Monday, May 29, 2017

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 5/26/2017

"Shields and Brooks on Trump's first trip, press bashing in Montana" PBS NewsHour 5/26/2017


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss President Trump's first trip abroad and views on NATO, plus dramatic domestic cuts in the White House's budget proposal, a new CBO assessment of the Republican health care bill, and whether an alleged assault by a political candidate suggests growing hostility toward the press.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  But first to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

All right, let's start this week on the foreign front.  The president met potentates, presidents, prime ministers, and a Pope.  There were magical orbs.


HARI SREENIVASAN:  There were tweet-sized messages stuck into a Wailing Wall.  How did he do?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:  B-plus.  No.


MARK SHIELDS:  Well, I'm not going to grade him.  I grade him on the curve.

I would say the visual highlight was with the Pope when he said, you know, the Pope is a very humble man, much like me, which he had tweeted earlier, and that's why I like him so much.

But just sort of they're polar opposites, of the two, one a champion of immigrants and refugees and almost disdainful of opulence and excessive wealth, and the other sort of the embodiment of it.

But I thought, quite frankly, the first part of the trip, he laid down the policy, and the policy is that we will stand on the side of Sunni autocrats against terrorism, and no questions asked.

And here, in addition, is a major weapons, a huge weapons sale that — and we're not going to ask how you use it or where you use it, and if people are killed in Yemen, and they're — made in the USA is on the weapon that kills them, and it's done indiscriminately, that's their business and not ours, because the operating and organizing principle of foreign policy is opposition to terrorism under Donald Trump.

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times:  Yes, I thought Melania had a very good week.  I thought a lot of good moments for her.  There was a lot of good judgments, actually.

He, by the standards of some of the competence of the previous week, I would say you would have to say the trip was, by competence standards, a success.  He did what he wanted to do in Saudi Arabia, at NATO, at various other places.

I do think, as Mark suggested, the chief oddity of the entire trip is that we seem to be mean to our friends and kind to our foes.  And so, Saudi Arabia — Fareed Zakaria had a very good column on this — we're supposed to be against terrorism, and Trump loves to talk about Iranians — Iran's influence on terrorism, but the main source of terror funding for both the ideas and sometimes the organizations is Saudi Arabia.  It's not Iran.

And so — but, somehow, we're super nice to Saudi Arabia.  Meanwhile, we're super mean to Germany and France and some of our NATO allies.  And so there's just been a perversion of American foreign policy, which is sort of based on the idea that character doesn't matter, and you can — whether the leaders from Russia or the Philippines or Saudi Arabia, that people of bad character are people we can ally with.

And, somehow, I think there is a consistency between the government here and some of the governments the Trump administration likes around the world.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  There was a bit of that we just saw …

MARK SHIELDS:  Yes.  I'm sorry?

HARI SREENIVASAN:  There was a bit of that we just saw in the conversation that Judy had.

MARK SHIELDS:  That's exactly right.

I would just say that the NATO part of the visit, I found particularly disturbing, because there was nothing about the principles and values.  There was nothing about values and what we share and what animates us and what we respect and revere, whether it's individual rights or democracy.

That just seemed to be unimportant.  And all the criticism that the President had was stored up, as David pointed out, for these folks for somehow being welfare cheats or something.

DAVID BROOKS:  Yes.  And that's pure demagoguery.

He spoke as if we — they owe us money because they haven't been paying their dues, which is not true.


DAVID BROOKS:  That's not the way that the — the problem is that they sort of pledged to gradually get to 2 percent of GDP in defense spending.

MARK SHIELDS:  That's right.

DAVID BROOKS:  And some of the countries have, and a lot of the countries have not.  And that's a legitimate issue.

But he portrayed it as if we're bailing them out, and they owe us money, and they haven't paid their bills, which is just actually untrue.

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