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

Shields and Brooks - NewsHour with Jim Lehrer - PBS Podcast

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

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Shields and Gerson on GOP’s Patriot Act rift, Islamic State’s victories

Fri, May 22, 2015

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to our look at a full week of news, culminating with the 2016 GOP presidential contenders.

Most of them flocked to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, meeting in Oklahoma, and among the most prominent themes, national security.

FORMER GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) Texas: It’s time for us to have a president who admits what the American people already know. We face a global struggle against radical Islamic terrorists, and we are in the early stages of this struggle.

The great lesson of history for us is that strength and resolve bring peace and order, and weakness and vacillation invite chaos and conflict.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) New Jersey: No wonder nobody around the world is nervous about America anymore. No wonder we’re not intimidating our adversaries and they’re running around wild in the world, because they know we’re not investing in our defense anymore. We need to make or military strong, not to wage war, but to avoid war and to bring peace and stability in the world.


FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, (R) Pennsylvania: Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t have a nominee against Hillary Clinton who sees commander in chief as an entry-level position or on-the-job training. Going into a debate, you don’t want to be able to have a candidate that represents the Republican Party whose national security experience is a briefing book.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And with that critique being made, we turn now 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.

So, with that conversation coming from the Republican contenders, Mark, this is in a week where ISIS, Islamic State, is making some big gains. They took over a key city in Iraq, Ramadi. You’re starting to hear criticism of the administration policy toward ISIS, towards what’s going on in Iraq.

The president came out this week and said, I have got a strategy, it’s working.

What do you think?

MARK SHIELDS: I think, Judy, that, politically, just speaking politically right now, for 10 years, from 2006 basically up to today, nine years, that Iraq has been a positive issue for Democrats. They won the Congress in 2006. They nominated the one candidate in the party who had opposed the Iraq war. And opposition to that Iraq War and to President Bush’s policy became central in the 2008 campaign.

Mitt Romney had to walk away from his support for it in 2012 and say he wouldn’t have supported it. And now, 2015, five years after President Obama announced the withdrawal of combat units from Iraq, keeping a promise that he had made in that 2008 campaign, we see Ramadi fall. We see the Iraqi army in full flight, after all the training, after all the billions of dollars.

And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said they were not driven, the Iraqi army was not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi. They aren’t a paper tiger. They’re a paper tabby cat.

And that is the reality. And ISIS is on the move. ISIS is on the offensive. And I think, politically speaking, beyond the ethics and the morals, that Democrats now are starting to feel themselves on the defensive on this issue, and Republicans are starting to feel free of what had been an enormous burden.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sounds like he thinks it’s not working.

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, this was a serious enemy victor in this war. The capital of Anbar, they control 60 percent of that province, advances in Syria at the same time.

This is good for terrorist propaganda and recruitment. And there was an unnamed member of the administration that said they were shocked by what happened here. And it was shocking to hear President Obama’s former secretary of defense, Robert Gates, say, we don’t have a strategy at all.

Now, I’m not sure of that. The president did announce a strategy in September, which involved arming and preparing our proxies, including Sunni proxies, that involved aggressive negotiations for a national unity government, that involved, you know, bombing the heck out of ISIS.

The first two of those were not done effectively, not done aggressively. So we could actually start this policy discussion by saying the president could go and enforce his own policy more aggressively in this battle.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what about the — but what about — or and what about the critiques you’re hearing from Republicans?  But, Mark, as you just said, you’re hearing it from Democrats, too.


JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, who has the right answer here?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t think anybody has the right answer.

I didn’t — I listened to Rick Perry. I listened Rick Santorum, who is basically was contrasting himself with the governors. And it wasn’t convincing. Chris Christie, who has his own problems in New Jersey — I mean, it comes down to, what is the action statement?

Rick Perry has said — wants boots on the ground. Other Republicans have said they want boots on the ground, but they don’t necessarily have to be American boots. They should be Arab boots.

Now, there are 60 nations in this coalition. I haven’t seen people lining up to join this fight. I mean, in a proxy war, you are dependent upon your proxies. And the Iraqis turn out to be not particularly engaged, divided, not unified, not committed the same way.

Judy, how bad is this?  When one of the defenses, that the fact that all of the equipment and the weapons that we have given to the Iraqi army, a good portion of them were given up to ISIS — one of the explanations was, don’t worry about it too much because they were in such ill repair, because the Iraqis have taken such bad care of them, that they wouldn’t be of great use.

This is just really — but there’s no action statement. There’s nobody saying, I have the answer. Lindsey Graham…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, get tough, that’s what you’re hearing from…

MARK SHIELDS: Get tough, get tough, swagger; 10,000 troops, Lindsey Graham wants to put in, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is a potential candidate.

George Pataki said, put in as many as you need, and kill everybody you can and get out. Now, getting out, I think, was the question and it remains the dilemma to this moment.


JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how do you — what is — you said the administration hasn’t followed through on what it said its policy is, but who does the administration turn to at this point?


Well, I think there’s a lot of questions about their intention in this. The larger problem here is the president have set out a series of statements. He said Assad must go. He said there’s a chemical weapons red line. He said we’re going to just degrade and destroy ISIS.


MICHAEL GERSON: And now you read in a stories a debate within the administration, well, maybe they should be contained, maybe we can live with the caliphate.

And so I think there is a real question, what’s the president’s goal, is he willing to match means with ends?  Some of that will involve broader embedding of U.S. forces in our proxies down to the brigade level, which is not true right now. I don’t know if that will be decisive, but I think there are measures you can take within the broad strategy of a proxy war where you can be more aggressive. And I think the president is going to need to be.

MARK SHIELDS: I will not argue with General Gerson on this.


MARK SHIELDS: But I will say that there are 250,000 Iraqi troops. There are, by CIA estimates, up to 31,000 ISIS troops.

And you have full flight. I mean, they won’t be engaged. They haven’t been engaged. The idea of embedding, of training, and whatever else, I just think we have to confront the fact that this is a disaster. I mean, we can go back to who hit whom first, but the reality was, the president of the United States, 12 years ago, announced that mission was accomplished, that the United States and its allies had prevailed, that the war in Iraq was over.

And, you know, that wasn’t the case. And, Judy, anybody who walks around with a flag pin in his lapel now who is running for president or running for Congress and says let’s go in and let’s kick some tail and let’s take some numbers and bomb some people, that takes no courage at all, because it’s not their blood they’re talking about, and it’s not their children’s blood.

And, quite frankly, talk is very cheap. And we’re going to hear a lot of it in the forthcoming weeks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you’re hearing, Michael, that this is of course — it is connected in a way with the Patriot Act debate. We reported on it earlier. Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post was on the program.

You have a situation where the Republicans are divided, the House and Senate is divided. Do you see a way through this?  Is there a clear answer that is going to satisfy both sides?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I doubt that.

And I think it’s important to state that Rand Paul is substantively wrong on this issue. The NSA is not looking through people’s address books and Visa bills and violating the rights of average citizens. That’s not what the NSA does.

And I think that so — I think you have to start by saying that that is not a risk. There are a lot of guarantees built in, courts and others that are looking over the shoulder of the NSA on this. And I think that Paul has earned some real contempt from his fellow senators by using a national security debate as a fund-raising tool related to his broader efforts.

So I think that — I don’t know how you split the difference on a debate where there’s a substantive difference in what’s happening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, we talk about the lack of consensus compromise.

The House came up with the USA Freedom Act. They passed it with only 88 votes against it, coalition of Democrats and Republicans. This is really — as Mike DeBonis said in his interview with you, Judy, it’s a fight between Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell. It really is.

As far as Senator Paul, Russ Feingold was the only vote against the Patriot Act, the senator from Wisconsin, in 2001. Anybody cannot argue that the FISA courts have just been a stamp for…

JUDY WOODRUFF: These are the courts where the government has to go get approval for eavesdropping.

MICHAEL GERSON: Justice Department also involved in eavesdropping.

MARK SHIELDS: There’s a real — there’s a real — there are real questions and I think real doubts. But I — and I think the USA Freedom Act went a long way toward resolving many of those for people of good faith on both sides.

But I really — to Rand Paul’s defense — and I rarely rally to it — he is not the first person in the history of the United States to raise money on a national security issue. I mean, that has been a fairly common practice about — among presidential candidates of my knowledge in the past few years.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one other thing that has come up this week, and we just heard about it today — we reported on it a few minutes ago — at the intersection of politics and national security, Michael, is Hillary Clinton and the e-mails.

We have been hearing about it for some time. A court said this week that they have got to be released. The State Department said, we can’t get it done until January. She says — she came out and talked to the press and said, no, they have got to come out.

And they are now starting to come out. And we’re seeing she was getting advice on what to do about Benghazi. What are we learning from this?  Is she hurt by it?  What do you think?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, this attempt at transparency comes after the destruction of 30,000 e-mails on a private server that she kept.

And so I think the transparent — the effort at transparency itself is transparent. And so, you know, it’s — and also the ties to Sidney Blumenthal in this case raise some questions about judgment. So I think there are a bunch of questions raised here.

MARK SHIELDS: The e-mails of Secretary Clinton, Judy, are, not in a moral sense, but in a journalistic sense, like the Nixon tapes. They’re the gift that keep on giving.

I mean, they will come out. Editors will look at them. There will be a new story and a new story. And to some degree, to use the proxy answer, the press has become the proxy for the opposition to Hillary Clinton.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean because they’re asking so many questions.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. With all but respect to Senator Sanders and to Governor O’Malley or former Senator Jim Webb, who is thinking about running, the most formidable adversary she has right now is the press.

And the Clintons’ characteristic penchant for secretiveness is part of this narrative. But I will be interested to see everybody’s e-mails on the table before this is over. I would like to see Governor Christie’s. I would like to see Governor Bush’s. I would like to see everybody’s e-mails. If we’re going to hold her to a standard, I hope we’re going to hold everybody to the same standard.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we’re going to leave it there.

Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, thank you both. Have a good Memorial Day weekend.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on the Senate’s trade battle, train safety funding

Fri, May 15, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, we saw battles between brethren. Democrats in Congress fought against President Obama’s touted trade deal, while, elsewhere, Jeb Bush struggled against his own brother’s presidential legacy on the question of the Iraq War, all this as a deadly train crash has renewed a national debate on America’s infrastructure.

We turn now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome.

So, I want to ask you first, though, both about the Boston verdict, sentencing verdict.

Mark, you’re from Boston. This is the death sentence, unanimous death sentence.

MARK SHIELDS: It is, Judy.

And the one just outstanding image I have is that of Bill and Denise Richard, the parents of little Martin, the little angel 8-year-old who was blown up in front of their eyes while their daughter, Jane, lost her leg, and their request to give life without parole. Otherwise, they said, the death sentence, we will relive this. Every appeal that is made, we will relive the worst day of our life.

It is an aspect that — and a perspective, I think, that appealed to me, given my feelings on the death penalty. But as pointed out by the prosecution, he put — he put the bomb four feet away from a row of children. It was a horrific, horrific, inhuman act. So, you know, my heart goes out to the Richard family and to everybody else who was touched and remains pained.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the jury went in the other direction.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And some of the other families wanted this outcome. I think there was division among them.

I’m — personally, I am skeptical of the death penalty in cases where we don’t know, we’re not certain. There have been so many wrongful convictions, and so I’m not a fan of the death penalty. Nonetheless, I thought what Loretta Lynch, the new attorney general, said today was that this was truly the most horrendous crime imaginable, and for the most horrendous crime, the ultimate penalty is fitting.

I have some sympathy. And this is not a case where we really have too much doubt about who did it. We know this guy did it. It killed those children, and then killed the cop a couple of days later. And so if there’s ever going to be a death penalty, I guess I think this is the case. Whether he will actually ever get executed, I’m a little dubious. I don’t he ever will. A lot of the federal cases, they rarely actually execute the people, because the appeals take so long. But I guess it’s fitting in this case.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, another — certainly another tragedy this week, Mark, is the train crash, train going off the rails, Philadelphia, eight people killed, 200 people injured.

As we said, a lot of conversation now about the role of safety in the railroads. We interviewed Sarah Feinberg a minute ago, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration, including some conversation about whether the federal government should be doing more. Speaker John Boehner was asked that at a news conference this week. He said the question is stupid because of the train speed.

But how should we think about this? I mean, should we be thinking more about government role at some level, or is that just the wrong way to go?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, it’s a little late to argue about government role. Railroads would not have been built in this country but for the government.

They were built — of course, the Transcontinental Railroad, by the federal government, whether right away with funding, to connect California to the rest of the country and to fight the Civil War. And it’s been a policy of long standing.

This is an important — 750,000 Americans every day use this Northeast Corridor of Amtrak. Without it, you’re talking about congestion and economic dislocation. Just traffic would be impossible. So, I think it’s in the national interest.

Speaker Boehner knows what he is speaking about politically. I thought it was a terrible use of a word, stupid. But if you look at the states through which it runs, begins in Washington, D.C., goes through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine.

What do they have in common? They’re blue, quite frankly and bluntly. They vote Democratic. So, I mean, in a sense, the Republicans in the House have precious little interest in the Northeast Corridor.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying there is a connection?

MARK SHIELDS: I think there is a direct connection, sure.

DAVID BROOKS: I wonder if Acela usage makes people liberal. I’m in trouble. I take that thing four times a week to New Haven.

I think there are two things to be separated, first, whether this crash could have been prevented with more spending. That, I’m less concerned — less convinced of. As we just heard, the implementation that would have been safety — that would have maybe prevented this crash — we really don’t know what caused it yet — were paid for and were being implemented. And maybe it was implemented too slowly, maybe not.

But in this particular case, for some reason, the train was going a ridiculous — over 100 miles an hour. I can’t even imagine what that would have felt like. And so whether we could have prevented this, I’m not convinced.

Whether we should be spending more, it’s clear. For people like me who ride it constantly, the track bed, you feel it in different — you know if you ride it this much that you’re going fast in a certain stretch, and you’re going to terribly slow in another. Some of the things between the tracks are still made out of wood.

And we’re just not spending enough on this, let alone the infrastructure, the bridges and all that other stuff. It’s not a controversial statement to say we should be spending hundreds of billions of dollars more on infrastructure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As we said earlier, it seems like so much less attention is paid on this than on airline safety. Clearly, we need to pay attention to airline safety.

MARK SHIELDS: Absolutely. No, no question. I agree.

And the fact is that we’re still — the Highway Trust Fund is about to run out of money, and that the infrastructure of the country is in disrepair. The failure to invest in our public transportation and public life, I think, is a scandal and a shame, and it should be a national embarrassment.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Trade authority, big vote in the Congress this week. It didn’t go in the president’s direction, at least the so-called procedural vote, David.

We are seeing a split among Democrats. The president may be working on it. What is going on here. And what does it say about the ongoing problems the president may have in his own party?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, there’s just the tactical issue.

The president didn’t reach out enough. We have come to expect that from this White House, that they often don’t anticipate the most. They’re not in close social communication, so they don’t foresee problems that they probably should foresee. And that’s just been a running weakness of the administration, I would say.

Second, it’s just true that the Democratic Party is becoming more split, especially on the Senate level. There was always a House minority on the Democratic side who were very suspicious of trade, but now at the Senate level. And that’s reflective of a party moving left. That’s reflective of a fact that the argument about whether trade benefits Americans has become a more divided argument among economists, to be fair.

I did see Fareed Zakaria make an excellent point this week on — just on the merits of these kind of agreements. We can have arguments about whether NAFTA helped or hurt the United States. And I think the effect was probably minimal either way. It had a huge positive effect on Mexico.

Our neighbor to the south is a transformed country. It’s a better country. It’s sending fewer illegal immigrants to us. It has got more opportunity. It is much a better trade partner in policy terms. And the argument was that it’s — these kind of trade agreements are a net benefit for the world, and a net benefit for our foreign policy, and in the long run, given the dislocations, are a net benefit for us, too.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that?

MARK SHIELDS: To use that — Mansfield, Ohio. The reality is, the political reality is, Judy, that the president is lucky right now in the House of Representatives if he’s in the teens on Democratic support. It’s that low.

And David’s right. There is a lack of personal touch. The coin of the realm politically in this town is coffee, a call from the president. This coin goes un-refunded in this administration. Barack Obama, even his greatest admirers say, is just terrible at this. He doesn’t reach out. There’s no personal connection.

So, he’s right now trying to appeal to Congressional Black Caucus members. Keith Ellison from Minnesota said he — if Barack — President Obama needs a kidney, I would consider giving him one. I will not give him my vote on this. G.K. Butterworth, the president, head of the — Butterfield — of the Black Caucus, North Carolina, they have lost jobs. He had textile mills closed.

So, it’s a real, real problem. The economy of the United States gross domestic product doubled from 1996 to 2015, doubled, more than, $8.8 trillion to $17.1 trillion. And the median household income went down, went down.

So, yes, it’s, big picture, terrific. For individual people who have had their factories close in their district, I mean, you can’t point to people and say, boy, because of NAFTA, all these jobs came in. You can point to town after town after city after city in America where factories closed after NAFTA as a consequence of NAFTA, and they — it overpromised and underdelivered.

And that’s why there is suspension and skepticism. It’s going to be tough to get Republicans. They have got to get over 200 House Republicans. And given their suspicion about the president on immigration and executive power, on environment, you know, it’s going to be a tough haul for them, given their animosity toward him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I hate to let that one go. I know there is much more to say.

But just quickly to both of you on Jeb Bush, tough week, David, he had, when he answered a question about whether he would do what his brother did in going into Iraq, taking the United States into Iraq, knowing what we know today. He at first said, yes, I would. And then he was — backed off and gave different answers.

What’s the impact of all this?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I sort admire him personally, a little fraternal loyalty there. And I’m sure he was torn on that.

He can be judged more harshly as a political manager. His whole idea is that he’s an experienced, calm hand. But he certainly didn’t handle this over the — over — well over the week. The final, most surprising thing to me is that the rest of the party seems to have switched to the idea the Iraq War was a mistake.

I was really struck by all — a lot of the other candidates came out and said obviously it was a mistake given what we know now about the weapons of mass destruction. And that is how parties shift sort of accidentally. Suddenly, they have decided the war was a mistake, after not admitting that for a long period of time.

And so I’m mostly struck by how the whole party seems to have pinioned on this issue in about three days.

MARK SHIELDS: Confidence eroding, I mean, a terrible performance by Jeb Bush.

In his autobiography, George W. Bush, his brother, to whom he was supposedly loyal, wrote, “The reality was that I had sent American troops into combat based in large part on intelligence that proved false.” OK?

