Shields and Brooks on Pacific trade deal politics, Clinton and Rubio on the trail

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

Welcome, gentlemen. It's good to have you back together again after a few weeks.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you very much, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, let's talk about something not very exciting, but it's really important. It's that Trans-Pacific Partnership that now we know the White House, the administration, a few Democrats, a lot of Republicans, have come together around, apparently.

Is this a good deal, based on what we know about it?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, supporters of trade agreements, including the president, would argue, with logic, that elevated — these trade agreements have raised the standard of living across the globe. They have lifted people out of poverty and led to greater economic activity.

They have been a disaster for American workers, a total disaster, beginning with NAFTA. They have put all the power in the hands of the employer. The employer threatens, if you don't go along, if you don't surrender your bargaining rights, if you don't surrender your health and pension benefits, if you don't surrender collective union membership, we will move your job overseas.

And as consequence of NAFTA some 22 years ago, documented by our own government, 755,000 jobs lost immediately…

JUDY WOODRUFF: North American trade agreement.

MARK SHIELDS: … five million fewer American — five million fewer American manufacturing jobs than there were.

And I just think the pattern, Judy, has been established in our society. We see it where all — the trade agreements, the investor class capital is protected, whether it's copyrights or whatever, intellectual property, their investments. And they just pay lip service to workers' rights. And I just — I think it's one more example.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the president defended it again today, David, so that means he is siding the investor class?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I don't think so.

I agree with Mark's first point. The greatest reduction in human poverty — in human history of poverty has taken place because of this era of free trade. And it's been around the globe. As for the domestic workers, it's complicated. It has hurt some people in some of the unions. There's no question about it.

The unions were dominant in the 1950s, when Europe was collapsed, when we had basically global dominance, 50 percent productivity gains. And as the world has globalized, the unions have weakened. And there have been some worker rights that have been sacrificed. There's no question about that.

It's hurt people with fungible skills that can be replicated by those in China and India and elsewhere. On the other hand, it has created many new jobs. The vast field of research on this, on trade research, there are economists who are skeptics, who cite some of Mark's numbers.

There are some, and I would say the majority are slightly pro-trade, are more pro-trade and think that, net-net, we have had a growth in jobs and there are certain industries devastated, but other industries created.

Finally, costs. All of us rely and buy goods that come from Asia, from Africa, from Europe. And those goods are much, much cheaper and our standard of living is much, much better because of these cheap goods that we benefit from and that people with lower incomes benefit from.

So, are there losers? We are more acutely aware of the losers than we were. And there are more losers than there were. But are there winners? There are a ton of winners.

MARK SHIELDS: Median household income in the United States was lower in 2012 than it was in 1989. I'm not saying solely because of this, but largely because of this.

Judy, if you want to see the dominance of capital that I think these trade agreements exemplify and embody, all you have to see is the 2008 crisis, economic crisis in this country. Millions of ordinary Americans saw their futures, their savings, their homes wiped out. And they got nothing in the way of relief.

Those who had caused it, who had brought the country to its knees, the big banks and the investment houses of Wall Street, were bailed out by people. They were made whole. So, you had a choice. Who are you going to help and who you going to leave to make out for their own?

We have capitalism for the rich and we have free enterprise, high risk for workers. And I just think this is what it exemplifies. That's what the resistance is about. Will they defeat the president? Probably not, because I think Republicans will be with him. And I think the opposition has been weakened ever since NAFTA, over 22 years.

American workers have lost their clout politically.

DAVID BROOKS: Global finance — the 2008 crash wasn't a matter of trade.

MARK SHIELDS: No.

DAVID BROOKS: It was mostly a matter of the interlocking financial network, and which wasn't about trading goods and services, sort of thing that's involved in this.

And so I just — I don't think that's why the wages have been flat. Secondly, on why the wages have been flat has not to do with trade. It has to do with technology. Trade is a small, small piece of this. If we were closed in, and you were in a steel factory in Pittsburgh, and they invented all this new technology to forge steel with a fraction of the workers, it wouldn't matter if we had global trade or not. The technology was there and the technology was a lot cheaper. So, technological advance is the lion's share of why these wages have been flat.

MARK SHIELDS: I'm not saying that 2008 was caused by trade. I'm saying the template of the trade agreement of 1993, of — where capital was emphasized and deferred to, and workers were really basically left at the back of the bus, became the dominant model for our economy.

And it is to this day. It is our politics. And it was in 2008 on the bailouts.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I would just say the president's point that you can't stop the global economy at the water's edge, that we're just not going to go there anymore.

And his second point, which I thought was a good one, which is that, if we don't have trade — and he acknowledges, as I acknowledges, that the people are hurt by this. But he said, if we don't have a certain level of growth, then the whole political economy begins to suffer. When we have no growth, the political sector and the political discussion begins to grow embittered.

And so you need to take action to help the people who Mark is talking about who are hurt by trade. But if you don't have the growth that trade encourages, the productivity gains that trade encourages, you don't get that because we're in a very bitter country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to go to another place where I know the two of you will also be in complete agreement.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran. And this is very quick. How big a concession this week, Mark, for the president to come around to saying, I will do what the Congress wants me to do, I will let them have a say over this Iran nuclear deal?

