Monday, February 18, 2019

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/15/2019

"Shields and Brooks on Trump’s national emergency, Democratic platform shift" PBS NewsHour 2/15/2019


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to analyze the week in politics, including the President’s national emergency declaration, how congressional Republicans are reacting to it, the 2020 Presidential field and whether Democrats are pushing their platform too far to the left.

Judy Woodruff:  From that growing 2020 Presidential field, to the fight over President Trump's national emergency declaration, it's time for Shields and Brooks.

That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.

We are going to talk about the mayor in just a moment, but I do want to start, David, with the President's announcement today that he didn't get enough money to beef up the border as he wanted, and, therefore, he's declaring a national emergency, so that he can spend up to $8 billion on it.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, well, this is awful.

You know, I don't think it has anything to do with any invasion, as he claimed.  I think he lost the government shutdown, so he's giving himself a performance trophy, so he can say, I'm a winner.

I think this is more about his psyche than anything actually in the country.  And it is a complete violation of any constitutional position that any liberal or any conservative should believe in.

The Constitution clearly states that allocations and appropriations are the job of Congress.  And Congress has been ceding power time and time again.  Presidents have been grabbing it.  And this is by far the most egregious grab.

And once you walk down this line, then the constitutional order begins to fray.  And we have seen the fraying of social norms.  Now we're seeing the fraying of constitutional norms.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Mark, the President says it's entirely within his right to do this.  And he points out other Presidents have done similar things.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Not really similar things, in a sense after they have been rejected by the legislative process, immediately upon following that rejection.

I think, Judy, that you have to say a national emergency is the Great Depression, the polio epidemic, the firing on Fort Sumter, you know, or something that we can agree is an emergency.

This is a political emergency.  It's a political emergency, just as David described, not simply the stinging rebuke of Congress, but, by actual count, 200 times Donald Trump, candidate and then President, has promised that this wall, this tall, unscalable wall, will be built and paid for completely by the Mexican government.

And he obviously has not delivered on that.  I would just point out that, in 2000, Bill Clinton's last year in the White House, there were 1.6 million illegal entries stopped by the authorities at the border.  In 2017, Donald Trump's first year, there were fewer than 400,000.

I mean, this is not — it's not an invasion, as David said.  I mean, it's not an emergency, other than a political emergency.

Judy Woodruff:  And it's going to be challenged in the courts.  We were hearing some of that earlier in the program.

David, what about the fact that Republicans in Congress didn't go along, there weren't enough of them to go along with what the President wanted in terms of money, and now some of them are saying what you two are saying, that they don't like the fact that he's declaring an emergency?

David Brooks:  Yes, this was an interesting thing that, within the negotiations over the last week, the Republicans, and specifically Mitch McConnell, decided basically they were writing the White House out of the negotiations, and they sidelined them.

And so they basically — the deal McConnell said was, we're going to cut them out of the negotiations, we will give them nothing, but we give them this, that I will support this chance to have an emergency.

And that is a bad deal.  Mitch McConnell made a bad deal for the American people.  This — violating the Constitution is worse.  And so I think they should have a vote .  The Congress should assert itself, for once in a lifetime, for the sake of our country.

A few Republicans have come out and criticized the President, Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio.  But a lot have not.  Some who warned him not to do that are suddenly on board.

And so you're seeing rank open opportunism.  It was not long ago, a few years ago, we were sitting at this table, and Barack Obama did something — I thought something egregious.  And every Republican, including me, was — had their hair on fire.

And now suddenly they're fine with an even more egregious grab of White House power.

Judy Woodruff:  How do you see this political — or is it a significant division in the Republican Party?

Mark Shields:  No, it isn't, Judy.

I mean, the Republican Party needs a vertebrae transplant.  It is essentially a political invertebrate.  It has no backbone.

Mitch McConnell is terrified of a primary challenge in 2020.  And that's the power that Donald Trump wields.  Donald Trump has always, in his arsenal, the Mark Sanford experience, the former governor and congressman in South Carolina.

Donald Trump said good words about his opponent and bad words about Mark Sanford, and Mark Sanford's career came to a crashing end in the Republican primary.

And every — virtually every Republican who's up in 2020 is afraid that Donald Trump — to get on the wrong side of Donald Trump.  I don't think there's any question about it.

I think Susan Collins has said some questionable things about questioning the President.  So has Mike Lee from Utah.  It's a small group.  Lamar Alexander has.  He's retiring in 2020.  So, I don't expect any great resistance on the GOP side.

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