Shields and Brooks - NewsHour with Jim Lehrer - PBS Podcast
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Shields and Brooks on the GOP speaker struggle, Clintonâ€™s trade deal dismissal
Fri, Oct 09, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So, please explain what is going on.
MARK SHIELDS: Sure, Judy.
MARK SHIELDS: Turmoil, chaos, toxic upheaval. And those are the friendly sources that are describing what’s going on in the House Republican Caucus.
What you basically have is a group of Republicans, one-sixth of the House Republicans, who view their election as a mandate to stand up and oppose the Democratic president and his overreach, by their judgment, in power, to frustrate him, to oppose him, and to repeal what — the Obama thing, and do not accept the concomitant responsibility of the governing party, of which they’re a member, to govern.
They’re the majority party, and so they’re essentially holding the entire caucus hostage.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But they’re holding the Congress, I mean, the House of Representatives…
MARK SHIELDS: They’re holding the House. But it means that the majority cannot operate the House.
Speaker Boehner after four years, said, I have had enough, leaving. Kevin McCarthy, his heir apparent, could not get to the 218. You have to get a majority of your own caucus. There’s 247 House Republicans. You have to get 218 of them in order to get elected speaker.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
MARK SHIELDS: So, I guess that’s it, pretty simply. And so there is paralysis, quite honestly. And the party is in turmoil. And it has an implication nationally in the presidential election, because this is supposed to be the governing example of the Republicans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David, why has it gotten to this point?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, as usual, Mark is not critical enough of the Republicans.
DAVID BROOKS: It’s not that they don’t believe in the Democratic president. They don’t believe in the democratic process.
There is a way you do elections. You have an argument. You have candidates. You evaluate the candidates. You have a vote, and the majority wins and the minority says, well, we didn’t get the majority, but, OK, we will go along because we believe in the greater good.
Well, there are 40 people who don’t believe in that. McCarthy would have had the majority. And they said, no, we don’t care. We’re still going to — we’re not giving up. We’re just going to roadblock.
And there has been a set of institutional practices that have been built up within that institution, and they’re just not playing by those rules. And so, as has been true of the Tea Party for a long time, they’re really good at destruction, they’re not so good at construction.
And this is — to me, it’s deep. This has been a party, and particularly our entire political system, that’s lost the art of deliberative argument and then coming to conclusions. And to get elected, especially as a Republican, you have got to be anti-conservative, you have got to be radical, you have got to be revolutionary, you have got to be an outsider, your language has to be totally radical.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we’re seeing that in the presidential race.
DAVID BROOKS: Right. And so if you adopt a radical rhetoric, then the normal practice of politics, which is compromise, which is accepting defeat for the greater good, all that stuff gets washed away.
And so, to me, it’s just a mental problem.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it going to get solved, Mark? At some point, they will have to choose a speaker of the House of Representatives.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, at some point, after public ballots. I don’t know, Judy.
But when you have got a group in your party who believe that compromise is collaboration and that cooperation is surrender, abandonment of principle, that makes it very, very difficult. I think David’s point is very well taken.
I mean, the Republican Party in the Wall Street Journal/NBC national poll was at 25 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable. So, if you’re a Republican candidate for president, that’s a big weight to carry, an albatross. And if you have got this kind of antics going on, this “Animal House” behavior on television, you say, what’s the point of electing a Republican?
It’s just a gift to the Democrats.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, but you also have the view, when Donald Trump announced this, I saw yesterday at an event where he was, I believe it was in Nevada, David, the crowd cheered that Kevin McCarthy had pulled out, meaning there was nobody.
Chris Christie said yesterday the country doesn’t really care who is speaker of the House of Representatives.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think, for him, that was a dodge, though even Christie, who is pretty establishmentarian, if you have been watching his campaigning, he’s been attacking the Republican establishment as much as Barack Obama, it seems, sometimes.
And so that’s become a cheap applause line. But I have a sort of counterintuitive view. If you look at the polls and you ask do you want there to be a government shutdown, vast majorities of Republicans do not want a government shutdown. They do not want chaos on Capitol Hill.
And so they’re sitting out there, a silent majority, sitting out there, taking a look at this, and think, this is my party? Oh, my goodness. And I happen to feel that come winter, there is going to be a little reaction against all this, as there was against Ted Cruz the last time he and his ilk did the government shutdown, and there will be a swing toward the more normal candidates.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean when we get to the primaries, the presidential primaries?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think that people are going to — you remember what happened with Ted Cruz. When he did a government shutdown last time, the party, the establishment wing of the party was strengthened. And I think this mayhem, with Ted Cruz involved, by the way, is going to, in the end of the day, strengthen the Rubios, the Bushes, the Kasichs, that kind of person.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, this is not one individual. This is 30, 40, 50 members of the House of Representatives, each of whom represents, what, 600,000, 700,000 people.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
Judy, there’s historical precedent here and a parallel. In 1996, Bob Dole was leading for the Republican presidential nomination, had a long and distinguished career as Republican Senate majority leader. And because of the behavior and the chaos at the time caused by the House Republicans led by Newt Gingrich, and closing down the federal government, Bob Dole had to distance himself.
He resigned from the Senate and as Senate majority leader to say, look, I don’t belong with these guys. I’m surgically separated from them.
And if you’re a presidential candidate and they say, OK, you are going to get elected president now, and these are the people you’re going to deal with, these are the people you’re going to govern with, so it is — the Prince Charming, the rescuer is Paul Ryan, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. That’s who…
JUDY WOODRUFF: But he says he’s not interested.
MARK SHIELDS: He says he’s not interested.
The one advantage Paul Ryan brings to it, in my judgment, he is — his true-blue credentials as a conservative are unimpeachable. And the great strength of Nancy Pelosi as speaker, when she was speaker — and she was a consequential speaker — was that she could go to liberals in her own caucus, especially women, for example, on the health care, and say, you’re going to come and compromise on this, and say to Latino members, you’re going to compromise on this, because her credentials were solid.
He could do that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You believe that he could persuade the conservative members of the House that they should not — that they should go along with funding Planned Parenthood and they should go along with raising the debt ceiling?
MARK SHIELDS: I think his credentials on it are strong and believable, that he could move them to the point where we have to advance our cause and advance it.
I just — I think that’s the one thing that he brings that Boehner and McCarthy had — there were doubts about them, because as conservative as they might be to you and me, they were not conservative enough for the true believers.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You agree with that?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, Boehner’s not exactly Bernie Sanders.
DAVID BROOKS: He’s a pretty conservative guy himself.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: But, first of all, I hope Paul Ryan doesn’t do it. I believe people should get — once they get their dream job, they should be able to have their dream job.
And, second, I’m dubious that it will be long-term. I am even looking on my e-mail traffic from the Tea Party people who I’m on their lists, and, oh, he was for immigration reform, he was against the government shutdown, he was for this, he was for that. You are beginning to see the chipping away.
And so I think, at the end of the day, as I said earlier, I think the problems are pretty deep, and so I hope he doesn’t do it for his own sake and I don’t think he would be that effective.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk about the other party for a few minutes.
The Democrats have their first debate coming up next week. It’s going to be Hillary Clinton and four others, Bernie Sanders and three others. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to Secretary Clinton this week.
And she made news, David, by splitting with the president on the new trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and on top of other moves she seems to be making to the left. Is this a smart move for her politically or not-so-smart move?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, she was under fierce questioning, so, you know, so she had to choose, just her heels.
DAVID BROOKS: I think it’s crazy, personally.
She has talked in favor of the TPP 45 times in public. She calls it the gold standard of trade agreements. I think she knows what she actually believes about it and she is flipping for political expediency. And maybe it buys you something on policy grounds, because you don’t have an argument with Bernie Sanders in your first debate on trade, a subject extremely difficult for Democrats.
But her main problem and the way people vote, in my view, is not how you stand on this or that agreement. It’s on character. And if her main doubts, the doubts about her are about authenticity and trustworthiness, well, flip-flopping this nakedly doesn’t exactly help.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, she says she’s not changing her mind, that she didn’t really — she never really committed one way or another, and now that she’s looked at it, she doesn’t think it’s the right thing to do.
MARK SHIELDS: When somebody appears to change their public position, if they come our way, they’re growing, if they go the other way, they’re caving.
And this is — Hillary Clinton had never taken position on this; 82 percent of congressional Democrats had been against giving fast-track authority for this trade agreement. This is an agreement forged between a Democratic president and a Republican Congress and the business community.
That’s what it is. So, it’s in the greater interests. The establishment is for it. What’s the knock on Hillary Clinton? She’s too close to the establishment. And now she’s taken on the establishment. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post editorial pages, they are all for it.
The last thing they were for was the invasion of Iraq. So, quite honestly, I mean, I don’t think that she can be accused of flip-flopping on this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But was it smart for her to do?
MARK SHIELDS: Was it smart for her to do? I don’t know.
I mean, I think it probably — you know, David’s right. It cuts down an opportunity of criticism for her in the first debate. But I don’t think she would do it just for that. I mean, she’s trying to solidify the Democratic nomination.
DAVID BROOKS: These are logical leaps. I mean, Iraq — you should go to the Olympics for long jump.
MARK SHIELDS: No, but the establishment, the establishment — no.
DAVID BROOKS: Listen, she was on the record. CNN had a list, and I read them all, 45 different statements about this specific treaty, the gold standard for it, because it protects the — it sets an environment for open and fair and free trade.
And, I mean, she’s on the record with lots. And it was her State Department that was part of the deal. And so everyone else regards it as a flip-flop.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For the record, she says that was early on, and it was before…
DAVID BROOKS: And the two things she mentioned to you as complaining against went in her direction in the course of the negotiations. They didn’t go away from her.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Currency manipulation.
DAVID BROOKS: Right, and the pharmaceutical stuff.
And so it just — it’s so politically expedient. I understand why she did it for political expedience, but…
MARK SHIELDS: She — to the best of my knowledge, she hasn’t said anything on it for two years. She was a good team member, backing what she was pushing for at the time, and trying to convince Democrats, I assume, at the time.
But now she’s a free agent. This is her own record.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, Mark, what do you look for in this debate? Is this the showdown at the OK Corral, or is it…
MARK SHIELDS: To borrow one of David’s phrases, look for a signature moment for the candidates who are being introduced, the Jim Webb and the Martin O’Malley, that there’s — this is their chance.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lincoln Chafee.
MARK SHIELDS: And Lincoln Chafee.
And also to get a sense of the dynamic. Bernie Sanders has a great advantage. Bernie Sanders hasn’t changed a position in 35 years, so he doesn’t have to agonize over, am I changing or qualifying in any way? Anyway, he should be anxiety-free.
DAVID BROOKS: I wonder how strongly they are going to go after her on character and personal matters.
MARK SHIELDS: They won’t.
DAVID BROOKS: Mark says they won’t.
So, that’s my instinct, too. But that’s her vulnerability. And maybe future down the line, they have to. It’s kind of sort of normal to go after each other. But they may play gentle. If I’m one of the minor characters, I might look for that signature moment by going right at her.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I think we’re all going to be watching.
David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you both.
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Brooks and Dionne on mass shooting frustration, Kevin McCarthyâ€™s Benghazi comments
Fri, Oct 02, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama expresses frustration and anger in the wake of yesterday’s mass shooting in Oregon. But is there anything he or anyone can do? Will there be a battle among House Republicans to replace Speaker Boehner? And what does Russia’s involvement in Syria mean for the U.S.?
We turn to the analysis of New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.
Mark Shields is away tonight.
And welcome, gentlemen.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So here we are yet again, another mass shooting. They seem to be happening every few weeks.
David, the president said yesterday at his news conference that he thinks the country’s grown numb, that these are happening so often. Is he right?
DAVID BROOKS: I actually don’t think so.
The reaction certainly among the people I have spoken to is one of impatience and growing frustration. And so I don’t think we have grown numb to them. I don’t think we have taken a practical and a pragmatic approach to trying to prevent them.
Obviously, as we heard earlier, they’re phenomenally hard to prevent. I’m for gun control laws, as I have said so many times. We have gone through a ritual on this program.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We have.
DAVID BROOKS: And I don’t think they will do much good. They might do a little good, just because there are 250 million guns in this country. I think it’s just very hard to control the ones, but they might erect a barrier.
There’s obviously problematics with getting a list of people who have had mental health issues to run against a registry. That’s obviously a problematic thing to do. I have emphasized the make-believe function, that the profile of these guys who do it is very similar, and it is in this case, alienated young guy with loneliness issues and self-worth issues.
And if we looked around for young men like that in our society, maybe we could do something there. I guess I would invite people to de-ideologize it, if that’s a word and to think pragmatically about the many steps we could do to hopefully make some dent, but it’s going to be hard to make a dent in this, I think.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It is hard, E.J., and yet, as the president said, something has to happen, something has to happen. What is the something to change?
E.J. DIONNE: I must say, I loved seeing his anger about this, because I think he reflected the anger of a lot of people.
And I actually liked it when he said this is something we should politicize, because the barriers to de-ideologizing it, as David said, are political barriers. And I was so struck by some of the responses of the Republican candidates to this. Ben Carson, you’re not going to handle it with more gun control because gun control only works for normal — the normal law-abiding citizens.
Well, all laws only work for normal law-abiding citizens. Only with guns do we hear these arguments. Same with Marco Rubio, gun crime is committed by criminals. Criminals ignore the law. Well, yes. But, again, that’s an argument against all law. We have to try some things.
There are no free and democratic and wealthy countries in the world that have our rate of gun violence. You know, David is quite right that we have to worry about loners and alienated people. We have to do better on mental health. But we’re not the only country in the world with loners and alienated people.
And I think we have to be willing to take some steps on guns. And I don’t know what’s going to shake us to get there, but I think the president is saying we can’t just sit here anymore. I think there is an anger that’s growing out there that may at some point get conservatives in particular, who ought to be in a different position than they are on this issue.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, as we heard from the two guests we talked to a few minutes ago, it is hard. And yet maybe there is a way to identify some of these young men — most of them are young men — who are deeply troubled and try to prevent them from getting access to them.
DAVID BROOKS: Maybe.
And I think the way — if we’re going to have any political process, it’s not to have a big fight about guns, which we have had a million times, but it’s to come up with a comprehensive package of reforms that would include some gun control things, but also some mental health things and a range of other things that creative policy-makers could come up with, and to de-ideologize it.
To have the same fight again, I don’t see the point in it. On gun control, as I say, I’m not against them. But most of the guns that these guys get, they get legally. Oregon happens to be a place…
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it was the case this time.
DAVID BROOKS: And Oregon happens to be a place with pretty tight gun control legislation.
The criminals — the people who are in criminal gangs do get the guns illegally, but there are so many guns in this country. We can’t — we’re not going to deport 12 million immigrants. We’re also not going to get rid of 250 million guns. There are just practical realities.
E.J. DIONNE: But there are practical approaches to that.
Australia had a massive gun buy-back program, 700,000 guns, which would translate into about 40 million here, which is a start. We are so hemmed in on the gun issue that we right now can’t do a thing. I’m all for doing more on mental health. I don’t think there is a real problem with that. The problem, the ideological part, is on guns.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. We have our history. We saw the graphic earlier in the program. One in three American households has a gun. There is a history of 300 years going back. And that’s why it touches such a nerve.
And so we just have a legacy of a lot of guns in this country and that’s been true because of the nature of the settlement of the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: If history repeats itself, we talk about it for a few days and then we move on to the next thing.
DAVID BROOKS: I agree with that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about something, big news that happened a week ago today, and that was Speaker John Boehner announcing he’s stepping down.
David, it’s been assumed that the majority leader, his number two, Kevin McCarthy, had a lock on this, but then he did an interview this week where he said flat out that the investigation by Republicans into Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi incident was politically motivated, that you could measure the success of it by her dropping poll numbers.
What does it say about him as a prospective speaker?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Well, there are a couple of things we know about him. First, he’s a very social guy, a very friendly guy. I still think he has a lock on it because he’s so likable. And these races tend to be very personal.
Second, he’s not anybody’s idea of a ideological firebrand. He’s not particularly philosophical. He’s social. He’s a nice guy. He’s a good political creature. And so a lot of people are wondering, will he be ideological enough? Because he’s not particularly — that’s not in his nature.
And, third, he’s not used to being near the top job. And he said something true and stupid, which was true, that the attack, the investigation into the Democratic nominee, potential nominee, is a political act and they’re trying to bring her down. Of course. But you’re not supposed to say that.
And, third, he is an embodiment of what’s wrong with Washington with that statement, which is the gap between campaigning and governing, which used to be something that was honorably upheld, has now been erased. And so governing is the same as campaigning, or, actually, more precisely, campaigning is everything.
And so congressional investigations have become political tools.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So does he — is there any price for him to pay on this, E.J.? Or do we — I mean, there was a story today, Associated Press, reporting that Jason Chaffetz, another Republican congressman, is going to challenge him. But does he — do we just assume we move on and…
E.J. DIONNE: Well, we should say that champagne corks were popping this week at Hillary Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters, because they have been trying to get them to say out front this is a political investigation primarily. It’s now longer than the Watergate investigation, which is really astonishing, the investigation into Benghazi.
And, yes, he did the classic gaffe, which is telling the truth about something. Chaffetz was one of the people who was most upset about it, because he knew the political cost of this. I think he is probably the strongest candidate the right end of that caucus can come up with, if he does indeed run.
You have to say that that caucus is still split in a way, but McCarthy pulls it out. But I think, over the last few days, there have been doubts among Republicans about him, not only because of the Hillary Clinton matter, but he’s not the best-spoken person.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re talking about McCarthy.
E.J. DIONNE: Right, Kevin McCarthy. He is a great social guy.
And I don’t think anyone can hold this caucus together, because, as long as Barack Obama is president, the House Republicans particularly and most conservatives really aren’t interested in governing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s my main question about him, David, is what’s going to be different with Kevin McCarthy? Is it going to be any easier for him to corral House Republicans?
By the way, he gave Speaker Boehner a B-minus for his performance as speaker.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. You have got to give your friend an A. Come on.
E.J. DIONNE: I think he called him up and apologized, said, I have got to do that to get elected. And maybe Boehner understood.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
So, what’s going to happen, I think, is — what’s going to happen for the Freedom Caucus is, they’re going to try and change the rules. And they go to regular order. And basically the changing of the rules lessens the power of the speaker, lessens the power of the leadership, and that means more bills from the rank and file can get votes on.
They nominally want the committees to elect their chairmen. And so that would devolve power down where the Freedom Caucus is. And so that’s what they’re going to be lobbying for. I personally think those changes would make the House completely ungovernable, because it would become like the Senate, where everybody could stop everything. And so I hope they don’t pass, but that’s what I think they’re going to try to do.
E.J. DIONNE: See, if they really want to democratize the House, they would make it easier to have cross-party coalitions. But that, they don’t want to do, because you could actually pass a lot of bills if they were willing to govern with some Democrats.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we mentioned Hillary Clinton. I have to ask both of you.
Some new fund-raising numbers for the presidential campaign came out. We don’t have numbers for all the numbers, but we did learn that Hillary Clinton — that Bernie Sanders, E.J., raised almost as much money as Hillary Clinton did, but his money came mostly from small donors.
How much of a threat does he pose? Is this just what you would expect? What do you think?
