And it seems to me that — it is possible at least to get something passed, which we haven’t had in the last four years. And that’s endangered either if the Ted Cruz of the Republican Party takes over, which wants maximum confrontation, or it’s endangered if the president pushes this immigration thing, in which he grants a lot of people effective amnesty, millions of people, if he redefines their status.

That would be regarded by Republicans as extremely confrontational and that would end any hope of compromise.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But why…

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: … slightly willing to compromise on a few things, at least

JUDY WOODRUFF: But why is that any more confrontational than the Republicans saying, we’re going to go after and try to kill health care reform again?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think if they lead with health care repeal, I do think that would be. And if the president leads with that immigration reform, that would be as well. But start with the small stuff.

MARK SHIELDS: They — repealing taxes is not controversial.

And gridlock and dysfunction…

JUDY WOODRUFF: The medical device…

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS: Medical device taxes. I mean, you have got to come up with $29 million — billion dollars to make up for it.

And I think every Republican I heard this year is on record against any tax increases. So, that’s one thing. The second thing, Judy — and I think it’s awfully important to point out that Mitch McConnell now is against gridlock and dysfunction.

There were 458 times during Barack Obama’s six years in office that there had been a filibuster or the threat of a filibuster to stop the Senate from acting. During Dwight Eisenhower’s eight years, there were two. During Ronald Reagan’s, there were 75 in eight years.

This is in six years. So it’s going to be a total — it’s going to be a 180 if, in fact, this does happen. And the Senate is tough, because all it takes is one person to stop it. And you can talk about it’s not being a Ted Cruz caucus or a Mike Lee caucus. But I really think it’s going to be a problem for the Republicans. And I think that’s where the action is, is to watch that dynamic.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying you don’t take Mitch McConnell at his word when he says, I’m looking for ways to cooperate? I’m first going to look for areas of agreement with the president, is what he said.

MARK SHIELDS: I think he understands it’s important for the — if the Republicans are going to be a governing party and seen as responsible and an alternative in 2016 to national leadership, they have to demonstrate, now that they’re in charge, that they can pass something besides a motion to adjourn or a Mother’s Day resolution.

And I think that he understands that. I think the trade authority is a natural one, because it divides Democrats and it unites Republicans, and with the president, who wants that trade authority. I think the — and probably the medical device taxes.

But I think, once you start to get into issues like immigration and what we do with the environment, you have got candidates who want to abolish EPA. You have got — who just got elected. You have got a senator from Iowa who wants to not raise the minimum wage, wants to abolish the minimum wage.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, you’re saying you still see that there is some space here to get…

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Let’s not go from nursery school to graduate school. Let’s try kindergarten.

And we can get some legislative kindergarten, some small things. And some of the things can be economic. I think you can get some proposals, to maybe even early childhood, though that may be a stretch. But there are some — there may be some things, some infrastructure. There has certainly been bipartisan support for that, lowering the tax rate, something to get more people a little happier about the economy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to come back though to the president, because both of you referred to not a message.

And yet, when we heard from the president, he was saying, again, you know, he said, I hear you, and he also seemed — I mean, he’s insisting, Mark, on immigration reform, which is what we’re talking about.

It’s that if he doesn’t get it, then he’s going to act. Do you think the president got a message from this election, I guess, is my question.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure.

I will say this, Judy. If you were a Republican who lost in 1982 in Ronald Reagan’s first midterm, you had the comfort and the consolation of having voted for something big, even though you lost, or the same thing if you were a first-term Democrat with Bill Clinton or even a first-term Democrat in Barack Obama. You had voted for affordable care. You had voted for stimulus. You had voted for Dodd-Frank. You had really taken some tough stands.

You lose in 2012 and you lost because of the climate of this administration has created because of Veterans Administration, because of Ebola, because of the Secret Service, because the sense that they — of ineptitude of governing, not because of tough heroic stands or votes you have cast. And so there is a certain resentment, and I’m not sure the president has gotten that message.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Well, politically, they obviously made a mistake by thinking demographics could carry them along the way and they didn’t actually need issues. And that was a consultants’ fantasy. And that hurt the Democrats.

On President Obama, the immigration thing is important. I support the idea of giving all these people this new status. But doing it by executive functioning — function, executive action, redefining the status of millions of people without a law, without going through the normal process, that strikes me as an extreme abuse of executive power, whether you support it on policy or not.

And that is why that particular action that he’s talking about is so confrontational, because it’s not only policy a lot of Republicans object to it. But as members of Congress, they object to it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. Well, we never object to the two of you. We’re so glad you’re here.

David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on the midterm mood


Fri, Oct 31, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to politics now and the final stretch of campaigning, with Election Day just four days away.

Plenty of heavy hitters were on the trail this week, from former President Bill Clinton in Kentucky, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Iowa, Mitt Romney in Kansas, Jeb Bush in Colorado, and lots of others.

So what should we be watching heading into this final weekend?

Joining us now are Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

We can’t wait. We’re almost there.

Mark, we’re heading into the last few days.

MARK SHIELDS: What?

JUDY WOODRUFF: What does your gut…

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Don’t tell me it’s over.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: I — can we have another week, please?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what you’re thinking?

MARK SHIELDS: Can we stay up late tonight, Judy?  Can we stay up late?

JUDY WOODRUFF: What are your sources and what does your gut does tell?

MARK SHIELDS: My gut — and when my gut speaks, I listen to it.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: It’s a — I would say Republicans have to feel better than Democrats do heading into Tuesday.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senate races.

MARK SHIELDS: Senate races. The governor’s races, I think, are races that stand far less on partisan grounds and more mano a mano, if I can use the sexist term, on individual records, and incumbents’ judgment.

But the Senate, it’s not only the terrain. The Republicans are playing on a home field with a big advantage politically. But it’s the mood and it’s for the Republicans and against the Democrats.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What’s your instinct?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. My gut is with Mark’s gut.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I have the same feeling.

All the models say the Republicans are likely to take over the Senate. A couple of things, one, ticket-splitting. There used to be a lot of people ticket-splitting. They would vote for a Democrat up here, Republican down there, vice versa. That just happens less.

One of the reasons is, the electorate is more educated. The more educated a person, the less likely their ticket splits.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Interesting.

DAVID BROOKS: College apparently teaches people to think less.

No, they’re more ideological. They give themselves ideological labels. Obama’s a drag. If you look at his numbers in a lot of these states, where he was with groups like women and Latinos, he’s come down a lot, and so it’s just a big drag. There are a lot of undecided voters out there.

And my newspaper had a story today suggesting the early voting, there are some good signs for Democrats, so it’s not a lock. But when the country’s unhappy, the president is in a sixth year, it doesn’t take — it’s not brain surgery that the out party is going to do OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you watching for here at the end, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, the first two in — I’m looking at New Hampshire and North Carolina, Jeanne Shaheen, Democratic incumbent in New Hampshire, and Kay Hagan, Democratic, embattled in North Carolina.

Obama carried New Hampshire twice. Jeanne Shaheen has been favored. Scott Brown, the transplant from Massachusetts, has narrowed that race. It’s a tossup. I would say if Jeanne Shaheen and Kay Hagan win, the two Democrats in those two states, then the Republican sweep is nonexistent in 2014.

But, beyond that, Judy, I have to look at the states that the president did carry where Democrats are running, Iowa, Colorado. If the Democrats lose those, I think that’s significant and it will indicate that the Republicans are having a very good evening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what you’re seeing?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I actually was hoping to give the same answer.

You know, the Republicans will do well in the red states. They’re probably going to do well in Arkansas, places like that, West Virginia, obviously, probably Louisiana, but if the victory — winning over your own people is good. It’s not a huge victory.

So they could do that and still even win the Senate, but if they can get in these purple states, then they’re really showing — they’re breaking out of their pattern, and their pattern has been, especially over the last four years, is they’re toxic. People, even some traditional Republicans, are unhappy with the Republican Party.

But has the party detoxified themselves?  Have they returned from sort of a Tea Party, which generates intensity, but scares a lot of people?  Are they now seen again as sort of a business party that maybe will get the economy going?  And if they start winning some of those purple states, the North Carolinas of the world, or even if Scott Walker wins in Wisconsin in the governor’s race there, then you begin to think, OK, they have improved their image with some of the swing voters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David kind of began to answer this question a minute ago, but, Mark, I want to turn on its head.

A lot of talk about how much trouble the Democrats are in. But as both of you point out, they are fighting on territory that is pretty red. These are states, many of these states, that Mitt Romney won by double digits, some 23, 27 points in West Virginia a couple of years ago.

So you — if you turn the question on its head, you could say why aren’t Republicans running away with some of these races in the states where Democrats…

MARK SHIELDS: It’s a good question.

And my only answer would be that the first time I was on Capitol Hill, an old-timer took me aside and was looking at some kind of down-at-the-heels congressman. And he said, see that guy?  And he said, he knows more about pork belly futures than anybody in his state.

And he went on and said, everybody that’s in this body, House or the Senate, has something going for them, and it’s up to you to figure out what it is, because there are at least 1,000 or maybe 5,000 people in the state of ability and ambition who would like to have that seat.

So the Democrats who are holding those seats are gifted political operatives. They have survived in hostile territory, Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor. They have managed to do it. And the fact that their — that time and tradition and trends are running against them makes it even tougher for them.

But, I mean, you have got to acknowledge that these are skilled, able people who have performed satisfactorily to the voters of those states.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

DAVID BROOKS: Landrieu in particular has pulled rabbits out of the hat on numerous, a couple of occasions. Coming up, it might be too uphill.

I would say the other thing — and here’s a substantive point — the Republicans don’t have a growth agenda. The Democrats don’t have it either. But if you look at where the polling is on issue by issue, people still think the Democrats are more like them.

They do like the Republican positions on spending. They do like the Republican positions on Obamacare, but the number one issue is who can create jobs and who can create growth.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

DAVID BROOKS: And you would not say that the Republicans have come forward with some agenda to do that. I’m not sure Democrats have either. But without that positive agenda, it’s hard to get a big wave going.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of growth, we’re looking at an economy now that is — what, they put out GDP numbers the other day. It’s growing at 3.5 percent, more than it has in years. The unemployment, the rate is the lowest, Mark, it’s been in years. Wages are finally showing some life. They’re started to come up, consumer confidence up.

And yet none of this is translating into good news for the party in power.

MARK SHIELDS: No.

There’s an irony. The stock market, just take the Dow Jones average, is up 10,000 points since Barack Obama has been in the White House. And you’re right. The last six months have been the best six months of growth in the past 11 years. So it really is good news.

The problem is, Judy, that’s big picture. And people don’t feel it. The median income, family income, has been down every year since 2006. It is lower now than it was in 2000, in the year 2000. The share of wealth that goes to the top, 1 percent in the country has doubled.

