July 7 , 2000
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and David Brooks, senior editor of The Weekly Standard, discuss education politics, the political power of Hispanic voters and the upcoming Middle East summit.
JIM LEHRER: Now, some political analysis with Shields and Brooks; syndicated columnist Mark Shields, and The Weekly Standard's senior editor, David Brooks, substituting for Paul Gigot, who is on vacation. Is education developing as a major issue between Bush and Gore?
|Bush and Gore on education|
MARK SHIELDS: It is, Jim. It's an interesting sense that we don't have an overriding, overarching issue like the economy was in 1992, or leadership was in 1980 between Reagan and Carter. This time there is a whole galaxy of issues but education is on tops on virtually every list. And what makes it most fascinating to me is the contrast of Republicans four years ago. Four years ago the Republicans' consensus on education was to abolish the Department of Education. That was it. I mean it was sort of a simple mantra that became the mantra of the Republican and that left them with nothing to say in the general election. And it left them in the position of sort of being anti-teacher. George W. Bush is not following that script.
JIM LEHRER: So, David, is it correct to say that as a political issue, presidential political issue, that it is a given now that the average American believes that the President of the United States can affect the quality of education in their local public schools?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, Mr. Federalism. Yes, the idea that this was a local issue, the federal government had no role in it, that's gone, as is gone in so many areas of life, the idea of a constitutional separation of what should be state and local, what should be federal. All those barriers, mental barriers, have washed away. What is interesting is that the two candidates talk about this, they have many differences, two consensus issues have arrived. One, that one that it is a Washington concern and things should be run from the states to a degree unprecedented before from both Gore and Bush. Testing should be done, should be administered; schools that are failing, Washington should step in -- all sorts of things where Washington should step in.
JIM LEHRER: And actually taking responsibility for the quality of the teachers.
DAVID BROOKS: Even Gore -- who is a Democrat -- Democrats have traditionally been opposed to any sort of testing; he has broken with the NEA on the issue of testing for teachers --
JIM LEHRER: That's the teachers' union.
DAVID BROOKS: Right -- testing for new teachers. And the federal government will step in, if the school is failing, if the teachers are failing, and there are all sorts of sticks and carrots to get the government even more deeply involved -- George W. Bush much the same thing.
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, Al Gore has moved on education from what had been a time when the National Education Association essentially wrote the platform for the Democrats. Now he... there are rigorous testing and accelerating the removal process for the bad teachers, for unqualified teachers, which as David points out is a break. But George W. Bush is proposing $13 billion, that's with a "b," in new spending in education at the federal level. Now this is an indication of the fact that he has had no criticism from the right in his own party. This is a party that four years ago was ready to sack the Department of Education and everybody in it -- is sort of revealing of (a) a desire to win and (b) a recognition that education is now seen as a federal responsibility.
DAVID BROOKS: And as an indication of how dramatically it has changed the party. As Mark said, cut the Department of Education entirely five years ago. Then the Republicans decided, we're going to spend even more than Clinton asked for two years after that in a desperate effort to get some credibility on education. So this is floundering, flip-flopping. Bush's policy in this, as in so many other issues, is government is not the problem. I believe in limited government but active government in these small endeavors. So he is spending for charter schools; he is spending for construction; he is spending for teacher recruitment. He is not afraid of using the federal government in a positive way, though on a much smaller scale than Gore would.
|The Hispanic vote|
JIM LEHRER: All right. On the race itself between Gore and Bush this week, the Hispanic voters particularly in California have become important have they not?
MARK SHIELDS: They are, Jim. You know, Richard Croaker, who was the Tammany boss in the early 20th century during the great Red scare of the late teens and anti-immigrant Nativist, terrible outrage in the country, predicted unequivocally said New York City will have an Italian and Jew as mayors, and the Italian will come first. That was heresy. But he looked at the numbers. The numbers told him that Italians and Jews from Poland and Russia were arriving in numbers that were going to be politically formidable. That's what happened to the Republicans; that's why they're playing catch up in California. In the next 40 years, in the next 40 years, there will be 21.5 million more Latino and Asian voters -- residents in California than there are today. The number of black and Anglos, whites, will increase by a grand total of 1.2 million. The numbers are just there and terrifying for the Republicans because Governor Pete Wilson, faced with terrible economic times, California played, you recall was really hurt with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the defense industry, collapse of real estate, collapse of savings & loans and he ran for reelection in 1994, went on the anti-immigrant card and played in Proposition 187, which denied any emergency medical or educational assistance to the children of illegal immigrants.
JIM LEHRER: And Bush, of course, is playing it just the opposite.
MARK SHIELDS: He's trying to play catch up.
