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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 Gerson on refugee crisis responsibility, Trump’s GOP pledge


Fri, Sep 04, 2015


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

Welcome, gentlemen.

So we have just been listening to a little bit of the politics of the week, Mark. Hillary Clinton, important interview she had today, a lot of questions about the e-mail server. She said that she wished she had done it differently. She said it wasn’t the best decision.

What do you make of that? I mean, does she — has she put this behind her in any significant way, this issue?

MARK SHIELDS: No. I mean, she was apologetic. She was contrite, I think it’s fair to say. And it was an interview with Andrea Mitchell, who is not only a respected journalist, but who has covered Mrs. Clinton and Washington very well for a quarter-century. So there weren’t going to be any curveballs thrown the interviewer’s way.

I think this, Judy. First of all, it’s in the FBI’s hands now. And we’re going to continue to have the e-mails released a month at a time. This story is still with us, and it will remain with us. It will be part of the run-up to Iowa.

The one question that strikes me, as I listened to her today, is every president needs — and very few have — that one person who can say, no, stop, you’re making a fool of yourself, you’re doing the wrong thing.

Bryce Harlow, who was the wisest — one of the wisest men I ever knew in Washington, counselor to President Eisenhower, President Ford, President Nixon, said, everybody, I don’t care how powerful they are, a CEO, chairman of a committee, president of a university, when they walk into the Oval Office, they’re ready to tell the president what to do, and they say, Mr. President, you’re doing a wonderful job. Our prayers are with you.

And she is not the only person, but she needed someone to say, no, you can’t do this. And the question is, does she have someone now?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, Michael Gerson, I heard Andrea Mitchell ask her. She said, was there somebody on your staff who said this is a bad idea? And she talked about how they — she didn’t think, she said, when she did this.

MICHAEL GERSON: Yes. As far as I could tell, the main answer she gave was, oops. She didn’t really think of it at the time. That’s really her argument here.

It strains plausibility for people who have been in government that know how much emphasis is put on record-keeping and secure communications when you’re at high levels in the executive branch. It’s just a big deal, you know, the federal acts that relate to records.

So it doesn’t have the ring of truth in that case. She’s also well behind this story. We found this week that the FBI was — is now investigating possible security breaches with like the Russians and Chinese with her account.

We learned that we — that her — she has an aide taking the Fifth Amendment. And we learned there are at least six e-mails that she sent that have classified information in them. I mean, these are serious things, cumulative things that she has not provided a very good answer on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, at the same time, Hillary Clinton, the people around her have been saying, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, there was nothing nefarious going on here, anything that was classified was made classified later.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. No, that is their defense and their position. And it’s tough to argue with. And the example cited of her trying to get a speech given by Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, publicly that could not be sent because it was classified gave you somewhat of an indication of how overly-classifying the intelligence area — agency is.

I will say this about Secretary Clinton today. Her answer to Andrea on Joe Biden was pitch-perfect. I mean, it was human, it was natural, it was very personal in the best sense. And it didn’t have any political angle to it that I could detect.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, she asked her, do you have a comment about the fact that he’s considering running?

MARK SHIELDS: Right. Oh, I’m sorry. Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And she said, it’s not for me to say. And then she went on to say, he needs the space to think about it, right?

MARK SHIELDS: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael, we ran a clip of what the vice president said last night at that speech at the synagogue in Atlanta.

Do you think get the sense that he’s leaning away? He clearly didn’t sound like he is there yet.

MICHAEL GERSON: I get the sense that you’re seeing that process in public, exactly what he’s thinking about this. It’s one of his appeals, is this transparency.

And this is a family that underwent a terrible trauma three months ago, that, you know, a trauma like that can strengthen a family, but it also can be a difficult time. And a presidential campaign brings minute and massive scrutiny.

And so I think that is a real issue. But he could come in here. He doesn’t fit an ideological gap. He’s very much like Clinton in a lot of his views. There is no ideological gap he would fill. But there is a kind of ethical gap that he might fill.

The worst thing that’s come out of the e-mail situation for Hillary Clinton is one of these polls recently about what are the top three words you think of when you think of a candidate, and it was liar, dishonest, untrustworthy. Those are serious issues that come out of the e-mail situation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And she was asked about that today, again, Mark, by Andrea Mitchell. And she said, our campaign goes on and I don’t worry about that and we feel good.

MARK SHIELDS: No. Yes, it hasn’t been a great six months since Hillary Clinton entered the race. She still is the front-runner, still is the favorite and is still obviously quite formidable.

On Joe Biden, his greatest virtue may be also his occasional vice. And that is that total lack of artifice to him. I mean, he was just being — I think he was being totally frank with that audience last night in Atlanta. I think he’s saying — Judy, with the possible exception of asking someone to be your life partner, the most personal decision anybody makes is the decision to run for president.

It is a difficult, painful — and he knows from personal experience it can be heartbreaking.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re asking your family to be part of the journey with you.

MARK SHIELDS: And you’re asking your family. Do I want to do this? And I have got a wonderful reputation at this point. And after eight years as vice president, do I want to risk it all and — all of that. I mean, it’s really difficult.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn quickly to the other party.

Michael, Donald Trump yesterday did what he said earlier he wasn’t going to do. He met with the head of the Republican Party and he said he signed the pledge. He held it up for everybody to see and said he pledges he will not run as an independent or third-party candidate if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination.

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think the image of the head of the RNC making the pilgrimage to the Trump Tower in order to get some assurances is exactly what he wants.

He looks in control. This is the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal.” He has really taken the RNC to the cleaners on this and has done a very good deal, because he now has gotten what he wanted. And his — the pledge he has made is less than useless. He can just come and say, the Republicans violated their part of the deal, I was treated unfairly. He builds his case.

There is nothing to prevent this. This is a man who has changed some of his most fundamental political views over the last few years in order to shift. This is not going to be an obstacle for his ambitions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see going on with…

MARK SHIELDS: I couldn’t say it — I couldn’t say it better. I think the idea that the chairman of the Republican Party and the states requested that he to this in order to run in those states, they’re changing their own rules, but comes to him, Reince Priebus did, and became almost a prop for Donald Trump to do his declamation and take shots at the other candidates.

And the chairman had to stand there and do it, take it in all the time. I just think this fuels the fire of Mr. Trump’s lack of humility.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I gather Priebus met with him and then left before the news conference.

But I guess my question, Mark, is, does this change the race in some way? Does this change the Republican equation? What do we think, Michael, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think, Judy, the question is — obviously, Jeb Bush and others are taking him on.

And the question becomes, what happens on the 16th of September when they have their next debate? And you will recall, just four years ago — I’m sure Michael does — Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, was a very formidable candidate, and he went on television on a Sunday and talked about Obama-Romneycare, Obamneycare.

The Affordable Care Act had been based on Mitt Romney’s. And 24 hours later in the debate, when asked about it, he wouldn’t say it. And his campaign just evaporated.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He wouldn’t criticize — wouldn’t criticize…

MARK SHIELDS: Wouldn’t repeat what he had said 24 hours earlier.

So this is the test. It’s one thing to say when he’s 1,000 miles away. Will they say it to him on the stage?

MICHAEL GERSON: And then also an interesting test for Jeb Bush, too. Will he repeat the criticisms he’s making to Trump’s face?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Yes.

MICHAEL GERSON: And they have been stuff. They have been that he’s not a consistent conservative, but also that he’s using racial dog whistles.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. That’s right.

MICHAEL GERSON: Jeb Bush has made this case. Will he press that case in the debate? That will be fascinating.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn you all back to this terrible humanitarian crisis we’re seeing over the refugees in Europe.

We have seen the pictures which just tear at your heart, the one we showed, and again on the program tonight, the little 3-year-old boy, Mark, a Syrian child whose parents were trying to get him out of there and into Europe.

How are we think about where responsibility lies in all this? I mean, is it — where should we be looking? I mean, there is some disagreement. We heard tonight Hungary is providing buses now, but a lot of these refugees want to go to Germany, they want to go to France. Who should be stepping up right now?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, you know, I think Angela Merkel is probably the exemplar at this point.

I mean, Germany is the size of Montana, slightly smaller than Montana. They have pledged to take 800,000. If they take 800,000, that’s the equivalent of the United States taking 3.2 million refugees. Now, you could say, yes, Europe is aging. It needs young, vibrant, hardworking people. These refugees are obviously overwhelmingly that.

They’re young and dedicated and energetic and ambitious. But, you know, Judy, I don’t — I am surprised it has not become an issue in this campaign. Now, given the Republicans’ position…

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean, that — about whether they should come to the United…

MARK SHIELDS: I mean, what if the United States — I mean, these are refugees from Afghanistan, from Syria, from Libya, not totally divorced from the United States policy and presence and invasion and military actions in the Middle East.

What do we have? We have taken 1,800 Syrian refugees over the last four years in this country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. I heard Trump asked about it this morning, and he said it was something that the U.S. would — might have to consider doing.

But, Michael, where should — where do we look at a time like this?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, when you look for responsibility, you have to look for — to President Assad, who destroyed his own country…

MARK SHIELDS: I agree.

MICHAEL GERSON: … through his own arrogance and brutality, and then ISIS, which has, you know, taken root in the ruins.

But we have also had four years of American policy that’s not been very active when it comes to Syria. We had a number of American officials, including Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus, Leon Panetta, John Kerry, who proposed more strenuous action to strengthen proxies that would — to try to push for a peace agreement, and to try to undermine the capacities of the regime to perform mass atrocities.

And those — the advice from those people wasn’t taken again and again. And we’re seeing some of the results of relative inaction, I think.

MARK SHIELDS: I would just say, without getting into an argument with Michael, it’s 15 years now of United States policy there. We did, in fact, topple the most formidable adversary that Iran had, and we left in our wake…

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Saddam Hussein.

MARK SHIELDS: In Saddam Hussein.

We left in our wake a nonfunctioning government, a Shia government which showed no respect for rights of the Sunnis. And out of that grew ISIS. And ISIS is not just a — didn’t come from the bow of any Greek god. This is a direct consequence.

I think that there was no — there is no will in this country right now for military intervention. I think that has been killed. I can listen to Dick Cheney and read his books from now until the cows come home, but there is no — there is no — not even a third of the Congress who would vote to send in military action, and you would only do limited accomplishments with airstrikes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the debate goes on. And I think we can guarantee we’re going to hear more about it as this campaign continues.

Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, we thank you both. And have a good Labor Day weekend.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

The post Shields and Gerson on refugee crisis responsibility, Trump’s GOP pledge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Brooks on Biden’s presidential pondering, voter perceptions of Clinton


Fri, Aug 28, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Vice President Joe Biden weighs a run for the White House. Party loyalists criticize Hillary Clinton’s handling of her personal e-mail account. And Bernie Sanders continues to draw huge crowds and pulls ahead in New Hampshire — just a few of this week’s news developments, as we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.

That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we have been spending a lot of time talking about the Republican race for the last few weeks. Let’s spend some time tonight talking about the Democrats.

Joe Biden, David, a lot of talk about whether he’s going to get in. He’s been meeting with the head of the Teamsters union. He met with the liberal darling Elizabeth Warren, Senator Warren. He’s got people advocating for him now at this big Democratic gathering in Minneapolis.

Do you think he’s going to get in?

DAVID BROOKS: No.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: No.

Well, first, God bless him for his resilience. The guy loses a son, and still wants to serve the country and still is emotionally strong enough to do it. I salute him. And — but — and he’s a wonderful man, and he’s a great public servant.

But what the country is in the mood for is anti-establishment. I think that’s one of the reasons Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are sailing into headwinds. Bernie Sanders has it. Donald Trump has it in spades. Joe Biden doesn’t have it.

And so whatever the problem is with the Clinton campaign, Joe Biden also has that problem. And so I think he will get a sense of that larger atmosphere, let alone the money and the organization and all that, and Hillary Clinton’s still formidable strength, really. And so my guess — it’s a guess shared by a lot of Democratic insiders — is that he won’t do it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you share the guess?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t.

And, you know, and with great respect for David, but I don’t think anybody knows. As David indicated, he wasn’t sure. It’s the most personal decision imaginable. And, as David touched on, with the death of his son Beau in May, it becomes even more personal. It’s a family decision. He’s a grandfather.

I mean, he really is. What you see with Joe Biden is what you get. And that is — David’s right. It is not an anti-establishment, but America is craving authenticity in 2016. And Joe Biden brings authenticity to it. He’s also a happy warrior. He also communicates with working-class voters a lot better than most Democrats do, and I think better than Mrs. Clinton, Secretary Clinton did, except in the late primaries in 2008.

So I think he probably had ruled it out, he had accepted it earlier, and Hillary Clinton had wrapped up endorsements. She had money, she had support, and she stumbled. Make no mistake about it. And she looks vulnerable. And there’s a surge of affection for Joe Biden, and I don’t think he’s made the decision.

I think he’s going to make it shortly. His conversation with Elizabeth Warren, there was no offer, no ask. They spent an hour and 50 minutes together. And 90 percent of it was talking about issues, and 10 percent — 10 minutes or so about politics.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s speculate here.

David, if he did decide to get in, what would be the pros? What would work for him if he got in, and what would be the problem?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, as Mark said, a guy from Scranton. He’s got some beautiful stories to tell.

Just a quick one. When his dad was unemployed in the Depression, got a job at a car dealer, and for the Christmas bonus, they were at a party and the car — the ownership of the dealership, as a bonus to the workers, threw a bunch of silver dollars on the dance floor and expected people to grab them and pick them up. And Joe Biden’s dad quit on the spot. He wasn’t going to be treated that way.

And that’s like an authentic part of life and that’s a sense of dignity that he was raised with. Joe Biden quotes his dad and mom all the time. When he campaigns, the entire family campaigns with him, his sister. So, all that stuff, that authentic stuff, is real.

And he’s sort of been chained for the past eight years. You can imagine he’s urging to express himself. So, he has some great natural vitality. As a campaigner, I remember following around him the last time. He would give a really good speech, and then two other speeches would come. And so he’s always had a problem controlling his tongue and keeping his temper. Maybe he’s going to be a little better at that.

But he’s a lovable guy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see as the pros and cons if he gets in?

MARK SHIELDS: The pros, Judy, are basically, as Secretary Clinton — the Democratic Party has as its whole card is empathy, and that is a sense on the part of voters that they care about people like me.

In 2012, there were four presidential qualities that the exit poll of voters on the Election Day. They asked, who has vision to the future, who’s a strong leader, who has — who shares your values? Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 10 points. Who cares about people like you, 81-18 Barack Obama.

Bill Clinton always had that. Bill Clinton, when you questioned his candor, his forthrightness, or his behavior, there was always a sense he cares about ordinary people, there is a real commitment there.

She, in this latest Quinnipiac poll, national poll yesterday, you know…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton?

MARK SHIELDS: Hillary Clinton. Who’s ahead, who’s behind us doesn’t mean anything.

They asked, who cares about people, the needs of someone like you? And she was 46 percent agree, 51 percent disagree. I mean, that is a killer. Joe Biden has a far more positive rating, as does Bernie Sanders.

I mean, with Hillary Clinton, the first woman candidate and a Democrat who has been — Children’s Defense Fund and health care and all the rest of it — that’s a real problem. I don’t care how many endorsements you have got, how many superdelegates you have got. That becomes a real problem.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is her perceived weakness that — as you said, Mark, that has generated all this talk around Biden and the consideration presumably by Biden.

But, David, how vulnerable is she really? She’s out this week. She’s taking responsibility for the decisions she made on the personal e-mail server. She’s talking about how she’s — she’s talking about a little bit tougher on the campaign trail, comparing how Republicans view women with how terrorists view women.

Is she turning this around? I mean, how do you see her vulnerability?

DAVID BROOKS: I think she’s both an extremely likely nominee and also kind of weak.

And I just don’t think there’s a plausible alternative right now. So I think she’s going to be the nominee, but her weaknesses have been on display. The first is the e-mails. We don’t know. Things are going to come out. They have got the servers. They’re going to apparently be able to recapture some of these deleted e-mails, and some of those things may, may not come out, but that’s sitting out there.

Second, as I say, the establishment thing is a problem for her. And, third — and I think this is really the most serious one in a way — is, there is sort of just an unconscious boredom about her people. She doesn’t — I mean, the country sort of — people don’t — 30 percent think we’re headed in the right direction. There is a desire for something change — for something new.

And her events — I haven’t been to one of her events, but I’m reading them, seeing them on the TV. They don’t look exciting. They don’t look like they’re passionate. They don’t look new and fresh.

And so, when you have a campaign that’s not that creative, apparently, you have got a problem, and especially in a year like this, when a Bernie Sanders and a Donald Trump and somebody fast, new and at least vibrant seems to capture a lot of oxygen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, she’s also got the polls saying people talk about her — quote — “not being trustworthy,” not being honest. Is that real at this stage of the campaign?

MARK SHIELDS: It is.

I thought, again, the idea that where people volunteered a word about her — it was in one of the polls, Quinnipiac, poll — that doesn’t mean anything unless you narrow it down to Democrats and independents, because Republicans are going to cite what they find the most. The same thing if you are talking a Republican to Democrats.

So, but there’s no question there are doubts about that. The e-mail remains a problem. The other thing that’s a problem is that inevitability is not a campaign strategy. Now, people should be with us because we’re going to win. We’re going to win because people are with us.

And that’s not it. There isn’t a sense of purpose or energy or mission in the campaign thus far. I mean, she’s a — she was a very good candidate in 2008 at the end of the race, after she had been beaten badly in states like Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and Texas. She was a lot better candidate than Barack Obama was at the end.

But David mentioned Bernie Sanders. Could I just talk about him?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I wanted to ask you both about that.

MARK SHIELDS: OK. OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Because we’re sitting here talking about Hillary Clinton’s problems. We’re talking about Joe Biden may or may not get in.

Bernie Sanders, meantime, still drawing big crowds, David, pulling ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, a crucial first primary state. Is he looking any more plausible?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I’m a little more humbled about it than I was.

I thought he wasn’t plausible at all. And the thought was sometimes parties elect or nominate a candidate who is unelectable, but not that unelectable. And I still think he’s sort of unelectable. The country is just not as far left as he is.

But I must say, the evidence is growing that his support is growing. I don’t know if it’s widening, though, and whether it’s widening out of the white university towns. And if he can do that, then you begin to think, well, maybe, maybe. But until he can do that, I still think it’s extremely unlikely that he will be the nominee.

But he will continue. He’s where the heart and — the economic heart and soul of the party is right now, and especially among progressives in university towns or places like Seattle. He’s right what they need. And he’s got the outsider thing, which is so big this year.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see Bernie Sanders?

MARK SHIELDS: I’m more impressed. I really am, and have been.