And so there’s a sense that the rising tide has lifted all yachts.  But it hasn’t lifted all boats. And that’s really what it is. It’s not a knock on the overall big economy. It’s what my life is, where my own chances of success and providing for my children or my family are, if anything, more threatened than they were.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Because you have all these statistics on the one hand. But, David, on the other hand, two-thirds of voters are saying they don’t like the direction the country is headed in.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

Well, first of all, there’s an economic lag here. The growth rate really has to be going in August, September, July for people to notice in an election. Historically, there’s been a period. It has to — you have to get a bunch of months where the confidence is going up.

Second, do people feel, well, I can leave my — the job which I’m kind of unhappy with and there will be other opportunities around?  They don’t feel that, not at the same wages. So, until that happens, they are going to feel bad, because they know their own personal experience.

Third, I think there’s a feeling that we’re weak abroad. I think there’s more foreign policy in this election than recent elections. And there’s a sense we’re not strong on the world. There’s a lot going on in the world that we are not controlling.

And then finally, the president — and this feeds into that — doesn’t seem to be shaping agendas. And maybe it’s impossible. Maybe it’s an unrealistic expectation to expect him to, but the Obama drag really is the core thing here. People are seeing the president, 38 approval on the economy and foreign policy. That’s the core thing, disappointment.

MARK SHIELDS: I disagree. I think it’s more of an economic election than a national security election.

And I’m not arguing that that question of certainly lack of confidence or doubt has increased in the White House, but the basic concern is that of the economy. And I think that that’s the irony, is that these big, good numbers you have cited don’t translate into support for the president.

I mean, 10 million more people have health care than had it a year-and-a-half ago. It’s a — really, the great legacy you can make, a great statement about transformational presidency, but it’s not much of a help if you’re a Democrat running in a — any kind of hostile area.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Because it makes you want to ask, do statistics lie?  Do they just not mean anything for people?

DAVID BROOKS: The ones I disagree with lie.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: No, a lot of it is everything is pros and cons, but there is an overall feel.

And maybe the country is wrong. Maybe they should be more cheered up. I could easily make that case. If you compare the way we were in the ’70s, the ’30s, the ’40s, worse problems than now, but there’s a general sense our institutions are not working. And that may be a mood, it may be a perception. I think there’s some substance to it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s a — we have talked a lot in this campaign over the last few months about how negative the campaign is. Ads are just over the top, negative, mudslinging just about everywhere in the contested states.

So, my last question to both of you is, what do you see out there that’s uplifting and makes you feel better about the country, Mark, as we go into this midterm election?

MARK SHIELDS: That lieutenant governor’s race in Montana.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s a long silence.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, it’s a good question, and I wish I had a good answer for it.

I’m not charged up or encouraged by what I have seen. The negative commercials which, we’re careful now, and uncoordinated between the independent groups and the candidates, where I savage you through the independents group, and then I can talk about fields and what a wonderful person I am in my own campaign contributions, that to me is a creation of the devil.

And the final cost of negative commercials is, it depresses turnout. It depresses — it says there really is nothing that you are going to do to change. It erodes confidence in our public institutions and ourselves. And I just really think that the consequences are enormous.

So I should be cheered. There was one bumper sticker I saw in Harrisburg — no, that. But go ahead.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Nothing uplifting?

MARK SHIELDS: I can’t — I can’t see — Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado, the fact that he’s not running any negative commercials, if he wins, then maybe that will be encouraged.

Politics is a very imitative and derivative business, I can tell you. And if somebody wins not running negative commercials, then that’s a positive. It really is.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Hickenlooper has gone from very positive to like neck and neck.

MARK SHIELDS: I know. That’s right.

DAVID BROOKS: We will see.

I would think in general — I can’t pick you a great race, because they’re all doing the same thing. TV stations’ owners are getting really rich, but the governor’s races are better than the Senate races.

I’m struck that we are polarized in the country, but there are still so many states where you really have close governor’s races.

MARK SHIELDS: Very close.

DAVID BROOKS: Florida, even Wisconsin. Illinois even is kind of close.

And so that shows there is still some political competition, as Mark said.

MARK SHIELDS: Georgia.

DAVID BROOKS: Georgia.

These are races being fought more on policy than the national races.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s always uplifting having the two of you here on Friday night.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m sorry. I feel like I let you down.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You did let me down, Mark.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: I did. Thank you, Judy.

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

And a reminder, finally:  Tune in Tuesday night for our election coverage. It will include a special report at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

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Shields and Brooks on changes if the GOP takes the Senate


Fri, Oct 24, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, a record amount of money has already been spent in this midterm election, some $4 billion.

Today, in a rare message on its Web site, the Federal Election Commission acknowledged being overwhelmed by the unusually large amount of paperwork coming in from campaigns.

It’s all part of the race to the finish of this election.

And here analyze it all, Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks, who is New Orleans tonight.

So, gentlemen, it is the most expensive campaign ever in this country, and it is coming right down to the wire.

But, David, what we’re hearing more and more about is Ebola. We’re hearing a number of Republican candidates use this, blame the Democrats, blame the president. Is this helping Republicans?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it feeds into the mood. This is sort of a mood election more than an issue election.

I guess Barack Obama is on the ballot. Obviously, opposition to Obama is strong in all of these red states. But, mostly, it’s a mood. It’s a mood of anxiety. It’s a mood of fear. It’s a mood of suspicion of elites. It’s a mood of a suspicion of the ruling establishment, the expert class.

And so Ebola plays into all of that. I’m not sure it’s really a major voting issue, but it plays into all of that. There are a lot of people who are really disenfranchised from the establishment and they don’t really trust a lot of what the experts are telling them. There are a lot of people who are a little suspicious of globalization.

And here comes a disease that comes from a mysterious, faraway place and seems to insidiously insert itself into our lives. And so there’s just a feeling of sourness and a feeling that the country is being mismanaged. I guess it underlines the mood. I’m not sure Ebola itself is the issue, but the mood is strong and I think that’s more or less driving this election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You see that as what’s going on?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I do. I think David makes a very good point, Judy.

But, as I listen to this and hear charges that, for example, from Republicans, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, about a cartel of Mexican drug lords and terrorists combining and somehow bringing Ebola into the country that way, I’m just reminded of the words of a great senator, Ed Muskie, whose centennial we observed this year, of Maine, who said, in the final analysis, there’s only two kinds of politics.

It’s not radical/reactionary. It’s conservative/liberal. It’s not Democrat/Republican. It’s the politics of fear and the politics of trust. And this is very much the politics of fear. And David makes a good point. It contributes to the sense of anxiety, that events are in the saddle, and I think that does hurt the party in power.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Below the belt, David, then, is that what it amounts to?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, some of the charges are below the belt, the idea of the drug cartel, some of — there have been some below-the-belt charges. Some, I just disagree with.

I think it’s a respectable position to say we should not allow flights from West Africa. I don’t think it’s probably very effective, because don’t just fly here from direct to Africa. They fly around the world and then come here. So, I just don’t think it’s effective, but it’s a respectable position.

But I don’t think it’s below the belt to have a feeling that the establishment or the ruling class in this country is not particularly competent. And you wouldn’t look at the way Ebola has been handled, at least so far, and say it’s been a testimony to the competence of the establishment.

And there are a lot of people who are just — we have a great social segmentation going on. And so there are a lot of people just with no contact with the people like us they see on TV giving them expert opinion about Ebola or anything else, and they just want to wave it away and they just want to pull in and trust the people they trust and that’s local.

And when the national borders seem porous and uncontrolled, they are going to react. And I think that’s a completely legitimate reaction.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a legitimate strain here, then?

MARK SHIELDS: There’s a — Ebola is a continental tragedy for Africa. It is not an imminent epidemic in this country.

Susan Page, our good friend at USA Today, made, I thought, a telling point. She said the Washington Redskins professional football team has used more quarterbacks this year, three, than have cases developed in the continental United States, the two nurses, who have not traveled from West Africa.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the man…

MARK SHIELDS: And now the — and Nina Pham, who is at — Texas Christian University ought to be very proud and the nursing profession should be and her family — is, thank goodness, apparently free of the virus.

So, is there concern? Absolutely. And is there a sense that things aren’t going well, that it isn’t in control? Yes, that’s very much a part of the context and the Zeitgeist of this campaign.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about what everybody’s watching. Of course, we’re watching everything.

But, David, the big story of course is the Senate, whether it’s going from Democrat to Republican control. It looks like both parties have headaches here at the end, though, that, for Democrats, Colorado and New Hampshire, supposed to be states that — blue states they thought they were going to be comfortable in. What about those states and what about other states you’re looking at where Democrats have a worry?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think there’s not a tsunami in favor of the Republicans, but a bit of a tide, a small tide in favor of the Republicans.

I think if you looked at the last few weeks, in most of the pollings — there are exceptions like Georgia and some other places, but most of the polling shows a bit of shift toward the Republicans, mostly because people are upset with President Obama, they are upset with the shape of the economy, they are upset with the shape of the country.

And so you are beginning to see, I think, late swingers going a bit toward the Republicans more or less unhappily. And so where I am right now, in Louisiana, Mary Landrieu has run a pretty good campaign, but it’s a state where Obama is not popular. And it’s just harder and harder for Democrats to win in red states these days.

And so I think a lot of Democrats are facing an uphill tide. The second thing I also noticed just in this general election campaign, unlike two years ago, the Republican brand has improved. The candidates are much better. There are no nut jobs running around so far. And so, they have got a — they have reestablished themselves as sort of the business management party.

And in an economy that’s stagnant, they have got a little more credibility than they did two years ago.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What does the landscape look like?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, for one thing, the great advantage, the gender advantage that Democrats have with women voters seems to be not as pronounced and not as dependable for Democrats this time, especially in Colorado, where the last poll showed Cory Gardner, the Republican, having an edge among women.

And it struck me, Judy. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader and several others, sent the results of a Gallup poll which asked the concerns of women in the country. And you go through their concerns, and they’re pay equality, they’re discrimination in the workplace, child care, and so forth. At 2 percent is abortion rights and contraception.

And I don’t know if there’s not the concern that there was in the past about Roe v. Wade being repealed or whatever, but it doesn’t have the same resonance that it did have, even though the women’s advantage still is sustaining two Democrats who are in tough races. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire has a double-digit lead among women. And so does Kay Hagan in North Carolina, an embattled red state.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is part of this, David, the Democrats are stressing the wrong issues?

DAVID BROOKS: I sort of think so.

The Republicans, it’s not exactly Plato’s Symposium over there. But they are hitting the core issue, which is President Obama. But the Democrats have had a bizarre selection of issues, it seems to me, through the last six months. Remember, for a couple of months, they were talking about the Koch brothers over and over again. The Koch brothers are going do this. The Koch brothers are going do that.

