Monday, September 21, 2015

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 9/18/2015

"Shields and Brooks on GOP debate standouts, Pope Francis goes to Washington" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2015


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the week’s news, including how the second Republican debate helped or hurt the candidates, why Donald Trump didn’t contradict bigoted remarks at a campaign rally and the significance of Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the U.S.

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist:  To me, this is — Barack Obama is a Christian who was born in Hawaii.  Barack Obama is a Christian who was born in Hawaii.  I mean, what we have is feeding paranoia.  Right now, 43 percent of Republicans, according to CNN’s latest poll, believe Barack Obama is a Muslim; 54 percent of Trump supporters in the same survey believe he is.
MARK SHIELDS:  Well, the pope, Pope Francis, is coming to Washington.  He’s never been to Washington, never been to the United States before.  We know we’re the center of the universe (toung-in-cheek).  Somehow, it has escaped him in his entire life.

But several things.  One is, he’s the antithesis to big-money politics.  I mean, this is somebody who spends his time with — he listens to the voiceless.  He remembers the forgotten.  He sees the overlooked, whether it’s the immigrant, or the refugee, as we saw, or the day worker, or the sick, the handicapped, or the lonely.

I mean, he really does — he does embody — I fear he’s going to make both parties — I know he’s going to make both parties very uncomfortable, because his message is not trimmed for politics.  He’s going to make the Republicans quite uncomfortable on the question of poverty and the obligation that we have to act collectively.  He’s very pro-politics.  He believes in politics.

He’s very strong on the environment and on climate change, contrary to many Republicans, including Marco Rubio.  But, at the same time, he speaks fondly and well and consistently about protecting the unborn and those in the late stages of life who face death.  He is — really, it’s going to be remarkable to watch Joe Biden and John Boehner, both Catholics, the Vice President and The Speaker, sitting behind him, and applauding different passengers and kind of pretending they didn’t hear others.

So — but I hope it doesn’t become political, because this truly is a remarkable spiritual moment in a very secular city.


DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Yes, I just want to underline that last comment.  I hope we don’t overpoliticize this visit.

The first thing we’re going to see is our countrymen, thousands, millions of them moved by faith, their eyes looking to heaven, their heart warmed by God’s love.  And we’re going to see that in public.  And we’re going to see that in tens of millions of people.  And that will be a moment of seeing faith in a way we rarely see it in this country in public.

And, secondly, we will see the example of the man.  The message is the person.  It’s the way he conducts himself.  His love for the poor is not out of any self-congratulatory.  He — whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, atheist, whatever, he is the embodiment of the Christian virtues that I think we all admire, the — seeing the meekest, seeing the poorest, seeing the lowest, and lifting them up, and seeing the brokenness in people, and then lifting them up with joy.

And so, to me, it will be a theater of spiritual — a spiritual theater more than a political theater.  And I suspect tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people’s lives will be changed, in the way that politics can never change them, from within.  Their lives will be transformed because they will be at this visit.  And they will be moved by something they had never felt or only have felt weakly before.

And to me, that’s just a seismic event, whatever happens to our political culture.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  David, so what about — how does that translate when that spiritual theater is finished?  Does that translate into any sort of policy action or rethinking something that might be in the works in Congress that’s stalled?

DAVID BROOKS:  Well, I hope it transforms hearts.  And I hope it transforms hearts in the ways Mark just suggested.

The pope is not going to visit the homeless or the prisoners once in his visit.  He’s doing it six, seven, eight times in the visit.  So, the constant focus will be there on those who are hurting the most.  And I think that enlivened attention will carry over into people’s eyes, both in their private lives and their private giving, but also in their public lives.

Mark has said this many times over the years.  We have a political culture focused on the middle class.  We have lost some of the contact with the poor, some of the contact with the needy, and not only — and not from high to low, and, frankly, some of the compassionate conservatism and some of progressivism has been from high to low, but treating the poor as those closest to God and worthy of respect maybe even more than everybody else.

And that’s an attention that has been absent from our political culture or in short supply, and maybe it will be in slightly bigger supply.

MARK SHIELDS:  I think David said it very, very well, just that wherever he goes, he brings the cameras with him, and an incredible number of cameras, as we know.

But as soon as he finishes Congress — and it’s the hottest ticket in the history of Capitol Hill.  I mean, people are fighting to get in.  Former members and senators can’t even get into the gallery to hear him.  They have set up a JumboTron outside.

He’s going to have lunch with the poorest of the poor in the Center City in Washington sponsored by Catholic Charities.  I mean, these are the addicted.  These are people with alcohol problems, with psychological problems, the homeless.  And he doesn’t allow us to look away.  He forces us to examine those who are living on the outskirts of hope.

Of course 34% of Republicans believe the trash on Obama's birth.  They live in an alternate universe, wear aluminum-foil hats, and  believe that the strip in our bills is a tracking device.

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