He admitted. Jeb Bush called it faulty. George Bush said it was false. I mean, since 2005, a majority of Americans, according to the Gallup poll, have said it was wrong and a mistake to go into Iraq.

And I don’t know what Jeb Bush — he was the smart brother. That’s what Republicans always refer to him as, the smart brother. And this was a terrible performance. And for building up confidence in him as a leader, I think it was less than helpful.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he spent the rest of the week answering the question differently.

All right, we are going into the weekend. We thank you both.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

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Brooks and Marcus on Cameron’s victory, Senate vote to review Iran deal

Fri, May 08, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.

So, welcome to both of you.

Lead story tonight, the British elections, big win for the Conservatives, for David Cameron.

David, how do we think — how do you think about this, implications for the U.S.?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, we have had a long debate over how to react to the financial crisis.

And there were two countries that did what is known as austerity. And it wasn’t like they were cutting budgets to the European welfare states. But they didn’t do the big stimulus packages, and they did do some fiscal discipline. And those were Germany and the U.K.

And so we have had a debate, which policy was the right policy, austerity or bigger spending, bigger stimulus? And I just note that the two countries in Europe with the strongest economies are U.K. and Germany, the two austerity countries.

And two political leaders that are the strongest right now in Europe are Angela Merkel and David Cameron. And so one of the things the Cameron victory is about — it’s about a lot of things, about what’s happened in Scotland. It’s about a lot of things.

But within England, voters had a chance to reject that policy, and the Conservative Party has a bigger majority than it had before. And so it has to be some sort of vindication for the basic fiscal package that David Cameron and his chancellor, George Osborne, championed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Ruth? The polls — we have pointed out the polls weren’t right. At least, the public polls were a little bit misleading.

RUTH MARCUS:  I don’t think the internal polls were any clearer, from the folks that I have talked to.

I think everybody was shocked by the outcome. I think I’m a little bit reluctant to draw at least U.S. parallels to the implications of the British election, for the reason that you alluded to, David. Well, first of all, it’s not at all clear to me that this was a referendum on austerity. A lot of the austerity has passed.

But second of all and more important, austerity in the United Kingdom is a lot different than what we would think about when we think about austerity here. They ran a budget deficit of 5.7 percent last year, 4.5 percent this year. Those are big, big deficits in U.S. terms.

Cameron has to pledge and pledged his absolute devotion to the national health system. So the sort of ability to translate that austerity back home and make it work back here seems to me to be a little bit open to question.

DAVID BROOKS: I would say he did — all that is true, obviously.

RUTH MARCUS:  Obviously.


DAVID BROOKS: Well, it came out of your mouth, so it had to be true.


DAVID BROOKS: But he did do some significant spending cuts, against a lot of opposition.

And, second, I do think British and American politics rhyme. They go in cycles. They go in Thatcher-Reagan cycles, Blair-Clinton cycles. Now they’re diverging a little. The British Conservative Party looks the way the Republican Party would look if it was a coastal party, if it was the sort of party that could do well in the Northeast, and in California and Oregon.

And I would say, if American conservatives want to know how to compete in blue America, look at what David Cameron is doing. It’s pretty much free market, but it’s not for slashing government. It’s socially pretty moderate, at best. It has got a strong environmental wing.

And so I would say for Republicans, if you ever want to compete along America’s coastline in the Upper Midwest or in urban and affluent America, what David Cameron is doing, which is more communitarian, it’s a very good model and it’s worked for him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think the GOP could take some lessons from across the pond?

RUTH MARCUS: I think they could, but I think they won’t because of our internal political geography that won’t — we’re very segregated by congressional districts and gerrymandered and residential segregation.

And so there is not a lot of the incentive for that kind of moderation in a lot of places, even if it would be smart politically, say, in presidential campaigns.

To me, I just want to make the very quick point that I think that the bigger implications of the U.K. election are really parochial, U.K. and  Europe, implications, first of all, this astonishing result of the Scottish National Party. We thought that issue was settled and now it seems to be bubbling up again. And it’s related to the referendum that is coming that David Cameron promised on E.U. membership.

So, though he had a fantastic night, an unexpectedly fantastic night, he woke up to really two big headaches he is going to be having to deal with in the next few years.

DAVID BROOKS: I would just say quickly, I don’t think that’s even only parochial.

The Scottish result and the E.U. referendum are both about disillusionment with big institutions and big national and paranational institutions. And that’s the kind of disillusionment we see here. That’s why a lot of power is flowing back to states and cities. And so there is just disillusionment around the world with the big institutions. And there is sort of a process of federalization going on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of elections, we have one of our own coming up, I think, rumor has it, next year.

We had three candidates, almost a candidate a day, jump in this week, David. Let’s talk about these three and how you size them up. Start with Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, I think they are all going to have their moment. They have all some attractive feature.

Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon, brilliant guy, very charismatic, has a great story to tell. I think they’re all in the wrong year. I think this is a year, if you look at polling, and if you even look at the results that Hillary Clinton has just had in her polling, where she survived these scandals wonderfully, in some ways even stronger than before, people want experienced political leadership.

I think the reaction to having a very young president has been, we want somebody who’s been there before. And so these candidates, if they were running four years ago in the Republican Party, four years ago, or eight years ago, I think they would have a much bigger upside, as indeed Mike Huckabee did years ago.

But I think their upside is very limited because none of them have significant political experience or governing experience. Huckabee has some, but it’s dated. And Fiorina and Ben Carson have none. And so I just don’t think there’s going to be a big market for any of them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see Carson and the group?

RUTH MARCUS:  Well, I agree. Obviously, what David said is right, because we are just in an agreement night.


RUTH MARCUS: I think that I would differentiate between Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson on the one hand and Mike Huckabee on the other, because the first two, I think, just to be very blunt, are not credible — this is not their year to be candidates, but I’m not sure they would be selling, credible candidates in any year.

Carly Fiorina had a failed business career and then has failed at her previous bid for political office, was ousted.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Former chair, CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

RUTH MARCUS:  Ben Carson, yes, he is a brain surgeon, but it turns out you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to be president, but it helps to actually have some political experience. Neither of them has it.

I don’t think any of them would get to be a nominee in the most anti-experienced politician year. Mike Huckabee is a candidate of a different sort. He really does have governing experience.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Former governor of Arkansas.

RUTH MARCUS: Former governor of Arkansas.

I think, for him, his moment passed. I think he was a much more attractive candidate in 2008 than he will be this time around. He’s a little bit more brittle, more angry. He’s…


RUTH MARCUS:  I think his biggest selling point is both his experience, the fact that he has proven — he won Iowa in 2008. He has an attraction.

I think there is a diminished interested in the electorate this year in social conservatism. That has passed. But I think one another one of his big selling points is his anti-dynastic argument that he can make. He really did pull himself up from his bootstraps, talks about showering with lava soap, didn’t realize he could take a shower with soap that didn’t hurt until he was older. Now he’s made a lot of money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Some birthplace as Bill Clinton, but a very different…

RUTH MARCUS:  Man from Hope.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … up in a different place. You don’t see Huckabee in a different place than the others?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it was an enormously attractive campaign the last time in Iowa. He was lighthearted, warm. He had a lot of very — issues I remember seeing that would really move people. And they were not the normal things a senator would say.

He would talk about childhood obesity quite a lot, and you would see crowds nodding along.

RUTH MARCUS:  Preventive care.

DAVID BROOKS: Preventive care, yes.

And he does have the working-class story to tell. But if you want a working-class story, well, you have got Scott Walker or you have got Marco Rubio. You have just got more viable options. If you want an evangelical story, which Huckabee does very well, you have got Walker, too.

And so it seems to me there’s more plausible candidates with all the things that Huckabee offers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we weren’t going to talk about Hillary Clinton, but it was pretty clear to me that when she talked about immigration this week, Ruth, she was trying to send a signal that her position is much more acceptable to the Latino, Hispanic community than that of the Republicans.

RUTH MARCUS: Indeed, she was. And it was a very, very clever move that she did, because what she said was, I am the only candidate in this race who is for a path to legal citizenship. If you’re for something else, you are for second-class status for all of the Hispanics, Latinos out there.

So, she’s put the candidates who are in the better place on immigration in the Republican Party, the Marco Rubios, the Jeb Bushes, who are already going to get grief from the right about being for any form of legalization or path to legal status, putting them in a terrible place, because it’s going to get them in trouble on the right, but not be adequate for the left and Latino voters. Very smart move on her part.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re sort of nodding.


No, the Jeb Bush and the Marco Rubio, the former reformers, are now living in sort of shades of gray, making distinctions that nobody else pays attention to. And so they’re sort of lost. The more anti are a little clearer, but not so much. The Republicans are, like, dodging.

And so her position is very clear. I wonder empirically whether she will pay a price. Is there any Democratic constituency or are there any moderate constituency who worry about the immigration problem, are too many immigrants, or have we lost control of the borders?

But, so far, if you look at the national polling, it is a popular position, it is a strong position. It gives her a little daylight from Barack Obama. It puts her on the offensive. It was definitely a good move for her.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, one last thing I want to ask you about, the agreement that seems to have been reached between the administration, Ruth and David, and at least the Senate over the Iran nuclear deal.

They come to kind of an agreement over what Congress’ role is going to be. And this is after, David, Republicans were just raising a storm about not — saying the president is not going to do this on his own. Congress is going to have a say.


I actually think it’s a win for the president. I think the Republicans gave in a lot. They get a little say over the timing of what goes when and how much — long a review process is, but basically it’s very hard for the — if the president — if a deal is made, it’s going to be hard for Congress to beat it.

They would have to get veto-proof majorities. And that’s not going to happen. And so I think the Republicans gave a lot. They will get to have a voice, but they gave away basically the outcome.

RUTH MARCUS: I think it is a win for the president, because he’s got the veto pen, for the reasons that David said.

But I also think it’s a win for Congress as an institution. It’s really important, when we’re having serious agreements like this, to have the legislative branch have an opportunity and weigh in and have a responsibility to weigh in.

And really kudos to Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Tim Kaine, the senator from — Democratic senator from Virginia, who really pushed this. And then debits to Congress for not being as careful about its institutional role when it comes to a new authorization for the use of military force, which we need in Syria and Iraq.

They have totally caved on that, but I think it’s a good for Congress as an institution to have this Iran review.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I keep asking this question, less than 30 seconds, David, is this a model? Are we going to see Congress and the president working together, Republicans and the president?

DAVID BROOKS: We will see. We get a test of that with the Patriot Act reauthorization. That’s the next thing up. We will see if they can compromise on that. I’m a little dubious.

RUTH MARCUS: Unusual alignment of interests, not easily repeated.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Oh. I’m going to write that down.

Ruth Marcus…

RUTH MARCUS: Don’t write it down. It’s probably wrong.



Ruth Marcus, David Brooks, thank you.

RUTH MARCUS: Thank you.


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Shields and Brooks on Baltimore police problems, Bernie Sanders’ election entrance

Fri, May 01, 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, gentlemen, story today leading the program, Mark, of course, is Baltimore and these, what some people will say, are stunning charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

Is it your sense — there was celebrating in the streets, but is it your sense that this raises confidence in our justice system?

MARK SHIELDS: It — certainly among the people immediately in the crowd today and I think probably across the city of Baltimore, but we know that it’s been swift. The action’s been swift.

But, obviously, the police officers are innocent until they get their day in court. But it was done so quickly. And the state’s attorney showed a great command of the facts today and spoke about an independent investigation she conducted, didn’t reveal many details about that.

But, right now, the charges — any charge of inaction or indifference is not sustainable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How did it seem to you?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, aggressive, fast.

She certainly gave you an impression of what happened, which was that they basically let this guy bounce — they cuffed him and let him bounce around the back of this truck for a little while, which is almost nauseating in its indifference to a human being. And so, if that’s the case, it is a dehumanizing thing they did.

And so it is — probably rings true for a lot of people, people who feel disrespected. And so I think it’s aggressive and a sharp maneuver. I guess I have one question. The fact — what the police union raised, I haven’t really thought about this, but it is an issue, the fact that she’s married to a guy who is a politician in the area.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean the state’s attorney.

DAVID BROOKS: The state’s attorney.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Marilyn Mosby.


JUDY WOODRUFF: She’s been in this office two months.


I have — as I think about husbands and wives who both have prominent roles, obviously, we want that to happen.

Whether you could accuse her of feeling political pressure, I don’t know. We will see how she conducts herself over the next month.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, what…Go ahead.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. She was independently elected. And it has been raised. She beat a longtime incumbent.

The thing about Baltimore that hits me, Judy, is, this isn’t the classic deprivation, bigotry story, where there’s the hate-filled white segregationist power structure oppressing the black — this is an African-American city, and this is a city with a black mayor, a black state’s attorney, a black police commissioner, a black city council president.

And what we’re talking about is not the power structure politically oppressing people. We’re talking about the indifference toward poverty and toward a situation of really deprivation in this country that essentially went undebated in the election of 2012.

You remember the mantra of the election was middle class, middle class, middle class. We haven’t talked about poverty. This is the first really major city riot in the United States in the 21st century. Cincinnati in 2001 had four nights of rioting after a police officer killed an unarmed 19-year-old black male on traffic citations.

And, no, I think this is different from the others, from North Charleston. I think it’s different from Cleveland and Tamir Rice. I think it’s forcing us to really address and go through the debate of what are we going to do about this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, the president said, David, this week, the country — we as a country have to do some soul-searching.


Well, I would agree with soul searching. I disagree with indifference. And so I do think we — the problem is not that we don’t care. We don’t know what to do. And so if you look at poverty spending, we spend about $14,000 — more than $14,000 per person in poverty.

If we just took that money and handed it to a family of four in poverty, they would suddenly have an income twice the poverty level. So, we spend a fair bit. Baltimore in 2011 had the second highest spending per pupil in its educational system of all the top 100 cities in America, $15,000 per kid.

So there’s a lot of spending there. The neighborhood where Gray was from, Sandtown, had a massive urban renewal project over the last 20 years led by then Mayor Kurt Schmoke and then by Rouse, a big developer in Baltimore. They put well over $100 million into that neighborhood trying to fix it.

And, as we just heard, now it’s a neighborhood where there’s no grocery store.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Hari’s piece.

DAVID BROOKS: And it’s a neighborhood where half the kids on any given day, the absentee rate in high school is 50 percent.

And so we have tried a lot of stuff. And those efforts are not failures. They have helped. They have alleviated a lot of suffering. But we just don’t know how to — we can cushion poverty. We don’t know how to take concentrated areas of poverty and lift them in any real way.

MARK SHIELDS: I just — I think it has gone undebated in the country. It wasn’t debated.

Show me where it was brought up in any of the debates, where — presidential candidates saying…

JUDY WOODRUFF: The presidential campaign.

MARK SHIELDS: … what I’m going to do. I’m going to do something seriously about it.

And I do look and commend the efforts. And I think what happens too often in this debate is, one side said, my goodness, if they would only be moral people and go to work every day and not drink and not smoke, everything would be OK, and be devoted family people, the moral solution.

The other side says, more money is the answer. I mean, we have seen the deindustrialization, the hollowing out of American major cities. We saw an African-American migration to the north for jobs. We saw it in Detroit. We saw it in Chicago. We saw it in Baltimore. There is no Bethlehem Steel. There is no more GM plant. There is no more Western Electric in Baltimore. Those jobs are gone. And in its place, I don’t know what the economic hope is.


Well, I agree there’s — the truth is, it’s both.


DAVID BROOKS: The family breakdown is a catastrophe. The deindustrialization is a catastrophe.

And I agree there have to be jobs. But there has to be some sort of social structure repair. When Gray apparently, according to the Washington Post piece, grows up, his mom is a heroin addict, apparently can’t read, he’s four grades below, he’s arrested 12 times already at this point in his life, where half the people aren’t showing up to high school, there’s a whole melange of things that are part economic, part cultural.

And, to me, the only response — and I give Obama credit, though I’m not sure he followed through aggressively. He talked during the campaign, his first campaign, about taking a lot of Harlem Children’s Zones and transplanting them around the country.

Harlem Children’s Zone is a thing in Harlem run by a guy named Geoffrey Canada where they do everything. There’s schools. There’s Boys and Girls Clubs. There’s mentoring. We don’t know what works, so you just try everything all at once in a geographic zone. And that has shown some promise.

Obama and the administration has spread it around, but not as aggressively as I think we could. And spreading that model around, it seems to me, at least one model that’s plausibly successful.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot more to think about here certainly than beyond what happened with these police officers. No easy answers.

You mentioned the presidential campaign, Mark. Chris Christie not implicated today, but one of his top people was, has now been charged in this — what turned out to be a political decision to shut down the bridge. What does that mean for Chris Christie?

MARK SHIELDS: The great thing about governor — we like governors for president. Four of the five elected before Barack Obama were governors, Carter, Clinton, Bush, and Reagan.

But it’s tough to run as a governor, because you can boast about everything good that has happened in the state, but you get blamed for everything bad. These were his appointees. This was done to close down the bridges to just really inconvenience hundreds of thousands of people and families, to make it difficult, just as an act of political punishment against a mayor, a Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse Governor Christie in 2013.

When you do something like that and you’re a staff person who has appointed to the governor, you are doing it because you think it’s going to please the governor. You’re doing something on his behalf.

Is Chris Christie directly involved?  No, but this is the kind of black eye that tarnishes him, that makes him stay home. Seventy percent of the people in New Jersey right now in the Quinnipiac poll want him to resign the governorship if he runs for president.

This is a man who, 2012, was the most coveted endorsement in the country for Republicans. They were all chasing him for the prom. Now he’s really a lonely figure out there.

DAVID BROOKS: Among Republican primary voters in the early polls, he has very high negatives. And so I wouldn’t bet on him, but I don’t think this finishes him off.

It’s unsavory, what happened. But there are a lot of politicians who have survived unsavory things. The Clintons have survived unsavory things. You can survive if you can offer the goods. And so what he’s doing now is, he’s going up to New Hampshire doing town hall after town hall. And we have seen candidates use town hall to rebuild their campaigns. I wouldn’t bet on it, but he’s not unskilled politically. So, I wouldn’t count him out, but I wouldn’t bet on him.

MARK SHIELDS: I agree on the town halls.

I would just say one thing, Judy. Nine times, the credit rating of the state of New Jersey has been lowered, lowered since he has been governor. And that’s a tough one to fight back from. It really is. It plays into the narrative of New Jersey as a state that has been afflicted by chronic corruption, too.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, on the other side of the political ledger, you mentioned the Clintons.

