"Brooks and Dionne on the GOP's dilemma and the role of ‘common decency' in the campaign" PBS NewsHour 8/12/2016
SUMMARY: Donald Trump made more controversial statements this week and remains behind in polls. But it was not a great week for Hillary Clinton, either, more emails were leaked that could prove damaging. Judy Woodruff speaks with David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne Jr. of The Washington Post about Republicans' quandary, the characters of the candidates, and “unimaginative” tax plans.
JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): And now back to the world of politics, and to the analysis of Brooks and Dionne. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.
Mark Shields is away this week.
So, let's pick up, gentlemen, with where I left off a few minutes ago with Robert Costa of The Washington Post.
David, what a week for Donald Trump. I guess we all thought maybe things were going to slow down, but first there was the comment about the Second Amendment that — seen by some as a threat to Hillary Clinton, and then the ISIS comments.
How do we interpret how Donald Trump is communicating with everybody?
DAVID BROOKS, New York Times: Well, this isn't a decision he is making. It's a condition he possesses.
And we're not used to talking about the psychological mental health of our candidates. And in some things, I think it's not fair to talk about his mental health, in terms of how he operates with his kids in his private life, but there is a such a thing as public psychology and political psychology.
And in public, he obviously displays extreme narcissism, but most of all, he displays a certain manic, hyperactive attention. And so if you graph a Trump sentence, every eight-word verse, he's like associative thinking.
And there is a term in psychology called the flights of thought, where one word sets off an association, which sets off an association. And as one psychiatrist said, compare his speeches to Robin Williams' monologues, but without the jokes, but with insults.
And so he's not in control of his own attention, I don't believe. And, therefore, you get these rambling, weird sentences. You get things he patently shouldn't be saying. And then even this, I'm being sarcastic about the sarcasm, I'm obviously being sarcastic, and then maybe a fifth a second later, he said, but not that much.
So he is contradicting himself within 12 words. And that's a condition.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, E.J., how are we to understand this, as people trying to understand this election?
E.J. DIONNE, Washington Post: Well, I have been thinking about it, that there is the English language and then there's the Trump language.
And in the Trump language, words change their meaning day by day depending on his own political needs. I won't go into the learned psychological explanation that David gave, but there are a lot of people now talking that way about him.
But, politically, he doesn't seem to care much about what he says. He gauges the effect. Sometimes, in the middle of a speech, he will change his direction if the audience doesn't like him.
And I had a very instructive trip this week to York, Pennsylvania. It's a conservative county, Southern Pennsylvania, not far from here. And one of the most interesting conversations I had was with Allison Cooper, the editor of The York Dispatch.
And talked about how people in this very Republican area — York City is Democratic, but the county is very Republican — are people who care about manners and decorum. And she spoke about — what she said is, common decency is a core part of who people are.
And I think in this campaign, we have talked about soccer moms, we have talked about angry white men, and I think you're starting to develop common decency voters who are just reacting to what Trump says.
A Republican county commissioner I talked to up to there said that she's been active with veterans. And after what Trump said about the Khan family and what he said about the Purple Heart, she said, I can't vote for him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The convention.
E.J. DIONNE: And so something deep is happening, and it has nothing to do with ideology or even party.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump said something about their economic plans this week.
David, do we learn anything from this? What’s the bright line between the two of them?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, there certainly are bright lines.
I was depressed by both of them.
DAVID BROOKS: I think the country, the economy has some new, genuine challenges.
We have had incredibly laggard growth. Productivity increases have been meager and terrible. Hundreds — millions of people have dropped out of the labor force. These have all happened this century. And to me, what both Clinton and especially Trump did was have economic plans built for 1973, as if we’re going to have labor-rich manufacturing jobs come back.
Labor-rich manufacturing doesn’t exist anymore. Manufacturing jobs are white-collar, Silicon Valley programmers or highly-skilled technicians. They are not going to employ lots of people. And so we had two economic plans that had, in my view, very limited growth agendas.
Infrastructure is good, but not it. Very limited productivity agendas, and really nothing to help people who are out of the labor force. So, they were so unimaginative. They were sort of grab bags, in Clinton’s case, of either the normal policies that Democrats have been proposing 20 years, or, in Trump’s case, a mixture of weird things that are left over from supply-side and populism.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How did you read all that?
E.J. DIONNE: I saw — I thought there was more growth and sort of forward-looking stuff in the Clinton plan than David was.
I was particularly struck that she began her speech by talking about the inventiveness of companies in Michigan and how they were taking advantage of change. And it reflected this issue that Democrats have to deal with. They want to sort of talk about how things are a lot better than they were eight years ago — and they really are — but if they say that too much, they look out of touch with all the people who are hurting, whereas Trump, I thought, if you listened carefully, he’s giving the words to the workers and money to the rich.
The tax cuts that he has sort of make Reagan look like a — you know, almost like a Democrat. I mean, these are steep tax cuts for the wealthy, getting rid of the inheritance tax, the estate tax, which would be particularly good, as Hillary Clinton loves to point out…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he’s trimmed some of the taxes…
E.J. DIONNE: I’m sorry?
JUDY WOODRUFF: He’s trimmed some of the tax changes he’s talked about.
E.J. DIONNE: He trims it, but it’s still a huge tax cut, with nothing, no talk of compensation for the deficit or anything else.
And Hillary had fun saying that this is really good for Trump’s family and his friends, but it’s not clear who it’s going to help.
I don’t know what the net of this exchange is, but I think you’re seeing is, Clinton is not going to leave blue-collar voters to Trump. She is fighting for them. And a lot of what she’s done in the last two or three weeks has been to try to shore up her position in those swing states with a lot of blue-collar voters.