"Shields and Brooks on health care, Trump’s Khashoggi reaction" PBS NewsHour 10/19/2018
SUMMARY: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss health care, Democrats’ campaign strategy and an unfolding American “cultural drama.”
Judy Woodruff (NewsHour): And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, joining us this evening from Los Angeles.
And welcome to both of you.
Midterm elections, we can just feel it. They're just a bit over two weeks away.
The President has been out on the campaign trail. He's been talking up Republican candidates. His language, the rhetoric is getting more combative.
I want you both to listen to something he said. He was in Montana last night talking about the terrible things that will happen if Democrats are elected, mob rule and so forth.
But he went out of his way to praise Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte, was convicted two years ago of misdemeanor assault on a news reporter. And here's what the President had to say last night.
President Donald Trump: Greg is smart.
And, by the way, never wrestle him. You understand that? Never.
President Donald Trump: Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my kind of…
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
President Donald Trump: He's my guy.
Judy Woodruff: So he's been talking — he's been partisan, David, but now the language is getting tougher, more combative.
What do we make of this?
David Brooks, New York Times: Well, a couple things.
One, it's appalling. I mean, anybody who assaults a journalist for doing their job has done something appalling. And anybody who praises that is doing something appalling.
Second, he is a showman. He's like the Mort Sahl of the ethnic right. And so he tries to offend. And when he offends, his people go crazy and they like it.
And so I sort of think it is appalling. I sometimes wonder if we should ignore it, because it sets off a cultural drama where one group of people gets upset, and then the other but people are delighted the other group of people got upset, and it just creates this drama that benefits Trump, frankly. And he's not stupid about that kind of thing.
Judy Woodruff: So we're amping it up by talking about it, Mark.
Mark Shields, syndicated columnist: I think we have to talk about it, Judy.
I mean, this is a week in which the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi, the murder of a journalist, a Washington Post journalist, for what he was writing, apparently, has been front and center. And the President is not unaware of this, because he's been a central figure in disparaging the investigation and taking up the cause of those who were allegedly involved in it.
So this is — this is irresponsible, it's reckless, and it's really cheap, in the literal sense of it. This is a — this is a reckless act of an irresponsible man. And I don't think it go unremarked upon.
Judy Woodruff: Are there consequences, David?
David Brooks: Well, I mean, I think the major damage Donald Trump is doing to the country is weakening the norms of decency and civility.
And if you don't have those norms, it's all dog eat dog. And so I don't underestimate the harm that gets done.
I just observe that, since the first Presidential debate, when he went after Carly Fiorina for the way she looked, and other people, those — the ethos of World Wide — the World Wide Wrestling Federation has been the ethos Donald Trump has played on, on the campaign trail.
And there is some bit of owning the libs, as conservative say, that the desire to offend is part of the fun of the thing. And, sometimes — I totally get Mark's point. You got to try to maintain some sense of standards of how public officials are supposed to act with integrity.
But, sometimes, I feel manipulated when I do react, because that's sort of what Donald Trump wants.
Mark Shields: I want David to trust his own instincts, which are good.
Mark Shields: No, I mean, but David touched on what I think is the central element of this campaign.
Are we going to have guardrails. Are we going to reestablish guardrails in this country as to what is right, what is wrong? And I think that to a great degree is what this election is about.
But I mean, let's remind us — our listeners that Gianforte himself publicly apologized for what he did after it happened and accepted the court's judgment.