E.J. DIONNE: I think he’s a real threat to get a lot of votes and, as we have talked about before, to win in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
He hasn’t yet proven he can break into key Democratic constituencies, moderate Democrats, Latinos, African-Americans, which she’s counting on. We’re all assuming here that Joe Biden doesn’t get in. And we don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. I’m not sure Joe Biden knows whether he’s getting in.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And there was a story today that he has picked up some of Hillary’s donors, Hillary Clinton donors, Biden has.
E.J. DIONNE: Right.
But no matter where you are on politics, I think it is wonderful to see candidates — and I think Ben Carson picked up a fair number of small donations — candidates funding campaigns not by talking to a very small number of very rich people, but by reaching out to a very large number of citizens. And I hope there is more of that in this campaign. So, three cheers for Bernie, if only on the money.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And why doesn’t that mean people should take him more seriously, David? Is just the way it is?
DAVID BROOKS: I’m beginning to think that it might.
The renegades on the right, like the Trumps, I don’t take that seriously. I think they are going to fade. But he’s different. His support is not because he’s a crazy man. His support is because he’s ideologically closer to the heart of the party right now.
And I think the money is a reputation of that. And I don’t know. If he wins Iowa and New Hampshire, doesn’t the — our psychology — our psychology — this whole psychology of the country will be very different around Hillary Clinton. And it would historically unprecedented for her to lose those two and then get the nomination. And so I think…
E.J. DIONNE: Although her husband did it.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
But if he gets those two, and she’s going to seem even more vulnerable than she seems now, who knows. I’m beginning to take him a little more seriously.
E.J. DIONNE: Yes. I have always taken Bernie seriously.
And I think the other piece of it is, we see a lot of ersatz authenticity in politics. He is, if you could use the phrase, authentic authenticity. You know what he’s going to say.
If you don’t like him, you say it’s predictable. If you do like him, you say he’s consistent.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and he’s still drawing big crowds.
Well, we don’t have time the talk about the other Republicans, except you brought it up, Ben Carson raising a lot of money and, again, small donors. So, we’re watching.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, E.J. Dionne, thank you very much.
E.J. DIONNE: Great to be with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.
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Shields and Brooks on Boehnerâ€™s leadership turmoil, Pope Francisâ€™ uplifting visit
Fri, Sep 25, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Capitol Hill was a historic place to be this week, with a papal visit and the surprise resignation of House Speaker Boehner.
Of course, those are the main topics for our turn to Shields and brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So, Mark, surprised about Boehner?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
MARK SHIELDS: But, as Lisa reported to you from the Hill, the speaker faced what is a vote of no confidence. He would have prevailed. He would have survived, but it would have showed him weakened within his own caucus. This was among the Republican members. So, I think he made the decision to go out on his own terms.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David, a complete shock for you?
DAVID BROOKS: No, saw it coming months and months and months ago.
DAVID BROOKS: No, obviously, since the day he walked in the door, he’s had this challenge, and it’s grown more, but I don’t think anybody saw it coming in this way.
Obviously, I think the papal visit had — on the timing, had an effect. There is a beautiful piece by Robert Costa of The Washington Post talking about how, the night before, Costa, a reporter, was with him on the balcony, and Boehner was saying the pope stood right here, right here, and he asked me to pray for him. And he was so moved.
And so there’s an element of uplift, and might as well do the right thing. And this specific act was the right thing. Paul Ryan called it a selfless act. And I think it really is a selfless act. It spares us from a potential government shutdown. It helps the institution. It helps his party from the fallout from a government shutdown.
And so I think it’s a beautiful act. Now, over the long term, the downside of Boehner was that he wasn’t that imaginative and the Republicans weren’t that aggressive in putting together a lot of policies, an alternative to Obamacare, a health care, a tax plan, whatever.
But he did know reality. He could see reality around him. He knew the craft of politics and how you craft a deal, especially these budget deals. Some of his critics don’t seem to see that reality, that they don’t control the White House or the supermajority in the Senate. And they don’t seem to respect the craft of politics. And if they ever get in actual power, they are going to be introduced it to rudely.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, David is saying it avoids turmoil, but, in fact, Mark, there is going to be turmoil as they figure out who their leadership is and they sort — because it seems to me the conservatives still want the same things, even with a bunch of new leaders.
MARK SHIELDS: You’re right, Judy. It postpones turmoil, instead of having it immediately.
John Boehner was never really a good fit with this particular caucus of fire-eaters. John Boehner was a legislator. He liked politicians. He was good at his craft. Perhaps they became suspicious when John Boehner, in 2001, cooperated. He actually practiced what the pope preached to the Congress. He cooperated and compromised with Ted Kennedy and George Miller, two ranking Democrats, on George Bush, President George W. Bush’s signature proposal of Leave No Child Behind.
And there were questions about him. He was willing to pass a highway bill. He was willing to pass an immigration bill. He was against closing down the government. He was willing to raise the debt ceiling. This raised suspicions within the true believer caucus, and which may be two dozen, it may be four dozen. And it’s not enough to pass anything.
And they’re just — quite frankly, all they did was — I think John Boehner — I think David is right — yesterday was the day of his life. He had — for 21 years…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Pope there.
MARK SHIELDS: … he had made the effort — he began when Tom Foley was speaker and John Paul II was pope — to get the Congress to invite him. And we never would have heard this remarkable pastor yesterday with the message of comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable yesterday and a national audience but for John Boehner.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David, so do things change now? Does more get done, does less get done, is it the same? What’s going to be different about the way things work?
DAVID BROOKS: I think a lot is going to be the same, assuming Kevin McCarthy takes over.
He’s not that totally different than Boehner. He’s happy. He’s a happy guy. He’s a charming guy, right now a little more in favor with the very conservatives, but he’s still basically a reality-based politician. And he will understand how to try to do deals.
So, I think he will get a little bit of a breather. But the people who believe that they’re in office not to pass legislation, but merely to express their id are still there. And so that conflict will still be there.
And then, more structurally — Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution had a good piece today saying that the office of the speaker is weaker because there’s less earmarks, so they can’t give away pork projects to control people. The parties are weaker because of campaign finance. And there’s just a lot of free-spirited individualism in the House now.
And people can go off freelancing off on their own. And so the institutional power is a little weaker. So, even when a Democrat comes in, I think we’re going to see a lot more fractiousness.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Even when a Democrat comes in? You mean even…
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I mean, it’s different.
I think both parties are ideologically polarized. The Republican — some of the Republican Party doesn’t believe in politics. I think most of the Democratic Party does believe in politics. They’re the party of government. They believe in government.
And, so, in some sense, the Republican Party can get a little more extreme over tactics, but I think it will be hard for speakers in the future to control people, just because, if you have got a super PAC, if you got some independent expenditures, it’s hard to impose discipline anymore on the body.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, does more get done, does less get done? How do you see it?
MARK SHIELDS: Less gets done, Judy, I believe.
And could I be rude and just say that there are probably four dozen members of the House Republican Caucus who do not believe in government? And they are not — they have never accepted the responsibility of the governing party.
I mean, John Boehner accepted the fact that the Republicans are the majority party in the House and the Senate. Therefore, we have a responsibility to keep government operating, not to close it down, to fund it, to compromise, to get the votes necessary to pass the legislation required. And there are four dozen who say, hell no, if it does close down, great, that’s good, that’s what we’re here about.
And I don’t know how you govern with that. David’s absolutely right. Kevin McCarthy is one of the most gregarious members of the House. He knows his colleagues on the House — on the Republican side. He knows their kids’ names. He knows their wives’ names. He loves their company.
It will give him a two-month honeymoon, until the talk shows start in, and the right-wing network starts up, and this four dozen caucus who — four dozen of them, three dozen, or whatever they are, are just — they are absolutely nonnegotiable.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Some have called them the heck no — stronger word — of this caucus.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s interesting that, David, this comes the day after Pope Francis comes to speak to a joint session and talks about, we need to end polarization, we need to work together. What about the pope’s message at the White House in Washington? What did you take away from it?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Well, I thought it’s so clear how countercultural he is. We have ideological fights. He’s anti-ideological. He’s personalist. Somebody once said, souls are not saved in bundles, and he’s with each individual human being.
I loved the moment, little girl on the street, she came up to his caravan, and he embraced her. That was a moment, the pope and the individual. And so he represents community an ethos of community and uplift, which is just different than our horizontal politics.
It’s a vertical axis he’s on. And so, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, I think everybody felt uplifted, and both uplifted by his example and his humility, but also humbled by — he believes that the church is a hospital for the souls, and so he offered that as well.
And I would say, in general, we can have scorecards of how political he was. I thought the political speeches were fine. The U.N., it was fine, and one agrees with it. But some of the religious statements he made at the homily up at the Catholic Basilica here in town in Washington were beautiful.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: And the religious statements were really profoundly beautiful. And I would hate to see them get drowned out, as we weigh whether he was a little more anti-gay marriage or pro-immigration, the political stuff. The religious stuff was really quite beautiful, I thought.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you mainly take away from this pope and this…
MARK SHIELDS: I agree with David.
There are a couple of things that — I was with somebody who had been at John Kennedy’s funeral, and said it was the closest thing they had seen to a Washington event since John Kennedy’s funeral, in this sense. Most events in Washington, other than inaugurals, which are a celebration, most of them, people come in great numbers to protest, for redress of grievances.
This was a joyful crowd. They waited for hours, literally hours, to see him for four or five, six seconds away, and walked away satisfied. And it was a joyful and very considerate crowd. It lacked the usual Washington elbows: Do you know who I am? I should be up front.
That was missing. I thought the speech to Congress was magic, in the sense that just watching the feeling in that room. There was a sense of awe about the man. But — and I agree with the scorecard, as to — which he did. He walks where he chooses to walk. He doesn’t prim. He doesn’t cockle. He says the same whatever audience he’s speaking to.
And the thing about the man that just strikes me is, history is written by winners, and it’s written about winners. It’s written about victorious generals and princes and powerful presidents.
And what — as John Carr said to you last — John Carr, Georgetown University — this man’s an outsider. He looks at the world from the bottom up and from the outside in. And after the speech, instead of accepting the lunch where all the power brokers of Washington come to lionize you on Capitol Hill and get all the toasts, he went down with 300 homeless people, and he fed with them and ate with them.
And it was just — it was marvelous. And he compared — he pointed out that Jesus was born homeless. It was just a marvelous — so it’s the eloquence of his symbols, as well as his language.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it linger, David? Does something last? Is something now embedded in this city and anywhere else as a result of this? Or is this a fleeting moment?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, the lion won’t lie down with the lamb.
But I think he leaves a residue on people. I think it’s a profound memory with people, and it’s a moment of uplift for people. And so I think a lot of nonbelievers were moved. A lot of lapsed Catholics were moved. A lot of Jews and Protestants were moved. Everyone was sort of moved.
And that emotion leaves a residue. But I think, also, for a lot of people, I think the big effect — and this is Mark’s church — a lot of people, lives will be changed. Some tens of thousands will go to a mass, and their lives will be changed.
And we emphasize the man so much, but what he’s saying is the product of 2,000 years of teaching, of thought, of prayer. And he’s the current exemplar. We sort of overemphasize the individual and underemphasize the institution, I think, throughout this visit.
But for some large number of people, this will be a turning point in their lives. And that’s sort of worth celebrating. In Philadelphia, or in Madison Square Garden tonight, some people, this will be the moment something very fundamental shifts in their lives. And politics rarely achieves that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It certainly isn’t something we see very often.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you both.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
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Shields and Brooks on GOP debate standouts, Pope Francis goes to Washington
Fri, Sep 18, 2015
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HARI SREENIVASAN: But, first, the second Republican debate is in the books, so what’s next for the candidates? Is Donald Trump reopening the discussion about where President Obama was born? And Pope Francis is making a historic visit to U.S., with stops at the White House and Capitol Hill.
To the analysis of Shields and Brooks, we go. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
All right, David, I want to start with you.
This debate has happened now. Who has won, who has lost kind of happened last night. We have been talking about that for a while. But who capitalizes on this going forward? Who is actually able to use this to leverage more fund-raisers? Because that’s going to become more important in the next couple of months.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, I have been predicting for 37 straight weeks that Donald Trump will fade.
DAVID BROOKS: And I could be wrong this time. But I’m confident. So I may be wrong, but I’m confidently wrong, that I think he’s going to begin to fade, in part because I think he’s gotten a little boring and also a little hapless.
He can afford to look offensive. He can afford to look distasteful. He can’t afford to be boring or incompetent, because his mastery is the whole basis of his campaign. So, I’m feeling a slide. So, we will see.
As for the risers, it’s no accident. It’s no — not controversial. Carly Fiorina, if you’re on stage with 11 people, one of the acts of genius you have to have is the ability to create a signature moment that can be broadcast and rebroadcast. She has that. She has both the creativity to create those moments with some nice phraseology and also the passion.
And so she’s clearly, I think, rising to the top tier. This is a party that does — I do not think, at the end of the day, they do not want crazy, so I don’t think they want Trump. They also don’t want Milquetoast. They don’t want vanilla. And Jeb Bush, I’m afraid, is sort of stuck in pseudo-vanilla land.
And so they’re going to want — I think Fiorina is right up there and I think Marco Rubio would be the other one, bit of an outsider, a genius for taking complicated situations and explaining them in a way that is clear, without being oversimplified. And so I think you have those two, Fiorina and Rubio, who will get the biggest boosts.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, besides those two, Mark, who takes this to the bank and makes a convincing case to people with deep pockets?
MARK SHIELDS: Is the debate over? I’m not sure that CNN was going to give up that audience. It just — it kept going into extra innings.
Hari, I don’t disagree with David certainly about Carly Fiorina. She was the consensus breakthrough winner. She did several things. She did have the signature moment, as David mentioned, but she was also fact-specific. In other words, people argue the facts and question some of the facts, but running against Donald Trump, who is a substance-free candidate and would — avoids issues like a T-shirt, the reality is that it gave her a particular standing.
The, also, advantage she had is, she took that insult of Trump’s and turned it on him in an organic fashion. She didn’t — in other words, she didn’t come in, and this is — grew right out of the event itself, out of the debate, and it came to her, and she grabbed that moment where Trump had mentioned remembering Jeb Bush’s comment on cutting women’s health.
And just as women — just as Mr. Trump remembers Jeb Bush’s comment, women will remember what he said. So I think, in that sense, we’re always looking for something shiny, fresh and new in the press. And voters are to some degree and this year. And I think she fills that niche.
I think that John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, missed an opportunity. He dwelled on his 18 years in Congress, which is not a credential that people are looking in this outsider year. I thought Marco Rubio was incredibly competent. He spoke in complete sentences, complete paragraphs. His text was good.
He’s too senatorial. And that’s the problem. If you look at his language and presentation, it comes across as too senatorial. Again, voters are not looking for a senator. And I just think Jeb Bush was — it wasn’t working for him. It wasn’t natural. His confrontation over his — the insult by Trump to his wife, he backed down. And I just didn’t think he had a good — Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, had to reassure his donors afterwards. And it hadn’t gone well.
That was — the indication was that by — he attacked the press. He attacked CNN, criticized them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, there was a recent moment where a voter asked Trump a question, and implicit in that question was the birthplace of President Obama. We’re going to go ahead and play a clip of that and also a reaction from Hillary Clinton. And we will talk about some other reactions. Let’s just go to the tape.
MAN: We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.
DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate: We need this question. This is the first question.
MAN: But, anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us.
DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.
And a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: I would, you know, call on him and call on all of the candidates to stop this descent into the kind of hateful, mean-spirited, divisive rhetoric that we have seen too much of in the last months.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, Mark, the Hillary reaction is almost predictable. But other Republican candidates came out against this as well.
MARK SHIELDS: That’s right. Chris Christie on “The Today Show” this morning said — criticized it and said he would not have done it. Lindsey Graham was even more vocal on an Andrea Mitchell interview today.
To me, this is — Barack Obama is a Christian who was born in Hawaii. Barack Obama is a Christian who was born in Hawaii. I mean, what we have is feeding paranoia. Right now, 43 percent of Republicans, according to CNN’s latest poll, believe Barack Obama is a Muslim; 54 percent of Trump supporters in the same survey believe he is.
Donald Trump has stirred this, he’s sustained it, he’s exploited it. This is a real character check, and it’s a character defect, if you don’t stand up and say this is unacceptable and it shall not stand.
If a Republican cannot criticize Donald Trump on this — on these grounds of not rejecting and rebutting something so outrageous and indefensible as — in this question, then they just ought to withdraw from public life.
HARI SREENIVASAN: David?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I sort of agree.
You would hope that everybody in this day and age has sort of a bigotry response, that when somebody says something clearly bigoted, like Muslims are a problem in this country, that you have a response, and the response is one of visceral disgust, and you would hope we would hear something said about African-Americans, Latinos, black — women, whatever group it is — and he somehow didn’t have that response.
And, in contrast to John McCain, four years ago — four years ago, had a similar question, and he did have that response: Oh, that’s a man of honor.
And one of the things that’s interesting to me about Trump is 99 percent of businesspeople are people of business, but also people of honor. And so they don’t check their values or their principles at the door when they do their business deals.
So, when you hear Trump talk about his business, oh, I bought that politician, I bought that politician, I contributed to them, I contributed to them, the only thing that matters is the outcome, is the bottom line, the revenue thing. And that carries over into the way he talks about politics.
He evaluates politicians, he evaluates policies and he evaluates events by the polling data. And if you have got no qualitative, no moral calculus going on in your head and you’re all just looking at the numbers, well, then you get this sort of moral obtuseness and no reaction to what was clearly a bigoted statement.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
Now to someone who has a clearly moral compass paying a visit to the United States, the pope, really, in several ways, I think reintroducing the world to the idea that this position has transformative power in it.
And that doesn’t necessarily sit well with everyone. I was doing a Periscope earlier, kind of behind-the-scenes look, and someone says, how do you feel about the pope rewriting the Ten Commandments, right? There are many people around the world who think perhaps this progressiveness is too much.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, the pope, Pope Francis, is coming to Washington. He’s never been to Washington, never been to the United States before. We know we’re the center of the universe. Somehow, it has escaped him in his entire life.
But several things. One is, he’s the antithesis to big-money politics. I mean, this is somebody who spends his time with — he listens to the voiceless. He remembers the forgotten. He sees the overlooked, whether it’s the immigrant, or the refugee, as we saw, or the day worker, or the sick, the handicapped, or the lonely.
I mean, he really does — he does embody — I fear he’s going to make both parties — I know he’s going to make both parties very uncomfortable, because his message is not trimmed for politics. He’s going to make the Republicans quite uncomfortable on the question of poverty and the obligation that we have to act collectively. He’s very pro-politics. He believes in politics.
He’s very strong on the environment and on climate change, contrary to many Republicans, including Marco Rubio. But, at the same time, he speaks fondly and well and consistently about protecting the unborn and those in the late stages of life who face death. He is — really, it’s going to be remarkable to watch Joe Biden and John Boehner, both Catholics, the vice president and the speaker, sitting behind him, and applauding different passengers and kind of pretending they didn’t hear others.
So — but I hope it doesn’t become political, because this truly is a remarkable spiritual moment in a very secular city.
