Shields and Brooks on Baltimore police problems, Bernie Sanders’ election entrance

JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, gentlemen, story today leading the program, Mark, of course, is Baltimore and these, what some people will say, are stunning charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

Is it your sense — there was celebrating in the streets, but is it your sense that this raises confidence in our justice system?

MARK SHIELDS: It — certainly among the people immediately in the crowd today and I think probably across the city of Baltimore, but we know that it's been swift. The action's been swift.

But, obviously, the police officers are innocent until they get their day in court. But it was done so quickly. And the state's attorney showed a great command of the facts today and spoke about an independent investigation she conducted, didn't reveal many details about that.

But, right now, the charges — any charge of inaction or indifference is not sustainable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How did it seem to you?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, aggressive, fast.

She certainly gave you an impression of what happened, which was that they basically let this guy bounce — they cuffed him and let him bounce around the back of this truck for a little while, which is almost nauseating in its indifference to a human being. And so, if that's the case, it is a dehumanizing thing they did.

And so it is — probably rings true for a lot of people, people who feel disrespected. And so I think it's aggressive and a sharp maneuver. I guess I have one question. The fact — what the police union raised, I haven't really thought about this, but it is an issue, the fact that she's married to a guy who is a politician in the area.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean the state's attorney.

DAVID BROOKS: The state's attorney.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Marilyn Mosby.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: She's been in this office two months.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, yes.

I have — as I think about husbands and wives who both have prominent roles, obviously, we want that to happen.

Whether you could accuse her of feeling political pressure, I don't know. We will see how she conducts herself over the next month.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, what…Go ahead.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. She was independently elected. And it has been raised. She beat a longtime incumbent.

The thing about Baltimore that hits me, Judy, is, this isn't the classic deprivation, bigotry story, where there's the hate-filled white segregationist power structure oppressing the black — this is an African-American city, and this is a city with a black mayor, a black state's attorney, a black police commissioner, a black city council president.

And what we're talking about is not the power structure politically oppressing people. We're talking about the indifference toward poverty and toward a situation of really deprivation in this country that essentially went undebated in the election of 2012.

You remember the mantra of the election was middle class, middle class, middle class. We haven't talked about poverty. This is the first really major city riot in the United States in the 21st century. Cincinnati in 2001 had four nights of rioting after a police officer killed an unarmed 19-year-old black male on traffic citations.

And, no, I think this is different from the others, from North Charleston. I think it's different from Cleveland and Tamir Rice. I think it's forcing us to really address and go through the debate of what are we going to do about this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, the president said, David, this week, the country — we as a country have to do some soul-searching.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Well, I would agree with soul searching. I disagree with indifference. And so I do think we — the problem is not that we don't care. We don't know what to do. And so if you look at poverty spending, we spend about $14,000 — more than $14,000 per person in poverty.

If we just took that money and handed it to a family of four in poverty, they would suddenly have an income twice the poverty level. So, we spend a fair bit. Baltimore in 2011 had the second highest spending per pupil in its educational system of all the top 100 cities in America, $15,000 per kid.

So there's a lot of spending there. The neighborhood where Gray was from, Sandtown, had a massive urban renewal project over the last 20 years led by then Mayor Kurt Schmoke and then by Rouse, a big developer in Baltimore. They put well over $100 million into that neighborhood trying to fix it.

And, as we just heard, now it's a neighborhood where there's no grocery store.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Hari's piece.

DAVID BROOKS: And it's a neighborhood where half the kids on any given day, the absentee rate in high school is 50 percent.

And so we have tried a lot of stuff. And those efforts are not failures. They have helped. They have alleviated a lot of suffering. But we just don't know how to — we can cushion poverty. We don't know how to take concentrated areas of poverty and lift them in any real way.

MARK SHIELDS: I just — I think it has gone undebated in the country. It wasn't debated.

Show me where it was brought up in any of the debates, where — presidential candidates saying…

JUDY WOODRUFF: The presidential campaign.

MARK SHIELDS: … what I'm going to do. I'm going to do something seriously about it.

And I do look and commend the efforts. And I think what happens too often in this debate is, one side said, my goodness, if they would only be moral people and go to work every day and not drink and not smoke, everything would be OK, and be devoted family people, the moral solution.

The other side says, more money is the answer. I mean, we have seen the deindustrialization, the hollowing out of American major cities. We saw an African-American migration to the north for jobs. We saw it in Detroit. We saw it in Chicago. We saw it in Baltimore. There is no Bethlehem Steel. There is no more GM plant. There is no more Western Electric in Baltimore. Those jobs are gone. And in its place, I don't know what the economic hope is.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

Well, I agree there's — the truth is, it's both.

MARK SHIELDS: It is.

DAVID BROOKS: The family breakdown is a catastrophe. The deindustrialization is a catastrophe.

And I agree there have to be jobs. But there has to be some sort of social structure repair. When Gray apparently, according to the Washington Post piece, grows up, his mom is a heroin addict, apparently can't read, he's four grades below, he's arrested 12 times already at this point in his life, where half the people aren't showing up to high school, there's a whole melange of things that are part economic, part cultural.