And maybe that was to gin up their donor base. But, as an issue, the Koch brothers are not an issue. Most people don’t know who the Koch brothers are. And then I think with the war on women rhetoric, I think they have just gone to the well too many times with that. And it was an effective issue in elections past.

But, as Mark said, in a lot of places, it’s just not effective anymore. And I think people — either it’s not germane, it’s not salient to people, or they have just heard it too many times and the issues get stale. And so I think, in election after election, with the exceptions that Mark mentioned, you do not see the gender gaps that the Democrats would need to pull out wins here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, Mark, do you see anything Republicans need to be particularly worried about? We have talked about Georgia.

MARK SHIELDS: I think Republicans have to be worried about Georgia.

And Dante Chinni, who has been our demographer on our show, at American University, had a very, very salient point. Georgia has the highest unemployment rate in the country, Judy. And what makes this interesting is that David Perdue, a CEO who offers himself as the only fortune 500 CEO the Senate would have if he’s elected, hardly something that voters are really going to stream to the polls on.

But he, in a deposition, under oath, said — asked about outsourcing, said, yes, I have spent my entire life doing that. Well, Georgia’s lost 20 percent of its manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years. And among working-class Georgians, I think there is a resonance there. And I think that could be an issue.

And I think you have to say that Michelle Nunn has run a very aggressive campaign. As your own piece, she’s campaigning very strongly among African-Americans.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, we have reported…

MARK SHIELDS: And the question is, can she get above 30 percent of the white vote?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s right, to get there. And then we will see about a runoff.

Just very, very quickly to both of you at the end here, if the Senate goes Republican, David, what difference does it make? What happens or what doesn’t happen because you have a different majority in the Senate?

DAVID BROOKS: There will be more judicial fights. There will be more budget fights. Mitch McConnell said they’re going to pick some budget fights, to not fund some things President Obama wants.

But I don’t see big changes. Remember, as this landscape this year favors Republicans, because so many red state Democrats are up, in two years, there are a ton of blue-state Republicans up. Those people are not going to want to go out on a conservative limb. So it’s going to be a lot harder for Mitch McConnell to govern as a majority leader, if he is one.

MARK SHIELDS: I think what you will see, in addition to that, is you will see a lot of hearings, that there will be a lot of senators….

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senate hearings.

MARK SHIELDS: … vowing to be the Darrell Issa of the Senate. The busiest person in Washington will be the White House counsel answering subpoenas.

I think there will be a lot of that. Finally, I think we will see — I expect some sort of a Republican health plan. It’s been promised now since Hector was a pup.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Some time after the cooling of the Earth, they are going to have a health plan.

And now, if they do have control of both the House and the Senate, they have to come up with something, because they want all the goodies and all the positives of Obamacare, but none of the responsibilities and the drawbacks. So, I will be fascinated to see that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Are we going to see that, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Maybe. I wouldn’t — I would look for a tax reform before a health care plan.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

David Brooks, Mark Shields, we will see you here next Friday. Thank you.

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Shields and Gerson on Ebola as election issue, Florida’s fan fight


Fri, Oct 17, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week saw the government’s response to the threat of Ebola, more campaigning in the final stretch before Election Day, and drama in a key governor’s race over a fan.

To talk about it all, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away tonight.

Gentlemen, welcome.

Let’s talk about Ebola first.

Mark, we heard the doctor and the head of the nurses association say at the top of the program people shouldn’t be alarmed about Ebola. But is the fear getting out of control in this country?

MARK SHIELDS: The fear is real. The Washington Post/ABC poll, two out of three Americans fear that there could be an Ebola epidemic in the country. Four out of 10 are very worried or somewhat worried that someone, either themselves or someone close to them will contract the disease.

So there’s a real concern. And, as most dangers, it brings out both the best and the worst in people. And I think we’re seeing plenty of that right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Out of control?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I do think it’s understandable. It’s a scary disease. And there were some fumbles in the initial response.

JUDY WOODRUFF: By the way, I meant the fear. I don’t mean the disease.

MICHAEL GERSON: Right. But the fear, I think, it is not irrational in this case.

It is overdone, to some extent. We do not have an outbreak. We have a few incidents. The outbreak in West Africa, we do not have that. We know how to control it. The procedures have been there since the ’70s. Ebola has been controlled in various outbreaks. And we know the disease itself is not as infectious early as it is late.

So it’s a real threat to health care workers, which we have seen, not so much the general public even in those cases. But there’s one area where we don’t have enough fear. And that’s what’s happening in West Africa, where the CDC is talking about the possibility of 5,000 to 10,000 new infections a week by the end of the year.

You could be — have real threats to the economic, social and political stability of countries in West Africa, which could dramatically spread the disease. If we want panic, that’s where productive panic would be employed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you do hear officials saying that on a regular basis. We need to keep a focus on what’s going on in West Africa.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

The focus right now in this country is election. It’s two-and-a-half weeks away. And the remedy has become cancel all flights from West Africa. That has become the mantra, quite frankly, of Republican and even some Democratic candidates.

MICHAEL GERSON: Which doesn’t solve that problem.

MARK SHIELDS: It doesn’t solve any problem and probably compounds the problem.

What we do see, Judy — and there is a parallel to 9/11, when we saw 343 firefighters walk into the jaws of death and the fires of hell, simply because they were — that was their duty to save fellow human beings who were in those trapped — trapped in those buildings.

And I think Nina Pham has become almost the face of the hero of this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The first nurse what was diagnosed…

MARK SHIELDS: The nurse who has contracted Ebola herself.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Taking care…

MARK SHIELDS: But, I mean, they assume the risk. This is a critical care nurse. These are health care providers — terrible term, health care provider.

But these are people who actually put themselves on the line to help strangers they don’t know, their knowledge, their careers, themselves, not for money, not for power, but just for humanity. And I think it’s quite — that is the most admirable development in this whole terrible panorama.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of accusations flying around.

Michael, do you see this as an issue in the November election?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think it adds to a vague general air of dysfunction, which probably benefits Republicans. It makes it harder for Democrats to drive their issues. We’re not talking about inequality. We’re talking about Ebola.

But I have to say that people who directly politicize this issue may well, in my view, be demonstrating their unfitness for office, OK? This is not a symbol for other things. This is important in and of itself in a central federal role. We need to learn from mistakes. We need to give the government the ability to learn from mistakes, because they’re in that process, instead of highly politicizing what really is a very serious matter.

I know it’s hard right before an election not to inject this into campaign commercials. And it’s happened on right and left, but I think that’s a serious mistake.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And — but you’re saying that’s happened.

MICHAEL GERSON: It has happened.

MARK SHIELDS: It has. It has happened in a couple of tragic instances.

I do think it’s a case that it will be a factor in this election, Judy, not only for the reasons that Michael cited, but if you think about it, the Democrats have had two really good pieces of news in the last several weeks, the unemployment rate at a new low, people returning to work, and then this week, the deficit the lowest point in seven years.

But it’s totally eclipsed by Ebola and ISIS. And these are two issues, national security and foreign policy, which the Ebola crisis has taken on in many instances, where they have tried to tie it into illegal immigration, some Republicans have, where the Democrats do not score well and Republicans have an advantage.

So I think it is an issue that Republicans are going to drum from here on in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: just quickly to both of you, the president’s choice of Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Gore and Biden, our guests at the top of the program, infectious disease expert and the head of the nurses association, said they think it’s fine to pick somebody who is a government expert, rather than a public health expert.

What’s your view?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I don’t think I’m in that camp.

This is treating a problem as though it is a messaging and communications or a management problem within the White House. This is a command-and-control problem on the ground in Liberia and other places, where supplies are not getting through, our aid is not getting there.

We need someone in the David Petraeus or Colin Powell camp who has respect in the military, respect in the global health community, emergency response experience. I think that they’re viewing this role in too limited a way, and the need is greater right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I mean, Ron Klain has demonstrated credentials, no question, Vice President Gore, Vice President Biden and in between.

But, to me, it shows how many few really towering figures there are left in American public life. Michael named Colin Powell. but I don’t know. I mean, it seems that the generation has passed. But I think you need a figure of command and who commands respect outside.

Ron Klain, for all he’s done, is not well-known either in the medical world or really in the international world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we talked about the election. We — we’re two-and-a-half weeks away, Michael. What does the landscape look like in the Senate? We started out 10 or 12 races watching closely. Where does it stand?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, if you look at the RealClearPolitics summaries, Republicans are now ahead in eight of the top 11 most disputed Senate races.

That doesn’t mean they will win them all. It just means — but they also have momentum in those races, if you look at the polling compared to September. And Democrats are starting to reposition in the House and other places their funding away from aggressive races against Republicans and towards defensive races for incumbents.

That’s a bad sign. So, I think this is going in a Republican direction. The landscape, the field on which this is being played is favorable to Republicans right now for a variety of reasons.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What is your gut telling you?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, I think Democrats now are hoping, quite frankly, that a couple of races they hadn’t expected to be in play will be in play, namely Kansas, which had been a safe Republican seat, South Dakota, which is a safe Republican seat, or acknowledged that there was going to be a safe Republican seat, held by a Democrat, Tim Johnson, now retiring, and in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn is showing strength for that open seat with Saxby Chambliss.

But you have got seven seats being defended by Democrats. Six of them are in states that Mitt Romney carried by 14 percent or more. And these seats were all won by Democrats six years ago, when Barack Obama was getting the highest percentage any Democratic presidential candidate had gotten in the past 50 years.

So they were elected in a good Democratic year. And this doesn’t look like a good Democratic year, so I think they’re putting the champagne back on ice right now at Democratic headquarters.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Not friendly territory…

MARK SHIELDS: No.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … for the Democrats.

We haven’t talked much in the last weeks about the governor’s races. But there are, what, about 10 of them, we are told, could change parties. One of them — and they’re getting a lot of attention now that we’re getting close.

One in particular, Michael, is the Florida governor’s race, which there was a debate a couple of nights ago between the incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott and his challenger, former Republican, now Democrat, Charlie Crist. And it was a debate. And it was all about a fan that Governor — former Governor Crist wanted under his lectern up on stage.

That’s become a big story.

MICHAEL GERSON: Yes. No, it’s…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we have got a picture of the fan.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL GERSON: OK. There it is.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the fact that Governor Scott, it took him six or seven minutes to show up.

MARK SHIELDS: Seven minutes, yes.

MICHAEL GERSON: I think that Governor Scott was in the right when it came to the rules, and the organizers pointed that out, but it really doesn’t matter.

Any candidate who is complaining about the rules doesn’t really look good. You don’t want to look rattled in a debate. It’s kind of the James Bond rule. You want to look cool under fire in these things. And it didn’t really work out for him. But if this decides the Florida governor’s race, God help us.