Hillary Clinton had at least a quieter week, but still new information about whether her foundation should have disclosed, charity should have disclosed money that was coming in. And now, David she has a challenger, Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont. Does this up Hillary Clinton’s chances?

DAVID BROOKS: Finished. She’s over.


DAVID BROOKS: No. In some ways, I think Sanders will have a following. There’s a yawning need for a real progressive.

He certainly is that. And if you look at the candidates who get, like, youth cult followings, they are like Bernie Sanders, they are like Rand Paul, Eugene McCarthy. They’re sort of older guys. They’re a little crusty. They seem authentic. They are authentic. And they get weird youth followings. So, I think he will get something like that.

But in realpolitik terms, if you’re going to have a challenger, you want one who can’t win. And that’s Bernie Sanders.

MARK SHIELDS: I think Bernie Sanders is serious. I love Bernie Sanders for this reason.

The first time he ran for the United States Senate, he got 2 percent of the vote in Vermont.  Next time, he got 1 percent when he ran for governor. And he became the first independent elected in 40 years. A, he believes what he says. Gene McCarthy was 51 when he ran for president. He wasn’t old and crusty.



DAVID BROOKS: He seemed old to me at the time.


MARK SHIELDS: That’s right. You were very young and crusty.


MARK SHIELDS: But he is — he represents a constituency that has been unrepresented in American politics, and that is the disheveled constituency.


MARK SHIELDS: And I want to tell you, I’m with him. He is not blown-dry. The hair is not done. His clothes are not…But he’s the real deal. And I’ll tell you…

JUDY WOODRUFF: He may appreciate…

MARK SHIELDS: Well, he’s going to raise the money issue. And Hillary Clinton, given what’s happened in this campaign, she may very well be forced to become a reformer, a true reformer on campaign finance because of the Clinton Foundation and Bernie’s pressure. And I think he will be somebody to be reckoned with.

DAVID BROOKS: He could decimate the dry cleaning industry if people start following his model.


DAVID BROOKS: No, I think he will be serious and he will force her to the left.

And we have seen even this week her comments on crime. It used to be, when her husband was running, Democrats had to prove they were tough on crime. Now they have to prove they’re tough on incarceration. And so you see her shifting in these ways.

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


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Shields and Brooks on accidental drone deaths, Clinton money questions

Fri, Apr 24, 2015


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

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, the story we started out with tonight, David, that broke yesterday about two hostages killed in a drone strike in Pakistan, all sorts of second-guessing, third-guessing about this. Does the Obama administration need to rethink or get rid of this drone strike policy?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: I don’t think they should rethink it because of this.

When you have a drone policy, when you go to war, friendly-fire and accidents and tragedies are just endemic in the nature of the fog of war. In World War II, there was something called the Allerona train bombing, where American bombers accidentally killed 400 American POWs and British and South African POWs that were in Nazi control.

It was an accident. These sorts of things happen in these sorts of circumstances. And so the fact that two people were tragic — two innocents were tragically killed is what we should have expected, I think, and what we did expect. War is never perfect.

So, you know, I don’t think it should be cause for us to reevaluate. I think the fundamental issue that is worth reevaluating all the time is the equation between how we’re setting back al-Qaida or are we inciting others to join ISIS? And that’s a legitimate issue. I don’t know the answer to it. But it seems like that’s the big issue here.

The fact that a tragedy — a completely foreseeable tragedy happened that’s endemic in the nature of this sort of business happened doesn’t seem to me a cause to rethink.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Time to reevaluate, rethink?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist: I don’t think we have ever evaluated a thought about drones, quite frankly, Judy.

This is a perfect weapon for a 12-year war without any coherent explanation and without any conclusion to it. It’s a war, as James — General James Mattis, the former CENTCOM commander, pointed out recently in a speech, the only war since the American Revolution we have fought without a draft and we have fought it with tax cuts.

So, this is a great weapon because it removes the war. The war has been fought only by 1 percent of Americans, suffered only by 1 percent of Americans. And this takes all the carnage and all the killing. Is it effective, is it surgical, is it precise?  By all those definitions, it’s a rather remarkable device.

But it spares us from ever seeing dead people, from ever seeing the wailing of the orphan, of the widow. And I think there’s — in a responsible democracy, there has to be debate and there has to be accountability, and there hasn’t been.

The president has accepted responsibility, as he should. But he says there’s going to be an investigation. We don’t know what it’s about. And I think there are serious questions about whether, in fact, in the — with hundreds of civilian deaths acknowledged over the use of drones, that whether in fact it has been an incredible recruitment device for ISIS and for al-Qaida.


Well, I would say, what are their alternatives?  It seems to me there are four alternatives. One, we don’t do anything, and we allow al-Qaida to have safe haven in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That seems to me hardly a great option. The second is, we have bombing campaigns with conventional bombs. That seems to me much messier.

The third is, we send in special forces. And this isn’t Hollywood. You are not going to send in six people. You’re going to send in hundreds of people. And they’re scared, and they’re doing massive assaults. It seems to me you’re going to have more casualties. Or drones. It seems to me, of these horrible options, drones is the least bad option.

MARK SHIELDS: I just — I really do think that this comes back to we have not had a debate about what we are doing there and what we ought to be doing.

If there is a commitment, a true commitment on the part of the nation, it isn’t something that’s just done like a video game. It is something that does, should involve the American people, not only in the debate, but in some sense of commitment as to what we’re about.

There has been no debate on this war. It’s just been turning it over to the president. And I think liberals have to acknowledge that, under a liberal Democratic president, that the number of drone attacks has increased dramatically. And we have become reliant upon it and we have resorted to it. It’s become the default means of United States military engagement in a very, very difficult area.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it certainly is a — at least a debate in the short term. And the president saying today that we’re going to — that he’s going to reevaluate and look at whether any changes can be made.

But let me turn you to something else closer to home, but very much in the news this week, David, and that is the stories yesterday in your newspaper, The New York Times, and other news organizations about the Clinton Foundation, about money going to the foundation, about a uranium mining company, a Canadian company with donations, again, the head of the company giving money to the foundation, and then that company needing an OK from the U.S. government for the Russians to buy controlling interest.

What are we learning here about the Clinton Foundation and the charities they run?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it’s way more egregious than I expected.

I thought there were donations and people were giving money. But there were probably people giving money for the noblest of reasons to the foundation, some people not — apparently giving money not for the noblest of reasons. And this uranium story, where there’s a connection, where the secretary of state nominally sits on this government body which gives OKs to mergers with national security implications, and then a company deeply involved in that kind of merger giving lots of money in the opportune money to the Clinton Foundation, according to my newspaper, the foundation not reporting it really adequately, that’s reasonably stark.

Now, the defense is, she didn’t know, she wasn’t directly involved. Well, that’s completely plausible. But the fact is, you’re sitting on — as secretary of state, or you’re Bill Clinton running the foundation, and somebody’s giving you all this money and you know it has government implications, and that doesn’t ring all sorts of alarm bells?

Where’s the self-protection there?  Where is the self-censorship or the self-thing, no, this is not right?  And so I’m sort of stunned by it. I’m surprised by it. And, you know, the paradox of it right now is for Hillary Clinton’s president — or candidacy is, people think she’s a strong leader.

But the latest Quinnipiac poll suggests they don’t trust her, they don’t think she’s honest. They have these two thoughts in their minds at the same time. And it just seems, with the Clinton family, there’s going to be a lot of competence and a lot of great political talent and governmental talent, but you’re going to have a run of low-level scandals throughout the whole deal.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what you see?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think there’s two separate memories that Democrats have of the Clinton years, the golden Clinton years, the lowest unemployment rate in the history of the country for African-Americans, and Latinos, lowest unemployment rate in 40 years for — among women, the first — greatest surpluses and budget deficit — budget in the country’s history, first balanced budget in 50 years, I mean, just rather remarkable.

Then there’s the transactional part of the Clinton administration, sort of the darker part, the major donations and renting out the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House, the briefings in the Map Room at the White House for businesspeople who contributed and meet their regulators, and, worst of all, the Marc Rich pardon, where his wife, Denise, who has since, let it be noted, renounced her American citizenship and gone to a tax haven, gave $201,000 to the Democratic Party, $450,000 to the Clinton Library, and $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

And, in return, apparently, she got a pardon for her husband, the fugitive financier, who is really one the sleaziest people on the planet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, this is bad at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

MARK SHIELDS: This is the end of the administration.

But this is what it evokes, this kind of — the sense of the money and is their transactional politics. And I just think it comes now at a time when you have got to be totally transparent and get it out there, now amending their filings.

But I think this is — there is sort of dispirited feeling among Democrats. There’s enormous respect for her as a leader and her talents, but there’s a question of, my goodness, are we going to have more of this?

JUDY WOODRUFF: What does it mean for her campaign?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, for the Democratic Party, it should mean, let’s look around. Is this all we have got?  Whether she’s strong or not, you don’t know what’s going to happen.

Second, it re-raises the e-mail issue. Now it just — before, she could have some plausible case that the e-mails were destroyed because they were nobody’s business. But now, each time you get another scandal, you think, oh, that’s why she destroyed the e-mails, because she didn’t want — to hide.

And so it just brings that up again. And then they raised a lot of money. And Bill Clinton gave a lot of speeches. And she gave a lot of speeches. It’s very unlikely this is the last of the cases, this one uranium. And there’s the book coming out in a few weeks possibly detailing more of the cases. And so it will just be a steady theme, a subtheme of her campaign.

MARK SHIELDS: Let me just make one quick point.

And that is, Bill Clinton did get $500,000 for a speech — that’s a lot of money — in Russia. David goes for half of that. No, but…


DAVID BROOKS: Seventy percent.

MARK SHIELDS: Seventy percent.

But Ronald Reagan, when he left office in 1989, went to Japan, he gave two speeches of 20 minutes each for $2 million, $2 million, which is $4 million in today’s dollars, and $2 million contribution to the Reagan Library.

The difference?  Nancy Reagan wasn’t secretary of state. Nancy Reagan wasn’t getting to run for president of the United States. I mean, George W. Bush has made a lot of money on speeches. But that’s what makes it unseemly. And that’s what makes Democrats nervous.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But one of the arguments the Clinton people are making, though, is it’s disclosed, that they have disclosed everything, and if they haven’t, they are going to get everything out there.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. They have got to get everything…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does that take any of the bad taste…

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Transparency — I think, at some point probably, the president is going to — former President Clinton is going to do almost a grilling, explaining what the Clinton Foundation did.

But I think this is — it’s a time for transparency, but it’s also a time for accountability here. And I think it’s going to be a — to their advantage, this is April of 2015. If it were Labor Day of 2016 and she were the nominee, this would really be a serious blow.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the transparency thing?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it helps.

But the thing they don’t know is why people gave them the money. A lot of people were giving them millions of dollars. And some people did it probably because they believe in the foundation work, and they did it for beautiful reasons. A lot of people give money to these things and to presidential candidates because they want to be near the flame of power. They just want to be in the room.

They can go home and say, oh, I chatted with Bill Clinton. But some people give it because they are imagining a quid pro quo. I doubt there’s an actual quid pro quo. Mitt Romney said today it looked like bribery. I think that’s — there’s no evidence of that.


DAVID BROOKS: But you want to plant the seed. And you have got an issue before the government. And you think, well, this is how government works in a lot of other countries. It probably works a little like this in the U.S., too, and therefore I’m going to plant the seed of goodwill, I will get in the room.

And there’s no quid pro quo, but it’s not great. And so there are all these people giving them money for all different motives, some of them good and some of them pretty bad.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, just one quick thing — $93 million Sheldon Adelson and wife gave to Republican candidates in 2012.

And the Koch brothers are talking about raising $900 million. They are not altruists. I mean, they have an agenda. Make no mistake about it. That’s what we’re talking about with the dimension of money now in our politics, which is very much in the saddle.

And to Lindsey Graham and Hillary Clinton’s credit, they are the only two people I know running who say we need a constitutional amendment to change it.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It would just say, quickly, there is a difference between an ideological agenda, which seems to me legitimate, and a business deal that you want to get ratified.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, OK. No, I’m not questioning — I would rather — I would take the second, quite frankly.

DAVID BROOKS: Interesting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You would take which?

MARK SHIELDS: I would take a business — I would take a business deal, rather than somebody who is making foreign policy for the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. Less than a minute.

I wanted to ask you about the Republican field. You have each got less than 30 seconds to tell me if you see anything settling out among the many Republicans.

DAVID BROOKS: The only thing I have seen this week is that Marco Rubio is shooting upward. He’s now — in the last two polls, he’s in number one place. And I think that’s because we were kind…


DAVID BROOKS: He’s at 13 and 15.


DAVID BROOKS: It’s basically unformed. It’s still sort of unformed. But we were kind to him, and he’s shooting right up there.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Cause and effect.

MARK SHIELDS: It was the Brooks boost, is what it was.


MARK SHIELDS: The Republican field right now is — there’s no leader. It’s a leaderless group.

But they’re all secretly praying that the Supreme Court will declare same-sex marriage legal nationwide, so they can get away from the issue. They — this is a killer issue for them. And they would love to be rescued by the John Roberts Supreme Court.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, on that note, we thank both of you on this Friday night in April.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.


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Shields and Brooks on Pacific trade deal politics, Clinton and Rubio on the trail

Fri, Apr 17, 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.

Welcome, gentlemen. It’s good to have you back together again after a few weeks.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you very much, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, let’s talk about something not very exciting, but it’s really important. It’s that Trans-Pacific Partnership that now we know the White House, the administration, a few Democrats, a lot of Republicans, have come together around, apparently.

Is this a good deal, based on what we know about it?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, supporters of trade agreements, including the president, would argue, with logic, that elevated — these trade agreements have raised the standard of living across the globe. They have lifted people out of poverty and led to greater economic activity.

They have been a disaster for American workers, a total disaster, beginning with NAFTA. They have put all the power in the hands of the employer. The employer threatens, if you don’t go along, if you don’t surrender your bargaining rights, if you don’t surrender your health and pension benefits, if you don’t surrender collective union membership, we will move your job overseas.

And as consequence of NAFTA some 22 years ago, documented by our own government, 755,000 jobs lost immediately…

JUDY WOODRUFF: North American trade agreement.

MARK SHIELDS: … five million fewer American — five million fewer American manufacturing jobs than there were.

And I just think the pattern, Judy, has been established in our society. We see it where all — the trade agreements, the investor class capital is protected, whether it’s copyrights or whatever, intellectual property, their investments. And they just pay lip service to workers’ rights. And I just — I think it’s one more example.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the president defended it again today, David, so that means he is siding the investor class?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I don’t think so.

I agree with Mark’s first point. The greatest reduction in human poverty — in human history of poverty has taken place because of this era of free trade. And it’s been around the globe. As for the domestic workers, it’s complicated. It has hurt some people in some of the unions. There’s no question about it.

The unions were dominant in the 1950s, when Europe was collapsed, when we had basically global dominance, 50 percent productivity gains. And as the world has globalized, the unions have weakened. And there have been some worker rights that have been sacrificed. There’s no question about that.

It’s hurt people with fungible skills that can be replicated by those in China and India and elsewhere. On the other hand, it has created many new jobs. The vast field of research on this, on trade research, there are economists who are skeptics, who cite some of Mark’s numbers.

There are some, and I would say the majority are slightly pro-trade, are more pro-trade and think that, net-net, we have had a growth in jobs and there are certain industries devastated, but other industries created.

Finally, costs. All of us rely and buy goods that come from Asia, from Africa, from Europe. And those goods are much, much cheaper and our standard of living is much, much better because of these cheap goods that we benefit from and that people with lower incomes benefit from.

So, are there losers? We are more acutely aware of the losers than we were. And there are more losers than there were. But are there winners? There are a ton of winners.

MARK SHIELDS: Median household income in the United States was lower in 2012 than it was in 1989. I’m not saying solely because of this, but largely because of this.

Judy, if you want to see the dominance of capital that I think these trade agreements exemplify and embody, all you have to see is the 2008 crisis, economic crisis in this country. Millions of ordinary Americans saw their futures, their savings, their homes wiped out. And they got nothing in the way of relief.

Those who had caused it, who had brought the country to its knees, the big banks and the investment houses of Wall Street, were bailed out by people. They were made whole. So, you had a choice. Who are you going to help and who you going to leave to make out for their own?

We have capitalism for the rich and we have free enterprise, high risk for workers. And I just think this is what it exemplifies. That’s what the resistance is about. Will they defeat the president? Probably not, because I think Republicans will be with him. And I think the opposition has been weakened ever since NAFTA, over 22 years.

American workers have lost their clout politically.

DAVID BROOKS: Global finance — the 2008 crash wasn’t a matter of trade.


DAVID BROOKS: It was mostly a matter of the interlocking financial network, and which wasn’t about trading goods and services, sort of thing that’s involved in this.

And so I just — I don’t think that’s why the wages have been flat. Secondly, on why the wages have been flat has not to do with trade. It has to do with technology. Trade is a small, small piece of this. If we were closed in, and you were in a steel factory in Pittsburgh, and they invented all this new technology to forge steel with a fraction of the workers, it wouldn’t matter if we had global trade or not. The technology was there and the technology was a lot cheaper. So, technological advance is the lion’s share of why these wages have been flat.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m not saying that 2008 was caused by trade. I’m saying the template of the trade agreement of 1993, of — where capital was emphasized and deferred to, and workers were really basically left at the back of the bus, became the dominant model for our economy.

And it is to this day. It is our politics. And it was in 2008 on the bailouts.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I would just say the president’s point that you can’t stop the global economy at the water’s edge, that we’re just not going to go there anymore.

And his second point, which I thought was a good one, which is that, if we don’t have trade — and he acknowledges, as I acknowledges, that the people are hurt by this. But he said, if we don’t have a certain level of growth, then the whole political economy begins to suffer. When we have no growth, the political sector and the political discussion begins to grow embittered.

And so you need to take action to help the people who Mark is talking about who are hurt by trade. But if you don’t have the growth that trade encourages, the productivity gains that trade encourages, you don’t get that because we’re in a very bitter country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we’re going to go to another place where I know the two of you will also be in complete agreement.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran. And this is very quick. How big a concession this week, Mark, for the president to come around to saying, I will do what the Congress wants me to do, I will let them have a say over this Iran nuclear deal?

MARK SHIELDS: Important concession, but an example of the political process working, the legislative process working.

And large credit goes to Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, Ben Cardin, a non-telegenic, not-camera-seeking, very able former speaker of the Maryland legislature, senator from — Democrat from Maryland, and a handful of others. They made it happen. I think it’s important.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It’s a big win for the non-telegenic senators.


