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New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join William Brangham to discuss the week in politics, including the collapse of the Democratic climate agenda, the connection between former President Trump and right-wing extremism and the debate over abortion access after the fall of Roe.
The collapse of the Democrats climate agenda, the connection between Trump and right-wing extremism, and the debate over abortion after the fall of Roe, it has all contributed to another very busy week here in Washington.
And that brings us to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post.
Gentlemen, good evening. Thank you both for being here.
Good to be here.
Jonathan, Joe Manchin today said, I'm done with all of this back and forth, and offer you a ticket to the dance, and then never show up.
The climate agenda that the president had hoped would in some way get across the finish line has fallen apart. Is it your sense that the U.S. is just not going to act on climate change for a couple of years?
The short answer is yes.
As long as there's a 50/50 split in the Senate, and Joe Manchin is the deciding vote for everything, the answer to that question is yes. There is late-breaking news that the president has said — has taken the deal, said, look, we will do the narrow thing. Get it to my desk before you go on August recess. The American people can't wait.
So climate is going to have to wait.
But, in the long run, if climate — if we're going to do anything on climate, anything on criminal justice reform, anything on voting rights, anything to codify Roe, any of the other things that a majority — assault weapons ban, something on gun safety, things that the American people want, the only way those are going to happen is if the Democrats get two more seats in the Senate.
And that's why the president keeps hammering away: Give me two more seats. It's not just to codify Roe. It's to get his agenda through in the last half of his term.
I mean, David, this — as Jonathan is saying, it is a 50/50 Senate. And Joe Manchin says inflation is really terrible. I'm not going to do anything about it.
And there even were some progressive Democrats this week saying, inflation really is terrible, and in a way making Manchin's case for him.
But still, to this point, it does mean that the U.S., that one of the major actors on the climate front is stepping back.
So I'm going to do something that's never been done in a major American TV studio, which is praise Joe Manchin.
I went back and looked at some of the news stories from a year ago, and Joe Manchin was warning about inflation back then.
And there were all these stories: Economists dismiss…
Alone in the wilderness.
Yes, economists dismiss Manchin inflation fears. Well, he turned out to be 100 percent right.
And, frankly, a lot of us, including me, but all the other Democrats, turned out to be 100 percent wrong. And you could argue that Joe Manchin stopping the big Build Back Better bill, which was trillions of dollars, if we had poured that additional trillions of dollars into the economy, a lot of it unfunded, then inflation would be truly terrible.
And so you could argue Joe Manchin saved the country and the Democratic Party a very bad policy disaster. And so I think he deserves some credit for being right about that and for being super attuned to the inflation fears, which are the number one issue in the country right now.
The one part I will disagree with him is just because there's inflation doesn't mean you can't have government policy, right?
And so, if you pay for — if you take some money out of the economy through taxes, and then pay for it for climate change legislation, it's not necessarily inflationary.
But for — some of the people who are now bashing him should be thanking him for some of the things he did earlier to warn us about this and to forestall worse inflation.
Only on the "NewsHour" are we getting that. Great.
Jonathan, the January 6 hearing that we saw this week again made a fairly compelling case trying to tie President Trump's rhetoric towards those people who stormed the Capitol and engaged in that horrendous hand-to-hand combat with police officers.
Do you think that they have made a good case that Trump's language, Trump's rhetoric stirred that horrible day?
Yes. Yes, they did.
Look, we have to remember that the January 6 Select Committee is a court, but it's playing to the court of public opinion. And between the documents and the tweets and everything that they showed to make their case, plus the two witnesses there who said — one who said what the president said brought me to Washington, and then you had a former spokesperson for — and I always get — it's either the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys — but who said, yes, we were there.
We heard the call.
We heard the call, and we were part of operationalizing that.
So, yes, I think the committee has made the connection. And I don't think it's a mystery to the American people. The issue becomes, when you start talking about, is there criminal liability here, should the Justice — will the Justice Department make that — make that leap.
And when you're talking about the court of law, the level of evidentiary proof that you have to have is incredibly high, necessarily. That's getting way down the road. But I do think, after seven, eight hearings, the Select Committee has done an excellent job of telling the American people and showing the American people what was done on January 6, how horrible it was.
And between the hearing on Tuesday and the hearing that's coming up next Thursday, we're going to see with frightening clarity how the president of the United States just allowed it to happen.
What do you think about that? Do you think that they made that case?
Yes, and it has been unexpected for me. But I think the…
I didn't think — well, I didn't think they had organized it. I didn't think Trump had organized January 6. I thought it was just like him being his shambolic self.
