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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 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.


The post Shields and Brooks on Baltimore police problems, Bernie Sanders’ election entrance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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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.


The post Shields and Brooks on accidental drone deaths, Clinton money questions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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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.

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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.

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Shields and Brooks on the politics of vaccination, using religion to justify evil acts

Fri, Feb 06, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week saw increasing brutality from Islamic State militants, and President Obama came under fire for comments on religion.

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

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, we have this week seen this wave of revulsion to the latest Islamic State terrible murder, the terrible pictures, which, even if you didn’t see it, just — just the idea of it, the way they killed this Jordanian pilot.

Now the word today of the American hostage, aid worker — they’re claiming that she was killed in an airstrike. We don’t know. And you probably saw the interview I did with the mother of a missing journalist.

I guess my question, David, is, is the Obama administration’s strategy for dealing with the terrorists in the Middle East, with Islamic State, is it working? 


First of all, one part I think is working, these are acts of terror. These are taunts designed the make us feel afraid, designed to make us feel helpless. They’re provocations. They’re not acts of war. It’s more like just an insult to our sense of humanity.

And I think it’s important not to overreact to these individual events. They are — we give them power if we overreact. Having said that, we do need to do what we can, which is limited, to make the Middle East a civilized place for people to live. And Islamic State is a roadblock to that.

And so to me, the things we have to do are things they’re doing to some degree, but not to a sufficient degree. The first is to degrade the Islamic State, which we’re doing the bombing campaigns, at least in Iraq, but not really, with the exception of one town, in Syria. And that means they will forever have a refuge to go to wreak havoc in Iraq and they will be able to make Syria into a hellhole, which it is.

The second thing is, we can’t — it just can’t be a battle over our status vs. their status. They kill one of us. We, or as the Jordanians do, kill two of them. That’s just a descent into barbarism.

And so what have to stand — to remind ourselves, we do stand for democracy. A lot of people have lost faith in that mission. But if we don’t have that mission of making the Middle East — doing what we can to make the Middle East a pluralistic, democratic place, then we have lost the moral high ground. It’s not about morality anymore. It’s just the barbarism that they want to be in charge of and us responding.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, is that kind of an effort under way, Mark, to make it known to the world that the U.S. is trying to make the Middle East a more pluralistic kind of place?

MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure, Judy.

I think when you have the immolation of this Jordanian pilot this week, all attention is riveted there. And David is right. You can’t overreact to a single incident. But this is such an — absolutely can’t take your eyes away from it.

And I do hope, quite frankly, that it’s a turning point, that you can’t import will into a region. And the — if, in fact, there is going to be the ultimate and eventual degrading and defeat of the forces of barbarism, then it has to come from within. We can lead, we can organize, but right now, we’re doing 90 percent of all the flights.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We, meaning the U.S.

MARK SHIELDS: The United States.

And so the coalition, it has to — it cannot be the United States against another country in that area. It can’t be the United States invading and occupying. It has to come — we can — we hope that this galvanizes the neighborhood in a sense of rage.

But their religion has been perverted, has been appropriated, and that they want to reclaim it, as well as to stop this and eventually to self-determination. I mean, I don’t know if it will be a pluralistic, democratic — I hope it will. And that’s certainly our objective.

But if we’re going to be at a point of self-determination in those areas, rather than at the end of a sword or a gun.

DAVID BROOKS: A couple of things.

Sometimes, the military has worked. We have saved some towns. We have certainly helped prevent genocide with the bombing campaigns. But it’s been a bit insufficient so far.

The problem, unless you have a moral anchor and having a sense of this is what we believe in, we have heard pluralism, and it’s not going to be democracy for a little while, but at least pluralism politics, is the — and what we’re now in danger of doing is, we’re so offended by Islamic State, we become de facto allies with Bashar al-Assad and the al-Assad regime, because we have essentially stopped attacking them because we figure they’re better than the Islamic State.