HARI SREENIVASAN: David?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I just want to underline that last comment. I hope we don’t overpoliticize this visit.
The first thing we’re going to see is our countrymen, thousands, millions of them moved by faith, their eyes looking to heaven, their heart warmed by God’s love. And we’re going to see that in public. And we’re going to see that in tens of millions of people. And that will be a moment of seeing faith in a way we rarely see it in this country in public.
And, secondly, we will see the example of the man. The message is the person. It’s the way he conducts himself. His love for the poor is not out of any self-congratulatory. He — whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, atheist, whatever, he is the embodiment of the Christian virtues that I think we all admire, the — seeing the meekest, seeing the poorest, seeing the lowest, and lifting them up, and seeing the brokenness in people, and then lifting them up with joy.
And so, to me, it will be a theater of spiritual — a spiritual theater more than a political theater. And I suspect tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people’s lives will be changed, in the way that politics can never change them, from within. Their lives will be transformed because they will be at this visit. And they will be moved by something they had never felt or only have felt weakly before.
And to me, that’s just a seismic event, whatever happens to our political culture.
HARI SREENIVASAN: David, so what about — how does that translate when that spiritual theater is finished? Does that translate into any sort of policy action or rethinking something that might be in the works in Congress that’s stalled?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I hope it transforms hearts. And I hope it transforms hearts in the ways Mark just suggested.
The pope is not going to visit the homeless or the prisoners once in his visit. He’s doing it six, seven, eight times in the visit. So, the constant focus will be there on those who are hurting the most. And I think that enlivened attention will carry over into people’s eyes, both in their private lives and their private giving, but also in their public lives.
Mark has said this many times over the years. We have a political culture focused on the middle class. We have lost some of the contact with the poor, some of the contact with the needy, and not only — and not from high to low, and, frankly, some of the compassionate conservatism and some of progressivism has been from high to low, but treating the poor as those closest to God and worthy of respect maybe even more than everybody else.
And that’s an attention that has been absent from our political culture or in short supply, and maybe it will be in slightly bigger supply.
MARK SHIELDS: I think David said it very, very well, just that wherever he goes, he brings the cameras with him, and an incredible number of cameras, as we know.
But as soon as he finishes Congress — and it’s the hottest ticket in the history of Capitol Hill. I mean, people are fighting to get in. Former members and senators can’t even get into the gallery to hear him. They have set up a JumboTron outside.
He’s going to have lunch with the poorest of the poor in the Center City in Washington sponsored by Catholic Charities. I mean, these are the addicted. These are people with alcohol problems, with psychological problems, the homeless. And he doesn’t allow us to look away. He forces us to examine those who are living on the outskirts of hope.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.
Mark Shields, David Brooks, thanks so much for joining us.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
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Shields and Brooks on U.S. reaching out to refugees, Iran deal assurance
Fri, Sep 11, 2015
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HARI SREENIVASAN: But first to the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
We just had a segment where we laid out in painful detail how difficult it is for a refugee to gain asylum in the United States. And there are several people who say, you know what? If it wasn’t for the United States’ foreign policy of perhaps disbanding the Iraqi army, creating a tremendous amount of regional instability that perhaps in — fueled ISIS, destabilized Syria further, and has caused this migrant crises — is the United States responsible or should they be more responsible in taking more asylum seekers?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I would be one of those people.
I think all the things you mentioned. And then a couple years ago, we had a big debate about Syria and whether we should be helping the moderates, the moderates, such as they are, in Syria and whether we should arm those moderates. And people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham said yes.
Eventually, the current administration did arm them, but with very little, much too late. And so you have this war between Assad’s forces and ISIS. And so I do think it was partially our — the vacuum created by the U.S. and the West, when there was still some sort of moderate solution possible, that helped create this crisis. And, therefore, we have a responsibility to take in more refugees.
It’s still, though, bizarre to me that most of the debate is on this side of the pipeline, the flow of people on the receiving end. There are hundreds of millions — not hundreds, but there are a lot of — millions of people in Syria. Are they all going to come? What about dealing with that Syria there and creating safe havens, creating places where people can go to be safe, when you can have islands of stability inside these two evil forces?
MARK SHIELDS: I agree 100 percent with 50 percent of what David said.
MARK SHIELDS: I think that it didn’t begin with the United States’ withdrawal from Iraq. It began with the United States’ invasion of Iraq and the entire destabilization of the region.
And there’s no question that Iran was strengthened by the United States’ invasion of Iraq, that sectarian violence was encouraged and that — destabilization. As far as our — the United States’ commitment to Syria, it’s certainly been halting. But that part of that halting has been lack of any domestic political support, as a consequence of what happened in Iraq.
And it was just an unmitigated disaster. But the reality is that the moral leadership of the planet, or at least of the Western world right now, has become in Berlin and Stockholm. Germany and Sweden have stepped up. And people say, oh, well, that is in the self-interest of Germany.
It is in the self-interest of Germany to take talented, energetic, able, committed people who have the resources, the initiative and the strength to get out. It’s a tragedy. David makes the point that a nation the size of Syria, four million people have left the country.
I mean, that’s a stain on us and it’s a stain on all of the civilized world that we have allowed that to continue.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, let’s take a look at the Iran deal.
There were kind of machinations in both sides of Congress this week, one side saying, hey, there’s this opportunity for you to pass this up or down, the other one saying, how about you block, that it not pass this forward?
It was just one of those moments where you realize what are you really voting for and how often is this going to come up? Is this going to become like the Affordable Care Act, where Republicans will continue to try to figure out ways to stop any progress on it?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
It’s, first of all, bizarre that you pass something with a minority, especially what is effectively a treaty with a minority. Treaties are supposed to be ratified by two-thirds, but now we have got like 42 or whatever it was. But that’s the way the situation was set up.
And once the Republicans agreed that they only — the Obama — the administration only needed a third of the votes in the Senate to pass the thing, then it was going to be a done deal. He was going to get a third.
And so they got that and a little more. And so the Republicans are going to hang whatever happens in the Middle East on this treaty, and not only whether Iran gets a nuclear option or whether they begin to cheat or fudge with the inspectors, but the most immediate effect and whether it postpones an Iran nuclear program, yes, it probably does.
But there’s an immediate negative effect and that is you’re enriching a power that funds Hezbollah. And so as, for example, Syria deteriorates and if Hezbollah gets stronger, then the Iranian regime will probably be funding it more and more and that will be a knock-off of this deal. And so the Republicans will be able to use that.
I think there’s a legitimate argument against something the administration did that, at least in the short term, destabilized the Middle East.
MARK SHIELDS: Iran was two to three months away from nuclear capability.
That’s the best estimate of people that I pay attention to who are in a position of leadership. And the reality is now that they are now at least 10 years away. Their own capacity at Arak will in fact be decommissioned.
But the politics here are entirely different. David’s right, in the legislative office area, you can never get in trouble by voting against something that passes. You can say, well, I was going to make it better. Or voting for something that doesn’t pass, the same thing, because there’s no responsibility.
This was a mirror vote of the Iraqi war vote. Ever since that vote, people who voted against it said we were right, and the people who voted for it and supported that war have been on the defensive. And Lindsey Graham was very blunt. He said, it’s all the Democrats’ now. It’s theirs. And it’s everything that happens, the whole deal.
I happen to think it’s a good step. It’s a positive step. I agree with Prime Minister Cameron. I agree with Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande that this is the best step. These are nations that know war from their own people’s experience on their own home fronts.
So I do think the reality politically here is that what had been bipartisan overwhelming support for Israel has been politicized, and I think basically by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, and who, as a campaign event and stunt for himself, wrangled an invitation from the Republican Congress to come and speak to the Congress and use it as a campaign post basically to criticize the policy of the president of the United States.
And I think that there’s been a wedge now between what had been overwhelming bipartisan support for Israel, and I think quite frankly the responsibility lies with Mr. Netanyahu.
DAVID BROOKS: I agree with that last point.
But on the Iran deal, if we conceded that Iran was going to get a nuclear weapon, that there was no way we could stop them, then maybe this was a good treaty to sign. I don’t think it was important necessarily to concede that. I don’t think it was inevitable. I think we sort of conceded a defeat basically too early, when the sanctions could have avoided that defeat.
But the larger issue here with both the Syrian and the Iranian thing is sometimes when you lean in and do something, you get blamed for it, the Iraq war. Sometimes, when you lean out and don’t do anything, you get blamed for it, Syria.
And so you got to have a foreign policy that is very tied to the circumstance at hand. Is this a smart move in this particular space? My problem, in retrospect, with the Bush administration, they were like leaning in all the time. My problem with the Obama administration is they’re leaning out all the time.
And so neither are that context-specific. And I think that’s just a lesson we have learned from the last two administrations.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, shifting gears now to Vice President Biden.
On Monday, he seemed to make, on Labor Day, almost a campaign rally-like speech. And then he had an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” last night. Let’s play a clip.
JOSEPH BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, number one, they know exactly why they would want to be president, and, two, they can look at the folks out there and say, I promise you, you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy and my passion to do this.
And I would be lying if I said that I knew I was there.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The cynical side of folks says, you know what? This is a politician. He’s got a great opportunity here. And there’s the other side that he’s in the midst of incalculable grief.
MARK SHIELDS: In this campaign in 2016, Joe Biden’s greatest weakness — that is, he talks, he says what he thinks off the cuff, he is unfiltered — is his greatest strength.
I urge, which I have never done before on this broadcast, everybody to watch that exchange, that interview with Stephen Colbert. Stephen Colbert in my judgment proved himself to be a national resource last night. I was, like, eavesdropping on a very intimate personal conversation between two people on subjects of great and intense importance to them emotionally.
I just thought it was phenomenal, in the sense that he was just as open, as emotionally accessible, however you want to put it. I mean, it was a great strength of his, what has been sort of Joe tells you and Joe tells too much. Joe spoke last night from the heart. And in this campaign, with positioning and focus groups and readjusting and all the rest of it, I got to tell you, it was refreshing.
DAVID BROOKS: It was a really beautiful thing and beautiful moment. And it reveals what a beautiful man he was.
But to me, surprisingly, it reveals that maybe he does have an opening this year. The newspaper earlier in the week had a story that Hillary Clinton has a plan to become more spontaneous.
MARK SHIELDS: Organized spontaneity.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
But Joe Biden is sincere down to the bones. He’s always sincere, sometimes to a fault. But that sincerity comes through. And that may actually play this year. It’s a little counterpolitical, in a weird way, to be that sincere. But that’s who he is. And so that may actually work.
Also, he’s become more disciplined. He used to — when you would go out and would cover a Joe Biden rally, he would give a great speech, and then he would follow with a second speech, and a third speech and a forth speech, and they would get decliningly good, or bad, or whatever, decline.
So, he’s more disciplined by the vice presidency. He’s had to be. And so I’m beginning to think there’s an opening. And it’s just a testament to two men who had severe losses in their lives in conversation.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, finally, the debates, the platforms are set for next week. Carly Fiorina moves up to the — kind of the marquee event, and not the warm-up show.
But somebody’s dropping out. We talked about Rick Perry today. I want to just pull a quote out of his concession speech — or his departure speech. “Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant. It betrays the example of Christ.”
And I think he’s referring specifically to Donald Trump here. And he goes on: “It’s time to elevate our debate from divisive name-calling, from sound bites without solutions.”
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
There’s no question he’s talking about Donald Trump there. We have had harsh words back and forth between the two men. But Rick Perry spent the last two years preparing for this race. But it comes down to, sadly, you don’t — very rarely get a second chance to make a first impression. And oops one of the three departments he was going to abolish dogged him. And that’s the reason.
But on the way out, he certainly gave Mr. Trump a salute.
DAVID BROOKS: He ran a much better campaign this time, a good speech on African-Americans, a good speech on Hispanics, much better campaign, worse outcome. It’s too bad.
On the debates, I think Jeb Bush, this is a debate where he’s got to — he’s leaking air. And so I think the pressure’s on him more than anybody else in this debate.
MARK SHIELDS: I agree. I would say this.
Everybody knew Donald Trump in the fourth grade, I mean, the bully. And if you correct him or criticize him in any way, you’re stupid or you’re dumb, or you’re ugly. That is what he accused Carly Fiorina of being this week.
And I think he may have stepped one step beyond. If Carly Fiorina is disqualified because of her looks, what does that mean Donald Trump would say about Golda Meir or Angela Merkel or Mother Teresa? It just tells you something about the depth of the man.
And I think that it’s really going to be determined. Rubio and Kasich have hidden from him. Cruz has tried to be his best buddy, his closest friend. Scott Walker tried to emulate him and fell flat on his face. Jeb Bush has decided he is going to take on the bully. And I think Chris Christie will throw a haymaker on the way out.
It’s going to be — it’s not going to be ballroom dancing. It’s going to be a slugfest.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Mark Shields, David Brooks, thanks so much.
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Shields and Gerson on refugee crisis responsibility, Trumpâ€™s GOP pledge
Fri, Sep 04, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s the cue to turn to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away.
So we have just been listening to a little bit of the politics of the week, Mark. Hillary Clinton, important interview she had today, a lot of questions about the e-mail server. She said that she wished she had done it differently. She said it wasn’t the best decision.
What do you make of that? I mean, does she — has she put this behind her in any significant way, this issue?
MARK SHIELDS: No. I mean, she was apologetic. She was contrite, I think it’s fair to say. And it was an interview with Andrea Mitchell, who is not only a respected journalist, but who has covered Mrs. Clinton and Washington very well for a quarter-century. So there weren’t going to be any curveballs thrown the interviewer’s way.
I think this, Judy. First of all, it’s in the FBI’s hands now. And we’re going to continue to have the e-mails released a month at a time. This story is still with us, and it will remain with us. It will be part of the run-up to Iowa.
The one question that strikes me, as I listened to her today, is every president needs — and very few have — that one person who can say, no, stop, you’re making a fool of yourself, you’re doing the wrong thing.
Bryce Harlow, who was the wisest — one of the wisest men I ever knew in Washington, counselor to President Eisenhower, President Ford, President Nixon, said, everybody, I don’t care how powerful they are, a CEO, chairman of a committee, president of a university, when they walk into the Oval Office, they’re ready to tell the president what to do, and they say, Mr. President, you’re doing a wonderful job. Our prayers are with you.
And she is not the only person, but she needed someone to say, no, you can’t do this. And the question is, does she have someone now?
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, Michael Gerson, I heard Andrea Mitchell ask her. She said, was there somebody on your staff who said this is a bad idea? And she talked about how they — she didn’t think, she said, when she did this.
MICHAEL GERSON: Yes. As far as I could tell, the main answer she gave was, oops. She didn’t really think of it at the time. That’s really her argument here.
It strains plausibility for people who have been in government that know how much emphasis is put on record-keeping and secure communications when you’re at high levels in the executive branch. It’s just a big deal, you know, the federal acts that relate to records.
So it doesn’t have the ring of truth in that case. She’s also well behind this story. We found this week that the FBI was — is now investigating possible security breaches with like the Russians and Chinese with her account.
We learned that we — that her — she has an aide taking the Fifth Amendment. And we learned there are at least six e-mails that she sent that have classified information in them. I mean, these are serious things, cumulative things that she has not provided a very good answer on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, at the same time, Hillary Clinton, the people around her have been saying, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, there was nothing nefarious going on here, anything that was classified was made classified later.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes. No, that is their defense and their position. And it’s tough to argue with. And the example cited of her trying to get a speech given by Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, publicly that could not be sent because it was classified gave you somewhat of an indication of how overly-classifying the intelligence area — agency is.
I will say this about Secretary Clinton today. Her answer to Andrea on Joe Biden was pitch-perfect. I mean, it was human, it was natural, it was very personal in the best sense. And it didn’t have any political angle to it that I could detect.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, she asked her, do you have a comment about the fact that he’s considering running?
MARK SHIELDS: Right. Oh, I’m sorry. Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And she said, it’s not for me to say. And then she went on to say, he needs the space to think about it, right?
MARK SHIELDS: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael, we ran a clip of what the vice president said last night at that speech at the synagogue in Atlanta.
Do you think get the sense that he’s leaning away? He clearly didn’t sound like he is there yet.
MICHAEL GERSON: I get the sense that you’re seeing that process in public, exactly what he’s thinking about this. It’s one of his appeals, is this transparency.
And this is a family that underwent a terrible trauma three months ago, that, you know, a trauma like that can strengthen a family, but it also can be a difficult time. And a presidential campaign brings minute and massive scrutiny.
And so I think that is a real issue. But he could come in here. He doesn’t fit an ideological gap. He’s very much like Clinton in a lot of his views. There is no ideological gap he would fill. But there is a kind of ethical gap that he might fill.
The worst thing that’s come out of the e-mail situation for Hillary Clinton is one of these polls recently about what are the top three words you think of when you think of a candidate, and it was liar, dishonest, untrustworthy. Those are serious issues that come out of the e-mail situation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And she was asked about that today, again, Mark, by Andrea Mitchell. And she said, our campaign goes on and I don’t worry about that and we feel good.
MARK SHIELDS: No. Yes, it hasn’t been a great six months since Hillary Clinton entered the race. She still is the front-runner, still is the favorite and is still obviously quite formidable.
On Joe Biden, his greatest virtue may be also his occasional vice. And that is that total lack of artifice to him. I mean, he was just being — I think he was being totally frank with that audience last night in Atlanta. I think he’s saying — Judy, with the possible exception of asking someone to be your life partner, the most personal decision anybody makes is the decision to run for president.
It is a difficult, painful — and he knows from personal experience it can be heartbreaking.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re asking your family to be part of the journey with you.
MARK SHIELDS: And you’re asking your family. Do I want to do this? And I have got a wonderful reputation at this point. And after eight years as vice president, do I want to risk it all and — all of that. I mean, it’s really difficult.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn quickly to the other party.
Michael, Donald Trump yesterday did what he said earlier he wasn’t going to do. He met with the head of the Republican Party and he said he signed the pledge. He held it up for everybody to see and said he pledges he will not run as an independent or third-party candidate if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination.
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think the image of the head of the RNC making the pilgrimage to the Trump Tower in order to get some assurances is exactly what he wants.
He looks in control. This is the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal.” He has really taken the RNC to the cleaners on this and has done a very good deal, because he now has gotten what he wanted. And his — the pledge he has made is less than useless. He can just come and say, the Republicans violated their part of the deal, I was treated unfairly. He builds his case.
There is nothing to prevent this. This is a man who has changed some of his most fundamental political views over the last few years in order to shift. This is not going to be an obstacle for his ambitions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see going on with…
MARK SHIELDS: I couldn’t say it — I couldn’t say it better. I think the idea that the chairman of the Republican Party and the states requested that he to this in order to run in those states, they’re changing their own rules, but comes to him, Reince Priebus did, and became almost a prop for Donald Trump to do his declamation and take shots at the other candidates.
And the chairman had to stand there and do it, take it in all the time. I just think this fuels the fire of Mr. Trump’s lack of humility.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I gather Priebus met with him and then left before the news conference.
But I guess my question, Mark, is, does this change the race in some way? Does this change the Republican equation? What do we think, Michael, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think, Judy, the question is — obviously, Jeb Bush and others are taking him on.
