Monday, November 11, 2019

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 11/8/2019

"Shields and Brooks on public impeachment hearings, Kentucky election results" PBS NewsHour 11/8/2019


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s political news, including the impact of released impeachment inquiry transcripts, what we might learn from the upcoming public hearings, the possible entry of Michael Bloomberg into the 2020 Presidential race and results from state elections in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  As the impeachment inquiry continues to ramp up ahead of next week's public testimonies, the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination continues, and a former New York City mayor may throw his hat into the ring.

To help us make sense of it all are Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Judy.

Judy Woodruff:  So, we had a quiet week.  You know better than that.  There's a lot going on.

Mark, I think Lisa Desjardins added it up, almost 2,700 pages released this week of transcripts, testimony of former — current and former administration officials in the impeachment inquiry.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  The President says it's a witch-hunt, it's corrupt, doesn't mean anything.  Others have different views.

What does it add up to for you?

Mark Shields:  It adds up to that the hoax charge that was leveled against the inquiry, I think, has been totally rebutted and refuted.

And I think that Republicans, quite frankly, on the committee didn't lay a glove on any of the witnesses.  And it shows, more than anything else, to me, what one person standing up, the whistle-blower, did.

It emboldened, inspired, energized people, and to his credit.  And the whistle-blower's initial statement has been fortified and ratified and certified by subsequent witnesses.

Judy Woodruff:  What does it add up to for you?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Even more guilty than last week.  New and improved guilt.

I mean, we're learning the same story over and over again, but we're learning it with more evidence, strength and more underlining, that the quid pro quo really was a quid pro quo.  It was not just a phone call.  It was not just a few meetings.  It was a concerted campaign.

The questions remaining to me are, where did it all start?  Did Donald Trump think of this conspiracy theory in his head?  Did somebody else direct it to him?  And so how did it get in his head?

Second, how clear a role did Giuliani play?  Will the Republicans try to throw Giuliani under the bridge — or under the bus, whatever you throw people under, and say, it wasn't Trump, it was Giuliani, and it was Giuliani serving his clients?

And so those are still remaining.  I think we have learned nothing dramatically new.  It just reinforced what we already knew.

Judy Woodruff:  And…

Mark Shields:  Yes, I would just add that we went from no quid pro quo to quid pro quo, but no felony.  And…

Judy Woodruff:  Because the White House is acknowledging now that there was a discussion.

Mark Shields:  Now that there was.

So, the Lindsey Grahams and others of the world who said there was no quid pro quo to begin with are now saying, well, I'm not going to pay any attention to anything involved.

There's no coherent or consistent Republican defense that has been mounted in any way, and in part because I don't think there is one.

David Brooks:  Yes.

And it's also become much more clear that there's tensions within the White House over how to handle this whole situation between Barr and Trump, between…

Judy Woodruff:  Attorney General.

David Brooks:  … Mulvaney and Trump.

So people with different attitudes, should we have released the transcripts?  Should we have a press conference clearing the President?  And Barr doesn't want to do that.

And so you're beginning to see some tensions within the White House, as people to begin to look over their shoulder and see who's really going to take the fall here.

Judy Woodruff:  We…

Mark Shields:  Just — one thing I would just add, Judy.

And that is, the people who have stood up, who have testified put their career at risk.  Let's be very frank about it.  And there have to be dozens of other people who are just as aware, just as informed, and just as alarmed who have remained silent.

And I think it's fascinating the people who have stood up, doing so at their own risk.  And it's a reminder that those who are not speaking, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those in a time of moral crisis who remain neutral.  And they have to be terribly, terribly uncomfortable tonight.

Judy Woodruff:  And we will see more next week about who is willing and who isn't to come forward.

But, David, we are going to have open public hearings starting next Wednesday.

How does that change the dynamic?  We have already seen, as you said, a lot of material.  How is that going to change things, do you think?

David Brooks:  Yes.  Well, this is more a public education campaign.  I would be very surprised if we learn much new.

The reason you have private hearings is so you can understand the case in front of you.  And then the public hearings are to educate the voters.

And is — have any of us talked to a Trump voter who seems inclined to change their mind about Donald Trump because of what's come out so far?  I certainly have not.

And so I do not expect this to change many minds.  People are locked in about this guy [Trump].  Nothing has changed their minds in three years.  I would be surprised if anything changed their minds next week.

Judy Woodruff:  If that's the case, Mark — I mean, do you agree with David?

Mark Shields:  No, I don't.  I like to agree with David, but I don't on this one.


I don't think you can understand the impact until you see the face and hear the voice of the people making this case and, as I say, putting their own careers, their own professional lives at risk to do so.

And these are people with very impressive credentials, resumes of long public service.  And I think I recall — David was too young.  I recall Watergate, which was 45 years ago, when, all of a sudden, there was a voice that said, yes, there is — Alexander Butterfield — there is a taping system in the White House, and the impact that had on people.

And when John Dean said, yes, the President [Nixon] — I told the President there's a cancer on the presidency.  And I just — I don't think you can overstate…


David Brooks:  Yes.  Yes.

The only thing I would say, is, when Watergate happened, if you asked Americans, do you trust the government to the right thing most of the time, 60 or 70 percent said yes.  And now it's 19 percent.

So, people don't have high views of what goes on in Washington and they are not likely to grant it legitimacy.  Secondly, when — Watergate, the Democrats and Republicans differed, but they did not seem to be in different universes.

Now they're in different universes.  And the cost of admitting your own party is wrong and potentially handing power to the other party seems ruinous.  And so people don't want to make that call.  That's why they stick to their party, because they think the cost of their party losing is the end of their own lives.  And that's a result of politicization.

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