MARK SHIELDS: Charlie Crist is not only a former Republican governor, former Wake Forest quarterback, a — looks like he always came off the pages of “Gentleman’s Quarterly,” never a hair out of place. Looks like a million bucks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Of course, I think the two of you always look…

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: “Gentleman’s Quarterly.”

MARK SHIELDS: This is a strikingly handsome man, and he stays cool and has always — he’s been very open about this through his entire career. In fact, it’s in his own memoir, he writes about it.

He stayed cool in that torrid…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Florida heat.

MARK SHIELDS: … tropical state of Florida by having a fan with him under the lectern.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: It’s not like he’s got somebody giving him answers or something.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: And so Rick Scott, I thought, looked not only petty, but small, and not concerned with the people of Florida, but whether Charlie — Charlie Crist had a fan.

I thought, quite frankly, it was fantastic.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: And I think something…

JUDY WOODRUFF: You didn’t say that.

MARK SHIELDS: I did say that. And I apologize for it.

It’s fan-damentally…

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Fan-damentally.

MARK SHIELDS: Fan-damentally.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, I mean, is there — just quickly, in 30 seconds, is there a lesson about American politics in all of this?

MICHAEL GERSON: Yes. I think Americans like people to keep the rules, but they hate when people complain about others not keeping the rules.

MARK SHIELDS: I think that’s true.

But I would also say this, that one great thing about debates is they are the one time in campaigns where things are unstructured and unpredicted.

MICHAEL GERSON: Yes. That’s true.

MARK SHIELDS: And I thought this revealed something about Rick Scott which wasn’t compelling or appealing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there’s — this is always unstructured and it’s always terrific.

(LAUGHTER)

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

MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on same-sex marriage sea change, politics of Ebola prevention


Fri, Oct 10, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week saw the Supreme Court make news on same-sex marriage and voting rights and the politicians respond to the first case of Ebola in the United States.

For that and more, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, Mark, the Supreme Court made waves this week in a way by not making waves. They said, we’re not going to get involved, we’re not going to interfere with these courts that have — around the country have said they’re going to put a stop to these bans on same-sex marriage.

In fact, just in the last few hours, the Supreme Court issued another statement like this on North Carolina.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you make of all this?

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, I have never seen an issue, the velocity of change so intense in my life.

Just to review the bidding, 2004 presidential campaign, the Republicans backing President George W. Bush put the ballot in question in 11 states outlawing same-sex marriage. It passed overwhelmingly. The key was Ohio. And the intent and the objective was simple, to generate larger turnout, voter turnout, in more rural and conservative areas.

It worked in Ohio, and George W. Bush was reelected by the votes in Ohio. 2008, every Democratic presidential candidate went on record that he or she was only for same-sex marriage — marriage between one man and one woman. As 2012 approached, Joe Biden, the vice president, got in trouble by embracing for the first time same-sex marriage.

But the numbers are just daunting. Among young Republicans — this is a Pew Research poll — 61 percent of Republicans, young Republicans under the age of 30 are in favor of same-sex marriage.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Favor.

MARK SHIELDS: And, I mean, it’s just — the issue, it’s left — the train’s left the station and it’s just been a sea change in difference of opinion.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a dizzying change. The courts are just backing out of the picture.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. And you got to — I sort of applaud the minimalism here.

Sometimes, you just let the country have its way, and you don’t try to determine the shape of the country. You sort of modestly step back and let the country figure out what it believes. And I think they’re doing absolutely the right thing in just withdrawing and not getting too involved.

And I think, frankly, they have learned the lesson — and Ruth Bader Ginsburg has apparently told people they have learned the lesson the problem with Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade had — there was an issue that was evolving, and it’s evolving. And then the court laid down a brick wall, and they polarized that debate. They froze the debate.

And whatever — wherever you stand on that issue, that decision distorted discussion of abortions ever since. And so by staying out of the way, they’re letting the country have its discussion.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And so this means the court, Mark, will — that it’s spoken and we are not going to hear about — we are not going to hear about the issue?

MARK SHIELDS: I think we will hear it.

I think a debate, candidate debates, I think they will — in 2014, it will be a question. The question is, in 2016, in the Republican nominating process, because there are firm believers, true believers, I mean, people who believe devoutly and passionately that marriage is only between one man and one woman and that somehow it’s compromising what they consider the sacrament and institution of marriage.

And they are very active, many of them, in the Republican nominating process. And I think there will be one or more candidates who takes that position.

DAVID BROOKS: You’re already beginning to see signs of that. Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, who is thinking of running, he sort of said, OK, it’s over. He was like happy to brush it off, like, OK, we don’t want to deal with that.

And I think that’s the view of a lot of candidates. They just don’t want to deal with it. Let — but then Ted Cruz came out and he was much more opposed. So, I do think…

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS: Mike Huckabee.

DAVID BROOKS: And Huckabee, Huckabee really strong, really, really strongly.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: And so we can expect to see, especially in states like Iowa, it to be an issue. And I will be fascinated to see how — if — Jeb Bush, if he runs, Chris Christie, it will be fascinating to see how they dance this through.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, one other issue the court rule on, or made itself — declared itself on this week, Mark, was voter identification. They basically said that they blocked — they blocked a tighter voter I.D. law in the state of Wisconsin.

So are we — do you have a sense that this makes a difference, that other states will be reluctant to pass these laws because of what the court does?

MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure. This is such an aberration from American history, if you think of it. Only white male property owners over the age of 21 could vote when this country began. It eventually expanded to all males and even nonwhites and then eventually to women.

And, you know, then in 1965, Judy, the Voting Rights Act came and said that the federal government has a responsibility to make sure that everybody can vote. And 96 percent of Republican senators voted for the Voting Rights Act, only 73 percent of Democrats.

I mean, it was a great Lincoln issue. And what happened in 2010, when the Republicans swept all these statehouses and state legislatures, they did two things in shorthand. They made it easier to buy a gun and tougher to vote. And this week, the Government Accountability Office, nonpartisan research, found that, in a study of voter I.D. laws, that it actually lowered the turnout in Tennessee and Kansas, two states studied, among minority voters and younger voters.

And I hate to say it, but that was the objective of those people who pushed it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What effect do you see on the…

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I confess I was persuaded by that study.

I had assumed, looking especially at the national election results, that it had this backfiring effect, that the voter I.D. laws had so mobilized especially African-American voters that they had swamped, that it was actually harmful. And I think a lot of people believed that after the 2012 — or 2012, 2008 election.

But the GAO support — study suggests that it actually did suppress votes. The other thing the GAO study said, which I think is the key to a lot of this — and I oppose these laws — is that the assertion that there’s a lot of fraud out there is just not true. There’s scattered fraud. But the idea that there is systemic fraud that you need the picture I.D.s to combat is just not out there.

Nobody has ever been able to find it. And so it does lead to the worst assertions of why the people — these laws are being passed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senate races, three-and-a-half weeks left, Mark. Maybe some surprises developing in South Dakota, some other places? What do you see?

MARK SHIELDS: Right from the outset, all the conventional wisdom has been, three Democratic states — seats that are going to. The Republicans are going to win West Virginia. Jay Rockefeller is retiring. Max Baucus left Montana. The Republicans are going to win. And South Dakota with Tim Johnson retiring.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It was the mantra.

MARK SHIELDS: That was it.

And now, all of a sudden, South Dakota is a race. An aberrational independent candidate, Larry Pressler, 40 years ago elected to the House from South Dakota two terms, then three terms in the Senate, and a Vietnam veteran. No money. But he’s scrambled that race.

And so all of a sudden, Rick Weiland, the Democrat, thinks he has got a chance. Democrats are putting in — and Mike Rounds, the Republican governor, former governor, who was coasting to — coasting to election and coronation, finds himself in a race, and it’s a real fight.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It may be interesting after all on election night.

DAVID BROOKS: It may be.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I still have — I still have it in my bones that it’s going to be a tide for the Republicans.

And I look at it — and first, in the South Dakota race, what Pressler is doing is amazing, and so it should be saluted. It’s great for anybody who follows politics.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The comeback. If there’s comeback.

DAVID BROOKS: If there’s a comeback.

It should be said, though, they haven’t really turned their guns on him yet. And so it gets worse for him as he — it doesn’t mean he don’t survive it, but it gets harder for him from here on out, because now he’s a big player and they’re going to turn their guns on him.

I still — I still think that we’re in a race like 2006, where you have an unpopular president which, at the end of the day, the people who decide late, they tend to decide against the president’s party. And the candidates who have approval ratings of under 45 percent, which is a lot of people, even Kay Hagan, they tend to not do well, because the late deciders tend to go against the president and tend to benefit the other property.

In 2006, Democrats was the unpopular — Democrats had a late surge. It feels parallel to me that, that the Republicans may have a surge.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You feel it could be the so-called wave?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I don’t know how big the wave. There’s a lot of breakers there.

So, I still think it feels like that, just because you look at the president’s approval number and you look at a lot of the Democrats, even the incumbents, they’re 40, 42, 45 in approval, and historically those candidates have not risen to 50 by Election Day.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What’s your gut telling you?

MARK SHIELDS: I think it’s a depressing year.

It’s as dreary and dismal a campaign as I have ever seen. In 1994, even Democrats had to acknowledge that the Republicans had a Contract with America. Even in 2006, when the Democrats swept back in, there was a six for ’06.

I have no idea what the Republicans want to do if they win or what the Democrats, other than minimum wage and equal pay, that they — so it’s an election, Judy, not about, we want to win. We want the other guy to lose. Beating the opposition is somehow more important.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Look at the commercials.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, really.

DAVID BROOKS: And it’s identical. It’s the Democrats saying right-wing extremists, the Republicans saying, oh, you like Obama. And that is the — that’s it, nationwide, nationwide, nationwide. So, it’s paint by numbers. There’s very little creativity.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very, very quickly, some conservatives have been saying this week that the administration has dropped the ball on the fight against Ebola to keep it out of the country, there’s not enough being done. Could this become a political issue between now and Election Day, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Obviously, I think some Republicans are trying to raise it in certain campaigns.

You know, I think it’s tough to make the case. I think the president and the government is doing far more. Contrast it with what we did on AIDS just a generation ago. Should we be doing more? It’s kind of tough when you cut the National Institute of Health budget on infectious diseases, and it requires cooperation and collaboration with other countries.

We have cut by a quarter, the Republicans have, since 2010 the contribution to the World Health Organization. But it’s — there’s no question there’s a concern and an anxiety in the country.

DAVID BROOKS: Substantively, one person’s died on our shores from Ebola, but it plays into the larger argument that we have lost control of the borders, and that we’re insecure.

