Monday, September 30, 2019

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 9/27/2019

"Shields and Brooks on the politics of impeachment" PBS NewsHour 9/27/2019

REMINDER:  An 'impeachment inquiry' is just gathering evidence of the charge.  It takes a "Charge of Impeachment," presented to the House for a vote, to start actual impeachment.


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s political news, including the details of the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s decision to open an impeachment inquiry into the matter and potential 2020 political reaction to impeachment.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And now back in Washington, fallout from the whistle-blower's complaint, as the formal impeachment inquiry picks up steam.

And to help analyze this historic week, I'm joined by Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.

So much going on this week, but I think we know where to start.

And that is — David, looking back at this conversation that took place in July between President Trump, the President of Ukraine, the White House continues to say this is perfectly appropriate, the President said perfect, conversation with the leader of another country.  Democrats are saying it was a violation of his oath, an impeachable offense.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes.

I'm a little mystified.  I think they're sincere.  They thought it was exculpatory.  But I don't see how they could actually think that.

I mean, the crucial thing to do with that transcript is to look at the logic chain of the thing.  So Trump says, we have been very generous to you.  You haven't always been generous to us.  We have been more generous than the others.

And then — then that follows with, well, maybe you can do us a favor.  And that favor is to investigate the Bidens.

So when you just break down the logic chain, it's a very clear, we did this for you, you owe us, here's what you can do for us.

And that is — it's not an explicit quid pro quo, but it comes pretty close, I think.

Judy Woodruff:  Are there shades of questions here about what happened in that conversation, Mark, or is it clear-cut for you?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  It's clear-cut, Judy.

I mean, what it puts to rest is the lie about the confidence of the Trump campaign:  We're leading in all polls.  We're ahead.

He was so terrified, so intimidated, the President of the United States got on the phone with the leader of Ukraine to get dirt on the one Democrat who in every major poll was beating him and that candidate's son.

I mean, this shows the terror, the intimidation.  And the false bravado is just totally exposed.  And it is — David — I think David was more than kind.  It is totally explicit.

This is a country, Judy, that has a smaller army than that of Sri Lanka.  I mean, it's sitting on the doorstep of Russia, that has shown nothing but imperial totalitarian impulses toward it, translated into physical action.  It's got an economy smaller than that of El Salvador.  And we're holding $451 million?

And the President of the United States — it's a supplicant, mendicant.  It's the boss to the lowest employee.  I mean, the power is totally disproportionate.  And anybody has to acknowledge that who sees it.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David, you still have Republicans, though, saying, highly appropriate for the United States to be saying to the leader of Ukraine, we want you to clean up corruption in your country, that was what…

David Brooks:  Yes.  Well, that is appropriate, I suppose, to say.

But the Republicans are not going to break on this.  And that's, I think, when — as we look at impeachment — I vaguely remember Watergate.  I was young.  But I remember a sense of gravity, a sense that we're stepping outside our party lines.  At least some people did that, Sam Ervin [D-NC], other people, Howard Baker [R-Tn].  And we're going to weigh the evidence.  And this is so serious, we can't just play normal politics.

That's not going to happen this time.  To me, this is already feeling like very normal politics, where the Democrats are going to be all here and the Republicans will be all here, and the idea of stepping outside your partisan affiliation for the sake of the truth, that's just not the way the game is played anymore.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, I want to ask you both about the role that the whistle-blower played in all this.

We learned several days ago that this is someone in the intelligence community, in the last few days, Mark, reporting, that it's an analyst at the CIA.  We don't have the name.  In fact, we're not supposed to have the name.  This person is supposed to be — identity is supposed to be protected.

But the President is calling this individual a spy, in effect, saying, this is somebody who's disloyal to the country.

Mark Shields:  Last week, the President branded the person a partisan hack, you will recall.  It's gone now to treachery.

I mean, the person who did it, Judy, assuming that it's a person of rational — and I think it's an intelligent and comprehensive and well-written complaint — had to know what he or she was putting at risk, in the hothouse in which we live here in Washington, that the identity will eventually be made public.

And I think it can only be revealed and described as act of great — of great courage to do so.

Judy Woodruff:  And pulling in, David, a number of other administration officials, which is what's launching the congressional…

David Brooks:  Yes.

That was the big thing I took away from the report, that it was — it's bigger than just one phone call.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

David Brooks:  It's partly the cover-up, but he said it was over a series of months.  There's a lot of people who were in a panic about this.

And so it's not just that one phone call, and then he heard about it.  But there was a process.  There were people who were freaked out about it.  And so there's a little more here than just one person who's going to be involved in this.

Mark Shields:  David's right, Judy, that he laid out a blueprint.

That's what the letter does and the statement does.  It's a blueprint to pursue investigation, to interview and expand.

Judy Woodruff:  And the fact that this person, what, spent four months, collected — talked to a number of different people.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  Didn't just rashly set this — set this out there and throw it out.

Mark Shields:  No.

Judy Woodruff:  But the question then comes down to is, David, the impeachment inquiry.

The House is doubling down.  We had Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence, on the program last night, saying, this is more serious than the Mueller report, which they spent months and months considering.

David Brooks:  Yes.

It's certainly narratively cleaner.  You can understand it, where Russia was much more complicated.  And, to me, the decision to do impeachment is a mistake.

They — I do agree Trump did something impeachable, but this is a political process, not a legal process.  There's no obligation to prosecute.

And, to me, it's a mistake for a couple reasons.  If your object is to get Donald Trump out of the White House, impeachment doesn't get you there, because the chance that you will get 20 senators, 20 Republican senators, to vote to vote Donald Trump out of office seems to me so remote, it's minuscule.

