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

Shields and Brooks - NewsHour with Jim Lehrer - PBS Podcast

by Jim Lehrer

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


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


Fri, Mar 27, 2015


shieldsandbrooks

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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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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…

(LAUGHTER)

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

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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…

(LAUGHTER)

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.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

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.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

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

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

(LAUGHTER)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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

(LAUGHTER)

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.

MARK SHIELDS: Right.

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.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

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.

MARK SHIELDS: OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Please come back.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

 

The post Shields and Brooks on Harry Reid’s retirement, Yemen turmoil response appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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


Fri, Mar 20, 2015


shieldsbrooks

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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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark?

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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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

DAVID BROOKS: Villanova.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

The post Shields and Brooks on Netanyahu’s election provocation, human trafficking holdup appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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


Fri, Mar 13, 2015


shieldsgerson

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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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

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.

MARK SHIELDS: No.

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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even…

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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

MARK SHIELDS: There is.

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.

MICHAEL GERSON: Yes.

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…

JUDY WOODRUFF: More open.

MARK SHIELDS: … open, less sensitive to race.

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

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He did.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

MICHAEL GERSON: Whitewater.

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.

MICHAEL GERSON: Yes.

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.

MICHAEL GERSON: Yes.

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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

MARK SHIELDS: OK.

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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s….

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We talk about this.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

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.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ooh.

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: Exactly.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

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?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

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?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

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? 

DAVID BROOKS: No.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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…

(LAUGHTER)

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.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

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

(LAUGHTER)

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

MARK SHIELDS: No.

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.

MARK SHIELDS: No.

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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

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?

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.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: And I just have to disagree.

(LAUGHTER)

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

(LAUGHTER)

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

(LAUGHTER)

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

DAVID BROOKS: OK. OK.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m going to be watching.

DAVID BROOKS: Politics ain’t beanbag.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

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…

MARK SHIELDS: No.

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…

JUDY WOODRUFF: To come.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

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.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

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.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

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.

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Shields and Brooks on same-sex right to marry, Romney run resistance


Fri, Jan 16, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, congressional Republicans met to plot next steps with their newfound power in Washington. And there were more steps taken by potential 2016 presidential candidates, as they gear up to run for the White House.

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

It’s so good to see both of you.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, before we talk about politics, I want to ask you about what we — what I discussed with Marcia earlier, Mark, and that is the Supreme Court announcing it is going to take up the same-sex marriage question. Thoughts?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, as Marcia pointed out, along with Affordable Care Act, which the court is also considering, these are two big ones.

But, Judy, David’s made the point here before about the velocity with which this issue has moved. On May 6, 2012, Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States, said he was comfortable with same-sex marriage on “Meet the Press,” and it absolutely exploded. I mean, how could he do this? He put the president in a terrible position.

Now, that is three years ago. We just missed — Rob Portman, Republican senator from Ohio, announced that he was not going to run for president, going to run for reelection. He would have been the first Republican candidate for president to endorse same-sex marriage. This issue has moved so far, so fast, 36 states, as Marcia pointed out.

So, there’s a little bit of an anticlimactic feel to it, even though it’s of great importance constitutionally.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. You would have to think about, go back 2,000, 3,000 years, the prejudice against gays and lesbians. And it’s sort of washing away.

And so you ask, how did it happen? I think, partly, it was activism. Partly, it’s people getting to know each other, partly effective media. Media rarely changes culture rapidly, but a lot of the shows that had gay and lesbian couples changed rapidly.

And then there was the selection of the issues. The two big issues that really have been at a central of this for the last 10 years have been gays in the military and marriage. So it was two institutions at the core, and I would say the conservative core, of American culture, and by saying we just want to be married, we just want to serve in the military, people were coming out and they were coming out in full human dignity, in a way that showed respect for the institutions of our country.

And once that embraced, then the country has begun to embrace them as individuals and then the institution of gay marriage.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We heard Marcia say it’s going to be huge, it’s going to be historic when it comes out.

OK, politics. This is the week, as we said, the congressional Republicans met in their retreat.

Mark, this is a time when you have got not just Speaker Boehner, but now the brand-new Republican majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, trying to corral these big numbers in both bodies. What do you see? Are these — do you see the Republicans coming together? Or do you see them still having to deal with some rump right-wing conservative critics who are just going to continue to give them a hard time?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Speaker Boehner had 25 members of his own caucus not support him for speaker. That’s a bit more than one out of 10, more than in recent American history that that’s happened, where a speaker has failed there.

So, even though his numbers were enlarged of Republicans in the House, his own position was somewhat shaky at the outset of this Congress. And what you have, the tensions within the party. After the 2012 election, the Republican Party went through a soul-searching, in which they came out with a rather serious document, saying the party is seen as too narrow-minded, out of touch, not mainstream, mean-spirited, unappealing to non-whites and to women and to younger voters, and we have to do it, we have to endorse immediately comprehensive immigration reform.

And you have got a party that just won a big election totally on the opposite. So, now, the first action they take is a — the House passes a bill that is, quite frankly, restrictive and punitive even to as far as DREAM Act members are concern. Those who are those were brought here as children and they have grown up and gone to school and so forth.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On the president’s executive action.

MARK SHIELDS: And the president’s executive action. And it can’t pass the Senate. Mitch McConnell knows he hasn’t gotten the votes.

