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OPINION - Shields and Brooks 9/6/2019

"Shields and Brooks on Democrats’ climate plans, Trump’s Dorian claim" PBS NewsHour 9/6/2019


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including whether Democrats are taking a “politically risky” approach to climate change policy, President Trump’s fixation with Alabama being hit by Hurricane Dorian, Trump’s diversion of Defense Department funds for border security and "Trump fatigue" in the GOP.

Judy Woodruff f (NewsHour):  And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.  It's good to see you on this Friday.  There's so much to talk about.

Mark, I want to start with you about this Hurricane Dorian.  We have been watching it now for well over a week, I guess almost two weeks.

And you have got scientists talking more openly now about whether these hurricanes are connected to climate change, to global warming.  And you have got Democratic candidates for President, more of them, coming out with pretty aggressive positions on climate.

Is this something that's realistic for Democrats?  Does that mean they think they're more likely to win over voters if they talk about climate?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  I'm not sure that they see it as a great winning issue.  I think they see it as an important issue.

I would say, among Democratic candidates, first of all, they all agree that there is climate change.  All the deniers are on the other side.  They're not in the Democratic field or in the Democratic Party right now.

And, two, that it's manmade, man contributes to it.  I think those are two important differences that go undebated among Democrats.  Democrats assume that.

And you're right.  They got into a competition.  And the gravity of the problem is real.  I mean, you have got — now you have got 72 percent of people saying storms are stronger.  And half of them believe that climate change is contributing to that.


Judy Woodruff:  Go ahead.

Mark Shields:  So you have got, I think, a growing public awareness.

The fear for the Democrats on a very practical level is that they get into a bidding war.  I mean, Bernie Sanders now has a $16 billion tag.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Trillion-dollar.

Mark Shields:  Trillion — excuse me — trillion-dollar tag on it.

And you fear, from a political perspective, practical political perspective, Judy, that you get into unrealistic promises, like the Republicans on their pledge every four years to repeal prohibition — a prohibition against abortion, to balance the budget.

And I think that's — I think that's one of the apprehensions that Democrats have at a voting level.

Judy Woodruff:  More than half of them talking about putting a tax on carbon dioxide pollution.

David Brooks:  That was, to me, the big breakthrough.

I think most economists of right and left think a carbon tax or some carbon mechanism is the right way to go, because you let the markets sort of sort it out.  No politician ever says that, because taxing this stuff is very politically unpopular, or at least moderately politically unpopular.

But you had five Democrats, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, said, yes, I'm for that.  They didn't elaborate.  But, to me, that's an important breakthrough.  And is, I think, a political courage.  I think it's also extremely politically risky.

And then Bernie Sanders is not so much for carbon pricing, but he's for semi-nationalizing the utilities.  And that's a pretty radical break.  And so the — I give them a lot of credit.  The debate was very substantive this week.  And their solutions are at least equal to the size of the problem.

But whether it can fly in the fall when Donald Trump gets to run against a carbon tax or a tax on you driving your car, that could be politically risky.

Judy Woodruff:  And speaking of President Trump — and I wasn't actually going to ask about this.

But, tonight, the White House, the President is tweeting out a video, a video tweet, where he's doubling down, David, on his defense of his forecasting some date — last weekend — that Alabama was in the eye of Hurricane Dorian.

This has been a big subject for the press this week.  But is this something you think we have made — that too much has been made of?  We haven't reported on it on the "NewsHour," but we have certainly watched it.

David Brooks:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  And it's a remarkable scene.

David Brooks:  I know, because the storm is right over Arizona now.


Mark Shields:  Look out, Phoenix.


David Brooks:  Yes, right.

No, on the one hand, we have made too much, because it's a line on a map.  And it's sort of an Onion article.  On the other hand, it is Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

David Brooks:  A refusing to admit error when he made an error, B counting his staff to pretend that no error had — made and C spreading false information, which he picked up on TV.

And the President gets the right to be briefed.  And when — there was one weatherman — apparently, he saw him on CNN — who said this.  But it was clear that wasn't the true story.

And the primary responsibility of the President is not to make himself look good by sticking to this.  It's to protect the country by saying, oh, I saw one weather report, but it turns out that's not right.  It's going up the — it's going up the coast.

So Donald Trump is being Donald Trump.  And the question is, do we always react to his exaggerations and lies again and again and again?  Maybe that's the right thing to do just to preserve norms.  It gets a little old, though.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Mark, somebody in the White House drew that line that we just — we just showed, that black…

Mark Shields:  Somebody did, and somebody with a sharpie.

And I don't know who in the White House uses a sharpie.


Mark Shields:  I'll say this, Judy.

It's bizarre in this sense.  Alabama, for some reason, occupies an enormously important emotional and political, almost sentimental spot in the President's galaxy of affections.  It was there he had his first rally in Mobile, where Jeff Sessions endorsed him in the summer of 2015.

He returned after the election to thank him.  He got a bigger percentage of the vote in Alabama than anybody since Richard Nixon against George McGovern in 1972.

But in the process, what he did was, he kind of gave short shrift and ignored the plight and the suffering, not simply the human tragedy in the Bahamas, but constituents in the important states of Florida and North Carolina.

And he just seems — he just seems absolutely absorbed with it, and when he could just say, gee, thank goodness, I'm happy to report, I'm relieved to report I was wrong, and that…

Judy Woodruff:  That Alabama was spared.

Mark Shields:  Alabama was spared.  And thank you, God, and go — roll, Tide.

David Brooks:  Yes, "I was wrong" has never passed those lips.

Mark Shields:  Yes.  OK.  I'm sorry.  Yes, OK.


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OPINION - Shields and Brooks 9/6/2019


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