And that’s not a place we want to be. The Assad regime is one of the centers of instability in that region. It’s a barbaric, genocidal regime. We can’t be the de facto allies with them because we think it will help defeat Islamic State and we think it will help us with Iran.

And we’re like switching back between the two. And that is a long-term reputational disaster.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But how do you thread that needle?  Then that means you’re attacking both at the same time.

DAVID BROOKS: The original reaction — the original reaction was to, when there were moderates, to arm them. And we’re still doing a little of that. We have got about 5,000 that we’re doing.

But that’s all we can do. We can’t shape the region. We can just be ourselves.

MARK SHIELDS: Absolutely.

I do think that we have failed to lay out what our mission is, you know, which has been the constant that we’re entering into what could be a long, protracted twilight struggle, when there’s no measure how we know where we have achieved victory, how we know what our objective is.

And I think that’s what has to be done by the leadership of this country, and has yet to be done, quite bluntly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask quickly both of you about what the president said at this prayer breakfast yesterday, got a lot of attention. He was attempting to talk about — saying that terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, in the name of all religions, including Christianity, David.

And he talked about the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, slavery. Republicans jumped on this and said false equivalency, you should be focusing on what extreme Muslims are doing today, and not talking about Christianity.

DAVID BROOKS: I think, if the president had come as an atheist to attack religion and to attack Christianity, the Republicans would have a point. That’s not what a president should be doing.

But that’s not how he came. He has used that prayer breakfast year after year to talk about his own faith, his own faith journey, his own struggles. He’s used it — he has come as a Christian. And the things he said were things — I have never met a Christian who disagreed with what he issued, that the religion has been perverted, that we have to walk humbly before the face of the lord, that God’s purposes are mysterious to us.

This is not like some tangential, weird belief. This is at the core of every Christian’s faith and every Jew’s faith. And so what he said was utterly normal and admirable and a recognition of historical fact and an urge towards some humility. And so I thought the protests were manufactured and falsely manufactured.

MARK SHIELDS: The Bible says, slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling. That was used by slaveholders and by the defenders of slavery in this country. They quoted the Bible, and that terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity.

The Crusades are hardly one of the proudest chapters of Christianity. But I think what the president said is accurate. I do think that he’s been somewhat reluctant to acknowledge and admit and confront that this is an Islamic terrorist, that it is a perversion and to address that.

But I thought the response — I mean, these are the same people who are constantly criticizing the Islamic State people for not joining in the coalition, and saying you have got to condemn them. I just thought that it was over the top and undeserved.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, while we’re talking about American politics, a couple of Republicans, David, got themselves in hot water this week talking about vaccines and vaccinations.

Governor Chris Christie, Rand Paul both said in different ways, parents don’t need to vaccinate. Then they both walked it back a little bit. But damage?  Are they damaged short-term, long-term, any damage from this whole episode?

DAVID BROOKS: It’s not been a great week for Republicans shooting their mouths off.

You know, first, let me celebrate a couple of people who said what the science says. Marco Rubio and some of the — a lot of other leading Republicans said, the science is clear, you should get vaccinated, vaccinations should be universal, there should be vaccination. And they were completely accurate.

To me, what’s disturbing about Christie and Paul is, I can’t imagine they believe that parents should be able to — should be opting out of vaccines. I can’t believe Rand Paul really believes — though he said I heard cases where kids were vaccinated and then there was mental damage. I can’t believe he believes that.

What he is doing is, he’s kowtowing toward people who are suspicious of institutions and therefore suspicious of belief. And there has to be a leadership test for candidates. Are you willing to tell people whose vote you want the truth when the science is very clear?

And Marco Rubio passed that test this week. Christie and Paul are like getting C-minuses. And so that — you have to stand up for truth, even if a constituency thinks otherwise.

MARK SHIELDS: I want to be in David’s class if that’s a C-minus.


MARK SHIELDS: I think they both flunked.