Before I became a pundit, I used to work in political campaigns, three presidential campaigns.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Oh, that’s what you were?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, no inaugural speeches, but three presidential campaigns and 38 different states.

And I can tell you, getting a crowd is a lot of work. It’s a lot of work. That’s why people don’t try and put crowds together. I mean, it requires — if you have got a ballroom that holds 500, you have got to have 750 there, because the last thing in the world you want is a press report that begins, speaking to a half-empty high school gymnasium, Senator Brooks said — outlined his program.

And the size and intensity and enthusiasm of a crowd drives press coverage, and it overcomes skepticism in the press and it enlists people. Bernie Sanders had 27,500 people in the sports arena in Los Angeles in August.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: A Democratic campaign event in Los Angeles is a party at Steven Spielberg’s house hosted by George Clooney.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: I mean, they don’t get 27,500 people. That is remarkable — 11,000 in Phoenix, I mean, 28,000 in Portland on a Sunday.

I mean, it’s — that is real intensity. Everything about Bernie Sanders, I think, translates it in a year when money is king. And Donald Trump, in a strange way, has been the greatest campaign finance reformer by pulling back the curtain and saying, this is how it works. I give money, the senator calls me back, and he does or she does what I want them to do.

And Bernie Sanders has raised an average contribution, 80 percent of his money, $31. I mean, it’s…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Small donors.

MARK SHIELDS: It’s small donors.

And I would say this, Judy. We in the press are not biblical scholars, but we love the David/Goliath story. And he is the David. And it is a message. He’s — it’s not the messenger. He’s not a charismatic, compelling personal figure. He has a compelling message.

And that, is, you know, to the — to Wall Street and the rest that you’re going to pay your fair share and you’re not going to get away with murder anymore.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re going to leave it there.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.

The post Shields and Brooks on Biden’s presidential pondering, voter perceptions of Clinton appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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Shields and Gerson on Trump’s immigration politics, Carter’s cancer news


Fri, Aug 21, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Donald Trump is holding on to his lead in the GOP presidential field. How are the other candidates adjusting? The Clinton e-mail saga shows no signs of letting up. And former President Jimmy Carter and his very public battle with cancer.

That brings us to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away.

Welcome to you both.

MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So let’s talk about Donald Trump. As we said, he’s holding up in the polls.

Mark, now that we’re a couple of months into this, do we know more about who Donald Trump is as a candidate, about what he really believes? Do we understand better what’s going on here?

MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure, Judy, to be very frank about it, how much we know about him.

We know what he’s publicly emphasizing. I mean, there’s a strong sort of Howard Beale cast to his — Howard Beale being the anchor in “Network,” the movie, played by Peter Finch, who coined the phrase “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” — there is a lot of that to him.

And he is to an electorate, particularly a Republican electorate, but electorate in general, that by a 2-1 country think the country is headed in the wrong direction, thinks their children’s future is not going to be as bright as their own, and many in the base who are concerned about the changes in the country, and its racial composition and its social mores, the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

There is a dissatisfaction, an anger, an unexpressed anger. And I think Donald Trump has — is addressing that. And he does it in a flamboyant, sort of unbossed, unbought way that is beholden to nobody, seemingly, no interest groups, except his own interests.

So I’m not sure. There is a lot of sense — the perception is there, but I’m not sure there’s a core.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you feel, Michael, we have got a better handle on what he’s trying to say?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, what we have seen is his first policy initiative. He set out an immigration policy. It was thin, six pages. It was not very detailed, but it included changes to the protections of the 14th Amendment on birthright citizenship and mass deportations.

So this is a person, Trump, who, three years ago, which is not very long ago, criticized Mitt Romney’s self-deportation plan as maniacal and mean-spirited. And now we’re going to from self-deportation to forced mass deportation.

This is crossing a lot of lines in the Republican Party. I think it’s quite serious and I think it could damage the Republican Party for decades to come to be associated with this approach.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does he explain how he’s made that turn?

MICHAEL GERSON: I don’t think he — there’s no explanation.

Whenever he’s caught in changes, he just doubles down. And his support seems to stay, you know, the same. But he is, in a moment where there is a lot of partisan anger, there’s a lot of candidates, 18 or so Republican candidates, so he’s in a field where he can stand out.

And — but — and he probably has a ceiling of support. I don’t think he’s going to get the Republican nomination, but he’s at 20 percent in the polls and driving the debate on immigration in very dangerous ways.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, he’s taking some — I mean, he’s making these statements that get a lot of attention.

As Michael said, he came out this week with his position on immigration. What effect does is that having on these other candidates in the Republican side, the other 16 of them?

MARK SHIELDS: When the central issue in the campaign is set by the front-runner, then — and that is perceived as contributing to that front-runner being the front-runner, whether it’s anti-busing with George Wallace, whether it was opposition to the Iraq War with Barack Obama in 2008, there’s a natural gravitational pull on the rest to say, I have got to close the gap between them, a little me-too-ism, a certain aping of the front-runner.

I think we have seen that this week, certainly, conspicuously in the case of Scott Walker, who sort of — the governor of Wisconsin, who seems to be shadowing Trump’s philosophical movement.

At the same time, Judy, let’s be very blunt about this. There’s a mean-spiritedness in the electorate he’s appealing to. I mean, when the CNN poll asks, which of all the candidates do you agree with on immigration, by a 4-1 margin, Republican primary voters say Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, whatever else he is, his — his position is anti-immigrant overall. It is devastating — Michael is absolutely right — it is devastating to the Republican Party in the long run, because Asian voters, the fastest growing minority in the country, who supported George H.W. Bush when he lost badly in ’92, voted even more Democratic than Latinos…

MICHAEL GERSON: Forty-seven percent of Asians voted against…

JUDY WOODRUFF: But hurting them in the long run, but in the short run, it’s helping him with the primary, with the Republican primary voters, right?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, there are members, I completely agree, who want to be pale versions of Trump, which I think is hurting them and hurting the party.

Walker has been everywhere on all sides of the birthright citizenship issue and really shown, I think, that he’s not playing in the big leagues, he’s not prepared, he’s not thoughtful in these areas.

But you do have Rubio and Bush, who, eventually, one of them, I believe, will emerge as the anti-Trump, make a very strong argument on the other side, and as candidates, as other…

JUDY WOODRUFF: On this birthright question, on immigration.

MICHAEL GERSON: On immigration as a whole and his whole approach to politics.

And it’s going to be very important. I mean, what Trump is appealing to has more of a feel of European right-wing politics, OK, UKIP or the National Front, highly nationalistic, resentment of foreigners, we have been betrayed by our leaders.

There is some deep and disturbing things that are being appealed to here. And that’s the role of leadership. There’s always populist trends. Good leaders take those trends and direct them in ways that serve the public good. Bad leaders feed those trends to serve themselves, and that’s exactly what Trump is doing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you get a…

MARK SHIELDS: I’d just point out, Judy, 25 percent in a 17-candidate field is very impressive. Twenty-five percent in a three-way race, you’re a loser.

I agree with Michael that both Rubio and Jeb Bush, each is waiting for the other to go first in attacking Trump, because they want to be the remainder man against Donald Trump, because they don’t think Donald Trump in the final analysis is a majority candidate.

What they risk is, what Trump is doing and saying becomes so odious and offensive that it almost will be seen as a moral surrender on your part, ultimately, in the general election that you didn’t stand up to him. And I think that’s a real risk that anybody runs by not confronting him at this point.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to turn us to the other party, to Hillary Clinton, Michael. The e-mail controversy, there was more evidence this week that there are real investigations going on, questions about whether these e-mails, either they were marked — if they weren’t marked confidential to begin with, they should have been marked confidential.

The question, she’s taking this on, she had a news conference, she’s talking to reporters about it. Do you think — do you see any sign that she’s getting ahead of this issue? Is she overwhelmed by it? What do you see?

MICHAEL GERSON: No, these events are undermining her main argument, that this is somehow a political attack. Now you have the federal judge questioning her conduct this week. You have the FBI. You have the inspector general of the intelligence community.

This is not a partisan deal. This is going to be determined by real investigations. So I think that’s — and you can see the trouble she’s in from the defenses she’s made. There’s now been three of them. The first one is, there were no classified documents. She said that, right?

Then she said, there was nothing classified at the time. That turned out to be untrue. And now she said she didn’t send marked documents, OK? When you take — you find — when you get top-secret clearance and you commit to protecting this material, that’s not the standard. You’re responsible for negligence. You’re responsible for mishandling of material.

It’s not just the standard she said. And so she’s lost control of events. She tried to control things so close by saying, I want to control my own information, I want to be able to destroy it. She controlled it in such a way that it attracted attention and is now beyond her control.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, The New York Times broke the story six months ago about her private server. And, quite bluntly, we have gone from a time when the investigation appeared to be motivated by the Republicans on the Hill, with the Benghazi story and all the rest of it.

Now we have a federal judge appointed by Bill Clinton who’s directed the FBI, and this is going to be around for months, and it’s no longer just a partisan witch-hunt. It’s an official investigation, with all the implications that that involves. It’s going to be — it’s going to color and influence her campaign from here on in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you think she’s handling it?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t think — I think that, at the outset — you just should have turned, I guess, everything over right at the outset and say that I have nothing to hide, including my e-mails about Chelsea’s wedding. I mean, I don’t know what else — you know, or how pleased or displeased I am with the gender of my grandchild when it’s announced.

But, you know, quite bluntly, it’s a — there’s no upside on this for her politically.

MICHAEL GERSON: And she’s had a really terrible launch to her candidacy. There’s been a series of questions, a series of things that she’s been defensive on.

And there are now Democrats thinking in the back of their mind, do we need a plan B? I think that’s very real. This has gone from a very small chance of implosion to maybe a larger chance, where Democrats are saying that Sanders can’t carry the ball into the election, and there may need to be someone else.

There is no one obvious, to be honest. But I think those questions have now been raised in a serious way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There was a report today, Mark, that — and Michael — that Vice President Biden is asking some technical questions about mounting a campaign, but we will see. I mean, I think he’s indicated he will make a decision.

MARK SHIELDS: Joe Biden, like every other presidential candidate, still dreams about being elected president. I mean, it doesn’t go away. It is a lifelong affliction or inspiration.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we saw this week someone who was president decades ago, former President Jimmy Carter, I think, very gracefully handled the bad news, the bad medical health news he got in terms of a diagnosis of cancer, melanoma that has spread to his brain.

Mark, this is somebody who’s been — he’s been out of the White House for 35, 40 years. And yet — I mean, what do you make of this? It was quite a remarkable performance, that news conference yesterday.

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS: It was, in fact, Judy.

We’re in an era — I think Michael would agree — totally, aggressively secular, where church membership is in decline. And yet, in the last couple of months, we have seen two examples of the value, the social value, as well as the individual value, of religious faith.

We saw it at the AME Church, the families, survivors of those victims forgiving the killer who was racially motivated. And we see it in Jimmy Carter, who has devoted his post-presidency to improving the cause of those less fortunate, but showed such grace and courage and humor and faith in the face of this just daunting and dooming news.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As somebody who covered the Carter White House a long time ago, Michael, I was struck by the humor — as Mark says, the humor.

He said he’d gotten calls from former President — both Presidents Bush and President Obama and Secretary — he said, “Of course, I hadn’t heard from them in a long time.”

MICHAEL GERSON: Right, yes.

Well, we often get examples of how to live, live healthy, how to live successfully. There’s a lot of emphasis on this. But we don’t really get examples of how we approach death. This is a really good example.

Now, he — it’s not imminent in his case. He’s seeking treatment. He wants to live longer and may well live longer. But there is a calmness, there is a grace, and there is a courage about what he said that’s an example of how you deal with the end.

And he also dealt with it with gratitude, talking about how grateful he was for his life. That’s a real model for all of us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It is. And we saw that the medicine he’s getting is something that’s only been available for the last year or so.

We certainly wish him well.

Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, great to see you both. Thank you.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

MICHAEL GERSON: Good to see you.

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Brooks and Corn on Cuba as campaign issue, Jeb Bush on Islamic State blame


Fri, Aug 14, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: That does bring us now to the analysis of Brooks and Corn. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine David Corn. He’s also a contributor to MSNBC. Mark Shields is away.

And, gentlemen, welcome.

So, Cuba, let’s — David, let’s talk about that, historic moment today. You already have Republican candidates, though, like Marco Rubio, we just heard from him, Jeb Bush, saying this is a big mistake by the Obama administration. Is this going to be an issue in the 2016 presidential race?

DAVID BROOKS: Not in the general. It will be in the primary.

If you want to win a Republican primary, you have to be against — you have to be pro-embargo. That’s where the electorate is. But unlike all past elections, A, the Cuban-American population is not as big. They’re not the majority of Hispanics, even in Florida. And, second, this is one of those issues where generational change matters a lot.

Older Cuban-Americans are very pro-embargo, the younger ones not much. And so among the population as a whole, it’s very evenly divided. And so I have trouble believing that it will be a big general election issue and that it will hurt Democrats, even in Florida.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

DAVID CORN: What is interesting is that Marco Rubio, who puts himself as the face for the future, fresh leadership, and going against Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton, is tied to the position of the past; 54 years hasn’t worked.

And David is right. There has been a tremendous shift. If you look at the polling coming out of Florida International University, right now, a majority of all Cuban-Americans support Obama’s policy. And if you break it down by age, it’s overwhelming. It’s close to 60 percent for people who are the younger half of the population, or, interestingly enough, if you came here after 1980.

So it’s really just the people who came here early and who are old, who may be Republican primary voters in certain places, who are holding onto the vestiges of this policy. But, otherwise, it’s going to the wayside.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not — even in the margins, you don’t see it making a difference?

DAVID CORN: No. If there is a competitive Florida primary at some point for the Republicans, yes, but in the general election, this is a looking-backward position. It’s a minority position. It won’t help any Republican in the general contest.

DAVID BROOKS: And in — and the primary, maybe Rubio has a little more credibility because he’s Cuban-American, but they all have the same position.

It’s sort of an interesting race politically. I think we really could get down to the Florida primary between Bush and Rubio. And they’re polling kind of even. In the general election, neither are guaranteed to deliver Florida for the Republicans.

One thing I didn’t learn until today, none of them, neither Rubio nor Bush, in all their races, they have never run in a presidential year. And the electorate in Florida is quite different obviously in a presidential year than it is in the years they have run.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, something else Jeb Bush brought up this week was — as an issue in the race was going after Hillary Clinton, blaming her and the Obama administration for — essentially for helping create ISIS.

And he said that with the Obama administration did under her leadership as secretary of state was to leave an opening, pulling the troops out, he said, too early in 2011. Is this something, David Corn, that he can get some mileage?

DAVID CORN: I mean, I have to laugh a little bit, because I think he was setting a record for chutzpah.

I mean, it wasn’t until after his brother’s invasion of Iraq that you had something called al-Qaida in Iraq. And that was the group that morphed into ISIS. So ISIS is a direct result of the war in Iraq right there. And so he’s wrong on the history.

But then he said what happened was that Obama and Hillary Clinton orchestrated this quick withdrawal after everything was secure. Nothing was really secure in 2009-2010. You can ask Tom Ricks about that. But it was George W. Bush in December 2008 who created the agreement with Prime Minister Maliki that said that U.S. troops had to be out by 2011.

And then Obama didn’t renegotiate that. And there is a lot of question as to whether he could even have, given the political situation in Baghdad itself. So Bush is totally — Jeb Bush is totally rewriting this. And my question is, why is he even talking about Iraq?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. He wants to have an anti-terror foreign policy.

I give him a little more credit, of course. I think the war did help create al-Qaida in Iraq. So, both parties have something to answer for. Ultimately, ISIS created ISIS. It wasn’t us, but allowing the environment — so the Bush administration, the failed war, that had a — some contributory factor.

I do think that we abandoned Iraq too quickly, left too quickly, left a void in the Sunni areas, which ISIS was completely happy to fill. But more important — and this is a bigger indictment of the Obama administration — we did nothing about the Syrian civil war. And that created the biggest void.

And that’s not necessarily Hillary Clinton’s fault because she was arguing for a more aggressive policy. Nonetheless, we did nothing. Even today, our attacks on ISIS are paltry, and we have continue to do nothing. And there are strategic issues. There are just moral issues.

Today, my newspaper had a front-page story on just rape academies, this institutionalized rape. And the fact that we can stand by and do nothing while this is happening, to me, that’s an indictment of the sitting administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Extraordinary story. We interview the reporter, Rukmini Callimachi, last night. It is just such a disturbing story.

But does he have a point, though, David?

DAVID CORN: I think you can have a policy dispute or debate, a discussion about what should be done, what has been done in the last three, four years regarding ISIS and Iraq.

You can’t blame Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for giving us ISIS, which is what Jeb Bush did. And if he wants to get to brass tacks and talk about what he’s willing to do in terms of putting in troops and taking on targeting that hasn’t been done already — I mean, Barack Obama has mounted thousands of airstrikes.

And the real question is, at the end of the day, can the U.S. go in and make a difference? We have learned with the invasion of Iraq that military might doesn’t always give us what we want in this region.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s — his criticism was aimed at Hillary Clinton, which raises another question this week. She’s not only dealing with that, but, in a larger sense, she’s dealing the e-mails, her server now turned over to the FBI, questions about whether a couple of them were marked top secret.

She’s now — she’s facing Bernie Sanders being ahead of her in the polls in New Hampshire, David. She — there is talk, there is serious talk about Joe Biden, Vice President Biden looking at running as a Democrat, and even a rumor today about Al Gore.

What’s going on in the Democratic Party? Is Hillary Clinton more vulnerable than anybody thought?

DAVID BROOKS: Obviously.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: And a lot of people thought it. A, she’s a good candidate. She’s not a fantastic candidate. She’s not creativity — creative — and imagination is really important when you’re running for office.

But, to me, the biggest problem — and the joke is she carries more baggage than United Airlines. Just over the years, she’s accumulated all this stuff. And the e-mails are a reminder of that.

The biggest problem for her is, she’s running in the wrong year. She is a dominant candidate. I still think she’s going to get the nomination because there’s no alternative. But she’s the establishment. She’s purely the establishment. This is a country where only three in 10 Americans think their views are represented in Washington. Only 29 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right place.

This is a country especially wanting some sort of structural change, whether they know what that structural change is or not. And that’s especially true on the progressive side. And so she’s running against the prevailing winds of our current moment. And she can fight all she wants, but it’s going to be a fight because she’s in the wrong year.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think she’s really more vulnerable?

DAVID CORN: Well, I don’t think she’s vulnerable in the sense that other Democratic nominees can take her out.

I think Bernie Sanders can win New Hampshire, but often nominees lose some primaries going on. I find it hard to see how he — even if he does that, beats her in long run. I haven’t seen Martin O’Malley gain any traction. Al Gore’s office — he’s already shut down the office.

