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

Shields and Brooks - NewsHour with Jim Lehrer - PBS Podcast

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

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Shields and Brooks on 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.


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.



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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: A tough thing to watch this week.

All right, let’s turn to presidential politics.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even this early.

MARK SHIELDS: Even this early.

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the crowds you mentioned are truly impressive.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does that explain Bernie Sanders, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think so.

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


DAVID BROOKS: But Sanders actually believes in this.


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.


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.


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

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

The post Shields and Brooks on police body cameras, previewing first presidential debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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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.


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.


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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: By the gun rights…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: They signed a letter.

MARK SHIELDS: … are supporting it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think Democrats will come around?

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton.

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think she is at risk?

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Forty seconds left.

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

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

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


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

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

MARK SHIELDS: Jerry is still on.

DAVID BROOKS: Jerry is still on.

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ten seconds.

MARK SHIELDS: Ten seconds.

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

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

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

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

Fri, Jul 17, 2015


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

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

Let’s start with Iran.

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, what’s your take?

DAVID BROOKS: I’m extremely skeptical.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


MARK SHIELDS: I think David is right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Setting the world on fire, Mark?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brooks and Dionne on 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…


JUDY WOODRUFF: And murder.

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

This is the last thing Republicans needed right now.

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E.J. DIONNE: I agree with that.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Quick last word.

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

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

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

E.J. DIONNE: Thank you so much.


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Shields and Brooks on Supreme Court lessons, Donald Trump controversy

Fri, Jul 03, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

DAVID BROOKS: I would imitate Mark.


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

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

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


DAVID BROOKS: And there is an endurance problem.

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

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

DAVID BROOKS: To me, it matters a little.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: And separated…

MARK SHIELDS: … severed relations with Donald Trump…


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?


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.


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.


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.


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…


MICHAEL GERSON: We are not rallied around…


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.


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



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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.


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?


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…


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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

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


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.


DAVID BROOKS: It’s one of my favorites.



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.


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…


JUDY WOODRUFF: So you think that could affect — could be a…


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?


First, can I note — Mark, did you say bobby socks appeal or…




MARK SHIELDS: I did. I did. I did say bobby socks.


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.


MARK SHIELDS: How about support hoses?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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


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

Fri, May 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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


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

JUDY WOODRUFF: And with that critique being made, we turn now to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away.

Welcome to you both.

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I doubt that.

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

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

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

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

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

MICHAEL GERSON: Justice Department also involved in eavesdropping.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

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

Fri, May 15, 2015


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

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

Gentlemen, welcome.

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

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

MARK SHIELDS: It is, Judy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the impact of all this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

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

Fri, May 08, 2015


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

So, welcome to both of you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUTH MARCUS:  Obviously.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Former governor of Arkansas.

RUTH MARCUS: Former governor of Arkansas.

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


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

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

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

RUTH MARCUS:  Man from Hope.

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

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

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

RUTH MARCUS:  Preventive care.

DAVID BROOKS: Preventive care, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re sort of nodding.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth Marcus…

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



Ruth Marcus, David Brooks, thank you.

RUTH MARCUS: Thank you.


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

Fri, May 01, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: How did it seem to you?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, aggressive, fast.

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean the state’s attorney.

DAVID BROOKS: The state’s attorney.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Marilyn Mosby.


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


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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, what…Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Hari’s piece.

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: The presidential campaign.

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARK SHIELDS: I agree on the town halls.

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

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

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

DAVID BROOKS: Finished. She’s over.


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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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


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

JUDY WOODRUFF: He may appreciate…

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

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


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

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

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


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Shields and Brooks on accidental drone deaths, Clinton money questions

Fri, Apr 24, 2015


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

Welcome, gentlemen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Time to reevaluate, rethink?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what you see?

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

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

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

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

MARK SHIELDS: This is the end of the administration.

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: What does it mean for her campaign?

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

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

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

MARK SHIELDS: Let me just make one quick point.

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


DAVID BROOKS: Seventy percent.

MARK SHIELDS: Seventy percent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the transparency thing?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it helps.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAVID BROOKS: Interesting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You would take which?

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

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. Less than a minute.

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

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


DAVID BROOKS: He’s at 13 and 15.


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


JUDY WOODRUFF: Cause and effect.

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


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

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

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

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.


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

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