"Shields and Gerson on Trump's deal with Democrats, DACA's demise" PBS NewsHour 9/8/2017
SUMMARY: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson join John Yang to discuss the week's news, including President Trump decision to side with leading Democrats in a deal on the debt ceiling and Hurricane Harvey aid, the move to end DACA and whether more moderate Republican lawmakers will retire from Congress.
JOHN YANG (NewsHour): From hurricanes to wildfires, natural disasters have drawn the country's attention away from the political storms in Washington this week.
But rest assured, we will bring you up to speed now with the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away.
Gentlemen, welcome to you both.
We had the unusual scene this week of a bipartisan leadership meeting in the Oval Office, and the President cuts off his own treasury secretary as he's making a recommendation and agrees with the opposition party on this debt ceiling, on a short-term C.R. and Harvey aid.
Michael, what do you make of all this?
MICHAEL GERSON, The Washington Post: Well, it's just a massive shift.
It wasn't that long ago they were talking about putting the wall on the debt relief. And so it's a huge change. I think that, you know, the Art of the Deal is easy when you surrender. That book wouldn't sell very well, but it's true.
And he signaled surrender, not just on this issue, but somewhat on DACA and somewhat on the whole issue of debt, the Debt Ceiling, trying to get that out of American politics. So it was a firestorm for Republicans. They're wondering, is this the new world?
JOHN YANG: Mark?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: I'm not sure it's the new world, but I am sure that, if I were Mitch McConnell, I would be seething with anger, the Republican Senate leader, because what Donald Trump did to him and to Paul Ryan (the speaker) was cut them off at the knees.
They had to go back to their respective caucuses and tell them, no, they weren't going to take the position that they in fact had endorsed and told them they were going to take on the debt ceiling and the continuing spending resolution, but, in fact, they were going to follow the advice embraced by the President of Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, and Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic Well.
So, if you're McConnell, just taking it from his perspective, he's trying to hold on to a Senate majority going into headwinds of 2018, which doesn't look like a good Republican year, and he's got a President who is not helping him in that sense. He's got to have something he can point to that the Senate has accomplished.
The last, best hope, or only hope, actually, is probably tax cuts for their supporters and their admirers. And without the President, he can't do that. And so he has to bite his tongue, bite his lip, and any other part of his facial extremity that he can and swallow hard, because he just — he was really diminished by this.
MICHAEL GERSON: Yes, I think we Republican leaders look pathetic, though, in a certain way.
They were livid, according to the reporting, on that three-month debt increase. They weren't livid on nativism. They weren't livid on misogyny. They were not livid on serial lying.
I think that it makes them look like they have kind of a moral center problem, that this is what the final straw is, is a difficulty. Also, they have given a lot. They have given their standing. They have given their — almost their political character for nothing so far.
MARK SHIELDS: I agree.
MICHAEL GERSON: I mean, they have literally gotten nothing. And tax reform may not even happen, and if it happens, it might be a scaled-back version.
So they have give an whole lot for very little in return.
MARK SHIELDS: You're absolutely right, Michael.
But I would just add that one picture that came out of that meeting of Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer each with their hands on the other's lapels and shoulder, you could almost see them — kind of Trump was in his element, trash-talking to Schumer. And I knew you. You were from James Madison High School in Brooklyn, and Schumer to him saying something like, Donald, you're from Jamaica, Queens. Who are you kidding?
And it's not a continuing relationship, but there's a chemistry there that isn't present with either McConnell or Ryan. Ryan is a choir boy to Donald Trump. He's a darling of The Wall Street Journal editorial page. He's never had a relationship with McConnell.
I agree, but — I agree with what Michael's point is. What were the words of Charlie Sykes, the Republican talk show host from Wisconsin who's a friend of Paul Ryan's? He said, quoting “A Man for All Seasons,” Paul, you know, for whales, you have traded your soul, but for a tax cut, you have traded your soul.
And I think there's a lot of truth to that.
MICHAEL GERSON: He's a diminished figure.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Yes.
JOHN YANG: Chuck Schumer, who he called the chief clown, and is now…
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, exactly, exactly.
JOHN YANG: And Mitch McConnell — the President invited the Cabinet and their spouses up to Camp David this weekend. One Cabinet spouse who declined, Mitch McConnell.
And how much was a shot across the bow at the Democratic — at the Republican leader — sorry — and was it his intent to diminish them? And how much of this was situational? He saw a deal he could take with the Democrats, and so he took it?
MARK SHIELDS: I think it's always the latter with him.
And what was really remarkable was, he was delighted, was the President, in getting favorable reviews in the press that he hates, that he diminishes, that he denigrates on a regular basis, The New York Times, The Washington Post.
And so thrilled was he, he actually called Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to bask in it and tell them the good reviews they were getting.
I mean, no, this is not a matter of strategy or conviction. It's a matter of…
MICHAEL GERSON: It's not a violation of his convictions. I'm not sure he has any.
He has a set of instincts, which are nativist and nationalist. But I don't think he has a set of economic and political philosophic conventions on spending or a lot of other issues. So, when he makes this kind of turn, I think it's relatively easy for him.