Joe Biden could be a bit of the problem. But I know people close to him who have been talking about this. The consideration is real. It’s really happening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He really is talking about it?

DAVID CORN: But if you’re looking — there were two establishment front-running candidates in this presidential race. One is Hillary Clinton. And she is at pretty high in the polls, most standings, for Democrats in most places.

And then there is Jeb Bush, who is 5 percent in Iowa. So, I mean, he is — I would rather be her than him at this point in time if you have to be an establishment front-running candidate.

But the e-mail stuff, maybe it’s good that they’re litigating this early. But it does bring back at least what people in the political media world don’t — complain about the Clintons. I don’t know if that is going to be a pressing issue a year from now.

And, you know, for her, I think it’s good if there is a lot of story going on about other races. It’s hard to be the center of attention for a year-and-a-half and give speeches and not do much else, and have people still feel good about you at the end of the race.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, there is an argument, David, that if — to have all this talk and have the race roiling around a little bit, and then if she emerges victorious, she has accomplished more than if she’s just been the assumed person all along. What do you think?

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: It’s better to be the Yankees than to be the Amazin’ Mets.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID CORN: Hey, hey, I like the Mets.

DAVID BROOKS: That is something we have in common.

But, listen, she just hasn’t — as I said, her party is riled up. They think there are big structural problems in the economy. Bernie Sanders speaks to that. She doesn’t yet. She’s trying, she’s catching up, but it doesn’t seem authentic to her. Is she really going to talk about inequality, given how cozy she’s been, how rich she’s been, the lifestyle?

It’s just more of a challenge for her to side with where the energy of the party is. And I meet so many people…

DAVID CORN: Well, that happens in Democratic primaries.

If you look at like Bill Clinton 1988 vs. Jerry Brown — John Kerry beat Howard Dean. John Kerry didn’t win ultimately. But, sometimes — with Barack Obama, he was in the sweet spot, right, where the energy and the passion of the party was. But that’s not always the person who gets the nomination and goes on to win or get a good shot at it.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

No, I agree with that.

I mean, she — Bernie Sanders has white progressives. The party is much more multiracial. And so he has got to limit — O’Malley made a good joke today that he has avoided the problem of peaking too early.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Which he has.

So, she’s still — there’s still no alternative. And that’s why Jeb Bush is — he has got at least five real alternatives.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of a roiled-up party, Donald Trump has been dismissed by everybody from one end of the spectrum to the other, but he is just — David Corn, he seems to be just getting stronger.

DAVID CORN: Oh, yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He’s going to Iowa. He’s landing in a helicopter at the Iowa State Fair tomorrow. He’s in the catbird seat, at least this weekend.

DAVID CORN: And I think will be for months to come.

I think it was foolish to dismiss him, not because as him. He comes across as a reality TV tycoon buffoon. But the people who are, you know, attracted to him are a real important part of the Republican primary base. You know, a lot of Republicans still believe that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, that he’s some sort of secret socialist and secret Muslim who has a secret plan to destroy the United States.

And they just really don’t like him. And so they want somebody who’s going to vent their fears, their frustrations, not someone who’s for good government with policies. And that bloc is anywhere between 10 percent and maybe 25 percent. And in a divided field, that gives Donald Trump, if he speaks to these people, yes, what he said, this outsized influence.

I don’t think that bloc is going away, and Trump isn’t going away.

DAVID BROOKS: I agree Trump isn’t going away, but he’s not going to get votes. I think his voters are…

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: You think he’s not going to get votes…

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: I think much less than he polls. He will poll really well. I think he will hang around 20 forever.

But he — his voters are what they call low-information voters, that is to say, people who don’t pay attention to politics. And this is a conservative party, and he is not a conservative. He’s against entitlement reform. He’s for a single-payer health care system. His ideology is not left/right. It’s winners and losers. And I’m a winner, and all those people up — that you don’t like and you feel alienated by, they’re a bunch of losers.

And so it’s not a classic ideology. I think he will get it because — for the reasons I said it earlier. For the same reason Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are struggling, he’s rising. He’s at the moment where the country wants some sort of weird insurgency with a lot of ego. And that’s him.

And so he’s at the moment of the times, but I don’t think those people are going to show up. And he will just hang around at 20 percent forever, but somebody will eventually beat him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we keep talking about him every Friday. So, we will see how long it lasts.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, he continues to be an incredibly gross human being.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: The comments about Megyn Kelly….

DAVID CORN: Well, you know…

JUDY WOODRUFF: They get some comments.

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

David Brooks, David Corn, it’s good to have you with us.

DAVID CORN: Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on GOP debate standouts, Schumer’s Iran deal rejection


Fri, Aug 07, 2015


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

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, the first debate among, David, 10 of the 17 Republicans running for president last night, what’s your assessment?

DAVID BROOKS: It was great. It was a great debate. Trump brings the party, and I hope he stays. Maybe in the general, they can stick him in. I thought he was — he livens the atmosphere. He’s not a real candidate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He’s not a real candidate?

DAVID BROOKS: No. He doesn’t have an ideology. He doesn’t have a belief system.

He has himself. And they went after him, the three excellent moderators. And he defended himself and I think he did fine. Probably 70 percent of Republicans disapprove of him. A lot of the things he said were astonishingly inappropriate, that he wouldn’t support the Republican Party nominee. That’s kind of a big one. He likes single-payer health system. That’s the first Republican that sort of likes that.

He is outside of all the categories, but he is a lord of self-esteem. And his main message is society is filled with losers, and they happen to be running it, and society has some winners who are being ignored. And if you’re a winner like me, we got to get rid of those losers.

And that’s an ideology that is not a political ideology. It is a narcissistic ideology. But I suspect the 20 percent who like him will continue to like him and like him even more. And so he will be hanging around there.

Among the real candidates, I thought Rubio did quite well. Carly Fiorina in the underdebate card did quite well. And John Kasich did quite well. And so I think those three helped themselves and they actually are viable candidates and make us rethink the race.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you size it up, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know where to agree and where — no.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: I agree. Donald Trump fills up the hall. There were 24 million people who watched. That’s more people than had ever watched a cable event, other than a sports event.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Huge numbers.

MARK SHIELDS: And this was a sports event.

Donald Trump indicated right at the outset he is going to run as Donald Trump. And I thought it was an indication of the magic he has established, the chemistry he has with Republican voters, that the only person on the stage, candidate who would even take a shot at him was Rand Paul.

All the others ducked him, John Kasich included, Jeb Bush included, when given opportunities. Who went after him? The three FOX moderators, who were tough. They really did. And I really think he made a serious mistake by going, retaliating, attacking Megyn Kelly. First of all…

JUDY WOODRUFF: When she asked him about his comments about women.

MARK SHIELDS: Asked him about women, his misogynist comments.

First of all, FOX News is the validator, it’s the gatekeeper for Republican, particularly conservative voters. And you don’t go after — it is not like you’re attacking Chuck Todd or Judy Woodruff or some of the liberal elite establishment. You’re attacking the mother church when you go after FOX.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s make a distinction here, please. I’m not part of the liberal media.

MARK SHIELDS: No, but I’m talking about by the definition of conservative America, where FOX really is the gatekeeper — I think you would agree, the gatekeeper and the validator.

And when he went after her, I think he made a serious mistake. I thought, as far as the others were concerned…

JUDY WOODRUFF: You don’t think he helped himself?

MARK SHIELDS: I think he hurt himself. I really do.

He’s a combination quite unlike anything I have ever seen before. I agree partially with David that it is sort of egotism and cynicism. Everybody is transactional. You believe nothing. Why do you give money to Democrats? You give money to Democrats because you are going to give them a call and they’re going to do what you want.

Everything. There’s no ideal. John Kennedy said he was an idealist without illusions. Donald Trump is a cynic without illusions. Nothing is on the level. You go into bankruptcy four times. You screw the investors. Hey, that’s the way it’s done now.

I just — I thought he came across really, by having taken on FOX News, and particularly Chris Wallace and Bret Baier, and particularly Megyn Kelly, I think he made a mistake.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you said, David, a minute ago you thought Marco Rubio did well and you thought John Kasich did well. What stood out?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. So,

Rubio has a message. The message is, America is changing fast. I’m surrounded by a bunch of old guys who don’t get it. And I get it. I get Amazon. I get Airbnb. That’s actually a pretty good message. And it goes with his belief system. And he presents very well. And he’s very articulate and well-spoken and smart. And so he has a message.

Kasich has a different message, which is unique and I think reflective also of the times, which is we need growth, but we need compassion. And so he defends some of the New Deal social programs, even Great Society social programs. But he said we got to grow. And then once we grow, we got to share.

And early in the program, we had his passage on going to a marriage of a gay friend. That is a broadening message. That is actually a general election message. And Rubio also has a general election message. And so if you are a Republican mainstreamer, and you are trying to think, who can win, well, walking in, you thought, well, Jeb Bush appeals to a lot of people.

And we all go around the country and we hear a lot people who are not particularly political, but they think, Jeb Bush, he seems acceptable. He was meh at the debate. He was fine, but not terrible, not great. But these two guys have something new, and something that actually could be viable. And you know, Florida and Ohio, if those two are on the ticket, you’re doing OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, but you see some delineation there? I mean, there’s now some — more separation between these candidates as a result of this debate?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Yes. It wasn’t — nobody has called — I will say the person who probably had the best night was Carly Fiorina.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Who was on earlier. She wasn’t even in the big debate.

MARK SHIELDS: She was on the early one.

And Mark Russell, the great satirist, said, who won the 5:00 debate? Carly Fiorina. Who won the 9:00 debate? Carly Fiorina. I think she represents something Republicans need. They want her on that stage, because when she goes after Hillary Clinton, again, we can’t be accused of misogyny if it’s a woman doing it.

And she does it quite effectively. I thought Marco Rubio had a good night. Marco Rubio plays better to the punditocracy, those of us who cover it, than he has directly to voters. His numbers have not been great. He doesn’t seem to have a base. But he really — I thought he handled himself quite well last night.

I wasn’t as impressed as other — David and others were with John Kasich. He was given the opportunity by Chris Wallace after Donald Trump made this outrageous statement about Mexico, the government is sending criminals across the border. And Chris Wallace asked him for any evidence. He had no evidence.

He said, I was at the Border Patrol, had a visit in Laredo. And he said, what about that? He said, no, we’re doing it because American politicians and leaders are dumb, and the Mexican government is smart. And they’re sticking us with the bill. And he turns to John Kasich and he said, what about that, Governor? And John Kasich said, Donald Trump has touched into something in America, instead of confronting him.

I just — I thought that Rubio had a good, good night. And Jeb Bush was wallpaper. There was no sense of command to him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Whoa. That’s tough.

Just quickly, if both of you think Fiorina had a good night, what does that say though about the system that is leaving the other seven, the people who don’t make the cut of 10, apart in a separate event? What does it say about…

DAVID BROOKS: There’s a super bad problem with the polls, which is they’re polling everybody. They’re not polling people who are actually going to vote.

And Donald Trump’s voters are what they call low-information voters. They’re classically the kind of people who don’t vote in primaries. In some sense, his lead is completely — not completely, but largely artificial.

Meanwhile, we have been hearing on the campaign trail there’s been a buzz about Fiorina for a couple months. And so she just got to show it to a broader audience. But she has earned her way into the next calendar.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quick questions about the Democrats.

Earlier this week, Mark, a lot of reporting about whether or not Joe Biden may get into the race. There’s some fairly reliable reporting that he’s thinking about it. Pros, cons.

MARK SHIELDS: He’s thinking about it.

Judy, he ran for first time in 1988. He ran in 2008. He’s been vice president for eight years. It’s always been in his DNA to run for president. And Hillary Clinton’s numbers in the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll took a bad tumble between June and August.

Among women, she now has a negative rating. This was supposed to be her golden source of support to give her the new coalition. It has to be tempting at this point. I don’t think anybody knows. I would bet that he doesn’t, but it’s got to be tempting if she starts to look very vulnerable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Pros and cons?

DAVID BROOKS: He shouldn’t do it. He shouldn’t do it. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man. He’s a great public servant.

This country and especially the Democratic Party is in the mood for systemic change and something fundamental, different. They don’t want a sign of the establishment running their party. That’s what she is facing. She’s in a dominant position, but the tide is against her. The mood of the times are against her. The mood of the times are certainly against him.

So you got to pick your year. It’s not his year. If he runs, I think he will do some damage to his long-term reputation.

MARK SHIELDS: He doesn’t have a lot of other years to choose, David.

DAVID BROOKS: Well…

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will talk about that.

Very different subject here at the end, the Iran nuclear deal. The president gave another passionate defense this week, made a speech at American University. He has had a number of Democrats come out, Mark, in favor, but he lost a big one in Senator Chuck Schumer last night.

How significant is that? Is the president making any headway with this argument?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, the president is. He needs a third plus one in either the House or the Senate, one of the two.

And, obviously, Jewish members, including such as Chuck Schumer, are very much a target, because of, understandably, Israel’s position; 92 countries have endorsed this nuclear agreement, Judy, including Lebanon and Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Jordan, as well as…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Egypt.

MARK SHIELDS: … great American ally, Egypt, but — Algeria.

But the United States here, there is a real premium on Sandy Levin of Michigan supporting it. Chuck Schumer is an important legislator. He’s going to be the next Democratic leader. The fact that Kirsten Gillibrand, his colleague in New York and very close, at the same time came out in support of the president’s position may indicate that Chuck Schumer is not going to spend a lot of time, effort, energy trying to proselytize other members.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How significant is this?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, first of all, I don’t think Bibi Netanyahu’s opposition has anything to with Chuck Schumer’s opposition or the Israeli position has anything to do — I think it’s a terrible deal not because Israel does.

I just think it’s a terrible deal that will endanger the Middle East for generations to come. And I’m sure Schumer came to the same conclusion. In the public opinion, Obama is losing the argument. The latest poll I saw was 2-1 against among the American public. And, frankly, I thought Obama’s speech — he’s a great speechmaker, he’s a great arguer. Certainly one of his weakest speeches, in which you’re sitting on the fence.

It’s a close issue. He says, oh, it’s not a close issue. It’s transparently a close issue. It’s a tough debate. Second, if you are on the fence, he was insulting you in your thinking that, you’re so stupid. You were wrong in the past.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Equating it with opposing — or going to war in Iran.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It was just, I found, a very high-handed speech designed to offend, not to persuade.

MARK SHIELDS: I really — I do think Judy, quite frankly, that the president is making the same case that Ronald Reagan made in dealing with the Soviets, negotiating with Iran. They’re not nice people. They’re not good people, but it is important. And I think he’s making the case.

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

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Shields and Brooks on police body cameras, previewing first presidential debate


Fri, Jul 31, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: From the shooting, police shooting in Cincinnati, to rising expectations for the first Republican presidential debate, it’s been a full week.

And it leads us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome.

So, Mark, this shooting in Cincinnati of a black man by a white policeman, the video released this week, there is no question — there appears to be no question about what happened. Why do these things keep happening?

MARK SHIELDS: I wish I knew, Judy. I mean, I do — I have never heard, quite frankly, a prosecuting attorney, like Joe Deters did, just come right out and say this was essentially murder.

But I have to say, I am encouraged by the use of body cameras. This is — where it’s been tried, where it’s been used, endorsed by the National Association of Chiefs of Police, it has led to the diminution of violence. We learned as kids that character is how we conduct ourselves when nobody else is looking.

This is a great incentive to character. We know it’s not — it’s good for police as well. A bogus charge of sexual harassment against a police officer was totally discredited by the presence of these cameras. But, in answer to your question, I do not have an answer.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s — David, and we don’t know if there is any connection, but we reported earlier tonight the city of Baltimore has had a record number of homicides, gun deaths just in the last month. And yet these incidents continue.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Well, you know, I suspect — my theory would be that these things have always been happening, and we just haven’t known about it and talked about it, or without the cop cam in this case, we probably wouldn’t know about this at all. It would just be an invisible case for most of us.

And so I’m ambivalent about cop cams, because I think a lot of what police is, they go into homes of people at their most vulnerable moments. I’m a little nervous about the cameras in those circumstances. I’m also a little nervous about the way the camera may interfere with trust, a trusting relationship with a civilian and a police officer.

Nevertheless, in this case, it’s a clear, obvious good thing that we have the cam. We can find out exactly what happened. And it’s very clear. He shot the guy when he was in his car. And so I do think this is a case where finally we have the technology that gives us the information.

As to why the murder rates are rising, my reading of the research on this is that first there’s a lot of gang activity and a lot of it is extremely localized. But if police — we have seen all these cases of police abuse. But the police are there for a reason and they generally do good and they generally prevent crime.

And if the police are being a little less aggressive, sometimes for good reason, it’s not totally surprising you’re going to see an uptick in crime.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think, Judy, cameras, not that they’re a panacea, but I do think they’re going to help restore the relationship and trust in the police.

I think they’re good for the police, quite honestly. And there’s no question that there’s been a breach in the trust between urban — especially urban community, African-American and minority communities and the police in major American cities.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A tough thing to watch this week.

All right, let’s turn to presidential politics.

David, we are six days away now from the first debate. The Republicans are going to meet in Cleveland, I guess 10 of the now 17 Republicans. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore jumped in the race today. What do we expect? This is the first time we are going to see 10 of the 17 together.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, what’s Trump? Is this a Donald Trump reality show with nine supporting actors?

That is to me the big story, whether he is able to dominate with his own voice, whether everyone, as they have been doing off camera in the last week, just try to get some publicity for themselves by attacking him, whether he becomes the central figure, or whether they try to ignore him.

I hope they try to ignore him and just let the thing ride itself out. But to me, that’s the — he still remains, perversely, the big issue here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think is going to happen? What do you expect?

MARK SHIELDS: Here’s what’s going to happen, Judy.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: No, I go back to the Democratic race in 2004, when Howard Dean was the front-runner. And at the first debate, Dick Gephardt, the Democratic challenger who had won Iowa in 1988, took him on directly, to Dean, and said he wasn’t a real Democrat.

And the problem is, when you have got a multicandidate field — and you have got 17, but this time you are going to have 10 on the stage — when A goes after B in a two-person race, then either A pays a price for the charge if it’s true, or B benefits from the charge if in fact it exposes A’s shortcoming.

But when A goes after B and there’s a C, and D and a Q all lined up there, you have no idea who’s going to be the beneficiary. I don’t think there’s any question that there will be an effort to go after Donald Trump. I think…

JUDY WOODRUFF: But why isn’t that — isn’t that just going to make him…

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS: Well, no, but you have to do it. You have to bring him down to earth.

