Monday, February 06, 2017

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/3/2017

"Shields and Brooks on Democrats' Gorsuch dilemma, refugee ban backlash" PBS NewsHour 2/3/2017


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times Columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including President Trump's pick of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, and the tough choice for Democrats on how to respond in light of GOP obstruction on Merrick Garland, plus the controversial refugee and travel ban and more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome to both of you.  So much to talk about.

David, week two of the Trump administration.

Let's start with his pick for the Supreme Court, federal Judge Neil Gorsuch.

What do you make of him?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Clearly qualified, first-rate legal scholar, first-rate judge, first-rate mind, apparently a first-rate person.  He's what any — the best any Republican President would have done.  So, I thought a very good pick for Donald Trump.

The Democrats have a challenge.  They can either behave the way the Republicans did to Merrick Garland, which would be disgraceful, but that would blow up the system.  They have a loyalty either — I think a primary loyalty to the Constitution and basically to the norms of how we have done justice constitutional — or justice confirmations for the past many decades.

And that is, if the President picks someone who is basically qualified, basically a good person, then you confirm that person even if you don't agree, because your side lost the election.

Now, I understand the Democratic thinking.  The Republicans didn't behave this way.  But I guess my belief is that two terrible behaviors don't make a good behavior.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  What's your take on Judge Gorsuch?

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  Well, Judy, first of all, I agree with David on the assessment of him.

He went to Georgetown Prep, which is a rather exclusive local prep school, then on to Columbia College, and then to Harvard Law School, then to Oxford.

But the Vice President made a point when he was interviewed by you in this show, emphasizing he's a fourth-generation Coloradan, because his resume sounds very much like all the other justices on the Supreme Court.

And as somebody who said that we ought to have somebody on the court who went to night school or went to public school — but, nevertheless, he does seem by temperament — and I will say this.  In an administration that has been marked by total chaos and is unsettling in the way it's behaved and the impulses it's shown by its President, this was the exception.

It was incredibly normal.  They did it well.  The announcement was done well.  He's being — the Sherpa he has on Capitol Hill is former Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who is well-respected with moderates and Democrats, and Ron Bonjean, who was Trent Lott's adviser and spokesman.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  I do want to get, David, to the executive orders.  They have been coming at us fast and furious just about every day.  But the big one I want to ask you about is the immigration order. It’s created a firestorm.  We just — we announced — we just reported a few minutes ago a couple of federal judges have ruled on it because of legal challenges.

There have been protests.  You have got State Department employees who have signed a letter of dissent.

Is the administration getting off on the right foot or not with this statement?

DAVID BROOKS:  Well, you know, I have been inundated by 18 inches of orders, like we all have over the last couple of weeks, and some of them are good.

I think some of them are completely toothless and symbolic.  But this one on the refuges is the one that’s truly abominable and reprehensible.  We can’t remind people enough that it responds to a problem that does not exist, that refugees in from these countries have killed no one in a terrorist attack.  That’s not where the threat has lain.

It’s from homegrown people.  It’s maybe from other countries.  The 9/11 people were from Saudi Arabia and some other places.  And so it’s a response to nothing.

And so you have to think that it’s just an outgrowth of nativism.  And there has been a whiff of nativism, to put it politely, in a lot of the measures that this administration has done.  And it has offended our career people in the State Department.  It has offended our allies.  It has offended a lot of people around the world, for no good effect.

Usually, when there’s some policy, there are pros and cons.  There are literally no pros to this one.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Any good effect?

MARK SHIELDS:  No good effect.

And both the President and his Vice President made the mistake of referring to it as a ban, then tried to — Muslim ban — then tried to walk it back.  No.

And, Judy, the irony is, in a week where the President says he wants to unleash churches politically from being hobbled, and goes to the National Prayer Breakfast, I mean, forgotten is the message of Christ, that — how you treat the stranger among you.  Whatever you do for the least of these, that of Moses, that you shall not oppress an alien, because you yourselves have been aliens.

This has been the hallmark, this has been the defining value of the United States.  We had six Nobel Prize winners American last year.  All six were immigrants.  Immigrants have been the sustenance and the survival and the treasure of this country.

And Donald Trump is appealing, as he did during the campaign, to the basest, the most selfish and the most literally un-American of instincts.

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