Brooks and Capehart on supply-chain bottlenecks, Republican pushback to vaccine mandates

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including President Biden’s efforts to alleviate supply-chain bottlenecks, inflation, the vaccine mandate debate, and the Virginia governor's race.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    From supply chain bottlenecks to the vaccine mandate debate and the Virginia governor's race, it has been a busy week in politics.

    And that brings us to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post, who's joining us tonight from home.

    And we welcome both of you on this Friday night. It's very good to see you.

    And, Jonathan, at home, we love the flowers.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    They're back.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    They're back.

    Jonathan, let's start with this — I love this term supply chain. So much attention this, bottlenecks. People can't get what they ordered on time. President Biden now trying to get his arms around this by telling the ports they have to stay open 24/7, or at least working with the ports to get that done and taking other steps.

    In the end, though, this is largely a private sector thing. It's an international phenomenon. Do the American people — do you think voters will get that?

  • Jonathan Capehart:



  • Jonathan Capehart:

    The short answer to that question is no, because you put your finger on it, Judy.

    The president of the United States doesn't have any control really over the economy, doesn't have any control over private industries and whether their shipments get in or get out. However, this becomes — this is always a political problem for the president of the United States, no matter who that person is, no matter what the party.

    But the problem for President Biden is going to be, he ran on competence. He ran on being the person, following a very chaotic presidency, that was going to bring — excuse me — order to politics, but also competency to executing the duties of the job.

    I know I just said that the president has no control over the economy. But that doesn't matter to the American people when their goods don't come in on time, or they can't find a job, or their wages aren't going up. They don't care about the intricacies of why that is. They care that the president of the United States said things would be better, and they're not better.

    That is the political problem that the president has here in all this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, how much of a headache is this for the president?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I think pretty significant.

    As Jonathan said, when people just judge the economy, they don't care what causes it. They are in a bad mood. And if they're in a bad mood because they can't get Christmas presents, they're going to — they're going to take it out on the politicians.

    The worrying thing for me is the inflation rate, is the inflation rate is much higher than many economists said. And it's in real estate. It's — rental is going up. Housing costs are just skyrocketing. And when you have rents going up, and you have wages going up as fast as they are, then that leads to long-term inflation.

    And the worry, for me, this whole supply chain problem is caused by supply and demand. There's incredible amounts of demand because people were locked down for a year-and-a-half, and there's not so much supply because the factories were shut and the ports were shut.

    And we now have huge demand. We're about probably, possibly, to spend another $3.5 trillion, pour that into the economy. That's going to further increase demand and possibly further increase inflationary pressures.

    And so for the people trying to pass this reconciliation bill and the infrastructure bill, it has to be a bit of concern that they're about to create even more inflation.

    And so I'm not sure Biden is to blame, but it does have some policy effect on how we talk about these gigantic bills.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And there are obviously — there is reporting that they're going to negotiate that number down.

    But, still, Jonathan, how — what are a president's options when it comes to something like inflation? I mean, you and David both agree there are limits to what a president can do. So what are the options?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I mean, I guess the option is to look at the Fed chairman and say, please do something to tamp the brakes as much as you can on inflation.

    But, look, to switch gears a little bit, I think that the administration is hoping, to pick up on what David was just talking about in terms of the 3.5 reconciliation bill, the president today said flat out, it's not going to be $3.5 trillion.

    A couple weeks ago, the signals were there that $3.5 trillion is not going to be the number, that it has to be lower, and that that's what's — the battle is going on in terms of the negotiations on this bill.

    Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, was on the with the "Pod Save America" guys, who she worked with during the Obama administration. And the key thing that she was talking about is urgency. These negotiations aren't going to go on forever. This must get passed.

    Today, on Washington post live, I interviewed the labor secretary, Marty Walsh, who also had the similar message, that the provisions of the Build Back Better Act are needed, and they are needed now.

    And when you're — when we're talking about supply chain disruptions, when we're talking about inflation, when we're talking about American families hurting, from the Biden administration's perspective, yes, they have no control over the economy, but on the things that they had do have control over, which is passing a reconciliation bill and an infrastructure bill…

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • Jonathan Capehart:

    … they want to get that done.

    And whether that adds to inflation or not remains to be seen, because there's no — there's no bill to talk about just yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How much does timing matter in all this, whether they get it passed you know, they're saying, we'd love to get it done by the end of October. People are saying that's just not realistic.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I don't think it matters that much.

