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New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the president's ambitious climate goals. policing in America, and investigations into the Capitol riot.
It is a week marked by a moment of reckoning for racial justice, by new calls to hold accountable those behind the January 6 insurrection, and by President Biden's ambitious push to combat climate change.
To help make sense of it all, the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.
Hello to both of you. It's so good to see you on this Friday night.
A lot to talk about.
Let's start with the climate summit.
David, President Biden laying out some really ambitious goals, saying the U.S. needs to deeply cut carbon emissions. Is it realistic, and is life going to have to change in this country to get there?
Well, it's noble and it's the right policy. I'm not sure how realistic it is.
It's a policy that it's going to introduce a lot of electric vehicles, as we just saw. We're going to have a new power grid. If all these things go through, will we really cut emissions by 50 percent? Well, at the height of COVID, when we were totally shut down, we cut emissions by 21 percent. So, I'm not totally optimistic.
I think the experts that I have read said you have to do more. There has to be a price on carbon. You have to pretty much get rid of natural gas, evolve that out as existence, well as oil-burning cars. So, that's pretty radical stuff.
But that doesn't make the perfect the enemy of the good, or whatever the expression I'm searching for is. So, it's definitely a step in the right direction. I think the really hard thing is China. China's just still burning coal plants. They're still producing more energy. John Kerry, our envoy, wants to keep our climate change policy toward China — with China independent of all of our other policies with China.
As our relations get a lot rockier, as I imagine they will, I don't think that'll be possible. And so how will we create a — really a global accord, when we're really in some sort of cold war with China?
What do you think, Jonathan? Are these things that can really happen?
I think I'm with David here that I'm not sure whether these goals are — the numbers that have been set are actually attainable.
What I take from the climate summit this week is President Biden, by holding this summit with the 40, 42 nations, is sending a couple of signals. One, the United States is back in a leadership role in doing something about climate and doing something about climate change, that it wants to lead the global effort, a recognition that, without the United States' participation, China and India will most definitely not participate in any action to do something about climate.
And so, if we're going to do anything, achieve any goal, we need to have the United States, China, India and the world united in at least doing something. And I think that's what this — that summit was about this week.
Let me turn both of you to one of the, of course, big developments of the week, and that was the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, accused in the murder of George Floyd.
David, what do you take away from that? And what effect do you think — we talked about this some last week, but what effect do you think it could have on policing in this country and on relations between the races?
Well, the most important news event that happened this week is something that didn't happen.
We didn't get an acquittal. We didn't get civil unrest. We didn't get another occasion where people would lose faith in the system, and really be disgusted by the system. That didn't happen.
And so we can look with some satisfaction at a trial where I think most people agree justice was done. And we can look back on an episode in American life, from the time of George Floyd's killing until the conviction, when race was on the table in a way it hasn't been, in my view, since 19 — mid-1960s.
The problem, the disparities, the injustices have now become a topic of constant conversation and, in my view, a constant gradual truth-bearing. And this has been an awkward set of circumstances for a lot of people, a lot of hard conversations. But, to me, it's — in a rough year, it's been an overall positive, really positive development in American life.
And, Jonathan, do you see these hard conversations leading to something meaningful?
I hope so, Judy.
The conviction of Chauvin, what's interesting is that, as wonderful as the conviction is, it is just a drop in the bucket in terms of solving the overall problem. Just moments, literally, before the verdict came down, there was the shooting in Columbus.
And while we can quibble over the details of that shooting, the main thing that animates African Americans is this question: Why is it that when law enforcement and African Americans interact, more often than not, African Americans are the ones who are injured, shot or killed?
And that is the overall question that needs to be answered. And I think these tough conversations that David is talking about that have been reignited over the last year, they must continue. This conversation cannot end.
The verdict, the Chauvin guilty verdict on all three counts cannot be the end of the conversation. It has to be the beginning or the continuation of a conversation that has been needed to be had in America for a very long time.
And, David, do you see it continuing?
And I think there's going to be progress on policing. I'm optimistic that the United States Senate, Tim Scott, the Republican, and Cory Booker, the Democrat, will reach a deal and that we will actually have a major police reform.
I do think there has to be not just a change in procedures. There has to be a change in culture. African Americans need to feel safe. And that means the police cannot — have to be in the community, working with the community. And police officers have to feel safe. And that means the community has to be working with the police officers.