And I just think it’s not the issue Republicans wanted right at the outset to deal with. I think Boehner felt he had to deal with it because Republicans had made it such a centerpiece of their campaign. But I don’t see it. They’re working out the difficulties and the wrinkles very much in public, and I think rather awkwardly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You see they’re united or how do you see it?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s governing party, so they’re — or it’s a majority party, so there are bound to be fringes. And we saw both the left and right fringe of the party protesting what was going on.

I actually agree with Mark completely. They win this big victory and what do they decide to do? Well, they decide to do Pickett’s Charge. They decide to — they decide to pick a campaign they cannot possibly win. So the House passes a bill that cannot possibly pass.

So, what’s going to happen? They are going to have to walk embarrassingly down the Hill in defeat. That’s just going to happen. And so why do you do that? And I think the reason you do it is because you have got an opposition mentality that says, let’s make a statement. We want to show the president we’re standing up to him.

And so they make a statement, instead of passing a law. But if you’re in the majority, you’re in the majority. And you have got to start thinking that way. And I think the party — I don’t blame McConnell and Boehner. I blame the rank and file. You have got to start thinking like a majority. Are you here to make statements? Well, go to FOX or do what we do.

But if you’re going to pass laws, you actually have some ability to influence that.

MARK SHIELDS: And, Judy, we have seen this movie before.

In other words, picking up on David’s point, that is that they have to come to the reality they have to fund Homeland Security by the 27th of February.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: And there’s not going to be a government shutdown. And every story we read, whether it’s out of Belgium, whether it’s out of Northern Europe, whether it’s across the globe, is about terrorist threats or plots or actual events.

And the idea that Homeland Security would be put on hold and not fully funded or more funded is absolutely incredible. So they have no bargaining chip and no bargaining power and just to suffer this sort of symbolic defeat.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about another part of the Republican story, and that is the race for president.

We have seen so many names out there, David. But I think the remarkable — one of the remarkable things this week was Mitt Romney, a lot of pushback from other Republicans, including, I think, one of his campaign co-chairs, about his looking seriously at running again.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Well, the donors don’t seem to like him. The Republican committee people don’t want him to run again. And the field is just a lot stronger this time. I mean, he ran against people who couldn’t possibly win, so he won more or less by default.

So there are people who lose and get renominated. And — but they are people who have passionate, intense followers who believe in them, and so Adlai Stevenson, William Jennings Bryan.

MARK SHIELDS: Reagan.

DAVID BROOKS: Reagan.

And so there’s just an intensity. These people will walk through hell for a certain guy, man or a woman. And if those people exist for Mitt Romney, they’re, like, in a phone booth in Massachusetts somewhere.

He never generated that sort of intensity. People liked him. He’s a decent guy. But he never generated that intense followers. So when he announced he’s running again, people looked at it very coolly and very practically and said, you had your shot, buddy.

MARK SHIELDS: I wouldn’t be so quick to write him off.

I would say that the other example of somebody who was renominated was Richard Nixon, and didn’t have great, passionate, intense followers, but he — Mitt Romney sort of followed the Nixon formula, was, after he lost in ’60, Nixon campaigned across the country in ’64 and ’66.

Romney, after 2012, became the national Republican surrogate in 2014. He went everywhere, and he was welcome everywhere. And I think that was as long as he was being contrasted to Barack Obama. And Barack Obama was at the lowest point of his presidency, maybe some buyer’s remorse on the part of some voters.

I think that David is right that there’s more options now. We’re not talking about Herman Cain and Donald Trump. But we have also got a field that is not — doesn’t have dominant figures in it. And you’re in a competition. Jeb Bush has accelerated this system.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: You have competition for fund-raisers, for talent who can work in the campaign and for the — to inspire and engage voters. I mean, whoever can do that, that’s the competition.

DAVID BROOKS: But, also, the mood is — first of all, people are really sick of this — the status quo, so they want change, they want freshness.

But then the mood toward all these other candidates who are flowing out there is kind of intrigued. So, some people are sort of intrigued by Marco Rubio or intrigued by Ted Cruz or intrigued by Chris Christie. They’re sort of like interesting figures. And you sort of want to see how it will play out.

And I think Mark and I agreed the John Kasich juggernaut is unstoppable.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: The Ohio governor who…

MARK SHIELDS: Ohio, the mother of presidents.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We have heard you mention him before.

DAVID BROOKS: I think John Kasich is undervalued as a candidate. Mark disagrees slightly.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Maximally.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: But there are interesting figures out there. And so you don’t need to go back to somebody you have already known too well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not that there’s a — you’re saying it’s not that there’s a front-runner out there, but there are several folks who could develop into a front-runner.

MARK SHIELDS: This is a party that’s always had a front-runner.

Since — in the last 60 years, Judy, with one exception, the candidate, Republican candidate who led in the Gallup poll one year before the convention became the nominee. There’s a natural order that Republicans follow. They’re a very almost — I don’t want to say conventional, but predictable.

It’s like the Kiwanis Club or the Rotary Club. If you have been sergeant at arms, you have been vice — you’re going to be the nominee. And this is a party that’s ahistorical in 2016. It doesn’t have a front-runner. And I really it’s kind of fascinating to watch the Republican…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Unlike the Democrats, who — they have reversed roles.

MARK SHIELDS: The Democrats have this — they have never nominated the front-runner, never nominated the front-runner. They always nominate somebody at the back of the room who excites people, whether it’s George McGovern or Barack Obama.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So are you trying to tell me we’re going to have an exciting race for president this time on the Republican side?

MARK SHIELDS: I think the Republican race is fascinating.