DAVID BROOKS: Of whom there should be more.

And I would say they both — both sides really compromised. The president’s side sort of had to compromise so there would be a vote. The Republicans compromised because, the way the game is rigged, it is very unlikely they are going to win the thing. They’re probably going to lose.

And then they both compromised on the timing of the sanctions relief and stuff like that. So, this was like actual legislation being done. And that is something we haven’t seen. And it was impressive.

JUDY WOODUFF: Well, something that actually also happened this week is Hillary Clinton, Mark, finally did announce that she is running for president.

She announced last weekend. She took off in a van from New York to Iowa. She’s been out trying to meet with small groups of Iowans. What did you make of the rollout? And do we now know why she is running for president?

MARK SHIELDS: Rollout was fine. It was unpretentious, unassuming. She went to Chipotle. She knew what to order.

No, I think the great myths that attached to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, which she will put to rest in a hurry, and to me it came down to it was a bad campaign, better candidate. She became a very good candidate. Remember this. She lost 11 contests.


MARK SHIELDS: In ’08. She lost 11 contests in a row. She was written off. Barack Obama was inevitable. He was triumphant.

She came back, defeated him in Texas, and then in the battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, outspent vastly, she, campaigning among blue-collar Democrats, won those states. And I think — I think anybody — the biggest opponent she has right now is the political press, who cannot stand a coronation, in spite of the fact that seven of the last nine winning tickets have had either a Clinton or a Bush on them in this country.

But we don’t know much about religion or the Bible, but we do know the David-Goliath story. And she is Goliath. And the press is looking for David right now. There are a lot of people who are trying to qualify for it. But she is not going to go just absolutely triumphantly being carried to the nomination.


JUDY WOODRUFF: She caught some of the magic?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. She is not — magic would not be the one word that would describe — but I agree she is quite a good candidate.

And what was striking the last time around, to use a friend, Ron Brownstein’s categories, she was good with what he calls the beer track voters, and not so much with the wine track voters. She has more of the working-class voters.

And in places like Iowa, that’s just a natural winner there, not a lot of Chablis, I guess. But the second thing I would say is, I like the unpretentious rollout. I still think it’s necessary to have policies. It feels like, from the get-go, it’s necessary to say, I don’t only want to be president. Here is what I want to do as president.

That’s just blank, open canvas right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you think she should have made a big speech?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it would have shown that it’s not about her, it’s about these issues or these policies. I thought that would have been the way to do it. She will unveil things obviously in the future.

MARK SHIELDS: She committed — it was about the voters, I think.

That’s — campaigns are about the voters. And I thought that came through. But she hasn’t given the raison d’etre for her campaign yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, on the other side of the ledger, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, got in on the same day, didn’t get quite as much attention as she did, Mark.

But, by the way, we should say, tonight, as we have been sitting here, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has announced that he will announce that he’s running in early May in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas.

MARK SHIELDS: OK. That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A place that we have heard of.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

What do we — but let’s talk for a minute about Marco Rubio. Where does he fit in this?

MARK SHIELDS: I thought Marco Rubio’s entry was really quite impressive.

He’s charismatic. I thought maybe old wine in new bottles, but it’s a very good new bottle. And he’s somebody who is obviously good at the business, which, let’s be honest, is getting elected to office. He has been consistently underrated. He was an underdog. He drove Charlie Crist, a Republican governor, popular Republican governor, not only out of the primary, out of his party.

And I think that Marco Rubio has charisma, as well as youth, on his side and has to be paid attention to.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I agree. I think he’s the best communicator on the Republican side by far, by far the most underestimated of the candidates. He’s a very good speaker.

He has two elements to his campaign so far. The first is the working-class story. His dad was a bartender. His mom worked at Kmart. He does have genuine roots in normal America. And the second which he played up, which I think is less successful so far, is the generational theme.

And he’s got to play that because he’s young. He might as well take advantage of it. And so he’s 43, I guess. And he’s going to be running against older men on the Republican side and presumably Hillary Clinton. And so he’s saying, time for a changing of the guard.

That’s a tough sell. He’s got to define what his generation stands for, which I think is still undone. But I do think he’s one of the top three likely to get the nomination.

MARK SHIELDS: Who are the other two?

DAVID BROOKS: Walker and Bush.

And his challenge is, the early states do not favor him. Iowa doesn’t favor him. South Carolina doesn’t favor him. New Hampshire, he would really have to do extremely well in New Hampshire. And then he has to beat Bush in Florida several weeks later.


DAVID BROOKS: Nevada is better for him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We have time to talk about all of this. We’re so glad to talk about it tonight.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.


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Brooks and Marcus on recording the police, Clinton’s campaign launch

Fri, Apr 10, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Potential Republican candidates talking guns, with the leading Democrat expected to jump into the race for 2016, and that police shooting in South Carolina raises questions about use of force.

For this and more, we turn to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.

Welcome to you both.


JUDY WOODRUFF: So, that disturbing video we just watched again, we have seen it all week, raising questions about how the police are using force against everyone, but particularly minorities, black men. That’s really been the subject, Ruth and David.

David, is this an issue that’s going to be around and discussed for the foreseeable future? I mean, do you see this lasting on into the campaign this year and next year?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I’m not sure it will be a national presidential issue, but it is certainly going to be a national issue, just not affecting the campaign.

But it’s national because the relations between the African-American community and local police forces has been a sore spot and a source of tension for decades. And to me, one of the immediate debates is over cop cams, whether policemen themselves should be wearing cameras. And I confess, I can’t make up my mind on the subject.

On the one hand, if they do wear the cameras all the time, which some — is happening in a lot of jurisdictions, it’s a blow for truth. You get these guys who are abusing their authority and in some cases apparently shooting people in the back. We can see what’s happening.

On the other hand — and in addition, memory is so bad, the witness testimony is so bad often that we would see the truth or some version of the truth. On the other hand, a lot of the what cops is do a not violent arresting of a felon. It’s mediation in a troubled situation. And it’s going into a home in a case of domestic violence.

And in that case, you want the cop to be approachable and trustworthy. And I find it’s very hard to have a conversation if somebody is wearing a camera. You want to have an intimate conversation. And so I think it would be a gain for truth, but sort of a blow for intimacy.

And cops have to get better connected to the communities. And so this is sort of a tension as the technology gets more widespread.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that resolve?

RUTH MARCUS: I think I only have one hand on this one.


RUTH MARCUS: I think that body cameras are a very good idea. I think they can be unobtrusive enough that you don’t really pay attention to them in those situations where you do want a calming influence.

But I think they can be — we saw this week how valuable and powerful that video is. But the real value is not just to have ascertain the truth, when memories are faulty, at best, and sometimes people just don’t tell truth, at worst, but also as a restraining influence on officers.

If we all knew that we had cameras following us all the time, I don’t know about you guys, but my behavior might be better.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, does this — do we now have the kind of discussion that is just going to be reenergized every time there’s another police shooting like this?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, that’s been the case, and for the good. We should have this conversation. And based on what we just saw this week in South Carolina, there’s probably a lot more of this going on than we were aware of.

RUTH MARCUS: And David said, correctly, that this has been a source of tension for decades, but I think this conversation that we have had this year since Ferguson has really been a wakeup call for the white community about the degree of resentment and tension and harassment that many citizens experience that they don’t, that I don’t when I’m — don’t feel scared or harassed when I’m, rarely, stopped by police.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When you’re pulled over by a policeman, right.

RUTH MARCUS: And, also, it’s been — I thought this week, in addition to the news out of South Carolina, there was actually good news out of Ferguson, where we saw two additional African-Americans elected to the city council. It’s now half African-American.

The participation rate, voter participation rate was like 30 percent, which sounds low, but it’s way higher than it was. If we can get the white community to understand the real frustrations that African-Americans feel, if we can get the African-American and minority communities to participate in their governance, we can end up with a better country as a result of this national conversation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of — you brought up elections. Let’s broaden that way out and talk about the presidential.

Just in the last, I guess, 24 hours, David, we have learned not only that Lincoln Chafee, the former Rhode Island governor and senator, is forming an exploratory committee to look at the Democratic nomination, but Hillary Clinton, we understand, is going to announce on Sunday. Where does this leave the Democratic race?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, obviously, I think Lincoln Chafee is inevitable.


DAVID BROOKS: I think he’s a juggernaut. No one will stop him.


DAVID BROOKS: No. He’s not.

Hillary, it is going to be fascinating to see. She is going to do it very gradually, very slowly, and which is wise, but she’s got a lot of interesting choices to make. The first choice is whether to be interesting at all. She wrote a book and just now she’s released an afterward to that book which was not exactly that interesting. So is she willing to take a risk or is she going to sort of coast?

Second, how is she going to deal with some of the splits in the party that have emerged since her husband was in office? Economically, the party has shifted left. It’s shifted a more anti-Wall Street direction. How does she handle that?

And just it seems like — and from her perspective, I’m sure, like a small step to the White House. She has sort of got pretty open ground. But I have watched so many politicians who seemed to be front-runners just have a defensive strategy and not take risks and not really earn it. And they have faltered. And she’s sort of in the unfortunate position of being a monopoly player, which is, she has got no real competition to keep her sharp.

Now, the one thing we do know about her is, she’s a super hard worker and she’s super smart. So, she will probably overcome these. But how she does that will be interesting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you size it up? And what does she need to do?

RUTH MARCUS: Well, first of all, want to say that I don’t think most monopolists regret their monopoly position.


RUTH MARCUS: It’s a — you can have an argument about whether it would toughen her up to have real competition. And I’m sorry. Lincoln Chafee doesn’t rise to that level, nor do the others who are talking about or entering the field.

If you have a choice between having somebody pummel you every day and a nice, stately march to the nomination, you would choose the nice, stately march. And let me say, Hillary Clinton is going to get enough grief both from Republicans, the Republican Party, and from us in the media, that she will be fine in getting toughened up.

I think I agree with what David said about her challenges. But I do think that there’s really — I would put it into two categories. One is to sort of soften this air of entitlement and inevitability. And the second is to present her theory of the case, other than, I’m really well-prepared for it, which she is, of why she should be president.

And that’s why I actually thought her epilogue was very interesting, because she’s used it to tie together an argument about those two things. And she did it with the interesting point of her grandma-hood. And she…

JUDY WOODRUFF: She talked about her daughter, Chelsea, having a baby.

RUTH MARCUS: It softens her. It makes her human. I got a little misty imagining being a grandma myself, not too soon.

And also it gave a theory of the case about how she wants to make sure that other children growing up in America have the same incredible opportunities that baby Charlotte does. And so there’s a risk in looking — in emphasizing age, but I actually thought it was an interesting epilogue.

DAVID BROOKS: My grandma juice is not flowing that much, so…

RUTH MARCUS: Well, no.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You were not impressed?

DAVID BROOKS: I wasn’t. I liked Charlotte, the story. I liked — I understand…

RUTH MARCUS: Well, you’re not a suburban woman in her demographic, and I am. So there you go.

DAVID BROOKS: Internally, I am.


DAVID BROOKS: But every — open opportunity for everybody is — it’s anodyne. In my view, that’s what every candidate runs on. How hard is she going to press it?

I don’t expect — this is the afterward, to be fair. But, you know, the party’s moved to the left. Inequality’s gotten more stubborn than the last time she ran. And so how hard is she going to push some of that? Her advisers, the natural Democratic economists, have moved. They’re not where Bill Clinton was. They’re not even where Barack Obama was when he took office.

Does she move with them? And just there’s a lot of interesting choices.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But when is she going to have to answer those questions, Ruth?

RUTH MARCUS: In the very intimate conversations with thousands of reporters watching in living rooms in Iowa and New Hampshire.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But do we think voters, ordinary — I mean, ordinary Americans are going to be asking her these questions?

RUTH MARCUS: Well, she is going to — no. They are not going to be saying, what is your position on TPP, or do you think that one of — one of the interesting questions — and you’re totally right, David — that she is going to have to explain where she is.

And the party’s moved. We have had a financial crisis since she ran. She is going to have to open herself up to questions from us. One really interesting issue is going to be trade. Another is going to be the push by many sectors of the Democratic Party, not to put Social Security on a more sustainable financial footing by trimming benefits or increasing taxes, but by expanding Social Security benefits.

And that’s going to be, I think, a new emerging Democratic Party litmus test. So it is going to be fascinating to watch her. But she needs to, in addition to those discrete issues, wrap it into — all politicians’ prescriptions are anodyne — but into a larger theory that allows people to connect with her.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, David, you don’t think it’s a detriment that she doesn’t have a tough — or any primary serious opposition?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I agree with Ruth. If you were the candidate, you would rather have no opposition.

But I do think it makes you a better candidate. We have covered these campaigns. The candidates get so much better over time when they’re forced to debate. And she will — I actually think there’s a chance that somebody could emerge. I don’t know who that will be. And maybe it’s too late. But I just think there’s a market there.

Just one final word. There are two things that I think any candidate has to show. One is imagination, something new. And I don’t think she’s — she’s shown many great virtues as a candidate — or a public figure. Imagination, not always so much.

Second, how is she going to get anything passed? And this is true for Republicans and Democrats. Do you have an agenda that can get 61 votes in the United States Senate? That’s important, because we have had no legislation for five years. That’s just incumbent on every candidate, to have an explanation for that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And maybe we will hear some of that on Sunday.

So, the other person who threw his hat into the ring, jumped into the pool or whatever we’re calling it, is Rand Paul, Ruth, this week.



JUDY WOODRUFF: Where does he fit on the Republican spectrum?

RUTH MARCUS: Libertarian-ish, but not as much as Libertarian as he used to was.


RUTH MARCUS: And that’s, I think, the really intriguing part of Rand Paul and perhaps his downfall, which is think he — I have always thought — I have thought he is a very interesting figure in the Republican Party, one of the few who can really address the fact that, as he has said, Republicans — as Domino’s pizza saying that their crust was no good, the Republicans need to re-improve the taste of their pizza.


And he has offered the opportunity, with talking about surveillance and talking about secure — drones and things like that, to attract millennials. However, that looked a lot more attractive a few years ago than it does now, with the emergence of ISIS and the emergence of more foreign threats. So I kind of think, not the right moment.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see?


The party is less libertarian than it was three years ago, both on domestic and foreign affairs. Second, on a matter of his personality or personal presentation, his whole shtick was authenticity. And an authentic figure cannot be a trimmer. And he’s become — tried to make himself more mainstream and more acceptable to parts of the party, but has chipped away at the edge of authenticity.

So, he’s caught in a tragic bind there. As a libertarian, he can’t get elected. As a trimmer, he’s a trimmer, and he’s stuck there.

RUTH MARCUS: And there is where I might need to say shush to you, because there’s one other thing about Rand Paul.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I was going to say, when he’s been challenged by reporters on positions and whether they have changed or not, he’s gotten a little upset.

RUTH MARCUS: And when your defense of that is not that you’re sexist, but that you’re equal opportunity short-tempered, that’s not a successful presidential rollout.


RUTH MARCUS: And I do have to say, perhaps he is short-tempered with everybody, but I have really bristled watching him trying to say shush to women reporters interviewing him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That may not be a strategy.



No, you have to be — if you’re president, you’re a national anchorman for — or anchorwoman for…


RUTH MARCUS: Oops. Whoops.


DAVID BROOKS: … for four years. And people have to like you, and you have to come off well. And if you don’t, you have got a problem.


David Brooks, Ruth Marcus, we thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on making a deal with Iran, religious freedom and the marketplace

Fri, Apr 03, 2015


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

So, David, let me start with you.

If the hard-liners or some hard-liners in Iran are opposed to this and if Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to this, did the U.S. successfully, or U.S. and the coalition, thread the needle and try to get the negotiations that they wanted to?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I don’t think so.

I must agree with the hard-liners over there. So, I’m skeptical of the deal. Parts of it are impressive. The inspection regime is pretty good. And so people will really know what they’re talking about saying for 10 years we will at least have access to lots of different parts of the Iranian weapons system, maybe not some of the Republican Guard forts in the areas like that, but it’s a pretty good regime.

My problem with it are twofold. First, the whole first goal of this thing was to get rid of the Iranian nuclear program. That’s what the president said. We’re a long way from that. Second, in 10 years, lots of bad things can happen. They can really move quickly.

Third, it’s a big bet on the nature of the Iranian regime. Is it a regime that wants to join the community of nations?  If it’s that, then it’s a home run. Barack Obama will go down in history, and he will earn the Nobel Prize he got whenever he got it.

But I’m extremely skeptical of all that. This is a regime that genuinely talks about and acts on the basis of the idea that it’s a radical regime, with a certain mission and history that doesn’t only talk about it. It acts upon. It funds Hezbollah. It funds Hamas. It funds IEDs that kill American troops. It wants to have a certain influence on the region, which is an extremely hostile influence.

And so when people like David Petraeus say that Iran is not the solution, it’s the problem, then I think you have to think we’re cutting — we’re going to end up enriching a regime that will end up doing us harm. So, I’m willing to give the deal a chance, but I’m a skeptic.


MARK SHIELDS: Not a big chance, but a chance, right?


MARK SHIELDS: I think the unprecedented, unrestricted inspections are very, very positive. I am very supportive of what I know about the deal so far.

I — the reaction right now and the resistance, which has been quite outspoken in this country, reminds me of a second-term president who negotiated with a brutal regime that had enslaved hundreds of millions of people and killed millions of people. And he had an agreement to cut our nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles by 50 percent unilaterally.

And he came back, Ronald Reagan, from dealing with Mikhail Gorbachev and said — George Will, the great conservative commentator, said this is the day America lost the Cold War. William Buckley’s “National Review” called it Ronald Reagan’s suicide pact. It was roundly roasted.

I happen to believe that you negotiate with your enemies, with your adversaries. And I think — I think, from everything I know at this point, it’s positive. There’s great resistance in this country. Make no mistake about it. Republican candidates for 2016, by emphasizing their opposition to President Obama on anything, but certainly on this, help themselves.

Mark Kirk, the Republican senator from Illinois, has already retired the classless demagoguery award for 2015 and maybe for 2016 as well, when he said, without having even looked at the terms, that this — that Neville Chamberlain got more out of — from Hitler out of Munich than we did.

I am cautiously optimistic and hopeful. I don’t know what the option is, what the alternative is. I think, to bring them in, it’s always better to deal with people than to isolate them. And I don’t do it with my eyes in any way closed to Iran’s evil acts.


So this is — the whole deal is that, is the Iranian regime Stalin or are they Gorbachev?


