New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including QAnon conspiracy theories and the relation to Congress’ failure to establish a Jan. 6 commission, President Joe Biden’s budget plan and its influence on deficit and economic inflation, and how far America has come since George Floyd's killing.
And we turn from that to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.
Very good to see you both. Thank you for being here on this Friday night.
And, Jonathan, we are sharing those voices because we know that that's part of what was driving the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.
It came to a vote today in the Congress, in the Senate, as you know, and Republicans blocked it. What does that say about not just the Republican Party, but what are the consequences of what happened today?
Yes, the vote today, Judy, was just shameful. This should not have been a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This should not have been a partisan vote.
This should have been a vote just grounded in patriotism, being able to say with a unified voice that what happened there on January 6, when they were trying to certify the Electoral College vote in a presidential election, that what happened there was something that needed to be investigated and, if necessary, people held accountable and lessons learned, so that it doesn't happen again.
It says a lot about the Republican Party. But, to me, I just — I worry what that message sends to the country about how Congress is functioning or not functioning, but also whether the Capitol could withstand another attack.
I mean, January 6 wasn't the end of something. It was either the beginning of something, or we're in the middle of something. And even though the independent commission failed, that doesn't mean that investigations aren't going on. And I'm not just talking about the court cases that are happening, but Speaker Pelosi could form a House select committee.
There are committees in the House and the Senate that are and can do their own investigations. The only problem with that, though, it would have a partisan tinge just from appearances.
But I would argue that any investigation into what happened on January 6, I believe, would be done for the sole purpose of not partisan — not through partisan lens, but through a patriotic lens of trying to figure out what happened, so it doesn't happen again.
And, David, what is your thinking as you look at the vote today and, frankly, listening to these family members of people who believe in the QAnon conspiracy?
Oh, you know, every party and organization has loyalty mechanisms. And, mostly, it's, we commit to something together.
The Republican Party as a loyalty mechanism is that you have to believe in the myth, you have to believe in the lie about the election, and you have to believe in the lie about the insurrection.
I saw a YouGov poll today that 74 percent of Republicans think leftist activists were a large part of what caused that. So, you have to believe in the myth. And if you're a senator, you have to believe in the myth to stay part of the party, and that's the way it is.
Now, I have to imagine that Mitch McConnell and normal Republicans would love to get rid of this myth and would love to get rid of the Trumpian craziness. And it seems to me, in — for the benefit of the party and for the benefit of the country, you — this commission is a way to expose the truth and to begin the detoxification process.
Now, sure, your party takes a short-term hit. There would be bad headlines. But, in the long-range health of the party, it's got to be a good thing to get to the truth and expose what happened.
The final depressing thing to me was, 9/11 happened, it was a national blow, and we were at least able to come together around centrist groups of establishmentarians, trusted individuals, and form a commission.
We are no longer that country. And so, if we're hit by another blow of whatever sort, will we ever have a commission again? Do we have a center in this country? Do we have a group of people who are trusted on both sides? I'm not sure we live in that country anymore.
And, Jonathan, it does raise questions about not just who we are as a country, but about what's happened to our political — political parties and their entire belief systems.
But I want to — speaking of belief systems, I want to turn to President Biden, who today proposed his really shocking — shockingly large budget proposal, $6 trillion. It really is a bringing together of all of his recent proposals on infrastructure, families, and so forth for the last several weeks.
But it is a number we haven't seen before. Is it realistic? Does it meet the needs of the country?
I do think it meets the needs of the country in terms of this.
Speaker Pelosi, if you ever interview her about budgets and things like that, she will tell you, show me your budget, and I will show you your values.
And I think what President Biden has done with this budget is, he is showing the nation what his values are, what his priorities are, and what they are on behalf of the country.
Remember, in his joint session speech, he talked about and ground a lot of what he was saying in, we must do this as a nation to repair the nation's roads and bridges, to expand opportunity for Americans by, for instance, expanding broadband access, because that, for the 21st century, is what the national highway system was in the 20th century, all as a means of improving the country, so that we can compete against China, and that we are in this battle right now between autocracy and democracy.