And that’s terrorism and immigration. Ebola is just like a way to remind people of terrorism and immigration. So, I think they’re playing it for that reason. Whether there’s really an actual health scare about Ebola in this country, I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t be legitimate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in just the few minutes that we have left, I want to shift gears slightly.

There was a memorial service today for James Brady. He was President Reagan’s White House press secretary. He was an ardent gun control person. He died in August, 33 years after being shot in the head during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan.

A number of Washington hands who knew and worked with Jim Brady — I was honored to be among them — paid tribute to Jim this morning.

BILL PLANTE, CBS News: I asked him if he was still bitter.

He paused. “Well,” he said, “it’s not classy to be bitter. And I try to be classy, as you know.”

(LAUGHTER)

BILL PLANTE: “Is it very much of an effort?” I asked.

He answered, “Yes.” But he made that effort valiantly for 33 years.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: What is interesting about Jim, he turned it all into action.

He not only reached out to survivors of gun violence, but he reached out to the disabled with a message of encouragement and hope on the road to recovery. And the reason why it mattered so much to them — and you could see it in their eyes — it mattered because they knew he knew. They knew he understood. And he literally helped heal. And he gave hope.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David, you are too young. You weren’t around back during the Reagan administration.

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, you and I — you and I were around, to be gentle about it.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: You were in the sixth grade, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thoughts about Jim Brady. He was a special guy.

MARK SHIELDS: Jim Brady was a very special guy.

In 1974, there was a saloon in Washington called The Class Reunion, where Republicans and Democrats and politicians and journalists used to meet and laugh and tell stories. And Jim Brady was sort of the unofficial mayor of that place. He was great company.

But what I remember about him — Joe Biden is absolutely right. Joe Biden knew him well because he was the press secretary for Joe Biden’s Republican colleague from Delaware Bill Roth.

But in the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan was factually challenged occasionally. He said at one point trees cause more pollution than automobiles. And…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Brady repeated that.

MARK SHIELDS: Jim Brady was his press secretary on the train — on the plane. They’re flying over a small forest fire. And Jim points out the window and says, look, killer trees, killer trees.

He just was marvelously humorous. He was thrown off the plane. But he was so good…

JUDY WOODRUFF: By the campaign.

MARK SHIELDS: By the campaign hierarchy. This was irreverent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But he was back in a few days.

MARK SHIELDS: He was back in a few days because was indispensable. He was good. He was a noble and good and wonderful man.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the best press secretaries in the White House ever.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks

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Shields and Brooks on Secret Service failures, Ebola readiness


Fri, Oct 03, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Unemployment at the lowest level of President Obama’s time in office, the resignation of a Secret Service director, and the one-year anniversary of the rollout of healthcare.gov, it’s all in another busy week in politics.

And here to analyze it, as always, are Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome.

And I have to say first, before I ask you about any so many other stories, that was a really discouraging report on the schools in Philadelphia.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Well, I’m sure people — spending obviously in places like that is moderately high, but if you have got 62 kids sitting on a window sill, none of us would send our kid if we had a choice to a school like that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right.

Well, I want to — we were going to talk about unemployment. We’re going to. But this Ebola story, Mark and David, has everybody’s attention. The White House today saying it’s a national security priority as important as any threat we’re facing.

How confident should the American people be that this country is prepared, equipped to deal with this threat?

DAVID BROOKS: Obviously, I’m not a health expert, but I would say people should be reasonably confident.

I only say that because, if you look in Africa, in the countries where it hits, it’s a perfect indicator of the quality of the health care infrastructure system. If you have got countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, there, they have no infrastructure, they have no system in place.

Preexisting Ebola, they just don’t have the doctors, the pharmaceuticals, the beds. And, there, it spread. But if you look at the countries where they actually have got an infrastructure in place and a command-and-control structure like Nigeria and Ivory Coast, they have done a reasonably good job.

And I have to assume that since we have probably one of the best infrastructures in the world, we will not look like Liberia. We will look like Nigeria or better.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a balancing act, though, isn’t it, for the administration?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, it is.

The acknowledge it is important. And I just think that the group today was reassuring. I thought it projected competence. Tony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health just is sort of the embodiment of the professional public servant in the best sense.

And I thought what he said was reassuring and confidence-building. And there’s reason to be confident in the health care leadership, I believe.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, at one point, we heard him say, we’re going to have to keep saying these things day after day and make sure everybody understands that.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, so, again, we want to talk about today’s unemployment numbers.

David, for the first time in — I guess since 2008, the unemployment rate is under 6 percent. The White House is saying over 10 million jobs added under President Obama. He said today job growth on pace for its strongest, I guess, record of growth since the 1990s.

Should he be getting more credit?

DAVID BROOKS: No, not exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: You know, there’s this — I do not think presidents have much to do with the cyclical ups and downs of the economy.

There are extraordinary moments when president do have something to do with it. And the stimulus package, whether you like it or not, clearly had an impact and probably ameliorated the effect of the recession. But I don’t think over the normal course of time, presidents have an immediate effect on month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter or even year-to-year cyclical stuff that goes on.

There’s just so much stuff going on in the economy. First of all, not a lot has happened in Washington to create jobs or destroy jobs. We have sort of been stagnant here legislatively.

Secondly, the thing that the president spoke about so much in his Northwestern University speech was the great surge in the energy sector, the great surge first in the production of natural gas through fracking, and then the manufacturing jobs that’s created.

Well, that’s not been that’s really championed by his administration or Washington in particular. That’s something that just happened and surprised everybody through immense technological advance and our ability to get natural gas and oil out of the ground.

So that’s in the private sector. And so I don’t think this is sort of a Washington-organized thing. We have an economy that functions as an economy.

MARK SHIELDS: The late American Ambassador Dwight Morrow once said, the party that takes credit for the sunshine shouldn’t be surprised when it gets blamed for the rain.

And I think there’s great truth to that in our politics. Anybody who watched Ken Burns’ 14 hours on the Roosevelts would be I think hard-pressed to say that presidents don’t make an enormous business, that without either Theodore or Franklin Roosevelt, this country and this economy would have been meaner, coarser, more oligarchical, less compassionate, and less prosperous society.

From week to week, Barack Obama has been blamed for what he inherited. I think there’s no question. I agree with David completely that the action to confront the economic crisis, the financial crisis that he inherited saved this economy. And the fact that the United States economy has created more jobs than all of Europe and the developed world and Japan since that time is an accomplishment.

But, at the same time, the widely grown prosperity that he cited, the economy growing, is not likely shared. Between 2010 and 2013, 90 percent of Americans saw their actual income go down, the bottom 90 percent.

MARK SHIELDS: The top 10 percent, that was all the growth, Judy.

The median family income is lower by actual dollars than it was in 1989. So this is something that started long before Barack Obama got there. But that’s the reason I think people feel bad. You can look at the big numbers and they look terrific, but when you — when people — Peter Hart, who is a Democratic pollster, compares it to, you have three inches of water in your cellar, and somebody comes along and says, well, look, there’s only an inch-and-a-half there now, so isn’t it better?

Well, you have still got water in your cellar. And that’s the feeling about the economy right now, that people see a greater concentration of wealth and their own situation not improving.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We heard this from Barry Bluestone, the economist Paul Solman talked to.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

And it might be worth teasing out — I think Mark and I agree on this — or maybe disagree less than is obvious — which is that there are structural factors in the economy which the government clearly controls. If the progressive era hadn’t happened, if the New Deal hadn’t happened, clearly, this whole structure of the American economy would be different.

Then there are cyclical factors. And we’re, like, now in a job upsurge, a real job upsurge. And that’s more cyclical. But at some points in American history, it seems the structural factors are more germane, they’re more important, they’re more biting.

In the industrial period, they were deeply biting when industrialization came in. Right now, the wage stagnation, the lack of job security, the widening inequality, those are structural problems that are deeply biting. And you do need government to address that sort of thing. And so it’s worth parsing out these two interconnected parts of the economy, the cyclical piece and the structural piece.

And the hurt right now is because of a bad structure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the bottom line is, you may celebrate for a few seconds, but essentially you can’t really be pleased about this, Mark, until the prosperity is more widely distributed.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

And I think David makes a good point. But, Judy, after World War II and the golden era of America, 90 percent of the economic growth — 80 — 90 percent of it was shared by wage increases of the workers. Now, that has just ended. That really — it slowed down.

Right now, just one little statistic that absolutely threw me from the Federal Reserve, when Ronald Reagan was president, the great right-winger, the great conservative, the top 3 percent controlled 44 percent of the wealth of the country. In Barack Obama’s second term, a man who has been called a socialist by his critics and his enemies, the top 3 percent control 54 percent of the nation’s wealth.

The other 90 — lower 90 percent have only less than a quarter, when they had a third just 28, 30 years ago. So it is — it is the rich getting richer and everybody else not and being worse off. And so that is what the president is fighting, even with the good news economically.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if this is socialism, what does capitalism look like?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, this is capitalism when you have got a high technological turnover.

President Obama has been 40 percent on his handling of the economy basically for a year. And that is just stuck there. I should point out, I looked at the French numbers. Hollande, the president of France, he is at like 9 percent. So these structural problems are hitting politicians all across the developed world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I wanted to ask whether this is going to have any effect on the elections. It sounds like you’re saying it doesn’t help the Democrats.

Health care law celebrated the anniversary of its — of the exchanges being created this week. Is it as big an issue, is it as damaging for Democrats as Republicans said it was? You can roll all this together. And I want to save time for the Secret Service, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: It’s unpopular.

It has been unpopular since the rollout and all of the problems attendant to it. It has never regained popularity. But those who are against it are against it. And it’s not an organizing principle of the election of 2014, as, for example, opposition to the war of Iraq was in 2006, which generated turnout and resulted in the Democrats winning control of the Congress.

I think the positions are pretty hardened on health care. And I think the problem is, it’s being — the elections are being determined in red states, where health care is even less popular.

DAVID BROOKS: Nationally, at 38 percent approval; 51 percent disapprove.

I happen to think the law is doing better than I thought it would, but, politically, not a winner.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Doing better than you thought it was?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think people are enrolled.

And — and I’m not sure if this is because of the law, but costs really are going down. Health care inflation is declining.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Secret Service, a torrent of stories over the last few days about breaches at the White House, over the fence. A man ran all the way into the — deep into the White House, a shooting there we didn’t know about, a man on an elevator with the president. The head of the Secret Service has resigned.

What are we to make of this agency that is supposed to be protecting the most important people in our government? And who’s responsible?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

I first thought it was an overreaction when the guy goes over the fence and gets into the East Room. But what’s bothered me and I think bothered people on Capitol Hill and around town was the horrible management of information afterwards, not confessing, not behaving like a confident, professional agency, but behaving like an incompetent agency where you have got a lot to hide.

And when you behave that way, people are going to begin to doubt you. And that’s more or less what happened.