And I do not write off Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney’s speech tonight before the Republican National Committee may be the most important speech of his career. I mean, he’s got to say something new and different, I think, and engaging tonight. If he just does the Barack Obama’s bad, we’re good, it’s — he’s going to fall flat.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is before the Republican meeting out in San Diego.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right, with the USS Midway.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, one other thing I want to ask the two of you about.

This week, the NewsHour announced and said on the air we have made a decision not to air the pictures, the cover of Charlie Hebdo, the French newsweekly, of course, the genesis of the tragic attack in Paris last week.

There’s been a lot of viewer comment about it, the majority of it negative, some of it positive.

But I’m just curious to know from the two of you, how do you think about this? I mean, our explanation is that we believe the offense that it could cause outweighs the news value. But there’s a big debate about it. So I wanted to hear from the two of you.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I agree with the viewers, whatever they say.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: But, you know, I have changed my mind about this. My newspaper, The New York Times, made the exact same decision.

And I thought, no, the news value, you have got the show what — the subject of what all this fuss is all about. But as I thought about it more, when you actually look at the actual cartoons, some of them involve sodomy, some of them involve things that violate every standard of decency which we have.

And so my view is that our standards of what represents decent behavior and civic conversation are more important in this case. And if people want to see the cartoons, they can go online, they can go somewhere else.

And my basic attitude is that, when it comes to speech, is that we should almost, almost never invite somebody off campus, we should almost, almost never pass a law, but we should have certain social standards, what’s polite, what’s acceptable, what gets you respect, what doesn’t. And maintaining standards of just decency, we don’t curse on the air.

And that’s just — it’s a way of behaving respectfully, and that encourages conversation. So, I think the call is ultimately the right one.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we wouldn’t permit a cartoon on our program that offended another group, a religious group, a minority group.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

I think that anything that’s — I believe in the First Amendment, and the stipulation obviously. But it wasn’t that these photos or these images weren’t available. I mean, it wasn’t — they were widely available and — anybody who wanted to see them.

And I just — I really think that when it comes to ridicule and satire, I’m a strong supporter. I’m a particularly strong supporter when you’re doing it to the powerful, to the mighty rich, and those who have control over people’s lives.

And, you know, when it’s deliberately and needlessly offensive, and especially in the case here, it struck me of those who are marginalized and in many cases powerless and poor. I thought you and Gwen and the people at “NewsHour” made the right decision.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we wanted to hear what the two of you think. And I’m glad we were able to talk about it.

Mark Shields…

DAVID BROOKS: We agree with our bosses.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: … David Brooks, thank you both. And we will see you next week.

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Shields and Brooks on Paris terrorism and tolerance, GOP takeover in Congress


Fri, Jan 09, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: The terrorist attacks in France overshadowed the Republican takeover of Congress this week.

But we cover both these developments and more as we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

And welcome, gentlemen, both of you.

So we have been transfixed this week by the awful events in France. And just a few minutes ago, we reported the State Department putting out a worldwide alert to Americans traveling abroad.

David, what are we — what do we learn from all this?  What do we take away from this?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, the story has so many facets.

The thing about war is your enemies define — remind you who you are. And so we are reminded of our belief in pluralism and our belief in multiculturalism. But there are just a range of issues. How is Europe going to react from this?  Will they go to Le Pen?  Will they not?  How do we think about our security issues?

When I think back home, I think of how we think about tolerance. And the point I try to make that everyone was saying, I am — Je suis Charlie, or I am with Charlie Hebdo. But if Charlie Hebdo, the magazine, newspaper tried to open up on any college campus in this country, they would be shut down in 30 seconds. They would run afoul of every political correctness, every hate speech code, because they are offensive in some ways.

And so my point for this country is that if we are going to tolerate offensive talk, or if we’re going to expect, frankly Islamist radicals to tolerate offensive talk, then we have to tolerate offensive talk. And we have to invite people to speak at our campuses who are offensive some of the time. And we have to widen our latitude in that area.

And this should be a reminder that we have cracked down on that and we have strangled debate. And if you are going to stand up and say I’m with Charlie, then you should also stand up at home and say, I protect people even if they offend me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, should the Americans think about making — taking a stand on freedom of expression based on what happened?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

No, I think David’s point about the campuses and how debate and controversy and speakers are banned or disinvited and so forth is absolutely legitimate and valid.

I do think, Judy, that this story, not simply because of the brutality, but because of the targets — it was journalists. And journalists cover journalism. If it had been 12 teachers, 12 bankers, it wouldn’t have had the same worldwide or national impact.

It is attacking the basic — the basic freedom of expression. But I think the reaction — you ask what the takeaway will be. I think that it will be predictable. And that is, the terrorists will prevail, in the sense that they will change the terms of the debate. We will become less welcoming. We will become less open. We will become more…

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean not just in Europe, but here in the United States?

MARK SHIELDS: No, I just think that’s the reaction.

And I think that it probably invites copycat attempts, given the level of attention that this has received, and legitimately so. And it is a fundamental question. Do we then villainize an entire people, religion, which is a terrible consequence, but a possible one, from actions like this, given who the villains and the killers were?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it inevitable, David, that there is just more suspicion now of people who are or look Muslim because of something like that?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it’s too early to tell.

Say, France — there have been a few things rising in France, so, obviously, through European history, through French history, there has been a suspicion of the other, like in most parts of the world. And so there may be a turn to the extreme right, to the Le Pen party or whatever.

