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Brooks and Capehart on jobs report, Liz Cheney and election laws

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the latest jobs report, the internal politics in the Republican party as it attempts to oust Rep. Liz Cheney, and the latest string of election law changes in conservative states.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    To reflect a little on what Senator Warren had to say and more on the events of this week, it's time for Brooks and Capehart.

    That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

    It is so good to see both of you, smiling faces on this Friday evening.

    And I do want to get to Senator Warren, David, but first let me ask you about today's jobs numbers. They were disappointing. It was expected there would be many hundreds of thousands more than there were.

    Do these numbers say something about, frankly, the wisdom of President Biden's economic plans?

  • David Brooks:

    Maybe. I don't think we know yet.

    But we're doing two gigantic experiments that are really unprecedented in American history. We have never spent $6 trillion in such a short period of time, and gone into debt while doing it. If the two other Biden plan passes, it'll be $10 trillion.

    At the same time, we have never seen Fed expansionary policy this momentous. And so this is an experiment. And maybe it'll pay off, but maybe there will be inflation. Warren Buffett's a little worried about inflation. Other people are worried about inflation.

    Maybe, as Michael Strain said earlier in the program, the fact that people are paid to stay home means I don't want to get a job. I can hang out at home, what seems a lot better.

    And so we — I don't think we know the answer to what happened. But it was a shocking number. And we just have to pay attention to the fact that this could go sideways in a million ways, because we're doing something really risky.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jonathan, do you see that this makes some sort of statement about what President Biden's doing?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I don't think so, not yet.

    We cannot grade the entirety of President Biden's fiscal plans based on one unemployment number. We have got to look at the long haul here. And so the jury's out on that. However, we have to think about all the things that David was just talking about, in terms of the inflationary concerns and all of that.

    We have to also talk about the fact that we're also dealing with — still with a global pandemic, people being reticent. As much as folks want to get out and restart their lives, there are a lot of people who, like, can't find jobs, are too afraid to get out there, for fear of what's going to happen with the pandemic.

    And, also, on top of all of it, even though lots of states are starting to reopen, some more fully, like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have announced, but they're still slowly reopening. So I think it's a little too early, Judy and David, to start being gloom and doom over the state of the economy, not just yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, in connection with all this, you heard Senator Warren. I asked her about her plans to tax the wealthy.

    She has a much more, shall we say, ambitious set of proposals even than what President Biden has put out there.

    David, what do you — where do you see any of this going with regard to taxing the wealthiest in order to pay for what he wants to do?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, it's pretty popular.

    And it's also just a fact that wealth is concentrated over the last 30 or 40 years. It's also just a fact that corporations have done extremely well, and corporate profits have done pretty well. So, if you want to tax things to pay for things, these are probably the least bad things to tax.

    There is going to be a cost. When you raise the corporate tax rate, and, on the margins, companies will flock to a place with a lower corporate tax rate than a higher corporate tax rate. That's probably true on the margins. But it seems to me the Biden administration has chosen the appropriate areas to raise taxes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jonathan, what do you see when you look at taxes and President Biden and what Senator Warren's saying?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, one, I agree with David in the last point that he made.

    But let's also remember they're still in the middle of negotiations. And even though I think the initial number the president has put out there, wanting to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, and, before that, under Trump, it was 35 percent, and he lowered it that much, that the president and the administration has been — have been sending signals all along that they're willing to negotiate, willing to negotiate on that piece.

    As for Senator Warren, of course, she is going to shoot for the moon and the stars as a means of, one, because she believes that fully, firmly believes it, but also as a way of trying to push the president further, push him to do more than maybe he is constitutional — he thinks he's constitutionally capable of.

    But if the American — if the American Rescue Plan is any indicator, I don't think she's going to have to push too hard to get the president to think imaginatively about how to go about his policy — his plans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk about the Republicans, David, a lot going on in that party this — the last few days, and, next week, a vote upcoming among House Republicans.

    It looks like they are going to kick out Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming as the conference chair in the House, because she's not only insufficiently loyal to President Trump. She's saying he actively should not be the person the party's following.

    What does all this say about the Republican Party?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, it's still Donald Trump's party.

    It shows that you have to — more or less, as everyone is pointing out, you shouldn't have to be a lie to qualify — you have to lie to qualify to be a Republican. And that's the standard that is now being laid down. And Elizabeth Cheney just didn't want to lie.

    There's also a lot of internal politics here, that what they want from the person in a leadership role is the ability to get them reelected. And so the House members are worried that, because she keeps picking on this issue, she's going to be less effective at raising money and getting them reelected.

    Elise Stefanik, the person who's probably going to replace her, has read the party. She was a Harvard educated person who worked in the Bush administration, endorsed John Kasich, and sat out the 2016 convention because Donald Trump was going to be the nominee. Ruth Marcus, our friend, has a good column on this.