This is a man who was pro-choice. Now he’s pro-life. He’s for single-payer health insurance. He’s at odds philosophically through his career, his support of Democratic candidates, large checks for Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in the past, explains now that everybody is transactional.

You want to bring him down if you’re his opponent, if you’re charging him. I think Chris Christie will go after him most directly, because Chris Christie had already preordained for himself the role of the no-nonsense, tell it like it is, straight from the shoulder, and Donald Trump has totally preempted that.

But, no, I think it’s going to be fascinating. I think it’s always, Judy — debates are important even this early.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even this early.

MARK SHIELDS: Even this early.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, what is to stop — Donald Trump has benefited, it seems to me, until now from the attacks. He’s gotten bigger and stronger.

DAVID BROOKS: I agree.

I think the normal logic doesn’t apply to Donald Trump. I think if you go after him, as he’s gone after all these Republicans, all these Republicans have gone after him, and what it illustrates is that there are nine of them or 16 of them and one of him, and that he is the one who stands out.

And a couple of things are happening here. One is, people always like an obnoxious middle-aged guy that tells it like it is. There’s a weakness for that. I built my whole career on that.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: But, second, he’s not like the rest of them. Somebody did a good speech analysis of the opening speeches all the candidates gave, and all the candidates had speeches using the same language, the same clusters of words. They’re all very similar, except for Donald Trump, different verbal style, different arguments, different words.

He just stands out. And as Mark has pointed out on this show a lot, if you have two or three decades of politicians attacking Washington, and he is the ultimate anti-Washington candidate, and they’re all sort of Washington, then attacking him is going to make him look even more exceptional and probably help him, at least in the short-term.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, if Donald Trump is getting bigger on the Republican side, Bernie Sanders continues to draw big crowds on the Democratic side.

There’s some question about whether he’s taking fans away or votes away from Hillary Clinton this early. But how do you explain this appeal of these two outspoken people with very different views, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump? What is out there going on? I saw a quote today from the Democratic pollster Peter Hart, where he said he thinks the American people are — he said a lot of people are scared, and they want somebody who is going to protect them.

MARK SHIELDS: I have great respect for Peter Hart. And I — that may very well explain part of the appeal.

But, to me, the appeal that they have in common is that they are essentially, as David put, out of the mold. Donald Trump is not your typical candidate that people have come to expect. He’s not tailoring his language to the moment.

Bernie Sanders, he is — what you see is what you get. I mean, there are a lot of Democrats who are still, at heart, disappointed that the people that they felt brought the nation to its knees in 2008-2009, Wall Street, the top 1 percent, have skated, they have never been held accountable, they have never gone to the bar of justice, nobody’s paid a price.

Bernie Sanders is the avenging angel. He’s the anti-candidate, Judy, in this sense. There’s no focus groups. He’s spent no money on polling, all right? There’s no pre-tested remarks. He just says exactly what he’s been saying. And I think that has appeal.

And the crowds you mentioned are truly impressive.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does that explain Bernie Sanders, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think so.

I mean, it’s not what you believe sometimes; it’s how you believe it. And Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have very — little different belief styles. I’m not sure Donald Trump believes in anything, except for his belief system sort of begins and ends with the morning mirror.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: But Sanders actually believes in this.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: And he’s intellectually consistent and he’s intellectually rigorous. I don’t agree with it, but it is a coherent belief system.

And, to me, his success is explained by the rapid and almost dam-breaking movement, intellectual movement of the Democratic base on economic issues further to the left. And so what had been an anchor of Democratic centrism, new Democrats, that anchor is gone. People are responding to what they perceive as the issues of the day, inequality, wage stagnation, and they are moving pretty far left very quickly.

And I think they’re — a lot of the Democratic base really intellectually is where Sanders is. And Hillary Clinton is trying to catch up, but, for her, it’s catchup. For him, it’s home base.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re right. We are hearing some of that from Hillary Clinton.

I do want to — in the couple minutes we have left, I want to ask you both about these super PAC — we’re supposed to be hearing tonight, Mark, the first filing — or the filing, fund-raising reports on these super PACs.

In the past, money has not always been determinative. Just because somebody had raised or had a lot of money didn’t always mean they were going to do well.

MARK SHIELDS: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But could that change this time? Because some of the super PAC money is just off the charts, hundreds of millions of dollars.

MARK SHIELDS: President John Connally and President Phil Gramm would agree with you that money didn’t deliver the White House to either one of them, even though they were great fund-raisers.

Judy, this is so entirely different. In the past, in order to continue as a candidate, a serious candidate, you had to be in the top three finishes in Iowa. You had to be in the top two out of New Hampshire. All our presidents elected in the past half-century finished either first or second in New Hampshire and in the top three in Iowa.

That changed with the Citizens United, when we gave unlimited amounts of money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Supreme Court.

MARK SHIELDS: Newt Gingrich finished a bad fourth in Iowa in 2012. He finished a weaker fourth in New Hampshire, but Sheldon Adelson wrote him a $50 million check and he could go to South Carolina and savage Mitt Romney, which he did in half-hour spots.

Now we have got 30 people so far, as of an hour before this show, who had given a million dollars to a PAC; 70 percent of them have given it to Jeb Bush.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, could money make a difference this time?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think it makes a difference in who stays in the race.

So, some of the Republican candidates are pretty poor. And I suspect, even with some super PAC help, they just won’t be able to run a campaign after a little while and so they will drop out. So it helps you stay in the race, like Newt Gingrich did.

But once you’re in the race and you’re in the major leagues, I don’t think it matters, because there is going to be so much money, so much swamping of money, that you’re just making the rubble bounce. And I don’t think the money will give you a huge advantage over the other candidates, because everybody will have plenty of it, and you will be — we will all be bombarded with ads, and they will cease to make a difference after a while.

So, back then, it gets up to the reality of who the candidate is, what they’re saying and how distinct they are.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the next time we get together, we will be talking about the first Republican debate.

MARK SHIELDS: We will.

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

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

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Shields and Brooks on guns, Iran, and whether Clinton’s emails will turn into scandal


Fri, Jul 24, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: But now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So let’s go back to the lead story, David, a string of shootings just in the last few weeks, including this one last night in Lafayette, Louisiana. We talked to Mark Kelly at the top of the program, Gabrielle Giffords’ husband.

What — is there anything to be done?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m for doing all the gun control you can think of, the gun show loophole, the background checks, assault weapons ban. And so I’m for it. I think, if you increase the number of filters between the buyer or shooter and the weapon, you might do some good.

I would be a little modest about how much good you would do. This has been studied quite lot by the CDC, by the AMA, a series of studies of all the gun control legislation that’s happened in the past. And it’s very hard to find strong effects.

There are 250 million guns in this country. And as we heard earlier in the program, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And most of the killings are done with handguns. People find a way to have guns. I’m for it. But we have seen a 50 percent reduction in homicide in this country over a generation. And a lot of other things are more effective in reducing gun violence.

Let’s do it. Let’s just not expect it will have a big effect.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you say 50 percent reduction in…

DAVID BROOKS: Over the last generation. We have seen this massive drop in violent crimes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

DAVID BROOKS: And that has a lot to do with treatment programs, with the police programs. There are a lot of ways I think to reduce violence that are — produce bigger outcomes than the gun control stuff.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, I listened to Mark Kelly and the point he made about the public support of background checks. He’s absolutely right.

I mean, 81 percent actually, by the Pew poll, favor background checks, by a 7-1 margin. And, yet, it couldn’t pass the Senate. And, you know, there’s a sense of frustration after Newtown, and Charleston, and now Lafayette. What it’s ever going to take?

And the only idea that even strikes a spark with me — and I agree with David on the measures and I wish — we have too many guns. We have too much access to them, too many people who are unstable who shouldn’t have that access — was a suggestion made by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, introduced. He said we have enough guns in this country for 200 years, but we only have enough ammunition for two years — or for four months. I’m sorry.

And he said that, you know, why not tax ammunition? I mean, not .22s for target practice, but when you’re talking about ammunition for weapons of personal and mass personal destruction, you know, we have to think in those terms. There’s no question that the debate has been won right now, not permanently, but has been won by the Rifle Association people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: By the gun rights…

MARK SHIELDS: The change in attitude of, do you believe the emphasis should be, the choice should be on control of guns, gun ownership or control of guns, 20 — 15 years ago, by a 2-1 margin, people wanted to control gun ownership.

And now it’s a question, I think, that control people’s right to bear a gun is — a majority believes that’s the priority.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s just such a gap, though, David. There’s all this outrage after these shootings, and yet we seem to keep having the same conversation. There’s nothing to be done.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, as I say, public policy is hard and getting change is hard.

And, you know, I think getting the background checks in any of these cases recently, would it have helped? I’m not sure. A lot of these guns were acquired legally, sometimes flaws in the system. I tell you the thing that I think needs to be done. And this is not a government thing. This is a community thing.

The one thing that so many of these cases have in common, whether it’s the household killings or the mass killings or the racist killings, it’s a disgruntled, sick, isolated, perverse young man. And so it’s a social — we all know people in our communities. And if you see a kid who’s grown increasingly isolated, whose views are growing increasingly extreme, then act.

And that is one way. And, you know, we all have these webs of social networks. Just be alert to that and try to prevent something terrible from happening. That’s one thing that I think could have some positive impact.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s something we heard from the USA Today reporter, that there is a pattern, and it’s typically a man, and a young man.

Let’s talk about Iran, Mark, the administration facing a real uphill battle selling — selling this Iran nuclear deal. What kind of a job are they doing defending it, and could they — could Congress end up killing this thing?

MARK SHIELDS: I think Congress is a good bet, as we mentioned last week, that Congress will vote to reject it.

But I think the administration is, rightly and logically, concentrating its efforts not on winning Republicans. There are some, obviously, people like Jeff Flake, who said — senator from Arizona — says he has an open mind, and has demonstrated it in the past.

But the emphasis and the focus has to be upon Democrats, to persuade Democrats why they should support the president and support the agreement. And I think the strongest argument is that there is no alternative, and to bring in the fact that people of great substance, from Brent Scowcroft, who was a national security adviser to Republican presidents, to diplomatic giants like Thomas Pickering and Lee Hamilton and Ryan Crocker…

JUDY WOODRUFF: They signed a letter.

MARK SHIELDS: … are supporting it.

So, I really think that is — it’s not, this is the almighty, but what is the alternative? And I think that’s the case that they’re making. They’re trying to persuade probably 145 Democrats in the House to stick with the president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in the meantime, it’s a real buzz saw they’re facing, isn’t it?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, it’s not exactly leading from a position of strength. The purpose of leadership in government is to provide the country with good options.

And they have gotten in a situation in which we have bad options. To me, the worst part about the treaty is that it will give Iran maybe $150 billion, maybe as high as $700 billion in revenue, to which they can spread their terror through the terror armies they’re already using.

And so in the short-term, whatever it does in the long-term with nuclear weapons, it will destabilize the Middle East. On the other hand, they are not stupid to say the alternative is worse, and that if we do this, the sanctions will fall apart. China is eager to go. France wants to sell nuclear stuff. Russia is certainly eager to sell nuclear stuff to the Iranians.

And so if the U.S. does reject it, it will get worse. And so their option is — their argument is not that the treaty is so great, but the alternative is worse. And so they have put up in a choice architecture where we have got two really bad options. And my guess at the end of the day is the Democrats who are in play here will not opt for that worse alternative. I could argue they maybe they should, but it’s hard for me to see it absolutely losing in the long-term.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think Democrats will come around?

MARK SHIELDS: I think the Democrats right now are being smart politically by saying that they’re open, they’re listening. There’s no point in taking a position until they have to.

But I don’t think there’s many open minds on the other side. The $150 billion that David spoke of, of course, is Iran’s money. It isn’t like we’re writing a check to them. It has just — it’s been frozen. And I think that — you know, that has to be understood.

So I — you know, I don’t think there is an alternative. I think, quite frankly, that Prime Minister Netanyahu hurt himself and his cause by pushing so hard for military action against Iran, and by intruding in the United States election on Mitt Romney’s side, and then by using the House of Representatives as a campaign stop to run against Iran.

And I just think he really put himself and Israel, quite honestly, in an untenable position.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton.

David, e-mails, Congress has — this special committee in the House is coming after her. Now they’re saying the Department of Justice, they have asked the department to look into whether classified information was shared that shouldn’t have been. Is she in real jeopardy over this, either politically or legally?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think it’s about her character. I assume she shared classified information. She — it was all on this private server. There is so much classified information in government that, if she is sending out all these e-mails, I assume something got into them.

She swore it didn’t happen. That’s hard for me to believe. And, frankly, that is not a career-killer. That’s not a president candidacy killer. But it is about her character. And it is about why there was the privacy of the server, her unwillingness to release the server now, which people want to get ahold of, deleting all the e-mails.

So, it’s not — I don’t think, however this shakes out, it’s going to be something that will end her candidacy. But it’s no question it’s a stain and the continued investigations are stains. I frankly don’t have clarity on what kind of investigations is about to happen. In all the reporting, there is a lot of passive voice, so you don’t quite know how much she’s actually being investigated.

So that’s unclear. It will shake out in the next few days maybe. But it’s still a long-running stain that goes to a core concern people have about her, which is openness, transparency and trustworthiness.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think she is at risk?

MARK SHIELDS: I think David put his finger on it, that the problem it brings back, there’s two Clintons.

There’s the Clinton of great boom, the lowest unemployment, the balanced budget, happy and prosperous and optimistic and confident America. And there’s the Clinton memories of the Whitewater and those law firm billing rights that were miraculously discovered in the family quarters of the White House.

And all this lack of candor of what the meaning of is, all of this comes back, and I just — I think it hurt her in 2007, when she was running against Barack Obama. It hurt both Al Gore and John Kerry. George Bush was seen as more honest and more likable personally than either of them.

And that’s the last time the Democrats lost the White House two times in a row. I think it’s a problem. She was trying to avoid intense scrutiny by having the private server, and she ends up inviting and really getting greater intense scrutiny.

I think the one salvation she has is that the Republicans will overplay, House Republicans in particular, will overplay their hand, with the hearings and sort of an inquisitional attitude and air. So, but it’s not a help. It certainly brings back unpleasant memories.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Forty seconds left.

Donald Trump, he’s — got into a big fuss with John McCain, insulted John McCain last weekend, Lindsey Graham this week. But Donald Trump is still alive and well, still out on the campaign trail.

David, what has happened to the race and is he going to stay?

DAVID BROOKS: Eventually, he will run out of Republican candidates to attack.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: So, he’s gone after a bunch of them.

I have to think the show will close. He is like Jerry Springer. He makes Jerry Springer look like “Masterpiece Theater.” You would think, eventually, people just get exhausted by this.

MARK SHIELDS: Jerry is still on.

DAVID BROOKS: Jerry is still on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But he seems to get stronger by these…

DAVID BROOKS: This is a party that nominated Mitt Romney. It’s like a straitlaced party.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ten seconds.

MARK SHIELDS: Ten seconds.

Donald Trump, shame on us. He’s the catnip. We can’t stay away from him. He is an unlikable man. He will never be president of the United States. He made a terrible mistake by going after John McCain. John McCain is not a hero because he was captured. John McCain was a hero because, for five-and-a-half years, he accepted torture, instead of early release, and remained and endured that ordeal with his fellow prisoners.

Donald Trump avoided capture by staying at Studio 54 and investing in real estate in Manhattan.

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

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Shields and Brooks on striking a deal with Iran, Planned Parenthood scrutiny


Fri, Jul 17, 2015


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

Welcome to you, gentlemen. A lot to talk about this Friday.

Let’s start with Iran.

Mark, we just heard the secretary of state, John Kerry, what he had to say about this nuclear deal. What do you make of it?

MARK SHIELDS: I think the president summarized it very well. He said don’t let the unattainable perfect be the enemy of the obtainable good.

And I think this is obtainable good, the object being a nuclear — a non-nuclear Iran. And I think this guarantees at least for 10 years that there will be a non-nuclear Iran. It doesn’t change Iran’s — as the secretary pointed out, its conduct and what it does. And we hope that that does change. But this is about dealing with nuclear arms in a very troubled area.

And I think, in this sense, it’s a step, very — a positive step, and one that I think the president is at the top of his game, quite frankly, from Charleston to the press conference this week. I thought he was compelling in both cases.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, what’s your take?

DAVID BROOKS: I’m extremely skeptical.

I start much more than Secretary Kerry, I think, with the belief that this is a theocratic, fascistic regime that wants to, A, be a big power in the Middle East, the dominant power in the region and spread a radically — radical version of sort of religious ideology. And so I think to give that regime first the $150 billion to up their funding for Hezbollah and other terrorist armies around the region is dangerous.

To legitimize their nuclear enrichment program is dangerous. To lift eventually the ban on conventional weapons, the embargo on the conventional weapons is dangerous. And to have a regime that — you know, the inspection regime, people are getting lost in the details. It is not a bad regime. I suspect it probably will delay the nuclear program, but it’s their country.

And if they’re ideologically motivated to build this weapon, and they have every incentive to want to do so, I assume they are going to find a way to keep these centrifuges going in some form, and get a breakout after the sanctions are lifted. So, for all those reasons, I think I’m quite skeptical of what has happened.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Kerry pushed back on this idea that Iran is going to use a lot of this money to great mischief in the region, Mark.

But do the critics — you know, David’s point, do they have a point, that after — it is, after all, Iran’s to do what it wants with this money it’s going to get.

MARK SHIELDS: Sure. It’s always — inaction is always preferable to chance action.

This is a bold action on the part of the president, in my judgment. You have Vice President Cheney saying we don’t negotiate with evil, we defeat it.

And, Judy, quite frankly, I think the reality is that, after the experience of the past 12 years of the United States in the Middle East, of 4,500 Americans dead, of 31,000 severely wounded, of $2 trillion spent, I think Americans have lost confidence in the one size fits all, let’s get tough, let’s get powerful, let’s go in and kick a little tail.

That is not the answer, and it is not the solution. And, quite bluntly, the reality of fracking in this country and the production of oil in this country has relieved some of the urgency of the United States projecting further force in that area. So I really — I just — I think this is the best alternative, by far.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So — but, David, you don’t think the president’s arguments help the administration. What — do you have a sense of what’s going to happen on the Hill and whether they’re going to either back this or reject it?

DAVID BROOKS: I would be shocked if they rejected it.

There are some senators — there are a lot of Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer from New York, Dick Durbin from Illinois, and various others, a lot are sitting on the fence right now until they read it, and that seems appropriate. And there are some who are making skeptical noises.

I think Obama would have to lose a real big chunk of the Democrats in the Senate and it would be just a major setback from his own party. I would be stunned if that happened. It’s possible, but it would be very surprising if that happened.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You think…

MARK SHIELDS: I think David is more bullish about the prospects on the Hill than I am.