I’m not sure we should assume that will happen. There is going to be a big march President Hollande has called for this weekend. There could be a rallying. And it is certainly possible for most human beings and most people to make the distinction between regular Muslims and the radicals.

I was in Israel for the last two weeks. And I frankly went to Israel expecting that the country, over the many years I have been going there, 20 years or so, had turned a little more racist, a little more anti-Arab in general. And I guess, in the conversations I had, I was surprised that people are still completely able to make the distinction between the good, honest, respectful Arabs, respectful Muslims that are the vast majority and the small Islamists. That’s the distinction I found constantly in Israel.

And Europeans are completely capable of making that distinction, as most Americans are. So, I’m hopeful it will not turn into some blanket group label and that we will be able to make that distinction, as we did pretty much after 9/11.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Where do you come down on that, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think it strengthens — an act like this strengthens the hand of those who are not welcoming, who are less inclusive, who are suspicious. I don’t think there’s any question.

If you were picking political futures right now, in France, where President Hollande has the lowest ratings in the history of the Fifth Republic, that, you know, you would say that Le Pen is — I think he’s handled it well, all the rest of it, reaching out to his predecessor, with whom he’s not at all close.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Hollande, yes.

MARK SHIELDS: It has — and to Le Pen as well.

But I just think that there’s a natural closing-down. A concern for safety, and a concern for security means that I’m willing to surrender some of those freedoms. That is what — the predictable reaction. I hope it doesn’t result in villainizing and in demonizing an entire group of people by their faith.

We wouldn’t want to do that to Christians, of whom I am one, by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church or the Ku Klux Klan, who operated with a cross as their symbol. But I’m just — I’m fearful of this, and especially where ignorance and not — lack of knowledge and openness with each other leads to such suspicions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When there’s this alert that goes out to Americans wherever they are outside the country to be much more watchful.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

Well, I do think one of the other things it underlines is why the NSA exists, why — we have had so many stories on overreach by the NSA and then the whole Edward Snowden thing.

And yet, if — as we heard earlier on the program, we are less likely to see sustained terror organizations, but a series of lone wolves who are sort of self-motivated at least, then you just need to use some of the technology that we have to supervise and try to intercept their communications.

And if — we all understand the costs of that. We are all a little freaked out about it. And yet if that’s a way to prevent an event like this, maybe to intercept some communications from these brothers, that’s a price a lot of us would be — well, at least we would consider.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But civil libertarians, Mark, are out there saying no.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, the NSA has been, in many respects, its own worst enemy. When you start following Quaker meetings and the rest of it, it just sort of raises the question of where their priorities are.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk for a minute. We want to save a few minutes to talk about Congress opened up a new session. The Republicans have taken over.

Mark, are we looking for something different in the Senate?

MARK SHIELDS: We have already found it. We found it, Judy.

Senator McConnell, the new majority leader of the Senate, has already told us that the biggest growth in jobs in the past 15 years, which has occurred this year, 5 percent economic growth in the third quarter, occurred because of Americans anticipating the Republicans taking over the Senate.

And, you know, so I don’t know what more difference you could ask for, that we had 59 consecutive months. There was a long period of gestation and anticipation of the Republicans taking over that has led to this economic recovery.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tongue in cheek.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: No, I think what we saw this week is that they’re getting their sea legs.

We are going through Groundhog Day. We’re passing again what we passed before, whether it’s in Obamacare, or we’re going to limit the number of people who are covered by Obamacare that employers have to cover for those working 40 hours, rather than 30 hours. And turns out it’s going to cost $42 billion to the Treasury, which is not funded.

So, the Republicans at some point are going to have to conclude, they need a record to stand on for the next two years. They are going to have to do something. I think they will be some meeting with the president on some issues that most Democrats, rank-and-file Democrats are not totally comfortable with, such as the trade proposals that — fast track, that the president and Republicans endorse.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What should we look for?

DAVID BROOKS: I have been spending in advance of the Republican Congress, drilling oil, shale oil, my Democratic friends taking Prozac.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: A lot of spending going on.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I think a couple of things to really look for — they need to pass stuff.

I don’t know if they need to pass stuff. They need to get stuff to President Obama’s desk. So, a couple things they need to think about. They can’t do it without moderate Democrats. They have got to go to Mark Warner of Virginia. They have got to go to people like that, and even if it means losing some people on the right of their own party.

And so that is just the strategy. And this is the strategy you have been waiting for from President Obama or somebody else to try to craft a governing majority. Whether Mitch McConnell wants to do that, whether he can do it, if he wants to get stuff to President Obama’s desk, he has to do it.

And so I will be curious to see if he’s creative enough to do it. He has a different sort of Senate than we’re used to seeing; 53 members of the Senate have now served in the House. That’s a record. And so they bring a different set of manners into the body. It’s an incredibly young Senate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Manners meaning better, or worse?

DAVID BROOKS: Worse. Worse.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: The House operates in a certain way. And it operates in the way where the majority just pummels the minority.

And so if they bring that over, then that’s not good. It’s — I don’t know if this is hopeful or not. It is an amazingly young body. Marco Rubio is now like the eighth from the bottom in age. And that guy is like 16. I think 10 members of the Senate are now born in the 1970s.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Whoa. We’re really getting young. We’re really getting young.

DAVID BROOKS: I’m covering the baby corps here.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: So I don’t know what that will mean, but it’s a different sort of body. And we will see what kind of leadership McConnell brings.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of Marco Rubio, there are a few people who have already — it’s only January the 9th, Mark. And we’re already — this week, we not only heard from Jeb Bush that he is seriously looking at running for president, put out a — I guess he has announced a political action committee, Right to Rise.