    And she's now a roaring Trumper. And so she's read the winds. And that's what this is all about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In fact, Elise Stefanik just said in an interview, Jonathan, yesterday that President Trump is the strongest president ever when it comes to standing up for the U.S. Constitution.

    But what do you — what does all this say, from your perspective, about what Republicans are — where they're headed?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    That quote you just read from Congresswoman Stefanik just sort of proves what David was just talking about.

    In order to be in the leadership, but also to be considered a Republican, you have to lie. All of this tells me that the Republican Party has officially lost its way. It is not about values and substantive issues and being a policy counterweight to the Democratic Party. It is all about being loyal to Donald Trump, one.

    But, also, when it comes to the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, it's do anything, say anything to ensure, you hope, that you are in good position to retake the House in 2022.

    Elizabeth — Congresswoman Cheney is a conservative. She is a conservative. Elise Stefanik, by comparison, from Upstate New York is a moderate. And when you look at — the Club For Growth gives Elise Stefanik a 35 percent rating. The Heritage Foundation gives Elizabeth Cheney an 80 percent rating and Elise Stefanik a 48 percent rating.

    And if you want to talk about fealty and loyalty to Donald Trump, Congresswoman Cheney voted with Donald Trump 92.9 percent of the time, as compared to Elise Stefanik, who voted with him 77 percent of the — 77 percent of the time. And this is data from FiveThirtyEight.

    So, it's like the Soul Train Scramble Board here. It's going to take a while to figure out what they're — what the Republican Party is all about, really. But, right now, the Republican Party is about Donald Trump, only about Donald Trump, and how Donald Trump feels about everything.

    And one last point, Judy. I know I'm going on. The number one reason why Congresswoman Cheney is in trouble is because Donald Trump hates her for telling the truth.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, David, as both of you are saying, it is not only what Congresswoman Cheney — or Congresswoman Stefanik is saying about former President Trump, but it's also her — her continuing to insist, along with so many other Republicans, that the election — in her words, she said election fraud was widespread last year.

    She has spoken out for this recount going on in Maricopa County, Arizona, that's paid for only by Republicans — or being sponsored only by Republicans.

    So, I mean, this says something about future elections as well.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, in a country with a lot of problems, the Republicans have picked the one area that's not broken to address all their energy on. And that's elections.

    And so they — all these laws, I doubt they will have a huge effect. I think studies show that they don't have a big effect on damping down turnout. But it's just a — given American history — Jonathan and I have talked about it before — it's just a horrific look.

    And the amount of energy going into it, and the fact that Florida Governor DeSantis did it, announced is the signing of Florida's new election law on FOX, who does a news event on one network?


  • David Brooks:

    I mean, this — it just shows we are in a land of theater. It's not about anything but the symbols of showing Donald Trump is right about the election and there was a lot of fraud.

    And it's a theatrical gesture, a Potemkin set of laws to just reinforce the Trump narrative.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jonathan, as both of you have said, these election laws have a very real effect on what happens going forward in the congressional elections next year, the midterm elections, and, of course, beyond.

  • Jonathan Capehart:


    I think, a few shows ago, I said that these election laws were a solution in search of a problem. And I cannot remember the person who sent me an e-mail, but they wrote me and said, listen, stop saying that because it's not true, because, from the Republican perspective, it is a solution in — to solve a problem.

    And the problem from the Republican perspective is too many Democrats voting. And, in the end, that's what this is all about. The mail-in voting, the absentee balloting that Democrats pushed hard because of the problems with the Postal Service, because of fears of going out in public because of the pandemic, Democrats, who used to not vote by mail and not absentee vote, did it in droves in the safest election in American history, as we learned from the federal government.

    And so all of these laws are about stopping as many Democrats as possible from voting, as a means of increasing Republican power and increasing their chances of retaking the House.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Only a little more than a minute left.

    But I do want to finally quickly ask both of you, David, about this idea of how the insurrection at the Capitol is investigated. I interviewed Speaker Pelosi this week. She said it's not something that should be chosen by the president, it needs to come from Congress.

    And, right now, Republicans and Democrats are at loggerheads.

  • David Brooks:

    I'm dubious. I support the idea, I guess, but I'm dubious they can come up with a commission filled with people who have credibility on both sides.

    When the 9/11 Commission happened, we had people like Lee Hamilton and Governor Kean of New Jersey leading it, people who really were part of the establishment center. We don't have as many people like that. And even those who are in the establishment center have less credibility with the polarized wings.

    And so it looks — I'm much more pessimistic than I would have been after 9/11 that we can put together a commission that we trust.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Jonathan?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    But we have to put together a commission. It must be done.

    The horror of January 6, the tipping point that those events put American democracy on, we cannot forget it. We must investigate it. We must find out what really happened, what truly happened, all the things that we don't know about right now. It must be put before the American people, so that, at a minimum, we can try to not have that happen again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I know we are going to continue to ask those questions.

    In the meantime, we thank you both, Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks. Have a good weekend.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy. You too.

    See you, David.

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