TOPICS > Politics > Shields and Brooks

Shields and Brooks on Obama’s handling of the border crisis, Mideast violence

July 25, 2014 at 6:34 PM EST
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the week’s top news, including obstacles to passing an immigration bill, luring Hispanic voters, the White House’s handling of the Mideast conflict, as well as how perception of Hamas and Israel has shifted through social media.
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TRANSCRIPT

HARI SREENIVASAN: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, as we wrote about in the “Morning Line” e-mail this morning, when you talk about immigration, there’s policy and there’s politics. So, let’s tackle the policy first.

There was a — maybe a photo-op here today at the White House, where the president was lined up with three other presidents. He made the point of saying that we are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It seemed like he wanted to sort of thread the needle a bit. Is this the right balance? Can he strike that?

MARK SHIELDS: I think he did strike it, but I think it’s politically for naught. Nothing is going to happen, in my judgment, even as we — the drive to adjourn for the August recess.

They’re too far apart. I think the Democrats are not going to support a change in the 2008 law, which does provide different coverage and different treatment of the children and others from Guatemala and El Salvador, Honduras.

And the Republicans only want to vote for $1 billion. And I don’t think — let’s be very blunt about it. There are the votes — and everybody knows this — in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate comprehensive immigration bill, which passed the Senate a year-and-a-half ago.

And — but they wouldn’t do it with Republican votes. The speaker doesn’t want to do it with just Democratic votes and not a majority of Republican votes. So I think the chances of anything being done on this are very remote.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, why doesn’t it happen?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, first — first on the president, I thought he did thread the needle, but he leaned a little further on the side of these children have to be sent home than I expected.

He said, we will do it humanely, within institutions. But he more or less said that, which I think is the proper response, unfortunately, in order to stem the tide. I totally agree with Mark on the politics of it. Everybody wants to be seen to do something.

And so I think the House will pass something, and — but that doesn’t mean they will all agree to do the same thing. And I agree with Mark that they’re too far apart. The politics — and the Eric Cantor hurt things. And so I just — I guess I just think that the country is — well, the political leadership is terrified of the activists on this one.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But what about the political reality of trying to lure the Hispanic vote, trying to win favor going into an election a year-and-a-half from now?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, this is a problem.

I mean, this has been an issue, immigration, very bluntly, that’s been a great political advantage for the Democrats. And the president’s handling of the border is — gets a 54 percent disapproval rating from Latinos, which — who are the key.

Republicans cannot win the president without Latinos. Democrats can’t win without Latinos. I mean, Republicans have to change their ways, at least to get competitive, rather lose better than 3-1 Latino vote, the fastest-growing demographic in the country.

And I just don’t think that any Democrats are going to vote right at this point to change the 2008 — maybe a handful — to change the 2008 law to make it tougher on kids from — that appears to be in some way tougher on Latinos in particular who are trying to get in the country.

DAVID BROOKS: I must say, I’m a little mystified by that, because it would more or less equalize kids from different countries.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: And it seems to me more or less fair. It seems to me the law was miswritten in a way that was not anticipated. It seems to me that equalizing, and depending on what — so it doesn’t depend on what country you happen to come from in Latin America, seems to me a fair option.

But the fact is, Republicans, they are doomed. But you’re a Republican from Mississippi, say. You know, nationally, we have got to get square on immigration, or else people from minority communities will not even listen to us, no matter what else we say.

But if you’re afraid of what happened to Eric Cantor happening to you, well, the national party can go hang itself. You’re going to look after yourself. And that’s the essential problem.

MARK SHIELDS: The only country in the world that has a higher murder rate than Honduras right now is Syria. That’s how tough it is. I think that to some degree contributed to the special treatment in that 2008…

HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, there was a story last night about possibly increasing the amount of refugee applications in Honduras.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Is it appropriate to broaden the definition of refugee compared to who does seek asylum today? Is basically living in fear of a street gang and the murder that very legitimately could happen in Honduras the same as, say, someone in Somalia trying to seek asylum?

DAVID BROOKS: You’re operating under the assumption that people have trust in the institutions of government.

And I think that would be a good idea. And I think we could handle a more intelligent refugee policy. But if you look at some of the people who are voting against this or opposing this, they simply do not have faith that any law that is passed will be enforced. And they believe that once you broaden the refugee assignment, that will be a loophole to open the borders wide.

And so this is partly a legacy of just the generalized distrust of immigration. It’s probably, frankly, a legacy of the immigration bill that passed under Ronald Reagan, which is a good bill, but without the border enforcement that undermined trust in all future immigration bills.

MARK SHIELDS: Alan Simpson and Ron Mazzoli. That’s right, Simpson-Mazzoli. And it was a good bill, but — and it did help.

I think there is a certain dangerous precedent going into other countries. And we’re going to decide — you going to have a rotating group that go from — I mean, a lot of countries where people are facing both terror and the gangs and worse and precarious futures.

