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New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including cease-fire in the Middle East and the Senate’s chances of establishing a commission to look into the Jan. 6 insurrection.
From the impact of the Mideast cease-fire on U.S. policy, to a potential commission looking into the January 6 Capitol attack, it's a good time for the analysis of Brooks and Capehart.
That's New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.
Good to see you both. Welcome back. Happy Friday.
David, I want to start with you.
The president was just speaking at the White House, actually, and was asked about this latest cease-fire, asked also if there's been a shift in Democratic Party politics when it comes to the approach in Israel.
This is what he had to say: "There is no shift in my commitment to the security of Israel, period."
David, what do you make to have the way the president has handled these last 11 days and this cease-fire?
I think he's handled it pretty well. He's kept the U.S. out of being the center of the story. He's learned from some of the mistakes we made in 2014, ending that Gaza war.
He was pressured to lean on Bibi and Israel to do the cease-fire or to condemn them publicly. But, if he does that, then Bibi has to push back. So it actually delays the cease-fire, just so Bibi can show his independence. And if he does that, Hamas thinks, oh, Israel — U.S. is leaning on Israel, so Hamas gets more aggressive.
So, this was a case in which being a little passive and doing things in private was much more effective than they would have been to do anything in public. And so I think the administration was wise, basically, to handle it as they did.
Jonathan, he was asked that question, though, because there's been growing pressure from within the party, right, from progressives like Bernie Sanders and others, to do more, in the way of standing up for the human rights of Palestinians.
But if you take a quick look at where the country is today, I want to point to some quick numbers we looked up from Gallup. This is from a February poll, so it's before this latest conflict. But it does show that 75 percent of Americans do have a favorable opinion of Israel. That is up in the last 20 years by 10 points.
That same poll, though, when you're looking at the number of people saying who they think the U.S. should put more pressure on, 35 percent now think that the U.S. should put more pressure on Israel. That number is also up; 44 percent say they should put more pressure on Palestinians.
Are you seeing any of that, Jonathan, show up in the Biden approach?
Well, I think — I would love to see what a poll would show today.
I think that the bombing, the Israeli Defense Forces' bombing of that high-rise building in Gaza that also housed international news organizations was a pivot point in all of this, where the private conversations that were happening took on even more urgency, and then forced the president to go even more public in terms of putting pressure on the Israeli government to do something to curb the violence.
But where — when it comes to the Democratic Party and the forces pulling back and forth, I bring up that pivot point, because Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is known in Washington as being a stalwart ally, if you will, within the United States Senate, supporter of Israel and Israel's right to defend itself.
After that bombing of that building in Gaza, Senator Menendez put out a statement that caught the White House by surprise and a lot of people by surprise by condemning or raising very serious questions about what Israel had done.
And so I think that made it possible for President Biden to be a little more, how shall we say, forceful in his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Well, David, let me ask you more broadly about President Biden's approach, not just on this one issue.
You had a good chunk of time to sit down with him for a fascinating interview. It's the subject of your latest column that's called "Has Biden Changed? He Tells Us."
And, in it, you write right at the top: "What happened to Joe Biden? Many people thought he was a moderate incrementalist, but now he's promoting whopping big legislative packages that make many on the progressive left extremely happy. The answer seems to be, it's complicated."
David, tell us about that conversation with him. How is it complicated?
Oh, I believe we have lost the connection with David Brooks. We will try to get him back in just a moment.
In the meantime, Jonathan, let me bring you back in here.
You have certainly read this column.
It's a long assessment of where President Biden is and faces this criticism of no longer being a moderate incrementalist many accused him of.
What do you make of it?
Well, David's column was terrific, in being able to sit down with the president, particularly this president, who he wears everything on his sleeve.
And I have been on a phone call between the president and opinion writers, including — including David, so I have — I can pretty much imagine how that conversation went.
Look, I think President Biden is sort of the president who — the man who is meeting the moment. A lot of people wonder whether progressives have pulled the party farther to the left or are pushing the party farther to the left. And I counter that.
And I think President Biden, by doing what he's doing, it's really that the party is catching up to the country. You tick off any issue and ask where the American people are — and let's just take raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The American people want that done.
The Democratic Party has been pushing for that for a long time. The president now, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, is pushing for that.
And so the beauty of David's column and what I loved about it is that it takes sort of the policy issues that we're talking about now, whether it's the American Jobs Act — the American Jobs Plan, the Families Plan, the American Rescue Plan, and broadens it out in the way that only — that David famously does to the 35,000-foot level and shows that Joe Biden — it's the last line in the column — Joe Biden hasn't changed. It's just that he's gone bigger.
The price tags on these things that he's pushing have gone bigger than what he pushed for when he was in the Senate for 36 years. The policies that he championed when he was vice president, with President O — yes, with President Obama.
So, I don't know if it's right to call President Biden incrementalist. I think he is incrementalist when it suits his purposes to get something done right away.
But I think, if you look at everything that he's trying to do, he's going big. And he's going big because the problems facing the country are large, but, also, he views it to the international prism, which I think David puts in his column, because of his time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the problems that America is facing, they are impacting not just America at home, but America's standing abroad.
For anyone wondering why David Brooks isn't weighing in on his own column, we just lost the connection with him. We are trying to bring him back into the conversation. And we will do so as soon as that connection is reestablished.
But, Jonathan, while I have you, I also wanted to talk about this vote on the potential commission to look into the January 6 Capitol attack. There was a proposal that came before the House. They voted on it. It passed there; 35 Republicans, 35 Republicans joined Democrats to back that commission.
Did that number surprise you?
Well, Amna, here's the thing that surprised me.
It's — what surprises me is that it was only 35. Leave aside the politics of everything of why it was just 35. This — the January 6 commission should not be a partisan issue. This should be a patriotism issue.
What happened on that day was horrifying, people trying to rush the Capitol, invading the Capitol, while the United States Congress was certifying a free and fair and legitimate, a small-D democratic election, certifying the election, and making it official that Joe Biden would be the president of the United States.
Those people tried to stop that. The people who voted against the commission, the other Republicans who voted against the commission, they were there that day. How they could not vote to approve a commission that would look into what happened, so that we find out what happened, but also so that we can learn things that we could do to ensure that it doesn't happen again, the fact that they voted — only 35 Republicans have voted for it, I think, is a shame.
I need to ask you as well, Jonathan, because this is right now with the Senate. Ten Republicans there would need to back it for that commission to move forward. Do you see that happening?
I'm really having a hard time seeing that happening.
I mean, if memory serves, seven Republicans voted with the Democrats to vote to come to convict then-president — well, at that point, he was former President Trump, during impeachment. I don't see where the other three votes to get to 10 come from. That's assuming that those seven vote for the commission.
Jonathan Capehart joining us tonight.
I apologize to David Brooks. Tonight's Brooks and Capehart is mostly just Capehart.
But, Jonathan, it's always good to talk to you. Thanks for being here.
Great to see you too. Thanks.
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