But there was clearly a lot more planning. We learned even from the Overstock CEO that they had arranged that he was spontaneously going to call for them to go to the — but that was all prearranged.
And then, as Jonathan said, the fact that the — a lot of the guys up there were so carefully paying attention to Trump, so carefully saying, we're going to do what he tells us to do, and so fully expected that he would meet them up at the Capitol, that's all a progression.
And then what we heard last — or two weeks ago about the — him wanting to take out the magnetometers, so these armed guys could have access, that's all a very strong evidentiary chain.
And so, to me, the accumulation is quite powerful. It's interesting how it's affected Trump. I mean, the word now is that he's moving up when he will announce his campaign for president. I think he's doing that to make the indictment harder. He's doing that to…
You're presenting that as a done deal. You think he's definitely going to run?
He seems to have told people that he's going to run.
And so I — we will see when we — he walks down the elevator — escalator, whatever it is.
But I do think he's going to run. I think he's going to announce pretty soon, in part to make the indictment harder, in part to make other challengers more hesitant about getting in.
He's going to fail at that. The New York Times/Siena poll struck me as very important this week that roughly half of Republicans want him to pass and they want to go for another guy. That's just a huge number.
And that cannot be unrelated to these hearings.
I want to switch, Jonathan, to this issue of the continued fallout of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
And Democrats seem to believe that this could be one of the things that might give them at least some trace of a fighting chance in the midterms. And we saw we this week this sort of horrendous case of a young 10-year-old girl who had been raped. She got pregnant. She was — then had to leave her state and go to another state where abortion would still be allowed.
And GOP officials tried to make hay of it. They doubted that that story really existed. The local A.G. said, we're going to go after the doctor that performed this.
Do you think that — that issue and the extremity of the way that this is being handled will actually benefit Democrats?
I mean, we're — the idea that we're talking about violence against a child, and then being forced by the state to give birth to this child, going to another state so she can terminate that pregnancy, and then being persecuted and prosecuted by the state for doing that, I mean, this is — William, during the Trump years, I started watching "The Handmaid's Tale," because I thought I need my imagination to be open to see just how bad things could get in a fictional — fictional setting.
And I had to stop watching when real life under the Trump administration started to mirror what was happening in "Handmaid's Tale," and I was — I was a few seasons behind.
We are in "Handmaid's Tale" territory here. We are turning into Gilead. And if there are people out there who are upset by the Supreme Court decision, by what Republican legislators around the country in states and localities are doing to further restrictions and bans on abortion, I don't know what else could push people to the polls more than not just being stripped of a constitutional right, but having your right to — right to freedom, right to privacy, right to liberty not just taken away, but local officials doing everything they can to ensure that you don't have autonomy over your own body.
If that doesn't get people out to the polls, I don't know what will.
I mean, David, this was an incredibly extreme case, in some ways crystallized the sharpness and the horribleness of this division in this country.
Do you think it will redound to the Democrats' benefit?
A little, but, frankly, not much.
Now, abortion rights defenders, they should pursue their cause with the passion that they're bringing to it. And so I don't want — nothing I say should dissuade anybody from pursuing that cause.
But there's just a giant gap between what a lot of Democrats want to talk about and what the whole rest of the country wants to talk about. And if you ask people, what's the most important issues, progressives want to talk about abortion and guns. The entire rest of the country, independents, conservatives, unaffiliated people, they want talk about the economy.
And, for them, the economy is way up here. Jobs are number one. Inflation is number two. And so why is Joe Biden at 33 percent approval in the latest Times poll? It's the economy. Why in the same poll do half of Hispanics support the Republicans now? The economy.
These are — I mean, I think…
These are earthquake-type numbers for Democrats.
Yes, I think that's probably a little outlier.
But we have had a whole series of polls showing a lot of Hispanic movement moving over to the Republican Party and turning into really a multiracial, working-class party. And so if people — they should pursue their passions, and they should pursue these issues.
But if Democrats, if they're not talking about economic policy every day, then they're just not talking about the policy that is clearly ranking number one with a vast majority of voters.
And yet, William…
Thirty seconds left. Sorry.
And yet, when you look at the generic ballot in these same polls, it's evenly split when people are asked, who do you want to have control of Congress, Democrats or Republicans?
Inflation is big. The economy is big. And yet the generic ballot is still evenly split. So, people have a problem with the president, think things are going in the wrong direction, but they don't trust Republicans to run the country.
I mean, this is why we're seeing, of course, the president in Saudi Arabia, trying to do everything he can across the pond to get the gas prices down.
David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, great to see you both. Thank you.
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