MARK SHIELDS: Important concession, but an example of the political process working, the legislative process working.

And large credit goes to Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, Ben Cardin, a non-telegenic, not-camera-seeking, very able former speaker of the Maryland legislature, senator from — Democrat from Maryland, and a handful of others. They made it happen. I think it's important.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It's a big win for the non-telegenic senators.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Of whom there should be more.

And I would say they both — both sides really compromised. The president's side sort of had to compromise so there would be a vote. The Republicans compromised because, the way the game is rigged, it is very unlikely they are going to win the thing. They're probably going to lose.

And then they both compromised on the timing of the sanctions relief and stuff like that. So, this was like actual legislation being done. And that is something we haven't seen. And it was impressive.

JUDY WOODUFF: Well, something that actually also happened this week is Hillary Clinton, Mark, finally did announce that she is running for president.

She announced last weekend. She took off in a van from New York to Iowa. She's been out trying to meet with small groups of Iowans. What did you make of the rollout? And do we now know why she is running for president?

MARK SHIELDS: Rollout was fine. It was unpretentious, unassuming. She went to Chipotle. She knew what to order.

No, I think the great myths that attached to Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, which she will put to rest in a hurry, and to me it came down to it was a bad campaign, better candidate. She became a very good candidate. Remember this. She lost 11 contests.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In '08.

MARK SHIELDS: In '08. She lost 11 contests in a row. She was written off. Barack Obama was inevitable. He was triumphant.

She came back, defeated him in Texas, and then in the battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, outspent vastly, she, campaigning among blue-collar Democrats, won those states. And I think — I think anybody — the biggest opponent she has right now is the political press, who cannot stand a coronation, in spite of the fact that seven of the last nine winning tickets have had either a Clinton or a Bush on them in this country.

But we don't know much about religion or the Bible, but we do know the David-Goliath story. And she is Goliath. And the press is looking for David right now. There are a lot of people who are trying to qualify for it. But she is not going to go just absolutely triumphantly being carried to the nomination.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: She caught some of the magic?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. She is not — magic would not be the one word that would describe — but I agree she is quite a good candidate.

And what was striking the last time around, to use a friend, Ron Brownstein's categories, she was good with what he calls the beer track voters, and not so much with the wine track voters. She has more of the working-class voters.

And in places like Iowa, that's just a natural winner there, not a lot of Chablis, I guess. But the second thing I would say is, I like the unpretentious rollout. I still think it's necessary to have policies. It feels like, from the get-go, it's necessary to say, I don't only want to be president. Here is what I want to do as president.

That's just blank, open canvas right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you think she should have made a big speech?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it would have shown that it's not about her, it's about these issues or these policies. I thought that would have been the way to do it. She will unveil things obviously in the future.

MARK SHIELDS: She committed — it was about the voters, I think.

That's — campaigns are about the voters. And I thought that came through. But she hasn't given the raison d'etre for her campaign yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, on the other side of the ledger, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, got in on the same day, didn't get quite as much attention as she did, Mark.

But, by the way, we should say, tonight, as we have been sitting here, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has announced that he will announce that he's running in early May in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas.

MARK SHIELDS: OK. That's right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A place that we have heard of.

MARK SHIELDS: That's right.

What do we — but let's talk for a minute about Marco Rubio. Where does he fit in this?

MARK SHIELDS: I thought Marco Rubio's entry was really quite impressive.

He's charismatic. I thought maybe old wine in new bottles, but it's a very good new bottle. And he's somebody who is obviously good at the business, which, let's be honest, is getting elected to office. He has been consistently underrated. He was an underdog. He drove Charlie Crist, a Republican governor, popular Republican governor, not only out of the primary, out of his party.

And I think that Marco Rubio has charisma, as well as youth, on his side and has to be paid attention to.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I agree. I think he's the best communicator on the Republican side by far, by far the most underestimated of the candidates. He's a very good speaker.

He has two elements to his campaign so far. The first is the working-class story. His dad was a bartender. His mom worked at Kmart. He does have genuine roots in normal America. And the second which he played up, which I think is less successful so far, is the generational theme.

And he's got to play that because he's young. He might as well take advantage of it. And so he's 43, I guess. And he's going to be running against older men on the Republican side and presumably Hillary Clinton. And so he's saying, time for a changing of the guard.

That's a tough sell. He's got to define what his generation stands for, which I think is still undone. But I do think he's one of the top three likely to get the nomination.

MARK SHIELDS: Who are the other two?

DAVID BROOKS: Walker and Bush.

And his challenge is, the early states do not favor him. Iowa doesn't favor him. South Carolina doesn't favor him. New Hampshire, he would really have to do extremely well in New Hampshire. And then he has to beat Bush in Florida several weeks later.

DAVID BROOKS: Nevada?

DAVID BROOKS: Nevada is better for him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We have time to talk about all of this. We're so glad to talk about it tonight.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.

DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.