And the question becomes, what happens on the 16th of September when they have their next debate? And you will recall, just four years ago — I’m sure Michael does — Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, was a very formidable candidate, and he went on television on a Sunday and talked about Obama-Romneycare, Obamneycare.
The Affordable Care Act had been based on Mitt Romney’s. And 24 hours later in the debate, when asked about it, he wouldn’t say it. And his campaign just evaporated.
JUDY WOODRUFF: He wouldn’t criticize — wouldn’t criticize…
MARK SHIELDS: Wouldn’t repeat what he had said 24 hours earlier.
So this is the test. It’s one thing to say when he’s 1,000 miles away. Will they say it to him on the stage?
MICHAEL GERSON: And then also an interesting test for Jeb Bush, too. Will he repeat the criticisms he’s making to Trump’s face?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Yes.
MICHAEL GERSON: And they have been stuff. They have been that he’s not a consistent conservative, but also that he’s using racial dog whistles.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes. That’s right.
MICHAEL GERSON: Jeb Bush has made this case. Will he press that case in the debate? That will be fascinating.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn you all back to this terrible humanitarian crisis we’re seeing over the refugees in Europe.
We have seen the pictures which just tear at your heart, the one we showed, and again on the program tonight, the little 3-year-old boy, Mark, a Syrian child whose parents were trying to get him out of there and into Europe.
How are we think about where responsibility lies in all this? I mean, is it — where should we be looking? I mean, there is some disagreement. We heard tonight Hungary is providing buses now, but a lot of these refugees want to go to Germany, they want to go to France. Who should be stepping up right now?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, you know, I think Angela Merkel is probably the exemplar at this point.
I mean, Germany is the size of Montana, slightly smaller than Montana. They have pledged to take 800,000. If they take 800,000, that’s the equivalent of the United States taking 3.2 million refugees. Now, you could say, yes, Europe is aging. It needs young, vibrant, hardworking people. These refugees are obviously overwhelmingly that.
They’re young and dedicated and energetic and ambitious. But, you know, Judy, I don’t — I am surprised it has not become an issue in this campaign. Now, given the Republicans’ position…
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean, that — about whether they should come to the United…
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, what if the United States — I mean, these are refugees from Afghanistan, from Syria, from Libya, not totally divorced from the United States policy and presence and invasion and military actions in the Middle East.
What do we have? We have taken 1,800 Syrian refugees over the last four years in this country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. I heard Trump asked about it this morning, and he said it was something that the U.S. would — might have to consider doing.
But, Michael, where should — where do we look at a time like this?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, when you look for responsibility, you have to look for — to President Assad, who destroyed his own country…
MARK SHIELDS: I agree.
MICHAEL GERSON: … through his own arrogance and brutality, and then ISIS, which has, you know, taken root in the ruins.
But we have also had four years of American policy that’s not been very active when it comes to Syria. We had a number of American officials, including Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus, Leon Panetta, John Kerry, who proposed more strenuous action to strengthen proxies that would — to try to push for a peace agreement, and to try to undermine the capacities of the regime to perform mass atrocities.
And those — the advice from those people wasn’t taken again and again. And we’re seeing some of the results of relative inaction, I think.
MARK SHIELDS: I would just say, without getting into an argument with Michael, it’s 15 years now of United States policy there. We did, in fact, topple the most formidable adversary that Iran had, and we left in our wake…
JUDY WOODRUFF: In Saddam Hussein.
MARK SHIELDS: In Saddam Hussein.
We left in our wake a nonfunctioning government, a Shia government which showed no respect for rights of the Sunnis. And out of that grew ISIS. And ISIS is not just a — didn’t come from the bow of any Greek god. This is a direct consequence.
I think that there was no — there is no will in this country right now for military intervention. I think that has been killed. I can listen to Dick Cheney and read his books from now until the cows come home, but there is no — there is no — not even a third of the Congress who would vote to send in military action, and you would only do limited accomplishments with airstrikes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the debate goes on. And I think we can guarantee we’re going to hear more about it as this campaign continues.
Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, we thank you both. And have a good Labor Day weekend.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.
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Shields and Brooks on Bidenâ€™s presidential pondering, voter perceptions of Clinton
Fri, Aug 28, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Vice President Joe Biden weighs a run for the White House. Party loyalists criticize Hillary Clinton’s handling of her personal e-mail account. And Bernie Sanders continues to draw huge crowds and pulls ahead in New Hampshire — just a few of this week’s news developments, as we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.
That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
MARK SHIELDS: Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we have been spending a lot of time talking about the Republican race for the last few weeks. Let’s spend some time tonight talking about the Democrats.
Joe Biden, David, a lot of talk about whether he’s going to get in. He’s been meeting with the head of the Teamsters union. He met with the liberal darling Elizabeth Warren, Senator Warren. He’s got people advocating for him now at this big Democratic gathering in Minneapolis.
Do you think he’s going to get in?
DAVID BROOKS: No.
DAVID BROOKS: No.
Well, first, God bless him for his resilience. The guy loses a son, and still wants to serve the country and still is emotionally strong enough to do it. I salute him. And — but — and he’s a wonderful man, and he’s a great public servant.
But what the country is in the mood for is anti-establishment. I think that’s one of the reasons Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are sailing into headwinds. Bernie Sanders has it. Donald Trump has it in spades. Joe Biden doesn’t have it.
And so whatever the problem is with the Clinton campaign, Joe Biden also has that problem. And so I think he will get a sense of that larger atmosphere, let alone the money and the organization and all that, and Hillary Clinton’s still formidable strength, really. And so my guess — it’s a guess shared by a lot of Democratic insiders — is that he won’t do it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you share the guess?
MARK SHIELDS: I don’t.
And, you know, and with great respect for David, but I don’t think anybody knows. As David indicated, he wasn’t sure. It’s the most personal decision imaginable. And, as David touched on, with the death of his son Beau in May, it becomes even more personal. It’s a family decision. He’s a grandfather.
I mean, he really is. What you see with Joe Biden is what you get. And that is — David’s right. It is not an anti-establishment, but America is craving authenticity in 2016. And Joe Biden brings authenticity to it. He’s also a happy warrior. He also communicates with working-class voters a lot better than most Democrats do, and I think better than Mrs. Clinton, Secretary Clinton did, except in the late primaries in 2008.
So I think he probably had ruled it out, he had accepted it earlier, and Hillary Clinton had wrapped up endorsements. She had money, she had support, and she stumbled. Make no mistake about it. And she looks vulnerable. And there’s a surge of affection for Joe Biden, and I don’t think he’s made the decision.
I think he’s going to make it shortly. His conversation with Elizabeth Warren, there was no offer, no ask. They spent an hour and 50 minutes together. And 90 percent of it was talking about issues, and 10 percent — 10 minutes or so about politics.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s speculate here.
David, if he did decide to get in, what would be the pros? What would work for him if he got in, and what would be the problem?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, as Mark said, a guy from Scranton. He’s got some beautiful stories to tell.
Just a quick one. When his dad was unemployed in the Depression, got a job at a car dealer, and for the Christmas bonus, they were at a party and the car — the ownership of the dealership, as a bonus to the workers, threw a bunch of silver dollars on the dance floor and expected people to grab them and pick them up. And Joe Biden’s dad quit on the spot. He wasn’t going to be treated that way.
And that’s like an authentic part of life and that’s a sense of dignity that he was raised with. Joe Biden quotes his dad and mom all the time. When he campaigns, the entire family campaigns with him, his sister. So, all that stuff, that authentic stuff, is real.
And he’s sort of been chained for the past eight years. You can imagine he’s urging to express himself. So, he has some great natural vitality. As a campaigner, I remember following around him the last time. He would give a really good speech, and then two other speeches would come. And so he’s always had a problem controlling his tongue and keeping his temper. Maybe he’s going to be a little better at that.
But he’s a lovable guy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see as the pros and cons if he gets in?
MARK SHIELDS: The pros, Judy, are basically, as Secretary Clinton — the Democratic Party has as its whole card is empathy, and that is a sense on the part of voters that they care about people like me.
In 2012, there were four presidential qualities that the exit poll of voters on the Election Day. They asked, who has vision to the future, who’s a strong leader, who has — who shares your values? Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 10 points. Who cares about people like you, 81-18 Barack Obama.
Bill Clinton always had that. Bill Clinton, when you questioned his candor, his forthrightness, or his behavior, there was always a sense he cares about ordinary people, there is a real commitment there.
She, in this latest Quinnipiac poll, national poll yesterday, you know…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton?
MARK SHIELDS: Hillary Clinton. Who’s ahead, who’s behind us doesn’t mean anything.
They asked, who cares about people, the needs of someone like you? And she was 46 percent agree, 51 percent disagree. I mean, that is a killer. Joe Biden has a far more positive rating, as does Bernie Sanders.
I mean, with Hillary Clinton, the first woman candidate and a Democrat who has been — Children’s Defense Fund and health care and all the rest of it — that’s a real problem. I don’t care how many endorsements you have got, how many superdelegates you have got. That becomes a real problem.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is her perceived weakness that — as you said, Mark, that has generated all this talk around Biden and the consideration presumably by Biden.
But, David, how vulnerable is she really? She’s out this week. She’s taking responsibility for the decisions she made on the personal e-mail server. She’s talking about how she’s — she’s talking about a little bit tougher on the campaign trail, comparing how Republicans view women with how terrorists view women.
Is she turning this around? I mean, how do you see her vulnerability?
DAVID BROOKS: I think she’s both an extremely likely nominee and also kind of weak.
And I just don’t think there’s a plausible alternative right now. So I think she’s going to be the nominee, but her weaknesses have been on display. The first is the e-mails. We don’t know. Things are going to come out. They have got the servers. They’re going to apparently be able to recapture some of these deleted e-mails, and some of those things may, may not come out, but that’s sitting out there.
Second, as I say, the establishment thing is a problem for her. And, third — and I think this is really the most serious one in a way — is, there is sort of just an unconscious boredom about her people. She doesn’t — I mean, the country sort of — people don’t — 30 percent think we’re headed in the right direction. There is a desire for something change — for something new.
And her events — I haven’t been to one of her events, but I’m reading them, seeing them on the TV. They don’t look exciting. They don’t look like they’re passionate. They don’t look new and fresh.
And so, when you have a campaign that’s not that creative, apparently, you have got a problem, and especially in a year like this, when a Bernie Sanders and a Donald Trump and somebody fast, new and at least vibrant seems to capture a lot of oxygen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, she’s also got the polls saying people talk about her — quote — “not being trustworthy,” not being honest. Is that real at this stage of the campaign?
MARK SHIELDS: It is.
I thought, again, the idea that where people volunteered a word about her — it was in one of the polls, Quinnipiac, poll — that doesn’t mean anything unless you narrow it down to Democrats and independents, because Republicans are going to cite what they find the most. The same thing if you are talking a Republican to Democrats.
So, but there’s no question there are doubts about that. The e-mail remains a problem. The other thing that’s a problem is that inevitability is not a campaign strategy. Now, people should be with us because we’re going to win. We’re going to win because people are with us.
And that’s not it. There isn’t a sense of purpose or energy or mission in the campaign thus far. I mean, she’s a — she was a very good candidate in 2008 at the end of the race, after she had been beaten badly in states like Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and Texas. She was a lot better candidate than Barack Obama was at the end.
But David mentioned Bernie Sanders. Could I just talk about him?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I wanted to ask you both about that.
MARK SHIELDS: OK. OK.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Because we’re sitting here talking about Hillary Clinton’s problems. We’re talking about Joe Biden may or may not get in.
Bernie Sanders, meantime, still drawing big crowds, David, pulling ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, a crucial first primary state. Is he looking any more plausible?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I’m a little more humbled about it than I was.
I thought he wasn’t plausible at all. And the thought was sometimes parties elect or nominate a candidate who is unelectable, but not that unelectable. And I still think he’s sort of unelectable. The country is just not as far left as he is.
But I must say, the evidence is growing that his support is growing. I don’t know if it’s widening, though, and whether it’s widening out of the white university towns. And if he can do that, then you begin to think, well, maybe, maybe. But until he can do that, I still think it’s extremely unlikely that he will be the nominee.
But he will continue. He’s where the heart and — the economic heart and soul of the party is right now, and especially among progressives in university towns or places like Seattle. He’s right what they need. And he’s got the outsider thing, which is so big this year.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see Bernie Sanders?
MARK SHIELDS: I’m more impressed. I really am, and have been.
Before I became a pundit, I used to work in political campaigns, three presidential campaigns.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Oh, that’s what you were?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, no inaugural speeches, but three presidential campaigns and 38 different states.
And I can tell you, getting a crowd is a lot of work. It’s a lot of work. That’s why people don’t try and put crowds together. I mean, it requires — if you have got a ballroom that holds 500, you have got to have 750 there, because the last thing in the world you want is a press report that begins, speaking to a half-empty high school gymnasium, Senator Brooks said — outlined his program.
And the size and intensity and enthusiasm of a crowd drives press coverage, and it overcomes skepticism in the press and it enlists people. Bernie Sanders had 27,500 people in the sports arena in Los Angeles in August.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
MARK SHIELDS: A Democratic campaign event in Los Angeles is a party at Steven Spielberg’s house hosted by George Clooney.
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, they don’t get 27,500 people. That is remarkable — 11,000 in Phoenix, I mean, 28,000 in Portland on a Sunday.
I mean, it’s — that is real intensity. Everything about Bernie Sanders, I think, translates it in a year when money is king. And Donald Trump, in a strange way, has been the greatest campaign finance reformer by pulling back the curtain and saying, this is how it works. I give money, the senator calls me back, and he does or she does what I want them to do.
And Bernie Sanders has raised an average contribution, 80 percent of his money, $31. I mean, it’s…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Small donors.
MARK SHIELDS: It’s small donors.
And I would say this, Judy. We in the press are not biblical scholars, but we love the David/Goliath story. And he is the David. And it is a message. He’s — it’s not the messenger. He’s not a charismatic, compelling personal figure. He has a compelling message.
And that, is, you know, to the — to Wall Street and the rest that you’re going to pay your fair share and you’re not going to get away with murder anymore.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re going to leave it there.
Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.
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Shields and Gerson on Trumpâ€™s immigration politics, Carterâ€™s cancer news
Fri, Aug 21, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Donald Trump is holding on to his lead in the GOP presidential field. How are the other candidates adjusting? The Clinton e-mail saga shows no signs of letting up. And former President Jimmy Carter and his very public battle with cancer.
That brings us to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away.
Welcome to you both.
MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So let’s talk about Donald Trump. As we said, he’s holding up in the polls.
Mark, now that we’re a couple of months into this, do we know more about who Donald Trump is as a candidate, about what he really believes? Do we understand better what’s going on here?
MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure, Judy, to be very frank about it, how much we know about him.
We know what he’s publicly emphasizing. I mean, there’s a strong sort of Howard Beale cast to his — Howard Beale being the anchor in “Network,” the movie, played by Peter Finch, who coined the phrase “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” — there is a lot of that to him.
And he is to an electorate, particularly a Republican electorate, but electorate in general, that by a 2-1 country think the country is headed in the wrong direction, thinks their children’s future is not going to be as bright as their own, and many in the base who are concerned about the changes in the country, and its racial composition and its social mores, the acceptance of same-sex marriage.
There is a dissatisfaction, an anger, an unexpressed anger. And I think Donald Trump has — is addressing that. And he does it in a flamboyant, sort of unbossed, unbought way that is beholden to nobody, seemingly, no interest groups, except his own interests.
So I’m not sure. There is a lot of sense — the perception is there, but I’m not sure there’s a core.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you feel, Michael, we have got a better handle on what he’s trying to say?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, what we have seen is his first policy initiative. He set out an immigration policy. It was thin, six pages. It was not very detailed, but it included changes to the protections of the 14th Amendment on birthright citizenship and mass deportations.
So this is a person, Trump, who, three years ago, which is not very long ago, criticized Mitt Romney’s self-deportation plan as maniacal and mean-spirited. And now we’re going to from self-deportation to forced mass deportation.
This is crossing a lot of lines in the Republican Party. I think it’s quite serious and I think it could damage the Republican Party for decades to come to be associated with this approach.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Does he explain how he’s made that turn?
MICHAEL GERSON: I don’t think he — there’s no explanation.
Whenever he’s caught in changes, he just doubles down. And his support seems to stay, you know, the same. But he is, in a moment where there is a lot of partisan anger, there’s a lot of candidates, 18 or so Republican candidates, so he’s in a field where he can stand out.
And — but — and he probably has a ceiling of support. I don’t think he’s going to get the Republican nomination, but he’s at 20 percent in the polls and driving the debate on immigration in very dangerous ways.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, he’s taking some — I mean, he’s making these statements that get a lot of attention.
As Michael said, he came out this week with his position on immigration. What effect does is that having on these other candidates in the Republican side, the other 16 of them?
MARK SHIELDS: When the central issue in the campaign is set by the front-runner, then — and that is perceived as contributing to that front-runner being the front-runner, whether it’s anti-busing with George Wallace, whether it was opposition to the Iraq War with Barack Obama in 2008, there’s a natural gravitational pull on the rest to say, I have got to close the gap between them, a little me-too-ism, a certain aping of the front-runner.
I think we have seen that this week, certainly, conspicuously in the case of Scott Walker, who sort of — the governor of Wisconsin, who seems to be shadowing Trump’s philosophical movement.
At the same time, Judy, let’s be very blunt about this. There’s a mean-spiritedness in the electorate he’s appealing to. I mean, when the CNN poll asks, which of all the candidates do you agree with on immigration, by a 4-1 margin, Republican primary voters say Donald Trump.
Donald Trump, whatever else he is, his — his position is anti-immigrant overall. It is devastating — Michael is absolutely right — it is devastating to the Republican Party in the long run, because Asian voters, the fastest growing minority in the country, who supported George H.W. Bush when he lost badly in ’92, voted even more Democratic than Latinos…
MICHAEL GERSON: Forty-seven percent of Asians voted against…
JUDY WOODRUFF: But hurting them in the long run, but in the short run, it’s helping him with the primary, with the Republican primary voters, right?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, there are members, I completely agree, who want to be pale versions of Trump, which I think is hurting them and hurting the party.
Walker has been everywhere on all sides of the birthright citizenship issue and really shown, I think, that he’s not playing in the big leagues, he’s not prepared, he’s not thoughtful in these areas.
But you do have Rubio and Bush, who, eventually, one of them, I believe, will emerge as the anti-Trump, make a very strong argument on the other side, and as candidates, as other…
JUDY WOODRUFF: On this birthright question, on immigration.
MICHAEL GERSON: On immigration as a whole and his whole approach to politics.
And it’s going to be very important. I mean, what Trump is appealing to has more of a feel of European right-wing politics, OK, UKIP or the National Front, highly nationalistic, resentment of foreigners, we have been betrayed by our leaders.
There is some deep and disturbing things that are being appealed to here. And that’s the role of leadership. There’s always populist trends. Good leaders take those trends and direct them in ways that serve the public good. Bad leaders feed those trends to serve themselves, and that’s exactly what Trump is doing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you get a…
MARK SHIELDS: I’d just point out, Judy, 25 percent in a 17-candidate field is very impressive. Twenty-five percent in a three-way race, you’re a loser.
