Feb
13
Shields and Brooks on Trump’s acquittal, Iowa caucus chaos


JUDY WOODRUFF: And now for their take on the
chaos at the Iowa caucuses, Tuesday’s State of the Union address, and Wednesday’s Senate
vote to acquit the president on both articles of impeachment, I’m joined by Shields and
Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and
New York Times columnist David Brooks. Hello to both of you. So, let’s talk about impeachment first. The
process is finally behind us. The president was acquitted, Mark. Looking back on it, what do you make of the
process and the outcome? MARK SHIELDS: Well, let me begin by saying,
David correctly predicted the outcome. (LAUGHTER) MARK SHIELDS: And so, you know, I have to
defer and acknowledge that. Judy, there was a reluctance on the part of
Nancy Pelosi and the speaker — and speaker and the leadership to approach impeachment.
They didn’t see it as a political winner. But it was forced upon them by the president
and by the revelation that he was shaking down, if not extorting, an ally to obtain
unflattering, libelous information on his principal — a principal political opponent. So they were left with no choice. I think
that, you know, several people acquitted themselves well. I will say that Mitt Romney restored
some faith in the process. We have gone through a great time in American politics where religion
is involve where your question is, does your faith inspire your politics, or does your
politics shape your faith? And I think Mitt Romney, to his credit, stood
as a witness to his belief and his convictions. But Donald Trump emerges from it emboldened,
as by — demonstrated by his remarkably egregious behavior since then at the Prayer Breakfast,
in the White House, and public utterances, and in today’s actions. JUDY WOODRUFF: What are we left work, David,
after this process is over? DAVID BROOKS: Well, it could be, as Mark said,
they were forced to do it by the president’s behavior. I think that’s a plausible argument. I do think they paid a political price. When
this started, in Gallup… JUDY WOODRUFF: They being the Democrats? DAVID BROOKS: The Democrats. The Gallup had
Trump approval at 39 percent. The latest Gallup number is 49 percent. That’s a gigantic leap. The Republican Party is more popular now than
any time since 2005. More Americans identify with the Republican Party than the Democratic
Party now. And as Gallup — the Gallup, when they announced these numbers, they said this
is sort of what happened when Clinton was impeached. There’s something about this process the American
people don’t like, or some percentage of the American people. So, I think there was a political
cost. It may not be — it might have been worth
the political cost just to do something right for the country and to enforce the norms of
our democracy. And in the days since, we certainly have seen
a moral contrast of a bold sort. The Romney — the speech he gave, he had a phrase in
there, he did in abeyance to his creator, but he also said, I have to live under the
censure of my conscience. And I love that phrase. And how many times
have you seen a politician recently use that phrase? And so he had to do the right thing.
And politicians don’t like acting alone. They’d rather go in a group. And Romney was alone
among Republicans. And so, maybe in the long term, when we look
back on this era, we will celebrate Nancy Pelosi for doing it. I wish there had been
a way where they could censure something else to get this done more quickly, so we could
move on, because the outcome was foreordained. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Senator Romney, Mark,
has already gotten the censure of the president. The president has been — turned around and
accused him — talked about what a terrible campaign he ran for president. We are left with a — what we watched at the
State of the Union, the president clearly — I mean, he was more restrained that night,
but then, in his speech yesterday, lashing out at Romney, at Pelosi, and then, on her
part, having torn up the speech on live television. We — the country feels just — we were divided,
but now really bitterly divided. MARK SHIELDS: No, I think you’re absolutely
right, Judy. I — the president, one of the few people
he quoted approvingly was Douglas MacArthur. And it was MacArthur who said, lord, build
me a son who is humble in victory and proud in defeat. And Donald Trump was the antithesis of that.
