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Shields and Brooks on Roll Call Nostalgia, Convention Speech Previews

August 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill talk with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks about the opening day of the Republican National Convention. They also discuss their nostalgia for the convention roll call and what the nation can expect to hear in speeches from Gov. Chris Christie and Ann Romney.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, with us tonight with Gwen and me all week are Shields and Brooks.   Of course that’s syndicated columnist, Mark Shields, and “The New York Times” columnist, David Brooks.

Mark and David, we’ve been listening to this — the roll call and the vote by acclamation.

And, David, it’s just wrapped up all of a sudden, hasn’t it?  I mean, here it is, it’s barely — we’re barely into the evening and they’re already selected by the party.

DAVID BROOKS:  
We can all go home.  It’s over.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  That’s right.

DAVID BROOKS:  
And I’m a little disappointed.  I love the roll call.  I remember as a kid watching the roll call each state, what it — why they’re a great state.  Nobody’s ever an average state.  They’re all great states.

GWEN IFILL:  Me, too.

DAVID BROOKS:  
And then there’s a little personality and now it’s off TV.  So kids are not going to get to see that.  It’s kind of sad.

GWEN IFILL:  But I have to say, energy finally, Mark, we’re — I mean, the music, yes, but energy on the floor, excitement, really.

MARK SHIELDS:  Excitement and a special excitement at Scott Walker –

GWEN IFILL:  Yes.

MARK SHIELDS:  – of Wisconsin.

JUDY WOODRUFF
:  Yes.

MARK SHIELDS:  I mean, that — the place just exploded in what I think can only be called spontaneous enthusiasm for him.

But you’re right, I mean, there is — there is enthusiasm and — for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as well.  But David, where is New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment?  Remember, we used to always get that –

(LAUGHTER)

GWEN IFILL:  I know.

MARK SHIELDS
:  – and the Silver State, Nevada, cast 18 –

DAVID BROOKS
:  Pennsylvania, home of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

MARK SHIELDS:  That’s right.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GWEN IFILL:
 (Inaudible) –

DAVID BROOKS
:  (Inaudible) Pennsylvania.

GWEN IFILL
:  – (inaudible), David.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But I miss that, too.  I mean, that really is a part of the legendary American political system, the roll call at these conventions –

MARK SHIELDS
:  Well, you saw it –

JUDY WOODRUFF
:  – why did they do away with it?

MARK SHIELDS
:  Well, I mean, I think because television didn’t cover it, quite honestly.

JUDY WOODRUFF
:  I mean, it’s not that they did away with it.  Let me — let me clarify.

MARK SHIELDS
:  Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF
:  They did it, but they did it quickly and they did it early.  They got it over with.  So –

MARK SHIELDS:  Well, I think one of their concerns, Judy — I mean, they did want to get it out of the way and if it wasn’t going to be covered, why make it endless, I guess.

But I agree with you.  And the thing it showed above anything else was really the diversity of America.  I mean, you’d see Texans really were different from people from the state of Maine and how the –

GWEN IFILL:  Well, diversity, diversity of a sort, anyway.

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS
:  (Inaudible) regional –

DAVID BROOKS:  Yes.  So here on the floor, the Republicans have done a nice job of maximizing their potential visual diversity by putting the delegation from Puerto Rico right up front, from Guam.  So they’ve selected some good cutaway shots –

GWEN IFILL
:  The Marianas Islands (inaudible).

You know, I want to ask you both about this, because earlier, this gaveled in at 2 o’clock this afternoon, and earlier today we saw a succession of congressional candidates, members of Congress, and we didn’t see any of them after things got serious at around 7 o’clock.

Is that on purpose?

MARK SHIELDS:  Well, let’s hope that the hometown folks cover you.  That’s (inaudible) and that the feed goes back to Podunkville and that they say, gee, did you see David Brooks, our candidate for lieutenant governor was there and spoke to the convention.

John Boehner said he spoke the first — he was so excited to speak at his first convention he spoke at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  There was nobody in the hall and nobody was listening.  So it was humbling.

DAVID BROOKS
:  Yes.  I actually listen to these speeches, because I am lame (ph).  And so there were some really good ones.  There was –

GWEN IFILL:  Much like comedy (ph), but –

DAVID BROOKS:  Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

GWEN IFILL
:  – (inaudible).

DAVID BROOKS
:  Yes, right, exactly.  And so the mayor of Oklahoma City gave a good speech.  And that actually feeds into something that’s happening later tonight, which is a lot of governors –

JUDY WOODRUFF
:  Yes.

DAVID BROOKS:  – are speaking.  And so a lot of it is about reframing the party as the party of practical government.  It’s governance and there’s a lot of ideology, obviously, in this party.  But I think they’re trying to make this emphasis.  We’ve got mayors and governors.

You don’t have to imagine how we’re going to govern.  We’ve got people on the ground doing it right now and we’re going to replicate what’s happening in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  It’s — it is something that I raised with Speaker Boehner, and that is the unpopularity of Congress.  I mean, you have to believe that that’s one of the reasons you don’t see many senators and members of the House of Representatives speaking in prime time.  I mean, they were in the afternoon.

DAVID BROOKS
:  That was one of the good arguments against picking Paul Ryan.  The House Republicans are not exactly popular (inaudible).