But just this afternoon, Mitt Romney, we reported, has told some donors, it’s OK to go out and tell people I’m thinking about running.

Are we — do you see the shape of the 2016 list of candidates?

MARK SHIELDS: I think that Jeb Bush had a superb week, I mean, by announcing early, forcing the hand of several other people, including Governor Romney, by — especially by…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you think that is what happened?

MARK SHIELDS: … saying he revealed — he’s going to reveal his taxes, the taxes he’s paid for the last 10 years. That puts a lot of pressure on everybody else to do the same.

Mitt Romney is at this position. He has a chance, Judy, to rewrite the first line of his obituary. The first line of the obituary now is, Mitt Romney, who was governor of Massachusetts and Republican nominee who lost for the presidency in 2012, died in Ogden, Utah, yesterday.

He has a chance, he feels, to win, and to run and to win. He leads in the polls, so it’s awfully tempting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Twenty seconds.

DAVID BROOKS: I don’t think so.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: You can tell what kind of a conservative somebody is by what year they want to go back to. And I don’t think they want to go back to Romney.

 

I have a feeling he wants to run. People like him. They always tell him, oh, you should run, you should run. When he actually goes to the donors, will they actually give him actual green money?  I’m skeptical.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Green money, that’s going to be the test.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: That’s truly green money.

(LAUGHTER)

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

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

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Shields and Gerson on 2015’s foreign policy issues, Mario Cuomo’s legacy


Sat, Jan 03, 2015


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HARI SREENIVASAN: And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.

So, first, I want to start out with a poll that came out, a Gallup poll, 1,000 Americans sampled. And they say their most important issue throughout the last year has been government.

And that was interesting to me, because, you know, when you look back at this, 2004 to 2007, it was Iraq, 2008 to 2013, it was the economy, and then, 2014, the government. So these are longstanding concerns. When it was the Iraq war, obviously, that was something a lot of us were concerned about, and then the economy through the financial crisis.

But this kind of pivotal moment, this turning point that so many people are so concerned about what’s happening in government and what’s happening in Washington and whether it’s even possible to get anything through, let’s start — what happens in 2015?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think it’s part of a broader crisis of legitimacy for institutions.

People are questioning whether our institutions, including government, are up to our challenges. We have got serious challenges on education. We have got serious challenges entitlement reform and other things. And we don’t seem — our institutions aren’t responding in a way they should. And I think Obamacare played into that, to be honest, where — which faltered at the beginning, and also, you know, shook confidence in institutions.

So people want their government to work. Even, you know, conservatives want, in certain areas, government to work, and there are real questions about that.

MARK SHIELDS: I would say that confidence in government has diminished, is slipping. There are reasons for it.

I don’t think it’s necessarily distinct from loss of confidence, public confidence, in corporations, in other institutions, private institutions, higher education. It’s across the board, religion, the military being the sole exception, which I think has other psychological factors involved, which is, they’re doing it and we don’t have to do it.

But I really think, when you look at what happened with the Secret Service, with Veterans Administration, the NSA, I mean, there’s a sense of government not working or not working in the interest of the people who wanted it to.

Countering that, at the end of the year, there was a surge in confidence because — whether because of government policies, in spite of government policies — Democrats would argue the former — that there’s been a surge in economy and the president’s job rating is the highest it’s been in two years. And for the first time since the recession, since the great recession some six years ago, the national economic confidence is in the positive zone.

So, you know, perhaps — every poll is a snapshot in time, Hari. Maybe that one has passed, and we’re heading into a brighter and more optimistic time.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. All right.

So, let’s talk about what’s possible in the world of bipartisanship, whether that exists or not, in 2015. Let’s start with kind of foreign policy issues. What’s likely to be on the table for — both for Congress and the president?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think we’re going to see the continuing crisis of the Middle East dominate on foreign policy.

First of all, it’s real hard to predict these things, because, last year, I’m not sure I would have predicted Ebola or the Ukraine or other things. But we do now have the circumstance in which three former secretaries of defense from this president and the former secretary of state have all been publicly critical of the president’s conduct of policy in Syria and Iraq, which has metastasized across the region, produced 200,000 deaths, as — you know, nine million displaced people in the region, and now threatens Lebanon, Jordan and other places and terrorism across the world.

This is likely to be a major focus. But do we have the policies in place necessary to contain that crisis right now? And our — some of our military has questions about that. And we’re going to see that, I think, work itself out with ISIS over the next year.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. I mean, I don’t pretend to be a prophet about what’s going to happen in the world.

I, of course, did say the Ukraine and Ebola a year ago.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: And I was the first person to identify ISIS out of the entire class picture.

(LAUGHTER)

HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: But I think there’s going to be — there’s going to be an ambivalence, which has been in American foreign policy and defense policy, going to be saying, we have to do more and be more overt and more involved and engaged in combating ISIS, and that is coupled with and tempered by a strong resistance to America reentering.

And that really is the quandary and the dilemma. I fear that, as the Russian economy plummets and energy prices go down and the oligarchy is threatened and Putin is diminished, that Russia will become more aggressive and more nationalistic, which is only a recipe for trouble.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, what about the sort of situation of troops on the ground?

It seems that there’s been a lot of concern about exactly whether the U.S. withdrew too soon, whether the U.S. committed too many or too few troops in states like Iraq — or countries, I should say, like Iraq or Afghanistan.