I agree with Michael that both Rubio and Jeb Bush, each is waiting for the other to go first in attacking Trump, because they want to be the remainder man against Donald Trump, because they don’t think Donald Trump in the final analysis is a majority candidate.
What they risk is, what Trump is doing and saying becomes so odious and offensive that it almost will be seen as a moral surrender on your part, ultimately, in the general election that you didn’t stand up to him. And I think that’s a real risk that anybody runs by not confronting him at this point.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to turn us to the other party, to Hillary Clinton, Michael. The e-mail controversy, there was more evidence this week that there are real investigations going on, questions about whether these e-mails, either they were marked — if they weren’t marked confidential to begin with, they should have been marked confidential.
The question, she’s taking this on, she had a news conference, she’s talking to reporters about it. Do you think — do you see any sign that she’s getting ahead of this issue? Is she overwhelmed by it? What do you see?
MICHAEL GERSON: No, these events are undermining her main argument, that this is somehow a political attack. Now you have the federal judge questioning her conduct this week. You have the FBI. You have the inspector general of the intelligence community.
This is not a partisan deal. This is going to be determined by real investigations. So I think that’s — and you can see the trouble she’s in from the defenses she’s made. There’s now been three of them. The first one is, there were no classified documents. She said that, right?
Then she said, there was nothing classified at the time. That turned out to be untrue. And now she said she didn’t send marked documents, OK? When you take — you find — when you get top-secret clearance and you commit to protecting this material, that’s not the standard. You’re responsible for negligence. You’re responsible for mishandling of material.
It’s not just the standard she said. And so she’s lost control of events. She tried to control things so close by saying, I want to control my own information, I want to be able to destroy it. She controlled it in such a way that it attracted attention and is now beyond her control.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?
MARK SHIELDS: Judy, The New York Times broke the story six months ago about her private server. And, quite bluntly, we have gone from a time when the investigation appeared to be motivated by the Republicans on the Hill, with the Benghazi story and all the rest of it.
Now we have a federal judge appointed by Bill Clinton who’s directed the FBI, and this is going to be around for months, and it’s no longer just a partisan witch-hunt. It’s an official investigation, with all the implications that that involves. It’s going to be — it’s going to color and influence her campaign from here on in.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you think she’s handling it?
MARK SHIELDS: I don’t think — I think that, at the outset — you just should have turned, I guess, everything over right at the outset and say that I have nothing to hide, including my e-mails about Chelsea’s wedding. I mean, I don’t know what else — you know, or how pleased or displeased I am with the gender of my grandchild when it’s announced.
But, you know, quite bluntly, it’s a — there’s no upside on this for her politically.
MICHAEL GERSON: And she’s had a really terrible launch to her candidacy. There’s been a series of questions, a series of things that she’s been defensive on.
And there are now Democrats thinking in the back of their mind, do we need a plan B? I think that’s very real. This has gone from a very small chance of implosion to maybe a larger chance, where Democrats are saying that Sanders can’t carry the ball into the election, and there may need to be someone else.
There is no one obvious, to be honest. But I think those questions have now been raised in a serious way.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There was a report today, Mark, that — and Michael — that Vice President Biden is asking some technical questions about mounting a campaign, but we will see. I mean, I think he’s indicated he will make a decision.
MARK SHIELDS: Joe Biden, like every other presidential candidate, still dreams about being elected president. I mean, it doesn’t go away. It is a lifelong affliction or inspiration.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we saw this week someone who was president decades ago, former President Jimmy Carter, I think, very gracefully handled the bad news, the bad medical health news he got in terms of a diagnosis of cancer, melanoma that has spread to his brain.
Mark, this is somebody who’s been — he’s been out of the White House for 35, 40 years. And yet — I mean, what do you make of this? It was quite a remarkable performance, that news conference yesterday.
MARK SHIELDS: It was, in fact, Judy.
We’re in an era — I think Michael would agree — totally, aggressively secular, where church membership is in decline. And yet, in the last couple of months, we have seen two examples of the value, the social value, as well as the individual value, of religious faith.
We saw it at the AME Church, the families, survivors of those victims forgiving the killer who was racially motivated. And we see it in Jimmy Carter, who has devoted his post-presidency to improving the cause of those less fortunate, but showed such grace and courage and humor and faith in the face of this just daunting and dooming news.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As somebody who covered the Carter White House a long time ago, Michael, I was struck by the humor — as Mark says, the humor.
He said he’d gotten calls from former President — both Presidents Bush and President Obama and Secretary — he said, “Of course, I hadn’t heard from them in a long time.”
MICHAEL GERSON: Right, yes.
Well, we often get examples of how to live, live healthy, how to live successfully. There’s a lot of emphasis on this. But we don’t really get examples of how we approach death. This is a really good example.
Now, he — it’s not imminent in his case. He’s seeking treatment. He wants to live longer and may well live longer. But there is a calmness, there is a grace, and there is a courage about what he said that’s an example of how you deal with the end.
And he also dealt with it with gratitude, talking about how grateful he was for his life. That’s a real model for all of us.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It is. And we saw that the medicine he’s getting is something that’s only been available for the last year or so.
We certainly wish him well.
Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, great to see you both. Thank you.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
MICHAEL GERSON: Good to see you.
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Brooks and Corn on Cuba as campaign issue, Jeb Bush on Islamic State blame
Fri, Aug 14, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: That does bring us now to the analysis of Brooks and Corn. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine David Corn. He’s also a contributor to MSNBC. Mark Shields is away.
And, gentlemen, welcome.
So, Cuba, let’s — David, let’s talk about that, historic moment today. You already have Republican candidates, though, like Marco Rubio, we just heard from him, Jeb Bush, saying this is a big mistake by the Obama administration. Is this going to be an issue in the 2016 presidential race?
DAVID BROOKS: Not in the general. It will be in the primary.
If you want to win a Republican primary, you have to be against — you have to be pro-embargo. That’s where the electorate is. But unlike all past elections, A, the Cuban-American population is not as big. They’re not the majority of Hispanics, even in Florida. And, second, this is one of those issues where generational change matters a lot.
Older Cuban-Americans are very pro-embargo, the younger ones not much. And so among the population as a whole, it’s very evenly divided. And so I have trouble believing that it will be a big general election issue and that it will hurt Democrats, even in Florida.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?
DAVID CORN: What is interesting is that Marco Rubio, who puts himself as the face for the future, fresh leadership, and going against Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton, is tied to the position of the past; 54 years hasn’t worked.
And David is right. There has been a tremendous shift. If you look at the polling coming out of Florida International University, right now, a majority of all Cuban-Americans support Obama’s policy. And if you break it down by age, it’s overwhelming. It’s close to 60 percent for people who are the younger half of the population, or, interestingly enough, if you came here after 1980.
So it’s really just the people who came here early and who are old, who may be Republican primary voters in certain places, who are holding onto the vestiges of this policy. But, otherwise, it’s going to the wayside.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not — even in the margins, you don’t see it making a difference?
DAVID CORN: No. If there is a competitive Florida primary at some point for the Republicans, yes, but in the general election, this is a looking-backward position. It’s a minority position. It won’t help any Republican in the general contest.
DAVID BROOKS: And in — and the primary, maybe Rubio has a little more credibility because he’s Cuban-American, but they all have the same position.
It’s sort of an interesting race politically. I think we really could get down to the Florida primary between Bush and Rubio. And they’re polling kind of even. In the general election, neither are guaranteed to deliver Florida for the Republicans.
One thing I didn’t learn until today, none of them, neither Rubio nor Bush, in all their races, they have never run in a presidential year. And the electorate in Florida is quite different obviously in a presidential year than it is in the years they have run.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, something else Jeb Bush brought up this week was — as an issue in the race was going after Hillary Clinton, blaming her and the Obama administration for — essentially for helping create ISIS.
And he said that with the Obama administration did under her leadership as secretary of state was to leave an opening, pulling the troops out, he said, too early in 2011. Is this something, David Corn, that he can get some mileage?
DAVID CORN: I mean, I have to laugh a little bit, because I think he was setting a record for chutzpah.
I mean, it wasn’t until after his brother’s invasion of Iraq that you had something called al-Qaida in Iraq. And that was the group that morphed into ISIS. So ISIS is a direct result of the war in Iraq right there. And so he’s wrong on the history.
But then he said what happened was that Obama and Hillary Clinton orchestrated this quick withdrawal after everything was secure. Nothing was really secure in 2009-2010. You can ask Tom Ricks about that. But it was George W. Bush in December 2008 who created the agreement with Prime Minister Maliki that said that U.S. troops had to be out by 2011.
And then Obama didn’t renegotiate that. And there is a lot of question as to whether he could even have, given the political situation in Baghdad itself. So Bush is totally — Jeb Bush is totally rewriting this. And my question is, why is he even talking about Iraq?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. He wants to have an anti-terror foreign policy.
I give him a little more credit, of course. I think the war did help create al-Qaida in Iraq. So, both parties have something to answer for. Ultimately, ISIS created ISIS. It wasn’t us, but allowing the environment — so the Bush administration, the failed war, that had a — some contributory factor.
I do think that we abandoned Iraq too quickly, left too quickly, left a void in the Sunni areas, which ISIS was completely happy to fill. But more important — and this is a bigger indictment of the Obama administration — we did nothing about the Syrian civil war. And that created the biggest void.
And that’s not necessarily Hillary Clinton’s fault because she was arguing for a more aggressive policy. Nonetheless, we did nothing. Even today, our attacks on ISIS are paltry, and we have continue to do nothing. And there are strategic issues. There are just moral issues.
Today, my newspaper had a front-page story on just rape academies, this institutionalized rape. And the fact that we can stand by and do nothing while this is happening, to me, that’s an indictment of the sitting administration.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Extraordinary story. We interview the reporter, Rukmini Callimachi, last night. It is just such a disturbing story.
But does he have a point, though, David?
DAVID CORN: I think you can have a policy dispute or debate, a discussion about what should be done, what has been done in the last three, four years regarding ISIS and Iraq.
You can’t blame Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for giving us ISIS, which is what Jeb Bush did. And if he wants to get to brass tacks and talk about what he’s willing to do in terms of putting in troops and taking on targeting that hasn’t been done already — I mean, Barack Obama has mounted thousands of airstrikes.
And the real question is, at the end of the day, can the U.S. go in and make a difference? We have learned with the invasion of Iraq that military might doesn’t always give us what we want in this region.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s — his criticism was aimed at Hillary Clinton, which raises another question this week. She’s not only dealing with that, but, in a larger sense, she’s dealing the e-mails, her server now turned over to the FBI, questions about whether a couple of them were marked top secret.
She’s now — she’s facing Bernie Sanders being ahead of her in the polls in New Hampshire, David. She — there is talk, there is serious talk about Joe Biden, Vice President Biden looking at running as a Democrat, and even a rumor today about Al Gore.
What’s going on in the Democratic Party? Is Hillary Clinton more vulnerable than anybody thought?
DAVID BROOKS: Obviously.
DAVID BROOKS: And a lot of people thought it. A, she’s a good candidate. She’s not a fantastic candidate. She’s not creativity — creative — and imagination is really important when you’re running for office.
But, to me, the biggest problem — and the joke is she carries more baggage than United Airlines. Just over the years, she’s accumulated all this stuff. And the e-mails are a reminder of that.
The biggest problem for her is, she’s running in the wrong year. She is a dominant candidate. I still think she’s going to get the nomination because there’s no alternative. But she’s the establishment. She’s purely the establishment. This is a country where only three in 10 Americans think their views are represented in Washington. Only 29 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right place.
This is a country especially wanting some sort of structural change, whether they know what that structural change is or not. And that’s especially true on the progressive side. And so she’s running against the prevailing winds of our current moment. And she can fight all she wants, but it’s going to be a fight because she’s in the wrong year.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think she’s really more vulnerable?
DAVID CORN: Well, I don’t think she’s vulnerable in the sense that other Democratic nominees can take her out.
I think Bernie Sanders can win New Hampshire, but often nominees lose some primaries going on. I find it hard to see how he — even if he does that, beats her in long run. I haven’t seen Martin O’Malley gain any traction. Al Gore’s office — he’s already shut down the office.
Joe Biden could be a bit of the problem. But I know people close to him who have been talking about this. The consideration is real. It’s really happening.
JUDY WOODRUFF: He really is talking about it?
DAVID CORN: But if you’re looking — there were two establishment front-running candidates in this presidential race. One is Hillary Clinton. And she is at pretty high in the polls, most standings, for Democrats in most places.
And then there is Jeb Bush, who is 5 percent in Iowa. So, I mean, he is — I would rather be her than him at this point in time if you have to be an establishment front-running candidate.
But the e-mail stuff, maybe it’s good that they’re litigating this early. But it does bring back at least what people in the political media world don’t — complain about the Clintons. I don’t know if that is going to be a pressing issue a year from now.
And, you know, for her, I think it’s good if there is a lot of story going on about other races. It’s hard to be the center of attention for a year-and-a-half and give speeches and not do much else, and have people still feel good about you at the end of the race.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, there is an argument, David, that if — to have all this talk and have the race roiling around a little bit, and then if she emerges victorious, she has accomplished more than if she’s just been the assumed person all along. What do you think?
DAVID BROOKS: It’s better to be the Yankees than to be the Amazin’ Mets.
DAVID CORN: Hey, hey, I like the Mets.
DAVID BROOKS: That is something we have in common.
But, listen, she just hasn’t — as I said, her party is riled up. They think there are big structural problems in the economy. Bernie Sanders speaks to that. She doesn’t yet. She’s trying, she’s catching up, but it doesn’t seem authentic to her. Is she really going to talk about inequality, given how cozy she’s been, how rich she’s been, the lifestyle?
It’s just more of a challenge for her to side with where the energy of the party is. And I meet so many people…
DAVID CORN: Well, that happens in Democratic primaries.
If you look at like Bill Clinton 1988 vs. Jerry Brown — John Kerry beat Howard Dean. John Kerry didn’t win ultimately. But, sometimes — with Barack Obama, he was in the sweet spot, right, where the energy and the passion of the party was. But that’s not always the person who gets the nomination and goes on to win or get a good shot at it.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
No, I agree with that.
I mean, she — Bernie Sanders has white progressives. The party is much more multiracial. And so he has got to limit — O’Malley made a good joke today that he has avoided the problem of peaking too early.
DAVID BROOKS: Which he has.
So, she’s still — there’s still no alternative. And that’s why Jeb Bush is — he has got at least five real alternatives.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of a roiled-up party, Donald Trump has been dismissed by everybody from one end of the spectrum to the other, but he is just — David Corn, he seems to be just getting stronger.
DAVID CORN: Oh, yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: He’s going to Iowa. He’s landing in a helicopter at the Iowa State Fair tomorrow. He’s in the catbird seat, at least this weekend.
DAVID CORN: And I think will be for months to come.
I think it was foolish to dismiss him, not because as him. He comes across as a reality TV tycoon buffoon. But the people who are, you know, attracted to him are a real important part of the Republican primary base. You know, a lot of Republicans still believe that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, that he’s some sort of secret socialist and secret Muslim who has a secret plan to destroy the United States.
And they just really don’t like him. And so they want somebody who’s going to vent their fears, their frustrations, not someone who’s for good government with policies. And that bloc is anywhere between 10 percent and maybe 25 percent. And in a divided field, that gives Donald Trump, if he speaks to these people, yes, what he said, this outsized influence.
I don’t think that bloc is going away, and Trump isn’t going away.
DAVID BROOKS: I agree Trump isn’t going away, but he’s not going to get votes. I think his voters are…
JUDY WOODRUFF: You think he’s not going to get votes…
DAVID BROOKS: I think much less than he polls. He will poll really well. I think he will hang around 20 forever.
But he — his voters are what they call low-information voters, that is to say, people who don’t pay attention to politics. And this is a conservative party, and he is not a conservative. He’s against entitlement reform. He’s for a single-payer health care system. His ideology is not left/right. It’s winners and losers. And I’m a winner, and all those people up — that you don’t like and you feel alienated by, they’re a bunch of losers.
And so it’s not a classic ideology. I think he will get it because — for the reasons I said it earlier. For the same reason Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are struggling, he’s rising. He’s at the moment where the country wants some sort of weird insurgency with a lot of ego. And that’s him.
And so he’s at the moment of the times, but I don’t think those people are going to show up. And he will just hang around at 20 percent forever, but somebody will eventually beat him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we keep talking about him every Friday. So, we will see how long it lasts.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, he continues to be an incredibly gross human being.
DAVID BROOKS: The comments about Megyn Kelly….
DAVID CORN: Well, you know…
JUDY WOODRUFF: They get some comments.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.
David Brooks, David Corn, it’s good to have you with us.
DAVID CORN: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.
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Shields and Brooks on GOP debate standouts, Schumerâ€™s Iran deal rejection
Fri, Aug 07, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So, the first debate among, David, 10 of the 17 Republicans running for president last night, what’s your assessment?
DAVID BROOKS: It was great. It was a great debate. Trump brings the party, and I hope he stays. Maybe in the general, they can stick him in. I thought he was — he livens the atmosphere. He’s not a real candidate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: He’s not a real candidate?
DAVID BROOKS: No. He doesn’t have an ideology. He doesn’t have a belief system.
He has himself. And they went after him, the three excellent moderators. And he defended himself and I think he did fine. Probably 70 percent of Republicans disapprove of him. A lot of the things he said were astonishingly inappropriate, that he wouldn’t support the Republican Party nominee. That’s kind of a big one. He likes single-payer health system. That’s the first Republican that sort of likes that.
He is outside of all the categories, but he is a lord of self-esteem. And his main message is society is filled with losers, and they happen to be running it, and society has some winners who are being ignored. And if you’re a winner like me, we got to get rid of those losers.
And that’s an ideology that is not a political ideology. It is a narcissistic ideology. But I suspect the 20 percent who like him will continue to like him and like him even more. And so he will be hanging around there.
Among the real candidates, I thought Rubio did quite well. Carly Fiorina in the underdebate card did quite well. And John Kasich did quite well. And so I think those three helped themselves and they actually are viable candidates and make us rethink the race.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you size it up, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know where to agree and where — no.
MARK SHIELDS: I agree. Donald Trump fills up the hall. There were 24 million people who watched. That’s more people than had ever watched a cable event, other than a sports event.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Huge numbers.
MARK SHIELDS: And this was a sports event.
Donald Trump indicated right at the outset he is going to run as Donald Trump. And I thought it was an indication of the magic he has established, the chemistry he has with Republican voters, that the only person on the stage, candidate who would even take a shot at him was Rand Paul.
All the others ducked him, John Kasich included, Jeb Bush included, when given opportunities. Who went after him? The three FOX moderators, who were tough. They really did. And I really think he made a serious mistake by going, retaliating, attacking Megyn Kelly. First of all…
JUDY WOODRUFF: When she asked him about his comments about women.
MARK SHIELDS: Asked him about women, his misogynist comments.
First of all, FOX News is the validator, it’s the gatekeeper for Republican, particularly conservative voters. And you don’t go after — it is not like you’re attacking Chuck Todd or Judy Woodruff or some of the liberal elite establishment. You’re attacking the mother church when you go after FOX.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s make a distinction here, please. I’m not part of the liberal media.
