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Brooks and Marcus on Cameron’s victory, Senate vote to review Iran deal

May 8, 2015 at 6:20 PM EDT
New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the British election and its implications for the United States, the latest Republican candidates to launch 2016 campaigns, Hillary Clinton’s stance on immigration and the Senate’s passage of a bill requiring congressional review of an Iranian nuclear deal.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.

So, welcome to both of you.

Lead story tonight, the British elections, big win for the Conservatives, for David Cameron.

David, how do we think — how do you think about this, implications for the U.S.?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, we have had a long debate over how to react to the financial crisis.

And there were two countries that did what is known as austerity. And it wasn’t like they were cutting budgets to the European welfare states. But they didn’t do the big stimulus packages, and they did do some fiscal discipline. And those were Germany and the U.K.

And so we have had a debate, which policy was the right policy, austerity or bigger spending, bigger stimulus? And I just note that the two countries in Europe with the strongest economies are U.K. and Germany, the two austerity countries.

And two political leaders that are the strongest right now in Europe are Angela Merkel and David Cameron. And so one of the things the Cameron victory is about — it’s about a lot of things, about what’s happened in Scotland. It’s about a lot of things.

But within England, voters had a chance to reject that policy, and the Conservative Party has a bigger majority than it had before. And so it has to be some sort of vindication for the basic fiscal package that David Cameron and his chancellor, George Osborne, championed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Ruth? The polls — we have pointed out the polls weren’t right. At least, the public polls were a little bit misleading.

RUTH MARCUS:  I don’t think the internal polls were any clearer, from the folks that I have talked to.

I think everybody was shocked by the outcome. I think I’m a little bit reluctant to draw at least U.S. parallels to the implications of the British election, for the reason that you alluded to, David. Well, first of all, it’s not at all clear to me that this was a referendum on austerity. A lot of the austerity has passed.

But second of all and more important, austerity in the United Kingdom is a lot different than what we would think about when we think about austerity here. They ran a budget deficit of 5.7 percent last year, 4.5 percent this year. Those are big, big deficits in U.S. terms.

Cameron has to pledge and pledged his absolute devotion to the national health system. So the sort of ability to translate that austerity back home and make it work back here seems to me to be a little bit open to question.

DAVID BROOKS: I would say he did — all that is true, obviously.

RUTH MARCUS:  Obviously.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it came out of your mouth, so it had to be true.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: But he did do some significant spending cuts, against a lot of opposition.

And, second, I do think British and American politics rhyme. They go in cycles. They go in Thatcher-Reagan cycles, Blair-Clinton cycles. Now they’re diverging a little. The British Conservative Party looks the way the Republican Party would look if it was a coastal party, if it was the sort of party that could do well in the Northeast, and in California and Oregon.

And I would say, if American conservatives want to know how to compete in blue America, look at what David Cameron is doing. It’s pretty much free market, but it’s not for slashing government. It’s socially pretty moderate, at best. It has got a strong environmental wing.

And so I would say for Republicans, if you ever want to compete along America’s coastline in the Upper Midwest or in urban and affluent America, what David Cameron is doing, which is more communitarian, it’s a very good model and it’s worked for him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think the GOP could take some lessons from across the pond?

RUTH MARCUS: I think they could, but I think they won’t because of our internal political geography that won’t — we’re very segregated by congressional districts and gerrymandered and residential segregation.

And so there is not a lot of the incentive for that kind of moderation in a lot of places, even if it would be smart politically, say, in presidential campaigns.

To me, I just want to make the very quick point that I think that the bigger implications of the U.K. election are really parochial, U.K. and  Europe, implications, first of all, this astonishing result of the Scottish National Party. We thought that issue was settled and now it seems to be bubbling up again. And it’s related to the referendum that is coming that David Cameron promised on E.U. membership.

So, though he had a fantastic night, an unexpectedly fantastic night, he woke up to really two big headaches he is going to be having to deal with in the next few years.

DAVID BROOKS: I would just say quickly, I don’t think that’s even only parochial.

The Scottish result and the E.U. referendum are both about disillusionment with big institutions and big national and paranational institutions. And that’s the kind of disillusionment we see here. That’s why a lot of power is flowing back to states and cities. And so there is just disillusionment around the world with the big institutions. And there is sort of a process of federalization going on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of elections, we have one of our own coming up, I think, rumor has it, next year.

We had three candidates, almost a candidate a day, jump in this week, David. Let’s talk about these three and how you size them up. Start with Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, I think they are all going to have their moment. They have all some attractive feature.

Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon, brilliant guy, very charismatic, has a great story to tell. I think they’re all in the wrong year. I think this is a year, if you look at polling, and if you even look at the results that Hillary Clinton has just had in her polling, where she survived these scandals wonderfully, in some ways even stronger than before, people want experienced political leadership.

I think the reaction to having a very young president has been, we want somebody who’s been there before. And so these candidates, if they were running four years ago in the Republican Party, four years ago, or eight years ago, I think they would have a much bigger upside, as indeed Mike Huckabee did years ago.

But I think their upside is very limited because none of them have significant political experience or governing experience. Huckabee has some, but it’s dated. And Fiorina and Ben Carson have none. And so I just don’t think there’s going to be a big market for any of them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see Carson and the group?

RUTH MARCUS:  Well, I agree. Obviously, what David said is right, because we are just in an agreement night.

