Brooks and Capehart on border politics, Biden’s job approval, U.S. and France tensions

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including immigration, President Biden’s job approval ratings, and tensions between the U.S. and France over a nuclear submarine deal.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    While U.S. Southern border crossings are at record highs, a rally to back insurrectionists is about to take place in our nation's capital, and there are new questions about America's place in the world.

    There's a lot to unpack.

    Luckily, we are joined by Brooks and Capehart to do just that. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

    Good to see you both. Thanks for being here.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Jonathan, let's start with you.

    I want to talk about immigration. We had a reporter on the ground there in Del Rio, where there is a new reason to refocus attention at the border, where there have been challenges for years.

    And I just want to look at Biden's approval on immigration. If you look at some latest poll numbers we have, not surprisingly, there's a huge divide between Democrats and Republicans on how they look at this issue. Democrats support how he's handling this issue, 65 percent of them, independents at 38 percent. Only 10 percent of Republicans back how the president is handling immigration.

    Is this the kind of issue, because it's not getting fixed any time soon, that is just going to come back to haunt him again and again?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right.

    It's come back to haunt him. I think this is, what, the second surge on the border or third since he has been inaugurated, and the fact that this is an issue that has bedeviled President Trump, President Obama, President Bush, that this is something that is bipartisan in terms of the inability to do something about immigration.

    But, also, let's not just focus on the president. Let's focus on Congress. Let's focus on the House and the Senate and their inability to get anything done about our immigration policies, doing anything that would make, at a minimum, what's happening down at the border move faster. I mean, that one that's one of the problems.

    So, I think those numbers — those numbers are coming out before folks have focused on what's happening down at the border right now. And if there's anything — COVID is hitting the president's numbers, President Biden's numbers. But if this keeps going the way it's going down in the Southern border, immigration is going to factor in to the president's approval ratings or disapproval.

    Amna Nawaz David, it is an easy political football, right? I mean, again and again, it comes up. Is this going to be one of the main Republican talking points in the midterms?

  • David Brooks:

    Oh, for sure.

    I mean, Trump won on immigration almost more than any other issue. It's an issue which people vote on. And I happen to think those numbers are pretty bad for Biden; 10 percent of Republicans, that is sort of expected; 65 percent of your own party, that's bad; 38 percent of independents, that's bad. And so these are real negative numbers for him.

    And I guess the question I would ask is, Trump had a strategy. I didn't particularly like the strategy, but it was a strategy. And it was a strategy of cruelty and deterrence. Don't come here. We're going to treat you badly. Don't come. It'll be very painful to you.

    I don't particularly think it was germane or in line with our values. But it was a strategy. What's the Biden strategy? The Biden strategy has been, we welcome you. No, don't come.

    And so the strategy has been hodgepodge. And then, when you look at the pictures we have seen, they look ad hoc. Like, why — over and over again, when we see these images — and, granted, it's a long border. But why does it always seem like we're just trying to play catchup, and people are just jammed in under a bridge?

    It seems like there should be facilities, there should be procedures. it shouldn't be like, let's adapt when we can.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, what about that? And Biden did say safe, orderly, humane.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Things really changed.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, right.

    And that's why I think he stands to take a big hit in the poll — in the overall poll numbers. The other thing we have to keep in mind is this. And this, I think, explains why, no matter the president, no matter the Congress, people keep coming, even if the president says don't come.

    And that is America remains a beacon. People want to come here because they see it as a place of opportunity. And in The Washington Post today, on the story about what's happening on the border, there was this key quote from this person from Haiti, who said: "'I have many dreams and don't give up easily, ' he said, holding a ticket that, by his estimation, put his family 2,000th in line to be processed by Border Patrol."

    This is a person for whom America is a destination because he wants a better life. And, you know, quite frankly, as an American, I am happy people see this as a place where they can live out their dreams. Unfortunately, we do not have a government that can keep up or a government that has the political will to fix the problems that make it possible for people to come in legally and safely.

    Amna Nawaz Jonathan, you mentioned where this fits into the overall picture for where President Biden is.

    I want to take a look at that overall job approval number. When you look at those right now — David, I'm going to turn to you on this — here's where he is; 44 percent approve overall of President Biden's — the way he's doing his job; 50 percent disapprove.

    What's feeding those numbers?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, I think a lot of things. I think COVID just number one.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yes.

  • David Brooks:

    And that's not really in his control. It's probably in the people who can get vaccinated's control.

    But he's president. He gets blamed. I think the border is a strong one. I think I think pulling out of Afghanistan the way they did, not the pullout itself, but the way it was done, I think a lot of Americans were embarrassed and felt a little ashamed.

    But the underlying issue is Jimmy Carter. The underlying issue is incompetence. I thought these guys were the pros. I thought they were the experts. But in case after case, they don't seem to be as professional as I thought they were.

    And so, to me, the danger for Biden, it's a little ideological, people decide the Democrats are too far left, but it's, if he gets the reputation these guys can't pull off operations, that really can hurt you among independents, people who are not particularly ideological.

    If I were a Democrat, and I look at my president with a 44 percent approval going into midterms, that's bad. You want him to be up at least at 48, because that's a very good predictor about how your party is going to do in the midterm.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Is this about a failure to live up to expectations?