MARK SHIELDS: No, but I’m talking about by the definition of conservative America, where FOX really is the gatekeeper — I think you would agree, the gatekeeper and the validator.
And when he went after her, I think he made a serious mistake. I thought, as far as the others were concerned…
JUDY WOODRUFF: You don’t think he helped himself?
MARK SHIELDS: I think he hurt himself. I really do.
He’s a combination quite unlike anything I have ever seen before. I agree partially with David that it is sort of egotism and cynicism. Everybody is transactional. You believe nothing. Why do you give money to Democrats? You give money to Democrats because you are going to give them a call and they’re going to do what you want.
Everything. There’s no ideal. John Kennedy said he was an idealist without illusions. Donald Trump is a cynic without illusions. Nothing is on the level. You go into bankruptcy four times. You screw the investors. Hey, that’s the way it’s done now.
I just — I thought he came across really, by having taken on FOX News, and particularly Chris Wallace and Bret Baier, and particularly Megyn Kelly, I think he made a mistake.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you said, David, a minute ago you thought Marco Rubio did well and you thought John Kasich did well. What stood out?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. So,
Rubio has a message. The message is, America is changing fast. I’m surrounded by a bunch of old guys who don’t get it. And I get it. I get Amazon. I get Airbnb. That’s actually a pretty good message. And it goes with his belief system. And he presents very well. And he’s very articulate and well-spoken and smart. And so he has a message.
Kasich has a different message, which is unique and I think reflective also of the times, which is we need growth, but we need compassion. And so he defends some of the New Deal social programs, even Great Society social programs. But he said we got to grow. And then once we grow, we got to share.
And early in the program, we had his passage on going to a marriage of a gay friend. That is a broadening message. That is actually a general election message. And Rubio also has a general election message. And so if you are a Republican mainstreamer, and you are trying to think, who can win, well, walking in, you thought, well, Jeb Bush appeals to a lot of people.
And we all go around the country and we hear a lot people who are not particularly political, but they think, Jeb Bush, he seems acceptable. He was meh at the debate. He was fine, but not terrible, not great. But these two guys have something new, and something that actually could be viable. And you know, Florida and Ohio, if those two are on the ticket, you’re doing OK.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, but you see some delineation there? I mean, there’s now some — more separation between these candidates as a result of this debate?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Yes. It wasn’t — nobody has called — I will say the person who probably had the best night was Carly Fiorina.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Who was on earlier. She wasn’t even in the big debate.
MARK SHIELDS: She was on the early one.
And Mark Russell, the great satirist, said, who won the 5:00 debate? Carly Fiorina. Who won the 9:00 debate? Carly Fiorina. I think she represents something Republicans need. They want her on that stage, because when she goes after Hillary Clinton, again, we can’t be accused of misogyny if it’s a woman doing it.
And she does it quite effectively. I thought Marco Rubio had a good night. Marco Rubio plays better to the punditocracy, those of us who cover it, than he has directly to voters. His numbers have not been great. He doesn’t seem to have a base. But he really — I thought he handled himself quite well last night.
I wasn’t as impressed as other — David and others were with John Kasich. He was given the opportunity by Chris Wallace after Donald Trump made this outrageous statement about Mexico, the government is sending criminals across the border. And Chris Wallace asked him for any evidence. He had no evidence.
He said, I was at the Border Patrol, had a visit in Laredo. And he said, what about that? He said, no, we’re doing it because American politicians and leaders are dumb, and the Mexican government is smart. And they’re sticking us with the bill. And he turns to John Kasich and he said, what about that, Governor? And John Kasich said, Donald Trump has touched into something in America, instead of confronting him.
I just — I thought that Rubio had a good, good night. And Jeb Bush was wallpaper. There was no sense of command to him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Whoa. That’s tough.
Just quickly, if both of you think Fiorina had a good night, what does that say though about the system that is leaving the other seven, the people who don’t make the cut of 10, apart in a separate event? What does it say about…
DAVID BROOKS: There’s a super bad problem with the polls, which is they’re polling everybody. They’re not polling people who are actually going to vote.
And Donald Trump’s voters are what they call low-information voters. They’re classically the kind of people who don’t vote in primaries. In some sense, his lead is completely — not completely, but largely artificial.
Meanwhile, we have been hearing on the campaign trail there’s been a buzz about Fiorina for a couple months. And so she just got to show it to a broader audience. But she has earned her way into the next calendar.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quick questions about the Democrats.
Earlier this week, Mark, a lot of reporting about whether or not Joe Biden may get into the race. There’s some fairly reliable reporting that he’s thinking about it. Pros, cons.
MARK SHIELDS: He’s thinking about it.
Judy, he ran for first time in 1988. He ran in 2008. He’s been vice president for eight years. It’s always been in his DNA to run for president. And Hillary Clinton’s numbers in the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll took a bad tumble between June and August.
Among women, she now has a negative rating. This was supposed to be her golden source of support to give her the new coalition. It has to be tempting at this point. I don’t think anybody knows. I would bet that he doesn’t, but it’s got to be tempting if she starts to look very vulnerable.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Pros and cons?
DAVID BROOKS: He shouldn’t do it. He shouldn’t do it. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man. He’s a great public servant.
This country and especially the Democratic Party is in the mood for systemic change and something fundamental, different. They don’t want a sign of the establishment running their party. That’s what she is facing. She’s in a dominant position, but the tide is against her. The mood of the times are against her. The mood of the times are certainly against him.
So you got to pick your year. It’s not his year. If he runs, I think he will do some damage to his long-term reputation.
MARK SHIELDS: He doesn’t have a lot of other years to choose, David.
DAVID BROOKS: Well…
JUDY WOODRUFF: We will talk about that.
Very different subject here at the end, the Iran nuclear deal. The president gave another passionate defense this week, made a speech at American University. He has had a number of Democrats come out, Mark, in favor, but he lost a big one in Senator Chuck Schumer last night.
How significant is that? Is the president making any headway with this argument?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, the president is. He needs a third plus one in either the House or the Senate, one of the two.
And, obviously, Jewish members, including such as Chuck Schumer, are very much a target, because of, understandably, Israel’s position; 92 countries have endorsed this nuclear agreement, Judy, including Lebanon and Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Jordan, as well as…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Egypt.
MARK SHIELDS: … great American ally, Egypt, but — Algeria.
But the United States here, there is a real premium on Sandy Levin of Michigan supporting it. Chuck Schumer is an important legislator. He’s going to be the next Democratic leader. The fact that Kirsten Gillibrand, his colleague in New York and very close, at the same time came out in support of the president’s position may indicate that Chuck Schumer is not going to spend a lot of time, effort, energy trying to proselytize other members.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How significant is this?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, first of all, I don’t think Bibi Netanyahu’s opposition has anything to with Chuck Schumer’s opposition or the Israeli position has anything to do — I think it’s a terrible deal not because Israel does.
I just think it’s a terrible deal that will endanger the Middle East for generations to come. And I’m sure Schumer came to the same conclusion. In the public opinion, Obama is losing the argument. The latest poll I saw was 2-1 against among the American public. And, frankly, I thought Obama’s speech — he’s a great speechmaker, he’s a great arguer. Certainly one of his weakest speeches, in which you’re sitting on the fence.
It’s a close issue. He says, oh, it’s not a close issue. It’s transparently a close issue. It’s a tough debate. Second, if you are on the fence, he was insulting you in your thinking that, you’re so stupid. You were wrong in the past.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Equating it with opposing — or going to war in Iran.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It was just, I found, a very high-handed speech designed to offend, not to persuade.
MARK SHIELDS: I really — I do think Judy, quite frankly, that the president is making the same case that Ronald Reagan made in dealing with the Soviets, negotiating with Iran. They’re not nice people. They’re not good people, but it is important. And I think he’s making the case.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you.
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Shields and Brooks on police body cameras, previewing first presidential debate
Fri, Jul 31, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: From the shooting, police shooting in Cincinnati, to rising expectations for the first Republican presidential debate, it’s been a full week.
And it leads us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So, Mark, this shooting in Cincinnati of a black man by a white policeman, the video released this week, there is no question — there appears to be no question about what happened. Why do these things keep happening?
MARK SHIELDS: I wish I knew, Judy. I mean, I do — I have never heard, quite frankly, a prosecuting attorney, like Joe Deters did, just come right out and say this was essentially murder.
But I have to say, I am encouraged by the use of body cameras. This is — where it’s been tried, where it’s been used, endorsed by the National Association of Chiefs of Police, it has led to the diminution of violence. We learned as kids that character is how we conduct ourselves when nobody else is looking.
This is a great incentive to character. We know it’s not — it’s good for police as well. A bogus charge of sexual harassment against a police officer was totally discredited by the presence of these cameras. But, in answer to your question, I do not have an answer.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s — David, and we don’t know if there is any connection, but we reported earlier tonight the city of Baltimore has had a record number of homicides, gun deaths just in the last month. And yet these incidents continue.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Well, you know, I suspect — my theory would be that these things have always been happening, and we just haven’t known about it and talked about it, or without the cop cam in this case, we probably wouldn’t know about this at all. It would just be an invisible case for most of us.
And so I’m ambivalent about cop cams, because I think a lot of what police is, they go into homes of people at their most vulnerable moments. I’m a little nervous about the cameras in those circumstances. I’m also a little nervous about the way the camera may interfere with trust, a trusting relationship with a civilian and a police officer.
Nevertheless, in this case, it’s a clear, obvious good thing that we have the cam. We can find out exactly what happened. And it’s very clear. He shot the guy when he was in his car. And so I do think this is a case where finally we have the technology that gives us the information.
As to why the murder rates are rising, my reading of the research on this is that first there’s a lot of gang activity and a lot of it is extremely localized. But if police — we have seen all these cases of police abuse. But the police are there for a reason and they generally do good and they generally prevent crime.
And if the police are being a little less aggressive, sometimes for good reason, it’s not totally surprising you’re going to see an uptick in crime.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.
MARK SHIELDS: I think, Judy, cameras, not that they’re a panacea, but I do think they’re going to help restore the relationship and trust in the police.
I think they’re good for the police, quite honestly. And there’s no question that there’s been a breach in the trust between urban — especially urban community, African-American and minority communities and the police in major American cities.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A tough thing to watch this week.
All right, let’s turn to presidential politics.
David, we are six days away now from the first debate. The Republicans are going to meet in Cleveland, I guess 10 of the now 17 Republicans. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore jumped in the race today. What do we expect? This is the first time we are going to see 10 of the 17 together.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, what’s Trump? Is this a Donald Trump reality show with nine supporting actors?
That is to me the big story, whether he is able to dominate with his own voice, whether everyone, as they have been doing off camera in the last week, just try to get some publicity for themselves by attacking him, whether he becomes the central figure, or whether they try to ignore him.
I hope they try to ignore him and just let the thing ride itself out. But to me, that’s the — he still remains, perversely, the big issue here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think is going to happen? What do you expect?
MARK SHIELDS: Here’s what’s going to happen, Judy.
MARK SHIELDS: No, I go back to the Democratic race in 2004, when Howard Dean was the front-runner. And at the first debate, Dick Gephardt, the Democratic challenger who had won Iowa in 1988, took him on directly, to Dean, and said he wasn’t a real Democrat.
And the problem is, when you have got a multicandidate field — and you have got 17, but this time you are going to have 10 on the stage — when A goes after B in a two-person race, then either A pays a price for the charge if it’s true, or B benefits from the charge if in fact it exposes A’s shortcoming.
But when A goes after B and there’s a C, and D and a Q all lined up there, you have no idea who’s going to be the beneficiary. I don’t think there’s any question that there will be an effort to go after Donald Trump. I think…
JUDY WOODRUFF: But why isn’t that — isn’t that just going to make him…
MARK SHIELDS: Well, no, but you have to do it. You have to bring him down to earth.
This is a man who was pro-choice. Now he’s pro-life. He’s for single-payer health insurance. He’s at odds philosophically through his career, his support of Democratic candidates, large checks for Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in the past, explains now that everybody is transactional.
You want to bring him down if you’re his opponent, if you’re charging him. I think Chris Christie will go after him most directly, because Chris Christie had already preordained for himself the role of the no-nonsense, tell it like it is, straight from the shoulder, and Donald Trump has totally preempted that.
But, no, I think it’s going to be fascinating. I think it’s always, Judy — debates are important even this early.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Even this early.
MARK SHIELDS: Even this early.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, what is to stop — Donald Trump has benefited, it seems to me, until now from the attacks. He’s gotten bigger and stronger.
DAVID BROOKS: I agree.
I think the normal logic doesn’t apply to Donald Trump. I think if you go after him, as he’s gone after all these Republicans, all these Republicans have gone after him, and what it illustrates is that there are nine of them or 16 of them and one of him, and that he is the one who stands out.
And a couple of things are happening here. One is, people always like an obnoxious middle-aged guy that tells it like it is. There’s a weakness for that. I built my whole career on that.
DAVID BROOKS: But, second, he’s not like the rest of them. Somebody did a good speech analysis of the opening speeches all the candidates gave, and all the candidates had speeches using the same language, the same clusters of words. They’re all very similar, except for Donald Trump, different verbal style, different arguments, different words.
He just stands out. And as Mark has pointed out on this show a lot, if you have two or three decades of politicians attacking Washington, and he is the ultimate anti-Washington candidate, and they’re all sort of Washington, then attacking him is going to make him look even more exceptional and probably help him, at least in the short-term.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, if Donald Trump is getting bigger on the Republican side, Bernie Sanders continues to draw big crowds on the Democratic side.
There’s some question about whether he’s taking fans away or votes away from Hillary Clinton this early. But how do you explain this appeal of these two outspoken people with very different views, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump? What is out there going on? I saw a quote today from the Democratic pollster Peter Hart, where he said he thinks the American people are — he said a lot of people are scared, and they want somebody who is going to protect them.
MARK SHIELDS: I have great respect for Peter Hart. And I — that may very well explain part of the appeal.
But, to me, the appeal that they have in common is that they are essentially, as David put, out of the mold. Donald Trump is not your typical candidate that people have come to expect. He’s not tailoring his language to the moment.
Bernie Sanders, he is — what you see is what you get. I mean, there are a lot of Democrats who are still, at heart, disappointed that the people that they felt brought the nation to its knees in 2008-2009, Wall Street, the top 1 percent, have skated, they have never been held accountable, they have never gone to the bar of justice, nobody’s paid a price.
Bernie Sanders is the avenging angel. He’s the anti-candidate, Judy, in this sense. There’s no focus groups. He’s spent no money on polling, all right? There’s no pre-tested remarks. He just says exactly what he’s been saying. And I think that has appeal.
And the crowds you mentioned are truly impressive.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Does that explain Bernie Sanders, David?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think so.
I mean, it’s not what you believe sometimes; it’s how you believe it. And Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have very — little different belief styles. I’m not sure Donald Trump believes in anything, except for his belief system sort of begins and ends with the morning mirror.
DAVID BROOKS: But Sanders actually believes in this.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: And he’s intellectually consistent and he’s intellectually rigorous. I don’t agree with it, but it is a coherent belief system.
And, to me, his success is explained by the rapid and almost dam-breaking movement, intellectual movement of the Democratic base on economic issues further to the left. And so what had been an anchor of Democratic centrism, new Democrats, that anchor is gone. People are responding to what they perceive as the issues of the day, inequality, wage stagnation, and they are moving pretty far left very quickly.
And I think they’re — a lot of the Democratic base really intellectually is where Sanders is. And Hillary Clinton is trying to catch up, but, for her, it’s catchup. For him, it’s home base.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re right. We are hearing some of that from Hillary Clinton.
I do want to — in the couple minutes we have left, I want to ask you both about these super PAC — we’re supposed to be hearing tonight, Mark, the first filing — or the filing, fund-raising reports on these super PACs.
In the past, money has not always been determinative. Just because somebody had raised or had a lot of money didn’t always mean they were going to do well.
MARK SHIELDS: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But could that change this time? Because some of the super PAC money is just off the charts, hundreds of millions of dollars.
MARK SHIELDS: President John Connally and President Phil Gramm would agree with you that money didn’t deliver the White House to either one of them, even though they were great fund-raisers.
Judy, this is so entirely different. In the past, in order to continue as a candidate, a serious candidate, you had to be in the top three finishes in Iowa. You had to be in the top two out of New Hampshire. All our presidents elected in the past half-century finished either first or second in New Hampshire and in the top three in Iowa.
That changed with the Citizens United, when we gave unlimited amounts of money.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Supreme Court.
MARK SHIELDS: Newt Gingrich finished a bad fourth in Iowa in 2012. He finished a weaker fourth in New Hampshire, but Sheldon Adelson wrote him a $50 million check and he could go to South Carolina and savage Mitt Romney, which he did in half-hour spots.
Now we have got 30 people so far, as of an hour before this show, who had given a million dollars to a PAC; 70 percent of them have given it to Jeb Bush.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David, could money make a difference this time?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think it makes a difference in who stays in the race.
So, some of the Republican candidates are pretty poor. And I suspect, even with some super PAC help, they just won’t be able to run a campaign after a little while and so they will drop out. So it helps you stay in the race, like Newt Gingrich did.
But once you’re in the race and you’re in the major leagues, I don’t think it matters, because there is going to be so much money, so much swamping of money, that you’re just making the rubble bounce. And I don’t think the money will give you a huge advantage over the other candidates, because everybody will have plenty of it, and you will be — we will all be bombarded with ads, and they will cease to make a difference after a while.
So, back then, it gets up to the reality of who the candidate is, what they’re saying and how distinct they are.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the next time we get together, we will be talking about the first Republican debate.
MARK SHIELDS: We will.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
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Shields and Brooks on guns, Iran, and whether Clintonâ€™s emails will turn into scandal
Fri, Jul 24, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So let’s go back to the lead story, David, a string of shootings just in the last few weeks, including this one last night in Lafayette, Louisiana. We talked to Mark Kelly at the top of the program, Gabrielle Giffords’ husband.
What — is there anything to be done?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m for doing all the gun control you can think of, the gun show loophole, the background checks, assault weapons ban. And so I’m for it. I think, if you increase the number of filters between the buyer or shooter and the weapon, you might do some good.
I would be a little modest about how much good you would do. This has been studied quite lot by the CDC, by the AMA, a series of studies of all the gun control legislation that’s happened in the past. And it’s very hard to find strong effects.
There are 250 million guns in this country. And as we heard earlier in the program, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And most of the killings are done with handguns. People find a way to have guns. I’m for it. But we have seen a 50 percent reduction in homicide in this country over a generation. And a lot of other things are more effective in reducing gun violence.
Let’s do it. Let’s just not expect it will have a big effect.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you say 50 percent reduction in…
DAVID BROOKS: Over the last generation. We have seen this massive drop in violent crimes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
DAVID BROOKS: And that has a lot to do with treatment programs, with the police programs. There are a lot of ways I think to reduce violence that are — produce bigger outcomes than the gun control stuff.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark.
MARK SHIELDS: Judy, I listened to Mark Kelly and the point he made about the public support of background checks. He’s absolutely right.
I mean, 81 percent actually, by the Pew poll, favor background checks, by a 7-1 margin. And, yet, it couldn’t pass the Senate. And, you know, there’s a sense of frustration after Newtown, and Charleston, and now Lafayette. What it’s ever going to take?
