Monday, November 18, 2019

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 11/15/2019

"Shields and Brooks on impeachment testimony, newest 2020 Democrats" PBS NewsHour 11/15/2019


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including whether public impeachment hearings are making President Trump more or less vulnerable, what stood out about the witnesses who testified so far, whether Trump’s Ukraine dealings are surprising or "in character" and the latest dynamics among 2020 Democrats.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  Now joining us to analyze this historic week in American politics are Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.

So, David, I guess you could say it's the best of times and the worst of times for President Trump.  On the one hand, we just reported the financial markets today were off the charts, setting new records all over the place, but, meantime, there are impeachment hearings going on just down the street from the White House.

Look at this first couple of days of hearings.  Have the Democrats strengthened their argument, or where are we?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, I think they have.

The case is very solid and airtight that there was the quid pro quo.  All the testimony points to that.  And, mostly, you see a contrast.

In the first two, the first two gentlemen that testified on the first day, they were just upstanding, solid public servants.  And I was like — I felt like I was looking back in time, because I was looking at two people who are not self-centered.  They, like, cared about the country.  They were serving.  They had not partisan axe to grind.  They were just honest men of integrity.

And I thought we saw that again today with Yovanovitch.  And in her case, the day was more emotional, because you got to see a case of bullying against a strong, upstanding woman.

And so I thought she expressed — like, the heavy moments of today where when she expressed her reaction to how badly she was treated.  And so that introduces an element of emotion and pathos into what shouldn't be just a legal proceeding.  It should be something where people see the contrast between good people and bad people.

Judy Woodruff:  What do you — how is it all adding up for you?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Well, the conventional wisdom, Judy, last Friday, was that it would be — the Democrats would impeach in the House and the Republicans would acquit in the Senate.

I think the conventional wisdom has been dealt a blow.  I think we have learned and reminded ourselves again that this is a not a static process.  It's a dynamic process.

Each testimony changes the narrative and changes the reality.  There's no question that the first two witnesses, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kent, have inspired and encouraged and given spirit to other people to come forward, David Holmes today.

And Ambassador Yovanovitch, I agree with David.  After listening to Ambassador Taylor and Secretary Kent, you came away with a sense of respect and admiration.

Today, you were moved, not only at Ambassador Yovanovitch's own story, but there's a sense of outrage building.  This is a story of corruption, corruption not in Ukraine, corruption in the United States.

I mean, why?  Why did they go to such lengths to denigrate, to attack, to try and destroy and sabotage the career of a dedicated public servant, a person who had put her life on the line?  Why did they do it?  What was it, money?  Was it power?

Why was Rudy Giuliani doing it?  Why was the President involved?  I think there's a real narrative that's developing.

Judy Woodruff:  And you're saying that you think the Democrats are making the point…


Mark Shields:  I think the witnesses are making the point.

And, obviously, the President, today, by tweeting and attacking, I mean, he invariably punches down.  This is a man who doesn't punch up.  He never takes on somebody his own size or somebody bigger.  It's always somebody smaller.

The idea of witness intimidation, of just the worst of bullying, before God and man, as he did it, is just — it's unforgivable.

And I think, as Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman from Michigan, put it very well, the only time he isn't shooting himself in the foot is when he's stopping to reload his gun.

Judy Woodruff:  So, David, I mean, the Republicans kept pushing back today, just saying the whole thing is a sham, is a waste of time, and worse.

What should we measure the success of these hearings by?

David Brooks:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  I mean, what…

David Brooks:  I mean, if this were a football game, it would be 42-3.

The Republicans, I don't blame them.  There's just not much of a case there.  What he is accused of clearly happened.  And it's so hard to — you can throw up some flares and do some defensive measures, which Republicans are doing.  And they're complaining about whether the process is fair.  But they don't have much to work with.

I do disagree that this is somehow changing minds.  I have seen no polling evidence that it's changing minds.  I don't think people are watching particularly out in the country.

Since this whole impeachment thing has started, I have probably been in 20 states.  I can't think of too many places where people have talked to me about this.  And I talk to — you go out and interview lots of people and people are talking about other stuff.

And so if it's changing minds, especially in Middle America or in the swing states, I see no evidence of that.  My newspaper did a big story this morning, interviewing a lot of people there.  There was no evidence of that.

So I do think the case is a very strong one.  I do think what he has done was appalling.  But Americans who like him like him.  And the economy is the economy.

And so I'm not sure I see the evidence that Mark sees.

Mark Shields:  Let me…

Judy Woodruff:  How do you — yes, sure.

Mark Shields:  Let me just make two quick points in response to David.

First, it's a legal constitutional case, which I think is building and was — certainly the witnesses buttressed this week.  But the other thing is — whether it's the diabolical plotting of Nancy Pelosi or whatever, there's a political case.

And it makes it more difficult to stand up for Donald Trump.  It's going to make it more difficult for Republicans to stand up.  You just say, oh, that's Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

What he did today to Ambassador Yovanovitch, I mean, is just unforgivable at a human level.  You can't say, gee, he's my kind of guy, I like this kind of guy.

The other thing is, Judy, the collateral story, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state…

Judy Woodruff:  State.

Mark Shields:  … the hollowing out of the department, this is a hollowed-out man.

In the Marine Corps, there's a simple rule every enlisted man learns.  And that is, officers eat last and that any officer worries first about feeding his or her privates and lieutenants before he even picks up a knife or a fork.

And Mike Pompeo is the antithesis of that.  He is missing in action.  He's absent without leave.  When his own people are under attack and under siege, he goes quiet.  He goes mute.  I mean, he is a disgrace to the United States military, the United States military academy, and is just a hollowed-out man.

David Brooks:  Well, Trump governs by fear.

But I think this only changes if we're surprised.  And if Trump had been a Boy Scout up until this week, we would all be shocked by this behavior.  But we have been sitting here three years angry and outraged week after week, throwing spittle around because of how upset and offended we are.

Judy Woodruff:  So, you're saying there's not that much new?

David Brooks:  There has to be a surprise for this to change.

And Trump's behavior today and over the course of this episode is totally in character.

Mark Shields:  Stay tuned, David.

David Brooks:  OK.

Mark Shields:  Stay tuned.

No comments: