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New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including insights on CPAC, the future of the Republican Party and the Supreme Court case on President Biden's student debt relief plan.
For insights on CPAC, the future of the Republican Party and the rest of the week's news, we turn to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post.
Welcome to you both.
Good to see you.
Let's pick up where Laura left off there.
David, it used to see him for a few years the road to the Republican nomination ran through CPAC. That does not seem to be true this year. When you look at who chose to go and who chose to stay away, what do you see? What does it say about the party?
It's sort of the history of the party over the last 40 years.
Like, Reagan went to — used to go to CPAC. But it was like a feint to the populists. Like, he would go, but he was not really of it. And then it became the party under Donald Trump. And now CPAC, partly because of Matt Schlapp's problems, but, partly, it's gone from centrist populism, which was pretty right, to wacky populism.
And so it's moved even further than I would say the mainstream of the party is, thus rendering irrelevant. What's new is that a candidate used to be able to go to Club for Growth, or CPAC, or American Enterprise Institute, and these were all different wings of the party. But now you have got to go to one or the other.
And so, if you go to one, you're seen as an opponent of the other wing of the party. And so that's a sign of the fissures in the party, that you're either sort of on the establishment team or you're on the populist team, but you can't be on both teams, which is a problem for the party.
What does it say that Nikki Haley is going to both?
Well, she's going to try.
She's going to wind up on the establishment team, I think.
Jonathan, we saw some of the folks who chose to go there. Among them, we're going to see Donald Trump and Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy.
Mike Pence didn't go. Ron DeSantis didn't go. If you go to that room, who are you speaking to? Is it still relevant to some part of the Republican base? Enough?
Well, yes, it is. There's a reason why Donald Trump is going there.
I mean, those are his people. Those are his ride-or-dies, if you — for lack of a better description. And so it would be a waste of time for Mike Pence to go there or Ron DeSantis or anyone who wants to be a serious challenger to Donald Trump.
And look at the folks that we saw speaking on camera about what they were concerned about, not foreign policy, not economic policy. I could go back to when we were here with State of the Union night and you made the observation that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the governor of Arkansas, in her response didn't even talk about the economy.
I mean, I remember it was the economy, inflation, job — and crime were the big issues that Republicans ran on. Didn't hear any of that there. So, I think Laura pointed out perfectly that conference is now just about white grievance, and targeting trans kids and anyone who's not like them.
We did see Steve Bannon was among those who spoke there.
And, at CPAC today, he went after FOX, he saying they're not pro-Trump enough. But, just this week, we did see a huge admission in that — the latest filings and the defamation case brought by Dominion Voting Systems, that admission from FOX chairman Rupert Murdoch. He conceded under oath FOX hosts lied about the 2020 election, and he chose not to stop them.
What are the implications of that?
Well, let's think about how big this is.
Like, I remember, Rupert Murdoch, he started a paper called The Australian a long time ago. He was a journalist, an actual journalist. And now he's gotten to the point where you can lie on camera if — as long as your ratings are OK.
And he didn't lie. They — those people who lied didn't lie over little things. They lied about the election results of a presidential election, kind of a major deal. And we now know they all — as we all suspected, they all knew what was happening. And Murdoch is sitting there atop this organization sort of blithely pretending it's not really his problem.
And so he can say it, and he has power over the corporation today. He owns it. He could fire Tucker. He could fire all the people — all the people who were in on this and whose journalistic integrity has been exposed as zero. And yet he's still trying to blithely rise above it.
And so it's amazing that we have a major news organization that is inaccurate about a presidential election. I mean, it's kind of an amazing fact.
Jonathan, what did you make of that? It was a big moment in the case that is still unfolding.
Oh, it's huge.
And it was confirmation of something that folks on the left and just folks paying attention kind of suspected, that FOX News, the news is in quotes, that they're out there blatantly telling lies. But then to see in black and white as part of this case that not only, like, yes, they would say lies on television, but then, behind the scenes, they knew the truth.
And what that says to me is, Rupert Murdoch and his anchors, those people who are peddling in lies, they are insulated from the effect of the lies that they tell. When you see someone saying, oh, our ratings are going down, and that's going to affect the stock price, so there's no concern…
You're talking about some of the private messages that were revealed.
Some of the private — yes, some of the private messages.
So that means you're more concerned about your bottom line than the corrosive impact on our democracy and political discourse in this country.