So the likely outcome of this is that Donald Trump will say, see, I was acquitted in the Senate.  I'm vindicated.  I beat these people.

And so he will get a little victory.  And then both parties will go into revolt.  And so that's the way it likely looks to end up.

In the meantime, you're trampling over your Democratic primary season.  You're not having the debate the voters want, which is about climate change and health care and jobs and stuff like that.

You're focusing all the attention on the Democratic side, or the bulk of it, to the Congress, not to the Presidential candidates.  And, to me, so what Pelosi has done, I think, here is taken a decision that has a very low chance of succeeding, to get him out of office, but has huge risks in ways we can't even imagine.

And so I'm a little nervous about where impeachment is going to get us.

Judy Woodruff:  You think the Democrats are doing the right thing, or not?

Mark Shields:  The Democrats are doing the only thing they can do.

I mean, what this President has done is not outrageous.  It's not indefensible.  It's criminal.  And that's what he's done.  He has totally abdicated, abrogated and corrupted his oath of office.

So when it comes to making this decision, I think the preeminent national American political leader of the 21st century is the Speaker of the House, more so than any President.  She single-handedly passed the Affordable Care Act.

She is the one major figure in the national firmament of any Presidential candidate who opposed the folly and the debacle and the tragedy of the war in Iraq.  She put at risk her majority to pass the Affordable Care Act, covering 17 million Americans, two million of whom have lost their coverage as a result of Donald Trump's policies in the last year alone.

And she knew she was losing the majority.  And she came back.  She has not — she has avoided the rush to join the pound-of-flesh club, let's get — get him for double-parking outside an orphanage on the Capitol — on Christmas Eve.

This is just too serious.  You can't turn your back on it.  I agree with David it may not be politically good timing, expedient.  It would be an act of total irresponsibility not to act when you have the evidence given to the Democrats.

Judy Woodruff:  How do you…

David Brooks:  Yes, there's this thing called the ethical responsibility.  What's the actual outcome of the decision?

And maybe she couldn't act, but she said, I will not do impeachment unless there's a bipartisan upswell of support for this.

And there's not that.  And that will never happen right now.

And so I think she was — she was forced into it by the pressure in her own party, their own caucus.  But the House is not the central question here.  The Senate is the central question here.  And it's the Senate that's going to give Trump this victory.

And, in the meantime, I just think she's given Trump the fight he wants, which is the fight against the congressional Democrats, not about policy, not about things that actually affect people's lives, but just a personality, reality TV role with inside the Beltway.

And, to me, that's the fight he wants.  I don't know where it'll go.  It'll spin wildly out of control over the next several months.  But it's — to me, it's not — the ethical responsibility is, what can I do to get Donald Trump out of the White House?  And this is not the right path, in my view.

Mark Shields:  I would say this, Judy, that, unlike David and perhaps Secretary Clinton, I do not believe people on the other side are irredeemable.

I really do believe that, when confronted with the evidence and the reality, and that this — we have seen just the beginning.  This is the tip of the camel's nose that we have seen.

I think…

Judy Woodruff:  You means in terms of…

Mark Shields:  Of what's gone on.

And I think, when people come and are under oath and are sworn to testify, I think we will find more.  And I think Republicans, at the core, are Americans before they're Republicans.  And, yes, there's a herd mentality and a silo attitude right now, but I do think that, when the — when the evidence becomes overwhelming, which I think it will be, I think they will act.

Judy Woodruff:  What do you think, David?  If not an impeachment inquiry, what should the — what should Democrats do?

David Brooks:  Well, they could have censured him and then say, let's have an election.  We're in an election year.  Let's have an election about this.

And then they can investigate and lay before the American people everything that's happened.  I think the inquiry is totally fine.  But let's not have this process swallow up an election year.

We have elections for a reason.  We happen to be in the middle one.  And let's do that.  And I think this election was a — it's a good moment for the Democratic Party.  It's an exciting election, a lot of ideas.

And to overshadow that, to me, a lot of people are going to take a look at this and say, well, we could have settled this with 100 million voters around the country or 100 millionaires in the Senate.  Who should have the power here?

Mark Shields:  He — this is question, Judy, of, he is asking, if not demanding and coercing, an ally, a subservient ally, let's be very frank about it — I mean, in the relationship between the United States and Ukraine, Ukraine is subservient to the United States on — in all candor.

He's asking them to interfere in an American election, to spill dirt on an opponent.

I mean, we can't have that.  I mean, we can't pretend that that's tolerable at all and, oh, we will just wait until the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

It's — I'm sorry.  It's just too grave.

Judy Woodruff:  Is there — is there something, David, that would make an impeachment inquiry the right thing to do, or is it — I mean, is there anything this President can do?


Judy Woodruff:  Yes, are you saying there's nothing that…

David Brooks:  No, I'm not saying that.

But I agree with Mark on the severity of what he did.  I'm not saying that he — I think he did an impeachable offense.  I'm just saying, look at our context.  And our context is, we're in the middle of an election year.  And we should not walk down a path that will lead ultimately to failure in 99 percent.

I really do not think — and Mark and I may disagree on this — that the Republican senators who hung with Donald Trump through Charlottesville, through three years of moral turpitude, of 1,000 outrages which we speak about on every Friday, I just don't think they're going to break with him.

And I don't think the Republican voters are going to break with him.  They will find some way.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Mark, what about that?

Mark Shields:  I guess I have more confidence in the Republicans than David does.

But I'd say — and I don't argue.

Judy Woodruff:  But, Mark — but let me just…

Mark Shields:  This is totally disruptive.  I mean, it's totally disruptive to the process.