DAVID BROOKS: And if they’re Gorbachev, which is to say, ideologically dead and not even believing in their own system, ready for change, then this sort of pulls them into the community of nations and, as I say, home run, home run.

But the way they act, I think they’re closer to Stalin. I think they do believe in their revolutionary zeal. This was a country — you go back to the Iran-Iraq War. They have land mines fighting the Iraqis. How did they clear land mines?  They took kids, they gave them a string, and they had them walk across a field.

So they’re in a different mental universe, blowing up land mines with their kids. Now, granted, that was at the high point of the revolution. But they’re not so far away. Look at what they’re doing. They’re spending all this money on Hezbollah. They’re sometimes in tactical alliances with al-Qaida.

They are a radical regime. And so I think what we’re doing is we’re, within a few short years, they will be pumping out oil, they will be a lot richer, their influence on the region will be greater, and the Saudis will have to counter. And I already think that the region is in the midst or in the very beginning of what some people have called a 30-years war, a religious war.

And allowing Iran to get richer and potentially nuclear in the middle of that 30-years war strikes me as risky.

MARK SHIELDS: Two quick points.

Half the population of Iran is under the age of 35. To me, that’s encouraging and that’s positive. I think the acclaim and the response, the positive response to this agreement there is encouraging in itself. And I don’t know. I mean, the most unequivocal voices in opposition, people like John Bolton, have recommended an attack upon Iran, to attack on its nuclear capabilities.

And, you know, that is the shortest of short-term. That strengthens the hard-liners, that emboldens their nuclear program, and isolates — and to me roils the already troubled waters in the Middle East.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. Kind of a related topic, Bob Menendez is stepping back from the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, senator from New Jersey. How does that impact what’s happening now?  Good for the president?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, he was the ranking member. Senator Menendez has been ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and had been an outspoken critic of rapprochement in this — any treaty with Iran.

So, to that degree, it probably helps the president’s position at the edges, at the margins, I would say.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And the Republicans are all against. The Democrats are sort of hesitant. They’re skeptical. They’re like waiting to see.

And I suspect, at the end of the day, the Democrats will side with the president. And, frankly, I suspect, at the end of the day, as much as the Republicans generally think it’s a bad deal, it takes a lot of moxie to actually then — it’s not just us and the Iranians, obviously. It’s an international deal with five other countries.


DAVID BROOKS: It takes a lot to — there are costs. Even if you’re like me and you’re extremely skeptical of a deal, you have to acknowledge that if the Senate basically undercuts our own president, there are costs to that. There are huge costs to that in our ability to negotiate anything in the future.

And so even as much as a lot of people are skeptical of a deal, whether the Congress will actually destroy it, I’m a little dubious that that will ever happen.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, the other big story this week, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, what happened in Indiana, Arkansas.

David, let’s start with you. What does this say about where society is now?


So, I’m pro-gay marriage. I have been pro-gay marriage out of the womb. And so I wouldn’t have supported that act. But I do think two things, first the minor thing, and then the major thing. The minor thing is substantive. There is genuinely a tension between religious freedom and tolerance and full equality for gays and lesbians.

There are some people who have different points of view than me, and somehow we have to give them some respect and some space. That doesn’t mean they’re allowed to discriminate. So, that’s just a substantive tension there, I think, between those two things.

To me, the larger issue is simply pragmatic. The gay rights agenda and the cause has had an amazing couple years, or decade, sweeping through the country. And it’s doing great in urban America, in suburban America. But there are large parts of America, a lot of rural, more religious, where it’s still facing a lot of opposition.

And so the question becomes, how do you make those areas more amenable to change?  And I know so many Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, but they’re wrestling, they’re really wrestling with this. And to me, making it very polarized and very culture war-seeming is the wrong way to move people. It’s much better to go gently and allow the natural momentum to build up. And so some of the reaction to the Indiana law, I thought was over the top.

MARK SHIELDS: The velocity on this issue is absolutely phenomenal.

I would just point out that, by the standards of many in the gay rights movement today, the position of the president two years ago would have been bigoted, when he said marriage is between a man and a woman, before he evolved on the issue.

This has moved so quickly. The only thing to compare it to, Hari, in American political experience, to me, is the attitude toward interracial marriage. At the time of the age of Aquarius in this country, when the flower children — 75 percent of Americans opposed interracial marriage. Now 90 percent of Americans endorse interracial marriage, and 9 percent oppose it. The same pattern is true, as David identified, in same-sex marriage.

And for the Republicans, it’s a real quandary. It’s a real quandary, because it is an issue to Republicans. Republicans oppose it. Seventy percent of Republicans oppose same-sex marriage. Three out of five independents, the swing group, are in favor of same-sex marriage.

Republicans under the age of 30, 60 percent of them support gay marriage. But, in a primary, it could be influential, especially in Iowa and South Carolina, which Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have carried respectively in Iowa, with the support of cultural and religious conservatives.

But lost in this debate — and I think David touched on it very well — and that is the whole question of religious liberty, which is basic to our country. I mean, it truly is, whether it’s Quakers not being, the Mennonites not being forced to serve in the military, or head scarves, or head gear to religions, whether it’s Muslims or Jewish people. We have had a respect for that. And it encourages tolerance. It encourages — and I just think the gay rights movement is in such ascendancy and such dominance at this point — dominance may be the wrong word — that I do think it’s time to look for converts, rather than heretics.

And make no mistake about it. I think the Indiana statute went too far when it gave the same rights to a corporate, a for-profit — a profit corporation the right of conscience that it bestows on an individual.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this something that the market will essentially correct for over time?  There was — we will put up a graphic here, the Support Memories Pizza joint that decided that they didn’t want — that they would abide by the law if it was, they put out kind of a GoFundMe campaign. They were looking for $200,000, and at least $800,000 in pretty much one day from 27,000, 30,000 people.

So, over time, is this a matter of the population shifting, their customers shifting and saying, I’m going to take my money somewhere else?  Is that more effective than a federal or a local state law?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, there’s obviously the Christian community who could support both sides.


DAVID BROOKS: But that would be my solution, basically.

A lot of this issue gets down to, say, a gay couple goes to a bakery or goes to a wedding photographer and they say, would you work our marriage ceremony?  And the baker or the photographer says, I’m not really comfortable about that. And does the government — should the government be forcing that baker or that photographer to work?  Should they coerce them into working it?

If it was like a basic issue of voting rights, obviously yes.


DAVID BROOKS: To me, I would boycott that photographer. I would boycott that baker. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable with the government forcing them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, just about 10, 15 seconds.

MARK SHIELDS: I hadn’t been aware of that pizza — the pizza story.

I don’t think there’s any question. There has been, in my judgment, a wave that is irreversible. But I do think it’s the time not to take a victory dance in the end zone. I think it’s the time to reach out and reach across the divide at this point and acknowledge the goodwill of people who are on the other side. That’s missing in our politics completely.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But not here at this table.


HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark Shields, David Brooks, thanks so much.

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Shields and Brooks on Harry Reid’s retirement, Yemen turmoil response

Fri, Mar 27, 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.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, let’s talk about Harry Reid.

Mark, he announced he’s retiring, not until the end of next year, but this is after being the face — the leader and the face of the Democratic Party in the Senate. What does this mean for Democrats?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, first, just a quick word about Harry Reid.

I mean, Harry Reid wasn’t born to privilege or advantage. There’s no pedigree there. There are eight counties in Nevada where prostitution is legal, and Harry Reid lived in one of them in Searchlight, Nevada. His mother took in the laundry from the local brothel. His dad was a miner who had a problem with alcohol and committed suicide.

He went to law school nights here. He worked as a Capitol Policeman up on Capitol Hill, totally self-made man, which somebody say relieves the creator of a great responsibility.


MARK SHIELDS: But he was tough as nails. He was determined. His word, you could take to the bank. You could talk to any Democrat, talk to anybody on the hill. That was the thing about Harry Reid. He was incredibly determined, tough, no-holds-barred.

You didn’t want — you wanted him on your side if you were in a foxhole, not smooth and not Sunday morning chat show, not a charmer, short on charisma, but I would say an effective leader. And he probably knew the time was right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And would say, he’s still there for another year-and-a-half.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, fair — and, in fairness, let’s say there is no Obamacare, there is no Affordable Care Act without Nancy Pelosi as speaker and Harry Reid as leader. There’s no Dodd-Frank without Pelosi and Reid. There is no $800 billion stimulus to save the economy from the precipice without Reid and Pelosi.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He had his detractors as — has his detractors as well.

DAVID BROOKS: The good part was, as Mark said, he was rooted, rooted in Searchlight. And he talked about Searchlight all the time.

I once heard him say that he played on a football field in high school that was only 98 yards long. I never quite understood that. Nothing but ground out there in Searchlight, but played on a short field.


DAVID BROOKS: But he talked about that and remained rooted in that, so was never really of the Washington culture, I would say, even though he was obviously — or he’s still here a long time.

And the good part is, the effective part, as Mark says, to keep 60 votes together among a very diverse Democratic body was — that is an accomplishment. The bad side, probably the detractors will say, is, he was sometimes extremely loose and sometimes extremely bizarre with the things he said and could be, in my view, overly tough on people, overly rash, overly cruel even.

And so sometimes the public projections weren’t all that one would want in a statesman. But I have always had a soft spot for him, in part because he’s a big watcher of this show, but also because he…


JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re always glad to hear that.


But, listen, there’s an authenticity to the guy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what does it mean, Mark, for the Democrats? We would say, Reid came right out and said he wants Chuck Schumer of New York to be his successor as the leader of the party. How are things going to change after?

MARK SHIELDS: Reid and Schumer were as close as two people can be, and not to arouse the suspicions of their spouses. I mean, they talk together five or six times a day.


MARK SHIELDS: So, he did. He leapfrogged Dick Durbin, the deputy, and went to Chuck Schumer, the third in line.

And it means that Reid is there for 22 months. It means Schumer is probably — undoubtedly the favorite. We would question whether the women in the Senate will mount any kind of candidacy for at least representation, whether Patty Murray perhaps the most likely.

But these votes inside a body, Judy, are next to impossible to predict. I remember when Bob Byrd upset Ted Kennedy as the Democratic whip. And Ted Kennedy said afterwards, “I want to thank the 32 senators who committed to vote for me and the 27 who did.”

And so you can’t tell, but I would have to say that Schumer is the favorite.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just because he named Schumer doesn’t mean it’s going to happen?

DAVID BROOKS: No. Everyone gets a vote.

And what is interesting about Schumer is, he seems superficially much more ideological, maybe further to the left, but I think Schumer is practical as well. And in some senses, you could even have — if there were ever a possibility for bipartisan compromise, I think Schumer, though is ideologically quite out there and his verbal style is certainly out there, I think he would be capable of quite surprising compromises on occasion.

So if that comes along, I think Schumer would be pretty good at that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about another senator, freshman Republican, Mark, Ted Cruz of Texas, who became the first candidate to officially announce his candidacy. He didn’t stop along the way and announce an exploratory committee. He said, I’m in it, I’m running for the Republican nomination.

Smart to be out there so early, ahead of everybody else? And what are the pluses and the minuses?

MARK SHIELDS: Think about how people announced in 2008, and some in 2012, e-mail, on YouTube. I mean, this was a show of shows. This was Ed Sullivan. This was Dean Martin. This was…

JUDY WOODRUFF: The speech he gave at Liberty University.

MARK SHIELDS: Liberate University, 10,000 people in the round, no notes, no teleprompter, just a speech that Ted Cruz has been rehearsing for 18 years, all replete with pauses at the moment, as he’s trying to think of that next word…


MARK SHIELDS: … but, you know, I think a terrific performance. I think he will be a formidable debater.

Unlike the two previous Texas statewide Republicans, George W. Bush and Rick Perry, he won’t stumble over his words, he won’t fracture his syntax, and he will — he takes a no-holds-barred approach. He didn’t come to compromise, he’s not a coalition builder, he’s going to fight for principle.

And I think he could move the debate to the right, and I think that’s a real concern, on the force of his intellect and his personality and his — yes, that’s it.


Well, picking Liberty, a Christian school, was clearly a sign that he’s going to run to be the inheritor of the evangelical vote. There’s a shot he could be that. He’s got some competition on that side, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, a lot of the others, but that’s a powerful vote, especially in some of the early caucus states.

He’s a new style of politician with no history of governance, really, no effectiveness as a legislature, but a good media personality and a spokesperson. And, to me, it’s a bit of politics as show business. And I don’t think he has much of a chance, in part because it’s such a crowded field, and in many ways a more qualified field than him, in part because I just don’t think he radiates sincerity.

There are a lot of people who are plenty conservative, but they just don’t find him that sincere. And so he’s so smart. He’s thinking it all through. He’s very polished, but a lot of people think it’s all — it’s so cleverly thought through, they’re not quite comfortable. And so will he arouse people, passions the way some true — someone who seems more sincere will? I’m a little acceptable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there’s the — I guess the conventional wisdom at this point is, there are two contests in the Republican Party. One is for the conservative banner carrier and the other, Mark, for the mainstream Republican banner carrier.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that just too simple a way to look at this?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, it is, Judy, but that’s all right.


JUDY WOODRUFF: It was my theory, so…

MARK SHIELDS: No, it wasn’t your theory. It’s one that is imposed.

There’s Tea Party, which are the economic and anti-government conservatives. Then there’s the cultural or moral religious conservatives. I think there’s an overlap, but they’re distinct. There is the governing Republicans, those who really think, gee, it’s important to be able to govern. And then there are sort of the Wall Street or business Republicans.

So, I think there’s almost four different groups. I will say this about Ted Cruz. He stands in total opposite to what happened this week in Congress. We have spent months, years just kicking the daylights out of Congress for doing nothing. And this week, we saw an act on grownups on the part of Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and they passed a Medicare doc fix, something 17 times in 10 years — 12 years — they have patched this, they have kicked the can down the road.

This time, they did it and led their caucuses. And, you know, we say we want this. Ted Cruz gets cheers for saying he won’t compromise. And Pelosi and Boehner get very few kudos for being grownups and, I think, showing real leadership.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is figuring out what doctors get from Medicare reimbursements.

DAVID BROOKS: Cruz’s strategy, clearly with his debating skills, is to pick a fight, pick a fight, pick a fight. And anybody who isn’t quite as pure as him will be a RINO, a Republican in name only.

And that may work for him. I actually — I have 32 categories of the candidates.


DAVID BROOKS: Because there are 487 of them, I think, at this count.


DAVID BROOKS: But, no, I actually think the categories are a little overblown when voters — they are not aware of the ideological distinctions that we make between the neocons and the proto-neocons and all that.

They’re looking at personality.


DAVID BROOKS: And I do think character and personality are just golden.

And you look at a Scott Walker, who can point to some horrible stories that happened to him while he was in the Wisconsin fight. He seems sort of attractive. Marco Rubio is a smart, attractive person. You just have got to — you have to be with the guy for four years. I’m not sure people are going to want…

MARK SHIELDS: Just one point on what David made.

And Bill Cohen, the former secretary of defense, United States senator from Maine, congressman, mayor, had a great aphorism, which is, before they vote for you, they have to like you. And I think that is…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Makes sense.

MARK SHIELDS: And it really does for president. It’s a very personal choice.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is unfair to ask you both about this, Yemen, what’s been going on. We have been covering it all week.

We now see the Saudis involved there hitting these Shia rebels, the Houthis. I guess my very quick question to both of you is, John McCain this week — yesterday accused the Obama administration of just not having its eye on the ball, not being engaged. Is this one where the U.S. should be more involved, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, this is the dilemma we face in each of them. I mean, do we stand outside and watch ISIS, or whatever its incarnation is under whatever religious banner it might be, take over and disable?

I mean, these are nonfunctioning states that we are talking about. Or do we engage and then incur the wrath and the enmity, as well as the casualties? And I think this is it. I mean, as far — is there an overarching strategy, a coherent policy? I haven’t seen it, Judy, but I don’t pretend to be a detective.


Well, we’re a victim of circumstance. We’re just reacting to whoever it is that’s happening that — most which we do not foresee. And therefore, we’re fighting with Iran here, but against Iran there. We’re negotiating with Iran over there. And so we’re just — it’s case by case.

And to me, that’s a problem of a strategy which is unreaistic. I do think the president had a strategy, which was to turn Iran into a member of the community of nations in some way and then use that as a pivot to sort of stabilize the region. I think that’s an unrealistic strategy. But that’s the strategy we have.

But when it’s compared to the actual world, it leaves us without a strategy. And so we’re reacting. I think what we need is obviously a strategy that takes acute awareness of our limits here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And speaking of which, we’re looking at the deadline for these Iran nuclear talks next Tuesday.

MARK SHIELDS: We are. But we have no government in Baghdad.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re going to have to save it for next week.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Please come back.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.


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Shields and Brooks on Netanyahu’s election provocation, human trafficking holdup

Fri, Mar 20, 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.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, let’s talk about Israel, its newly reelected prime minister, Benjamin — or we think so — it looks that way, Benjamin Netanyahu.

He turned heads, David, just before the election when he said that he didn’t believe, after all, that the Palestinians should have their own state and also when he talked about Arabs going to the polls in droves. He’s just given — that was a few days ago. Then just today and yesterday, he is telling American reporters, no, he does think there should be, could be a Palestinian state.

Which is it?

DAVID BROOKS: He’s a fascinating figure.

He’s — we say Nixonian about a lot of people. He really is Nixonian. He’s brilliant. He’s very isolated and insular. It’s very hard to…

JUDY WOODRUFF: You don’t mean that as a compliment, or do you, the Nixonian…

DAVID BROOKS: No. Well, mixed, I guess, but mostly negative.

Insular. Very hard to keep staff because he — very small circle, and yet survived now. And so I would differentiate the two statements. The statement about the Israeli Arabs was race-baiting. It was voter suppression, and simply was pandering. It was his attempt to win over the right.

Remember, in his electoral system, he’s not trying to win over left votes. He’s trying to get the more right parties into his camp, which he succeeded in doing. The stuff on the Palestinian state, I think, is a much more complicated. It’s been reported that he’s saying never going to have a Palestinian state. That’s not how I read it then, and it’s certainly not what he said then.

I think what he said, if you read the exact quote, is that today, with Islamic radicalism on the rise, more or less, he meant it would be reckless to allow there to be a Palestinian state in the West Bank or in Gaza for today. I don’t think he said forevermore. I think it’s a little more complicated.