Judy, there’s a rhetoric in this country. It’s been on the ascent for almost a generation or more. And that is individual freedom, government interference, stay out of our lives, leave us alone, anything from Washington, you have to oppose, a federal mandate.

And, you know, that has become the rhetoric. And that was their response. The reality is quite simple. Americans do feel that the government is a pain in the neck and too much red tape and keep them out of their lives. But a trace of botulism found in one can of tuna fish outside of Pocatello, Idaho, and the universal American reaction is, where the hell is the federal government?  I want a report in my office in 24 hours, or heads will roll.

We want a small, effective, efficient federal government on our side 24 hours a day, cheap. In 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in this world. In 2012, there were 213. That’s because of vaccination. That’s because of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin and the federal government and the public — public effort in health.

And that to me is — this is the reality. It’s beyond ideology. They were slaves to ideology. And Christie hasn’t — just doesn’t have his footing. With Paul, it’s sort of an excess of where he comes from and where he treads and what he believes. But I think Christie comes off even worse than Paul or anybody else.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the measles debate goes on. There are states now imposing new rules, school systems. I mean, it’s roiled up a discussion we thought was gone.

MARK SHIELDS: … your child’s health and survival.

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

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Shields and Brooks on Koch brothers’ near-billion dollar spending plan, no third run for Romney

Fri, Jan 30, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: For Mitt Romney, a third time won’t be the charm. For the Koch brothers, nearly a billion dollars might be the right number. And for congressional Democrats, what’s life like in the minority?

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

Welcome, gentlemen. We have something to talk about.

Mitt Romney announced he is not running.

Mark, what do we make of this, and especially the part of his statement where he said he expects the next generation of Republicans to produce the nominee.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, if you’re a very sensitive maybe Jeb Bush, you might think that he was talking about people who are baby boomers.


MARK SHIELDS: But that’s — it’s falling in the same generational grouping, slightly younger than Romney.

I was surprised, as were most of my Republican sources, three weeks ago, when Mitt Romney said he was going to reconsider. I was surprised, as they were, today when he announced that he wasn’t going to run. I think what he got was, he got a lot of goodwill and respect, as he is respected within the party, but not a stampede of people signing up and wanting to jump on board, either as committed supporters or contributors or fund-raisers.

And I think he, being what he is, a professional man who makes hard, severe judgment based on facts, he made one about himself, and didn’t sit around. And he just made the decision and let it be known.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Were you as surprised as Mark?

DAVID BROOKS: No, I’m never surprised.


DAVID BROOKS: No, I never expected him to run. The people who re-run, the Adlai Stevensons, it’s because they represent a faction in the party and they have a group of passionate followers. And Romney had neither of those.

As for the rivalry with Bush, that’s — there’s obviously a longstanding rivalry between the two. But I thought — sort of thought he’s right, that the estimation that the Republican campaign is going to look a lot like the Democratic campaign, where you have a Hillary Clinton, who is clearly the dominant figure, that Jeb Bush is that dominant figure, I do think that’s wrong.

The way I appraise campaigns at this early stage — and Mark may disagree with me — is to ignore the fund-raising, ignore who’s getting the consultants, and just judge the candidates the way you might judge a picture in spring training. Who’s got the stuff? Who’s showing they can deliver?

And if you had looked at Clinton vs. Obama early in that campaign, you saw how good Obama was on the stump, you would think, oh, he’s going to be real. And so now, as the Republicans are beginning to do their auditions, what you’re beginning to see is, like, Scott Walker just had a great week.

He went out to a group of conservatives and sort of unexpectedly showed that he had a little spark. Marco Rubio has done OK. And so just look at who has raw talent and ignore some of infrastructure issues that we probably pay a little too much attention to you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What does the rest of the field look like to you?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, just to pick up on David’s point, by 2000, by that definition, John McCain was the Republican nominee, and probably was elected president, because he was certainly the far superior candidate to George W. Bush that year. And he was connecting and he had the right stuff and all the rest of it.