And the only idea that even strikes a spark with me — and I agree with David on the measures and I wish — we have too many guns. We have too much access to them, too many people who are unstable who shouldn’t have that access — was a suggestion made by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, introduced. He said we have enough guns in this country for 200 years, but we only have enough ammunition for two years — or for four months. I’m sorry.
And he said that, you know, why not tax ammunition? I mean, not .22s for target practice, but when you’re talking about ammunition for weapons of personal and mass personal destruction, you know, we have to think in those terms. There’s no question that the debate has been won right now, not permanently, but has been won by the Rifle Association people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: By the gun rights…
MARK SHIELDS: The change in attitude of, do you believe the emphasis should be, the choice should be on control of guns, gun ownership or control of guns, 20 — 15 years ago, by a 2-1 margin, people wanted to control gun ownership.
And now it’s a question, I think, that control people’s right to bear a gun is — a majority believes that’s the priority.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s just such a gap, though, David. There’s all this outrage after these shootings, and yet we seem to keep having the same conversation. There’s nothing to be done.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, as I say, public policy is hard and getting change is hard.
And, you know, I think getting the background checks in any of these cases recently, would it have helped? I’m not sure. A lot of these guns were acquired legally, sometimes flaws in the system. I tell you the thing that I think needs to be done. And this is not a government thing. This is a community thing.
The one thing that so many of these cases have in common, whether it’s the household killings or the mass killings or the racist killings, it’s a disgruntled, sick, isolated, perverse young man. And so it’s a social — we all know people in our communities. And if you see a kid who’s grown increasingly isolated, whose views are growing increasingly extreme, then act.
And that is one way. And, you know, we all have these webs of social networks. Just be alert to that and try to prevent something terrible from happening. That’s one thing that I think could have some positive impact.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s something we heard from the USA Today reporter, that there is a pattern, and it’s typically a man, and a young man.
Let’s talk about Iran, Mark, the administration facing a real uphill battle selling — selling this Iran nuclear deal. What kind of a job are they doing defending it, and could they — could Congress end up killing this thing?
MARK SHIELDS: I think Congress is a good bet, as we mentioned last week, that Congress will vote to reject it.
But I think the administration is, rightly and logically, concentrating its efforts not on winning Republicans. There are some, obviously, people like Jeff Flake, who said — senator from Arizona — says he has an open mind, and has demonstrated it in the past.
But the emphasis and the focus has to be upon Democrats, to persuade Democrats why they should support the president and support the agreement. And I think the strongest argument is that there is no alternative, and to bring in the fact that people of great substance, from Brent Scowcroft, who was a national security adviser to Republican presidents, to diplomatic giants like Thomas Pickering and Lee Hamilton and Ryan Crocker…
JUDY WOODRUFF: They signed a letter.
MARK SHIELDS: … are supporting it.
So, I really think that is — it’s not, this is the almighty, but what is the alternative? And I think that’s the case that they’re making. They’re trying to persuade probably 145 Democrats in the House to stick with the president.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in the meantime, it’s a real buzz saw they’re facing, isn’t it?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, it’s not exactly leading from a position of strength. The purpose of leadership in government is to provide the country with good options.
And they have gotten in a situation in which we have bad options. To me, the worst part about the treaty is that it will give Iran maybe $150 billion, maybe as high as $700 billion in revenue, to which they can spread their terror through the terror armies they’re already using.
And so in the short-term, whatever it does in the long-term with nuclear weapons, it will destabilize the Middle East. On the other hand, they are not stupid to say the alternative is worse, and that if we do this, the sanctions will fall apart. China is eager to go. France wants to sell nuclear stuff. Russia is certainly eager to sell nuclear stuff to the Iranians.
And so if the U.S. does reject it, it will get worse. And so their option is — their argument is not that the treaty is so great, but the alternative is worse. And so they have put up in a choice architecture where we have got two really bad options. And my guess at the end of the day is the Democrats who are in play here will not opt for that worse alternative. I could argue they maybe they should, but it’s hard for me to see it absolutely losing in the long-term.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think Democrats will come around?
MARK SHIELDS: I think the Democrats right now are being smart politically by saying that they’re open, they’re listening. There’s no point in taking a position until they have to.
But I don’t think there’s many open minds on the other side. The $150 billion that David spoke of, of course, is Iran’s money. It isn’t like we’re writing a check to them. It has just — it’s been frozen. And I think that — you know, that has to be understood.
So I — you know, I don’t think there is an alternative. I think, quite frankly, that Prime Minister Netanyahu hurt himself and his cause by pushing so hard for military action against Iran, and by intruding in the United States election on Mitt Romney’s side, and then by using the House of Representatives as a campaign stop to run against Iran.
And I just think he really put himself and Israel, quite honestly, in an untenable position.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton.
David, e-mails, Congress has — this special committee in the House is coming after her. Now they’re saying the Department of Justice, they have asked the department to look into whether classified information was shared that shouldn’t have been. Is she in real jeopardy over this, either politically or legally?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think it’s about her character. I assume she shared classified information. She — it was all on this private server. There is so much classified information in government that, if she is sending out all these e-mails, I assume something got into them.
She swore it didn’t happen. That’s hard for me to believe. And, frankly, that is not a career-killer. That’s not a president candidacy killer. But it is about her character. And it is about why there was the privacy of the server, her unwillingness to release the server now, which people want to get ahold of, deleting all the e-mails.
So, it’s not — I don’t think, however this shakes out, it’s going to be something that will end her candidacy. But it’s no question it’s a stain and the continued investigations are stains. I frankly don’t have clarity on what kind of investigations is about to happen. In all the reporting, there is a lot of passive voice, so you don’t quite know how much she’s actually being investigated.
So that’s unclear. It will shake out in the next few days maybe. But it’s still a long-running stain that goes to a core concern people have about her, which is openness, transparency and trustworthiness.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think she is at risk?
MARK SHIELDS: I think David put his finger on it, that the problem it brings back, there’s two Clintons.
There’s the Clinton of great boom, the lowest unemployment, the balanced budget, happy and prosperous and optimistic and confident America. And there’s the Clinton memories of the Whitewater and those law firm billing rights that were miraculously discovered in the family quarters of the White House.
And all this lack of candor of what the meaning of is, all of this comes back, and I just — I think it hurt her in 2007, when she was running against Barack Obama. It hurt both Al Gore and John Kerry. George Bush was seen as more honest and more likable personally than either of them.
And that’s the last time the Democrats lost the White House two times in a row. I think it’s a problem. She was trying to avoid intense scrutiny by having the private server, and she ends up inviting and really getting greater intense scrutiny.
I think the one salvation she has is that the Republicans will overplay, House Republicans in particular, will overplay their hand, with the hearings and sort of an inquisitional attitude and air. So, but it’s not a help. It certainly brings back unpleasant memories.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Forty seconds left.
Donald Trump, he’s — got into a big fuss with John McCain, insulted John McCain last weekend, Lindsey Graham this week. But Donald Trump is still alive and well, still out on the campaign trail.
David, what has happened to the race and is he going to stay?
DAVID BROOKS: Eventually, he will run out of Republican candidates to attack.
DAVID BROOKS: So, he’s gone after a bunch of them.
I have to think the show will close. He is like Jerry Springer. He makes Jerry Springer look like “Masterpiece Theater.” You would think, eventually, people just get exhausted by this.
MARK SHIELDS: Jerry is still on.
DAVID BROOKS: Jerry is still on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But he seems to get stronger by these…
DAVID BROOKS: This is a party that nominated Mitt Romney. It’s like a straitlaced party.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ten seconds.
MARK SHIELDS: Ten seconds.
Donald Trump, shame on us. He’s the catnip. We can’t stay away from him. He is an unlikable man. He will never be president of the United States. He made a terrible mistake by going after John McCain. John McCain is not a hero because he was captured. John McCain was a hero because, for five-and-a-half years, he accepted torture, instead of early release, and remained and endured that ordeal with his fellow prisoners.
Donald Trump avoided capture by staying at Studio 54 and investing in real estate in Manhattan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you.
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Shields and Brooks on striking a deal with Iran, Planned Parenthood scrutiny
Fri, Jul 17, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Welcome to you, gentlemen. A lot to talk about this Friday.
Let’s start with Iran.
Mark, we just heard the secretary of state, John Kerry, what he had to say about this nuclear deal. What do you make of it?
MARK SHIELDS: I think the president summarized it very well. He said don’t let the unattainable perfect be the enemy of the obtainable good.
And I think this is obtainable good, the object being a nuclear — a non-nuclear Iran. And I think this guarantees at least for 10 years that there will be a non-nuclear Iran. It doesn’t change Iran’s — as the secretary pointed out, its conduct and what it does. And we hope that that does change. But this is about dealing with nuclear arms in a very troubled area.
And I think, in this sense, it’s a step, very — a positive step, and one that I think the president is at the top of his game, quite frankly, from Charleston to the press conference this week. I thought he was compelling in both cases.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David, what’s your take?
DAVID BROOKS: I’m extremely skeptical.
I start much more than Secretary Kerry, I think, with the belief that this is a theocratic, fascistic regime that wants to, A, be a big power in the Middle East, the dominant power in the region and spread a radically — radical version of sort of religious ideology. And so I think to give that regime first the $150 billion to up their funding for Hezbollah and other terrorist armies around the region is dangerous.
To legitimize their nuclear enrichment program is dangerous. To lift eventually the ban on conventional weapons, the embargo on the conventional weapons is dangerous. And to have a regime that — you know, the inspection regime, people are getting lost in the details. It is not a bad regime. I suspect it probably will delay the nuclear program, but it’s their country.
And if they’re ideologically motivated to build this weapon, and they have every incentive to want to do so, I assume they are going to find a way to keep these centrifuges going in some form, and get a breakout after the sanctions are lifted. So, for all those reasons, I think I’m quite skeptical of what has happened.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Kerry pushed back on this idea that Iran is going to use a lot of this money to great mischief in the region, Mark.
But do the critics — you know, David’s point, do they have a point, that after — it is, after all, Iran’s to do what it wants with this money it’s going to get.
MARK SHIELDS: Sure. It’s always — inaction is always preferable to chance action.
This is a bold action on the part of the president, in my judgment. You have Vice President Cheney saying we don’t negotiate with evil, we defeat it.
And, Judy, quite frankly, I think the reality is that, after the experience of the past 12 years of the United States in the Middle East, of 4,500 Americans dead, of 31,000 severely wounded, of $2 trillion spent, I think Americans have lost confidence in the one size fits all, let’s get tough, let’s get powerful, let’s go in and kick a little tail.
That is not the answer, and it is not the solution. And, quite bluntly, the reality of fracking in this country and the production of oil in this country has relieved some of the urgency of the United States projecting further force in that area. So I really — I just — I think this is the best alternative, by far.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So — but, David, you don’t think the president’s arguments help the administration. What — do you have a sense of what’s going to happen on the Hill and whether they’re going to either back this or reject it?
DAVID BROOKS: I would be shocked if they rejected it.
There are some senators — there are a lot of Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer from New York, Dick Durbin from Illinois, and various others, a lot are sitting on the fence right now until they read it, and that seems appropriate. And there are some who are making skeptical noises.
I think Obama would have to lose a real big chunk of the Democrats in the Senate and it would be just a major setback from his own party. I would be stunned if that happened. It’s possible, but it would be very surprising if that happened.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You think…
MARK SHIELDS: I think David is more bullish about the prospects on the Hill than I am.
I think the Senate is right now very much in doubt as to what would happen over sustaining a presidential veto. I think the best chance the Democrats have and the president has is in the House, where you have got the most effective Democratic vote deliver and touter of the past generation, Nancy Pelosi, on your side. And I think that may very well be the key to this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to turn to the 2016 race for president.
But, before I do that, Mark and David, I want to ask about the story we just — Lisa Desjardins just reported for us, this Planned Parenthood controversy, the videotaped interview out there about selling fetal tissue and whether or not Planned Parenthood is profiting from that.
A lot of Republicans, David, jumping on this story. Is this kind of a bonanza for Republicans? So many of the candidates for president are saying — are deploring it and calling for Planned Parenthood to be defunded.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, and Republicans have been sort of deemphasizing this issue. So, I guess when you go to the Iowa primaries — or the caucuses, you increase discussion of it.
But they have been deemphasizing this issue, because it just hasn’t been a great general election issue. But this particular video gives them a chance to talk about it in a way that is not going to be offending to a lot of people in the middle, because I think the idea of selling parts is not very delectable to anybody.
And, frankly, the part of the video that offended me, I guess, was, whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life, the state of the fetus late term is a mystery. And to talk about the body parts in such a cavalier way showed to me a corrosiveness of this issue, and the way this — the polarization of this issue tends to corrode people.
And so this is a good and easy shot for the Republicans, because it’s not really engaging the issue where they’re sort of unpopular, and it allows them to defend the rights of the unborn, attack Planned Parenthood in a way that is politically more or less cost-free.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark.
MARK SHIELDS: I think David is right.
I think abortion remains a painful and difficult issue in this country. America, I think it’s fair to say, is pro-choice. They don’t want to criminalize a woman who, in consultation with her conscience or confessor, her physician decides on the very painful process of ending a pregnancy.
At the same time, America’s anti-abortion. The idea that this is somehow a virtuous act is objectionable and unacceptable to Americans. And I think what you have here is — and, admittedly, I give Lisa Desjardins great credit for going through the three hours of it — but an edited version. But, still, you have the woman, the doctor from Planned Parenthood in a very cavalier and callous fashion talking about, we’re going to go in, in a way — not that this is some surgical procedure being performed on a woman and ending a life or potential life, but in a way that we’re going to preserve the organs for use.
I mean, it was — I think Cecile Richards had no alternative, the president of Planned Parenthood, except to apologize for that tone and the way it was done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s broaden out for a minute and talk about the 2016 race.
One more name has formally joined, David, this week, Governor Scott Walker, of Wisconsin. We have talked about him on this program before. But at this point, now that he’s in, what does that do to the race? Does it shake things up? What do you see?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, politically, he’s got a reasonably straight shot. His strategy is pretty clear. He’s got to win Iowa, the first caucuses. He’s not expected to do super well in New Hampshire, but then he’s got to probably do pretty well in South Carolina.
And if he does that, he will be sitting pretty. He will be — he’s definitely in the top three, I think, now, but he will be riding high just from the media exposure. His advantages are that he has got a genuine working-class voice. He’s not the greatest orator in the world, but he is a good explainer, he’s a good retail politician.
And for conservatives, unlike people like Ted Cruz, who haven’t really achieved much, Scott Walker can actually point to legislative accomplishments as governor. And so I think he has a reasonably strong story to tell, will be a reasonably strong candidate.
The only caveat I would put in, I would say, in the last two or three months, he hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire. And he’s let Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and others sort of take some of the momentum of the campaign, but he is going to be strong, I think.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Setting the world on fire, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I think setting the world on fire is a euphemism.
Judy, the fact is Wisconsin is a blue state. No Democrat has lost — presidential nominee has lost Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan won it for the Republicans in 1984. It’s the only state that has elected an openly lesbian United States senator, Tammy Baldwin. Three times in four years, Scott Walker has won very close elections in Wisconsin.
And he’s a favorite of a lot of conservatives because he did take on public employee unions. He has delivered. He’s a social and cultural conservative, as well as economic conservative. He has got a story to tell. And he’s a formidable candidate. He’s going to have considerable financial backing.
The problem is that there’s a lingering sort of “I can see Alaska from my front porch” of Governor Palin with him. He said, for example, that, dealing with ISIS, he had dealt with public employees unions, and he didn’t — couldn’t say whether the president himself was a Christian, and he ducked on evolution.
And it just was a question. There was a Rick Perry problem. Is he really ready for prime time? And not helped by the fact, when he did announce, that Patrick Healy of The New York Times quoted his principal consultant as saying that smart was not in the lexicon of voters when they talked about him, but they were working on that.
MARK SHIELDS: So, I think Scott Walker has a great story to tell, but there is a question, is he going to be able to hit big league pitching?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we can’t talk about this week in the Republican, I guess, contest, David, without bringing up the name of billionaire Donald Trump, because he’s moved up in some of the national polls.
There is a lot of conversation about it. But is it having a material effect, David, on what this contest is all about?
DAVID BROOKS: I don’t think so. I think he’s the circus act of the week.
He does — doing pretty well in the polls among the people who like the show, who like the thumb in the eye of the establishment, but he’s got huge negatives. There are huge numbers of Republican primary voters who say they would never vote for him. And there is just a very low ceiling.
But he sucks up oxygen. He embarrasses the party. I think the only way it really — he’s not going to get elected. The only way potentially is if he loves the attention and he decides that he wants to run a third party in the general election or just be like a stunt candidate out there. Then he would really suck some votes away from the Republicans. That’s the only way I can see it possibly affecting the actual electoral outcome.
MARK SHIELDS: Judy, in the Washington Post/ABC News poll, in May, he was at 65 percent unfavorable among Republicans. That dropped 25 points between May and July.
What happened between May and July? He announced. He announced and he presented himself as the most vehemently anti-immigrant campaign, candidate in the entire field. He’s appealed, sadly, to a dark side of the Republican Party and Republican voters.
And I have to say, the one Republican who has taken him on — Jeb Bush has kind of pussyfooted around, and so has Marco Rubio — is Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham said, this is a moral question. Are we going to — if we do this, we deserve to lose.
And I just think what’s he has done is, he raised the stakes for the first debate in August 6. And it guarantees that it’s going to be a question of who bells the cat, who stands up to Donald Trump and stands up on immigration.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s become a question in the primaries.
Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you both. Thanks.
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Brooks and Dionne on Trumpâ€™s anti-immigrant talk, Confederate flag retirement
Fri, Jul 10, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of 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: Good to be with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s pick up this conversation about immigration. We have just heard this rational — David, this rational discussion about immigration.
But what Donald Trump has been saying and doubling down on has really started a firestorm. What does that do to the national — our nation’s ability to get its hands around this issue?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, it might be — what Trump said is the dictionary definition of xenophobia, nativism.
He had a factually inaccurate statement that generalized about a whole group of people, inaccurately, in a slurring manner. We have got a parking lot right out here at the NewsHour where we brought a bunch of immigrants. And when you pull up, they’re not trying to rape you. They’re not trying to sell drugs. They’re trying to paint your backyard — or back porch.
And that’s statistically what the immigrant population is. They’re here to work. And it’s what most people’s common experience of immigrants, undocumented or not. And so that’s the reality. As Marc said, the useful thing about what’s happened is that we have seen this fissure in the Republican Party, where Jeb Bush came out very strongly against Trump, saying he takes it personally, Rubio again very strongly.
It has brought them out. It has brought their ire out, a little passion in rebutting Trump. Ted Cruz, a little more disgraceful, more or less saying he raises good issues and things like that. So we have begun to see a split. The party now has to confront this. And I think most of the leading candidates have, to my mind, come out on the right side.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So it’s been helpful in understanding where the Republicans stand on this issue, E.J.?
E.J. DIONNE: Well, I think if you ask most Republicans, Republican consultants, they would love to say to Donald Trump, you’re fired, and have him walk away, because this has been terrible for the Republican Party’s image.