I think that it’s an arguable position, whether with Hamas and ISIS around, whether there should be a Palestinian state, but it’s a defensible position, given the current circumstances.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should say, full disclosure, you have a son who is serving in the Israeli military. But you’re saying it’s consistent, these two…

DAVID BROOKS: I thought it was clearly a pander to the right, obviously. But was it outrageous?  Did he say there should never be a Palestinian state?  I don’t think he said that, even at the worst statement at the height of the campaign.


MARK SHIELDS: The uncritically admiring supporters and friends of the prime minister, in whose ranks I certainly don’t include David, but include Charles Krauthammer, the columnist, and Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, insist on comparing him to the incomparable leader of the British forces in country in part of — during World War II.

I think we have established this past week for sure that Benjamin Netanyahu is no Winston Churchill. Whatever else he, is he’s not a Winston Churchill. He basically violated the great rule, which is it’s better to mislead the people and to lose an election than to mislead the people and win an election.

And he — David’s case is a legitimate one, but there was no doubt his intention was to turn out the vote. His intention was to walk back from the 2009 position that he had taken when he then came out in favor of the two-state solution. And he did it solely for electoral purposes, solely to win an election.

And I think that “Arabs coming out in droves” is so violative Jewish values that non-Jews admire so much about Jewish people throughout history, of welcoming the stranger, of standing up for the outsider, of defending the marginalized. This was classic us against them. This was the narrowest and meanest of politics, to which Jews, sadly and tragically, around the world have been subjected to, including in this country.

And just to win a lousy election?  I mean, to win an election?  Really, I mean, he’s a diminished, diminished man, I believe.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, whatever you think about what he did, we now hear the Obama administration saying they’re thinking about going to U.N. to support the Palestinians.

Is this an overreaction?  Does it make sense under the circumstances?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it’s peaked. I think it’s an overreaction.

I agree with what Mark said at the suppression of the vote and the treatment of the Israeli Arabs, but we have — the United States has said all along that a unilateral solution is not a solution. There has to be a peace process. It has to be mutually agreed.

And if it’s an Israeli-imposed unilateral solution, or a Palestinian via the U.N. self-declared statehood, I just don’t think that’s a stable peace. And I don’t think the Palestinians are in this position they’re in, divided with Hamas and the P.A., unwilling to allow — or recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

I think they’re a long way. Fundamentalism is still on the march. They’re a long way from getting to the spot where both the Israelis and the Palestinians can reach a mutual solution. I think we’re sort of stuck here for a little while. It’s been a long time. We’re stuck here, given current conditions on both sides.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama administration overreacted?

MARK SHIELDS: I think the Obama administration — I understand the president is upset.

I mean, this has been a bipartisan issue for more than 50 years, supported, both Democrats and Republicans. Netanyahu and his supporters in this country have made it a partisan issue. He injected himself in the Romney-Obama race. By his acceptance to make a campaign rally before Republican House of Representatives two weeks before the election, he injected to use it as a forum to attack the policies of the president. He did.

Now, I don’t think he should make foreign policy on the basis of peak, but, Judy, I don’t think it can be overstated that Israel has been an embattled democracy that has enjoyed the bipartisan and overwhelming support of Americans. It has been a moral force.

And I think that’s compromised. It’s compromised as long as Israel is an occupying power, occupying the West Bank, where Palestinian rights are abridged, their political and civil and legal rights are abridged. And that is not — that hurts Israel.

Israel lost support. A majority of Americans under the age of 30 opposed Israel last summer and Hamas — in the battle in Gaza. And they are losing support in this country, and they will be further isolated in the world.

DAVID BROOKS: One quick more point about the politics of resentment.

Israel is a country of six million people. They need the U.S. It used to be bipartisan on Israeli politics. You never messed with that relationship. The fact that Netanyahu is willing to do that, I thought would horrify voters more than it turned out it did.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me turn you both to this country, to Congress.

Right now, the budget, Republicans — we now see, David, what the Republicans want to do with the budget. Many of them are arguing we need to cut $5.5 trillion over the next 10 years, cutting Medicaid, cutting food stamps. Democrats are screaming, this is way too much. Do you see balance here?  What do you see?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, this is sort of happening on two levels.

One is the grand vision level, what do you want, and the budget — the Republican budget in the House does have a grand vision. They’re right to say we need massive changes to get the balance in budget. Over the next 10 years, the national debt is rising significantly up to about 78 percent of GDP. It’s very high, getting way higher the 10 out years.

So they do need to do things. I think the Republican budget priorities are messed up. I salute for the way they’re attacking some of the entitlement programs, but they are taking huge cuts, by pretending they’re just block-granting it to the states, out of Medicaid, from the least fortunate.

Then they’re taking huge cuts out of domestic discretionary spending, which is already at his historic lows. And so I agree with the idea of cutting, but it should all be coming out of entitlements for the affluent and not out of domestic discretionary, which is welfare, education, all the stuff the government does, parks, FBI, and it shouldn’t be coming out of Medicaid.

So, I like their approach. I just don’t like the priorities they demonstrate in the broad brush. Let me just quickly on — the narrow thing is over where to cut defense. And the Republicans are just hugely divided.

MARK SHIELDS: I think they want to increase defense, Judy. It’s part of the Republican creed.

And they — for the first time, understandably, they have a real advantage on national security. And it’s measured in the polls. We’re going into what they hope would be a national security election. But it’s also part of what has been the consistent Republican position.

And they now are a more interventionist party than they have been at any time since George W. Bush left office. But I — at the same time, you have got the deficit hawks who really are — it’s beyond — they have given a bad name to smoke and mirrors. I mean, they are saying, we’re going to report — repeal the Affordable Care Act and we’re going to cut — we’re going to cut Medicare and Medicaid.

The Senate doesn’t do that, the Senate Republicans. They voted for it when they were not in power, but they don’t include it as part of their agenda when they are in power. So I think what we’re seeing is a lot of back and forth. As long as Republicans won’t — won’t raise taxes and as long as Democrats won’t in any way make entitlements based on need, rather than just across the board, I really think that we’re doomed to this deadlock.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. This is like the Middle East. Both parties have to do it together, because it’s just too painful to do it alone. So you have just got to get there, and we’re not going to get there any time soon.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the other story out of the Senate this week has to do with holding up the nomination, the confirmation vote on Loretta Lynch, the president’s choice to be attorney general.

In fact, the president, in an interview today with Huffington Post, said, don’t hold the attorney general nominee hostage for other reasons. It’s the top law enforcement job. He’s been arguing that they need to break the logjam.

But, Mark, the argument that Democrats are making is — or that Republicans are making is that we’re going to hold this up until you pass this human trafficking bill. That’s now being held up by language over abortion.

Is there a real difference here, or is it just — is it pure politics?

MARK SHIELDS: It’s the Senate at its worst.

The human trafficking bill was reported out unanimously. The Hyde amendment, which has been in power — been in office for 40 years, Judy, prevents the use of public funds for abortion, except in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

And it was on page four, page five of the bill. It’s there. And, finally, somebody at one of the pro-choice groups, ever vigilant, gets this language. And it becomes a matter of faith for the Democrats. You have to understand that Republicans are on lockstep on one issue. They will not raise taxes. Democrats are in lockstep on another issue, pro-choice in all cases on abortion.

So they have turned this in — human trafficking is lost. Human trafficking is a human tragedy. It’s an outrage against any decent people. It’s — the victims are terribly, terribly treated, whether in sex trade or whatever. This is a chance to get them back, to help them, to help local law enforcement do it.

And the Democrats are standing on one side, and the Republicans are playing games on the other. Both sides are playing games. They ought to pass the human trafficking immediately and they ought to confirm Loretta Lynch.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. If we had a government that worked, the Republicans would say, OK, the attorney general has nothing to do with human trafficking. We will let her go through. And the Democrats would say, the Hyde amendment, it’s always been in these sorts of laws. It has loopholes wide enough to drive a truck through. It doesn’t have that much practical effect. We will let that go through.

And both good things would get through. But we don’t live in that country.


On a completely different note, I want to say at the end this is basketball — college basketball March Madness. I want to hear from the two of you in less than 30 seconds.

Who are you picking, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: You’re obviously talk about men’s and women’s.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I am, absolutely, always.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, because that’s the University of Notre Dame in both. Women are a number one seed.


MARK SHIELDS: Men are a number three seed.

And the key, Judy, is 100 percent graduation rate in both teams, which I think is perhaps standing alone among its competitors in Division I.

DAVID BROOKS: Mark bravely picking his own school.


MARK SHIELDS: It just happens.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just coincidentally.

DAVID BROOKS: It just happens to be a wonderful place.

I’m sticking with Catholics. It’s a very good year for Catholics.

MARK SHIELDS: Good Catholics. Pope Francis.

DAVID BROOKS: Villanova. Villanova.

It’s very evil to support Kentucky. They’re an evil force in the country.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Bet you may get some mail over that.

DAVID BROOKS: Villanova.


DAVID BROOKS: Villanova is going to win men’s.

I — I don’t know if I’m sexist, though I have not paid much attention to the women’s bracket. I’m pretty sure University of Connecticut is in there, so I’m going to be for them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: They are very much in there, all right, along with other great schools.

We will continue this conversation next Friday. David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.

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Shields and Gerson on Clinton’s email problem, Senate sabotage of Iran negotiations

Fri, Mar 13, 2015


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

So, let’s talk about those e-mails. I want to read all of your e-mail. No.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton’s…Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

Mark, did she answer all the questions out there with her news conference this week?

MARK SHIELDS: No, of course not, Judy.

The questions will keep coming and keep coming. But there was one result of it that just hit me so hard. And that is the great advice, beware of any national leader — and I don’t limit this to Secretary Clinton, by any means — but who doesn’t have close to him or her contemporary friends and confidants who can tell them when necessary they’re absolutely wrong and go to hell.

And very few presidents — Jerry Ford did, to his everlasting credit. He was an enormously emotionally secure man. Ronald Reagan chose Jim Baker to be his chief of staff, who had run two campaigns against him, as examples of that sort of emotional security and stability.

I just ask Mrs. Clinton, who in your retinue, among your group of advisers, when you had the idea of having a personal computer e-mail service of your own, an individual one, who didn’t say, are you out of your “expletive deleted” mind?  This is politically indefensible and probably morally indefensible and may be legally problematic.

And I guess that is what really bothers me. And I think that’s a question that persists even after all the details, whether the relevance or irrelevance of the e-mails turns out to be anything at all legally or substantively. That is a real problem.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the questions?  Did she answer any of the questions?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think the proper word for the press conference, it was really brazen. It was bold. She went out there. She had total control over her e-mails in a private server while she was serving in government.

She decided — she and her people decided what should be revealed and what should be eliminated.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which, by the way, that’s what government employees..

MICHAEL GERSON: But it ended up eliminating 30,000 e-mails, OK?

And real questions about how this took place. It was just done through keyword searches. That’s the way they decided what to eliminate and what not to. I think it raised a lot of questions there.

So she had people advising her, Democrats, who thought that she should be transparent, she should turn over her server, she should have an independent authority review this. And she completely rejected that advice. This was the equivalent — I mean, some people advised Richard Nixon he should have burned the tapes on the front lawn of the White House. This was the digital equivalent. She burned the tapes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I mean, so what are we left with?  Mark, you said she made a huge mistake in the first place. Where does she go from here?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think this is a question that is going to nag at Democrats. Is this going to be — we’re seeing it right at the outset, that relations with the press are frosty, to the point of arctic, and that there is a sense, not simply from this, but that we’re going back into let’s go to the barricades. It’s let’s circle the wagons.

There’s a certain mentality that way. We’re not going to take anything. And I think in a nation that is as polarized politically as we are, as acrimonious as it has become, I think this is really not the atmosphere that you want to create. She is not the only person who has an e-mail problem, by any means. Every candidate on the Republican side has an e-mail.

And they have made unilateral — Governor Bush made unilateral decisions on what was personal. Governor Walker has persistent problems. But I’m just talking about the approach.

And Michael’s seat 22 years ago sat David Gergen, who went over to the White House having worked for President Reagan, Bush and Ford to work for President Clinton. Whitewater was then the big thing.


MARK SHIELDS: David said, put out all the information, put it out, just let out that information. And they basically ignored him and didn’t take his advice. And that’s sort of a measure of loyalty.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael, how does she get beyond this, or does she?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I don’t think this is fatal, by any stretch of the imagination.


MICHAEL GERSON: In fact, it may have worked. The strategy may well have worked. If the e-mails are destroyed, you know, members of Congress may demand the server, you know, to seize the server. We will see how that happens.

But it may well have worked. But I do think Hillary Clinton has no rivals in the party, no serious rivals, no second-tier rivals. And, you know, this is a case where an overwhelming favorite is now causing serious concerns among Democrats about the quality of their candidate.

There are some Democrats even talking and writing now, saying she might benefit from a challenge. It might sharpen her skills. It might reintroduce her to elements of a party that she hasn’t been close to in a long time. So, I think that she is the overwhelming favorite and she is raising concerns in her own party.

MARK SHIELDS: She’s over 80 percent favorable among Democrats.


MARK SHIELDS: Even — yes, there’s nothing…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk about another — another story that was very much out there this week, the letter, Mark, 47 Republican senators sending a letter to the leadership in Iran saying, be careful, don’t sign a nuclear deal with the United States.

Was this — were they well-advised to sign this, to do this?

MARK SHIELDS: A respected national columnist with impeccable conservative credentials wrote of this letter, “In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about Republicans’ capacity to govern.”

And just by accident, Michael happens to be here, the author of those words.


MARK SHIELDS: I think he said it very well.

This, Judy, was more than a faux pas or a slip-up. I think it is a reflection of Mitch McConnell in a really negative way, that his leadership is defective. The fact that he didn’t even consult with the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of his own party, who opposed this and was trying to put together a bipartisan coalition of Democrats who had doubts and skepticism about the Iranian deal, that he just steamrolled it ahead and made it a matter of party loyalty and party unity, and essentially put us in a position where we’re at odds with our European allies, who are now doubting the United States and whether, in fact, we’re substantive, I mean, it just — whether we’re — we can be relied upon in this.

And to sabotage bipartisanship, it was done, effectively, in the Senate, and to sabotage the hopes of any kind of a deal to limit the nuclear building of the Iranians.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael, you have just been quoted. What more…

MICHAEL GERSON: I know. I can’t put it any better than that quote.


MICHAEL GERSON: No, I think that — I talked with some Republican senators today. There’s a significant amount of buyer’s remorse…


MICHAEL GERSON: … about this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senators who signed it?

MICHAEL GERSON: Exactly, concerns about the process, because some actually signed it on their way out the door to go to airplanes when the snow was coming, that — that that’s not the way you do strategy.

That’s not the way that you consult within a caucus. I think a lot of Republicans realize that. And you’re absolutely right. This has thrown a wrench in a process where Senator Corker was doing outreach to Democrats in order to propose legislation to have the Congress involved in the process of approving a deal.

He was two votes away from a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Now they are going to have to assess this coming week whether that’s been undermined by throwing this partisan issue in the middle of this debate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What are they — just quickly, the bearing on reaching a nuclear deal?  Do you think this is going to affect that?

MARK SHIELDS: I think — I think it’s hurtful. It certainly isn’t helpful.

I think the president did have a formulation that they have — by this action, they have strengthened the hand of the hard-liners in Tehran. And contrary to Senator Cotton’s proclamation, not everybody in Iran is a hard-liner.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Who was the main author of this, right.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right. He said, there’s no — everybody is a hard-liner in Iran.

Not everybody is a hard-liner.

MICHAEL GERSON: I’m not sure it’s changed the basic dynamics of this negotiation, which is an internal dynamic.

The problem is, the administration really wants a deal, and the other side knows they want a deal. That’s the basic problem here. I’m not sure that this changes that dynamic.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, just one point. There are seven nations involved here. I mean, this isn’t just the — Barack Obama and the Republican Senate Caucus. This is France and Great Britain and Germany and China and Russia and the United States and Iran trying to come to a deal.

That is a remarkable achievement, if you can pull it off, with those seven countries all agreeing on inspections and a timetable. That’s important.

MICHAEL GERSON: And if they don’t reach that deal, it’s actually important for America to look like it tried hard, that it was reasonable in this process, if it’s going to maintain sanctions in the aftermath of a failure.

That’s one other reason that I think that the letter was problematic. It looked like Republicans were trying to undermine the deal.

MARK SHIELDS: It was, no question.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Final thing I want to ask you both about, University of Oklahoma fraternity, Mark, racist chant by a group of fraternity members. A couple of them have now been expelled.

But I guess my question is, what does this — and it’s a question I put to David Boren, the president of the university, a former governor, this week.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, senator.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What does this say about whether we can ever get rid of racism in this country?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, last weekend, we did observe Selma. President Obama was there. President Bush was there and 100 members of Congress.

I was wrong when I said no member of the Republican leadership was there. Kevin McCarthy did go. But — and that was a measure of our progress and that we have come a long way.

But racism knows no zip code. It’s not a matter of a time zone or a particular region of the country. And the most disheartening about this, beyond the hate expressed, is that these are young, educated people. We have thought that the next generation — and it has been historically, by every measurement, more enlightened, more tolerant, more…


MARK SHIELDS: … open, less sensitive to race.

MICHAEL GERSON: I would hope that Americans would President Obama’s speech at Selma.


MICHAEL GERSON: He really presented well this dynamic of a country that has made huge progress, but is not perfect, that has a national ideal that stands in perpetual judgment of our practice, that, like, leads us forward, and that that ideal has to be passed to the next generation.

That’s part of the goal of education.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

MICHAEL GERSON: And it’s one reason I think Senator Boren, now president of that university, has done a great job.

He came down like a ton of bricks on this matter.


MICHAEL GERSON: He set the proper moral messages to the students in his care at that university. And, so, I think that he has done a lot to pass this along.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we certainly paid attention to it. And, as he said at the end of that conversation, maybe something good will come out of it, because he said there are now conversations on the campus that weren’t happening before.

Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, we thank you both.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

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Shields and Gerson on Netanyahu’s timing, DOJ’s Ferguson findings

Fri, Mar 06, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.

We welcome you both. David Brooks is off tonight.

So, a national leader, gentlemen, came to Washington this week and spoke before a joint session of Congress, got a rousing reception, Mark. It wasn’t the president. It was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He roundly criticized any deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

What is — what are we left with after this? What are the repercussions?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, when you feel it’s necessary to say at the outset what I’m about to say or do is not political, you can be sure of one thing. It’s political.

And this was a political event. This was — Prime Minister Netanyahu could have given the speech two weeks from now, except that there’s an election 11 days from now in Israel. He traveled 6,000 miles to make a very important campaign spot, appearance, under the auspices of the Republican speaker of the House, further partisanizing what had been a bipartisan support for the state of Israel.