MARK SHIELDS: On March 30, 1981, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy took a bullet intended for President Ronald Reagan by an assassin.

Secret Service agent Jerry Parr pushed the president in the limousine, ordered to drive to the White House, saved his life. Larry Buendorf put his thumb in a gun aimed at President Gerald Ford in Sacramento. This is the Secret Service that most of us have been privileged to know who have been around this town.

These are heroic people. This sounds like something out of “American Pie” in the behavior or spring break. And the performance was just awful. It was dysfunctional. The idea that the president’s daughter was sitting in the White House by herself and there were nine shots were fired and they didn’t find out about it for four days and didn’t reveal it, that a man convicted of assault is on an elevator with the president packing a weapon, I mean, that’s just dysfunctional.

JUDY WOODRUFF: No wonder both the president and the first lady upset about this.

David Brooks, Mark Shields, we’re never upset with the two of you. We thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on Islamic State as ‘ideal’ villains, retirement for Holder and Jeter


Fri, Sep 26, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama spoke out at the U.N. General Assembly this week for support in the fight against the Islamic State. And Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation.

For that, and a little more on Derek Jeter, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, another word, Mark, about Derek Jeter. What — what else should be said about him?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, I think sports is and rightly described as a mirror of our society at large.

And beyond the unspeakable wife beating reports by some pro football players, conduct on football fields is just unacceptable, I mean, the showboating, the self-congratulatory dancing after a single tackle, the beating of the chest, and aren’t I terrific, and the attempts to humiliate and embarrass your opponent.

Derek Jeter, the Yankee shortstop, was the consummate professional. He showed up every day. He did his job. He never complained. He was never on TMZ. He never taunted an opponent. He was respected by them, and he respected them.

He was — there’s only two teams I root for, the Boston Red Sox and the team that is playing the New York Yankees.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: But let me say this as a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. He, Derek Jeter, was class. He is class in everything he’s done. And he’s a man of public modesty. And I just think that is so needed and missing in our society.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Class act, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, and sort of a story about the limits of big data.

And so Keith Olbermann has this rant, which you can — if you go on YouTube, you can see it. And he takes down Jeter’s stats. And they’re good. Look, by any Major League standards, they’re good. They’re probably Hall of Fame, but they are not great. The stats are not great. His range as a shortstop wasn’t great.

And so, by the statistical measure, he wasn’t a superstar. He was a great — he was a very good player, but he was not a superstar. And yet he was clearly a superstar. And he was a superstar in part because of his clutch performances, and the volley and the throw to home plate from the World Series, and his attitude there, but mostly he’s a superstar because of the team cohesion that he built and the way he symbolized the team, the effect of one team player on a team culture.

One of my colleagues said, the biggest number for him was the number on the back of his jersey. And that does symbolize it, that that was the number that truly measured his performance as a player, not so much the batting average, which was good, but not stellar.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it somehow override the other news, bad news that seems to come out of the world of sports?

MARK SHIELDS: It does — it stands in stark contrast and welcome contrast.

And I would just add the good point David made. And that is that the data — and Keith Olbermann — which baseball now lives on, I mean, we’re drowning in information, but we’re thirsting for wisdom, as somebody said. And I think the wisdom is that Derek Jeter is a great baseball player. He’s on his way to Cooperstown, to the Hall of Fame, as he should be, even though, statistically, he — he’s got more hits than anybody but five people who played the game, so…

DAVID BROOKS: I would just say, it’s always hard to know how seriously to take sports.

Like, we — I have a friend who says the front clause of every sports story should be, not that it matters, but…

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Because I can’t remember who won the World Series or the Super Bowl a couple years later. But we get caught up in it. And we debate it like we just saw them debating there because it’s where we rehearse our moral stories and debate morals and things like that.

MARK SHIELDS: Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, the desegregation of baseball before we desegregated society, I mean, that’s — that’s sports.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we want to turn away from sports for a minute to talk about something that happened this week.

President Obama, Mark, went before the United Nations, talked about defeating the network of death, the Islamic State, appealed for the world to come support the United States. Is that speech going to make a difference in the success of this effort?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know, Judy.

I mean, it certainly was a speech seeking allies and making the case and making it, I thought, far more assertively certainly than the president did when he spoke to the nation. And there obviously was a different constituency that he was seeking.

But the White House is frank that this is a — seeking a reset of the president’s leadership credentials, or burnishing his credentials. And I do think that it was a more muscular speech or a less conflicted speech.

But, Judy, when you talk about destroying an ideology, I mean, Lee Hamilton, the former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House, I was talking to this week, and he said, who writes this stuff? You know, you don’t destroy an ideology. You defeat an ideology with another ideology, with another philosophy, another point of view, in addition to content.

And these people are the ideal villain, the ideal adversaries. They are the worst of humankind in their actions. But it sort of hearkens back to the end of tyranny in the world, which his predecessor, George W. Bush, spoke of. There is a rhetorical overreach, I think, to the speech.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You think the president advanced his case?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think so. I think it was mostly revelatory about his own mind.

And so he had been half-measures, ambivalent, oh, I don’t want to do this, reluctant. Well, clearly, he took off the reluctant cape this time. He was — people have accused him, and he has been sensitive to being called professorial and wan. And he was un-wan. He was whatever the opposite of wan is.

MARK SHIELDS: W-A-N.

DAVID BROOKS: W-A-N.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: So, he was bold and forthright and simple.

And he spoke — he gave a speech in West Point a few months ago where he said military force is not the answer. Well, when you’re fighting a military effort, military force is actually the answer. He has been stepping back some of the emphasis on democracy. He stepped that up. And so he was just more aggressive, more assertive

And I think, as revelatory of his mind, I think, one, he really thinks these guys are evil, that you just can’t allow them to exist. Two, he does feel the responsibility to rally a coalition. You can’t do it with an uncertain trumpet.

And I do think there — mixed within the high rhetoric is a pretty realistic goal. We’re not going to reshape the Middle East. We’re not going to bring peace to Syria and Iraq. We just want to make sure the worst that could happen will not happen. And the worst is an ISIS caliphate in the middle of the Middle East.

MARK SHIELDS: What happened today in the House — in Parliament…

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s what I wanted to ask.

MARK SHIELDS: OK. Well…

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: They had a debate and a vote.

MARK SHIELDS: They had a debate. They did something that we are supposed to do.

I mean, Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, I give him credit. When they were going through that sham debate before they fled the city, the Congress did, encouraged by the White House — all they wanted to do is talk to the leaders and kind of get a wink and a nod and we’re all aboard — on board.

Rand Paul said, if you’re debating going to war, I would think every senator would be at his or her desk. And they aren’t. And that was really refreshing and encouraging and sort of semi-inspiring to see the British today going through that, and the prime minister himself fielding questions and all the rest of it.

Now, let it be noted that they — the British agreed to go and bomb in — only in Iraq, not…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Iraq, but not in Syria.

MARK SHIELDS: … not in Syria.

But, Judy, the absence of a debate in this country is a shame. Every member of Congress ought to be ashamed of himself or herself that the Congress left this town without debating the most serious decision that any legislator ever makes. And that is sending other Americans into war, into possible death.

And I just think it’s — and I think the White House is following the lead of every president since. They want a free hand and the Congress to go away.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Did they show up, the United States, in the way they handled this?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m pro-debate. They didn’t have an election coming up, at least for a little while. And they do have a bipartisan agreement.

But we have a bipartisan agreement here. And I think to me what’s interesting about the debate, it’s less about whether than how. And so there is a big majority in the country and in the Congress and in Washington that there should be an effort. The question is how.

And that’s very hard to debate because we don’t know if they’re going to — if ISIS is going to collapse. We don’t know if they’re going to hang in the cities, not hang in the cities, but hang in the country. So, the question is how and the methodology.

And that unfurls as the war unfurls. And so now what we’re doing is, we’re bombing their oil refineries to try to cut off some of their financial supplies, bombing some of the convoys. And we — the country will have to react. And having running debate as the war essentially widens, which it’s going to do, having that debate as the war widens, that seems to me the crucial…

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s OK to wait?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m pro-debate. This is what I do for a living, so why should I mind?

And I agree with all — with Mark’s points. I’m just saying it’s very hard to have the debate about how, what’s effective, what’s ineffective until we actually see some evidence.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, you can figure out, first of all, how you are going to pay for it.

General Dempsey today admitted, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said, we’re not going to have — we’re going to run out of money on this, the Pentagon is going to run the money. And the bombing is antiseptic. But Barry Goldwater, God bless him, said, when you’re thinking about bombing — this was in Vietnam, and it’s true today — you have got to forget this thing the civilian, because — the civilian, because when you bomb, you kill civilians.

The idea that you’re just hitting oil installations, there are human beings who work at that — oil installations who aren’t members of al-Qaida or ISIL or anybody else. So, I mean, these are acts that have long-term repercussions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, Dempsey made it sound like they’re making more progress than we realized.

I do want to reserve the last few minutes to ask you about the attorney general.

Eric Holder, David, surprised, I think, most people announcing he’s going to step down. What’s the legacy? He’s been — he’s had his detractors, he’s had his admirers.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

He’s got detractors and admirers on both left and right, more admirers on the left, obviously, and more dislike on the right. But what has been said about him, which I think is the essential truth, is that he was quite strong on civil rights and not so strong on civil liberties.

And so, if you look at the record, especially in terms of incarceration, sentencing, Voting Rights Act, very, very aggressive. And I would like to especially highlight the incarceration, which I think is out of control in this country. And so his efforts there are much appreciated.

On the civil liberties, on the national security, he was very heavy on national security and not as respectful of civil liberty — liberties, and if you’re worried about terrorism and if you’re respecting the Bush administration, he followed a lot of the precedents and took them further.

And the one thing I really do object to — and this is parochial — is his incredibly aggressive assault on the press, the Associated Press reporters, the FOX News commentators.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Going after…

DAVID BROOKS: Going after the records and the phone records. That seemed to me appalling. And so — but that was of a piece of his national security approach.

MARK SHIELDS: I agree in great part.

The — I mean, I do commend him for the civil rights, not simply for gay and lesbian people, which he did champion, but also the attempts, quite frankly, by new Republican administrations and states after the 2010 sweep to suppress voter turnout in minority communities. And he took them on, and I commend him for that.

I think that the — he will be held accountable in history’s judgment for big to jail, the — after the Wall Street collapse.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street.

MARK SHIELDS: That after the Savings & Loan crisis in the late ’80s, Judy, 1,000 bankers and directors were indicted; 100 of them did time in jail.

Not a single one of these CEOs or these people who brought the country to its knees, who destroyed people’s futures — and so it was always going to be a fine, but you will do no time. And I really do think — you know, corporations don’t serve time. Corporations don’t go away. And I really think that was a failure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A thought on the Wall Street piece of his…

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: I think so. You would have to figure out who did what. That was always the challenge.

