Brooks and Capehart on midterm elections, aid to Ukraine, GOP apathy toward criticism

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including a PBS NewsHour-Marist poll gives insights into what voters are thinking, President Biden asks Congress for a big increase in assistance to Ukraine and the GOP is brushing aside audiotapes that captured party leaders criticizing their own.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As you just heard, our "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll gives us some insights into what voters are thinking right now. Plus, the president has asked Congress for a big increase in assistance to Ukraine. And the GOP is brushing aside audiotapes that captured party leaders criticizing their own.

    We turn now to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post.

    And it is great to see the two of you on this Friday night. Thank you for being here.

    Let's just pick up right now, David, with that poll, really interesting analysis by Lisa. What did you see there? What stood out to you?

  • David Brooks:

    The two things Lisa mentioned really leapt out of me, first, the Latino vote, 52 percent favoring Republicans, 55 percent Latino disapproval of Joe Biden.

    These are — this should be four alarm bells for Democrats. Latinos have been — have not been shifting over to the Republicans. They have done — Donald Trump had done reasonably well with Latinos. But the Latino still identify overwhelmingly with Democrats. But they're clearly not happy with the way things are going.

    And then the second issue is education. If you go back — Pew Research Center does these polls constantly, which party do you trust more on education? And if you go back over the decades, Democrats usually have a 20-point advantage, a 26-point advantage, something pretty big. And that's down to 20 — or that's now down to basically zero.

    And so I think that's partly the schools closing at the teachers union behest. It's partly some efforts to get rid of the magnet schools and gifted programs. And I think it's partly a sense that too many progressives are trying to do everything with education in the schools.

    But, clearly, on those issues, it's helping Republicans, especially those with kids. And so this is, across the board, pretty grim for Democrats.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you look at these numbers, Jonathan?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    So, David was paying attention to the Latino numbers.

    I went to the African American numbers, because the African American vote is the base of the Democratic Party. It is the base of President Biden. That's why he's president. And yet his standing among Black voters, his approval rating is 64 percent. That should raise alarm bells in the White House, if it hasn't already.

    I think it's because of no movement on voting rights, no movement on criminal justice reform. We will see what happens. As Lee Miringoff said, who knows what people will care about in October, but I bet — maybe the president will get a bump up when Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson officially takes the oath of office to be the next justice in the Supreme Court.

    And, then to mimic David, there's a second thing that leapt out at me, the inflation numbers, the crime numbers, and the national security numbers all not in the Democratic Party's favor. Those, particularly inflation and crime, are — quote, unquote — "emotional issues." People — people go to the ballot box….

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Your earpiece…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    My earpiece just fell out, everyone.

    But if the administration can't talk to the American people convincingly that they have crime under control and inflation under control, they will be in trouble.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, are these the kinds of things that Democrats have the ability over the next six, seven, eight months to change voters' thinking, or are these issues that are essentially just entrenched right now?

  • David Brooks:

    Not entrenched, but super hard to change this around.

    Basically, the whole zeitgeist of the country has deteriorated over the last year. And I would say it's been a threat of disorder, disorder on many fronts, disorder internationally with Ukraine, disorder at home, crime. Crime in New York is surging by 30 percent year over year, 30, 40 in some — robbery and burglary up to 40 or 50 percent. Inflation is a form of economic disorder.

    And so people just feel that the world has become less safe on a whole variety of fronts. And, traditionally, Republicans have been the party of order, and Democrats have been the party of fairness and justice.

    And so there has been historically an attempt to turn to Republicans when you feel unsafe. And so Democrats have to turn that around. Now, they have turned it around in the past. In the 1990s, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton — Tony Blair had a phrase tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. And that was an attempt to create an anti-crime strategy, say, for those in the center-left.

    And so it can be done. But it's a heavy lift. And it takes a lot of time and a lot of persuasion. I'm not sure there's enough time to do it before the midterms.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you see here? Do you see there's a chance on any — well, you — and you were talking about among Black voters.

    But where's the opportunity for Democrats here?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I think the opportunity comes in another set of numbers that I looked at, and the poll points out Trump's approval rating. And Donald Trump's approval rating is at 39 percent. His disapproval is at 56 percent, not unsimilar, dissimilar to President Biden's.

    But if you are a Democrat running against candidates that have been endorsed by Donald Trump or who haven't run away from Donald Trump, that gives you something to run on, because, in the end, those candidates only have their fealty to Trump to run on, whereas the Democrats have something to actually talk about, about what they want to do, real plans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

    You — and you mentioned…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • David Brooks:

    Can I disagree with Jonathan just on…

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sure. Sure.

  • David Brooks:

    Because I think running against Donald Trump is a gigantic mistake.

    I think that's what we saw in the Glenn Youngkin-Terry McAuliffe race in Virginia. I think people are really — are really struggling with issues right in front of their face, the gas prices, and things that are incredibly close to home. And I just don't think there's been that much evidence that running against Donald Trump is super effective at getting those voters who are willing to swing back and forth.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    But that's what I — but that's what I was talking about — talking about, David, that if a Democrat is running against a Trumper, that Democrat will be able to talk about those issues that you're talking about, what they want to do about inflation, what they want to do about jobs, what they want to do about crime, whereas the other candidate might be talking about all sorts of other things that those voters don't care about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    OK. All right.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We move it to…

  • David Brooks:

    We have achieved clarity.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But one — it was interesting. One of you mentioned national security.