I mean, he was — he was vengeful, he was vindictive, he was mean-spirited, and small-minded,
and not only his attack upon Mitt Romney, but how about the cultish, slavish reaction
of his assembled serfs? Because they are. They are political and emotional serfs of
his, whether they’re in the Cabinet or in the Congress. I mean, to applaud that — I
feel sorry for Utah. It was just amazing. Now, the State of the Union address, in his
defense, he did do — he outstripped everything that Ronald Reagan had ever done in acknowledging
people from the balcony. JUDY WOODRUFF: The president. The president. MARK SHIELDS: The president did. I mean, that was — I mean, there wasn’t an
emotional chord he didn’t touch. But as far as a speech and reporting to the
state of the union, contrast it with FDR’s four freedoms State of the Union in 1941 on
the eve of World War II, I think, as an institution, the State of the Union address is probably
handicapped, if not hobbled permanently. DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I actually thought it was
his most effective speech as president. He had some of the stuff he has always had,
which is these bogus stories of crimes that immigrants have committed. But if you go back to his campaign in 2016,
it was an American carnage campaign. It was all crime. It was all fear. It was all division. But now he has turned — and I think he’s
done a little bit of as — the best he can do with his character, morning in America,
just bragging on the economic success we have had as a country over the last years, which
he is absolutely correct about; 59 percent of Americans say they’re better off this year
than they were last year. That’s the highest number in the history of that question. And so the economy is doing really well. And
if he can run a campaign as, hey, you don’t have to like me, but I can deliver a good
economy, that to me is his best campaign. And he then follows it up with gracelessness.
But if his approval rating stays at 49, people seem to be willing to tolerate gracelessness. MARK SHIELDS: Just one thing, that a cynic
is somebody who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I mean, America is are a lot more than the
economy. I mean — and you’re absolutely right. The Democrats should acknowledge we have the
lowest unemployment, or the gross domestic product has grown. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we talked about that on
the program. MARK SHIELDS: There’s no question about it. But, I mean, America stands for a lot more
than that. And the values of this country have been tarnished and diminished. DAVID BROOKS: Well, you can beat a strong
economy, but you have to have something else people care about most. Nixon had law and order in ’68, a strong economy.
1960, John F. Kennedy had the missile gap. Last time, actually, Trump had white American
nationalism. But you got to have some other issue. And
I’m not sure the Democrats have found that issue. And they’re doing a big-mistake by
poor-mouthing the economy, I think. MARK SHIELDS: I couldn’t agree with you more.
There’s no point in poor-mouthing the economy. But America’s larger than just the gross domestic
product. JUDY WOODRUFF: But another thing the president
was crowing about was the chaos of the Iowa caucuses, Mark. We saw a state that was the first in the nation,
all eyes on Iowa. MARK SHIELDS: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we didn’t have results… MARK SHIELDS: No. JUDY WOODRUFF: … until partial results the
next day, supposedly final result yesterday. There may be a recanvass. I mean, where does this leave the Democratic
Party? MARK SHIELDS: A disgrace, a disgrace, Judy,
yes, an absolute abomination. I mean, and Democrats stand guilty, the Democratic
Party of Iowa in particular. I mean, Iowa had one responsibility. It’s been given an
enormous opportunity. And that was to winnow. Iowa winnows, the only time we hear the word
winnow in American politics. It winnows it down. Three tickets out of Iowa. Now everybody comes
out of Iowa. I mean, there was no winnowing. And the loss of confidence. All that effort,
all of that energy, all that idealism poured in. But the other thing, Judy, you cannot ignore,
is that only 170,000 people showed up. There were 240,000 in 2008 with Barack Obama. JUDY WOODRUFF: The numbers. MARK SHIELDS: I mean, Democrats are not excited.
They’re not energized, at least in turnout numbers. JUDY WOODRUFF: You say no winnowing. And yet, David, Joe Biden’s camp seems to
be worried. They have reshuffled the leadership, as we just heard Lisa reporting. MARK SHIELDS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: And Pete Buttigieg and Bernie
Sanders seem to have gotten a little bit of a lift. DAVID BROOKS: Yes, for sure. But I think the result in Iowa guarantees
that we’re going to have a long battle, that Mike Bloomberg decided to double his investment.
