"Shields and Brooks on Hurricane Harvey unity, climate change politics" PBS NewsHour 9/1/2017
SUMMARY: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Miles O'Brien to discuss the week's news, including how Hurricane Harvey might redirect Republicans' fall agenda, the Trump administration's response to the emergency, how the government will pay for the long and arduous recovery, whether the storm will shift political discourse about climate change and more.
MILES O'BRIEN (NewsHour): In addition to the grueling work of rescue and recovery on the ground, Hurricane Harvey has stirred up political challenges and marked the first natural disaster on President Trump's watch.
For what's at stake, we get the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Gentlemen, good to have you with us.
To what extent has the storm on Friday and what has ensued changed what's going to happen in Washington in September? Do you think this is a reset in a sense, David?
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: I have decided to take the most willfully confident or least optimistic point of view just maybe post-flood, that the dove comes bearing the olive branch.
And I do think there's potential for things to get better. The Republicans were headed toward dysfunction this fall with the budget showdowns, with this fight over the wall, possible government shutdown.
And now they at least have a pretext, all the while knowing they look dysfunctional and they have to get something done. Now they have a pretext to change the subject, to put some budget relief in there for the flood, without doing offsets, without trying to rip the money out from other programs.
And they could say, hey, we can't do the wall right now. We got to rebuild Texas. And, by the way, on the background, a lot of people are going to need a lot of construction workers in Texas. And this is a construction with a construction worker flourish.
So, maybe this isn't the time to crack down on immigration. And so I think there's a possibility, if they want to look functional, to seize this moment, whether they will or not. But I'm going for maximal optimistic unrealism.
MILES O'BRIEN: So, Mark, would you agree that the storm has given Republicans some cover for a kumbaya moment?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Not necessarily kumbaya moment, because I think that's impossible with Donald Trump; because he's so mercurial, so volatile, and so self-obsessed.
But I think it's great political opportunity for Republicans, partly for the reasons that David said. The old maxim in combat in World War II was, there are no atheists in a foxhole. There no libertarian, conservative, small-government people at a time when they're in the wake of a hurricane.
People turn — what's the government going to do? I want it done. Even the much ridiculed — and legitimately so — Ted Cruz, who ran for President proclaiming he was the most unpopular man in the Senate, earned that epithet, sobriquet by opposing any hurricane aid to the citizens of New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.
And 22 of the 23 Republican members of Congress from Texas, including John Cornyn, the senator and Cruz, opposed it [Sandy relief]. Now, of course, they are the biggest exhorters for federal aid, federal involvement, national government rushing in.
But I do think it's an opportunity for Republicans to unite and to get away from the wall and President's empty threat to close the government if it weren't funded.
MILES O’BRIEN: What about tax reform? That was something that, in the midst of this storm, President Trump was talking about. Is there any chance there will be any traction on that?
MARK SHIELDS: There is no tax reform.
What it is, is a tax cut. And they have concluded that there’s a real problem in this country when it comes to money distribution, that the poor have too much and the rich don’t have enough. [Republican view] And this is the solution.
DAVID BROOKS: Just to make Mark feel good, I don’t think anything is going to pass.
I was thinking, who was in office, who was in power in 1986? You had Dan Rostenkowski in the House, a guy named Bob Packwood in the Senate, James Baker,
MARK SHIELDS: Patrick Moynihan.
DAVID BROOKS: Patrick Moynihan, Bill Bradley.
MARK SHIELDS: Bill Bradley. Dick Gephardt. Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: This was like the dream team of legislative skill.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: And there’s just nobody like that, because they don’t — people do not have the experience to pass complicated legislation, let alone a White House.
Tax reform is incredibly hard, because every time you cut a loophole, there’s an army that wants to preserve it. And it’s just hard to…
MARK SHIELDS: Dick Darman.
DAVID BROOKS: Dick Darman is another figure.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: We have sort of lost human capital in Washington of people who know how to do complicated stuff.
MARK SHIELDS: It’s a good point. We have devalued it.
When you run against Washington long enough, and deprecate public service, I mean, after a while, you stop attracting or making it appealing for talented people to come and to stay. And [back] then public service was an honorable and important…
DAVID BROOKS: The talent is a side, but the experience is low.
Those people had put through, over the previous 20 or 30 years, lots of complicated legislation, especially under Johnson, and even under Nixon.
And the people now, they just don’t have the experience of doing that.