DAVID BROOKS: He's trying to desperately recover from Pete Wilson, which gets raised like Herbert Hoover used to get raised against the Republicans. He's doing a reasonably good job. Nationally he is behind 50-34, so 16 points among Hispanic voters, which is pretty good for Republicans, much better than Republicans' -- Bob Dole did four years ago. And he has a lot of advantages. One, he feels comfortable around Hispanics. At my magazine we used to cringe leading up to May 5, when the RNC, the Republican National Committee would send out their Cinco de Mayo Party, the outreach to Hispanics, we're going to have a mariachi band, we're going to have the dog from the Taco Bell commercials. It was so ham-handed. It was just a party that was not comfortable around Hispanics. Now we have Bush who speaks Spanish, who stuck with Mexico during the currency crisis, who has a brother who's married to a Hispanic woman, he has got a nephew named George Prescott Bush who is Hispanic. Only in this country could that happen. So he's doing tremendously well among Hispanics nationally, especially in Texas, less well in California. The odds of him winning California are minuscule, but a little better than Pete Wilson in trying to recover from that.
JIM LEHRER: Is California going to be important do you think?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, it's important because it's a linchpin for the Democrats. If the Democrats have to assume they're going to carry California and New York, those are the two big continental bookends.
JIM LEHRER: If they don't, it's over, right?
MARK SHIELDS: And the idea that Al Gore is going to have to be spending time, attention and resources in California, which I think David is right, I don't think he will eventually have to do, but George Bush has made sort of a faint at California and he has the Democrats concerned.
DAVID BROOKS: My simplistic rule is if your state touches an ocean, it's probably a Democratic state. If it's landlocked, it's probably a Republican state. If it touches one of the Great Lakes, it's probably a swing state.
JIM LEHRER: Now, explain the rule there. What is the Brooks rule on that?
DAVID BROOKS: The coastal people are more socially moderate and they tend to go for Democrats.
MARK SHIELDS: That is true. Of course, Alabama and Mississippi...
DAVID BROOKS: There are a few exceptions.
JIM LEHRER: Never mind
DAVID BROOKS: I said it was simplistic.
MARK SHIELDS: Hawaii certainly....
|The upcoming Camp David summit|
JIM LEHRER: Never mind the Brooks rule. Okay. Changing subjects dramatically, the Camp David summit this week. What are the political ramifications potentially for that?
MARK SHIELDS: I think they're large, Jim. I think you know there has been so much speculation, both from within the White House but most of it from without about the legacy of Bill Clinton, but this is a big move, it's a bold move. And the chances for success are not great.
JIM LEHRER: Both sides coming in or saying we don't think anything is going to happen, 50-50 this.
MARK SHIELDS: It isn't one of these we're that close and we need to you push us over the edge. I mean, he is really starting with two groups that are dug in pretty deep, and each of whom, all politics being local, has problems at home. So I'll say this, if Bill Clinton pulls this one off and pulls off a real agreement, it would be an achievement of truly historical proportions.
DAVID BROOKS: Whom the gods would make crazy make interested in the Middle East peace process. It's a tough thing; politically it doesn't have that much fallout, and Jimmy Carter didn't exactly soar to victory after the first Camp David Accord. One of the interesting things is the declining importance of the Middle East in American foreign policy. And that's in part because of the declining importance of Israel to the Jewish community. Post-67 Israel really was the source of identity for a lot of Jews. Now Jews, first of all, they don't feel Israel is a poor fledgling state anymore, because it's not. And, second of all, the Jews who are really sincere, are deep about their Jewish identity, are much more orthodox, much more religiously based, less secular Zionists than they were, so Israel is no longer sort of the Wimbledon of American foreign policy, which it really was for twenty years.
JIM LEHRER: Is there a feeling too that Israel is no longer in jeopardy as it was before?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, it's a rich country now, it's a Silicon Valley country, it's a country that's saying we're so rich, we look at Europeans, we look at Americans, we want to have the normal life they want, therefore, we don't want the fighting we've had for 40 years. And so they have become more dovish than American Jews and much stronger.
MARK SHIELDS: That's true. If there is a place where the American Jewish community has been out of step with Israel, it has been the Barak government. I mean, he -- you know -- decorated and recognized war hero has taken far more bold moves toward peace and dovish moves than certainly the organized Jewish political community in this country would endorse or support.
JIM LEHRER: But do you agree with David, Mark, that just as a domestic political issue in this country, the Middle East is not what it used to be?
MARK SHIELDS: I don't think it has a sense of urgency. I still don't think anybody is going to say drop the traditional rhetoric from the speech that Israel is our great ally and the only Democratic country in the Middle East, and therefore... I don't think that. But I think foreign policy, Jim, has receded. I mean, we've gone through ten years now of post-Cold War. And we have a president that Republicans kid about, think presidential candidate Fettuccine Alfredo is the president of Italy -- I mean -- and in George W. Bush. This is a man who doesn't have... and surprisingly, what is most amazing to me, has not -- since sewing up the nomination now four months ago -- has never gone overseas which is sort of the traditional reassuring.
JIM LEHRER: That is very unusual.
DAVID BROOKS: Not going overseas, well, George Bush though has done a reasonable job on foreign policy. He has amassed this amazing team of the Republican all-star team --sort of gravitase by implants.
MARK SHIELDS: Innocence by association.
DAVID BROOKS: I think he has done a reasonably good job, reasonably ambitious. I think four years from now, candidates are going to look back at what George Bush has done over the past three or four months and they'll say that's the way you run a spring. You get substantive, slightly boring policies and then you announce them slowly.
JIM LEHRER: Thank you both very much.