And he made a very impassioned, I would say, eloquent indictment, criticism of the president’s policy. The Republicans were rapturous. They were adulatory.


MARK SHIELDS: Even, they were post-orgasmic, to the degree…

JUDY WOODRUFF: On, my goodness.

MARK SHIELDS: They passed, in the afterglow, the Homeland Security, which they hadn’t been able to do.

So, they would have nominated him on the spot, the Republicans, if they could have. And he made a case which has been made repeatedly in this country by other American commentators, politicians, public figures. And he put the administration on the defensive.

Now, they’re going to have to — whatever they do come up with, if they do come up with an agreement, they’re going to have to counter the arguments that he made. And we will find out if it helped him on March 17 at home in Israel.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, what — what — and what about the Iran — any potential Iran deal? Did this advance the case, hurt the case? What do you think?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I do — I want to agree that it’s a bad precedent for a foreign leader to come and make the case before Congress in the place where the president speaks.

George W. Bush wouldn’t have wanted this from Jacques Chirac in the middle of the Iraq…

MARK SHIELDS: … against the war.

MICHAEL GERSON: Right. But — so, I think there are problems there.

But the problem is not just the protocol. It’s the argument. And the argument here is that the nuclear file that’s all this — the emphasis, justifiably, is not the only problem here. Iran is actually on an aggressive march from Beirut to Baghdad. They have proxies with missiles aimed at Israel.

They have proxies that are committing mass atrocities in Syria. They have proxies that are taking over the security sector, even the oil sector, in Iraq. And these are the real challenges here. As the U.S. is making this case on nuclear arms, a vacuum is being filled across the region.

And it’s not just Netanyahu that believes this. It’s also the Arab states that are making this complaint. That case, as you said, is going to have to be answered, is the United States abdicating its role in this region, which I think is part of the question.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, does this make it harder for the U.S. to get the deal, for the Obama administration to get the deal that it says it’s working on?

MARK SHIELDS: I think — I think it — the opposition is stiff. And I think it’s going to be tougher, Judy.

I think it’s awfully tough to pay great heed to somebody who has been so consistently wrong, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has been about that region. He urged the Congress of the United States and the people of the United States to go to war against Saddam Hussein, on the grounds that it would bring positive, affirmative reverberations in the entire region.

He was making the case not simply against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, that that would destabilize and change the regimes in Iran. Now, so, he was wrong. He said in 1996 that, within five years, by 2001, Iran would have a bomb.

But I just think that this is really a terrible, terrible precedent. I think John Boehner has made a serious mistake. I think he realizes it now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: By inviting him.

MARK SHIELDS: By inviting him.

And I think it’s — the implications are going far beyond this — 170 former military officials and intelligence officials and six decorated generals publicly excoriated Netanyahu for giving the speech and emboldening Iran and poisoning or making toxic the relations with the United States president.

MICHAEL GERSON: First of all, Israel wasn’t very supportive of the Iraq war. They were concerned about so many of the consequences there.

But I still think what you need to do is answer the arguments here. You know, I don’t think that Netanyahu is wrong about Iran. That’s the question. But the real question, of course, is then about the details of the pact…

MARK SHIELDS: That’s exactly right.

MICHAEL GERSON: We don’t know.

MARK SHIELDS: We don’t know. We don’t know.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn to something very different, Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

And, Michael, I’m going to start with you. We learned this week she had her own private e-mail, her own private server at her home in New York when she was secretary of state. Now, she says she’s turned over these e-mails to the government, to the administration, but there’s a lot of questions about that.

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I saw one headline saying that Hillary Clinton had failed the first test of the campaign, of her campaign.

But it’s not even the first one. She’s also really bobbled her speaking fees, the donations of foreign countries, a variety of things. That is returning memories of the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008, which wasn’t a very good campaign. It was chaotic and ineffective. And it’s also returning memories of some Americans to the downside of the Clinton years in the 1990s, where you had deception and bullying and really style of politics that Americans tired of at that time and may not want to return to now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does this hurt her in the longer run?

MARK SHIELDS: It’s — the secretary of labor reminded us it’s been 20 years since this country has created 200,000 jobs a year — 200,000 jobs a month for 12 consecutive months, which we’re just doing right now in this country.

We did it in 1995 when President Clinton — that’s where the Clintons want the focus to be. That’s where they want the attention to be, the economic good times, the boom, the accomplishments. But it is a reminder of sort of the Clintonian quality about missing billing.


MARK SHIELDS: The Whitewater, the secret…

JUDY WOODRUFF: The travel records.

MARK SHIELDS: The travel records, the secret health care task force meetings.

But I will say this. Time and again, the Clintons have been saved by their political enemies. I mean, Newt Gingrich and the Republicans closed down the government in 1995. Bill Clinton was reelected. The Republicans tried to impeach Bill Clinton and made him into a martyr and a victim and the most popular American president in a generation.

And what happened with Hillary Clinton and these? And I agree that it’s — the billing record — that this whole e-mail thing is kind of sketchy and not particularly defensible. The Republicans come up with Benghazi. I mean, immediately, they turn it into a political back-and-forth.

So people who might be bothered by it say, geez, it’s a back — it’s a tit for tat. I will say. I think the Democrats, there’s a certain nervousness in the ranks and a question that she is the ball game. There really is nobody else out there on the Republican — on the Democratic side.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Last thing I want to ask both of you about. On the eve of the anniversary, the 50th anniversary on the march on Selma, Alabama, the Justice Department this week issued a report.

And essentially what they did was, they cleared the police officer who killed Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, teenager, but they said the police department in Ferguson was guilty bias, it was driven by a push to raise a lot of money, and had just essentially, in example after example after example, treated African-Americans in the community far worse than their numbers would warrant.

Michael, is there — what do we take away from this? But the president today said today, this speaks about something bigger than just Ferguson, Missouri, 20,000 people.


No, I think it does. The indictment, particularly on the Ferguson police force that relates to using the police as a fund-raising tool municipalities, and then having an unrepresentative police force, which then introduces an element of bias and discrimination, but the thing that disturbed me most reading the stories today was how — how much confirmation bias we see in a story like this.

Everybody looks at the report and finds some support for what they think, OK? Instead of analyzing, you have to approach this from an element of empathy. If you were a young African-American man in America today, you would see a system that’s deeply biased against you. You wouldn’t trust the justice of that system.

I think we need to be able to go in one another’s shoes when we read a report like this. Empathy is the real basis for eventual reform of these types of abuses.


MARK SHIELDS: I do believe and I want to believe that Ferguson is the exception. I mean, the report on the Ferguson police and the pervasive racism of their practices is — cries to heaven for vengeance.

It’s the arrests. It’s the only people upon whom dogs were loosed were African-Americans. And if there’s anybody who needs policing, good, effective, honest policing, it’s people in lower-income communities in the United States, especially people of color, where the crime rate is, tragically, higher.

I would say that — you mentioned Selma. Judy, it is a political travesty that today — this weekend, we spend the 50th anniversary of Selma, the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Dozens and dozens of Republicans, including President George W. Bush, are going to be there — not a single member of the House Republican leadership, and least of all Steve Scalise, the Republican whip, who needs a — or deputy whip — who needs most of all to get right with people after his David Duke association was revealed.

I don’t understand it.

MICHAEL GERSON: That was a terrible message, I think.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re going to be watching.

Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, we thank you both.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on House GOP vs. Homeland Security, Netanyahu speech rift

Fri, Feb 27, 2015


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

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, Mark, CPAC, the gathering, regular gathering of conservatives, seemed to be mixed messages coming from these potential candidates. What should we take away from this?  What are we learning?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: We should take away, first of all, there’s a generational divide in that room, which Rand Paul reaches across to particularly younger voters.

But what I found most — I guess — and I thought Jeb Bush did a lot better in a question-and-answer than he did in a set speech last week. I thought he was far more effective.

But, Judy, what’s coming out of that room — and it’s basically the first primary for Republicans — is exactly the kind of language of no consensus, no compromise, compromise is capitulation, compromise is surrender. And it’s exactly the wrong message that was going to Capitol Hill this week, where Republicans collapsed in handling Homeland Security.

And I just think the atmosphere created by that room and by the people there is harmful to the party. It could be crucial to the nominating process, but it’s an unelectable message.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But isn’t that the message — isn’t that message of no cooperation, David, what — that’s been the trademark for these conservatives, hasn’t it?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Yes. Well, this is CPAC, remember. There’s conservatives, and then there’s conservatives, and then conservatives, and then way over on the other side of the room is CPAC.

And so you look at the people they have nominated over the years as their favorite speaker, it’s Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s father. President Ron Paul has been elected, Gary Bauer, Christian conservative. So this is like the hardest of the hard core.

MARK SHIELDS: Mitt Romney three times.

DAVID BROOKS: Mitt Romney did get it, but he packed the house.


DAVID BROOKS: They all do pack the house.

But you learn a few things. First, Jeb Bush did well. And so that was important, that if he stumbled, then a little rhythm gets going that Jeb Bush can’t really campaign very well, and so he did well. Scott Walker seems to do OK with Tea Party and with the establishment part. So that’s good.

Marco Rubio, fine, but what was, I guess, interesting was the foreign policy split. As we just heard, the hard-core interventionists were cheered. Rand Paul was cheered on the other thing. So, people are looking everything right now.

But I suspect the two main trends, so far, we see — I’m about to list three one, after saying two — one, pretty good candidates, better than last time, a lot of good candidates. Two, the party doesn’t know where it stands on foreign policy, but it’s a little more interventionist than they seemed. And, three — I’m not Rick Perry — I do remember — the social issues, abortion, a little less emphasized than in years past.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying this is a new Republican — this is a new conservative, conservative, conservative piece of the Republican Party?

DAVID BROOKS: The party — like every party, the mood of the party shifts. The Democratic Party is clearly shifting an economic populist direction. But the party shifts.

And I think it’s a little more interventionist, a little less Tea Party, a little less social conservative than it seemed two years ago.

MARK SHIELDS: Let me take a slight dissent with David.

He’s absolutely right. Historically, CPAC was a splintered group. It was the Young Americans for Freedom, it was the American Conservative Union.

It is now a trade show for all Republicans. You don’t — you miss this event and you do so at your own peril. Chris Christie wasn’t invited last year. He was happy to be there this year. It is now approaching Iowa and New Hampshire as events that, if you’re a Republican candidate, you can’t afford to skip.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. But there are also — there are more quieter events on Wall Street, where the message is very different, but we aren’t invited to. But those are also…

MARK SHIELDS: But this is where their cameras are and this is what the message comes. And it was harmful on Capitol Hill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But how does that — and I want to get to that a minute.


JUDY WOODRUFF: But how does that square?  When you say it’s a place you have to be, but on the other hand, David’s point is, the winner there never goes on to become president.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, that’s not always true.

MARK SHIELDS: No. Romney is one. Reagan — Reagan swept it. Reagan really made it an important event.

And since then — David is right — Ron Paul did well. There’s a libertarian streak there among the younger members, and that’s traditionally the Young Americans for Freedom.

DAVID BROOKS: One thing, to segue, Jeb Bush talked about the DHS issue, and he said he disagreed with what was going on, on Capitol Hill, which was a shift toward a more middle, mainstream, establishment, less confrontational thing.

So it was interesting that even at CPAC he did the less confrontational posture.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about, Mark, what you raised, what has happened on Capitol Hill. The Republicans have been saying for weeks, for days that they are not going to fund the Department of Homeland Security until the president backs down on immigration.

Finally came to vote, and nothing happened today. I mean, what do we see?

MARK SHIELDS: Something happened pretty serious, Judy. And that is, the speaker of the House moved — actually voted.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, I mean, there was no vote to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

MARK SHIELDS: No, that’s right. No, no, exactly.

But, I mean, it was a stinging rebuke, I mean, a major defeat for the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. They had a three-week extension, three weeks into March, and they couldn’t — they lost 51 members of their own caucus, and with the speaker himself, which is rarely done, going down and casting a vote for the losing side to pass a three-week extension.

So they rejected a three-week extension. So now, with the Senate having by a 68-31 margin today having passed a clean — that is, with no entangling amendments, just to fund Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year, the 31 Republican — the 31 senators who voted against it were all Republicans.

So a majority of Republicans voted against it, but Leader McConnell is so secure in his own leadership that he could pass it and not worry about any kind of revolt. What John Boehner has is a 57-margin in the House of Representatives. He’s got the biggest margin since — Republicans since 1928.

And yet his speakership is so shaky that he really is looking over his shoulder every minute. He had 25 members of his own caucus vote against him when he was elected speaker in January. And now 50 of them took a walk on him today. And it’s just a terrible position to be in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You agree the speakership is shaky?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It just looks like unseemly. It’s like a retreat. I’m thinking of the great retreats in history, Napoleon coming back from Russian.

It was like that, bedraggled, people split. And it’s a failure of vision. Like, this was a day that was preordained weeks ago, when they decided to take up this issue, which was going to be a failure anyway. And, second, it was a political failure. You ask people around the country, OK, do you approve of the immigration?  That doesn’t matter. Whether they approve what Obama did on immigration or not, they don’t like the idea of shutting down government because it brings back to mind all the Ted Cruz shutting down government.

It brings back dysfunction. It gets you lost in the legislative morass that Mark just described. Why they did not foresee this is a mystery to people who are professionals at this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, as we are sitting here talking early on Friday, what happens?  Where do we go from here, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House whip, told the membership after the vote to stay in town. Could be votes tonight. Could be votes all weekend.

But we know that the funding ends for the department.


MARK SHIELDS: And you’re going to ask people to work, some at considerable risk over the next two weeks, without being paid.

It’s almost as though they’re out of touch. They don’t understand that there are millions and millions of American families who live paycheck to paycheck, who worry about car notes and children’s tuition bills. And they are expected to work for nothing?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, there is some — there is some point being made that the Democrats could have pushed this over the top.

The president had said he would sign a short-term funding, a three-week funding bill, but Democrats in the House didn’t go along.

MARK SHIELDS: Oh, I mean, but the speaker’s position has been that he would pass a majority of the majority, that he would — he could pass it, and that — you’re absolutely right. I mean, the Democrats said, we want a vote on what the Senate just passed, which was an extension.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, are we left — is this the end of the new Republican leadership, David?  How big a blow is this?

DAVID BROOKS: It’s a bad childhood.


DAVID BROOKS: So, it’s just — you know, it’s a blow. You know, they will come back. There are other issues.

Presumably, they will get to the issues that are facing the country, maybe at some point, the economy. Iran is going to be on us next week. And so some big things will be happening, but it’s just been weirdly undermined.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, speaking of Iran, the prime minister of Israel, we heard Margaret Warner’s report a few minutes ago, Mark, coming to Washington, coming to speak to the Congress on Tuesday, at the request of the man you have both been talking about, Speaker Boehner.

Margaret talked about all the splits that have happened in the American Jewish community between the administration and Israel. Is this — how big a division is there now between this administration and Israel?  How does it compare with previous splits?  Because we have seen tension in the past between the Americans and the Israelis.

MARK SHIELDS: The most recently and probably memorably was 1991. Jim Baker was secretary of state and George H.W. Bush, and the freeze on the settlements. And the administration, the Bush administration held back $10 million in guaranteed loans to the Israelis and aid to the Israelis.

But this is big, Judy. Since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, support has been bipartisan. I think that this was a political move made by both the prime minister of Israel and his supporters and the speaker of the House.

The prime minister was pretty open in his support and endorsement of Mitt Romney against President Obama, could be accused of having meddled in our election. And now, on the 3rd of March, the Congress of the United States will be used as a photo opportunity for a campaign stop for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who faces the voters on the 17th of March, and has some problems, basically domestic and doing what everybody does when they’re in trouble, as a leader, is, you make it a matter of national security.

I’m not questioning there is national security involved, but that’s what this is. It was a dumb political move to begin with and it’s backfired on — I think on both Netanyahu and Boehner.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As I turn to you, David — full disclosure — your son serves in the Israeli army.


JUDY WOODRUFF: We talk about this.


JUDY WOODRUFF: But how do you see this?

DAVID BROOKS: So, I sort of agree with Mark. I think it’s a political disaster. It’s a substantive disaster for the state of Israel.

I think it’s political disaster for Bibi Netanyahu back home, because they’re — most Israelis are really worried about the state of the relationship. It’s different than the past times, in part because it’s — as Mark said, it’s partisan now. Suddenly, Republicans are pro-Israel. And what are Democrats supposed to do?

Second, support for Israel, especially on the Democratic left, especially on college campuses, is more fragile than it’s ever been before. Third, the Iran situation is just this gigantically big issue, and existential for Israel, a serious issue for the United States. And to mess this up at a time when this issue is looming is cataclysmic, distracted the debate over the — what’s being settled between the U.S. and Iran into some sideshow.

And I happen to think Netanyahu’s concerns about what — the deal we’re apparently getting close to with the Iranians are legitimate, but he has sidetracked that debate into something very self-destructive.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think it makes it harder to get a deal?  It complicates it in some way?

DAVID BROOKS: I hope so. I hope so. I think the deal is a very dangerous deal, because I think we’re granting a very rogue regime access to at least a nuclear capability, which I think is a very perilous thing to do.

But we’re not having that debate. We’re talking about whether Bibi’s coming.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will have to leave it there.

David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you both.



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Shields and Brooks on fighting Islamic extremism, Giuliani on Obama

Fri, Feb 20, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week: the debate in Washington over how to talk about the Islamic State militant group, Jeb Bush lays out his approach to foreign policy, and a Texas judge temporarily blocks President Obama’s immigration action.

We look at it all with the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen. Great to have you.

All right. So, David, let’s start with the summit the White House held on confronting — they called it confronting violent extremism, looking at how do you prevent terrorist acts from happening in the first place, local communities. The criticism the White House got was they’re bending over backwards, they’re going out of their way not to use the term Islamic extremism.


JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you make of it?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, are we allowed to called the Islamic State Islamic?

They are. In some sense, it’s a stupid debate, because is it true Islam, is it perverted Islam? The fact is, religion is all interpretation. God doesn’t come down here and tell us exactly what he means. We have interpretations within Christianity, within Judaism and within Islam. If you call yourself a Muslim, you’re a Muslim.

They have different interpretations, but it’s all interpretations. So, one is a perverted or a sick form of Islam. A lot of people fortunately have a much more peaceful form of Islam, but it’s all an interpretation of a faith. What’s the real one? It’s all a matter of interpretation.