David's right.  It totally intrudes and puts everything else aside.  But I will say this.  If you're picking sides in the Democrats, you want the Intelligence Committee.  You want it to be Adam Schiff against Devin Nunes.  I mean, that's a mismatch in talent.

Judy Woodruff:  And in just five seconds, you're saying it's worth it to go through with this even if the Senate does not vote to convict?  You're saying it's worth it?

Mark Shields:  Yes, it is.

I mean, we have — we cannot sit here and pretend that this didn't happen and that it's not serious, what this President has done.  And it should be disqualifying.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

CHINA - Power and Prosperity

"Taking stock of China’s growing power and prosperity" PBS NewsHour 9/25/2019


SUMMARY:  When it comes to military, global economy, and global influence, the two most important countries in the world are China and the U.S.  And in recent years, both sides of that rivalry have become more combative.  For our new series, “China: Power and Prosperity,” we travel around the globe to take stock of China’s position on the world stage.  Nick Schifrin joins Judy Woodruff to offer a preview.

"How President Xi Jinping is transforming China at home and abroad" PBS NewsHour 9/26/2019


SUMMARY:  Chinese President Xi Jinping’s philosophy has been written into the country’s constitution.  He has sought to raise the standard of living at home, while boosting China’s power and influence across the globe.  But critics accuse him of consolidating power and creating a campaign of oppression against the Chinese people -- especially those who disagree with him.  Nick Schifrin reports from Beijing.

"Impact of U.S.-China trade war felt in both countries" PBS NewsHour 9/28/2019


SUMMARY:  For decades, the world's two largest economies — the U.S. and China — have been integrated.  But the Trump administration is now trying to undo that, as an escalating trade war impacts consumers and businesses in both countries.  NewsHour's Nick Schifrin and special correspondent Katrina Yu report on the third in a 10-part series, "China: Power and Prosperity," with support from the Pulitzer Center.

"China is producing billionaires faster than any other nation" PBS NewsHour 9/29/2019


SUMMARY:  Communist China's planned economy once prevented its citizens from becoming wealthy.  But China now produces billionaires faster than any country in the world, even as President Xi Jinping has cracked down on ostentatious displays of wealth.  Special correspondent Katrina Yu reports on the fourth in a 10-part series, "China: Power and Prosperity," with support from the Pulitzer Center.

AFGHANISTAN - Without a Path to Peace

"Without a path to peace, Afghan forces constantly fighting to root out Taliban" PBS NewsHour 9/25/2019


SUMMARY:  In Afghanistan, commando military units are kept busy chasing out the Taliban, then moving on to the next, inevitable advance elsewhere.  But after special forces retake an area, ill-equipped regular forces that replace them struggle to hold on -- the same problem American forces faced there for years.  Can Afghans find any peace?  Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports.

CLIMATE CRISIS - World's Oceans


"The future of ocean life is bleak if we don’t cut carbon emissions" PBS NewsHour 9/25/2019


SUMMARY:  The world's oceans and seas have already absorbed an enormous amount of excess heat in our climate system, according to a new UN report [PDF download link].  And the risks of dire consequences for marine and coastal life will get significantly worse if carbon emissions don't change.  William Brangham learns more from study co-author Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University.

BREXIT - Johnson Left Stranded

"UK court ruling leaves Johnson with fewer options on Brexit" PBS NewsHour 9/24/2019


SUMMARY:  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's campaign to leave the European Union hit another roadblock when the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled that his decision to recess parliament was illegal.  Ciaran Jenkins of Independent Television News reports on the details, and John Yang gets analysis on the impact on Brexit from former National Security Council staff Charles Kupchan.

TRUMP NATIONALISM - 'Future Belongs to Patriots'

aka "Future Belongs to ME and My Cult"

"Denouncing globalism at UN, Trump says ‘future belongs to patriots’" PBS NewsHour 9/24/2019


SUMMARY:  President Trump offered tough talk and his "America first" approach in an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, targeting Iran and calling out Chinese trade policy.  Trump also used the global forum to make a case for his domestic agenda, taking an unpromising tone on illegal immigration.  Yamiche Alcindor reports.

BRAD PITT - Every Film Needs Some Champion

"Brad Pitt on turning undertold stories into movies: ‘Every film needs some champion’" PBS NewsHour 9/23/2019


SUMMARY:  As one of the world's biggest and best-known movie stars, Brad Pitt is spending as much time helping get films made as he is acting.  His latest project, "Ad Astra," (trailer link) is about a journey to the far reaches of the solar system, as well as the journey inward for a tortured soul.  Pitt sits down with Jeffrey Brown to discuss his career, and why he helps make movies when he’s not the star.

TRUMP AGENDA - Slashing Family Planning

aka "Trump's Anti-Women Agenda"

"Judges weigh Trump’s family planning funding rule" PBS NewsHour 9/23/2019


SUMMARY:  A panel of appellate judges on Monday considered whether a Trump administration rule on federal funding for clinics that make abortion referrals may remain in place while legal challenges work their way through the courts.  More than 900 clinics, many run by Planned Parenthood, have given up funds rather than complying with the new regulations.  John Yang talks to Sarah Varney of Kaiser Health News.

TRUMP AGENDA - Abuse of Presidential Power

This revelation that Trump, during a call about giving Ukraine aid and a new weapon system, 'requested' a favor to have Ukraine investigate a political rival IS, without doubt, abuse of Presidential Power.

Remember the scene from "The Godfather" where the Don's lawyer goes to Hollywood to 'request' that a producer make a movie staring the Don's 'friend?'  The next day the producer wakes up with the severed head of his race horse in his bed?  That's what Trump did, send his mob layer Rudy Giuliani to talk about investigating a political rival.