But Bush did had and overwhelmed him with — eventually with infrastructure. And…

DAVID BROOKS: I always hate it when Mark comes back to me with…


DAVID BROOKS: But I would say Bush wasn’t a bad candidate.

MARK SHIELDS: No, Bush wasn’t a bad — Bush wasn’t a bad candidate, but McCain was the better candidate.And I — but I think the point you make is a very valid one.

As far as the rest of the Republican field, I think, right now, the early footing — we are really early in the footing — you would have to say Scott Walker. And I — Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, I think, has this going for him. There was a governor of New York named Hugh Carey, who was a long-shot congressman running for governor.

And he was running against a well-financed candidate with 21-point plans. And Hugh Carey had a very simple slogan. This year, before they tell you what they’re going to do, make them show you what they have done.

And he had a good record in the Congress he could talk about. And I think that’s Scott Walker. Scott Walker, three times in four — the space of four years, in a blue, or purple state, call it what you want, has beaten the Democrats, done what he said he was going to do, and hasn’t trimmed, and maybe — maybe made a little connection last weekend in Des Moines.

I mean, I think, in that sense, you have got to give him a little shout-out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he certainly fits the definition of next generation.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you want to defend yourself here or you want…


DAVID BROOKS: Well, no, I — whether Bush — I thought Bush was as equally a good candidate. We don’t need to relitigate that race.


DAVID BROOKS: But I do think the Upper Midwest is really important, winning that. And Scott being a governor is really important.

And so — and the problem with Walker was, people thought he was Tim Pawlenty, that he was just a little too boring. And, frankly, there’s a look, there’s a presidential look, and people weren’t sure he had the look.

But if he can generate sparks, then that’s somebody to look for. But the general point is, the assumption that it’s Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, some of the old guys…

MARK SHIELDS: Or Hillary Clinton.

DAVID BROOKS: Or Hillary Clinton. I totally agree with that. I think she’s way overpriced.

And so there’s going to be a campaign that’s going to be run. You know, Ben Carson, who we — doesn’t seem that serious because he hasn’t run for office, he will have his moment. I will guarantee you Ben Carson will have a moment in the Republican primaries, a surge in his run for president.

And so a lot of people are going to have their moments. There’s a lot that is about to happen. More candidates are coming in, I think at the rate of about 40 or 50 a day. Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina came in today, or indicated.

MARK SHIELDS: Just one thing, Judy.

Talking about the Super Bowl, Kevin and Christine were in the earlier segment. The Republican race is a little bit like that, in the sense that there’s one representative of the American Football Conference and one for the National Football Conference, Seattle against New England. And that’s how the Republican races go.

And it was, for example, in 2008. John McCain represented sort of the right-of-center governing wing of the Republican Party. And his foe came from the more ardently true conservative side. And that was Mike Huckabee. In 2012, Romney was in that governing center, and it was Rick Santorum.

So there are two finalists. I would say that Romney was competing with Bush and Christie in that governing wing. And maybe Walker is a hybrid that could go either way. But I think, then you have got the true conservatives already, you know, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and a whole host of others.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the two of you touched, I guess tangentially, on money and whether that matters.

We know this week the Koch brothers, the billionaire Koch brothers, announced that their network is going to raise almost a billion dollars to put into this race.

David, are they now their own political party? What effect is this going to have, or is it? You said a minute ago we shouldn’t pay attention to the money.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. I still believe that.

The first thing we learned is a lot of people who are really smart at raising money are really stupid about giving it away. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars four years ago. It had no effect. They lost most of their races. This year, they’re doubling up.

And — but the one thing we know, in these big national campaigns, whether they devote it to Senate races or presidential or even House races, the money is vastly overvalued. There’s just a ton of political science on this, that you can dump in a ton — once people reach a threshold, you can dump in a ton of money and have very little effect.

