"Shields and Brooks on Biden’s 2020 launch, Trump stonewalling Congress" PBS NewsHour 4/26/2019
SUMMARY: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks discuss the week’s news, including Joe Biden’s entrance into the 2020 Presidential campaign, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s policy proposal on student loans and the adversarial dynamic between the White House and Congress over investigations into the Trump administration.
Judy Woodruff: The 2020 Democratic Presidential primary field continued to fill up this week. Former Vice President Joe Biden's entrance into the race was just one of several political stories this week, bringing us, as always, to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.
That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Hello to both of you. It's Friday.
So let's talk about Joe Biden. He finally is in the race, David. And it was interesting, his message, the launch video message yesterday contrasting himself with President Trump and Charlottesville and a President who would condone the kind of violence in Charlottesville.
What did you make of that?
David Brooks, New York Times: I thought it was a smart strategy.
First, if you're a Democrat and you think all we have to do is nominate someone normal, and not screw this up, we can beat Trump, and Joe Biden is normal, and the country knows him. He's been through it all before. So him vs. Trump, if you just want to beat Trump, he's probably your safest bet. That's a pretty good argument.
Second, I actually like the way he made this all about values. I mean, there are a lot of other things that are going to go on this campaign, but what America stands for and what our values are is a central one. And he really made it about that.
And then he really wrapped himself around the Constitution, the American founding, and said, this is not who we are.
And so if you're worried the Democrats sort of don't like the founding documents or something like that, then he said, no, we're American, we like the documents, we just want to live up to them.
The one risky thing in the announcement was the emphasis on restoration, that we're going to restore what we had. And there's a very forward focus in the electorate right now. So that one, I think, might have been a little off.
Judy Woodruff: What about that, Mark, and the stark choice that he seemed to put forward?
Mark Shields, syndicated columnist: I think it's the best way for Joe Biden to run.
I think that he made it a Biden not against the rest of the field, but a Biden against Trump. There was almost implicit in it a campaign I didn't cover, but should have, and that was the 1920 campaign of Warren Harding, return to normalcy.
There was almost a sense that we have been in the abnormal. Let's become normal. And I think Joe Biden, sort of the organizing premise of the campaign is a line that Joe Biden himself used in defense of Barack Obama, when Obama was being criticized by Democrats for not having lived up to his mission and his mandate in the first term.
And he said, compare him not to the almighty, compare him to the alternative. And that's what he's asking, compare me to the alternative, Donald Trump.
And I think that makes sense for Joe Biden's candidacy, and there's a logic to it.
Judy Woodruff: So he got some good news to start out with. First 24 hours, I think we reported, he raised $6.3 million. It's a little bit more than Beto O'Rourke and Bernie Sanders raised.
But he has also ran into some headwinds. He went on this television show on ABC this morning, very popular show called "The View." And they asked him about the issues you would expect, the Anita Hill hearings, where she still holds him accountable for what happened, and, most recently, the women who accused Joe Biden of being too familiar, touching them when they didn't ask to be touched.
David Brooks: Right.
Judy Woodruff: I wanted to just quickly show an excerpt of what he had to say when he talked — when they talked about it.
Joseph Biden: I'm really sorry if they — what I did in talking to them and trying to counsel, that, in fact, they took it a different way.
And it's my responsibility to make sure that I bend over backwards to try to understand how not to do that.
Question: Nancy Pelosi wants you to say, I'm sorry that I invaded your space.
Joseph Biden: Sorry I invaded your space. I am. I'm sorry this happened.
But I'm not sorry in the sense that I think I did anything that was intentionally designed to do anything wrong or be inappropriate.
Judy Woodruff: So, David, that wasn't good enough for some of the women this morning. And then the reaction on social media, women were saying, wait a minute, he should have just directly apologized.
David Brooks: He could have, yes, but I think he wanted to say this was not a sexual thing.
And I totally agree that. Joe Biden's invaded my space plenty of time. That's just the way Joe Biden is. And when it's across genders, then it becomes a different — a more sensitive subject, obviously.
And so his answer, I think, was the right one. He's just an ebullient kind of guy who is — you know, who grabs you. But he's — I think he's aware that this is not the way things are done now, in an era where we're much more sensitive about sexual harassment. You just can't behave that way.
And so the not-good intent, but combined with, I have learned the new situation, I think that's a reasonably fair option.
There's one thing I have been thinking about with Biden over the last 24 hours, is that, if you looked at twitter, you would think nobody supports Joe Biden. And yet he's number one in the fund-raising.
And you have got this weird phenomenon where the Republican elites are kind of moderate. They'd be happy with Mitt Romney. But the grassroots are radicalized. On the Democratic side, the elites are kind of radicalized, but the grassroots are a little more moderate.
And so you have got these two different situations in the two parties.
Judy Woodruff: So how is he navigating this, Mark? And could it be a problem with women voters?
Mark Shields: I guess it could be, Judy.
I'd say this, that 46 years in Washington, a city that lives by innuendo and thrives on rumors, none about Joe Biden. I mean, Joe Biden lived an exemplary life in terms of straying from marital values or anything of the sort. And I think it's important to emphasize that.
I think what he fails to do in his answer is to come up, quite frankly, with a disciplined answer, which ought to be three sentences, and it ought to be one paragraph, and he shouldn't deviate from it.
Just as an example, not bookend, George W. Bush, when he was about to run for President in 2000, faced charges about his own misspent youth all the way up to the age of 40. And he had a simple answer every time someone came up, what about the drunk driving? What about this fight you got into?
He had a simple answer. When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish. After a while, reporters got tired of asking. Joe Biden has to — not something quite that glib, but something that — times have changed, I have changed.
I think there's a big difference between invading someone's space and a hand on the shoulder and Anita Hill. The Anita Hill — the Anita Hill has not been handled well by Biden so far.
Judy Woodruff: But you're saying all he needs is a disciplined response?
Mark Shields: I think — and the same one, so that he doesn't deviate from it.