I think the Senate is right now very much in doubt as to what would happen over sustaining a presidential veto. I think the best chance the Democrats have and the president has is in the House, where you have got the most effective Democratic vote deliver and touter of the past generation, Nancy Pelosi, on your side. And I think that may very well be the key to this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to turn to the 2016 race for president.

But, before I do that, Mark and David, I want to ask about the story we just — Lisa Desjardins just reported for us, this Planned Parenthood controversy, the videotaped interview out there about selling fetal tissue and whether or not Planned Parenthood is profiting from that.

A lot of Republicans, David, jumping on this story. Is this kind of a bonanza for Republicans? So many of the candidates for president are saying — are deploring it and calling for Planned Parenthood to be defunded.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, and Republicans have been sort of deemphasizing this issue. So, I guess when you go to the Iowa primaries — or the caucuses, you increase discussion of it.

But they have been deemphasizing this issue, because it just hasn’t been a great general election issue. But this particular video gives them a chance to talk about it in a way that is not going to be offending to a lot of people in the middle, because I think the idea of selling parts is not very delectable to anybody.

And, frankly, the part of the video that offended me, I guess, was, whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life, the state of the fetus late term is a mystery. And to talk about the body parts in such a cavalier way showed to me a corrosiveness of this issue, and the way this — the polarization of this issue tends to corrode people.

And so this is a good and easy shot for the Republicans, because it’s not really engaging the issue where they’re sort of unpopular, and it allows them to defend the rights of the unborn, attack Planned Parenthood in a way that is politically more or less cost-free.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: I think David is right.

I think abortion remains a painful and difficult issue in this country. America, I think it’s fair to say, is pro-choice. They don’t want to criminalize a woman who, in consultation with her conscience or confessor, her physician decides on the very painful process of ending a pregnancy.

At the same time, America’s anti-abortion. The idea that this is somehow a virtuous act is objectionable and unacceptable to Americans. And I think what you have here is — and, admittedly, I give Lisa Desjardins great credit for going through the three hours of it — but an edited version. But, still, you have the woman, the doctor from Planned Parenthood in a very cavalier and callous fashion talking about, we’re going to go in, in a way — not that this is some surgical procedure being performed on a woman and ending a life or potential life, but in a way that we’re going to preserve the organs for use.

I mean, it was — I think Cecile Richards had no alternative, the president of Planned Parenthood, except to apologize for that tone and the way it was done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s broaden out for a minute and talk about the 2016 race.

One more name has formally joined, David, this week, Governor Scott Walker, of Wisconsin. We have talked about him on this program before. But at this point, now that he’s in, what does that do to the race? Does it shake things up? What do you see?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, politically, he’s got a reasonably straight shot. His strategy is pretty clear. He’s got to win Iowa, the first caucuses. He’s not expected to do super well in New Hampshire, but then he’s got to probably do pretty well in South Carolina.

And if he does that, he will be sitting pretty. He will be — he’s definitely in the top three, I think, now, but he will be riding high just from the media exposure. His advantages are that he has got a genuine working-class voice. He’s not the greatest orator in the world, but he is a good explainer, he’s a good retail politician.

And for conservatives, unlike people like Ted Cruz, who haven’t really achieved much, Scott Walker can actually point to legislative accomplishments as governor. And so I think he has a reasonably strong story to tell, will be a reasonably strong candidate.

The only caveat I would put in, I would say, in the last two or three months, he hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire. And he’s let Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and others sort of take some of the momentum of the campaign, but he is going to be strong, I think.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Setting the world on fire, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think setting the world on fire is a euphemism.

Judy, the fact is Wisconsin is a blue state. No Democrat has lost — presidential nominee has lost Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan won it for the Republicans in 1984. It’s the only state that has elected an openly lesbian United States senator, Tammy Baldwin. Three times in four years, Scott Walker has won very close elections in Wisconsin.

And he’s a favorite of a lot of conservatives because he did take on public employee unions. He has delivered. He’s a social and cultural conservative, as well as economic conservative. He has got a story to tell. And he’s a formidable candidate. He’s going to have considerable financial backing.

The problem is that there’s a lingering sort of “I can see Alaska from my front porch” of Governor Palin with him. He said, for example, that, dealing with ISIS, he had dealt with public employees unions, and he didn’t — couldn’t say whether the president himself was a Christian, and he ducked on evolution.

And it just was a question. There was a Rick Perry problem. Is he really ready for prime time? And not helped by the fact, when he did announce, that Patrick Healy of The New York Times quoted his principal consultant as saying that smart was not in the lexicon of voters when they talked about him, but they were working on that.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: So, I think Scott Walker has a great story to tell, but there is a question, is he going to be able to hit big league pitching?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we can’t talk about this week in the Republican, I guess, contest, David, without bringing up the name of billionaire Donald Trump, because he’s moved up in some of the national polls.

There is a lot of conversation about it. But is it having a material effect, David, on what this contest is all about?

DAVID BROOKS: I don’t think so. I think he’s the circus act of the week.

He does — doing pretty well in the polls among the people who like the show, who like the thumb in the eye of the establishment, but he’s got huge negatives. There are huge numbers of Republican primary voters who say they would never vote for him. And there is just a very low ceiling.

But he sucks up oxygen. He embarrasses the party. I think the only way it really — he’s not going to get elected. The only way potentially is if he loves the attention and he decides that he wants to run a third party in the general election or just be like a stunt candidate out there. Then he would really suck some votes away from the Republicans. That’s the only way I can see it possibly affecting the actual electoral outcome.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, in the Washington Post/ABC News poll, in May, he was at 65 percent unfavorable among Republicans. That dropped 25 points between May and July.

What happened between May and July? He announced. He announced and he presented himself as the most vehemently anti-immigrant campaign, candidate in the entire field. He’s appealed, sadly, to a dark side of the Republican Party and Republican voters.

And I have to say, the one Republican who has taken him on — Jeb Bush has kind of pussyfooted around, and so has Marco Rubio — is Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham said, this is a moral question. Are we going to — if we do this, we deserve to lose.

And I just think what’s he has done is, he raised the stakes for the first debate in August 6. And it guarantees that it’s going to be a question of who bells the cat, who stands up to Donald Trump and stands up on immigration.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s become a question in the primaries.

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

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Brooks and Dionne on Trump’s anti-immigrant talk, Confederate flag retirement


Fri, Jul 10, 2015


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

Welcome to you both.

E.J. DIONNE: Good to be with you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s pick up this conversation about immigration. We have just heard this rational — David, this rational discussion about immigration.

But what Donald Trump has been saying and doubling down on has really started a firestorm. What does that do to the national — our nation’s ability to get its hands around this issue?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it might be — what Trump said is the dictionary definition of xenophobia, nativism.

He had a factually inaccurate statement that generalized about a whole group of people, inaccurately, in a slurring manner. We have got a parking lot right out here at the NewsHour where we brought a bunch of immigrants. And when you pull up, they’re not trying to rape you. They’re not trying to sell drugs. They’re trying to paint your backyard — or back porch.

And that’s statistically what the immigrant population is. They’re here to work. And it’s what most people’s common experience of immigrants, undocumented or not. And so that’s the reality. As Marc said, the useful thing about what’s happened is that we have seen this fissure in the Republican Party, where Jeb Bush came out very strongly against Trump, saying he takes it personally, Rubio again very strongly.

It has brought them out. It has brought their ire out, a little passion in rebutting Trump. Ted Cruz, a little more disgraceful, more or less saying he raises good issues and things like that. So we have begun to see a split. The party now has to confront this. And I think most of the leading candidates have, to my mind, come out on the right side.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So it’s been helpful in understanding where the Republicans stand on this issue, E.J.?

E.J. DIONNE: Well, I think if you ask most Republicans, Republican consultants, they would love to say to Donald Trump, you’re fired, and have him walk away, because this has been terrible for the Republican Party’s image.

I mean, David is right about Bush and Rubio to some degree pushing back, but they were very slow to push back. And a lot of Republicans have been very cautious in dealing with Trump. And I think Latino voters, but immigrant voters of all kinds are going to remember that caution.

And I think what Trump did this summer is going to last. Usually, it’s 16 months until the election, a lot of things will happen, but the nature of his words, using the word rapists, are so powerful, that I…

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: And murder.

E.J. DIONNE: And murder — that I don’t think there is any political eraser that’s going to get rid of them completely.

This is the last thing Republicans needed right now.

DAVID BROOKS: I should say, he was only a Republican since last week. He’s in a sui generis position of being a political freak.

E.J. DIONNE: No, I think it is going to be…

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean Trump. You’re talking about Trump.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

E.J. DIONNE: If Trump ever gets serious, I think the attacks on him for where he was on any number of issues, including now he thinks Hillary Clinton is the worst secretary of state in history — he used to say he loved Hillary Clinton, thought she would be a much stronger candidate than President Obama.

Now, that’s a sin in the Republican Party, to have said something nice about Hillary Clinton.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, you don’t think the delay, the fact that it took some of the other candidates some time to come forward with their statement, makes a difference?

DAVID BROOKS: No. It was a matter of days or even hours. They had to formulate things.

What matters is that whether the Republican Party rediscovers where George W. Bush was on immigration, where John McCain was on immigration, where a lot of — where Bob Dole — where a lot of previous nominees have been.

And the party has wandered into an anti-immigration or an anti-immigration reform direction as a result of the rise of the talk radio part of the party. But that part of the party is waning, frankly, and I think it will be very possible for Jeb Bush or Rubio, whoever the nominee is, to be where McCain was and to be where George W. Bush was.

Those are not ancient history of the Republican Party. The party will rediscover that moment.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying that maybe he’s doing a favor to some of these other Republicans?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s hard to give him credit for doing a favor, but the people who did the favor were Bush and Rubio and the party members who did the right thing.

E.J. DIONNE: I think, if they come out strong, he will have done them a perverse kind of favor.

And I think the reason this is so harmful to Republicans is not just Latinos. Mitt Romney was beaten by Barack Obama among Asian-Americans voted by 3-1 in the last election. Asian-Americans voted 55 percent for the first President Bush.

And a lot of that reaction among Asian-Americans is to this xenophobia and a sense of prejudice. They have got to beat that back if they are going to have a chance…

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: It should be said, in the last midterms, they did reasonably well among Asian-Americans. So they’re working that and they’re conscious of it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you don’t see the — you see the Republican Party coming through this, that this is not going to have a lasting — do lasting damage?

DAVID BROOKS: I have this naive assumption that people are not complete idiots.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: It just want to — just in terms of the issue, I think the merits are on the side of the sort of comprehensive immigration reform George W. Bush championed.

But just in terms of political survival, if you just say they’re venal and they just want to win elections, it’s not — this is not rocket science here.

E.J. DIONNE: But I think the catch is that a very substantial part of the Republican coalition and an even a larger part of the Tea Party coalition is very anti-immigrant or very anti-immigration reform.

So, I don’t think it’s as easy as you’re saying for Republicans to do this, even if it is — and I agree with you on this — in their long-term interest.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, a related issue, and that is the flag, the Confederate Flag.

It came down today in South Carolina. There was a big celebration. But, meanwhile, yesterday, David, at the Capitol, there was this sudden partisan flare-up over the flag. Why does this issue keep coming up right now?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I guess, in my view, the reason the flag should come down is just a matter of civic politeness. I have said this before on this program. If a large percentage of your fellow citizens disapprove of something, fine, just be civically polite and accept their offense and say, no, I’m going to respect you.

In both these issues, there is a large culture war element. What Donald Trump was exploiting was the fact that people like us and people like my newspaper would come down hard on him for saying those things about immigrants. The same with the Confederate Flag. If you can get the East Coast and West Coast establishment and the mainstream media against you, you win points in certain circles.

And so you want to pick those fights. And so the Confederate Flag has become one of those thumb-in-the-eye issues that people use in order to pick a culture war fight. And it helps you in the Sarah Palin wings. And so I think it’s almost become abstracted. It’s part of the media game that some people play to get attention, to pick fights and to win supports against those who don’t like the mainstream institutions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it continue to be a political issue?

E.J. DIONNE: I think it’s slowly going away.

The problem with it is, this isn’t simply a culture war issue. People have legitimate disagreements about abortion, for example, and we’re probably going to be arguing about that for a long time. The Confederate Flag really does stand for a regime that endorsed slavery.

The Confederate Flag didn’t go back up in the South until the 1950s and early one 1960s, very consciously as a symbol of white supremacy and opposition to the civil rights. African-Americans know that.

And so this isn’t just about cultural politics. This is about racial politics that we have been fighting in our country from the very, very beginning. I think that what you saw in South Carolina was a wonderful human reaction, even on the parts of people who had been for the flag before, saying not only was the death of nine people a horror, but the spirit of forgiveness from their families really moved an entire state, and that’s a big deal.

But before we pat ourselves on the back too much, we should remember it took nine deaths of good people to bring that flag down. That’s not very heartening.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. But, still, it’s a good day.

E.J. DIONNE: I agree with that.

DAVID BROOKS: While we’re upset about the little kerfuffle in Washington, bringing the flag down in South Carolina was a symbol — it’s bizarre to say — but there was a symbol of hostility to the civil rights movement.

And so that era of hostility to the civil rights movement, even in 2015, it is over with the bringing down of the flag. We will have all these other issues to talk about. But it’s still a remarkable day that it come down to widespread cheers. And so it’s a day…

(CROSSTALK)

E.J. DIONNE: No, I don’t want to take away from the good day. I really agree with you on that.

But we should — the Southern strategy as part of the Republican strategy going back to when the civil rights bill passed, and Lyndon Johnson said we, meaning Democrats, have lost the South for a generation, I mean, it’s all connected to that.

So, yes, I celebrate. But, again, it still bothers, it sobers me that it took what it took to get this done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about one other thing, and that is the Democratic presidential contest.

I interviewed Jimmy Carter, former President Jimmy Carter, on this program last night. And among other things, he complimented, David, Bernie Sanders. He said he’s been bolder than Hillary Clinton when it comes to income inequality and other liberal issues.

How do you see that? We have been talking about this for several weeks now, about how Sanders is drawing bigger crowds. How do you see this dynamic playing out, Bernie Sanders playing to the left of the party and what it’s doing to the Clinton campaign?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it is and always has been a university crowd left in this country, a progressive element at our many fine universities. And he’s playing to that element.

But that element is not big. It’s not even big within the Democratic Party. He doesn’t get the working class. He doesn’t get the suburban voter. He doesn’t, by and large, get African-American and Latino voters. So there is a huge ceiling on what he can do.

And for Hillary Clinton to be fearing him strikes me as wrongheaded. She’s still the overwhelming favorite, no matter how big of crowds he can get in university towns. Second, she has to be aware that she lives in a country where people are quite suspicious of government, more suspicious of government than they are business.

And, in my view, on substantive grounds aside, just political grounds, if she goes over and seems like a very conventional big government liberal, it is going to be much easier for any Republican to run against her, because this is not a country that is sanguine about government power.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re saying that is maybe where she’s headed. Is that what you see?

E.J. DIONNE: Well, first of all, Bernie, I have been saying, is like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” except he’s a socialist from Vermont with a Brooklyn accent.

(LAUGHTER)

E.J. DIONNE: But there is a kind of authenticity. The guy gets up there and you know he’s saying exactly what he thinks. He’s always said these things. I think that appeals to lots of people.

And one area I would disagree with David on is that I think he will get working-class votes. There’s a lot of — and he has gotten working-class in Vermont and he will get a lot of union locals, even as national locals — endorse Hillary Clinton.

I think there is a ceiling. I agree with that. I don’t think he is going to win the nomination, but he could — it’s not inconceivable to me that he could win both in Iowa and New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton got only less than a third of the vote in Iowa the last time she ran.

And he’s very close to New Hampshire. So, I think those races could be tight. I think, as it goes forward, I think Clinton will still win the nomination. And on the government point…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even if she were to lose in Iowa and New Hampshire?

E.J. DIONNE: Yes. I think she would still win the nomination.

And it’s unlikely she will lose both. I’m just saying that is a possibility we shouldn’t write off. In terms of the government thing, she is going to give a speech on Monday that is a very progressive speech about what government can do for people.

I think the public’s view is ambivalent. And Stan Greenberg has it right. The voters would like the government to do a lot of stuff. They don’t trust it very much. She has got to solve that riddle.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Quick last word.

DAVID BROOKS: If she — she’s going to have an early childhood piece in that piece Monday. If she sticks to that, fine. That’s getting people into the marketplace, so they can have an opportunity to compete. If she begins to seem to be meddling in the marketplace and capitalism, I do think people will recoil.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will all be listening. We have been listening to you both.

David Brooks, E.J. Dionne, thank you.

E.J. DIONNE: Thank you so much.

DAVID BROOKS: Thanks.

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Shields and Brooks on Supreme Court lessons, Donald Trump controversy


Fri, Jul 03, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as we do every Friday, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who joins us today from Aspen, Colorado.

So, gentlemen, the Supreme Court, I think you could say it went out with a bang this week, David, issuing historic decisions on everything from same-sex marriage to the president’s health care law, much more, and with some interesting divisions among the conservatives.

What have we learned about the court, do you think, from this session, and how much of an issue is it going to be on the campaign trail?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, the interesting one to me is the same-sex marriage decision, which hit a lot of social conservatives extremely hard.

A great sense of fear that they are going to be labeled as bigots if they disagree with gay marriage, a sense that the culture war they have been fighting is one they have lost. And I’m — interesting to see how they reacted.

My basic view is that for 30 years, a lot of social conservatives have been fighting a culture war oriented around the sexual revolution, around contraception, gay marriage and other issues having to do with sexual activity. And I do think that that’s sort of not the fight they’re going to win anymore. The country is moving pretty far to the left on that.

And I would like to see social conservatives do in public what they do in private, which is to do a lot of work for — show work for the poor, heal the social fabric, tithe to the poor, heal the lonely and really address some of the economic and social dislocations we’re seeing in the country. That’s an endemic part of the social conservative lifestyle, but it hasn’t been part of their public message.

And that’s been a disaster for them. So I guess I think the wise choice, both from a Biblical and also from a political point of view, is to emphasize to the public that the key cultural revolution we need now is one to repair the social fabric, and the sexual revolution and views on the definition of marriage are important. And no one’s asking anybody to renounce them, but should be second-order businesses, given the actual problem we face today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, do you think that what we saw on the court could somehow play out in this Republican — Republican contest for president?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Yes, I think it already is Judy.

Senator Ted Cruz, conservative senator from Texas, candidate for president, has already offered a constitutional amendment that — for eight-year terms on the Supreme Court, that they vote up-or-down retention. An interesting proposal, the one body that would — consistently and consciously designed to avoid politics, to put it right into political campaigns.