So, I think they’re just wasting their money, money that could be given to poor schools or something like that. And it is kind of offensive on that level. It will have an effect, as I say, not on the vote, but on the Republican Party, because candidates will pay attention to this money and they will flock over to a certain side of Koch-style politics.

And the Koch-style politics is, we’re going to give you money, but if you compromise and do something we don’t like, next time around, we are going to give your opponent the money. And so what they do is they reinforce a noncompromising style of politics.

And so I think it will have a weird negative effect on the Republican Party because it will pull people away from — from independent voters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see…

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I think David’s last point was absolutely salient.

And that is, it will pervert — money does pervert the process. We saw it last weekend. We saw the candidates going out to Palm Springs for their audition. You go in, and you’re seeking to please. You don’t want to displease.

And the terrible part of this is, Judy, that it means you are going to spend more time worried about raising money and less time about raising issue, less time meeting with hairdressers and schoolteachers and nurses and truck drivers, and more time with moneyed people, because what are you terrified of? You’re terrified of somebody dropping a million dollars against you in a primary.

I don’t care if it’s a swing district or it’s a safe district. That possibility always is there. And that increases when you’re talking about — but the thing about the Koch brothers that amazes me, these are men, the fourth and fifth on the Forbes list of richest men in America, each of them, worth $83 billion between the two of them, is their lack of shame, I mean, their openness in saying this.

We’re reminded of the court’s decision to open up, to say that money was speech, which they did in…

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Supreme Court.

MARK SHIELDS: At the Supreme Court of the United States.

And we were told at that time, assured by the justices, so politically savvy themselves, that the Congress, of course, would demand total disclosure, that you would have immediate disclosure of who the people who were giving.

Now half the money that is given by millionaires and billionaires is never even recorded. It’s not even in the Federal Election Commission, because it goes through this charitable loophole.

So it’s a perversion. And to their credit, they — or maybe it’s just like a lack of shamelessness. The fact that they made it public tells you something about the swagger with which they approach it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I think we should say that, in the past, they weren’t so open to talk about how much they’re giving.


JUDY WOODRUFF: But now they are.

Just quickly, David, do the Democrats have anything comparable, where…

DAVID BROOKS: Well, they have done well.

I mean, when Obama was running, he outraised his opponents. The Democrats have done phenomenally well. In the Obama-McCain race, Obama had a huge fund-raising advantage.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, he did.

DAVID BROOKS: So, if you’re walking through the Upper East Side of Manhattan, if you’re walking through Santa Monica, California, Seattle, there’s some money there for the Democrats.

So, there will just be more money than we can believe. And each diminishing dollar is just making the rubble bounce.

MARK SHIELDS: I think Barack Obama was sui generis. I think he was unique.

He raised millions of dollars. David is right. He raised a lot more than John McCain did on individual contributions. It was a mission. I don’t think that’s replicable by just any other candidate. And a president can always raise money, whoever the president is, with respect to the party, because of the power the president has.

And Hillary Clinton would be able to raise money because her husband because of her and her record and the fact that she’s now seen as leading in the polls. But if you took a generic Democrat and a generic Republican under the existing system that the Koch brothers have laid out, I just think the Republican has an enormous advantage fund-raising.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But I hear you saying Hillary Clinton can be on par with the Koch brothers and with the Republican Party?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, the Clintons have demonstrated an ability to raise money.


Less than a minute, the most important question for this, for the end of this, the Super Bowl. Is it going to be the Seahawks or is it going to be the Patriots?


DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s going to be the — I have to say it’s going to be the Seahawks, because I know what Mark is going to say.


DAVID BROOKS: And I just have to disagree.


DAVID BROOKS: But I can’t get excited. It’s Amazon and Starbucks vs. the biotech industry and Harvard.


DAVID BROOKS: I mean, I don’t care. I want a town I can actually root for.


