Monday, July 17, 2017

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 7/14/2017

"Shields and Brooks on fallout from Donald Trump Jr.'s emails, GOP health care reform" PBS NewsHour 7/14/2017


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including President Donald Trump's trip abroad, fallout over a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, and the latest version of a GOP Senate health care bill.

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

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, Mark, welcome back.

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:  Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  We missed you last week.

The Donald Trump Jr. story.  We have now learned that he had a meeting a year ago, Trump Tower, with a lawyer who had some connection to the Russian government.  How does this change our understanding of the Russia collusion allegation?

MARK SHIELDS:  Well, I think it's fair to say, Judy, that the White House lost any benefit of the doubt that it could claim on this story.

The shoes continue to drop, like it's a Zappos warehouse or Imelda Marcos' closet.  I mean, it just — each time, they're amending their story, they're appending or extending their story.

And so I just think the fact that there were such denials and accusations of a Democratic plot, all of those are gone, and they stand naked and they stand exposed as shams.

I mean, they were actively engaged, at least welcoming Russian involvement in the 2016 election, in behalf of Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  David, does this change your assessment of what may have been going on?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times:  Yes.

My colleague Ross Douthat wrote that any time you give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt, he always lets you down.


DAVID BROOKS:  And that's true.  That's true for his business clients and it's true for those of us who thought, they couldn't have been some stupid, to walk right into collusion with the Russian meetings.

And yet they were not only that stupid, but I think what is striking to me is the complete amorality of it, that Donald Trump Jr. gets an e-mail saying the Russian government is offering you this, and he says, “I love it.”

And it reminded me so much of some of the e-mails that came out of the Jack Abramoff scandal, that came out of the financial crisis scandal, where they're just — they're like frat boys who are gleefully going against the law and are going against all morality.  And they're not even overcoming any scruples to do this.

They're just having fun with it.  And then, in the days since, we have had on — Donald Jr. on Sean Hannity's show, again, I did nothing wrong, just incapable of seeing that there might have been something wrong about colluding with a foreign power who is hostile with you.

And then Donald Trump himself saying, he's a wonderful guy, again, not seeing anything wrong, and then even last day lying about how many people were in the meeting, a completely inconsequential lie.

And so we're trapped in the zone just beyond any ethical scruple, where it's all about winning.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Beyond any ethical scruple, Mark, is that where we are?

MARK SHIELDS:  Yes, I think it's fair to say that Donald Trump was born without the embarrassment gene or the moral reservation gene.

He just — he doesn't — when he says that most people would take that meeting, Judy, I mean, this is not — I have been around for a while, and been to the Dallas Fair twice, and all the rest of it.  People wouldn't do that.

In 2000, Al Gore's campaign got ahold of, was delivered George Bush's briefing book.  They turned it over to the FBI.  That's what you do when you're honorable in politics.

This isn't a meeting with a foreign power.  This isn't Canada or the Swiss Family Robinson.  This is Russia.  This is a country that has supported, propped up the worst of anti-democratic regimes in the Middle East, that has practiced — mistreated its own press, mistreated its own civil society, and economic intimidation of its neighbors, including invasion of its neighbors.

I mean, this is the one country on the face of the earth with the capacity to obliterate the United States.  This is serious stuff.  And to do it so casually and, as David said, without moral reservation, is — I guess it should be stunning, but, sadly, it isn't.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But some of the Trump team, David, in their response to this are sounding almost offended that people would even think that they were doing something wrong.

DAVID BROOKS:  Yes, well, they just don't — they don't get it.

My pal Mike Gerson had a good line in his column today.  If you make losing a sin, you make cheating a sacrament.  And that is true.  If it's all win-loss, then you do whatever you can to win and to make money and to beat the deal.

And so I do think you have entered the zone where they don't quite see what they have done wrong.  But cheating with a foreign company — country is — as Mark keeps saying, is a grave sin.

And then there's just the scandal management of it, of letting it drip out, letting it drip out today and today and today.  And then there is almost just a cluelessness like a color blindness about how the rest of the world is going to go react to this.

And this has been a leitmotif for the Trump administration.

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