"Michael Gerson and Karen Tumulty on 2020 Senate races, Israel and Trump" PBS NewsHour 8/16/2019
SUMMARY: The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson and Karen Tumulty join Amna Nawaz to discuss the latest in politics, including our analysis of upcoming 2020 Senate races and potential candidates, the controversy over Israel’s barring a visit from Reps. Omar and Tlaib, how trade tensions between the U.S. and China are affecting the economy and President Trump’s apparent interest in purchasing Greenland.
Amna Nawaz (NewsHour): And that brings us to the analysis of Gerson and Tumulty. That's Michael Gerson and Karen Tumulty, both of The Washington Post. Mark Shields and David Brooks are out.
We are so grateful both of you are here.
Michael Gerson, Washington Post: Good to be here.
Amna Nawaz: Karen, I want to ask.
You have been writing about this. Let's pick up where Lisa left off there. Why aren't some of these high-profile Dems running for the Senate?
Karen Tumulty, Washington Post: Yes, it's so interesting. It's practically like these days running for President has become your safety school.
The fact is that the Chuck Schumer has been left at the altar in a number of states, not just by, as Lisa said, Bullock and Beto O'Rourke, but, in Georgia, he very much wanted Stacey Abrams to take on a Senate race as well.
And the stakes are really, really high, because even if the Democrats can manage to get back the White House next year, if Mitch McConnell is still the majority leader in the Senate, they are just not going to get a lot of things done.
And it's — it is a — they have a path to the majority, but it is a very, very narrow path. And their Senate candidates are not really raising enough money right now, in part because the Presidential race is taking up so much oxygen.
Amna Nawaz: Michael, what is that pitch like to potential candidates, right, come join an incredibly gridlocked body?
Michael Gerson: Yes, that's true.
But it's also a difficult election cycle for Democrats. It shouldn't be. There are a lot more Republican seats up. But they're in red states. There are really only a couple of targets of opportunity here. So one reason there aren't more marquee Democrats, I think, is because it's a difficult circumstance.
They have to win Colorado. That's the only path they — their path to a majority goes through Colorado. And I think Hickenlooper actually may be a very good candidate. There wasn't much appetite for a centrist, practical centrism in the Presidential race, but there really is in Colorado.
And they like the fact that he's a former barkeep. So I think they view that as an honorable path to power.
Amna Nawaz: And there's a timeline issue here, too, right? They don't have to make up their minds just yet.
Michael Gerson: That's true.
And the states very, but it's a couple of months in both cases. So…
Amna Nawaz: So, you see some of these folks, you see some of them maybe potentially changing their mind or announcing that they end up — they will end up running for these seats?
Karen Tumulty: Well, I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on Bullock, especially if he doesn't make the debate stage this next month.
So, yes. I mean, Chuck Schumer, the light is on in the window.
Amna Nawaz: I want to talk to you also about another story we have been following this week. Obviously, it's taken a lot of twists and turns in the last 24 hours alone, but Israel's denial of entry to two sitting members of the U.S. Congress, Representatives Tlaib and Omar.
I want to ask you really more about the U.S. reaction, because this caught some people by surprise.
Michael, you had their own colleagues in Congress, in some cases, saying they supported the ban. I just want to show you one tweet from yesterday.
This was from Representative Lee Zeldin, a Republican from New York, who said: "It shouldn't be shocking they're unwelcome in a nation they're taking great pains to tear down."
What do you make of the reaction from some of their own lawmaker colleagues?
Michael Gerson: Well, so much of this is unprecedented.
Generally, this has been off-limits. And I think that now we're seeing this has become a partisan issue. Support for Israel — an organization like AIPAC has tried to keep support for Israel from being a partisan issue for decades.
They're the one that reacted in very clear-eyed way that said, we will welcome any Republican member. Even they — Israel should welcome any Republican member of Congress or Democratic member of Congress.
But I think the President and Netanyahu have taken what shouldn't be a partisan issue and made it into a partisan issue. And people are now coming down on various sides of this partisan issue. That's not good, by the way, for Israel or for the long term of American relationship with Israel.
Amna Nawaz: Karen, what do you make of the way this has unfolded over the last couple of days?
Karen Tumulty: Well, I think that, whatever the forces were that went into Israel's decisions here, what I think is even more astonishing is President Trump's behavior in this, in that Israel was ready to go ahead and let them in, assuming that there's — there's an advantage to sort of keeping the dialogue going, which is generally how other countries have treated members of Congress.
But it was only after President Trump gets into this publicly and puts pressure on Israel, and it was only that we saw them reverse that decision. And it is really an extraordinary thing to see a President of the United States putting pressure on a foreign power to essentially punish his adversaries.
Michael Gerson:Yes, and using the federal government as a method to score-settle with political opponents. I mean, that is not normal either for the President of the United States.
That's — usually, foreign policy is not conducted like it's a reality TV show. But now, evidently, that's how it is done.
Amna Nawaz: Are you worried that sets a dangerous precedent in some way?
Michael Gerson: Well, absolutely.
I think that any of these relationships now could be used by the President as a backdrop for his political ploys. And we have avoided that overseas for the most part. And this, I think, is a new and worse era.
Amna Nawaz: Karen, it's worth pointing out, of course, that our partnership with Israel is strong.
And there's a lot more to talk about. There's economic partnership. There's national security partnership. Can we even have those conversations now? Has it just become too politicized?
Karen Tumulty: Well, I do think that is why you see AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobby, actually criticizing Netanyahu on this decision. This is something that almost never happens.
But I think they are, in fact, looking at the long game here.