MARK SHIELDS: I mean, Foxborough, Massachusetts, Taunton, Brockton, Massachusetts, they aren’t chichi.


MARK SHIELDS: They aren’t — they aren’t — they are not upscale. )

JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you bring a football, Mark? Can we see a football?

MARK SHIELDS: We’re taking the air out. We’re taking the air out of David’s argument right now.


MARK SHIELDS: It’s deflationary policy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m shocked you’re…

JUDY WOODRUFF: … the Patriots.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m for the Patriots. And, listen, I mean, the fact that we cut a corner or two, so be it.


JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m going to be watching.

DAVID BROOKS: Politics ain’t beanbag.



David, Mark, thank you both.

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Shields and Brooks on inviting Netanyahu, GOP abortion bill revolt

Fri, Jan 23, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Following the State of the Union, President Obama took his middle-class economics platform on the road, while, in Washington, a diplomatic brouhaha erupted after House Speaker John Boehner invited Israel’s prime minister to address Congress without consulting the White House. Plus, the House of Representatives passed one abortion bill after a more drastic version was dropped because of objections from Republican women.

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

Gentlemen, it’s so good to see you.

MARK SHIELDS: Good to see you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s talk. You have had 72 whole hours to reflect on this, David. What does the State of the Union look like at this point? What sticks about it? Do we focus more on the middle-class economic policy or something else?

DAVID BROOKS: All my earlier views were wrong. I should reverse them all.


DAVID BROOKS: I guess two things, one, the decision not to emphasize things that could pass.

And so, for the Obama presidency, eight years of it, the two years, quite productive, the last six years, zero productivity as far as legislation is concerned. And so he opted to do that. I think they could have gotten some things passed, if he had just picked the five or six things that were semi-plausible to get passed, but instead he picked other things.

And so the second element when I look back on it is, he set up a debate. And he won’t be a debate he will lead, really. It will be a debate the next president will lead and it will be the next campaign. So he really set up the next campaign. What he did was, he put an issue in the center which will be the central issue in the next campaign, which is middle-class wage growth and inequality.

And he presented a Democratic platform. And they really have — the party has really cohered around a platform. I think there is almost a consensus. There used to be splits between Larry Summers and the moderate side of the party and people more on the right — or on the left, the Center for American Progress, which is a think tank.

Now they’re pretty much all in the same spot. I would say the Larry Summers group has moved because of the size of the problem. And whether they call it inclusive economics, which is a phrase you hear in Democratic circles, which my colleague Tom Edsall wrote about, or middle-class economics, that’s where the party is.

And so he really represented where the party is on this major issue, but it will be really taken up by his successor.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, is that what endures from all this?

MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure what endures.

What I took away from the president and the speech in the two days, couple of days since, is that this was a changed Barack Obama. He had been a glum, almost resigned figure during 2014. He didn’t seem enthusiastic or engaged. He was both. There was a feistiness, sort of — almost a skittishness or kiddishness about him, that he was not…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you say kiddishness?

MARK SHIELDS: There was sort of a — yes, kidding, in the sense of youthful and energetic and willing to spar, which had not been — which had not been present earlier.

And I thought that he took the reality of the improving economy and didn’t say it’s morning in America, but said, I have heard the rooster crow and I have seen the sunrise, and so will you.


MARK SHIELDS: But I think what he’s addressing, Judy, is something that’s so fundamental. And I think the fact that Mitt Romney is talking about poverty in America, talking about income inequality, talk about the rich getting richer, is an indication that Barack Obama is setting the terms of the debate and the dialogue for 2016.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But not for now.

MARK SHIELDS: Not for now, but for 2016.

And I would just point this out quickly. Between 1948 and 1973, the productivity per hour, that is for goods and services produced by the average American worker, went up 96 percent. And their wages went up 91 percent. It was a golden era

In the 40 years after 1973, productivity again of the workers went up some 76 percent, and at the same time, their income went up, wages only went up 9 percent. We have a maldistribution of wealth in this country. And I think we’re approaching a debate on that subject.