You know, I just don’t — I don’t know if there’s going to be a pre-clearance group that’s going to down and interview people and make those judgments.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, shifting gears to Israel, Palestine, we just heard from National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

First off, any reaction to how the administration has been handling it this week?

DAVID BROOKS: I think their posture has been a pretty good one. They have been pretty tough on Hamas, which is the right posture. They have been pretty honest about things. They’re doing what they can.

You can’t force a peace on the parties when the parties don’t want it. Right now, Israel sees a chance to severely weaken Hamas. They do it with a tacit endorsement of some of the anti-Muslim Brotherhood countries, the regime in Egypt, the regime in Saudi Arabia.

And so they’re — just in terms of the region, they’re in a reasonably good moment. If they’re going to try to weaken Hamas and get rid of the tunnels, this is probably a moment to do it. So they see some advantage.

Hamas clearly sees an advantage. They were marginalized. They’re now centralized. They’re very interested in forcing the Egyptian government to allow some of the transport and the communications of the commerce across that border, which the Egyptian regime, which hates the Muslim Brotherhood, hasn’t wanted to do.

But if they can become a movement across the region, then they could force Egypt to open up those borders. So both parties see some advantages here. And so I suspect this thing is going to go on for a little a while.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m more hopeful.

I think each party to this combat right now has a different stake. For Hamas, David’s right. All politics is local. In a bizarre way, what has happened has strengthened Hamas. Hamas was unpopular. It wasn’t seen as able or competent. But what has happened is that, as they have stood up to the invading and occupying army that’s inflicting injury and destruction upon the country, and seem to inflict some damage upon Israel in return, they’re winning the support locally.

For Israel, the opposite. All politics is global. And just as the Vietnam War, in my judgment, the United States’ war in Vietnam was fought and lost on television in the living rooms of America, I think that Israel has really had a very bad week in social media.

I think the images of the hospitals, of the schools, of the children, of the lack of electricity and water and sewage, I just think that’s taken a toll on Israel internationally.

DAVID BROOKS: I guess I disagree on both ends there.

I agree that Hamas has had a short run. And when you’re in a conflict, the people fighting, and the people that are most militant are going to get a surge. And they have certainly gotten a surge in the Palestinian public. The polls clearly show that.

But there’s been a clear pattern in the Middle East that, over the long term, Palestinians do not believe that this war fighting, that a regime that doesn’t even acknowledge that Israel has the right to exist, they generally do not believe that’s the way they’re going to get out of the mess they’re in.

And they have over months of peace drifted away from that policy, which is what Hamas has — which is what Hamas has been pursuing. And so I think over the long term, people will look around and say, are we really going to bomb our way to peace? And they’re not going to want that over the long term.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What about his idea that the power of social media affecting perception? Has the political perception about this conflict shifted at all with the onslaught of images that we have all seen, whether it’s from one side or the other?

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

Well, clearly, if you — if you measure things by body counts, then Israel has killed more, and so they look more vicious. And the people who are inclined to think poorly of Israel are hopping on that. I guess I’m more inclined to think positively of Israel. And I would say the moral calculus is not particularly even, that Hamas — and there’s been tons of media reporting on this — has put the site of the origin of the tunnels under hospitals in a dense residential area.

The missiles are being shot from dense residential areas. They’re inviting civilian casualties by what is clearly an immoral way of waging war, and that they’re — if you take into account, the moral calculus is uneven.

Is that the calculus that is accepted in the European press? No, of course not. And so Israel has faced this barrage of criticism, not from the American administration and not from some of the surprising people in the region, as I mentioned, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others.

But, at some point, you can’t govern by popularity. If you have got people mis — bombing you, if you have got all these missiles which cost a million dollars each to build, you have simply got to take care of those tunnels.

MARK SHIELDS: I just — I really feel that the desire for the end of the suffering and the pain is transcendent and I think it’s on the rise in the country.

I think there’s — I give Secretary Kerry great credit and Ambassador — former Ambassador Martin Indyk, who was on our show recently, for making the effort. I just — I don’t think you can accept the status quo or the status quo ante that is there.

We have to get a solution. And it has to be a two-state solution. And it has to be basically encouraged, if not imposed, I think, from without.

DAVID BROOKS: Just one quick thing.

I just don’t think the two-state solution is germane to this situation. It is certainly germane to the West Bank, where Fatah is nominally in control. But Hamas does not believe in the two-state solution. So, a two-state solution will not quiet Hamas. It will not quiet the missiles in Hamas.

There is no occupation of Gaza. There are no settlements in Gaza. To me, this is about the fundamentals, the state of Israel’s right to exist and the rivalries between the Muslim Brotherhood and other parties in the region.

HARI SREENIVASAN: I think we’re almost out of time, but, Mark Shields, David Brooks, thanks so much.