Tom Steyer released an ad today directly going after Buttigieg and Biden by name. And so
it’s about to get a lot more brutal. I do think Sanders is now the front-runner.
And Buttigieg has the advantage of having run a good operation. The doubts people had
about his age, well, campaigns matter. And if you run a good campaign, then that says,
well, maybe he’s experienced enough to do this job. And Biden did not run a good campaign. And
what disturbed me, frankly, today about the Biden campaign is, my newspaper did a recriminations
story. And a lot of the people, almost all the people in the Biden campaign in Iowa went
on the record. And when they go on the record, that’s not
a good sign, because that means there’s real, I’m saving myself, or whatever it’s going
to be, or they’re so fed up with the way the campaign was run. So running a good campaign means you outperform
your expectations, which Buttigieg did. Running a bad campaign means you underperform, which
Biden did. JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you size up the shape
of these campaigns? MARK SHIELDS: I think Buttigieg comes out
with considerable momentum. Bernie, Bernie Sanders, got less than half
of the vote that he got four years ago in Iowa as a percentage. Granted, there was a
bigger field, but he was one-on-one at that point. And I think I think that, right now, from
every — all my reports, that it’s a Buttigieg-Sanders race in New Hampshire. What Buttigieg did in Iowa was, he didn’t
just go to — like Warren and Sanders did, to the pockets of Democratic energy and enthusiasm
and the campuses. He went statewide, so it was a lot broader victory. I think it’ll be a little tougher to sell,
I am the candidate of the heartland in Laconia and Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire,
than it was in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. But I think that he did pass the first test.
Running for president and being able to run a successful campaign is a pretty good test
for somebody in whether, in fact, they’re up to that challenge. And I think — I think he’s met it right now.
But I think this is Joe Biden’s last stand, I mean, if he doesn’t do it in the debate
tonight, and somehow turn it around. But every report is the lack of energy and
intensity in that campaign. JUDY WOODRUFF: In the… MARK SHIELDS: That’s — electability, Judy,
and experience are two — a pair of threes in a poker game. They’re not a winning hand. JUDY WOODRUFF: But this is somebody who we
are told has a great organization and a lot of favorable — I mean, a lot of voters behind
him in South Carolina, Nevada. So, we don’t — we can’t look in the crystal
ball, but… DAVID BROOKS: Yes. No, I certainly would not
write off Joe Biden just yet. But we have to see, will the African-American
voters in South Carolina go to somebody else? There’s been no evidence that Buttigieg appeals
to African-American voters. There’s been some evidence that Bernie Sanders does. I really do think you have to think — I think
I agree with Mark Buttigieg is looking very strong. But I think you have to say, Sanders
is now the clear front-runner. He’s just national. He’s experienced. He’s built an organization.
He’s competitive everywhere. JUDY WOODRUFF: And you see it’s Sanders and
Buttigieg? MARK SHIELDS: Going — in New Hampshire. JUDY WOODRUFF: In New Hampshire. MARK SHIELDS: And I think New Hampshire — what
New Hampshire says, Iowa picks corn, we pick presidents. That’s what they always say, chauvinistically. We will find out Tuesday. JUDY WOODRUFF: A little — excuse me. One note that I’m hearing from our producer
Sara Just, and that is that one more evidence of, I guess you call it, vindictiveness from
the president, the removal of Gordon Sondland, who’s the U.S. ambassador to the European
Union… MARK SHIELDS: Oh, really? Oh, boy. JUDY WOODRUFF: … who was another major figure
in the impeachment hearings in the House. (CROSSTALK) MARK SHIELDS: They’re going to go after everybody
who testified. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we will see where that
goes from here. MARK SHIELDS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: We just learned that news. Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both. MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.