The only thing I would say is, why is he campaigning, opening a campaign that he’s not actually going to be a part of? He’s not running for president in 2016. He is president right now and he could be getting some — a few things done over the next two years, some tax reform, some other things.

And yet he’s focusing on the campaign. The critical argument would be, he’s good at campaigning, he’s not that interested in governing. That’s probably a little overstated, given the situation he faces. But it is weird that a president is really setting up a debate that he’s really not going to be part of, except for running a foundation or something like that.

MARK SHIELDS: No, I think he will be part of it, and I think…

JUDY WOODRUFF: He will be part of it?

MARK SHIELDS: His numbers — as his numbers rise — and we had him at 50 percent approval in The Washington Post, which is really rather resurgent — he then becomes a more dominant and influential political player.

And it unites his own party and it also makes the opposition somewhat leery of taking him on. If, in fact, the economic news continues to be good and the president has this rebound, he will be able to engage the Congress on issues that David mentioned. He’s going to try on trade, whether in fact they do it on taxes as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying he’s not just throwing it out there and it’s just going to sit there for two years…


JUDY WOODRUFF: … for another president to pick up.

MARK SHIELDS: No, but I think we talk about legacy, which is kind of a highfalutin word, but this is — is legacy, whether — the fact that we’re confronting this, seeming to confront it, is enormously important and a profound change for this country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There is also a partisanship discussion coming out of the State of the Union, David, where, at the beginning of the speech, the president mentioned a couple times, I’m not going to vote — I will veto this or I will veto that.

At the end, he made an appeal for bipartisanship. Is that something that you think the Republicans are ready to pick up?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think they — it think when they got the majority in both houses, they feel like, we have got to pass stuff, or else we look like we’re failures because we are sort of put in charge here. We have got to pass something.

And I think there was room there in taxes and patent reform and other things, which are maybe not — or cyber-security, infrastructure, a series of measures that they could have passed. They wouldn’t have been big, but they would have passed something.

And I think the president clearly didn’t picked off that list of possibles. He picked off the list where his party has an 80/20 majority and it was good populist economics. It was not going to be passed.

And so I think there was a possibility of getting something passed. And it seems to me, if you’re a lawmaker, the idea is to make laws. And he’s chosen not to do that. And the argument — I totally agree about the centrality of the argument that Mark described. I just think, for Barack Obama, he’s got a job to do.

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t think it’s either/or. And I don’t think the State of the Union speech ended these two years. I mean, there will be legislative action. There will be…



DAVID BROOKS: We have been four years without a major law being passed.

MARK SHIELDS: No, I understand that, but let’s be blunt about it, not to be partisan, but we have an opposition party.

It’s not a minority party in Congress. It’s an opposition party. It’s become parliamentary in that system, and that that’s their approach. I mean, you have five congressional districts represented by Democrats in the Congress in congressional districts Barack Obama didn’t carry. That’s how the country’s been sorted out now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of an opposition party or an opposition move, Speaker John Boehner did something kind of unusual this week, David. He invited the prime minister of Israel to come and address the Congress on Iran without first talking to the White House.

What are we to make of that?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, there’s the Republican partisan attack. So, we — they’re both playing this game.

It’s not as if Congress has been out of the foreign policy business. Nancy Pelosi went to Syria and some say gave some credence to the Assad regime when President Bush opposed it. Just last week, David Cameron, a foreign leader, was calling around members of Congress to lobby.

So people do get involved. Foreign leaders get involved. Nonetheless, inviting somebody from overseas to give a speech against the president from the well of the Congress is confrontational and I think unwise, I just think unwise, on two grounds.

First, the president — the country has to speak with a single voice. The gestures of that voice are — really reside in the White House. And there should be some deference to the executive branch on foreign policy.

Second, I just think it’s bad for Bibi Netanyahu to do this. It’s just not a good idea to pick a fight with the president of the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That he shouldn’t have accepted?