    Jonathan Capehart I think it is a concern about the evacuation of Afghanistan. But I think, overall, it's COVID.

    We started the summer with, we're free, we can take our masks off, we can get together for Fourth of July. And then the Delta variant comes in and says, no, put your masks back on. You have to put them back on inside. And it belies what the president had promised.

    But on the approval — on the approval ratings, one thing I take from President Trump is that he was so focused on his support within the Republican Party, nothing else mattered to him. And so I — like, I'm going to do the reverse. Let's see where Democrats are with President Biden, because Democrats are naturally skittish about everything.

    But his approval rating in that same in poll among Democrats is 81 percent. That's not bad for a Democratic president to have that kind of support within his party.

    However, COVID, immigration and the economy are — those are the three things that, to David's point, he — the president needs to be mindful of how that's going to hit that — it could send that 44 percent even lower.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And what about this question of America's place in the world? I mean, this is — Afghanistan is the other big issue, right?

    And we have now — we're on the day when the French just recalled their ambassador from the United States. They are outwardly and openly mad at the United States. Are we OK with our allies?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    No, we're not. I saw the — I saw on Twitter a reporter saying, I can't believe I'm writing this. The French just recalled their ambassador.

    And I quote-tweeted it, saying: "Le WUT?!?"

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    This is — it seems like overkill.

    But we can't — we have to understand something. This is happening almost three months to the day when French President Macron and President Biden at the G7 were sitting together in that picturesque spot. And Macron — President Macron said, "America is back."

    And now look where we are. I would love to hear what David has to say about this, because I don't know what any of this means.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    David Brooks, over to you.

  • David Brooks:

    (SPEAKING FRENCH)

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    You know what?

    First, about the deal that which set this off, our deal with Australia and…

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yes.

  • David Brooks:

    I happen to think it's a good deal.

    I mean, it's strong against China. It hits them on their weakest spots, submarines. It creates a strong American presence in the Pacific. And for people who say America's withdrawing, we're a declining power, I don't believe that for a second. I don't think, today, the Chinese particularly believe it.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right.

  • David Brooks:

    Again, the way it was done, why not call France?

    I mean, they're really our really strong allies. I had a friend who was in a Republican administration, really right-wing guy. When he got to work with France together on an issue, he was like, these guys are great.

    And so it's good to have these kind of allies. So, we don't call them. We didn't call our allies before the Afghan pullout. I read in Fareed Zakaria's column a German diplomat saying: The Trump administration consulted us — with us more than the Biden administration.

    What's that all about? That seems very surprising to me, given what we know about Joe Biden, given what we know about Tony Blinken, given what we know about Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser. These are internationalists, globalists, and yet somehow they're not behaving that way right now.

    And I'm just mystified by that.

    Amna Nawaz I got to ask you in a couple minutes we have left about another big story regarding the Republican Party.

    Congressman Anthony Gonzalez announcing he's not going to run for reelection. He was, of course, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump. Former President Trump very happy about that.

    Are there going to be other Republicans who follow his path?

  • David Brooks:

    Possibly, or could get beaten. I mean, Liz Cheney said bring it on.

    But it's still Trump's party. And if you're in a Republican area, people — there are a lot of voters who say, I follow my president. We're in a war with those lefties, and I follow my president. And it's a politically courageous vote Gonzalez took, and he paid the price.

    But it's still Trump's party, for sure. And the fact that he's endorsing people running for, like, the Staten Island Borough president, state senators, he's going after people up and down the ballot trying to enforce discipline.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It is still Trump's party, Jonathan?

    But, also, look at how Republicans are treating this weekend's rally, which was in support of the people who stormed the Capitol in support of then-President Trump.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes. This is…

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Which is to say, backing away, I should say.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right. This is Donald Trump's party.

    The fact that there aren't more people like Congressman Gonzalez who are willing to stand up, one, and call Trump what he is, which is a cancer on the country, if not the Republican Party.

    And when it comes to this rally tomorrow in support of the January 6 insurrectionists, I am still bewildered by the fact that the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, Republican leader in the House, hasn't come out and said something about this.

    Speaking of members of Congress who are running away from this, you know where Marjorie Taylor — Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is? She's on her way to Italy — a friend of mine is on that flight and took a picture and tweeted it out — in first class.

    So…

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's some excellent reporting you're bringing to this conversation. Thank you.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    You are welcome.

    But here's a person who is spending her entire career railing against elites and railing against AOC for wearing a dress that says tax the rich, and yet there she is sitting in first class on her way to Rome, David.

  • David Brooks:

    Prosecco populism.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Just a couple of seconds, David.

    Does it surprise you the way Republicans have handled the rally tomorrow?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I mean, I wish they would disdain it. I think it's a sort of a nothing burger, from what I read and what Lisa was reporting, that the Proud Boys don't want their people to go. They regard this as a third-rate group.

    We will see. They're hoping to get 700 people. If they get 500, 400, then, to me, it's just publicity hounds. So, it may — I hope will turn out to be nothing burger.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We hope. We hope for a quiet, quiet weekend.

    David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, always good to see you. Thanks for being here.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Good to see you, Amna. Thanks. Have a good weekend.

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