It’s possible it was stupidity more than crime. There was clearly fraud in the banking sector. But picking out the executives who did something wrong, a lot of it was just stupidity and ignorance.

MARK SHIELDS: Immunity leads to impunity, and that’s exactly, I think, the attitude of the financial community.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

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

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

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Brooks and Dionne on ground troop debate, Hillary’s chances of running


Fri, Sep 19, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, Congress gave its support to arming moderate Syrian rebels, but there seemed to be a divide between the military and the White House over the need for ground troops to take on the Islamic State group.

We analyze that and more with Brooks and Dionne. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne. Mark Shields is away.

Welcome to you both.

E.J. DIONNE, The Washington Post: Good to be with you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the Islamic State group, the president got the support, David, that he wanted from the House and the Senate to arm Syrian rebels.

The polls, though, are showing the public is saying they don’t think this strategy is going to work, even though they agree with the specifics. And then, as we just said, the generals are saying, hey, we are going to need ground troops, despite what the president said.

How does all this limit him?  How much does it complicate what the U.S. is trying to do?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, the first thing is, I was impressed by how big the majorities were. It seems like, when you look at politics, that parties, especially the Republican Party, has shifted radically on domestic policy, the Tea Party direction, which tends to be less interventionist abroad.

But the Republican Party especially was solidly behind the president for the most part. The Democratic Party was too. And so there were people on either end that were against it, but there’s still sort of a — at least in this foreign policy, on this issue, preventing a caliphate from existing in Iraq and Syria, pretty solid majorities.

What’s happening now, we’re in — we’re entering the mission creep phase. It’s pretty clear that the idea of just using air warfare is not going to get ISIS out of the cities. And the generals are beginning to think that through, and you will probably need some special forces on the ground, not a big invasion or anything like that.

It’s also clear we have a pretty unilateral effort. It’s much multilateral than George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq a decade ago or whatever. And so what we have is a big gap between what we have so far committed and what we will be required to get to accomplish the mission. And the coming debate is over how much we increase that commitment.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, E.J., the strategy is only a couple weeks’ old and already it’s — is it falling apart?

E.J. DIONNE: Well, it hasn’t been tested yet.

I mean, I think that the vote was striking. If you like bipartisanship, you will love this vote, because not only was support bipartisan, but the opposition was bipartisan. When you have Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren on the same side, on the no side, you’re talking about…

JUDY WOODRUFF: For different reasons.

E.J. DIONNE: For — well, different, but — that’s true.

Ron Paul — Rand Paul, rather, was — is sort of uneasy about the intervention. And I think that you had an interesting moment with the generals, where they were arguing, we need more troops. And the president really went out of his way to assert kind of civilian control, and to say, you know, they can say what they want, but I am committed not to putting American ground troops in, combat troops in.

And so I think the test here — I don’t think the limits on the president are I political. I don’t think the limits on the president are even from his own military. The limits are, will this strategy work?  And I think Americans basically don’t want to commit ground troops, and yet these polls suggest they worry that anything we touch in Iraq will not work the way we intended. And there’s some reason for them to feel that way.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

But there are sort of two strategies here from the president. The first is, we will degrade ISIS. The second is that we will not commit ground troops. Well, those two things may not be true. And so which one is he going to choose?  Is he really going to leave office with the Islamic State as powerful as it is now, holding as much ground as it is now?

I suspect he’s going to begin to give ground. It’s not a big invasion if it’s special operations forces. I suspect he’s going to involve — Dwight Eisenhower used to say, planning is everything, but plans are nothing, which means you go in with a strategy, but you have got to adjust.

And I suspect there is going to be a lot of adjustment in ways that we can’t foresee right now.

E.J. DIONNE: But I think a lot depends on, how quickly do we expect to get this done?  And all of the testimony, including from the military, is that this is a very long-term operation.

And the hope is that not only can you get the Iraqi military back into a position where they can fight again, but they’re going to try to build, to create these Sunni national guard units. Now, that will take time. And it’s a lot to hang on new national guard units.

But I think there’s not a lot of pressure to get this done tomorrow morning, which is why I think he can hold his ground for a while on the ground — on the combat troops.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it wise to rule out ground troops, though, before this even begins, though?

DAVID BROOKS: I don’t think so. I think you have a strategy and then you have the means to get there. Whether you have ground troops or not is the means.

The strategy is to degrade ISIS, so you should leave all your means on the table. That doesn’t mean you want to do it, and that doesn’t mean the American people support it or I particularly would want to do it. But sending special operations forces to locate terrorists and things like that, that may be necessary. It seems to me, if you are committed, as the president said he was, to mission, then you should have maximum flexibility about how to get there.

E.J. DIONNE: It’s a statement to our allies, and particularly in the Middle East, saying, we can’t do all this ourselves. We have no intention of doing what we did the last time, so you have got to step up, too. So I think there could be something strategic about it as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Change of subject to somebody who saw herself having some hiccups and problems a few years ago when she tried to run for president over her Iraq position.

But, David, Hillary Clinton, she was in Iowa this weekend. She was telling a big crowd at the Harkin — Tom Harkin final steak fry that, yes, she’s thinking about running for president again.

Do we learn something from this?  Do we learn that it’s — she’s farther down the road?  Do we learn anything about whether people want her to run?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, people do want her to run. She’s the odds-on favorite.

What we haven’t learned is what the message is. And that’s the big thing I’m really curious about. What she’s been saying so far is a message of economic security. It’s basically a standard Democratic message. It’s not particularly new, but it may be effective.

But if I’m looking at Hillary Clinton, I do think there’s going to be opposition on the left in the university towns, in the more progressive side. There’s clearly a desire for something on the left. And there’s the problem of age and the fact that she seems to be from the 1990s.

And so, to me, the impulse is to be conservative and coast to the nomination, but the imperative is to be new and say, I’m not the — we’re not just going back to the Clinton years. I have got a new theme. I have got a new agenda. I have got a new argument.

And so far — it’s not fair to expect her to have done it so far, but I do think the desire to take risks is how — one of the ways to look at the Clinton campaign. Is it really a risk-taking, new thing?

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that?

E.J. DIONNE: Well, first, the fact that she’s back in Iowa is a pretty sure indication that she’s running, because, after running third in those caucuses, she had never wanted to go back there. She noted that it’s been — she hasn’t been there since 2008.

And I think she is trying to find for this — for 2016 very similar ground to what Bill Clinton found in 1992. But it doesn’t mean it’s exactly the same ground. Clinton, the — Bill Clinton was very good at, on the one hand, being the new Democrat, having new ideas, but he still in many ways was an old-fashioned Democrat who talked about inequality, taxing the rich more, and he managed to put that together.

Doing that in 2016 probably requires Hillary Clinton to be a little tougher on the left side. She has got to be tougher on inequality, which she was, and she spoke very strongly about that. She’s talking a lot about women, and particularly working-class women, and what they’re going through.

E.J. DIONNE: And I think that is — she is trying to create the same thing, but all these years later, it has got to be a slightly different thing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But is it — is she saying enough at this point, David?  Is this sort of teasing with a comment every few weeks or so, is that where she ought to be at this point in September 2014?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Wait until the midterm, and then you can get serious. I think it would be premature, immature, overmature.

(LAUGHTER)

E.J. DIONNE: Immature, she won’t get accused of.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. Right. Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we were following her. We had a camera crew, and so we followed her in Iowa this weekend.

But, E.J., we were there also to cover the Senate race, a very close race between Congressman Braley, the Democrat, Joni Ernst, the Republican state senator. A lot — a few things have happened on the Senate landscape this week. There’s that. There’s — that race has gotten a little bit tighter just in the last few days.

In Kansas, the race that we thought Congressman — or Senator Pat Roberts, the Republican incumbent, had it in a walk. The ballot is changed. The Democrat’s out — he’s running against the incumbent. A judge ruled something today. But how do you see the Senate landscape?  What does it feel like right now?

E.J. DIONNE: Well, this may prove I’m a self-hating pundit, but I love the fact the pundits can’t figure this out.

(LAUGHTER)

E.J. DIONNE: You have all of these very complicated mathematical models that say 51-49 the Republicans will take over. That’s a very sophisticated way of saying, who knows?

And I think that what you have got in this election overall are Republicans hoping and believing that President — President Obama’s unpopularity is enough to carry them through. And the president is down. But the Republicans aren’t really offering very much, and a lot of these Democrats are saying, wait a minute, what would you cut?  What kinds of — do you have anything for working people who are — who have really been hammered by this economy?

And so I think you have got an electorate that hasn’t figured out what this campaign is about, because I don’t think the politicians have figured what it’s about. I think Kansas is a state that I think is going to be perhaps the most interesting state in the country, because you not only have an independent running against a Republican, and so you have a chance of a Republican losing for the first time in the New Deal, but — since the New Deal — but you also have this amazing governor’s race, where Governor Sam Brownback, who has done all this tax-cutting — the budget is a mess, and people are worried about cuts in education.

The Democrats could win that. Joe Scarborough made — former congressman, made a great point, that, in 1978, Prop 13 made the tax-cutting — made tax-cutting the central Republican issue. This might be the first election where a Republican governor loses an election because he cut taxes too much. It’s an amazing thing going on in Kansas.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see things still unsettled in mid-September?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, we know where they are now. We don’t know where they will be in six weeks.

But I do think this pundit has it — does have it figured out.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: That we see a national tide. There’s clearly a national tide.

You look at the New York Times/CBS poll that came out this week, huge to the Republicans. They’re just doing very, very well in the generic ballot. Obama is down, huge national tide. And so if it becomes a national election, which the Republicans are trying to make it, they’re going to do really well.

Militating against that, you see in individual states some shifts in the Democratic direction. North Carolina, in particular, you’re seeing a shift there on the Democratic part, the situation in Kansas, a few other places. To me, the bottom line right now is — and the Democrats are trying to make it local races, a bunch of local races.

I think the history is that when you have one party trying to do national, one party trying to do local, usually, the one that is trying to do national tends to do a little bit better. And so I do still think the Republicans are likely to take it over, but, you know, that could all shift, obviously.

E.J. DIONNE: I think this is premature punditry at this point.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m only saying where it is today.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s nothing wrong with that.

But you think things are still…

E.J. DIONNE: I think things are still unsettled.

And, in fact, one of the striking things in the punditry is that people were saying this is heading the Republicans’ way. And you have seen pulling back. Iowa is a case where the race has probably moved a little Democratic. There are a bunch of states where that has happened.

DAVID BROOKS: Right, Georgia, too.

E.J. DIONNE: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: And the only point I would make is that there are just so many states the Republicans can pick up. There are so — the Democrats are defending on so many fronts, that the Republicans don’t have to win them all.