Trump used American diplomacy for his own personal political gain.  And his release of the memo of the call proves he did it.  Also the whistleblower’s complaint confirms and substantiates the crime.

For Republicans to continue to claim that this should not be looked into is just short of treason and of betrayal of their oath of office.

"Questions over possible abuse of power overshadow Trump’s agenda at UN" PBS NewsHour 9/23/2019


SUMMARY:  After President Trump acknowledged that he spoke to Ukraine's president about investigating possible 2020 rival Joe Biden, he spent the day at the U.N. fending off questions about the potential abuse of power.  Meanwhile, the administration's refusal to share a whistleblower’s complaint is pushing some Democrats closer to the question of impeachment.  Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff for more.

"Impeachment calls grow as Trump defends withholding Ukraine aid" PBS NewsHour 9/24/2019


SUMMARY:  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally announced the beginning of an impeachment inquiry Tuesday after a whistleblower alleged that the President tried to force a foreign leader to aid his reelection.  At the United Nations, Trump faced questions about his own actions, and he seemed to confirm and defend the fact that he withheld hundreds of millions of dollars from Ukraine.  Lisa Desjardins reports.

"What spurred House Democrats to ramp up impeachment efforts?" PBS NewsHour 9/24/2019

NOTE:  An 'impeachment inquiry' is the equivalent of a Grand Jury officially gathering  evidence of a charge via subpoenas, etc.  To actually impeach requires a Charge of Impeachment be brought to the floor of the House for a vote.


SUMMARY:  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday announced an official impeachment inquiry -- but what exactly ramped up Democrats’ political momentum toward impeachment?  And what's next for President Trump and Republicans?  Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join William Brangham for a broader look at the latest developments.

"What lawmakers learned from Trump’s Ukraine call memo" PBS NewsHour 9/25/2019


SUMMARY:  The release of a five-page memo describing President Trump's July phone call with Ukraine's president revealed new details of Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine.  The text shows that immediately after Volodymyr Zelensky brought up military aid, Trump asked him for "a favor."  Lisa Desjardins reports, then joins Yamiche Alcindor and Judy Woodruff for more on reactions from Trump and Congress.

And from Trump's personal defender......

"Justice Department found Trump didn’t commit a campaign finance crime raised by whistleblower" PBS NewsHour 9/25/2019


SUMMARY:  According to the Justice Department, the original whistleblower account of President Trump’s actions on Ukraine raised the possibility of a criminal act by Trump, related to campaign finance.  But federal prosecutors reportedly decided that they could not identify a campaign finance violation from the two men's phone call.  John Yang learns more from Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post.

"How a President’s call to a foreign leader becomes a memo — and who gets to see it" PBS NewsHour 9/25/2019


SUMMARY:  How does the White House capture a conversation between a President and another foreign leader?  And who gets to review that material afterward?  For more context on the phone conversation between President Trump and Zelensky, Judy Woodruff talks to Larry Pfeiffer, former senior director of the White House Situation Room.

"Whistleblower alleges White House tried to suppress Zelensky call details" PBS NewsHour 9/26/2019


SUMMARY:  It was an explosive day on Capitol Hill, as a redacted version of the whistleblower letter was released publicly, and the acting director of national intelligence testified before the House Intelligence Committee about his handling of it.  Lisa Desjardins reports on what the whistleblower complaint describes, the role of Congress and how President Trump is responding to the developments.

"In private, Trump ‘lashing out’ about whistleblower complaint" PBS NewsHour 9/26/2019


SUMMARY:  Amid a political swirl over his interactions with the Ukrainian president, President Trump is denying the July phone call between the two leaders included anything improper.  But behind the scenes, Trump is “lashing out” in frustration that details of that call were communicated to the person who filed the whistleblower complaint.  Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest.

"Former DOJ official calls Trump’s Ukraine phone call ‘fundamentally wrong’" PBS NewsHour 9/26/2019


SUMMARY:  John Carlin, who previously served as the top national security official at the Justice Department, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he finds the details of President Trump’s call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky so disturbing, and what it would mean if White House officials tried to suppress that information.

"Why the House is moving so quickly on Trump impeachment inquiry" PBS NewsHour 9/27/2019


SUMMARY:  It has been a historic week for President Trump and Congress, with startling revelations about an intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint against the President ultimately leading to the launch of a House impeachment inquiry.  Yamiche Alcindor reports on the whirlwind of events and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss who besides Trump might be involved and how fast the investigation is moving.

"The legal framework protecting whistleblowers in the U.S." PBS NewsHour 9/29/2019


SUMMARY:  The modern-day False Claims Act protects whistleblowers who point out fraud and abuse in government.  John Phillips, who helped author the law, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the rights whistleblowers have.  Phillips is a founding partner at the law firm Phillips and Cohen and a former Ambassador to Italy under the Obama administration.

Monday, September 23, 2019

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 9/20/2019

"Shields and Brooks on the whistleblower complaint, Saudi oil attack" PBS NewsHour 9/20/2019


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s political news, including reports of a whistleblower complaint that might involve President Trump, the debate about whether a sitting President can commit a crime and the U.S. response to attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And now we turn to the political analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.

Let's start with our lead story tonight.  And that is the whistle-blower from the intelligence community.

The word gets out — or this person is alleging that he that the President, in a conversation with — now we think it's the President of Ukraine, urged the president of Ukraine, Mark, to investigate Joe Biden's son.

And we have a — there's still no — the President denies it, and others do, but now we have several news outlets backing up the story.  And I was just handed — and you have seen it — a statement by Joe Biden.