    And, David, I want to come back to you on this, because, at this point, on Ukraine, which is in the news every single night — we're watching that terrible war grind on — the Republicans do seem to be, in January — yes, they say President Biden should have moved sooner, but they do seem to be on board with approving the money, additional aid, military, economic and humanitarian, he's asking for Ukraine.

    But we don't see any of that working to the president's benefit. Is that — is that how you see it?

  • David Brooks:

    It's really stunning to me that if you get a 49 disapproval on a bipartisan policy that's extremely popular.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • David Brooks:

    And it just shows the bad mood the country is in.

    And so, this week, the president — I think we — it's grim news for the president, but he's done a fantastic job, especially this week, on Ukraine. This aid package that he outlined is super aggressive. It's big. And it's what Ukraine needs. The war is changing as it moves to the east.

    There's less sort of maneuverability for the Ukrainian. And so that's much more wide open spaces, and the Russian tanks are going to be more effective. They're closer to their supply lines. And so Ukraine just needs a lot more heavy equipment, including tanks and things like that.

    And Biden has risen — with some long-range artillery and things like, the Biden administration has really risen to the occasion. And so I would say to him, this is not a moment to think about how this is polling. This is a moment to do what's right for the world. And, as far as I can tell, he's doing that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you see this aid package and what the prospects are for getting bipartisan support for it?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I mean, I agree 100 percent with David in his assessment of the president's leadership here.

    And I also think that Congress will remain on board and will pass these budget requests from the president. The question I have, and I know the question that is being pondered in the White House, is, how long is this going to last? What is the appetite of the American people to see, every couple of weeks, multibillion-dollar packages going — going overseas, when there are domestic issues and domestic priorities that aren't being addressed so quickly, i.e, say, lots of people care about student debt?

    Lots of people want to know, where's the child tax credit? There are lots of things that could be — that could be funded. But the president has made it very clear, the administration has made it very clear that the war — Russia's war on Ukraine isn't just an invasion of one country of over another. It is democracy vs. autocracy.

    And that is — and that is what's guiding the president. And I agree with David. The president doesn't care about his legacy, about how this polls. This is an existential threat that's taking place on the European continent.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And it is interesting, as we said, that he doesn't seem to be getting any credit from the public for what he's doing.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right, not right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David — excuse me — I do want to come back to this question of aid for Ukraine.

    I mean, to Jonathan's point, it's, what, $33 billion this time. It was several billion the month before that and the month before that. This war looks like it's going to go on for a long time. Is there a limit to what Americans are going to be prepared to do for Ukraine?

  • David Brooks:

    So far, we haven't seen any evidence of it.

    If anything, the taste for action seems to be growing. I mean, if you look over at Europe, they're really willing to cut off energy supplies from Russia. That, I would never have expected. And so, if there's any momentum here in the Western alliance's willingness to sacrifice for this, it seems to be increasing, not decreasing.

    And one thing COVID did, we got used to $1.9 trillion bills.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    So, a $35 billion bill doesn't seem that big anymore.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You are right, putting it in perspective.

    But just in the last few minutes we have, I want to come back, Jonathan, to something that it first surfaced last week, but, this week, more audiotapes from the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy.

    And the ones that emerged this week have him expressing real concern about some of the far right members of the House Republican Caucus, and the effect that they — that what they were saying and doing could lead to even terrible things happening. This was after January the 6th.

    Here we are all these months later. Kevin McCarthy brushes it off. Do we just forget it? I mean, is it — what does it all add up to?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, look, we can't forget it.

    We need to listen to Kevin McCarthy in real time being a true leader, expressing the horror over what happened, the danger that it posed to the country. And then contrast that to where he is today, which is the complete opposite.

    And what it says to me is that the Republican Party, the Republican Caucus in the House, and the House minority leader are willing to lie about what they have — what they have done and what they have said, all for the purpose of winning back the majority in the midterms.

    And that leads to an even bigger question for me, which is, if the House minority leader is willing to lie, when we can read the words and hear the words with our own ears, then what does a Speaker McCarthy do? How can the American people trust what he says? How can the American press that has to cover him, how do we trust what he says?

    That is the bigger problem for the Republican Party. But then it could also be a bigger problem for the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you answer some of those questions, David?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, first, when I started doing this job, and I would interview people, and people would flat-out lie to me, or even lie about interviews I had done, I was sort of shocked.

    And now I'm a little more used to it. It's something that gets done here. There is lying in Washington.

    Kevin McCarthy is a nice guy, an affable guy. He doesn't particularly have convictions. And so he just has blown with the wind. And that, he's been consistent upon.

    I think what's interesting is, is there a scandal? It's only a scandal if Donald Trump says it's a scandal. And Donald Trump has decided, intelligently, it's not a scandal. It shows how much power he has. And he has basically — and he now holds — he now owns Kevin McCarthy, because he's got something on him.

    And so this has been a very good maneuver for Donald Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    With that, we're going to thank the both of you.

    David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, thank you.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

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