E.J. DIONNE: They start with three, and so they need three more.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the two of you are terrific. And we’re glad you’re here.

E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: E.J. Dionne, David Brooks, thank you.

E.J. DIONNE: Take care.

The post Brooks and Dionne on ground troop debate, Hillary’s chances of running appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Brooks on Obama as reluctant warrior, sacrificing immigration reform before midterms


Fri, Sep 12, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: A major presidential address to the nation and calls for congressional backing to take on the Islamic State. It was another full week of news.

And we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, we led the program tonight with Bill Clinton. He is supporting, he said, President Obama’s plan to degrade and destroy ISIS.

Mark, he said it won’t be easy or quick, but he thinks it will be successful. But I guess my question to you is, two days after the president rolled it out, you said it needs a healthy debate. Is it getting that kind of debate right now?

MARK SHIELDS: No, it isn’t.

If John Kennedy were writing a postscript of profiles in courage, he wouldn’t get any material on Capitol Hill, with few inconspicuous consumptions — exceptions. Tim Kaine , Democratic senator from Virginia, and several others arguing that the Congress should accept this responsibility.

The irony is, the Republican House members are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to sue the president for excessive abuse of power, and here’s the one power that is defined, delineated by the Constitution that resides with the Congress to declare war. And they have abdicated that responsibility, or appear to be, want to get through the election.

Leaders now see their responsibility as to avoid difficult votes for their members, whether it’s the leadership, makes no — Mitch McConnell being the exception. He’s calling on the Republicans in the Senate for a vote. But Harry Reid doesn’t want one, and I don’t think see that John Boehner does either.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Where do you come down on that?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

No, I think in the House and the Senate, we’re probably not going to get a big debate. We will have a debate about the appropriations, about some of the backdoor funding mechanisms. It strikes me what’s interesting is it seems to me the Democrats are a little more divided on this. It’s a more troublesome issue for the Democrats than it is for the Republicans.

The Republicans are more united. Rand Paul has come out more or less in favor of this. So the — what had been a more isolationist fringe, or however you want to say it, has — that part of the Republican Party has merged and looks more like a conventional Republican Party, the national security party.

The Democrats are the divided ones. And Steny Hoyer, the Democratic leading congressional official, wants to push it beyond the election. But we are having a big national debate about it. People are talking about it on the streets. And what struck me is how hard it is to talk about it, because I think most people think you have no choice but to somehow — you can’t allow a genocidal caliphate in the Middle East.

But how you do it is what has everybody scratching their heads. What kind of coalition are we going to have?  What happens if the Iraqi army is not successful on the ground?  What happens if the Free Syrian Army, the moderate Syrian opposition, is not super successful?

So, very quickly, I have just noticed the tenor of the debate has shifted from ends for the most part to means. And people are sort of up in the air, because it’s not quite clear exactly how that is going to work.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, the president has asked Congress to support the training of Syrian rebels, assuming they identify these moderate Syrian rebels.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

They have got to be — somebody has got to find out who the moderates are.

DAVID BROOKS: They have got to be for Sam Nunn.  They have got to be…

MARK SHIELDS: Is there a test here, I mean, the Lincoln Chafee series?

Yes. No, Judy, the Western — United States — the United States military, western military, has shown its ability, its capacity to come in and dominate the battlefield. But the idea of establishing order, security and peaceful government in its wake after that has eluded us.

And there’s no way in the world — the question of coalition, who are these people?  Where are they?  Who are the troops who are going to be there to guarantee stability, order and some sense of justice in the areas?

You can’t do that with airstrikes. I mean, airstrikes are wonderful. They’re antiseptic. They’re at a distance. The possibility of your own casualties is finite. But they don’t occupy. You can’t occupy a nation or bring order and stability by airstrikes. So who are people on the ground?  Who is the coalition?  Where are the troops coming from?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying he’s the reluctant warrior, so can the reluctant warrior lead in a situation where we don’t know what the endgame…

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think so.

I strikes me a Syrian moderate is anybody against beheading in Syria. That makes you a moderate. But I do think he is a reluctant warrior. He doesn’t want to be there. But that has some advantages. It has the advantage he’s not going to be carried away by his own righteousness.

He’s not going to want to dominate the ground. He — it is going to make him skeptical of everything that generals bring him because he’s not gung-ho. And it’s going to mean he is going to be realistic about our goals.

And turning Syria into a great country is not one of our goals. It’s — and turning Iraq into a viable country is sort of one of our goals. He’s more interested in keeping Iraq stable than whatever happens in Syria. The main goal is degrading these guys, truly one of the most evil manifestation of human life on earth.

And so simply — our goal is destructive. Our goal is not positive. It’s not make the Middle East a better place. Our goal is make sure the Middle East doesn’t get any worse. And so I do think, with that limited goal, with some buy-in from the Sunni tribes who have done it before, they have defeated this kind of army before. It should be possible to degrade this group.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Turn to something very different, politics. We talked to Bill Clinton about it. He’s going to Iowa this weekend, Mark, with former Secretary Hillary Clinton, who a lot of people think is going to run for president in 2016.

She has not been back there since she ran for president in 2008. Is this something you’re going to be watching?  Is it a big deal?  What does it say?

MARK SHIELDS: It’s a major deal, her first time back, obviously, in Iowa.

Two things, Judy. Part of it, following the earlier discussion, Iowa Democrats are among the most dovish Democrats in the country. The Iowa caucuses were created in 1968. The architect of them was a fellow named Alan Barren (ph), a very political — political genius, an anti-war Democrat, so that anti-war Democrats could express their opposition to Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam policy.

So Hillary Clinton, who is now sort of priding herself on Barack Obama coming over to her position and arming the Syrians and her toughness, that will be an interesting fit. More interesting to me is how she handles Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton — think about this. We have had one balanced budget in 45 years, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, several balanced budgets, leaving a surplus. We had the lowest unemployment in the history of the United States among African-Americans and Latinos. We had the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years under Bill Clinton.

There were 22 million jobs created in Bill Clinton’s eight years, which is more than were created in the 20 years of Ronald Reagan’s eight and the Bushes’ 12. It’s an amazing record. So there’s a temptation on her part to run a nostalgia back-to-the-future campaign, I think, because things were better.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying that’s a good idea, or…

MARK SHIELDS: No, I don’t think you can. I think you can run — American presidential campaigns are about the future.

And I don’t think you can run a nostalgic campaign. But she wants to remind people of just how good things were when Bill Clinton was there, even though he was there — it will be 16 years later.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

I’m struck by the same things Mark is, first that she has emerged, and even more so since she left the secretary of state job, as possibly the most hawkish Democrat, certainly hawkish presidential possibility. And she’s going to be starting in a state that is notoriously unwelcome for that.

And so how does she play that?  How forward-leaning is she in talking about that?  And, of course, it’s worth remembering she lost there. And if you remember the tears she shed, the way her voice quivered, it happened after Iowa. She was in New Hampshire at the time, but it’s a moment of — it was a scene of maximum vulnerability for her. And one expects of the Clinton mind it will be a scene of maximum effort this time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that raises — broaden it out. I asked President Clinton about the Senate races. And he finally — at first, he said he didn’t know, and then he said, no, I think the Democrats — Mark, he said, I think the Democrats have a slightly better than 50/50 chance of holding onto the Senate.

MARK SHIELDS: He went on to specifically analyze the Mike Ross against Asa Hutchinson…

JUDY WOODRUFF: He went from one race after another.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. No, the problem, Judy, the Democrats are not in an encouraging environment right now.

Of the seven key races, six of them, the Democrats, for control of the Senate, are being run in red states that Mitt Romney carried by more than 14 points. You have got a president who’s at the lowest job rating in his presidency right now at 40 percent.

And you have people feeling the country is headed the wrong direction by a 2-1 margin, worse than it was in 1994, when the Democrats got swept, or 2006, when George Bush was routed. So it’s that.

 

And add to that the interest, enthusiasm factor is higher among Republicans than it is among Democrats. You know, it’s not an encouraging picture. So the Democrats, the Mark Pryors, the Mark Udalls, the Mark Begiches are all trying to make a one-on-one race against the candidate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Marks. It’s a good name.

MARK SHIELDS: They don’t want to mention Barack Obama.

And the Republicans all want to say, my candidate — my opposition, my opponent went to Washington and voted 95 percent of the time with Barack Obama and forgot the people here in Centerville.

DAVID BROOKS: I had forgotten about all the Marks. It’s a “Marksist” party.

MARK SHIELDS: It is.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: It is.

DAVID BROOKS: But it’s funny how the barometric pressure, at least here among those of us who watch the polls, is a couple of months ago, it was all — it looks like a great Republican year.

Then the tide shifted. It seems the polls were shifting on the Democratic side, Democrats doing pretty well in Georgia and North Carolina hanging in there. I would say in the last two weeks, if you look at the polls, especially as they have gone to a tighter screen where they only look at the likely voters, it has shifted a little more toward the Republican side again.

The Democrats are still doing well in Georgia and some other places, but the momentum feels, at least at the moment, among those who pay super close attention to this, it feels back again a little more on the Republican side.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Clinton is sure saying — President Clinton is saying he’s going to be out there campaigning through the fall. He’s getting more invitations than President Obama is to campaign.

MARK SHIELDS: He is. He is. He is the most popular political figure in the country. It’s just remarkable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One last thing I want to ask you both about, the announcement by the White House. They did confirm that the president is not going to announce any sort of executive action on immigration until after this election.

Is this good for the president, good for the Democrats, David, or not?

DAVID BROOKS: In the short term, yes.

So it’s a short-term/long-term thing. In the short term, it means a lot of Democrats running in red states will have a little easier time. They won’t have to confront that issue. Over the long term, I understood the Democratic strategists who said, well, let’s sacrifice the short term. Let’s really lock in some loyalty among Latino groups. And that will just benefit us so much more in the long term.

So, they have taken a hit among Latino groups among poll standing. president Obama’s poll standing among Hispanics is down. There’s certainly a lot of anger from the groups who thought they were promised this. And so they have made that long-term sacrifice for a short-term play.

MARK SHIELDS: I think some Democrats view this long term.

1994, Judy, when the Democrats were routed and the Republicans won the Congress for the first time in 40 years, they won the House, after that, the postscript, the narrative was the Democrats had lost because of their vote for gun control. And gun control became toxic at that point. I think Democrats are concerned that, in 2014, if they did lose and immigration was front and center, that it would kill prospects for immigration in the future.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are going to — we will watching, because you’re right. The pro-immigrant groups are really angry right now at the president.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, we’re not angry at either one of you. Come back next week.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

The post Shields and Brooks on Obama as reluctant warrior, sacrificing immigration reform before midterms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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