He says:

"If these reports are true, there's truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abuse our country.  This behavior is particularly abhorrent because it exploits the foreign policy of our country and undermines our national security for political purposes."

How seriously should we be taking these allegations?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  I think they're enormously serious.

And the fact that The Wall Street Journal is leading this story, along with The New York Times and The Washington Post, but this is not false or fake news or anything of the sort.  It's not a political vendetta of any sort.

And this is quite beyond a Playboy model or a frat party at an Ivy League school or anything of the sort.  This is really serious.  This is totally exploiting the national security, putting at risk the national security of the United States for narrow political, personal interests, if, in fact, the reports are true.

And I guess the most disturbing thing to me, Judy, was the President accused the whistle-blower, who, at enormous risk, and it required considerable courage, of being an extreme partisan, which means, (A) that somebody in the White House knows who the whistle-blower is.

This is mafia-like threats.  We know who you are.  And they have investigated his political affiliation or her political affiliation.  I mean, so, I think it's enormously grave.

Judy Woodruff:  And, in fact, the President — David, the President was saying today to the television cameras that people in the White House were making fun of all this.

Are we looking at something where it's going to be a he said/he said situation going forward?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, presumably, the call was listened to by others and recorded.  So, I'm not sure it was recorded, but it was certainly listened to.  These calls are not — it's not just a one-on-one call.  There's people on the line.

You know, I think it is pretty grave.  Most Presidents go into the White House thinking, I'm here to serve the office, I'm here to serve America.

Donald Trump is using America to serve him and American foreign policy to serve him.  And most Presidents go into the office thinking that the phrase my fellow Americans means something and that we have greater loyalty to our fellow Americans than we do the people in outside countries.

And he's basically using another country to be oppo research on his fellow American.

And I think this rises to more a level — I'm not sure this really is foundationally changing, but it rises to a different revel, if there's a connection between the foreign aid and the promise.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

David Brooks:  That really is using — suborning U.S. government money for your own private gain.  And that's clearly corruption of a high order.

Judy Woodruff:  And, as both of you are saying, Mark, we don't know for a fact that this happened.  But the evidence is now building, the reporting is building.

And there are two strands.  It is urging the leader of another country to get involved in a political campaign, but then the quid pro quo, potentially.

Mark Shields:  No, exactly, Judy.

To say, look, be in touch with my Dr. Dirt, my oppo research guy, who once was America's mayor and is now doing smear jobs.

Judy Woodruff:  Rudy Giuliani.

Mark Shields:  Rudy Giuliani.  How the mighty have fallen to that point where he's an errand boy to be a hit man on political opponents.

No, David put it very well.  I mean, this is a total, total corruption of the — if it's valid and if it's accurate — and I think that the news reports are done very soberly, quite honestly, because they take their position — their mission seriously.

If it's true, Judy, then I don't see how the Democrats can back off on impeachment investigation.

Judy Woodruff:  And I want to ask you about that because this week, David, as both of you have pointed out, the President's lawyers were in court.

They were arguing against a New York lawsuit, an attempt to get the President's tax returns to be turned over, to be made public.  And the President's lawyers are saying you can't investigate a President while he's sitting in office.

What we're learning today in these reports about Ukraine raise questions about that.

David Brooks:  Yes, this was the Nixon defense with David Frost, that, if a President does it, it's not illegal.  And it didn't work for Nixon.  I'm not sure it would work for here.

I mean, a basic principle of our government is that no person is above the law.  And so I don't think that will work.

I am struck — I do think, if there's a link to the foreign aid, the Democrats obviously have to launch a different and new investigation.

I'm struck mostly by, when President Trump does something out in the open, or Rudy Giuliani does something out in the open, like, it doesn't become a big thing.  Now that we have something secret that the press have uncovered, suddenly, it blows up.

But Giuliani wasn't shy about this.  And the fall of Giuliani is one of the great stories of our age.  I covered him a lot when he was mayor, extremely brilliant, extremely sharp, not the man I see today.

The one continuity is that he would sit around with his staff and watch "The Godfather" movies over and over again.

Mark Shields:  Wow.

David Brooks:  And the mob behavior — this really is mob behavior.  It's like, let's dig up dirt on this guy.

That's the way it strikes me, more than anything else.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, and, again, Mark, with these — with the President's lawyers fighting back, which they have been — they have been fighting all these attempts to get any information turned over.

Mark Shields:  Right.

Judy Woodruff:  But this is the first time we have heard them argue a President can't be investigated.

Mark Shields:  Can't be investigated.

I agree with David about the Nixon defense.  Nixon, of course, invoked that defense in 1977, three years after he had been forced out, in an interview with David Frost.

But no President — he did prove that, and by his own statement and his own actions, that no President can be above the law.

And, no, I really think the gravity of this is yet to be fully appreciated.

TRUMP ABUSE OF POWER - The Whistleblower Complaint

"Amid whistleblower reports, what’s the state of U.S.-Ukraine relations?" PBS NewsHour 9/20/2019


SUMMARY:  Reports of a whistleblower complaint that might involve President Trump, potentially related to his conversations with the president of Ukraine, have raised myriad questions.  Yamiche Alcindor has the latest details, and for a look at the geopolitical angle of the story, Judy Woodruff speaks to Nina Jankowicz of the Wilson Center, an independent, non-partisan research institute.

"Why whistleblower standoff represents a ‘unique juncture’ for U.S. government" PBS NewsHour 9/20/2019


SUMMARY:  Amid new reports of a whistleblower complaint that might involve President Trump and his interactions with a foreign leader, the President continues to deny any wrongdoing.  Judy Woodruff talks to Joel Brenner, who was the National Security Agency’s Inspector General under President George W. Bush, about why he expects Congress to investigate further.

