Monday, September 17, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 9/14/2018

"Shields and Brooks on Paul Manafort’s guilty plea, Trump’s Hurricane Maria denial" PBS NewsHour 9/14/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the guilty plea from Paul Manafort and deal to cooperate with the Mueller investigation, President Trump’s contentious remarks about Hurricane Maria, and slipping polls for the President ahead of the general election for control of the House and the Senate.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  As the Carolinas grapple with Florence's destructive forces, President Trump sparked a new political storm after questioning the number of Americans killed in the aftermath of Puerto Rico's storm last year.

And the general election for control of the House and Senate has officially begun, a perfect moment for the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.

Mark, I'm going to start with the Paul Manafort plea.  He had said for months that he wasn't going to do this, but now he has.  He's pled guilty.  And he's cooperating with Robert Mueller.  We — it's clear there's so much we don't know, but what does this mean for the President, potentially?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  It means bad news.

He is the — Paul Manafort is the person closest to the President, who was in the campaign, who was involved in a meeting at Trump Tower with the Russians, who was involved intimately in the convention preparations, to changing the platform of the — in a position on Ukraine.

So there's a lot.  Plus, he was the conduit, to the degree there was one, in the Trump campaign to the traditional Republican Party.  So, Paul Manafort is potentially a real problem.

Judy Woodruff:  David?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, I agree.

It's striking to me how late in the process it is that this plea deal came.  Maybe Manafort was holding out.  But the fact that Mueller decided to accept and cut the plea suggests there's something there, either about Trump, about a member of Trump's family, about somebody else.

It suggests that Mueller is proceeding slowly, and — but very remorselessly.  And so it might not even be about Russia.  It's been interesting.  A lot of the indictments that have so far come down have not been about Russia.  They have been other things.  And there could be some other — some other law-breaking, potential law-breaking somewhere in Trump's past.

Judy Woodruff:  Yes, we will certainly watch and wait.

In the meantime, as I mentioned, Mark, this is the week in which we're waiting for this hurricane to hit the East, Southern, Southeastern coast of the U.S.  President Trump a surprise everyone with a tweet the other morning questioning the number of people who died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico.

The outside experts, completely nonpolitical, had come to the conclusion, several of them, that it was around 3,000.  The President said that's not so.

It's not just Democrats, but Republicans in the state of Florida and elsewhere, who have come back and said the President's wrong.

What has he stepped into here?

Mark Shields:  He stepped into, Judy, and exposed himself as somebody whose ego is so out of check, whose narcissistic impulses are so total, that he could equate a personal tragedy of enormous dimensions, of some 3,000, now some estimates are as high as 4,000-plus, deaths in Puerto Rico to being a political conspiracy against him by the part of his political enemies.

As far as Republicans in Florida, Rick Scott, the governor, not surprisingly, spoke, said, it's not true.  He has been to Puerto Rico himself seven times.  He's made a big effort politically and governmentally to welcome the Puerto Ricans, the diaspora who've been moved to Florida as a result of that storm, who immediately become voters in that state.

But probably most telling was Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, the Mini-Me of this campaign, the Donald Trump clone, self-styled, self-admitted, saying that he didn't agree with the President on this, which is — I don't know what it's comfortable to.  Breaking with the king?

And so it's — I would say that Trump has really, in this case, isolated himself and exposed himself.

Judy Woodruff:  Any positive calculus for the President here, David?


David Brooks:  No, hard to think of that one.

It almost makes you nostalgic to remember when he was bragging about his crowd size at the inaugural.  That at least — it was a lie, but at least it was a harmless lie.

Mark Shields:  That's right.

David Brooks:  This is a lie where you render nearly 3,000 Americans invisible, that you don't acknowledge their existence, and you don't even see them.

And so it's essentially telling the families of the people who died and those who died and anybody who cares about their fellow citizens that you can write them out of the history books, because their deaths make Donald Trump look bad.

Mark Shields:  Just one…

David Brooks:  And so it's almost pathological.

Mark Shields:  Go ahead.  Pardon me.

I agree.

Just one other thing, Judy.  The politics of disasters, natural disasters in this country, are very real.  To go back to Superstorm Sandy and even the 2012 election, when Barack Obama, the President, went to New Jersey, and Republican Governor Chris Christie, who was a big supporter of Romney's, thanked him publicly for the concern and the compassion that he and his administration had showed the people of New Jersey suffering.

And on the other side, it was George W. Bush's decline as a President in popular support really was accelerated by Hurricane Katrina, his apparent indifference, his endorsement of Michael Brown, "Heck of a job, Brownie," as FEMA just absolutely failed.

And I would just say this about political — about natural disasters.  There's no politics involved among people, whether it's red states or blue states, liberals or conservatives.  They look to the federal government, regardless of philosophy, for help, for effective, efficient, responsive help.

And Donald Trump, when he went to Texas after the great storm last year, the first thing he said was, what a crowd.  What a turnout, again making it about Donald Trump.

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