And, to me, the only response — and I give Obama credit, though I'm not sure he followed through aggressively. He talked during the campaign, his first campaign, about taking a lot of Harlem Children's Zones and transplanting them around the country.

Harlem Children's Zone is a thing in Harlem run by a guy named Geoffrey Canada where they do everything. There's schools. There's Boys and Girls Clubs. There's mentoring. We don't know what works, so you just try everything all at once in a geographic zone. And that has shown some promise.

Obama and the administration has spread it around, but not as aggressively as I think we could. And spreading that model around, it seems to me, at least one model that's plausibly successful.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot more to think about here certainly than beyond what happened with these police officers. No easy answers.

You mentioned the presidential campaign, Mark. Chris Christie not implicated today, but one of his top people was, has now been charged in this — what turned out to be a political decision to shut down the bridge. What does that mean for Chris Christie?

MARK SHIELDS: The great thing about governor — we like governors for president. Four of the five elected before Barack Obama were governors, Carter, Clinton, Bush, and Reagan.

But it's tough to run as a governor, because you can boast about everything good that has happened in the state, but you get blamed for everything bad. These were his appointees. This was done to close down the bridges to just really inconvenience hundreds of thousands of people and families, to make it difficult, just as an act of political punishment against a mayor, a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse Governor Christie in 2013.

When you do something like that and you're a staff person who has appointed to the governor, you are doing it because you think it's going to please the governor. You're doing something on his behalf.

Is Chris Christie directly involved?  No, but this is the kind of black eye that tarnishes him, that makes him stay home. Seventy percent of the people in New Jersey right now in the Quinnipiac poll want him to resign the governorship if he runs for president.

This is a man who, 2012, was the most coveted endorsement in the country for Republicans. They were all chasing him for the prom. Now he's really a lonely figure out there.

DAVID BROOKS: Among Republican primary voters in the early polls, he has very high negatives. And so I wouldn't bet on him, but I don't think this finishes him off.

It's unsavory, what happened. But there are a lot of politicians who have survived unsavory things. The Clintons have survived unsavory things. You can survive if you can offer the goods. And so what he's doing now is, he's going up to New Hampshire doing town hall after town hall. And we have seen candidates use town hall to rebuild their campaigns. I wouldn't bet on it, but he's not unskilled politically. So, I wouldn't count him out, but I wouldn't bet on him.

MARK SHIELDS: I agree on the town halls.

I would just say one thing, Judy. Nine times, the credit rating of the state of New Jersey has been lowered, lowered since he has been governor. And that's a tough one to fight back from. It really is. It plays into the narrative of New Jersey as a state that has been afflicted by chronic corruption, too.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, on the other side of the political ledger, you mentioned the Clintons.

Hillary Clinton had at least a quieter week, but still new information about whether her foundation should have disclosed, charity should have disclosed money that was coming in. And now, David she has a challenger, Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont. Does this up Hillary Clinton's chances?

DAVID BROOKS: Finished. She's over.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: No. In some ways, I think Sanders will have a following. There's a yawning need for a real progressive.

He certainly is that. And if you look at the candidates who get, like, youth cult followings, they are like Bernie Sanders, they are like Rand Paul, Eugene McCarthy. They're sort of older guys. They're a little crusty. They seem authentic. They are authentic. And they get weird youth followings. So, I think he will get something like that.

But in realpolitik terms, if you're going to have a challenger, you want one who can't win. And that's Bernie Sanders.

MARK SHIELDS: I think Bernie Sanders is serious. I love Bernie Sanders for this reason.

The first time he ran for the United States Senate, he got 2 percent of the vote in Vermont.  Next time, he got 1 percent when he ran for governor. And he became the first independent elected in 40 years. A, he believes what he says. Gene McCarthy was 51 when he ran for president. He wasn't old and crusty.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: But he…

DAVID BROOKS: He seemed old to me at the time.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: That's right. You were very young and crusty.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: But he is — he represents a constituency that has been unrepresented in American politics, and that is the disheveled constituency.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: And I want to tell you, I'm with him. He is not blown-dry. The hair is not done. His clothes are not…But he's the real deal. And I'll tell you…

JUDY WOODRUFF: He may appreciate…

MARK SHIELDS: Well, he's going to raise the money issue. And Hillary Clinton, given what's happened in this campaign, she may very well be forced to become a reformer, a true reformer on campaign finance because of the Clinton Foundation and Bernie's pressure. And I think he will be somebody to be reckoned with.

DAVID BROOKS: He could decimate the dry cleaning industry if people start following his model.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: No, I think he will be serious and he will force her to the left.

And we have seen even this week her comments on crime. It used to be, when her husband was running, Democrats had to prove they were tough on crime. Now they have to prove they're tough on incarceration. And so you see her shifting in these ways.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, gentlemen, David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.

 

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