GLOBAL WALKOUT - Climate Action Now!

"Why extreme climate scenarios no longer seem so unlikely" PBS NewsHour 9/19/2019


SUMMARY:  The United Nations has called climate change the “defining issue of our time.”  But new analyses suggest the planet’s temperature will rise by even more than the UN had estimated -- and that warming creates ever-increasing energy consumption due to the need for more air conditioning.  Paul Solman takes an updated look at the extreme risks the globe faces from potential worst-case scenarios.

"Youth marches for climate action draw millions around the world" PBS NewsHour 9/19/2019


SUMMARY:  In cities across the globe on Friday, protesters took to the streets to demand action on climate change.  The demonstrations, easily the largest to focus on climate, represent a movement driven largely by young people -- many of whom left school to join the walkout.  William Brangham spoke to several participants about their mission to reduce fossil fuel emissions and how they plan to execute it.

"Why transitioning to only renewable energy will be difficult for the U.S." PBS NewsHour 9/19/2019


SUMMARY:  After millions of protesters marched around the globe to demand action on climate change, we more closely examine what policies they are proposing.  Miles O’Brien joins William Brangham to discuss current sources of U.S. energy and what it would take to transition to all renewables, plus the outlook for nuclear power as the infamous Three Mile Island plant closes.


"A special retirement message for Mr. Moe, a beloved Montana teacher" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2019


SUMMARY:  Last week, several students from Big Sky High School in Missoula, Montana, wrote to the NewsHour to sing the praises of their beloved teacher Mark Moe, who announced he would be retiring.  Moe shares the news summary with his classes daily, so his students thought a message from the NewsHour would be a fitting tribute -- and maybe a reason to reconsider.  Judy Woodruff shares their story.

CLIMATE CHANGE - Consequences in Gulf of Maine

"What rising temperatures in the Gulf of Maine mean for the state’s lobster industry" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2019


SUMMARY:  The Gulf of Maine is known for lobsters, which form the foundation of an industry critical to the state’s economy.  Due to climate change, the waters off southern New England have become too warm for the temperature-sensitive crustaceans, leaving Maine as the “sweet spot” for fishing them.  But the Gulf’s own rising temperatures mean the lobster boom may not last forever.  Miles O’Brien reports.

TRUMP DICTATORSHIP - Trump v California

"Why Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom thinks revoking emissions standards could be ‘catastrophic’" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2019


SUMMARY:  President Trump has announced that states will no longer be able to set their own fuel mileage and emissions standards, as they previously were empowered to do.  California, for example, had an agreement with several automakers for voluntary adherence to tougher standards.  Its Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why the policy change could be "catastrophic.”


"What Fed’s 2nd interest rate cut in 3 months says about the U.S. economy" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2019


SUMMARY:  The Federal Reserve has cut interest rates for the second time in three months in a bid to keep the U.S. economy growing.  What indicators are driving the recent rate reductions, and what is the larger influence of economists on U.S. fiscal and monetary policy?  Judy Woodruff sits down with Binyamin Appelbaum of The New York Times, author of “The Economists’ Hour,” to discuss growth vs. inequality.

MEMORIAM - Cokie Roberts 1943-2019

"Linda Wertheimer and Nina Totenberg on friend and colleague Cokie Roberts" PBS NewsHour 9/17/2019


SUMMARY:  The career of political journalist Cokie Roberts spanned more than 40 years and helped to transform the landscape for other women in the field.  Roberts, who died Tuesday at age 75, worked extensively in both public and commercial media and was passionate about making history and politics come alive.  NPR’s Linda Wertheimer and Nina Totenberg join Judy Woodruff to remember their iconic colleague.

GUNS IN AMERICA - Opinion From Texas

"How Texas gun owners feel about background checks, red flag laws" PBS NewsHour 9/17/2019


SUMMARY:  In the aftermath of recent mass shootings, calls for expanding gun safety regulations have increased.  Although some of these ideas are popular among Americans overall, how do gun owners specifically feel about them?  William Brangham talks to gun owners in Odessa, Texas, site of an August mass shooting, about what legislation they would support and how else they think we can reduce gun violence.

THE INVESTIGATIONS - Lewandowski Refusal to Answer

"Lewandowski frustrates Democrats with short responses in House Judiciary Committee hearing" PBS NewsHour 9/17/2019

More of Trump's attitude of being above the law.


SUMMARY:  Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.  Ahead of his appearance, the White House had instructed Lewandowski to discuss only matters covered in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report -- and indeed, Lewandowski refused to answer numerous questions from members of the committee.  Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.


"How Lilly Singh is making late-night TV history" PBS NewsHour 9/16/2019


SUMMARY:  In less than a decade, YouTube star Lilly Singh has gone from internet sensation to host of a broadcast TV show, "A Little Late with Lilly Singh," which debuts Monday on NBC.  Amna Nawaz sat down with Singh recently on her show’s Los Angeles set to talk about being the only woman and person of color on network late night TV, what success means to her and how she writes for online viewership.

FUELING TENSIONS - Saudi Oil Attacks

"How tensions over Saudi oil attacks could ‘spiral out of control’" PBS NewsHour 9/16/2019


SUMMARY:  Airstrikes on Saudi oil facilities over the weekend disrupted markets and increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran.  The U.S. blames Tehran for the attacks and has reportedly shared intelligence with Saudi Arabia to back up the assertion.  Lisa Desjardins reports, and Judy Woodruff talks to Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about the risk of escalation.