MARK SHIELDS
:  And there are governors who’ve had terrible numbers.  I mean, Governor Scott here in Florida has had very bad job numbers.  John Kasich has really started in Ohio –

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So it’s not just the House and –

MARK SHIELDS
:  No, the point is nobody knows that they have bad numbers outside of their home states; whereas everybody in Congress is a member of Congress.  And you carry that with you and that’s a problem.

And it — that’s — you do expect mayors and governors to pick up the trash and, you know, clear the highways and that’s a practical thing.  And members of Congress, we don’t have the same sense of pragmatism.

GWEN IFILL:  If I had to guess, I would say the only governor who we’re going to see tonight who would have the bigger reception than Scott Walker from Wisconsin would be Governor Christie, the keynote speaker later tonight.  And am I right on this, David?

DAVID BROOKS:  I think you’re a guarantee.  There just aren’t a lot of rock stars, you know, conventions in years past, Giuliani was a rock star.  Schwarzenegger was a rock star.  The party has a lot of Mitch Daniels, very competent governors; doesn’t have a lot of charismatic rock stars.  Chris Christie fits the mold, and there’s extremely high expectations of his (inaudible).

GWEN IFILL:  Is Mitch Daniels at this convention (inaudible)?

DAVID BROOKS:  No, it’s — we were talking about that it’s kind of weird how he’s a very low profile.

GWEN IFILL:  And –

MARK SHIELDS
:  Well –

GWEN IFILL:  – that — there was a lot of excitement about the possibility of him being a running mate until he took himself out.

MARK SHIELDS
:  And he’s going to become president of Purdue –

GWEN IFILL:  Right.

MARK SHIELDS
:  – University.  So he’s gone onto a very serious (inaudible).

The thing about Chris Christie is you expect from him that there will be lines as memorable as, you know, the Ann Richards-George Bush, “Don’t feel sorry for George; he was born with a silver foot in his mouth,” you know, the lines that you remember from past keynote speeches.

And I think that Chris Christie is capable of that, and it — most of the people in the audience would be disappointed if there aren’t a couple of memorable one-liners.

DAVID BROOKS
:  Some of the Republicans are talking about putting a heckler down in front just to get him going.

MARK SHIELDS
:  Yes.

DAVID BROOKS:  That’s the main response.

JUDY WOODRUFF
:  You do expect to hear from him, that the red meat, I mean, you — he’s going to give the hard contrast, I guess, or the hard introduction –

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS
:  I think — I think he’s more of a — he’s –

JUDY WOODRUFF
:  Is that fair?

MARK SHIELDS
:  – there’s no question.  There’s a Jersey edge to him that no doubt about it.  But I don’t think the hard edge as much as he does have an ability to formulate issues and, I think, to make a case in the vernacular about as well as anybody in shoe leather in politics today.  I think he really is.

And he has — not hesitate to be confrontational.  If there is a heckler, and which there isn’t, but he will not be — he will not go easy on them — on the Biden administration on their record.  But –

GWEN IFILL
:  Obama or the O-Biden administration?

MARK SHIELDS:  The Obama-Biden.

GWEN IFILL
:  Yes.

MARK SHIELDS
:  Obama-Biden.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS
:  Obama-Biden administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF
:  But he’ll be following Mrs. Romney.  He’ll be giving us a softer picture –

DAVID BROOKS
:  Right, and for her, the — I think the key has to be frailty.  She has to show that there’s been some setbacks in the Romney family, that a family that looks so affluent, so perfect, so good-looking, that they’ve suffered something and they’ve learned something from failure and they understand failure.

GWEN IFILL
:  And she is, in fact, a breast cancer survivor and –

JUDY WOODRUFF:  (Inaudible).

GWEN IFILL:  – still struggles with multiple sclerosis.  So if she told her own story, it would also be (inaudible).

We also expect that of first ladies, don’t we?  Or would-be first ladies, that they soften their husbands, that we look at how they look and how much he loves her.  And that tells us a lot about him.

MARK SHIELDS
:  You know, we expect — it’s funny.  We Americans don’t have a royal family.  So our first family becomes our royal family in that sense.  And we want them to be an intact, happy family.  We cover them that way.  And so you know, we expect the ideal wife, gazes appreciatively –

JUDY WOODRUFF
:  Adoringly.

MARK SHIELDS:  – adoringly at her husband and the children are all well-behaved.  And we know that’s never the case.  It’s anybody’s life.  But — and the ideal husband, who is there and steadfast and –

DAVID BROOKS
:  That’s sort of the case here.  He was a freshman at Stanford.  She was like 16, back home, and he drove home from Stanford to Michigan and they claim they’ve never had a fight.  So…

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Yes.

GWEN IFILL
:  (Inaudible) –

MARK SHIELDS:  Well, maybe tonight.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  (Inaudible).

(LAUGHTER)

GWEN IFILL:  Reading between the lines about what Eric Fehrnstrom said, however, did not sound at all as if Chris Christie’s going to pull any punches.  He sounds like that he’s being brought in to bring it, and that’s going to be interesting to watch.

MARK SHIELDS
:  Well, it will be.  I mean, listen, he is not — he’s not to be confused with a softball pitcher.  He is — I mean, he’s a tough guy.  But I think the question is, can he make America welcome and a keynote job responsibility is to welcome people to the party.  He’s the gatekeeper.  He says, come on in.  And that’s going to be the message.

GWEN IFILL
:  You are the gatekeepers as well.  Thank you both.  We’ll be talking to you later.