Even today, Ashraf Ghani, I think in a recent interview, said, well, that whole withdrawing by 2016, that could still be negotiable, and the president knows what I’m talking about.

But we clearly don’t know that.

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think the administration claimed that the Iraq war was over, but ISIS didn’t believe it was.

They claimed that the Syrian crisis could be contained. And it clearly has not been contained in the way that was originally intended. And now the claim is that we can leave Afghanistan. And I’m not sure the Taliban are going to cooperate here. So that, I think, is a very live issue.

What is necessary? We — I don’t think anyone has an appetite for troops on the ground in the same way that they have been in the last 10 years in the Middle East. The question is whether this strategy we have of striking from afar, using intelligence capabilities and drones, is sufficient to the defeat of ISIS and the rollback of ISIS. And that is very much an open question.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I would simply add to that, I — I wait and hope that we will have a debate on this subject.

I mean, the Congress, both parties, has not forced the issue. I mean, this should be national policy. What it has been in the sense is a delegation to the president. You can delegate authority, but you can’t delegate responsibility. And the responsibility under the Constitution is with the Congress. It’s with the people. We should have a national debate exactly on what we are willing to do.

We have had ouchless, painless wars, with tax cuts, for the past 15 years, and coffin after coffin has come back, and congressman after congressman and president after president has not gone to the funerals. And Gold Star mothers are not comforted, except by letters and an occasional phone call.

And this is not a broadly shared sacrifice. It’s a violation of the great American principle of the universality of shared sacrifice. And that has been totally missing. And we do need a debate on this. And it’s been — it’s been dereliction of duty on the part of our leadership and on us, as a people, in not demanding it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

What about domestic policy? Domenico rattled off a list of things. Do you think that there’s any possible movement on, say, immigration or Keystone?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, first of all, I think that Mark is exactly right that the key over the next year is going to be whether this growth, this serious growth that we’re seeing is going to be sustained. That would create an environment that is tougher for Republicans in 2016, not impossible, but tougher. That’s the context in which many of our debates take place.

So I think that that’s certainly true. The problem is, there are a bunch of issues, tax reform, trade, that were mentioned that adults in Washington want progress on, that think our country could benefit for — from.

But we’re likely to have a debate on immigration in February with the funding of the Department of Homeland Security that was deferred this last time, and maybe a debate on the debt limit in March that could be knockdown, drag-out funding debates of the kind that we have seen in the past, where both sides are at one another’s throat.

The question is, does that overwhelm? Does it prevent progress on other issues on this agenda that — that are necessary, that most people concede are necessary? And I’m afraid that we’re going to see the kind of debates we have seen in the past and that that could really overwhelm, you know, the capacity of our system.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m a little bit more optimistic.

I don’t think there’s a national yearning for more rancor and more name-calling out of Washington. I think there’s an interest on the part of Republicans to show that they can be a governing party, something that that’s been — there is widespread doubt about.

There’s a certain, obviously, urgency on the part of President Obama to add to or create or — his record for the last two years. I would add to Domenico’s list. I would certainly include tax reform. But tax reform requires a lot more than just kind of an agreement that the corporate tax cut ought to be lower. If you’re going to raise any revenue, that’s going to require real sacrifice, again, real deal-making.

And there’s no Bill Bradley, there’s no central figure who’s made this his case. And Dave Camp did, and now he’s gone from the Congress. And so I think that infrastructure, there is a hope. I mean, when you get a water main breaking in every major city and flooding a block at least on a weekly basis, it seems, it ought to be a reminder that bridges, tunnels, roads, and water systems are part of the national competitiveness, in addition to living a decent life.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, speaking of living a decent life, Mario Cuomo, your thoughts?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think that there are a class of American politician that are influential people who never became president.

That’s true of Hubert Humphrey. It’s true of Scoop Jackson. It’s true of Jack Kemp. There are a group of people that really influenced American politics without being president. He belongs in that category.

There are some orators in American history that are orators of unity or of national purpose. He was an orator of ideological definition. He told Democrats, this is what we can be, this is what we should be. He inspired his party, his ideology, in the same way that Ronald Reagan did in a speech like “A Time for Choosing” in 1964. This is what we want to be.

That, I think — you know, Bill Clinton eventually won the argument over the future of the Democratic Party with new Democratic ideas, but Mario Cuomo won the soul of the party. And people are still very nostalgic about that, I think.

MARK SHIELDS: I think it’s a good point.

Harry — what the hell was his name, the great Jewish philosopher and funnyman? Oh, Harry Golden. Harry Golden said he always knew the first Jewish candidate for president would be an Episcopalian.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Barry Goldwater. And it was just an acknowledgement that it was necessary to Americanize and kind of take off the rough edges if you’re going to go national.

Mario Cuomo didn’t speak English until he entered the public schools of South Queens, New York. And he had mastered English. He was a first-rate intellect. Holmes said of Roosevelt that he was a first-rate temperament and a second-rate intellect, which I think was unfair, but Mario Cuomo was a first-rate intellect.

And I just — he brought to it a gravity and a seriousness. He could deal with any issue, philosophical, political, policy, in a real sense. And I — my one regret that he didn’t run for president is, it would have been a great debate. We would have been forced to confront real questions and eternal truths.

He did — Michael is right. He spoke for the soul of the Democratic Party. In the decade of the 1980s, when he emerged, the Democrats carried one state in 1984, six states in 1980, and 10 states in 1988. They were wiped out, 17 states. And he — to a disappointed, discouraged, dejected Democratic Party, he said, this is who we are, and we must be a family, we must share the burdens and share the blessings.