"What attacks on Saudi oil sites mean for the U.S. and Iran" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2019


SUMMARY:  In Riyadh on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia showcased evidence it says proves Iran’s involvement in weekend airstrikes on two major Saudi oil facilities.  Iran denies the claim, and given the strained relations between the two countries, how should the U.S. respond?  Yamiche Alcindor talks to Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute and Rob Malley of the International Crisis Group.


"What’s at stake for GM and other automakers with UAW strike" PBS NewsHour 9/16/2019


SUMMARY:  Nearly 50,000 workers at General Motors plants across the country went on strike at midnight Sunday, bringing production to an immediate halt.  It’s the first nationwide work stoppage since 2007 for United Auto Workers, which says it hasn't been able to agree with management on key issues like pay raises and limits on using temporary workers.  John Yang reports and talks to USA Today’s Nathan Bomey.

"Elizabeth Warren joins GM picket line as strike enters day 7" PBS NewsHour 9/22/2019


SUMMARY:  Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren joined the General Motors strike in Detroit on Sunday, calling for GM to be held “accountable.”  For the last seven days, nearly 50,000 members of the United Automobile Workers Union have gathered at picket lines across the country, in the largest strike in the U.S. in over a decade.  Phoebe Wall Howard of the Detroit Free Press joins Megan Thompson for more.

Non-Detroit Three

Thursday, September 19, 2019

PUBLIC HEALTH - University of California San Diego

"UCSD set to create school of public health" by Gary Robbins, San Diego Union-Tribune 10/19/2019

NOTE:  This article was copied from the e-newspaper, therefor no link to article.

Program will focus on fighting disease, address dearth of health workers

UC San Diego is expected to receive permission today to create a $100 million school of public health capable of spotting and fighting disease worldwide, assessing how pollution from wildfires affects specific communities, and evaluating mobile medical devices.

The program also will address California’s emerging shortage of health workers, including a projected need for 160,000 home care employees over the next decade.

The proposed school was unanimously approved Wednesday by a committee of the University of California Board of Regents, with final authorization scheduled to come today.  The move could become part of a much larger public health initiative.  Planners have told regents that they eventually may be asked to green-light similar programs at the system’s campuses in Irvine, Merced, Davis and San Francisco.

UC Berkeley and UCLA already operate nationally ranked schools of public health.

“Medical schools train physicians to treat individual patients,” said Dr. David Brenner, UC San Diego’s Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences“We also need to be concerned about people’s lives and needs across populations.  That’s what we’ll do.  It is a missing piece.”

UC San Diego is one of the 10 largest research universities in the country and is broadly involved in public health.

The university is studying e-cigarettes, which have emerged as a public health concern due to a mysterious illness tied to vaping.  It also is examining the relationship between sedentary behavior and heart disease in Latinos.  UC San Diego engineers spent months talking to families and social workers about how to design robots that care for people with dementia.  The school’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography is analyzing how sea spray affects climate, which in turn can affect people’s ability to breathe and sleep if the air becomes too hot.

And the school is trying to figure out why a disproportionately large number of people at a village in Italy live to be 100 or older.

UC San Diego’s supporters include Florida billionaire-inventor Herbert Wertheim, who gave the campus $25 million last year to begin developing a school of public health.  He also might help the campus come up with the additional $75 million it needs in private donations to flesh out the program, which eventually will feature a new building.

The university will ask regents to name the school after the 80-year-old Wertheim, who told the Union-Tribune on Wednesday: “We need to find ways to prevent disease and to better help people who already have things like diabetes and hypertension.  The ideas David (Brenner) has been coming up with are fantastic.”

Wertheim is an optometrist and engineer who is credited with helping millions of people to avoid developing cataracts and macular degeneration by creating eyewear that better screens out ultraviolet and blue light.

He believes that schools should draw together people from many disciplines to tackle major problems.  That’s the approach being taken by UC San Diego, which says it will collectively exploit the research talent it has in its separate schools of medicine, pharmaceutical science, and engineering, as well as Scripps and the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

The move is “the next logical step in the evolution of our public health programs, initiatives, clinics, undergraduate degree program and existing faculty expertise,” UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said in a statement.

“With a focus on public health, we can define the future where medicine, biology, engineering and public policy come together.  We can look at how we, as human beings, can live in a better society and create better health outcomes for each and every one of us, regardless of our socioeconomic background.”

San Diego State University already has a school of public health, and Cal State San Marcos has a department in this same broad area of science.

“I don’t see any overlap.  They will all be contributing to the workforce,” said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, the public health officer for San Diego County.

The new program also was embraced Wednesday by Stephen Welter, vice president for research at SDSU.

“Both institutions have unique strengths that can be brought to bear on the public health issues facing San Diego and the world,” Welter said.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

TRUMP ERA - "My Dear Country"

"My Dear Country"
by Nora Jones

'Twas Halloween and the ghosts were out,
And everywhere they'd go, they shout,
And though I covered my eyes I knew,
They'd go away.

But fear's the only thing I saw,
And three days later 'twas clear to all,
That nothing is as scary as election day.

But the day after is darker,
And darker and darker it goes,
Who knows, maybe the plans will change,
Who knows, maybe he's not deranged.

The news men know what they know, but they,
Know even less than what they say,
And I don't know who I can trust,
For they come what may.

'cause we believed in our candidate,
But even more it's the one we hate,
I needed someone I could shake,
On election day.

But the day after is darker,
And deeper and deeper we go,
Who knows, maybe it's all a dream,
Who knows if I'll wake up and scream.

I love the things that you've given me,
I cherish you my dear country,
But sometimes I don't understand,
The way we play.

I love the things that you've given me,
And most of all that I am free,
To have a song that I can sing,
On election day.