So you would be having year-long, two-year-long campaigns to remove justices or to keep them on the Supreme Court. Scott Walker has already said he’s for a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage to define marriage between one man and one woman.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has given a green light by calling John Roberts the chief justice copy editor for Nancy Pelosi. So, I think it’s in the campaign. I think David’s point is a very good one. What’s most interesting to me is the Supreme Court is the one place in Washington — the undemocratic Supreme Court, where policy is actually being made, where decisions are being made.

In the democratically elected Congress and White House, we see gridlock, we see paralysis, we see threats of filibuster, threats of vetoes and very little action. The Supreme Court is the one place where national policy is being decided, not as was intended, but it’s actually happening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, so, David, do you see this affecting what happens in Congress?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I take Mark’s point very well.

First of all, it used to be you would pass — and this, I’m talking about the ACA ruling the Supreme Court has. You would pass a big piece of legislation, and there would be parts that would be unexpected. And so you would pass a follow-up piece of legislation to sort of fix it up.

We no longer work in a functional Washington that does that, and so now we rely on the Supreme Court, more or less, which is what they did in this decision, to go against the exact letter of the law, but to go with the interpretation of the law and to fix it up. And so it’s funny how the dysfunction in Congress has created the need for the Supreme Court to essentially step in and perform that role.

As for the Republican Party, as Mark says, it’s interesting to see, on issue after issue, some people like Ted Cruz, who really — it’s really very much a base mobilization campaign, and almost in defiance of any Republican effort to reach out beyond the Republican base.

And others, like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who are right now just hanging back, not declaring war, but eventually they are going to have to say, no, we’re going to outreach. And that outreach is sometimes going to cause our base some discomfort. But we are going to do it because we actually want to win this thing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s — I want to turn to somebody who jumped into the Republican field this week, Mark, and that is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Some people had all but written him off, but he’s in, he’s jumped in, and he said he’s going to go from door to door if he has to, to win over Republican voters. What does he — how does he change this Republican field? I mean, we have got 15 — 14, 15, 16 people running now.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, he’s probably, in my judgment, a natural talent, as a campaign talent. He’s got great drawbacks and certain personality disorders.

But he has a great natural talent. Politics, being the most imitated of all human activities, with the possible exception of political journalism, he’s following…

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: He’s following the John McCain playbook from 2000, when McCain held 114 town meetings in New Hampshire and sprang a big upset by beating the establishment choice, George W. Bush.

The problem with Chris Christie is, 65 percent of New Jersey voters tell Quinnipiac poll they do not think he would be a good president. And he’s fallen from grace. Two years ago, he was at 73 percent approval in New Jersey. He won a smashing reelection. He carried women and Latino voters in a blue state.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: But, Judy, I mean, he’s not worn well.

And the great strength of being a governor to run for president is, you can say this is what I have done. I have a record. I don’t just make speeches and press releases. The big disadvantage for running for president as a governor is, other people can say, this is what you have done.

And there’s no New Jersey miracle for Chris Christie to talk about.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, how do you see what Christie brings to this contest?

DAVID BROOKS: I would imitate Mark.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I think he’s an underpriced stock.

At this rate, I just look at the political talent of the people, of the candidates. And he has a lot of political talent. He’s just great at formulating issues. And McCain did the town hall thing. And I think Christie has the talent to just see a lot of voters in New Hampshire. There’s a lot of time.

And I think, if he performs well, we will see a rise. Mark points out that he’s the kind of dinner guest who, at the appetizer, you’re thrilled to have the guy in your house. By dessert, you wish he would get the heck out of there.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: And there is an endurance problem.

But he’s got time. And if he can perform well over time, he will — people will not get exhausted by him. And so if I were picking stocks, he would be one I would expect to rise.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How much does it matter that he’s not as — viewed as favorably in his home state as he used to be?

DAVID BROOKS: To me, it matters a little.

And Mark’s right, he doesn’t have a great story to tell, but, frankly, other governors have risen to power on the stories of fake economic miracles. I think it would hurt him eventually. But we’re just now hoping he gets — or expecting to get to the top rung of candidates.

I don’t think it will hurt him too much among New Hampshire voters, I don’t South Carolina voters, who everybody else has to face. It will help — hurt him if he ever gets to be a big national contender. Then the New Jersey story will get more coverage.

MARK SHIELDS: David’s mention of Chris Christie and dessert, I think, was sort of a cheap shot at those of us who are weight-challenged. And I know he didn’t intend it as such.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, moving on, on the Democratic side, Mark, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb jumped in, joining three others who are challenging Hillary Clinton, along with Bernie Sanders. And I want to ask you about Bernie Sanders.

But what does Jim Webb bring, a Vietnam veteran, somebody who left the Senate a few years ago?

MARK SHIELDS: Jim Webb, September 2002, Judy, the war drums are being beaten in Washington by the Bush administration, their friends in Congress and the press to go into Iraq. And Jim Webb stands up, a combat veteran, as you point out, of Vietnam, who not only won the Navy Cross, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, carries shrapnel in him today from combat, and warned.

He said — challenged the leadership of this country, if you’re sending troops into Iraq, understand this. Are you ready to occupy the Middle East territory for the next 30 to 50 years? And pointed out prophetically that, in Japan, our occupying forces had become 50,000 friends, and in Iraq, American troops occupying would become 50,000 terrorist targets.

I mean, this is a man, I think, who has been right. He opposed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in going into Libya. And he — in one term in the Senate, he wasn’t a particularly gifted politician, not a grip-and-grin guy, not very collegial, but he passed the G.I. Bill of Rights.

And — but he doesn’t raise money, and he’s a long shot. But I have to tell you, on that debate stage, he can stand up and say, this is somebody who truly was right from the start.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the effect of Jim Webb in the Democratic field, David?

DAVID BROOKS: I think he’s probably the best novelist ever to run for president.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I’m trying to think back at other novelists who have done as well. So, he gets props for that.

I just — he’s a Jacksonian. And he hearkens back to an ancient Jacksonian tradition in American politics. I just don’t think that’s where the life of the Democratic Party is now. There’s sort of a moderate tradition in the Republican Party. There’s a Jacksonian tradition in the Democratic Party.

I don’t think those traditions are particularly vibrant. Bernie Sanders has the action, drawing huge crowds around the country. I think, if Hillary Clinton is wondering about her future threats, it’s going to come from the Bernie Sanders direction.

And, frankly, I think she’s helping flame those threats by being such a prevaricator on issues of trade and the Iraq deal — the Iran potential nuclear deal and other issues. And I think it’s Bernie Sanders is where the fire is right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tough language, I noticed today on the campaign trail. I think it was in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton said she takes a backseat to no one when it comes to fighting for progressive values, so clearly responding to Bernie Sanders.

I do — only a couple minutes. I want to ask you both about something else that’s come up. And that is comments that Donald Trump, who announced a few days ago he’s running for president, has made about Mexicans.

And here’s a quote from Donald Trump. “I love the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border that are from all over, and they are bad. I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists.”

Big reaction, Mark, on the Republican side to this. What does this mean for the Republican field? The other candidates, are their comments appropriate, given what Donald Trump is saying?

MARK SHIELDS: I guess I disagree with your question, in a sense that I don’t think there has been a big reaction for the Republican side.

They want him to go away. And when the moral leadership of the Republican Party, on the nation rests on — in the hands of Univision, NBC and Macy’s department store, who have objected and have…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And separated…

MARK SHIELDS: … severed relations with Donald Trump…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: Donald Trump, I mean, this has been bad for the brand and it’s bad for business, but it’s worse for the Republican Party. It’s worse for the national debate.

This man’s going to be on the stage, and he’s a disaster for the Republicans, in addition to being a messenger of division and hatred.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, just 20 seconds.

DAVID BROOKS: It’s an actual crucial moment for the Republican Party. This was a slur, a completely inaccurate slur. It’s culture war politics of the worst sort.

If the Republican Party can’t stand up at this moment against this guy and make the obvious accurate case, then there will be in long-term trouble with Hispanics. They will be in short-term trouble because they will have self-polarized themselves.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You do think the other candidates will say something about this?

DAVID BROOKS: Not Ted Cruz so far. But I’m waiting for the others.

It’s really essential that the Bushes and the Rubios say something.

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

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

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Shields and Gerson on Supreme Court’s gay marriage and Obamacare decisions


Fri, Jun 26, 2015


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

The first topic is going to be a total shocker, gay marriage. We have talked about it a little bit. The country struggled with it for quite some time.

Does legal acceptance mean cultural acceptance?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. That was the shortest answer…

MARK SHIELDS: No, I really — I really do think this has been moving.

Unlike Roe v. Wade, where, quite frankly, 40 years later, opinions are still frozen, as it was moving toward a legislative solution, which is always the ideal in a democracy, that you can do it by popular vote and so forth, I don’t think there’s any question that the momentum behind the support for same-sex marriage, for equity was just exponential.

It went from 40 percent just five-and-a-half years ago of Americans to 60 percent now, 70 percent of men under the age of 49 — 49 — 18 to 49, 70 percent of women. It’s just — it’s incredible. So, I think that this just accelerates it and seals it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Michael Gerson, we heard someone from the Heritage Foundation earlier on in the program say that this conversation is not over, that this could be long-lasting.

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think I agree with Mark on this. This has moved unbelievably swiftly.

Seven years ago this summer in August, the current president of the United States said that he believed that marriage was a sacred woman of a man — a sacred union of a man and woman, seven years ago. That viewpoint has now been declared illegal as a basis for law in all 50 states, in seven years. I don’t know any precedent for that. That’s pretty extraordinary.

If you step back a little bit, there are some broad cultural reasons for this, not just the court. But there’s really the strategy of coming out, in which more Americans now know people who are gay, which I think has changed and humanized this debate in many ways, change in sexual mores that you see in Hollywood and other places that have taken place over the last few decades, and a change in strategy in the courts, really going — wanting to join a bourgeois institution, marriage, and making a conservative argument to people like Andrew Sullivan and Jon Rauch, making conservative arguments for stability and commitment.

This was an argument that appealed to Middle America. And it is the argument that won in this court today.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, I might have misattributed. It might have been Alliance for Freedom, not Heritage Foundation.

But none of this happens in a vacuum. We’re in a presidential cycle. And there, as expected, responses. The ever growing group of presidential candidates for 2016 also reacted to today’s decision. Each of the four Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, praised the ruling.

But, for the Republicans, it’s a very different story. Some, like Jeb Bush, said they were opposed, thought the decision best left to states and called for religious liberty. Others, like Scott Walker, called for a new constitutional amendment to oppose it.

In a statement, he said: “Five unelected judges have taken it upon themselves to redefine the institution of marriage. The only alternative left is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.”

Some, like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, called it the new law of the land. He said: “While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.”

MARK SHIELDS: The court this week did a — beyond the wisdom or courage or vision of its decisions, did an enormous political favor in two instances to Republicans.

It — they kept the Republicans off the hook on this issue. This had been a central plank of the Republican platform, support for one man — marriage being between one man and one woman. I mean, this was Republican solid creed.

And if this is to become — if Scott Walker’s position prevails, and he makes that and his supporters and other Republicans make it a litmus test issue in the nominating process of 2016, whoever the Republican nominee who emerges from that will be hurt and damaged in the general election of 2016 for having had to satisfy the — this litmus test.

I just think — I think the same thing is true on health care, which I assume we will get to, that they let the Republicans — great relief that they don’t have to have on their hands that all of a sudden six million or seven million Americans are stripped of their health care.

But I don’t think there’s any question politically.

MICHAEL GERSON: I agree that, if that litmus test is employed here, that that’s of political detriment.

But I think that Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush both came out with probably the more sustainable political position, to say they disagreed with the decision, but it’s the law of the land and now we need to move on to protect religious liberty, a real set of issues that surround the institutional religious liberty in the aftermath of this court decision.

I think that’s the sustainable decision, the one that the nominee is likely to have. But Walker has taken a different way. It’s analogous to the debate on abortion, where people supported a constitutional amendment that was never going to happen. It became like a salute, like a meaningless gesture. And I think that’s true in this case as well.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, shifting gears to the Confederate Flag, since we spoke last week, really, the topic was about the tragedy.

Now, throughout this week, we see retailers making shifts, states taking this emblem off the flag. What does this moment mean for the country?

MARK SHIELDS: For the country, first of all, I was absolutely wrong a week ago, when I thought that — Judy asked about the flag, and I didn’t see it emerging as an issue.

I think two things happened. I think the example that we saw by the surviving members of the family of those who were slaughtered in Emanuel AME Church, the dignity, the forgiveness that they demonstrated — we don’t have forgiveness much in our society. We don’t have it in Washington, D.C. We don’t have it on Wall Street. We don’t have it in faculty clubs of universities.

Forgiveness is a rare and — valued, but increasingly rare commodity. These people showed — I think they set aside almost a political earthquake by their demonstration. And Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, I thought, showed enormous courage and leadership.

And what we have seen is the dominoes fallen since, I mean, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia. It’s a remarkable, remarkable response. And I — unplanned and unorganized and spontaneous, but totally genuine, and I think sparked by the families of the survivors.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Nikki Haley didn’t have this position just a few years ago. So, is this an opportunity for Republicans to change their minds?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think this is their opportunity in many ways.

I could not agree with Mark more. But this is a group of people in Charleston and the families and a church that surrounded this group of people that have raised the standards and ideals of everyone around them through their conduct.

You had politicians in — Republican politicians in South Carolina and other places. You could just see it in their mind, they were saying, you know, I’m a Christian. This is a horrible symbol of exclusion and violence. I should have known better over the years.

And when Nikki Haley gave people an opening, when she opened the door to do this, a lot of Republicans walked through. They had been clearly uncomfortable for this for years. It had only — it had been an issue because of South Carolina’s position in the primary season, where all these candidates had to come through and say things they didn’t want to say, probably for the most part, as John McCain eventually said.

But this gave, I think, an opportunity for Republicans to get out from under a burden that they didn’t really want.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

And just off camera, when we were talking, this — also the moment that we saw with Obama singing “Amazing Grace” or just delivering this eulogy, you were both commenting on it. And I wanted to share that with the audience too. But there is still this opportunity for a president to do something that no one else can.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Michael knows far better personally than I do, but the president, at times of tragedy — and this is a time of national tragedy — is the comforter in chief.

And words, presidential words at a time like this, whether it’s the Challenger tragedy and Ronald Reagan, or after Oklahoma City with Bill Clinton, the president, I thought, stepped up and spoke to and for the nation today.

MICHAEL GERSON: Often, that involves faith, not sectarian faith, but a broad kind of faith that the injustice you see in front of your eyes is not the final word, that there’s actually an order of justice and hope that lies above and beyond the circumstances that you’re seeing.

And I think that that’s often what a president provides, some vision that, you know, you’re — what you’re seeing in the moment is not final.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Final topic, not a small one, the Affordable Care Act. Could a new president attempt to dismantle this law, or has this finally been settled?

MARK SHIELDS: I think it has been settled.

I think now — as I mentioned earlier, I think the Republicans again were given a political lifesaver by the court. Now the Democrats have to make it work. I mean, it’s a serious program with serious problems.

Too many low-income are happy they are finally covered, but not enough, middle-income or higher-income people into the exchanges. I just — I think it — but I don’t think anybody’s going to run quite bluntly on changing it.

MICHAEL GERSON: I don’t think the structure here of Obamacare is immortal. But I think the president has succeeded in embedding a series of expectations in our common life, that the government is going to help with preexisting conditions or with affording coverage, insurance coverage.

If Republicans want to get rid of Obamacare, they will now have to replace that system in some important way.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

MICHAEL GERSON: And that is an accomplishment of the president. You know, he’s forced his opponents that, if they want to get rid of Obamacare, they’re going to need to do something else.

MARK SHIELDS: And, Hari, I just point, it’s 22 years since Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton introduced health care. And we have been waiting for a Republican plan ever since.

(CROSSTALK)

MICHAEL GERSON: There are a couple of good ones out there.

MARK SHIELDS: But, I mean, there’s nothing that the Republicans have said, this is our plan and we’re…

(CROSSTALK)

MICHAEL GERSON: We are not rallied around…

MARK SHIELDS: No.

MICHAEL GERSON: But there’s serious policy work being done.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I’m not questioning that.

But there’s a difference between concept and reality, and I just haven’t seen — the fact is that Barack Obama put a lot of Democrats at risk and they took great political risk, many cost their own career, to pass this. And I don’t see anything approaching that in the sense of unity on the other side.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this something that we see on the campaign trail? Is this something that…

MICHAEL GERSON: Republicans believe that health care is still an advantage for them.

This is a system where premiums are increasing, where people aren’t all that happy sometimes with their choice of services. So, Republicans believe they still have a good issue here. Obamacare is still not wildly popular in America. But it is going to be difficult to replace this system.

It’s going to require a mandate, an electoral mandate, a Republican president, a Republican House and Senate, and some serious policy work. That’s a lot to come together.

MARK SHIELDS: Opposition is waning, public opposition to the Obamacare, Affordable Care Act. I think there’s a growing acceptance. Not by any means it’s reached the sacrosanct level of Medicare or Social Security, but I think it’s becoming, you would have to be able to replace it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, thanks so much for joining us.

MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

 

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Shields & Brooks on church shooting, Pope’s environmentalism


Fri, Jun 19, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Race relations return to the forefront after deadly violence in South Carolina. The head of the Catholic Church takes a stance on climate change. And two more candidates leap into the race for 2016.

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

Welcome, gentlemen.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, another terrible race-related story to talk about, this horrible shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, David, where a young white man killed nine black churchgoers.

How — what are we left with? I mean, is this an isolated — should we think of this as an isolated incident, a racist young man, or do we — or does the whole country need to do some soul-searching?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

First, we should mention that the uplifting part of this story, of this terrible story is what happened today in the courtroom, the families forgiving the young man in such a heartfelt and heartrending way. Mark and I were talking before that is living the faith, that is walking the walk.

And we have a society and certainly a politics filled with people who aren’t forgiving each other, filled with vengeance. Well, that speech should be seared in our minds. And so that was an uplifting moment today…

JUDY WOODRUFF: It was.

DAVID BROOKS: … which wasn’t all negative.

The horror is the horror. I confess, I’m a little confused about how much to generalize. We have a race problem in this country. That is so obvious. But we also have an angry solitary young man problem. And I’m not sure a lot of the angry solitary young men are directly connected.

They are obviously loosely connected to the history of race in this country. But they are angry solitary young men looking for hateful and vicious ideologies. Some of them turn into neo-Nazi skinheads. I don’t think we have a Nazi problem in this country. They are solitary and they’re hate-mongers. And the guy sits with the Bible study group for an hour and then starts shooting them. That’s beyond — beyond imagination.