I mean, David is right about Bush and Rubio to some degree pushing back, but they were very slow to push back. And a lot of Republicans have been very cautious in dealing with Trump. And I think Latino voters, but immigrant voters of all kinds are going to remember that caution.
And I think what Trump did this summer is going to last. Usually, it’s 16 months until the election, a lot of things will happen, but the nature of his words, using the word rapists, are so powerful, that I…
JUDY WOODRUFF: And murder.
E.J. DIONNE: And murder — that I don’t think there is any political eraser that’s going to get rid of them completely.
This is the last thing Republicans needed right now.
DAVID BROOKS: I should say, he was only a Republican since last week. He’s in a sui generis position of being a political freak.
E.J. DIONNE: No, I think it is going to be…
JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean Trump. You’re talking about Trump.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
E.J. DIONNE: If Trump ever gets serious, I think the attacks on him for where he was on any number of issues, including now he thinks Hillary Clinton is the worst secretary of state in history — he used to say he loved Hillary Clinton, thought she would be a much stronger candidate than President Obama.
Now, that’s a sin in the Republican Party, to have said something nice about Hillary Clinton.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, you don’t think the delay, the fact that it took some of the other candidates some time to come forward with their statement, makes a difference?
DAVID BROOKS: No. It was a matter of days or even hours. They had to formulate things.
What matters is that whether the Republican Party rediscovers where George W. Bush was on immigration, where John McCain was on immigration, where a lot of — where Bob Dole — where a lot of previous nominees have been.
And the party has wandered into an anti-immigration or an anti-immigration reform direction as a result of the rise of the talk radio part of the party. But that part of the party is waning, frankly, and I think it will be very possible for Jeb Bush or Rubio, whoever the nominee is, to be where McCain was and to be where George W. Bush was.
Those are not ancient history of the Republican Party. The party will rediscover that moment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying that maybe he’s doing a favor to some of these other Republicans?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s hard to give him credit for doing a favor, but the people who did the favor were Bush and Rubio and the party members who did the right thing.
E.J. DIONNE: I think, if they come out strong, he will have done them a perverse kind of favor.
And I think the reason this is so harmful to Republicans is not just Latinos. Mitt Romney was beaten by Barack Obama among Asian-Americans voted by 3-1 in the last election. Asian-Americans voted 55 percent for the first President Bush.
And a lot of that reaction among Asian-Americans is to this xenophobia and a sense of prejudice. They have got to beat that back if they are going to have a chance…
DAVID BROOKS: It should be said, in the last midterms, they did reasonably well among Asian-Americans. So they’re working that and they’re conscious of it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you don’t see the — you see the Republican Party coming through this, that this is not going to have a lasting — do lasting damage?
DAVID BROOKS: I have this naive assumption that people are not complete idiots.
DAVID BROOKS: It just want to — just in terms of the issue, I think the merits are on the side of the sort of comprehensive immigration reform George W. Bush championed.
But just in terms of political survival, if you just say they’re venal and they just want to win elections, it’s not — this is not rocket science here.
E.J. DIONNE: But I think the catch is that a very substantial part of the Republican coalition and an even a larger part of the Tea Party coalition is very anti-immigrant or very anti-immigration reform.
So, I don’t think it’s as easy as you’re saying for Republicans to do this, even if it is — and I agree with you on this — in their long-term interest.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, a related issue, and that is the flag, the Confederate Flag.
It came down today in South Carolina. There was a big celebration. But, meanwhile, yesterday, David, at the Capitol, there was this sudden partisan flare-up over the flag. Why does this issue keep coming up right now?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I guess, in my view, the reason the flag should come down is just a matter of civic politeness. I have said this before on this program. If a large percentage of your fellow citizens disapprove of something, fine, just be civically polite and accept their offense and say, no, I’m going to respect you.
In both these issues, there is a large culture war element. What Donald Trump was exploiting was the fact that people like us and people like my newspaper would come down hard on him for saying those things about immigrants. The same with the Confederate Flag. If you can get the East Coast and West Coast establishment and the mainstream media against you, you win points in certain circles.
And so you want to pick those fights. And so the Confederate Flag has become one of those thumb-in-the-eye issues that people use in order to pick a culture war fight. And it helps you in the Sarah Palin wings. And so I think it’s almost become abstracted. It’s part of the media game that some people play to get attention, to pick fights and to win supports against those who don’t like the mainstream institutions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it continue to be a political issue?
E.J. DIONNE: I think it’s slowly going away.
The problem with it is, this isn’t simply a culture war issue. People have legitimate disagreements about abortion, for example, and we’re probably going to be arguing about that for a long time. The Confederate Flag really does stand for a regime that endorsed slavery.
The Confederate Flag didn’t go back up in the South until the 1950s and early one 1960s, very consciously as a symbol of white supremacy and opposition to the civil rights. African-Americans know that.
And so this isn’t just about cultural politics. This is about racial politics that we have been fighting in our country from the very, very beginning. I think that what you saw in South Carolina was a wonderful human reaction, even on the parts of people who had been for the flag before, saying not only was the death of nine people a horror, but the spirit of forgiveness from their families really moved an entire state, and that’s a big deal.
But before we pat ourselves on the back too much, we should remember it took nine deaths of good people to bring that flag down. That’s not very heartening.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. But, still, it’s a good day.
E.J. DIONNE: I agree with that.
DAVID BROOKS: While we’re upset about the little kerfuffle in Washington, bringing the flag down in South Carolina was a symbol — it’s bizarre to say — but there was a symbol of hostility to the civil rights movement.
And so that era of hostility to the civil rights movement, even in 2015, it is over with the bringing down of the flag. We will have all these other issues to talk about. But it’s still a remarkable day that it come down to widespread cheers. And so it’s a day…
E.J. DIONNE: No, I don’t want to take away from the good day. I really agree with you on that.
But we should — the Southern strategy as part of the Republican strategy going back to when the civil rights bill passed, and Lyndon Johnson said we, meaning Democrats, have lost the South for a generation, I mean, it’s all connected to that.
So, yes, I celebrate. But, again, it still bothers, it sobers me that it took what it took to get this done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about one other thing, and that is the Democratic presidential contest.
I interviewed Jimmy Carter, former President Jimmy Carter, on this program last night. And among other things, he complimented, David, Bernie Sanders. He said he’s been bolder than Hillary Clinton when it comes to income inequality and other liberal issues.
How do you see that? We have been talking about this for several weeks now, about how Sanders is drawing bigger crowds. How do you see this dynamic playing out, Bernie Sanders playing to the left of the party and what it’s doing to the Clinton campaign?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, it is and always has been a university crowd left in this country, a progressive element at our many fine universities. And he’s playing to that element.
But that element is not big. It’s not even big within the Democratic Party. He doesn’t get the working class. He doesn’t get the suburban voter. He doesn’t, by and large, get African-American and Latino voters. So there is a huge ceiling on what he can do.
And for Hillary Clinton to be fearing him strikes me as wrongheaded. She’s still the overwhelming favorite, no matter how big of crowds he can get in university towns. Second, she has to be aware that she lives in a country where people are quite suspicious of government, more suspicious of government than they are business.
And, in my view, on substantive grounds aside, just political grounds, if she goes over and seems like a very conventional big government liberal, it is going to be much easier for any Republican to run against her, because this is not a country that is sanguine about government power.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re saying that is maybe where she’s headed. Is that what you see?
E.J. DIONNE: Well, first of all, Bernie, I have been saying, is like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” except he’s a socialist from Vermont with a Brooklyn accent.
E.J. DIONNE: But there is a kind of authenticity. The guy gets up there and you know he’s saying exactly what he thinks. He’s always said these things. I think that appeals to lots of people.
And one area I would disagree with David on is that I think he will get working-class votes. There’s a lot of — and he has gotten working-class in Vermont and he will get a lot of union locals, even as national locals — endorse Hillary Clinton.
I think there is a ceiling. I agree with that. I don’t think he is going to win the nomination, but he could — it’s not inconceivable to me that he could win both in Iowa and New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton got only less than a third of the vote in Iowa the last time she ran.
And he’s very close to New Hampshire. So, I think those races could be tight. I think, as it goes forward, I think Clinton will still win the nomination. And on the government point…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Even if she were to lose in Iowa and New Hampshire?
E.J. DIONNE: Yes. I think she would still win the nomination.
And it’s unlikely she will lose both. I’m just saying that is a possibility we shouldn’t write off. In terms of the government thing, she is going to give a speech on Monday that is a very progressive speech about what government can do for people.
I think the public’s view is ambivalent. And Stan Greenberg has it right. The voters would like the government to do a lot of stuff. They don’t trust it very much. She has got to solve that riddle.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Quick last word.
DAVID BROOKS: If she — she’s going to have an early childhood piece in that piece Monday. If she sticks to that, fine. That’s getting people into the marketplace, so they can have an opportunity to compete. If she begins to seem to be meddling in the marketplace and capitalism, I do think people will recoil.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We will all be listening. We have been listening to you both.
David Brooks, E.J. Dionne, thank you.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you so much.
DAVID BROOKS: Thanks.
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Shields and Brooks on Supreme Court lessons, Donald Trump controversy
Fri, Jul 03, 2015
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as we do every Friday, 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 today from Aspen, Colorado.
So, gentlemen, the Supreme Court, I think you could say it went out with a bang this week, David, issuing historic decisions on everything from same-sex marriage to the president’s health care law, much more, and with some interesting divisions among the conservatives.
What have we learned about the court, do you think, from this session, and how much of an issue is it going to be on the campaign trail?
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, the interesting one to me is the same-sex marriage decision, which hit a lot of social conservatives extremely hard.
A great sense of fear that they are going to be labeled as bigots if they disagree with gay marriage, a sense that the culture war they have been fighting is one they have lost. And I’m — interesting to see how they reacted.
My basic view is that for 30 years, a lot of social conservatives have been fighting a culture war oriented around the sexual revolution, around contraception, gay marriage and other issues having to do with sexual activity. And I do think that that’s sort of not the fight they’re going to win anymore. The country is moving pretty far to the left on that.
And I would like to see social conservatives do in public what they do in private, which is to do a lot of work for — show work for the poor, heal the social fabric, tithe to the poor, heal the lonely and really address some of the economic and social dislocations we’re seeing in the country. That’s an endemic part of the social conservative lifestyle, but it hasn’t been part of their public message.
And that’s been a disaster for them. So I guess I think the wise choice, both from a Biblical and also from a political point of view, is to emphasize to the public that the key cultural revolution we need now is one to repair the social fabric, and the sexual revolution and views on the definition of marriage are important. And no one’s asking anybody to renounce them, but should be second-order businesses, given the actual problem we face today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, do you think that what we saw on the court could somehow play out in this Republican — Republican contest for president?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Yes, I think it already is Judy.
Senator Ted Cruz, conservative senator from Texas, candidate for president, has already offered a constitutional amendment that — for eight-year terms on the Supreme Court, that they vote up-or-down retention. An interesting proposal, the one body that would — consistently and consciously designed to avoid politics, to put it right into political campaigns.
So you would be having year-long, two-year-long campaigns to remove justices or to keep them on the Supreme Court. Scott Walker has already said he’s for a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage to define marriage between one man and one woman.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has given a green light by calling John Roberts the chief justice copy editor for Nancy Pelosi. So, I think it’s in the campaign. I think David’s point is a very good one. What’s most interesting to me is the Supreme Court is the one place in Washington — the undemocratic Supreme Court, where policy is actually being made, where decisions are being made.
In the democratically elected Congress and White House, we see gridlock, we see paralysis, we see threats of filibuster, threats of vetoes and very little action. The Supreme Court is the one place where national policy is being decided, not as was intended, but it’s actually happening.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, so, David, do you see this affecting what happens in Congress?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I take Mark’s point very well.
First of all, it used to be you would pass — and this, I’m talking about the ACA ruling the Supreme Court has. You would pass a big piece of legislation, and there would be parts that would be unexpected. And so you would pass a follow-up piece of legislation to sort of fix it up.
We no longer work in a functional Washington that does that, and so now we rely on the Supreme Court, more or less, which is what they did in this decision, to go against the exact letter of the law, but to go with the interpretation of the law and to fix it up. And so it’s funny how the dysfunction in Congress has created the need for the Supreme Court to essentially step in and perform that role.
As for the Republican Party, as Mark says, it’s interesting to see, on issue after issue, some people like Ted Cruz, who really — it’s really very much a base mobilization campaign, and almost in defiance of any Republican effort to reach out beyond the Republican base.
And others, like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who are right now just hanging back, not declaring war, but eventually they are going to have to say, no, we’re going to outreach. And that outreach is sometimes going to cause our base some discomfort. But we are going to do it because we actually want to win this thing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s — I want to turn to somebody who jumped into the Republican field this week, Mark, and that is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Some people had all but written him off, but he’s in, he’s jumped in, and he said he’s going to go from door to door if he has to, to win over Republican voters. What does he — how does he change this Republican field? I mean, we have got 15 — 14, 15, 16 people running now.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, he’s probably, in my judgment, a natural talent, as a campaign talent. He’s got great drawbacks and certain personality disorders.
But he has a great natural talent. Politics, being the most imitated of all human activities, with the possible exception of political journalism, he’s following…
MARK SHIELDS: He’s following the John McCain playbook from 2000, when McCain held 114 town meetings in New Hampshire and sprang a big upset by beating the establishment choice, George W. Bush.
The problem with Chris Christie is, 65 percent of New Jersey voters tell Quinnipiac poll they do not think he would be a good president. And he’s fallen from grace. Two years ago, he was at 73 percent approval in New Jersey. He won a smashing reelection. He carried women and Latino voters in a blue state.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
MARK SHIELDS: But, Judy, I mean, he’s not worn well.
And the great strength of being a governor to run for president is, you can say this is what I have done. I have a record. I don’t just make speeches and press releases. The big disadvantage for running for president as a governor is, other people can say, this is what you have done.
And there’s no New Jersey miracle for Chris Christie to talk about.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David, how do you see what Christie brings to this contest?
DAVID BROOKS: I would imitate Mark.
DAVID BROOKS: I think he’s an underpriced stock.
At this rate, I just look at the political talent of the people, of the candidates. And he has a lot of political talent. He’s just great at formulating issues. And McCain did the town hall thing. And I think Christie has the talent to just see a lot of voters in New Hampshire. There’s a lot of time.
And I think, if he performs well, we will see a rise. Mark points out that he’s the kind of dinner guest who, at the appetizer, you’re thrilled to have the guy in your house. By dessert, you wish he would get the heck out of there.
DAVID BROOKS: And there is an endurance problem.
But he’s got time. And if he can perform well over time, he will — people will not get exhausted by him. And so if I were picking stocks, he would be one I would expect to rise.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How much does it matter that he’s not as — viewed as favorably in his home state as he used to be?
DAVID BROOKS: To me, it matters a little.
And Mark’s right, he doesn’t have a great story to tell, but, frankly, other governors have risen to power on the stories of fake economic miracles. I think it would hurt him eventually. But we’re just now hoping he gets — or expecting to get to the top rung of candidates.
I don’t think it will hurt him too much among New Hampshire voters, I don’t South Carolina voters, who everybody else has to face. It will help — hurt him if he ever gets to be a big national contender. Then the New Jersey story will get more coverage.
MARK SHIELDS: David’s mention of Chris Christie and dessert, I think, was sort of a cheap shot at those of us who are weight-challenged. And I know he didn’t intend it as such.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, moving on, on the Democratic side, Mark, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb jumped in, joining three others who are challenging Hillary Clinton, along with Bernie Sanders. And I want to ask you about Bernie Sanders.
But what does Jim Webb bring, a Vietnam veteran, somebody who left the Senate a few years ago?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim Webb, September 2002, Judy, the war drums are being beaten in Washington by the Bush administration, their friends in Congress and the press to go into Iraq. And Jim Webb stands up, a combat veteran, as you point out, of Vietnam, who not only won the Navy Cross, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, carries shrapnel in him today from combat, and warned.
He said — challenged the leadership of this country, if you’re sending troops into Iraq, understand this. Are you ready to occupy the Middle East territory for the next 30 to 50 years? And pointed out prophetically that, in Japan, our occupying forces had become 50,000 friends, and in Iraq, American troops occupying would become 50,000 terrorist targets.
I mean, this is a man, I think, who has been right. He opposed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in going into Libya. And he — in one term in the Senate, he wasn’t a particularly gifted politician, not a grip-and-grin guy, not very collegial, but he passed the G.I. Bill of Rights.
And — but he doesn’t raise money, and he’s a long shot. But I have to tell you, on that debate stage, he can stand up and say, this is somebody who truly was right from the start.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the effect of Jim Webb in the Democratic field, David?
DAVID BROOKS: I think he’s probably the best novelist ever to run for president.
DAVID BROOKS: I’m trying to think back at other novelists who have done as well. So, he gets props for that.
I just — he’s a Jacksonian. And he hearkens back to an ancient Jacksonian tradition in American politics. I just don’t think that’s where the life of the Democratic Party is now. There’s sort of a moderate tradition in the Republican Party. There’s a Jacksonian tradition in the Democratic Party.
I don’t think those traditions are particularly vibrant. Bernie Sanders has the action, drawing huge crowds around the country. I think, if Hillary Clinton is wondering about her future threats, it’s going to come from the Bernie Sanders direction.
And, frankly, I think she’s helping flame those threats by being such a prevaricator on issues of trade and the Iraq deal — the Iran potential nuclear deal and other issues. And I think it’s Bernie Sanders is where the fire is right now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tough language, I noticed today on the campaign trail. I think it was in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton said she takes a backseat to no one when it comes to fighting for progressive values, so clearly responding to Bernie Sanders.
I do — only a couple minutes. I want to ask you both about something else that’s come up. And that is comments that Donald Trump, who announced a few days ago he’s running for president, has made about Mexicans.
And here’s a quote from Donald Trump. “I love the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border that are from all over, and they are bad. I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists.”
Big reaction, Mark, on the Republican side to this. What does this mean for the Republican field? The other candidates, are their comments appropriate, given what Donald Trump is saying?
MARK SHIELDS: I guess I disagree with your question, in a sense that I don’t think there has been a big reaction for the Republican side.
They want him to go away. And when the moral leadership of the Republican Party, on the nation rests on — in the hands of Univision, NBC and Macy’s department store, who have objected and have…
JUDY WOODRUFF: And separated…
MARK SHIELDS: … severed relations with Donald Trump…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
MARK SHIELDS: Donald Trump, I mean, this has been bad for the brand and it’s bad for business, but it’s worse for the Republican Party. It’s worse for the national debate.
This man’s going to be on the stage, and he’s a disaster for the Republicans, in addition to being a messenger of division and hatred.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David, just 20 seconds.
DAVID BROOKS: It’s an actual crucial moment for the Republican Party. This was a slur, a completely inaccurate slur. It’s culture war politics of the worst sort.
If the Republican Party can’t stand up at this moment against this guy and make the obvious accurate case, then there will be in long-term trouble with Hispanics. They will be in short-term trouble because they will have self-polarized themselves.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You do think the other candidates will say something about this?
DAVID BROOKS: Not Ted Cruz so far. But I’m waiting for the others.
It’s really essential that the Bushes and the Rubios say something.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.
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