And he really did. He did give a great, great lift to a party that needed it and to a nation that needed it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, thanks so much.

MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

 

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Shields and Gerson on cyber-attacks after Sony, Obama’s year ahead


Fri, Dec 26, 2014


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the news, unfortunately, this holiday week wasn’t exactly peace on earth.

New York City is mourning two assassinated police officers, and Sony released its controversial film “The Interview.”

For our Friday news analysis, we are joined by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away.

Happy holidays to both of you.

MICHAEL GERSON: Likewise.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as we say, Mark, the news is kind of tough.

Let’s talk about Sony first. They went ahead and released this picture after all online, streaming, as well as in the theaters. The expectation is there are going to be more cyber-attacks like the one on Sony. What — has the U.S. handled this the right way and what’s been learned, do you think?

MARK SHIELDS: You know, I think the president handled it right in his press conference, I thought, by saying it was an act of vandalism, rather than an act of terrorism, because if it’s an act of terrorism, then it does rise to the level of national security and there has to be an American governmental response.

Judy, it is really difficult to generate enormous sympathy for Sony in this. They are not an admiral corporate character, and they have hardly handled themselves that way. The fact that North Korea is the heavy in the piece, and deservedly so, I just think that we are seeing only the edges of what cyber-security involves.

The FBI director said in October there are two kinds of big companies in America, those that have been hacked by the Chinese and those that don’t know they have been hacked by the Chinese.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: By the Chinese.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, and I just think that — I think North Korea is a secondary or tertiary player in this whole drama. But this is the new reality.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But they still were able to pull this off.

Michael, lessons learned?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, it did highlight a few things.

One of them is the role of the NSA. This is an organization that is reviled by Snowden and Rand Paul and others, but it’s our front line of defense when it comes issues like this. They are heavily involved in this case. So I think it’s — this is an important part of our national defense that we need to take seriously.

I also think that we have missed — the important emphasis this last week was in the U.N. Security Council in exposing North Korea, not in a screwball comedy, but in a major report, and then a Security Council session, where our ambassador, Samantha Power, laid out a very powerful case against North Korea, 100,000 people in gulags perhaps, systematic rape, torture.

It’s an unbelievably grim circumstance that deserves a lot more attention than it receives. And I’m afraid that the controversy on the movie may have actually distracted from the real news, which is, the world is calling attention to this problem.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It almost got overlooked, in fact, the human rights…

MARK SHIELDS: No, it did. That’s a good point.

I would just point out, on the NSA, we know about the — the NSA has been playing offense for a long time. So we are aware that we are — we have not been missing in this action from — just check Mrs. Merkel’s phone records, if nothing else.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the North Korean Internet went down, but it was only for nine or 10 hours, and back up again.

MARK SHIELDS: And who knew…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And nobody knows…

MARK SHIELDS: It’s not a highly wired society.

MICHAEL GERSON: It had no effect on North Korea.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The other story we’re covering today is the funeral of the New York City police officer who was killed and — assassinated sitting in a patrol car last weekend.

Mark, this comes as there have been protests around the country about the killing of unarmed — young unarmed black men. I guess my question is, is this a conversation that’s shifted this week because of what happened to those police officers? And how do we as a country make any progress on this issue? It feels like we’re stuck on this.

MARK SHIELDS: To answer your first question, yes, there’s no question it has changed.

There’s a sense of urgency. What had been seemingly a pattern of tragedies and the different circumstances in Staten Island, Cleveland being different from Ferguson, but a pattern that was nonetheless disturbing, this was an act of just blatant assassination and people — because they were police officers.

And I think, Judy, what it does is, it forces us to confront it. We all felt — I shouldn’t say all, but so many of us felt, after President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and even more so after his reelection in 2012, that we had reached a watershed in racial relations in this country, that somehow we’d gone beyond the original sin of slavery and racism and all the rest of it, and that we were now just sort of a happy, whole society.

You know, the numbers are terribly daunting, that this recession has hit African-Americans, non-white, Hispanic — non-Hispanic, non-whites harder than anybody else. We know what we don’t need to do, and that is to ignore the issue. And we don’t need to in any way turn our back on the fact that 93 percent of African-American children go to public schools.

And, as Senator John McCain said, I think wisely, there’s no reason in the world to pay a bad congressman more than a good teacher. And I just think the last thing in the world we can do is turn our back on public education in this country and should concentrate our efforts and attention.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is that what we should be thinking more about, economic and education…

MICHAEL GERSON: No, I agree with that, but there is a large policing issue here.

And one of the main difficulties — we have had large shifts in the way race is viewed in America. There are generational shifts. One in 12 marriages is now an interracial marriage in America. That is going to shift opinion over time. There are some good things here.

But there are fundamental disagreements on the way our criminal justice system is viewed by whites and blacks in America. And you see, this is largely a municipal issue, not a national issue. So, a place like Saint Louis, which is my hometown, has not done it well. They have not built trust.

They have municipalities that are dependent on ticket revenue. They have a history of racial and class profiling in the way tickets are done. It’s perceived as harassment. And then, when a crisis comes, there’s no trust. There’s no resources of trust to build on.

You look at a place like Los Angeles, which had huge problems in conflict between the community and the police, but have gotten better over the last decade. They now have a police force that is very closely representative of the racial composition of Los Angeles, a lot of trust built up over time. It’s possible to make those kinds of changes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: They have worked at it.