DAVID BROOKS: I don’t think he should have accepted.

I don’t know what his domestic political considerations are. Obviously, it’s just two weeks before their election. But it just — it’s not good to go to war between two allies in this confrontational way.

You are going to fight. Fine. But don’t make it so above board, so in your face. It just strikes me as bad for Israel.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it do damage, Mark, do you think?

MARK SHIELDS: Irresponsible and sordid.

The last time that the Congress has not acted, bipartisan way, an invitation to a speaker, was Douglas MacArthur, the attorney general who was invited by a Republican Congress to speak against President Truman, to give his farewell address, but it was critical of President Truman’s Korean policies.

This is — this is not done. What John Boehner did is a cheap political trick. And it was not a surprise to Benjamin Netanyahu. I mean, Ron Dermer, the…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador.


MARK SHIELDS: … ambassador to the United States from Israel, who had been a Republican political consultant in this country working with Frank Luntz, orchestrated this invitation.

And it’s a major plus for Mr. Netanyahu on — two weeks before his election…

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean back home.

MARK SHIELDS: … to come home, to be enhanced stature, on a global stage.

And he’s invited for one purpose. And that is — which Speaker Boehner admitted in the caucus of Republicans and was leaked then by his supporters to the press, that he was there to make the serious indictment of the president’s policy, to criticize the president.

So he’s bringing this foreign leader, meddling in an Israeli election two weeks before. It’s a total irresponsibility. I don’t think — respect I have to for David, I don’t think it compares with Nancy Pelosi or any member of Congress at any time visiting another country.

I mean, bipartisan support for Israel since 1948, when Harry Truman recognized that foundling nation, has been a hallmark of United States policy. This is partisanizing it. This is making a Republican Likud case.

And I just — I just think it is — it’s beyond irresponsible. It’s beyond a cheap political trick. It’s just tawdry.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there’s another issue that came up for House Republicans, for John Boehner, another headache.

And that is, he and the Republican leadership in the House was trying to pass an abortion bill on the day of the March for Life, the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade here in Washington. But the moderate Republican women in the House of Representatives rose up and said, we’re not going to support this.

It had some tough language in there about a woman had to report to police if she had been raped before she could have an abortion.


Well, there are two issues here. The first is, why are they talking about this? The short answer is that it was the abortion rights — the abortion opponents were marching in Washington this week. And so they were playing to that constituency. And that’s fine.

But they enter a new Congress, the economy and the middle class is the core issue, and so far, they have had a — two stupid fights, this one, which is really — to have this fight about rape and abortion two weeks into your Congress, that’s just not what you want to be headlining. You want to be talking about the economy.

The good news is that the Republican Party has two wings again and that the left, or the moderates, or whatever you want to call it, the less conservative, have been — they have been like Sleeping Beauty for four years.

And so, suddenly, they have woken up and they raised their voices and they had an effect. And so I think it’s great that the party has two wings that can balance each other. And a party needs two wings. And the right is diminished. The center or whatever you want to call it is a little stronger. To me, that’s healthy for the party.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Twenty seconds.

MARK SHIELDS: Twenty seconds.

Well, we will find out if the two wings worked and they do fly. This is — the same legislation passed the Republican Congress two years ago. And now with more Republicans in the Congress, they can’t pass it. They can’t even bring it up.

I mean, to me, you only get one chance to make a first impression. You don’t get a second chance. And I would say that the speaker’s leadership and the new Republican Congress has shown itself to be politically incompetent. And, really, I think it’s foundering at this point. And this is an example of it.

I mean, this is an issue that has 60 percent support in the country, and that they could not even get it to a vote. And I think that the moderates are doing exactly what they have seen Tea Party people do, and that is to hold the leadership hostage. And they caved.

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

The post Shields and Brooks on inviting Netanyahu, GOP abortion bill revolt appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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