TOPICS > Politics > Shields and Brooks

Shields and Brooks on finding a GOP ‘anti-Cruz,’ Middle East alliances

August 1, 2014 at 6:34 PM EDT
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s top news, including the struggle on Capitol Hill to find a resolution to the political division on the border crisis before Congress leaves for August recess, as well as how these events will affect the November election, plus the outlook for ending the war between Israel and Hamas.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In Washington, House Republicans were racing to pass something on the border crisis after a day of confusion and chaos on Capitol Hill Thursday.

For a taste of what went on today around the Capitol, here’s some of what we heard from both sides.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-Minn.: We were able to come to a point of 218 yes-votes on what arguably is the most monumental vote that we will take in this entire term. And it’s dealing with the issue that the American people care about more than any other. And that is stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country. And we got to yes.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ, D-Ill.: It is almost as though they despise and hate all of our children, because even the children that came before them that have pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States all of their lives, love this country, and the president has afforded them an opportunity to become legal, they want to put them in an illegal situation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It caps off what’s been a roller-coaster week in American politics.

And here to analyze it all, Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, gentlemen, high tempers on the Capitol — at the Capitol yesterday, today.

David, what are we to make of all this?

DAVID BROOKS: It’s sort of happening on two levels. There’s the political meta level and then there’s the substance level.

The meta level is, this is — nothing is going to pass, nothing is going to happen. This is all negotiating about a bill that has zero chance of actually becoming law. So this is a bunch of positioning. It’s Ted Cruz and some House members positioning against the leadership.

It’s a lot of Republicans saying, at least we passed something, so positioning for the voters. So, it’s all about positioning. As for the substance, I frankly don’t understand the Republican position at all. You have got a refugee crisis. You have got these kids coming here.

There’s a need for some sort of balanced approach. Yes, you have got to secure the border. Yes, there have to be some hearings. Yes, there has to be a sped-up process for that. There probably needs to be some more money for that. Some sort of balanced approach seems eminently sensible.

Securing the border, deporting some of them, yes, who can sent back fairly, but then having some hearings to figure out who’s who. And it seems to me the Republicans have basically their policy — at least the political emphasis that’s come out is deport, deport, deport, wall, wall, wall.

It seems to me to make little sense in the short-term and is extremely damaging for Republicans in the long term.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you make sense of this?

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, first of all, these — these kids — and they are kids overwhelmingly — are fleeing chaos, and exploitation and violence, and somehow that’s been lost in the debate here in Washington.

I mean, they view it as somehow this marauding group of invaders, 9, 10-, 12-, 14-year-old kids who are thousands of miles from home and know nobody and don’t speak the language. And the response seems to be from the majority party in the House of Representatives, let’s get tough on the kids.

If a law passed in 2008 signed by President Bush provided them with legal counsel, forget that. Let’s just ignore that and go forward. It just — I sense in them, in the Republicans right now in the House, a political imperative. And that is, they recall 2010, four years ago, in the month of August, which was when that election really changed with the town meetings in their home districts.

And none of them wants to go back, apparently, or very few of them want to risk having somebody stand up at a town meeting and accuse them of amnesty, that you are going to let illegals in, undocumented in. And undocumented is too euphemistic.

So I just think they have labored mightily. David is — I agree with David. They have labored mightily and produced this counterfeit mouse that’s going nowhere. It’s stillborn, and it is not even symbolically impressive.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But why is it so hard? If they feel so strongly about this, why aren’t they able to come together and get something passed?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, there’s a couple of reasons.

First, there are a lot of people in this country, legitimately, who think that there is no control of the border, and this issue illustrates the chaos on the border. So, that’s fair. Second — and I think the Republicans do have a point that the original bill, the 2008 law that was passed under Bush, that seems to have had some role in sort of drawing people up here, that probably does need to change.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the one that made it easier for children coming in.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. And it didn’t directly apply, but it seems to have sent a false signal to some people that, if they send their kids here, they will be let in.

So that’s all fair enough. But this is about Palin-ization of parts of the GOP. This is not about passing legislation, not about, well, we’re in a party. We should pay attention to our leaders. We should craft some compromise. We should compromise with the other side. This is about making a statement that will sound good on FOX.

And so they want to make a statement that will sound good on TV or will sound good at a town meeting, but it’s not actually about governing. And there are a lot of — and my question is, OK, Ted Cruz, senator, it should be said, met with a bunch of House members, which doesn’t happen that often, and sort of helped organize this.

So, which senator is going to stand up and be the anti-Cruz? Who is going to stand up for Republican values, but I believe in governing? And so far, that person has not emerged.

MARK SHIELDS: In a very cynical way, Judy, Democrats are sort of sitting back. They’re playing a very bad field in this election.

The president’s job rating is in the low 40s, and the 30s in some of the states in the key Senate battleground races.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: In addition to that, the country right direction/wrong track number, people think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

And the intensity is with Republican voters in most polls over Democratic voters. And the Republicans are kicking this away. They have taken an issue which really was the administration’s responsibility, the border — it’s any administration’s responsibility — and all of a sudden they have clouded it up, and they’re playing defense, trying to explain it.

And why Steve King, who is the most ardent, even xenophobic, anti-comprehensive immigration Republican in the House, he’s chortling that this — this is a bill picked from my menu.

And that’s exactly where they don’t want to be in the long term.

DAVID BROOKS: So, you can just see, that’s why we need an anti-Cruz, because when all the guts and all the courage are on one side, then the policy flows to where the courage and the energy is. And there’s been very little courage on the other side.