Monday, September 09, 2019

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 9/6/2019

"Shields and Brooks on Democrats’ climate plans, Trump’s Dorian claim" PBS NewsHour 9/6/2019


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including whether Democrats are taking a “politically risky” approach to climate change policy, President Trump’s fixation with Alabama being hit by Hurricane Dorian, Trump’s diversion of Defense Department funds for border security and "Trump fatigue" in the GOP.

Judy Woodruff f (NewsHour):  And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.  It's good to see you on this Friday.  There's so much to talk about.

Mark, I want to start with you about this Hurricane Dorian.  We have been watching it now for well over a week, I guess almost two weeks.

And you have got scientists talking more openly now about whether these hurricanes are connected to climate change, to global warming.  And you have got Democratic candidates for President, more of them, coming out with pretty aggressive positions on climate.

Is this something that's realistic for Democrats?  Does that mean they think they're more likely to win over voters if they talk about climate?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  I'm not sure that they see it as a great winning issue.  I think they see it as an important issue.

I would say, among Democratic candidates, first of all, they all agree that there is climate change.  All the deniers are on the other side.  They're not in the Democratic field or in the Democratic Party right now.

And, two, that it's manmade, man contributes to it.  I think those are two important differences that go undebated among Democrats.  Democrats assume that.

And you're right.  They got into a competition.  And the gravity of the problem is real.  I mean, you have got — now you have got 72 percent of people saying storms are stronger.  And half of them believe that climate change is contributing to that.


Judy Woodruff:  Go ahead.

Mark Shields:  So you have got, I think, a growing public awareness.

The fear for the Democrats on a very practical level is that they get into a bidding war.  I mean, Bernie Sanders now has a $16 billion tag.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Trillion-dollar.

Mark Shields:  Trillion — excuse me — trillion-dollar tag on it.

And you fear, from a political perspective, practical political perspective, Judy, that you get into unrealistic promises, like the Republicans on their pledge every four years to repeal prohibition — a prohibition against abortion, to balance the budget.

And I think that's — I think that's one of the apprehensions that Democrats have at a voting level.

Judy Woodruff:  More than half of them talking about putting a tax on carbon dioxide pollution.

David Brooks:  That was, to me, the big breakthrough.

I think most economists of right and left think a carbon tax or some carbon mechanism is the right way to go, because you let the markets sort of sort it out.  No politician ever says that, because taxing this stuff is very politically unpopular, or at least moderately politically unpopular.

But you had five Democrats, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, said, yes, I'm for that.  They didn't elaborate.  But, to me, that's an important breakthrough.  And is, I think, a political courage.  I think it's also extremely politically risky.

And then Bernie Sanders is not so much for carbon pricing, but he's for semi-nationalizing the utilities.  And that's a pretty radical break.  And so the — I give them a lot of credit.  The debate was very substantive this week.  And their solutions are at least equal to the size of the problem.

But whether it can fly in the fall when Donald Trump gets to run against a carbon tax or a tax on you driving your car, that could be politically risky.

Judy Woodruff:  And speaking of President Trump — and I wasn't actually going to ask about this.

But, tonight, the White House, the President is tweeting out a video, a video tweet, where he's doubling down, David, on his defense of his forecasting some date — last weekend — that Alabama was in the eye of Hurricane Dorian.

This has been a big subject for the press this week.  But is this something you think we have made — that too much has been made of?  We haven't reported on it on the "NewsHour," but we have certainly watched it.

David Brooks:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  And it's a remarkable scene.

David Brooks:  I know, because the storm is right over Arizona now.


Mark Shields:  Look out, Phoenix.


David Brooks:  Yes, right.

No, on the one hand, we have made too much, because it's a line on a map.  And it's sort of an Onion article.  On the other hand, it is Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

David Brooks:  A refusing to admit error when he made an error, B counting his staff to pretend that no error had — made and C spreading false information, which he picked up on TV.

And the President gets the right to be briefed.  And when — there was one weatherman — apparently, he saw him on CNN — who said this.  But it was clear that wasn't the true story.

And the primary responsibility of the President is not to make himself look good by sticking to this.  It's to protect the country by saying, oh, I saw one weather report, but it turns out that's not right.  It's going up the — it's going up the coast.

So Donald Trump is being Donald Trump.  And the question is, do we always react to his exaggerations and lies again and again and again?  Maybe that's the right thing to do just to preserve norms.  It gets a little old, though.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Mark, somebody in the White House drew that line that we just — we just showed, that black…

Mark Shields:  Somebody did, and somebody with a sharpie.

And I don't know who in the White House uses a sharpie.


Mark Shields:  I'll say this, Judy.

It's bizarre in this sense.  Alabama, for some reason, occupies an enormously important emotional and political, almost sentimental spot in the President's galaxy of affections.  It was there he had his first rally in Mobile, where Jeff Sessions endorsed him in the summer of 2015.

He returned after the election to thank him.  He got a bigger percentage of the vote in Alabama than anybody since Richard Nixon against George McGovern in 1972.

But in the process, what he did was, he kind of gave short shrift and ignored the plight and the suffering, not simply the human tragedy in the Bahamas, but constituents in the important states of Florida and North Carolina.

And he just seems — he just seems absolutely absorbed with it, and when he could just say, gee, thank goodness, I'm happy to report, I'm relieved to report I was wrong, and that…

Judy Woodruff:  That Alabama was spared.

Mark Shields:  Alabama was spared.  And thank you, God, and go — roll, Tide.

David Brooks:  Yes, "I was wrong" has never passed those lips.

Mark Shields:  Yes.  OK.  I'm sorry.  Yes, OK.