And so it's the relationship between people in the community and people in the police force. It's community policing in its real form that is the solution, more beyond changing some procedures or some immunities.
And, Jonathan, again, I know we talked about it last week, but is your sense that, after this, we are going to see change?
I do think so.
And I think the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would be a very good step. I am very optimistic about the bill's chances today, more so than I was a week ago today.
The fact that Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott and Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is the lead person in the House, are all talking about ways to get this bill done, including a conversation about qualified immunity that is making it possible for people to sue police departments or police officers individually, that's a huge sticking point for Republicans.
But the fact that Senator Scott put out a compromise — that is, well, maybe not the police officers individually, but police departments, let's have that conversation, that was a very good signal that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act actually stands a chance of passing and becoming law.
And, David, there was a development this week around the attempt to come up with an independent commission to investigate what happened on January 6, the insurrection at the Capitol.
Speaker Pelosi has now made at least two sets of proposals, concessions, if you will, compromises to Republicans. So far, there's no agreement. How important is it that there being an independent investigation of what happened?
Yes, this was a classic Republican moment. Nancy Pelosi said she made these two concessions, then sent a little over to the Republicans. And the Republicans said, we got no letter. Where's the letter? We — it was like, we're pretending to talk. We're not really talking.
I think we should have a commission. It was, A, a major event in American life. But, B — and here, I side a little with the Republicans who want to broaden the scope — I think we should not just investigate this as a one-day crime that happened.
I think we have a problem, an ongoing problem and a growing problem of violent extremism in this country, mostly on the right, mostly characterized by things like January 6, but also a bit on the left. I think we need a commission that would say, what is the map of violent extremism in this country? How do these people communicate?
Is there outside help? There are all sorts of fundamental questions that, if you broaden the scope of the thing, would help us deal with whatever the — whatever future Charlottesville or Portland is coming down the road.
And I think that is the core problem we're facing here.
Jonathan, do you think the scope should be broadened, as Republicans are saying they want?
There is no comparison between the people, the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol to subvert the will of the American people, there's no comparison between them and the loosely affiliated folks who are under the umbrella of so-called Antifa.
What happened on January 6 needs to be investigated. The people who were involved in the planning, the people who just unleashed violence on the U.S. Capitol, but on American democracy, we need to know what happened, why it happened, and how we can prevent that from happening.
And what happened on the 6th is part of a larger problem in the country of the rise of far right extremism. And we should spend our time focused on that.
Well, someone in connection with all this, David, your column today in The New York Times, you carry, frankly, a sobering warning about what's happened to Republicans since President Trump left office.
Spell out a little of what you're seeing and what your concern is.
Yes, well, some of us had hopes that, when Trump was not spewing hate from the Oval Office, life would calm down.
In fact, the Republican Party has grown more radical, more radical in a specific way. It's become more catastrophically pessimistic. In one poll, people were asked, do you think politics is for policies or do you think it's for national survival? More than 50 percent of Trump voters think it's about national survival. Only 19 percent think government is about policies.
In another survey question, people said, which of these two comments do more agree with, it's a big, beautiful world filled with people who are mostly good, or our lives are threatened by criminals, terrorists and illegal aliens, immigrants? Seventy-five percent of Biden voters supported big beautiful world; 66 percent of Trump voters supported our lives are at threat.
And so here's a group of people who feel the very existence of the country they know is threatened and they have to armor up. They have to get violent. They have to prepare for the coming conflagration.
And that's just a horribly pessimistic mentality in a country where democracy depends on us having faith in each other and having some sense of psychic security. And so that deep, deep pessimism is, I'm afraid, radicalizing the party, and ongoing.
Jonathan, thoughts on that?
Well, I read David's column, and I thought it was terrific.
And it is a sobering warning for the rest of the country. What has happened to the Republican Party, it's terrible for governance, but it's also terrible for the direction that the country is going in, especially a country that is changing demographically as quickly as the United States.
We are not going to be able to hold the enterprise that is America together as long as one of the two major parties in this country, one, doesn't govern, and, two, gives voice to and gives cover for domestic terrorists, racism, and the perpetuation of white supremacy.
We will not survive if that is the way the Republican Party will remain.
Sobering ending to this conversation.
David, we thank you. And, Jonathan, we thank you.
Thank you, too, Judy.
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