Monday, January 16, 2017

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 1/13/2017

"Shields and Brooks on Russian intrigue in American politics, Obama's farewell" PBS NewsHour 1/13/2017


SUMMARY:  It was a packed week of congressional hearings for President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees, with inauguration days away.  Judy Woodruff speaks with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks about the Russian intrigue in U.S. politics, the future of Mr. Trump's relationship to his business and saying goodbye to President Obama.

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

And welcome to you both.  There is so much to talk about, but let's start with talking about the president-elect and Russia.

We had the news today — on top of all the confirmation that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election, today, we learned — and we talked about earlier it on the show — David, that General Michael Flynn had phone conversations with the Russian ambassador in December, several of them.

Tonight, we're learning that the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to expand what was already an investigation into the Russian interference into in election to look at any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians and the Clinton campaign, although the main focus is Donald Trump.

What do we make of all this?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  I was first struck by David Ignatius' comment earlier in the program that they just could be trying to be destabilize the United States across the board.  And that's a — I hadn't heard that thought before and it's a live possibility.

Putin is someone who has been undermining the norms of what we consider the world order since he got into power and in increasing success.  What's interesting about the Trump administration is how bitterly divided they are in their attitudes towards Putin.

Steve Bannon and General Flynn have warm feelings.  Putin has been — and with a lot of the groups, the conservative groups, the more extreme conservative groups that underlie Trump, he's a bit of a hero because he speaks for traditional values, he's against the global institutions.

They see him as someone who has been on the defensive from an aggressive E.U., an aggressive NATO.  And there is a lot of sympathy there, actually.

And then, if you look at the more establishment Republicans, they see him as what I just described, subversive of the world order.  And so to me the question will be, will Trump and Bannon control policy toward the foreign policy, or will everyone else basically?

And my money is on everyone else, because I think Trump's attention span is super low.  I don't think he has the expertise to actually run a foreign policy.  And at the end of the day — and I think this is a major story of the Trump administration — he's going to want the affirmation of the establishment, as he always has.

The reason he had Clintons at his wedding because he wants that affirmation.  When he gets the chance to have it, I think he will bend gradually in that direction.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  How are you looking at all this?

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  Donald Trump is to traditional values what I am to marathon running.


MARK SHIELDS:  It just doesn't — it doesn't fit.

I have to say, Judy, I am perplexed, and I think an increasing number of Republicans are perplexed and actually nervous about Donald Trump and Russia, nervous in the sense that he is gratuitously giving Democrats the national security advantage, that they're standing up for the country.

We have testimony of General Mattis, the nominee for secretary of defense, asserting that the objective, the stated objective and the mission of Vladimir Putin's Russia is to destabilize the North Atlantic Alliance, and he, who believes in NATO and believes it's been one of the great alliances in modern history, that Putin represents a threat to this, that "Russia Today" is nothing but a propaganda arm, that General Flynn went to celebrate its anniversary, sitting at Putin's table for money, paid to show up.

So, I mean, these questions, essentially, they have just given it to the Democrats to stand up and say, wait a minute, where do you believe in this country, plus the suspicions, and real, about in fact the involvement of Russia in this election.

The question, the real moment of truth is going to arrive very shortly, a couple of weeks, when sanctions arrive on Donald Trump's — President Donald Trump's desk passed by a Republican Congress.  Is he going to oppose those sanctions? What's he going to do?

I just think it's inexplicable and irrational, his policy on Russia.
JUDY WOODRUFF:  Two more major things I want to ask both of you about.

The first one is what Donald Trump said, Mark, this week about his business interests.  He said he’s basically turning everything over to his sons, that it will be a kind of a blind trust.  Did he go far enough?

MARK SHIELDS:  Of course he didn’t, Judy.

He said after eight years, he will grade his sons, and if they didn’t perform well, they’re fired, sort of an offhand line, but showing that he did have a continuing interest.

There’s never been a sense of public service about this man.  And I don’t think there is in this alleged arrangement.  It’s anything but a blind trust.  It’s a seeing-eye trust.


It’s a blind trust.  I’m giving it to my closest relatives.


DAVID BROOKS:  It’s not really serious.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  He said he’s not going to talk to them about it.

DAVID BROOKS:  Yeah, right. (sarcastically)


DAVID BROOKS:  He has a different model.

I mean, most — the way the laws are envisioned, they are for people who work in the government — or work in a private sector, and then they cut it offer and they go to public service.  And that’s how you’re supposed to do it.

But he has a pre-modern monarchic family structure.  His business is a monarchy with family members all around.  His administration is a monarchy with family members all around.  So the laws are just not going to apply to him.  And he will wind up with some corruption problems, probably.

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