"Shields and Brooks on Trump's response to Russia probe, Scalise shooting" PBS NewsHour 6/16/2017
SUMMARY: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including the latest developments in the Russia probe and how President Trump has been reacting to reports that he is being investigated for possible obstruction of justice, plus the state of political polarization in light of a shooting targeting GOP lawmakers.
JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So, gentlemen, it's been another tumultuous week, on top of several others. We have had the attorney general of the United States testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. And then we learned, I guess in the last 48 hours, Mark, that the investigation by the Special Counsel into the Russia meddling in the election has been expanded to include whether or not the President committed obstruction of justice.
Is this a one-alarm crisis, two-alarm? Are we making too big a deal of this?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, based on what the President — how the President's reacting, Judy, I don't think we're making too big a deal of it.
I mean, the President, having acted briefly Presidential after the tragedy of the shooting of Steve Scalise and the others at the baseball field, has reverted to form and gone back to, as you reported at the outset, now the man who told me to fire the FBI director is after me because — is investigating me because of firing of the FBI director, which is totally contradictory to what the President said to Lester Holt on NBC, that the recommendation of Rod Rosenstein had nothing to do with his decision to fire James Comey as FBI director, that it was based solely on Donald Trump's desire, as he expressed to the Russians the next day in the Oval Office, to get the Russian investigation behind him.
And so I just think that he is behaving like a man who really wants to fire Robert Mueller and, you know, who didn't live through October 20, 1973, when President Nixon ordered Elliot Richardson to fire Archibald Cox and the independent counsel, and he refused and resigned. And William Rucklehaus, his deputy, resigned.
And we had a constitutional crisis. And it led to impeachment hearings.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The President is calling it a witch-hunt, David.
The White House is saying he didn't — isn't going to fire the Special Counsel. But it isn't clear. There have been reports out about that.
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Yes, it may be a witch-hunt, but he's acting like a witch.
DAVID BROOKS: To me, we have had this — the idea that there has been collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign has been investigated for a long time. And so far, we have had no really serious evidence that they did collude, and everything else seems to be leaking out.
So, I begin to be a little suspicious — and maybe I'm wrong — we will see over the long term — whether there was any actual act of collusion. There were certainly conversations maybe about some building and some investment, but so far, no evidence of an underlying crime.
But this, to me, is not a criminal story. It is a psychological story. And it's a story about a President who seems to be under more pressure, under more threat, lashing out in ways that are painfully self-destructive, but also extremely disturbing to anybody around him.
And so whether it's the North Korean Cabinet hearing that he held recently, where they all had to praise him, or the tweets as late as this morning, this is not a President who is projecting mental stability.
And the idea that he will fire somebody, whether it's Mueller or anybody else, seems very plausible. And so, to me, if there is something really damaging here, it's something that has not yet happened caused by the psychological pressure that he apparently feels.-----JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this coming together at all, Mark? Do you see any enduring — any endurance of that, or is that just — is it just going to be a blip?
MARK SHIELDS: You hope, Judy, but to David’s point, both parties — according to Pew Research, in both parties, what drives the most activist wing is not support and energy and advocacy of their own side. It’s loathing of the other side.
That’s the gauge as to whether you’re going to be politically involved, you’re going to vote, and whether you’re going to contribute, how much do you loathe the other party, how much do you hate them.
And there was a time, I will be very blunt, when I came to Washington, when the legitimacy of your opponent was never questioned. You questioned their judgment. You questioned their opinions or their arguments, but you never their legitimacy.
And that changed. And it changed. And one of the reasons it changed is that a man was elected from the state of Georgia who ran on the book, and the book was, you use these words. You use sick. You refer pathetic, traitor, liar, corrupt, shame, enemy of normal Americans.
This was Newt Gingrich’s bible. It wasn’t an idea of a policy. It wasn’t a program. He used it and he became successful. He became Speaker of the House.
Donald Trump is a clone of Newt Gingrich. Donald Trump used, Donald Trump, lying Ted, and lightweight Bobby Jindal, and Mitt Romney choked like a dog, and used that language.
And you’re right. The left has used similar language and there has been a response and almost a premium on going after Trump in the same sort of language. But there’s been no punishment. There’s no political downside for this tactic.