That, to me, was what's really disturbing. And what's even more disturbing is that FOX News isn't even really covering this lawsuit, which means that their audience, who should know about what's being said about them and about the programming for them, they will never — they might not ever know what's — that what they're being told is just a big bunch of lies.
I go back to the impact again, though, because their audience, which is in the millions, right…
… if you're a loyal FOX watcher prone to distrust any other information source anyway, does any of this make an impact?
Well, that's the point I was trying to make. We don't even know if they will even know about this case, as a result.
And even if they do find out, either they might not trust it, or maybe they just don't care. I don't know.
Well, they're losing some viewers to the further right, the Bannons of the world. So they are — they are definitely losing viewers. But my colleague David French made the core point about FOX. If you're in red America or in rural America, FOX is not just a news organization. It's your community center.
It's an organization that — that news organization that pays intense attention, that lots of good news stories about cops and soldiers. A lot of things that happen in red America that don't get much coverage in the coastal media get a lot of attention in FOX.
And so they — it's — the loyalty there is not only about politics, and it's not only about news coverage. It's just about where people see themselves reflected.
There's another big week on a number of fronts for millions of Americans, kind of an interesting window for President Biden and Democrats.
This week alone, we saw President Biden's student loan relief plan challenged in Supreme Court, likely to be struck down. That expansion of the SNAP food stamps benefits, that also ended this week. There's a lot of these pandemic era President Biden- and Democrat-backed issues that are being unraveled now that are going to impact millions of people.
Are we hearing enough about that from the president or from Democrats about what they can do to fill those gaps?
Personally, I have not heard a lot about it.
But I would — let's just shift the framing here and the focus here. Yes, the president is in office and the Democrats have control of the Senate. But Republicans have control of the House. And the president is going to be releasing his budget on March 9, so next week.
I'm sure, in that document, that multipage document, we're going to see all sorts of things about SNAP, maybe something about student loans, but we will see what the president's financial priorities are for the nation and for targeted communities, deserving communities.
My question is, where is Speaker McCarthy? Where are the House Republicans? Budgets start in the House. I cannot tell you what their priorities are. I cannot tell you what they want to do. Do they care that the SNAP benefits are canceled? Do they care? I think we do know that they are not really big into the student loan forgiveness.
But what are they going to do? What are their priorities for the real problems and financial pain out there for the American people? That's a question for Speaker McCarthy. We're going to know the answer from President Biden next week.
David, we know the impact of some of these programs, right? When it came to the expansion of the child tax credit, for example, millions of children lifted out of poverty. It ended, millions went back below the poverty line.
What do we think — what do you think you will hear from…
Well, I think, of all the things Biden did, the child tax credit is the thing I supported most fervently. It really did reduce — and actually did reduce childhood poverty.
And yet I was surprised, but the polling, it's not a popular program. And so I saw a poll where 60 percent of people just said, too expensive, we can't afford it, including 47 percent of Democrats. And so there is a general distrust of government, a distrust of government programs, a distrust of programs that seem to give people money for nothing, and then a sense that we spent all this money over COVID.
What's happening in the national debt? And so whether I like it or not, the political realities are, there's not a lot — as much political pressure as I would have thought to keep the expansion.
On the student loans, I have supported the part of the program that was for Pell Grant kids, where I thought, absolutely, those people deserve their student loans. I didn't think we should give it to upper-middle-class kids, but c'est la vie.
I still think the Supreme Court should probably strike it down. I mean, the Constitution envisions — as Jonathan said, the budget is supposed to start in the House. The president can't just create a $400 billion program by signing a piece of paper. That's just not how the system is supposed to work.
So it's possible to both believe in the program and think the president probably should have gone through Congress if he wanted this thing to last.
Jonathan, in the few seconds we have left. I know, we will see the president's budget very soon. We're also expecting him to announce a reelection campaign at some point.
There are some Democrats who think this should be — these kinds of issues should be a more central part of his next campaign. Do you agree with that?
And as we saw during the State of the Union, remember, his mantra in the State of the Union was, let's finish the job. And so earning — the child tax credit, SNAP benefits, student loan, that's all part of, let's finish the job. And we will we will see how he prioritizes those when that budget comes out.
We will see indeed. We will back here talking about it again very soon.
Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks, always good to see you.
Good to see you, Amna.
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Amna Nawaz serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour.
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