And so I — it’s obviously connected, but I’m a little wary of the too pat causations that are linked between our general race problem and this specific, completely bizarre, and completely evil incident.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How are you seeing this?

MARK SHIELDS: I just want to underscore what David said about those people in the courtroom today and them saying, may God have mercy on you, and I forgive you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It was extraordinary.

MARK SHIELDS: It is. These are people of faith. These are people who do practice their faith. And it’s a lot more than preaching.

What hit me, Judy, was President Obama, who some of his greatest and most eloquent moments have been at times of crisis and tragedy and sort of putting things in perspective, how yesterday almost seemed — making the announcement, dispirited and a sense of resignation.

And there was a little feeling, I think. For example, after the Birmingham church in 1963, when the four little girls were blown up in Sunday school, there was a moment in the country. You could feel it, an inflection moment, where we moved on civil rights. The passage of the 1964 act was almost assured by that terrible, terrible, inhuman act.

But that was — so there was a sense that we were moving in a direction. After Newtown and after the slaughter of the innocents there and the teachers, where 90 percent of Americans endorsed a background check, three-quarters of NRA members, according to polls, endorsed universal background checks, and nothing happened.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On guns.

MARK SHIELDS: On guns. And nothing happened.

There’s a sense of, how many more, the enormity of it, what’s it going to take? And so I just think there was a — there was really just sort of a sadness that permeated everything. And for him to sit — for this alleged killer to sit there for an hour while these people welcome him into their church and the Bible study, and then to do it, I mean, it’s beyond comprehension.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s beyond — beyond any words.

David, is this a moment when we look for something to happen on guns? And there’s a lot of debate today about the Confederate Flag, about whether the rules are too loose about where they can be displayed.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I’m for taking — I’m for getting rid of the Confederate Flag on simple neighborliness grounds.

If a group of people is offended by it, that should be enough. That should be enough. We are good citizens to each other and we do not things that offend other people in symbolic ways.

As for guns, I personally support most of the legislation. I’m a little skeptical that anything will happen, simply because I look at past history. We have a lot of veto groups in our society and veto groups are able to veto legislation. I also frankly doubt the efficacy of it. There are hundreds of millions of guns in this country. How we’re going to get rid of them all has always been a question for me.

I do think some things need to be done with — as neighbors in these communities, when we should become more alert to these solitary young men. There are a certain number of young men who, in their late teens, are drifting out of society and somebody must be noticing them. And it’s up to us as family members, as neighbors to say, that’s a potential problem.

And this was a kid who was sending out some signals with the arrest at the mall and the other things he was doing, bizarre behavior, sort of stalking behavior, the photograph on Facebook with the Rhodesian flag. That’s sort of up to all of us to be alert to that sort of case.

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Excuse me.

Keeping an eye on the people around us.

MARK SHIELDS: No, I don’t disagree at all on that.

But as far, Judy, as the Confederate Flag — first of all, the background checks. Lindsey Graham — and I don’t mean to hurt his presidential campaign — but he said there are at least a million Americans with determined and adjudicated mental health problems who aren’t even in the registry for guns.

And he made the point that the background checks, to his credit. I don’t know. The Confederate Flag, it was a debated issue in 2014 in the gubernatorial race in South Carolina. Nikki Haley was for keeping it. She won. The Democrat then, Sheheen, was for taking it down. He lost.

I don’t want to say it’s a resolved issue, but it’s gone up in 1962, which was right in the middle of the Civil Rights Act, when an all-white legislature deemed that it be elevated. So, I don’t — I don’t know any action that’s going to happen on that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you both, I think, have touched on 2016.

Turning the corner, we had two new candidates officially jump in the race this week, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, two very different people, David. What are we to make of both of them? Where does this leave the campaign, the Republican field?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it’s a sign that flamboyance is not necessarily a sign of good candidates.

The Bush question is to me a great mystery. He has all the backing. He has all — he has the name recognition. He’s got a great record as governor. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of support so far.

And so, while what I know of Governor Bush is that is a man who would really love and enjoy the actions of being president, the administrative actions — he’s an administrator. And I think in his campaign opening, he broadcast those skills, which he has. He would be a good administrator.

Whether he can be a good campaigner to rally the country, that’s still waiting to be seen. I thought the opening was good, but it’s remarkable how he’s not in the position he really should be in, given the advantage that he has, especially in places like Iowa and around the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about Governor Bush?

MARK SHIELDS: Jeb Bush — everybody, when they make an announcement, wants it to be this multiethnic pageant.

In this case, it’s seemed genuine. The black pastor who gave the invocation knew him personally, endorsed him personally. The Spanish-speaking people who endorsed him knew him personally. The woman with a disabled child spoke on personal terms of what he had done.

I mean, it was a — he spoke in Spanish. I mean, there was a sense of genuineness. He had stumbled, I thought, badly. He came in the race very formidably. He had muscled out Mitt Romney, who was thinking about getting in, by preempting support and financial support and political support.

And then he just seemed to stumble. They didn’t know who he was for sure. And he certainly has not handled the family question or Iraq questions well. So, I think this kind of gave him a relaunch. But I think David’s point is a valid one about whether in fact that the chemistry is there, whether he connects with people. And he’s got a high, high unfavorable in places like Iowa among Republican voters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Unfavorable?

MARK SHIELDS: Unfavorable, yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: The other fellow was…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Donald Trump?

MARK SHIELDS: Donald Trump. If he had took the first person singular pronoun out of his announcement, it would have lasted about four minutes. It was a great testimony to the unimportance of humility in national politics.

DAVID BROOKS: I don’t think he’s going to get any air. I think the field is so rich, that he’s going to be squeezed out.

I think he will just be a sideshow which — and barely noticed, except for on a really slow news day.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, something we did notice this week was the pope. He essentially came out, David, with an unprecedented statement, encyclical, they call it, on the environment, very powerful statement about the human role in causing climate change, and saying the rich nations in particular have a responsibility to do something.

Is this going to change the debate? Is it going to change minds, change policy, change politicians?

DAVID BROOKS: I doubt it. I personally thought the statement was beautiful, theologically beautiful, the seamless fabric of life and how we’re all connected to each other.

It’s a part of — a beautiful expression of Catholic theology and a beautiful expression for all of us of our interconnectedness. It also reminded me the Catholic Church is actually amazingly consistent on abortion, on the death penalty, on the environment. The valuing the life is — the church is so consistent on this emphasis, but our parties are sort of inconsistent on these different issues.

So, I thought it made me feel environmental, because he connected our role in the cosmos and our role in nature in, I thought, a very beautiful way. Of course, I would have some different emphasis than he did on some of the policy stuff. The church, to my mind, demeans capitalism too much, a force which has reasonably lifted 300 million or 400 million people out of poverty.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He was tough on capitalism.

DAVID BROOKS: And so I think that he under values that.

But, nonetheless, the theology of it was beautiful. The policy, to me, was — well, it was too left-wing.

MARK SHIELDS: As a practicing and manifestly imperfect Catholic, I confess that I’m an uncritical fan of Pope Francis.

He approaches every single problem the same way, from the bottom up. He wasn’t a diplomat. He wasn’t a church technocrat. He was not somebody powerful. He was a pastor in Buenos Aires, even though he was archbishop. And everybody who visited him said the same thing. He would take you to the slums.

And that’s — he sees the world there. And when it comes to the environment, Judy, if you have got a private plane, you can get to clean air. You can get to Aspen, Colorado. You can get to Martha’s Vineyard. You can get to clean water.

But the poor people — and talk about capitalism — the poor people don’t have an option. And they’re the ones who contribute the least to the pollution and suffer the most.

And I just thought that the way he formulated — we — in defense of the powerless economically and the defenseless planet, that there is a common good that all of us have a responsibility for. I just thought it was persuasive.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just 20 seconds. Do you see it changing minds? Do you see it changing the Republican position, Republican Party position on this issue?

MARK SHIELDS: He is the most popular person in the world. Every politician wants to associate with him.

He’s going to make it uncomfortable for both sides. And — but I think it’s going to be impossible to ignore poverty as an issue, and I think as well the environment.

DAVID BROOKS: And maybe Brazil, other nations might be affected.

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

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Shields and Brooks on Obama trade bill defeat, deploying more troops to Iraq


Fri, Jun 12, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: With the showdown on trade in the House of Representatives today and presidential candidates on the trail, there’s lots to talk about in our weekly analysis session with Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, gentlemen, we talked about it at the beginning of the show.

Mark, the president has lobbied for this for months. It went down to defeat. What happened and where do you see this going?

MARK SHIELDS: I think the president was fighting uphill, Judy.

The leadership, Democrats in the House, told him not to come up, not unlike his trip to get the Olympics to the — Scandinavia — you will recall, to Chicago, and didn’t even make it to the second ballot. You had five out of six, 85 percent of Democrats were — already made up their mind on.

It isn’t a question whether trade is good for economic growth — it is — but that the benefits have been unevenly distributed in this country, and the burden of change has been unevenly distributed. Organized labor worked very long and very hard against this. But it was the reality in people’s communities of empty factories, of lost jobs, of empty stores, that they — trade — free trade has been overpromised and underdelivered in this country. And I think that was the reality the president was fighting.

He didn’t switch any votes today in the Democratic Caucus.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, where does this leave this?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it’s not dead. I think they’re going to come back to it. Whether he can swing that many votes is sort of a problem. It was sort of a big defeat. And he hasn’t exactly proven himself to be an able salesman, as Peter DeFazio was saying, making it about himself.

And this has been a bit of his mode recently, serious peevishness, personal — making it personal, and then saying they’re not playing straight. That’s probably not the best way to persuade people over. And so he’s not been the best salesman. And the party has moved to the left, and it’s especially moved to the left on trade.

On the substance, my problem is this. You can argue about — we can argue about NAFTA and all the other things. I think they have been amazingly positive goods, but this is not like those other trade agreements.

First, the primary reason we’re going to — we need this, the Pacific one, is political and foreign policy. Asia is going to be the center of the world economy for the next X-number of years and we need to have a global architecture that’s stable and that doesn’t generate economic friction and that China doesn’t write. And this is our shot to do it.

Second, this isn’t about reducing tariffs. Those are gone. This is about a bunch of other things having to do with the intellectual property rights, data flows, making sure other countries can’t use state-owned properties. This is about areas where we have an undisputed advantage in services and pharmaceuticals, getting those protected, so they can sell overseas.

So, it seems to me the opponents are fighting the last war. They’re fighting the war about NAFTA, when this is a very different sort of trade agreement.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, was it the selling job, Mark, or was it the substance?

MARK SHIELDS: It was the substance. It was the substance, Judy.

And this has been the pattern. There are no enforcement provisions in the trade agreement for workers’ rights. You’re competing now with workers in Vietnam, who are making 56 cents an hour. That is a disadvantage to Americans.

There is no enforcement for environmental standards and there’s certainly no enforcement, no even mechanism, as far as currency manipulation, which the Japanese and the Chinese have used to benefit in trade by driving down the price of their own goods, to the disadvantage of our country, as well as our workers.

So, I don’t argue with David that the great future in Asia. But I don’t think this is the way to it. As far as the president’s charm offensive, it was too little, too late. He showed up at the congressional baseball game last night. And he showed up at the caucus today, where he spoke for 40 minutes and didn’t take any questions and basically said, I know unemployed steelworkers on the South Side of Chicago. I care.

It wasn’t unlike George Bush’s reelection campaign in New Hampshire in 1992, when there were questions about his empathy and the message is, I care. That didn’t persuade anybody.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And as you both pointed out, well, as both of you pointed out, but, David, Congressman DeFazio said he and other Democrats were offended by what the president said.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

You have got to have relationships. And this has just been a constant theme of the administration, especially in the second term, a lack of that personal relationship. And going up there and being sort of a stranger and — the not taking questions is inexplicable to me, to be honest.

But it’s been a — you know, every president has strengths and weaknesses. The personal relationship obviously has not been President Obama’s strength.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, they are going to — they are going to try come back to it next week.

I also want to ask you all, though, about something else that happened this week. That is the White House, the president, I guess surprising a lot of people, Mark, in saying that he wants to send more military trainers and advisers to Iraq, open up at least one more base. There are reports there may be several more military bases in Iraq.

What’s going on here?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, it’s an admission, acknowledgment that what is going on is not working. And the president, although he is loathe to do so and very resistant, is really going back on what he had run on and had executed once in office in two terms.

And that was to wind down American presence in Iraq. I mean, we have shown an enormous ability to destabilize the Middle East, and not much success in trying to stabilize that region. But there isn’t an appetite in this country for enlarged activity. But there seemed to be — in that wonderful discussion you had this week with General Zinni, and Andrew Bacevich, and Secretaries Flournoy and Panetta, there seemed to be a consensus that it wasn’t going to happen without greater U.S. involvement and engagement.

And I just don’t see that being a reality, either politically or militarily at this point.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a majority view among some of the analysts out there.

But, David, is it the right thing to be doing right now?

DAVID BROOKS: I think so.

I think the drawdown of the troops was too fast. One of the biggest mistakes of the Obama presidency was to draw down the troops so fast in Iraq. There had been some stability achieved. The Sunni tribesmen were control of the Sunni areas. We drew down too fast. That created a vacuum. ISIS came in.

To me, the troops, it’s hard to know what 450 advisers are going to do, the effect they will have. I think the key thing is, we had somehow wandered ourselves into a position where we were effectively allied with Iran-backed Shiite militias going into Sunni areas.

That’s just not a recipe for success, most of the experts say. And so one of the nice things the administration is doing is, they’re shifting — after a big internal debate, they’re shifting and helping some of the Sunni tribes. And it’s got to be the Sunnis taking over the Sunni areas. It just doesn’t work to have Iranian-backed Shia taking over the Sunni areas. That is a recipe for resentment and hostility.

And, frankly, lot of those Iranian militias were coming in. They were liberating a town, executing the local leaders, and looting the places.

MARK SHIELDS: Just one — David makes a good point.

But the status of forces agreement, the drawdown of the U.S. troops, was, in fact, signed, developed and executed under President Bush. But I would just make one other point, Judy. And that is, in the several years since World War II, there has been one successful American military venture.

And that was the first — the Persian Gulf War under George H.W. Bush, and it had the elements that are missing and have been missing in every one since. It had a limited objective, driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. It had overwhelming force. It had popular consent. It had congressional backing of the opposition party. It had U.N. support.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying that’s not there now?

MARK SHIELDS: And a known exit strategy. And I don’t see any of those elements being present in anything since.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, just to quickly move to the presidential campaign, because I want to get to Hillary Clinton’s big announcement rally tomorrow, David.

National security has been a big topic among the Republicans, but we’re hearing that Secretary Clinton tomorrow is going to be talking in a more personal way. What does she need to do as she moves into this more public phase of her campaign?

DAVID BROOKS: She needs a ringing defense of the free trade agreement. But she’s not going to do that, I guarantee you.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is, by the way, what she has been criticized for.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. She’s been sort of dodging that one.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: She’s supported it in the past, but she’s dodging it right now.

She has to introduce herself as a person. And so all the reports are, she’s going to talk about her mom, had a very sad childhood. And she will — you know, if you look at the things that people don’t like about her, which are things, I think, she does have to address, the big one is the honesty and trustworthiness, where people do not think that.

And the second one is, does she relate to people like me? And she’s led a pretty amazing life the last few decades, but it’s not exactly too relatable. And so she needs to take off some of the armor, frankly and show the human being under there.

And that human being, you hear about, but the public hasn’t seen a lot of it. And so I think showing that human being is task number one.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying it could work.

DAVID BROOKS: I think, you know, she is a human being. And she has normal relationships.

You even forget when — they’re going to talk apparently about her mom going off to — having a margarita here at the one of the Mexican restaurants in town. Even — we don’t think of her in those terms, but she can go — and it was not a fancy Mexico restaurant. It was the Cactus Cantina, which is very fine. I don’t want to insult the Cactus Cantina.

MARK SHIELDS: Hey. Hey.

DAVID BROOKS: It’s one of my favorites.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: But even thinking of her at a restaurant like that would just, like, go a long way, because, as secretary of state, as senator, as a global celebrity, she has sort of risen into a very strictly defined role, which she — hopefully is not her whole person.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think she needs?

MARK SHIELDS: I would say, Judy, I agree with the point about her honesty. I don’t know how you do that. I mean, Richard Nixon tried.

And I’m not comparing the two, but you can’t say, I’m honest, I’m not a crook. You don’t do that.

But I think what she has to do is make the campaign about the future. That’s what presidential campaigns are about, and tell us why she wants to run for president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying she hasn’t done that?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t think she has yet. And I think — but that’s what it has to be.

It’s a tricky position to run to succeed an incumbent executive in your own party, whether a mayor, a governor or a president, because you have to be — you can’t be disloyal to that president, governor, or mayor who has his or her own loyal constituents. You don’t want to alienate them.

But you have got to somehow separate yourself. And I think Americans expect optimism in their leadership. The most popular and effective leaders, whether it was Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan or Jack Kennedy, brought to it a sense of optimism and possibility. They see her already as a strong leader, which is important, but I would be interested to see where she stands on the trade act as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, does that matter?

MARK SHIELDS: Of course it does.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That she — whether she — because she’s just…

MARK SHIELDS: Well, her husband, that was based — a good part of his foreign policy was NAFTA in 1993. And he staked his presidency on it, worked hard and effectively to get it through, and is totally identified with it, and so is she.

Now, in 2008, she was a little critical, both she and President Obama were as candidates in 2008, of NAFTA and what it had meant. But, no, I think she’s certainly — as secretary of state, she was present at the birthing of this. I think people expect her to be on the president’s side.

But, obviously, the political reality in her own party, there’s not a lot of support for that right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you get the sense, David, that her campaign has felt that they could just — they hold that off, that they don’t need to talk about trade and some other issues just yet, that they don’t need to fold it — roll it all out yet.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, that’s fair. They don’t need to present all the policies all at once.

But there’s been accusations, including by me, that she’s shifting too far to the left and too far of a base mobilization strategy. And the trade will be the big test of that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, gentlemen, next week, we get to talk about Jeb Bush. He announces on Monday.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

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Shields and Brooks discuss Clinton on voting rights, Republicans on Islamic State


Fri, Jun 05, 2015


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who joins us from New Jersey.

Gentlemen, it’s good to have you both.

2016, David, Mark, four candidates have entered the race just since the last time we were together.

David, let’s talk about the Democrats first. How does the addition of Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee affect the shape of the race? Size up their candidacies for us.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, Chafee seems a completely implausible candidate, but he does have one issue that he will raise, where he opposed the Iraq War. And so Hillary Clinton supported it.