(LAUGHTER)

RUTH MARCUS: I think that I would differentiate between Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson on the one hand and Mike Huckabee on the other, because the first two, I think, just to be very blunt, are not credible — this is not their year to be candidates, but I’m not sure they would be selling, credible candidates in any year.

Carly Fiorina had a failed business career and then has failed at her previous bid for political office, was ousted.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Former chair, CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

RUTH MARCUS:  Ben Carson, yes, he is a brain surgeon, but it turns out you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to be president, but it helps to actually have some political experience. Neither of them has it.

I don’t think any of them would get to be a nominee in the most anti-experienced politician year. Mike Huckabee is a candidate of a different sort. He really does have governing experience.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Former governor of Arkansas.

RUTH MARCUS: Former governor of Arkansas.

I think, for him, his moment passed. I think he was a much more attractive candidate in 2008 than he will be this time around. He’s a little bit more brittle, more angry. He’s…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Hmm.

RUTH MARCUS:  I think his biggest selling point is both his experience, the fact that he has proven — he won Iowa in 2008. He has an attraction.

I think there is a diminished interested in the electorate this year in social conservatism. That has passed. But I think one another one of his big selling points is his anti-dynastic argument that he can make. He really did pull himself up from his bootstraps, talks about showering with lava soap, didn’t realize he could take a shower with soap that didn’t hurt until he was older. Now he’s made a lot of money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Some birthplace as Bill Clinton, but a very different…

RUTH MARCUS:  Man from Hope.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … up in a different place. You don’t see Huckabee in a different place than the others?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it was an enormously attractive campaign the last time in Iowa. He was lighthearted, warm. He had a lot of very — issues I remember seeing that would really move people. And they were not the normal things a senator would say.

He would talk about childhood obesity quite a lot, and you would see crowds nodding along.

RUTH MARCUS:  Preventive care.

DAVID BROOKS: Preventive care, yes.

And he does have the working-class story to tell. But if you want a working-class story, well, you have got Scott Walker or you have got Marco Rubio. You have just got more viable options. If you want an evangelical story, which Huckabee does very well, you have got Walker, too.

And so it seems to me there’s more plausible candidates with all the things that Huckabee offers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we weren’t going to talk about Hillary Clinton, but it was pretty clear to me that when she talked about immigration this week, Ruth, she was trying to send a signal that her position is much more acceptable to the Latino, Hispanic community than that of the Republicans.

RUTH MARCUS: Indeed, she was. And it was a very, very clever move that she did, because what she said was, I am the only candidate in this race who is for a path to legal citizenship. If you’re for something else, you are for second-class status for all of the Hispanics, Latinos out there.

So, she’s put the candidates who are in the better place on immigration in the Republican Party, the Marco Rubios, the Jeb Bushes, who are already going to get grief from the right about being for any form of legalization or path to legal status, putting them in a terrible place, because it’s going to get them in trouble on the right, but not be adequate for the left and Latino voters. Very smart move on her part.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re sort of nodding.

DAVID BROOKS: I agree.

No, the Jeb Bush and the Marco Rubio, the former reformers, are now living in sort of shades of gray, making distinctions that nobody else pays attention to. And so they’re sort of lost. The more anti are a little clearer, but not so much. The Republicans are, like, dodging.

And so her position is very clear. I wonder empirically whether she will pay a price. Is there any Democratic constituency or are there any moderate constituency who worry about the immigration problem, are too many immigrants, or have we lost control of the borders?

But, so far, if you look at the national polling, it is a popular position, it is a strong position. It gives her a little daylight from Barack Obama. It puts her on the offensive. It was definitely a good move for her.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, one last thing I want to ask you about, the agreement that seems to have been reached between the administration, Ruth and David, and at least the Senate over the Iran nuclear deal.

They come to kind of an agreement over what Congress’ role is going to be. And this is after, David, Republicans were just raising a storm about not — saying the president is not going to do this on his own. Congress is going to have a say.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

I actually think it’s a win for the president. I think the Republicans gave in a lot. They get a little say over the timing of what goes when and how much — long a review process is, but basically it’s very hard for the — if the president — if a deal is made, it’s going to be hard for Congress to beat it.

They would have to get veto-proof majorities. And that’s not going to happen. And so I think the Republicans gave a lot. They will get to have a voice, but they gave away basically the outcome.

RUTH MARCUS: I think it is a win for the president, because he’s got the veto pen, for the reasons that David said.

But I also think it’s a win for Congress as an institution. It’s really important, when we’re having serious agreements like this, to have the legislative branch have an opportunity and weigh in and have a responsibility to weigh in.

And really kudos to Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Tim Kaine, the senator from — Democratic senator from Virginia, who really pushed this. And then debits to Congress for not being as careful about its institutional role when it comes to a new authorization for the use of military force, which we need in Syria and Iraq.

They have totally caved on that, but I think it’s a good for Congress as an institution to have this Iran review.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I keep asking this question, less than 30 seconds, David, is this a model? Are we going to see Congress and the president working together, Republicans and the president?

DAVID BROOKS: We will see. We get a test of that with the Patriot Act reauthorization. That’s the next thing up. We will see if they can compromise on that. I’m a little dubious.

RUTH MARCUS: Unusual alignment of interests, not easily repeated.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Oh. I’m going to write that down.

Ruth Marcus…

RUTH MARCUS: Don’t write it down. It’s probably wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

Ruth Marcus, David Brooks, thank you.

RUTH MARCUS: Thank you.

 

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