I just — I think I might disagree, or at least to say it’s too soon to tell whether this will affect this election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, that’s what I wanted to ask.

DAVID BROOKS: The Gallup organization does these which party are you leaning toward, and usually Democrats are always ahead, because they are just more of a — but they have lower turnout, so the Democrats have to have a huge leaning-toward advantage to do well in a fall term.

Right now, they’re leaning-toward advantage, more — only 2 percent more people say I’m leaning to become a Democrat than leaning to be a Republican. That’s a very small margin historically. It’s the similar sort of margin that existed in 1994, 2002, 2010, which were all good Republican years.

So if look at the polling, I still think it’s going to be a good Republican year, unless this has an effect in the next weeks or months ahead.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well…

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

I don’t think — I think it does lean to the Republicans, not to the degree that 2010 did. 2010 was really — you could see a cataclysm in the works. But in a strange way, some Democrats are looking — especially presidential, those concerned with the 2016 race — and are almost saying,, given the performance of the House Republicans in the last couple of weeks or even this session, and the trouble they have been for John Boehner and the revolts they have led and all the rest of it, it might be the most helpful thing in the world, not for public policy, but for the Democrats’ political advantage, if the Republicans control both the House and the Senate in — after the 2014 election, and they then have to…

JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s pretty cynical.

MARK SHIELDS: It’s cynical, but will the governing — they have no governing philosophy.

Fifty-two times, the House Republicans have voted against the Affordable Care Act, to repeal Obamacare. To this day, as we sit here, there is no Republican health care plan. This is five years after…

DAVID BROOKS: They dispute that. They think there is. There’s a Dave Camp plan there. They say they have an agenda. Dave Camp has an agenda. Paul Ryan had his poverty agenda. Mike Lee has an agenda.

I do think there’s a broader agenda. If I were a Democrat, I would rather prefer to win than to…

JUDY WOODRUFF: But I keep coming — I want to come back to David’s point that there — where’s the anti-Cruz, anti-Ted Cruz?

There clearly is a big school of thought in the Republican Party that this is the wrong way to go, but where are those folks? Where are they?

DAVID BROOKS: It’s, if anything, the majority — and I’m not even talking about moderates. There are really very conservative members that really dislike Cruz, because they do think, we have the govern, we have — we just believe in the institution. He has not emerged.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: But an anti-Cruz — Ted Cruz did something that’s really unprecedented. That is a senator meeting with a couple of dozen House members to lead basically a revolt, a legislative revolt, against the leadership. I mean, this was the first test of the Boehner-McCarthy-Scalise leadership.

This was going to be their — the new team after Eric Cantor’s defeat and resignation. And, you know, they have got egg all over their face. And for what purpose? What did it achieve?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, but you’re right. This was the first chance for them to show what they can do.

Tough subject, but I do want to turn us for the last few minutes to the Middle East. Do you see — we talked to Margaret about it. Especially since this latest cease-fire hasn’t worked out, do you see any way through, any light, any — anything positive to bring this to a place of resolution?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, I hope. I hope there is. I hope — we have seen the price that people are paying in lives, and just what it has done.

It strikes me that Israel, in the parlance, has won the war — won the battle and lost the war or is in danger of losing the war. And I think if you look at the poll of the developed countries, the United States stands alone in its unflinching support of Israel. Israel has a sense of a negative influence in the world among Great Britain, among Australia, South Korea, Japan, you name it.

And the United States has been stalwart. And for the first time, you have seen in this experience support drop. And it’s dropped, interestingly, among younger voters, voters under the age of 30…

JUDY WOODRUFF: I saw that.

MARK SHIELDS: … people who don’t go to church.

It’s basically the emerging Democratic majority, Latinos, African-Americans. And so I think — I think, in that sense, it’s important that there be a peace achieved, or reached, an accord reached, and war stopped.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, do you see any — any — rupture is too strong a word, but any division or lasting separation between the U.S. and Israel coming out of this?

DAVID BROOKS: No.

No, I don’t think so. And, in many ways, there’s been more unity in the Middle East itself, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria. Even these countries that are more or less on Israel’s side, you have noticed how quiet they have been, because they all think the solution is to weaken Hamas.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

DAVID BROOKS: And I do think that is essentially the solution within Israel.

Amos Oz, about as left-wing a person as you can get, the famous novelist, he said in a German interview this week, what would you do if an assassin puts a child on his lap and starts shooting at your nursery school?

When Amos Oz starts sounding like Bibi Netanyahu, the Israelis are united that they do need to weaken Hamas. The surrounding neighborhood generally supports that. So I think we’re in for a longer war, longer bloodshed. But the goal of weakening Hamas does seem to me a goal of some value.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in the meantime, just the steady pictures of casualties are gut-wrenching.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, the children.

Nobody — it’s the children at the border and it’s the children in Gaza. I mean, that — children have no — absolutely no influence, no voice on who’s at war and who isn’t. But the one thing I would say about Israel is, it’s been a long time since Israel has sought the moral imprimatur of Syria and Saudi Arabia. Those are not exactly ethical…

DAVID BROOKS: Right. I’m just talking about the alliances, unification within large parts of the world, not Qatar and Turkey, but against Hamas.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. Well, it’s tough, tough all the way around.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you both.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we just want to tell all of you watching, for the latest on what Congress is doing with immigration tonight, you can check the Rundown on our Web site.