And it will be interesting to see how that plays out, whether it’s significant. I think it’s probably passed its sell date, at least in the Democratic primaries. But that’s something she will have to talk about and defend again.

Martin O’Malley is a plausible candidate. I’m of the belief that Hillary Clinton’s major opponent is herself and that, if she is going to come down, it is going to be because of an error she made or some scandal or something like that, and nobody else can touch her.

But if something does happen to her campaign, then he seems at least like a plausible president. He was a moderately successful governor of a pretty major state. And he presents well. And so he’s more or less plan B as it stands right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see them, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I see that, first of all, Martin O’Malley, two-term governor of Maryland, and I would agree with David, a successful governor, and a liberal governor with appeal to many of the constituency groups that are active in Democratic presidential primary politics.

He has advanced positions, progressive on same-sex marriage, on immigrant rights. And I think he presents a — he’s very charismatic, he’s appealing, he’s a good speaker, plays the guitar.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: I mean, he’s got…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Important qualifications.

MARK SHIELDS: You know, but he’s got a certain bobby socks appeal. He’s got a — he’s a natural politician.

But I think the threat he represents is, Judy, he, in his announcement, came out strongly against Wall Street and said, you don’t get to pass the presidency back as some sort of a crown between two royal families. So, he put Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush in the same category.

And, believe me, that is a popular line among people on both sides of the political…

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you think that could affect — could be a…

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS: I think — put it this way, Judy. At this point in — Bill Clinton was at 6 percent, in fifth place. Michael Dukakis was 21 point behind. Jimmy Carter didn’t even register in the Gallup Poll for the entire year before he was nominated. Democrats like underdogs and dark horses.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, meanwhile, David, Hillary Clinton, the front-runner, is out talking this week about voting rights, naming her Republican challengers one by one. Is this a smart tactic?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

First, can I note — Mark, did you say bobby socks appeal or…

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: He did.

MARK SHIELDS: I did. I did. I did say bobby socks.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: … are wearing bobby socks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I was trying not to show that I recognized what he was talking about.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. That’s right.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: How about support hoses?

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: … second baseman for the Red Sox.

You know, I think Hillary Clinton, it’s a good issue for her. It’s an issue that mobilizes a lot of people, especially in the minority community. She’s clearly trying to reorganize the Obama coalition. And to do that, she really has to get the — at least similar turnout levels among African-Americans, among Latinos.

And so this is a good issue for her. I would say that it’s still problematic in this one regard, that her last campaign suffered because it didn’t have an overarching theme. It had a bunch of series of targeted policies toward specific constituencies. And sometimes you can pay so much attention to the polls and pick out this issue to get that — people and this issue to get that person, and that you lose an overarching theme.

And I say, now that she’s dropping in the polls kind of significantly now, at least for right now, that she needs some big, imaginative overarching theme to offer a new narrative, to counter the things that are dragging her down right now. And microtargeting in what looks like sort of a cynical way is not necessarily the way to get there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to get to the Republicans, but what about this voting rights that Hillary is talking about?

MARK SHIELDS: I think David is right. It works politically.

But I think she’s right on the issue, Judy. I mean, we talk about American exceptionalism. Our founding fathers limited the right to vote to white male property owners. Over the next 176 years, it was expanded to include free black slaves, male, and then eventually to women, and then eventually to African-Americans, and 18-year-olds, and we have expanded democracy.

And one of the great frauds that Republicans have perpetrated over the past generation has been this idea of voter fraud, that people are showing up, 31 cases in 14 years, Judy, of people stealing identity or voting improperly.

So, I think she’s absolutely right. It is our responsibility to make voting available to as many people as possible who want to vote.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, maybe she can get some traction on that.

Well, let’s talk quickly about the Republicans, David. Former Governor Rick Perry threw his hat in the ring just yesterday, Lindsey Graham earlier this week.

How do they change the shape of the race, what they’re talking about?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, Lindsey Graham is a foreign policy candidate primarily, though he has been a very effective legislator. He is the kind of guy who can work across lines and can craft coalitions.

And so it seems to make him a bit of a niche candidate to raise the foreign policy issue and maybe shape the debate. But it’s hard to see him rising to the first tier. Rick Perry by resume should be in the first tier, but he ran such a bad race last time. I was going through my head trying to think of somebody who ran really a bad race and then suddenly emerged as a superstar next time.

Candidates tend to get better. They don’t get that much better. So, I have to remain as a skeptic. The one person who is sort of rising in the buzz sphere is Carly Fiorina, the former business executive who has never been elected really. But she’s outperforming. She’s getting good crowds. And so if there’s any buzz on the Republican side right now, it’s sort of with her at the moment.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m a Lindsey Graham fan. And I think Lindsey Graham comes with real credentials and real credibility, ISIS, foreign policy, national security. This is somebody who is long and deep in the — on this area. He’s knowledgeable.

You can disagree with his policies. And I do in many cases. But he’s a real player. As far as people wanting bipartisanship, this is someone who voted for both Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to confirm them. He vs in immigration reform. He has stood constant for a path to citizenship and a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On climate change.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. And, no, I just — I think he’s a grownup. John McCain calls him his illegitimate son because they’re so close on national security. But I think Lindsey Graham, in this climate of concern about ISIS, is a real factor.

Rick Perry, if he’d done this year what he did — had done four years ago in preparation and studying and all the rest of it, he’s a natural politician. He’s a very gifted one-on-one politician. And he has got a real story to tell. I mean, the Texas — whatever you say about Texas, and wages not being good or treatment of workers not being great, there are millions of jobs. It’s created more jobs than anyplace in the country.

So, do you get a second chance to make a first impression? That’s his dilemma.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I do want to ask you both quickly about what Lindsey Graham — you both have made the point he’s making foreign policy, national security the main thrust of the campaign.

David, it raises the question, do the Republicans have a better idea, does anybody have a better idea what to do right now about the Middle East, about ISIS?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, nobody has a great solution.

But I think Lindsey Graham has some solutions. And some of the Republicans have some others which personally I think are better than what’s Obama is offering, first to give the Sunni tribes some arms directly. The central government in Baghdad has not given them anything. And so ISIS is pretty much free to take over. And sending a bunch of Iranian-backed Shia militia into the Sunni Triangle is not actually a great idea. And that’s we, perversely, are doing.

So, that’s one improvement I think that could be made. Second, there are reports of ISIS convoys are just wandering unmolested across the battlefield, and so maybe stepping up some of the attacks. And then not putting American troops on the front line. Nobody wants to do that, but putting more trainers in there, a little more infrastructure in there would probably be helpful.

I’m not sure these are great solutions, but I think the big solution is, let’s try — let’s not pretend that Sunni or Shia are going to govern together any time soon. Let’s try to federalize the system. And so that’s something that — these are in contrast to what’s been happening in the last six and even the last 12 years. And a lot of Republicans are at least standing for — at least they have got an alternative. It’s a plausible alternative.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It would be a big change, Mark, wouldn’t it?

MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure, Judy.

I’m not sure the country is ready for a change. I’m not sure that there is a certain trumpet or even an uncertain trumpet being sounded by anybody in the race at this point. I think there’s a limit on Americans’ expectations of what we can achieve and a disappointment and a sense of disenchantment and a sense almost of tragedy of what has happened.

At the same time, I don’t see the plan, that we’re going to send troops in when — how do we know when they have succeeded? How do we know when they come out? And, you know, I think arming Sunnis at this point, given the tension and the reality in Syria and in Iraq, is maybe helping ISIS, quite bluntly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we reported earlier in the show that the U.S. is finally sending weapons now to help the Iraqi army, something that I guess they were — the prime minister had been complaining about.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you both about something we have watched all this week, and that is the vice president and his loss.

We have just seen this striking outpouring, David, of sympathy for Joe Biden and the loss of his son Beau Biden. The funeral is tomorrow. What is it about this family and about the really extraordinary personal losses that the vice president has experienced?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, there are some people in Washington that people just like on the strength of their character and on the strength of their warm heart.

Lindsey Graham — I agree with Mark — Lindsey Graham is one, but Joe Biden is certainly another. You could agree or disagree, but the man has an extraordinary, glowing heart. He’s a wonderful guy, a decent human being and a man of genuineness.

And I only met Beau Biden a few times, but he struck me as having some of the same qualities. He was a public servant, not a media hound at all. But when you met him in off-the-record setting, he was very warm, and glowing, and had a big handsome smile. And so people just sense, through all the maze of politics, just genuineness and a large heart. And that’s what both Bidens, father and son, have and had.

MARK SHIELDS: I agree with David, Judy.

I would just add this, that no parent ever wants to bury a child. And now, in Joe Biden’s case, some 46 years apart, he’s buried his second child, himself a father and a husband and with two children.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Lost his first wife.

MARK SHIELDS: Lost his first wife and his daughter in a tragic accident when he was 29 years old.

And Joe Biden is a model for every male who is a father or aspires to be a father, widowed at the age of 29. He drove two hours each way back and forth to work to be home with his kids at night. And, as he put it recently at Yale: I did it because I needed my kids more than they needed me.

And I would just add one little P.S. And that is, every year at Christmas, Joe Biden, who road Amtrak back and forth to Wilmington, threw a Christmas party for the workers who worked on the train, the engineers, the conductors, the people there.

I mean, it just further example of what David said. He is a man of a warm heart, an open heart, generous heart. And I think the outpouring, especially on the president — the president has been more unguarded in his own feelings, I think, about — toward Beau Biden and to Joe.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And he will be speaking tomorrow at the services.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

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

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Shields and Brooks on Dennis Hastert charges, Ashton Carter Iraq comments


Fri, May 29, 2015


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

Welcome, gentlemen.

So let’s begin, Mark, with this — what we learned yesterday, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert indicted for paying $3.5 million, they said, in hush money to someone because of something that happened a long time ago. Apparently, there are news report today that say it involved sexual misconduct.

What are your thoughts?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, first of all, people who said they knew about it here in Washington are I think speaking emptily, because this comes as a real shock.

At the same time, beyond the allegations and reports, the indictment, the charges, it’s an incredible blow to the Congress. The Congress is just behind loan sharks in public esteem. It’s a blow to politics in general. It’s an indictment of Washington.

Washington is a city of money. It’s a flood of money. This is a man who came to Congress with total a net worth of $270,000. And he’s talking about payout, $3.5 million basically three years after he left Congress. That’s the kind of money that we’re talking about.

But, at the personal level, it’s a terrible tragedy. It’s amazing to me, most of all, when the Republican Party, Newt Gingrich was the speaker, the first speaker in the history of the House to be reprimanded and punished for ethics violations. He’s succeeded by Bob Livingston, who has to resign because of sexual infidelities that are revealed.

And then Denny Hastert takes over, and with this in his background and this knowledge, how he could have done it and taken it with that record out there, the scrutiny, it must have been an incredibly difficult or, I don’t know, what self-delusional time for him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We don’t know.

There’s so much we don’t know, David.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

First, if the allegations about the contact with the boys are true, well, we have seen that with the Catholic Church. We have seen a disturbing undercurrent in American life, I guess, and maybe in world life, of this sort of thing.

I am struck, as Mark just mentioned, the whole litany of people, especially of that era, who were involved in some scandal or another. Some of it was sexual. Some of it was more financial, even Tom DeLay’s, Speaker Wright. And it was just all concentrated in a lot of people all at once.

Does politics attract such people? I don’t know. Is it prevalent in society? It’s certainly a reminder of original sin. The other thing, though, I did want to say that there are people in American life to whom this has not happened.

And I have my disagreements, say, with President Obama, but President Obama has run an amazingly scandal-free administration, not only he himself, but the people around him. He’s chosen people who have been pretty scandal-free.

And so there are people in Washington who do set a standard of integrity, who do seem to attract people of quality. And I think that’s probably true of the current group. I hope it’s true of the current leadership group in Congress. But — so they’re not all involved in scandal.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: David makes a good point. And I agree with him on this administration in particular.

But, Judy, I just think you can’t look at this and not say money. People I know who run for office, there is something they want to do bigger than themselves. And something in this process of raising all that money, of being around all that money, being exposed to it…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Having access to it.

MARK SHIELDS: Having access to it, I think it — you know, I just think it’s corrupting and corrosive.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think I disagree in this case — or in these sorts of cases.

To me, it’s loneliness. The people who are rising, they’re super ambitious. They have relationships with people above them. They have relationships, hierarchical, sort of people below them. A lot of people do not have relationships horizontally. And there’s a lot of people who reach these high political offices, but who are weirdly lonely, weirdly lacking in intimacy skills.

And they sometimes reach for it in the most desperate and sometimes the most disgraceful ways. And I find a lot of — they’re socially awkward in a weird way, even though politicians are in some ways socially super adept.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, again, we should say, allegedly, this was that happened decades ago to Dennis Hastert.

Well, let’s talk about the administration and ISIS in Iraq. David, we saw a bit of a back-and-forth this week. You had the secretary of defense on Sunday saying that the Iraqi army had fallen down on the job in defending the country against ISIS, the Islamic State. You had the vice president quickly calling the prime minister, saying, no, the Iraqi army is doing a great job, the president saying, we’re not doing badly.

What’s going on? How do you read that?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, heck of a job, Brownie.

No, what Carter said was absolutely true. There have been cases where a few hundred ISIS fighters were defeating 30,000 Iraqi soldiers. And so they’re not fighting. And the reason they’re not fighting fundamentally is because they don’t believe in their country anymore.

We tried — and I give Joe Biden credit. He will renounce it, but years and years ago, probably 2006, 2007, he had an idea for a loose federal Iraq. And that — in retrospect, that looks to me like a smarter and smarter idea. We have tried to keep this country together, but the Sunnis are not really sharing power with the — the Shias are not really sharing power with the Sunnis. They’re not willing to give the Sunni forces the weapons and other things they need to defeat ISIS.

The political system is still fractured. The soldiers clearly do not believe in that country. The polling, do you feel like an Iraqi, that is collapsing. And so I think we just have to accept — and it’s probably too late for us to have any influence there — that it’s no longer a country that anybody is willing to die for, whereas the Islamic State, those people are willing to die for whatever cause they think they believe in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, is it a strategy that just needs to be completely reworked?

MARK SHIELDS: I think so, Judy.

I’m not sure what the strategy is at this point, beyond some sort of limited containment. And the alternatives advocated of sending 3,000, 10,000 troops is — are beyond foolish. That’s sending too few to fight and too many to die.

But beyond that, Ash Carter, the secretary of defense, reminds me of the great Turkish proverb that he who speaks the truth must keep one foot in the stirrup. He has just spread the ugly truth of what happened in Ramadi. And Joe Biden was trying to make — sort of restore some sense of relationship involved here.

After the experience with Chuck Hagel and the embarrassing treatment of him, mistreatment, if you want to call it, by the White House and the president, there’s no — Ash Carter is bulletproof. They’re not going to try to sabotage or discredit him in any way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Fourth secretary of defense under this president.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s exactly right.

And he’s just — but I think he’s known as a level, direct-talking, and I think this is the case. But I just don’t — I do not see what the — most probably disturbing report this week was that in Palmyra, where ISIS took over in Syria, they’re now providing social services that the Syrian government hadn’t, reminiscent of Hamas.

And all of a sudden, these brutal people are starting to win over popular support among the citizenry. So, I look anywhere for good news, and I don’t find it.

DAVID BROOKS: And what the president has to say is, he called them a cancer. He said he vowed to eradicate them. And does he really think that’s necessary, or does he think, well, we can learn to live with these people because we’re not going to do anything too significant?

We are having these bombing sorties against them, a couple thousand, but nothing — obviously not in any real way that is damaging. There have been a few minor victories here and there, but not in any way that is clearly setting them on their back foot.

So I wish the president would clarify his policy. The policy is either going to be, we really think they’re a threat and we’re going to eliminate them, or where you just don’t care enough to do anything about them. And it’s one of those two things. And he’s sort of stuck in the middle, I would say, right now.

MARK SHIELDS: I do think that Ash Carter was speaking for the military in this case. The military is very resistant to these ideas of 3,000, 10,000 or going in on some sort of a land enterprise again, as we did before.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you mentioned, Mark, this is becoming an issue in the campaign.

And let’s talk for a few minutes about 2016, three more candidates jumping into the race this week, Mark, the first one — two Republicans, Mr. Santorum, Mr. Pataki. Senator Santorum served the state of Pennsylvania, Governor Pataki in New York. How do they change the landscape here for the Republican contenders?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Rick Santorum finished second in 2012. He won 11 primaries and caucuses from states as diverse as Colorado and Minnesota to Mississippi and Alabama.

But he did represent a little different view of Republicans. And that’s sort of that blue-collar Republican. He’s for the increasing the marriage, which most Americans are, but Republican ideologues aren’t. And that is — sort of makes him distinct, along with his cultural and religious conservatism and values conservatism. And he’s a national security hawk.

But finishing second, which had led to the nomination by Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, means nothing now. And so he’s fighting to even be on the stage, it strikes me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For the first debate.

MARK SHIELDS: But he’s trying to assemble a coalition that looks an awful lot like the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, sort of cultural and blue-collar conservative and economic populist. And I’m not sure that that is assemble-able, if that’s a word, in the Republican primary.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You said it. We will let it be a word.

MARK SHIELDS: OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about Rick Santorum?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, he was a good campaigner and he was a little John the Baptist-style, in that he was the first recent real working-class — as Mark said, working-class Republican.

But now, if you want a working-class Republican, you have got Scott Walker, you have got Marco Rubio. And so the bigger fish are filling that spot. And so that’s been the story with him. He was second in a really weak field. Now the field is a lot stronger, and even the people who were working for him in places like Iowa have drifted off to other people.

And so it’s going to be hard for him to recapture the magic he had. The other interesting case to me is Pataki. If ever there is a moderate Republican running, it would be nice to have a moderate Republican running, just to see what would happen.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: Just to maybe pick up some votes here. How many moderate Republicans are out there?  I suspect there are more than we think.

Pataki, unfortunately, like Huntsman last time, is not the right messenger for that. He’s just not inspiring. When he was finishing his term as New York governor, he wasn’t that popular. And so he’s not going to be a strong candidate. It would be nice to have a strong moderate Republican candidate, just as a testing proposition.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Twenty seconds on Pataki, I mean — yes, on Pataki.

MARK SHIELDS: There’s a tide in the affairs of men, and his time, if there was one, was 2008.

Just — you really have one bite at the apple. His bite was 2008, coming off of having been governor of New York for three terms after 2001, 9/11, having beaten Mario Cuomo. I mean, that was it. And I’m sorry, George, but that position is no longer available.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will talk about Martin O’Malley next week.

MARK SHIELDS: OK.

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

 

The post Shields and Brooks on Dennis Hastert charges, Ashton Carter Iraq comments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.



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