MICHAEL GERSON: They have really worked at it. They have had good leadership, including William Bratton, who is now in New York.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

MICHAEL GERSON: But it’s — it takes a lot of intentional effort to build that trust.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, I mean, is — do you see any signs that that’s happening, Mark? We have these conversations, but then you have a — the shooting, like what happened in New York.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, there are any number of topics that can be discussed at any time in America.

And this has forced us to address this issue. I mean, we can make the decision to look at it briefly and then move away, or it can be central to the 2016 debate. I mean, Michael mentioned Rand Paul in another context. He has been one of those very vocal and visible in the question of sentencing and treatment, as Jim Webb, the former Democratic senator from Virginia, had been, in the treatment of people who were convicted of a crime and winning back the right to vote and winning back their citizenship and a chance to earn a living.

So, there is a debate here. But I think the assassination of the police officers is not comparable to, but it directs the attention like the attack of the dogs of Bull Connor’s did in the civil rights. I mean, you can’t turn away from it and from those funerals and those families and say, well, this is just a simple problem, minor problem. We can now discuss whether we should cut the capital gains tax instead.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. Yes.

Well, I want to — I do want to raise with you all something else that we are watching as we come. We’re just days away from the end of the year. It seems like — it was only seven weeks ago, Michael, that we had the midterm elections. President Obama seemed like he was back on his heels, he couldn’t get anything done.

But then, in the course of the seven weeks, immigration reform initiative, he moved on a climate change, environmental agreement with the Chinese, and then, just in the last few days the announcement about normalizing relations with Cuba.

And then there was a poll that came out, I guess, just a day or so ago, CNN, shows the president’s approval rating, it’s actually up, only four points, but it’s gone up.

MICHAEL GERSON: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So what’s the deal? What is the story? As we head into the seventh year of his presidency, how do you see the balance of power between him and the Congress?

MICHAEL GERSON: I think you have to start by saying that the press narrative of the president’s irrelevance was always absurd.

The United States president is never irrelevant. He has the ability to do things. George W. Bush, at the low point of his approval in his second term, did the Iraq surge, which was historically quite important.

Presidents have the power to do this and can. The real question is whether we now, in this fairly short legislative window at the beginning of the new Congress, before we get into the 2016 debate, where really all the legislative action is overwhelmed, is it possible to make some progress here?

A lot of that depends on what Republicans do, whether they decide they want to pursue a positive, incremental agenda, even if it’s vetoed by the president, that shows what their values are, or whether they want catastrophic, cataclysmic conflict over budget and immigration and other issues, you know, up-or-down votes on major issues like that.

That’s a different approach, a different strategy. And I think Republicans are going to need to be more incremental, more hopeful, more positive, more policy-oriented in this period in order to set up their candidate for 2016.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the balance?

MARK SHIELDS: I think there’s been a real change in balance.

I think even President Obama’s greatest admirers had a feeling during the fall that he was mailing it in, that he was almost enduring the office, rather than exhilarating in it. And every discussion, every decision seemed to be calibrated by, how is it going to affect Louisiana Senate race, or Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina?

In a strange way, he’s been liberated since there, sadly by the defeat of those four Democrats, I’m sure, to him. But he seems reenergized. I mean, the audacity of hope, hope may not be dominant, but certainly audacity is back in the litany of the things that you mentioned he’s done.

In addition to that, Judy, the Republicans find themselves in a very difficult position. It reminds me of when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States and the Democrats were in the majority in the Congress. And, 1986, along comes Iran-Contra. And Democrats immediately charge, Ronald Reagan knew about this completely. He cleared everything.

And Jim Wright, who was the Democratic speaker of the House, the majority leader, about to become speaker of the House that next year, said, wait a minute, you can’t have it both ways. We can’t say Reagan for six years didn’t know what time it was, what day it was, and now he’s this diabolical mastermind.

The Republicans have Obama characterized and caricatured as this feckless, sort of passive, disengaged — now he’s a despot. Now he’s in charge of everything. Now he is too strong. He’s overly muscular.

So, I mean, they have got to decide on which Obama they’re going after at this point.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You have got 10 seconds to tell me which Obama they’re going to go after.

MICHAEL GERSON: I don’t know.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL GERSON: But there are some divisions on the left too.

The Warren anti-Wall Street wing could play out as well in this part as well.

MARK SHIELDS: No question.

MICHAEL GERSON: Both sides have their own internal divisions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Glad there are no divisions here right now.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there are some, which is OK, as we get to the end of the year.

Michael Gerson, Mark Shields, thank you both.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on reconciling with Cuba, Sony censorship


Fri, Dec 19, 2014


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

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, so much to talk about.

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

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

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I guess I think so.

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

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

I…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Step in? What do you mean?

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Are there any limits here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you say, Mark?

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

(LAUGHTER)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

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

(LAUGHTER)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Did I say something crazy?

MARK SHIELDS: We have a Republican primary coming up.

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

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

DAVID BROOKS: I think he’s the favorite.

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Whoa. That’s high praise.

MARK SHIELDS: Less flawed.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Even better than our Cuba policy.

(LAUGHTER)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: And how do you size it up?

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

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

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

(LAUGHTER)

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: From the time when he was governor.

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

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

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

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

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it hurts.

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

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

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

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

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

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And a happy new year.

MARK SHIELDS: Same to you.

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

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you very much.

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



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  • Published: 2002
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