I think they should probably call it Islamic extremism. It is Islamic extremism. The second, I think, and more important issue is how we diagnose the problem. And there are three elements to this sort of terrorism, as we just saw in the segment about that Egyptian young man.

First, there’s economic and political dysfunction. So that young man wanted to be a personal trainer and he couldn’t. So he was alienated from that and marginalized from society. But, second, there’s a spiritual ardor. A guy wants to be a hero. The guy wants to be seen as strong and a hero, like that young man.

And, third, there’s theological conviction. And Islamic State has theology to it, real, substantive theology. We’re comfortable talking about the economics and the politics because we live in a secular society and we’re comfortable talking about that stuff.

But if we don’t talk about the spiritual call that they feel and the theological content, then we’re missing the core of the thing. And if we’re going to fight it, you can’t just say we’re going to give you a higher standard of living. You don’t need to go to the Islamic State. That isn’t going to work. You have to have a spiritual, better alternative.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think, Judy, that I think the president was right.

It is wrong to say that this is a religious movement as such. David makes the point, I think validly so, that this is a splinter group from this religion. Most of the victims of the Islamic State have been Muslims. Most of the opponents are Muslims.

But it does have a theological component to it. That’s its farm system. That’s from whom it’s drawing. It’s a battle of nomenclature. I think there was a reluctance on the part of the administration to ever say it. They have said it. The president was very clear.

But at the same time, you want to make a distinction. This is 26 percent of the world’s population. And you just don’t want to give the impression, the misimpression, that this is a war against Islam. It isn’t. It’s a war against these people who come and call themselves the Islamic State and who do come from Islamic groups. But I think you have to grant it is a perversion.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark has a point, doesn’t he?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, no, I think it’s a perversion because they’re so inhumane.

What’s the Pascal phrase, they try to be higher than the angels, they end up lower than the beast. And so that’s clearly what is happening to them. They have turned themselves into monsters. But there was lot of monstrosity in the wars of religion in the 15th century in Europe. They were certainly religious wars.

And so I do think you have to take the religion seriously, that these people are — it’s not like they can’t get what we want. They want something they think is higher than what we want. Their souls are involved. And I’m saying you have to conceive of them as moving, as acting in a religious way.

And you have to have religious alternatives. And they are driven by an end times ideology. They think there’s going to be some cataclysm battle and Mohammed will come down. And if you ignore that part of it, write it off as sort of marginal, that they are being produced by economic dysfunction, I just think you’re missing the main deal.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, this is one we’re going to keep talking about.

But, Mark, while we’re on the subject of Islamic State, foreign policy, let’s talk 2016. Jeb Bush clearly running or seems to be clearly running for president, gave a major foreign policy speech this week. His team said he’s laying out how he thinks about it. How much is he constrained by his brother’s record on foreign policy?

MARK SHIELDS: Enormously. He probably would like to be the heir to his father’s, I think who has probably an admired foreign policy and respected foreign policy, the last president to go before the Congress and get support, go before the Security Council of the United Nations and get support and to do what he said he was going to do in the Persian Gulf War.

And it was a unequivocal American victory and a great coalition was assembled, the antithesis of his brother. Jeb Bush is basically saying, I’m Bush. I’m not my brother. It was a bumbling, fumbling introduction, Judy.

He wasn’t agile. He wasn’t comfortable with the subject. He’s fortunately running against two people, Scott Walker, who is a governor of Wisconsin, whose idea of foreign policy is beat Ohio State, and Chris Christie, whose trips to Chinatown and Little Italy have qualified him for foreign policy.


MARK SHIELDS: I mean, no, they are total novices.

But it wasn’t an impressive debut. And it was marred not by announcing and emphasizing Jim Baker or Brent Scowcroft, revered advisers from earlier times are counseling him, but Paul Wolfowitz, the architect, advocate and engineer of the United States’ war against Iraq and really the leader of the weapons of mass destruction lobby, is in the front.

To me, that just a serious, serious mistake.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Not an impressive rollout?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, he definitely has a problem.

Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard had a piece on a poll they did. They asked Americans, does this candidate represent the future or the past? And Bush was heavily, he’s the past. And so he does have a big mountain to climb. Hillary Clinton, oddly, was 50 percent future, 48 percent past. So, even though she’s been around, people sort of think she’s — something new there.

MARK SHIELDS: Gender-intensive.



DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And so Bush has this problem.

And I thought the speech — I wasn’t quite as underwhelmed as Mark. I don’t know how you rate underwhelmed-ness. But I do think it was sort of lacking in some of the innovation and substance, the willingness to take a risk and offer something new.

I think what’s heartening is that — we can have different views about Paul Wolfowitz. I think he’s a much more complicated character than sometimes he’s portrayed. But most of the people that Bush went to are people like Bob Zoellick, Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations. It was pretty much the A-team on the Republican side.

They’re very responsible. And we would feel safe with men and women like that at the helm. And so he’s like going right down the middle of Republican foreign policy, nothing too remarkable either way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re troubled by it.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m not troubled.

I just — I thought — it’s a rush, Judy. No one’s going to get to his right. That was what this speech was about politically. And secondly was, I’m going to get Romney supporters. He’s in a hurry. He’s a man in a hurry to get donors and to get backers. And I think he’s trying to fill up the vacuum. I don’t think he’s ready for prime time. That was not…

DAVID BROOKS: He’s nobody’s idea of a perfect orator. That’s for sure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I have a question about Hillary Clinton.

But before I do, you mentioned Scott Walker. At one of the Scott Walker events this week, former New York Mayor, David, Rudy Giuliani made a statement that has gotten a lot of attention. He basically — he talked about President Obama and said, “He wasn’t raised like we were,” talking to the group. He said, “He doesn’t love this country as we do.”

It’s gotten a lot of attention. Do we — how big a deal is it?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s — you know, it’s unacceptable. You can’t say that. He doesn’t know that. It’s not true. It’s self-destructive.

There’s sort of, I don’t know, who to blame, I don’t know, somebody like that. There’s almost sort of a Mort Sahl, Richard Pryor ethos where the person who says the most shocking thing is the best person. And sometimes on the stump, that seems to happen in partisan rallies. And Giuliani said something that I’m sure, like, shocked the bourgeoisie, but it’s unacceptable. And I hope it doesn’t define the Republican race.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You see it stopping there?

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, I think this — has to be signaled, has to be stated, and has to be called out.

Rudy Giuliani’s language is unacceptable. This wasn’t given at some shadowy end-of-the-road, secret handshake to get into the room with sort of a paranoid fringe group. This was 60 people, major fund-raisers and donors, Republican, at the 21 Club, a bistro, a signature bistro in New York City.

And to this group of people, he basically said the president doesn’t like America. And this is — I go back to John McCain, who in 2008, when this was a hot issue, had the courage to confront a Republican audience in Lakeville, Minnesota, when they made this charge and said, no, that is untrue. President Obama is an American. He cares about this country. He loves this family, and I like him, but I disagree with him on the issues.

This is going to be an arms race about who hates Barack Obama and who can say he’s less of a patriot. Rudy Giuliani, who had six draft exemptions and got a judge to write a request to have him reclassified 2A so he didn’t have to serve in Vietnam, for him to start grading patriotism is unacceptable. And it’s going to take the Republican Party right down the road to defeat.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there were several Republicans who denounced it after he said it.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think that’s incumbent upon Republicans to do that, just to police the party.

As Mark says, it’s self-destructive. It’s not only bad taste, bad manners, bad morality. The country doesn’t want that kind of thing, I don’t think.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Question about Hillary Clinton. We haven’t talked about her in a while. She’s not a candidate yet, but everybody thinks she will be.

Mark, she’s — there’s a major story out this week about her, the Clinton Foundation receiving enormous amounts of money from foreign governments. Is that the kind of thing that could hurt her candidacy?


Hillary Clinton is a beat now, just like foreign policy is a beat, Congress is a beat. Major newspapers, including David’s, have people, good reporters, excellent reporters assigned to Hillary Clinton. And it comes up this week. And The Wall Street Journal had 60 major corporations had given $21 million that — who have lobbied her when she was secretary of state, who she had tried to help, as secretaries of states do in their foreign dealings.

So her being on a first-name basis with big money and particularly Wall Street puts pressure on her, I think, to establish her economic independence from those groups in the campaign.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it will hurt. I think there will be things that will shock people that maybe we don’t even know yet, because there just was a river of money flowing through to foundation and through the speeches.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean in the specifics?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. We will find things and we will think, oh, really?

And I think people will be shocked by the dollar amounts that are there and they will ask about quid pro quos. And so I do think it will be a problem, especially because this is a party that’s become more populist, and has become more organized against finance and against the dominance of finance.

And Hillary Clinton clearly has to show she’s different. And she can come out and move left on economic populism. But if the paychecks are coming from those sources, it will at least be an issue.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And so far — we will see what more her campaign, her team has to say about it.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, have a great weekend.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you both.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

The post Shields and Brooks on fighting Islamic extremism, Giuliani on Obama appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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Shields and Brooks on Obama’s war authority request, Islamic State’s threat

Sat, Feb 14, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s been a busy and a serious news week. President Obama asked Congress to approve military force against the Islamic State group. Congress is struggling and near a deadline to fund the Department of Homeland Security. And the media world faced multiple surprising headlines.

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

So, a lot to talk about.

The toughest news of the week had to be the confirmation of the death of the American aid worker Kayla Mueller at the hands of ISIS.

Mark, it raises the question, how is this administration, how is the United States doing at dealing with ISIS and specifically this authorization of force, for the use of force the president sent to Congress? Does it look like they have struck the right formula there?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, first on Kayla Mueller, I mean, this is a woman who devoted her life generously, from every report, just comforting the afflicted. And so the tragedy of her death is even compounded more by the life she led and the loss she leaves.

Judy, ISIS and the Middle East remain a Rubik’s Cube that the United States has not figured out. Everything over there is five-sided, and we just — we haven’t figured out — and this is not a war to be won. They are a force to be controlled, to be reduced, to be managed.

But this is not — we are really not going to reintroduce American ground troops into the area. We can to some degree restrict their military effectiveness. But that is the reality. We have already done that once in this century. We sent American ground troops in. And we’re not going to do it.

As far as the authorization of force, a shout-out to Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Alone, he’s been a voice for several months saying, we’re sending Americans into combat, into harm’s way. We are at war. The Congress has abdicated its responsibility by not declaring or confronting that or dealing with it or passing any sort of resolution. It’s the most solemn responsibility the Congress has, and they have ducked it. They ducked it through the election.

The White House was thrilled not to have a vote. Every White House, including this one, doesn’t want — they want carte blanche. They want to decide when to use power. They don’t want their — quote — “hands tied.”

And so we’re finally going to have a debate in this country. And I think Senator Kaine deserves — of Virginia — deserves a lot of credit for forcing the hand of the administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, the language in this request that the White House sent over for authorizing it, does it get us, the United States, any closer to handling all this?

DAVID BROOKS: No, it’s ambivalent.

I don’t understand why we have an authorization of use of force that includes not only the ends, which seems to me legitimate — that is what should be in this — but the means and the process and the duration. I don’t know why we need to put that in the use of force. It lasts three years, we’re not going to this, we’re going to do this.

If we’re going to use force, then we should do what the president and the military leadership think is proper. And that shouldn’t be in the authorization, it seems to me.

The killing of the hostages is an outrage, but not really the most important thing that’s going on over there. I happened to be in conversation with a bunch of financial analysts this week. And I asked them, what’s the biggest threat to the world economy? And I expected them to say the Greek — euro crisis, whatever.

They both independently said ISIS. If ISIS takes over the Middle East or destabilizes the Middle East, that is an economic cataclysm with human suffering.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Because of oil?

DAVID BROOKS: Because of oil, because of just the destabilization of this most fragile region of the country.

And so I think I disagree with Mark a little. The Middle East has always been the Middle East. For 5,000 years, it’s been a troubled zone. The Islamic State seems to be a new order, a new order of magnitude, a new sort of threat building an ideological threat, a unique level of evil, even by the standards of the Middle East.

And so I think taking them on and containing — I agree. We’re not going to put in land troops and all that kind of stuff. But containing them seems to be a higher order than anything we have faced in the Middle East for a long, long time. And the president and future presidents should do what they need to do to do that. And they shouldn’t have sort of resolutions which are really resolutions of ambivalence.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the administration is being criticized, Mark, at least what I am reading, for not being specific enough, I mean, for — they need to say more about what they’re going to do. David’s point, it seems to me, is they didn’t need to say as much as they did.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, they have said whatever — they wouldn’t have a permanent land force is what they have said, but they would have freedom, the next president, including this one, for the three years it would be in force, would have the authority to pursue ISIS or its sister-brother groups throughout the region.

So there isn’t a geographical restriction. So he’s facing some criticism from both sides, from both Democrats, who want it more limited, and Republicans, who want this large mandate still uncharted.

Judy, I just don’t understand where this fits in in terms of how we define what the objective is. I mean, how will we know when we have won? I mean, for thousands of years, it’s been the dream of a caliphate in that area, of a Muslim caliphate throughout that area.

And we’re not going to end that dream or that — we might — this latest iteration, we can control it, we can debase it, but we’re not going to totally eliminate that. And I just think that is something that — I welcome the debate. I really want to hear everybody be heard on this, because it is really an unsolvable — unsolvable mystery now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re saying nobody has the correct formula?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think there are certain things about which there is a national consensus.

We’re not going to stick ground troops in. There is a national consensus. Nobody wants to do that. We need to degrade ISIS. There is a national consensus about that. I just would like to see leadership which affirmatively for that goal, not one foot in and one foot out.

And this has been symptomatic of the Obama presidency with a lot of issues on foreign affairs, that we’re going in, we’re not going in. We put some boundaries about what we’re going to do, but we crash through those boundaries. We declare red lines, but we don’t act on the red lines.

There’s just been a lot of half seesaw action. And it seems to me, if ISIS is worth going after, it’s worth going after. If you’re going to take Vienna, take Vienna. And so I don’t know what the war will involve. I don’t think anybody can know what the war will involve in the years coming forward, but it seems to me there’s nobody been like ISIS before.

Hafez Assad was not like ISIS. The Saudi regime was not like ISIS. Yasser Arafat was certainly not like ISIS. This is something different and more threatening.

MARK SHIELDS: Just one quick thing, Judy. There’s a lot of politics involved here, the unwillingness to take a stand and to be heard and to vote.

The last time the Congress did this, you will recall, was 2002, when they gave up the authority to President Bush to go into, invade and occupy Iraq. And the Democrats who voted for that, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd basically killed their presidential chances. And that gave the opening for Barack Obama.

So, they’re mindful of this. In 1964, the Congress, 535 people, two, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, were the only two who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which led to 550,000 Americans in Vietnam.

So there is some history, there’s some precedent, and there’s understandably some political wariness.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Two other things I want to ask you about.

One is Congress wrestling, David, with the president’s immigration executive order. It’s gotten tied up in funding for the Department of Homeland Security at a time when you would think the country would be focused on homeland security. The Republicans are pointing fingers at the Democrats, saying they’re holding all this up, but Republicans aren’t agreeing with each other about what to do about it in the House and Senate.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And the Republicans run the Congress, so they get ultimate responsibility.

It is turning from sort of a comedy to a farce to a travesty. Why have they started their reign as majority parties in both houses with this, with, A, something they’re bound to lose? They do not have 60 votes in the Senate, so they’re bound to lose.

Why have they started with this, with a measure where the House and the Senate, even on the Republican side, can’t get together, and then in the atmosphere of the past three or four years in which shutting down the government has turned into a code word for dysfunction?

And so why do you want to walk into this, something you’re not doing well, something badly you’re not doing well? And so just as a question of leadership, not even ideology — it’s just competent leadership. I don’t understand why they’re here.

MARK SHIELDS: I agree with David.

The Wall Street Journal, scorching editorial this week on the Republican leadership in its first month, and not flying well and dividing themselves, rather than Democrats. The Wall Street Journal editorial page attacking Republicans is like L’Osservatore Romano going after the pope.

MARK SHIELDS: This is not where you expect to take incoming criticism.

So I think it’s — they are going to have to back down. The House has done what it does. It passes symbolic legislation that is going nowhere; 57 times, they have repealed Obamacare. That’s what they did in this case. And they sent it over to the Senate, and it’s going to die there. It’s on the Republicans’ doorstep.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One last thing I want to make time for is just a tumultuous and in many ways bad week for the media, Brian Williams suspended at NBC News, the death of David Carr, of Bob Simon with CBS, but David Carr, the media critic for The Times, and of course the news from Jon Stewart.

David, on the Brian Williams question, I guess what I’m curious to know is, does that reflect on everyone in the media? How does the media come out of this episode?


I don’t think it reflects us broadly. It speaks to a couple truths. The one is that no amount of public success is satisfying. You can have all the accolades in the world, be where Brian Williams was, at the tippy-top. Public fame is still empty and it still leaves you hungry, and you still want to brag a little more, on the hope that you will get what you want, which is some sort of adulation that will satisfy you.

But that never happens. That never comes. And so it just leaves you hungrier and hungrier. And I think that’s what we saw with Brian Williams, somebody who just wanted to be seen a little cooler and so made up some stuff.

I personally think the reaction against him is way out of proportion to what he did. And I think we all have to cultivate a capacity for forgiveness, a rigorous forgiveness for what he did. And I personally hope he continues his job.

Just quickly on my colleague David Carr, who I wasn’t close with at all, it’s one — two lessons. There are second acts in American life. He had a drug-riddled first act. Second, it’s an encouragement to be yourself. He had an amazingly large personality, which he did not check ever. And it glowed in his prose and in his presence.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, you wanted to comment on David Carr.

MARK SHIELDS: David Carr — David Carr was the anti-New York Times man, if The New York Times is the guy who went to the best boarding schools, and knows the best wine and has two last names, basically.

DAVID BROOKS: He’s talking about me.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, my friend David.

MARK SHIELDS: David Carr was larger than life. He was totally authentic. He was a brilliant journalist, a great reporter, unflinchingly honest, and incredibly thoughtful of everybody he came across, whether it was a waitress or the youngest intern.

He was just a wonderful, wonderful person, in addition to being this larger and colorful character.

As far as Brian Williams, I just want to echo what David said. Yes, it was self-inflicted, Judy, but this is a good and decent man. And the people in a rush to tap dance on his grave and provide the gallows and the rope to hang him, it just really is disturbing and unseemly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I don’t think we have seen a week like this one in a long time.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

The post Shields and Brooks on Obama’s war authority request, Islamic State’s threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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