And the only way that we can prove that democracy — that democracy is better is that if we can show that democracy works. Six trillion dollars, Judy, yes, it's a huge price tag. But, as we know from President Biden, he sees this as a moment to do big things, to help as many people as possible.
And that requires — that requires some cold, hard cash in volumes that we have not seen before.
And, David, what's your cold, hard assessment of this budget plan?
My warm, mushy assessment is that…
… is that it's probably necessary.
I'm — I have never been a progressive or any — even close to that. But it is just simply a fact that, over the last 30 years, folks with a high school education, an associate's degree have not been reaping the benefits of our economy. And President Biden wants to make an investment in those folks. And I think that's just.
I was struck by how often he brags about the fact that the infrastructure bill, the benefits, the jobs, they go to people with an associate's degree and a high school degree. The folks who have a college degree don't need as much help, frankly.
And so this redirects money to those who need it. So, I take the direction to be in the right.
The two cautionary warnings, I would say, is, first, the threat of inflation is real. This is not just notional. It's not just Warren Buffett warning about this and other businesspeople. The Consumer Price Index is up. And maybe this is just a hiccup and these are temporary inflationary effects.
But if we overheat the economy and wind up with inflation, then the Fed has to slam on the brakes, and the very people who need the help most will suffer most. And so that is something real to look at.
And it's just a fact — I just hate it when we get rid of truisms. And it has been a truism that, if you — if your debt passes 100 percent of GDP, your nation is going to be in trouble. And to pretend that law no longer exists worries me.
And so I do — I'm worried about the inflation and the debt, but I do think the investment is necessary.
David, just quickly, are you saying, because of the inflation worry, that the budget is less needed?
No, I'm saying, if — we have thrown trillions of dollars into the economy, and that's heated up the economy to a great degree.
And if we throw another bunch of trillions in, as the budget envisions, then we're really heating up the economy and possibly overheating the economy, which leads to inflation, which leads to lower living standards, which leads to huge government payments on the debt that we owe.
And it leads to the 1970s, which was all sorts of bad things.
Lots of warnings in that.
Jonathan, I want to — in the final minutes we have, I want to turn to something that we observed this week. And, of course, that was the — one year since the death, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a white policeman.
What is it — what do you see that our country — about our country over the past year? Has it — have we have we come to terms in any way, do you think, with what was shown by the death of George Floyd?
Have we come to — it depends on — it depends on my mood, Judy.
On the one hand, yes, we have come to terms, in the sense that we are now talking more openly and a little more, a little more honestly about racism, structural racism, and the inequities that are built into our system and how Black and brown people, but African-Americans in particular, bear the brunt of that.
I take that as a good sign that we are able to talk about it more freely and more openly.
Where things have not changed is in the other shootings that have happened, the other incidences of law enforcement killing Black people. You have got the situation of Ronald Greene, who was killed two years ago, but the video has just come out, where the police said one thing and the video shows something horrifically different.
Or, during the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd, right when we were all waiting for the verdict, what happened? Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a Brooklyn Center Minnesota police officer. It was just up the road a bit from the courthouse in Minneapolis, again, another unarmed African-American man killed by police.
While we have incremental progress in some areas, we are reminded, sometimes daily, that the work, the hard work of changing and whittling away and chiseling away at systemic racism, it is a tough job. It is a hard job. It is a — but it is a task that is necessary and requires persistence.
And it keeps happening.
And, David, I'm sorry, only about 30 seconds for you.
Yes, I think the — what — the big thing that's changed for the good is what you might call the mainstreaming of systemic racism.
A lot of people used to think racism was a bad person hating African-Americans. But I think we understand, if you take a look, for example, at the wealth gap between Blacks and whites, that's not about just individuals hating. That's something that's been built into the structure of our society, through discrimination, through redlining and all the rest.
And so the president, Joe Biden, became the first president to use the term systemic racism. And, to me, that's a step forward, because it's not about blaming people. It's about — recognize the legacy of the past and the way it continues to apply in justices in the present.
And that mainstreaming of that recognition strikes me at least one step of progress.
It's a conversation we're going to continue to have in the days and weeks and months and years to come.
David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.
Thank you, Judy.
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