    I mean, the inflationary worries are an argument for phasing in a lot of the things they want to do and make it a little slower, so you don't get this big burst of demand.

    One of the things that's really puzzled me for two years is, politics operates on the position that, if a politician does something for you, you reward him with support, him or her with support.

    Politicians over the last two years have poured $5 trillion into people's pockets. They have basically — not even basically — literally written them checks. And it has not helped the politicians at all.

    Donald Trump did not see his favorability approval when he was writing checks. Joe Biden did not see his favorability go up when he was writing them a check. So it's as if you can do great favors for people, and they don't reward you.

    And so I don't know how to explain this phenomenon, but it's unusual. And so it could be that political favorability is detached from what kind of services are being offered. Or it could be, which is I what I suspect, they will — the voters will punish you for bad things, they will not reward you for good things.

    And that's not a good position to be in if you're president of the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, talking about headaches that President Biden is dealing with right now, Jonathan, he's been arguing, pandemic still under way, companies need to mandate, as much as they can, employers need to mandate that people who work there take the vaccine.

    Getting a lot of pushback from Republicans, from Republican governors. Where do you see that battle going?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I'm just going to repeat what I have said on our air many times.

    It is reprehensible that Republican governors are standing in the way of public health officials from being able to help their states and their communities get a handle on this pandemic, the idea that a governor would stand in the way of private enterprise from being able to say to their employees, you know what, you need to have a mask, you need to — you need to get the vaccine if you want to continue working here.

    This is not supposed to be political. This is supposed to be about public health. And the sooner we get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic, the sooner all these things we have been talking about, unemployment, inflationary pressures, the need to have a reconciliation bill and an infrastructure building to get people back to work, won't be necessary.

    But when you have Republican governors, like Ron DeSantis in Florida or Governor Abbott, in Texas, doing these — doing these things, they are politicizing a public health emergency, and they're also slowing down the economic recovery that the people in their states desperately need.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it is political. It has become political.

  • David Brooks:


    And I agree. Reprehensible is a pretty good word for it. It's a philosophical bait and switch. There are some things that are matters of individual liberty, where you have — how you want to vote, how you want to dress.

    Some things are matters of communal health and safety. And a stop sign is a matter of communal health and safety. And this vaccination is a matter of communal health and safety. So, to say it's a matter of individual liberty is just not true. And it's — they're just making it so political.

    Second, we're learning that the people who are not taking the vaccine, most of them are not, like, adamant vaccine haters. They're hesitant. They have — they have got some underlying health issues, or they're just concerned, or they have low trust in the health care system, often for good historical reasons.

    And if you mandate it, it turns out they get the shot. And so The Times reported today United Airlines has 67,000 employees. They mandated. Only 232 said no. So, if you mandate it, it turns out it works. People get the shot, and that increases public health.

    So it's not like they're forcing people to do things. They're nudging them to do what's in the common good.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You're saying people themselves are not always motivated by politics…

  • David Brooks:

    Right. Well, they…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … as they…


  • David Brooks:

    They're — it's not like they're a bunch of Tucker Carlsons, saying, no, this is tyranny.

    They're — they have concerns. And if you nudge them, if you try to explain, if you have trusted people saying, no, the vaccine is safe, they will get the vaccine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jonathan, one — in the couple of minutes we have left, I want to turn you both back to the Virginia governor's race.

    We have talked about it a little bit before. This week, we had President Trump in Virginia at a rally again saying the 2020 election was stolen from him. But, among other things, he — the crowd was asked to pledge allegiance to a flag that flew over the United States Capitol on January the 6th.

    The Republican, Glenn Youngkin, didn't answer a question about it at the time, later said he thought it was it was the wrong thing to do. But where are we headed on this issue? Other Republican candidates may be asked to do the same thing.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I'm going to use the word I used earlier, reprehensible.

    Glenn Youngkin was not there. His running mate was there, but left before the program got started. But the fact that Glenn Youngkin did not automatically and vigorously denounce what happened at that rally is very concerning.

    Terry McAuliffe jumped on it right away, criticized him. I saw an ad this morning hammering him over this, and rightfully so. This is — sure, this is happening in the Virginia governor's race. But that video that you just showed and what it represents is more than Virginia. It is about our American democracy and how there are people out there who are wallowing in the big lie, pledging allegiance to flags that were flown over a rally that was part of the insurrection that sought to overturn a free and fair election in this country.

    That should not be a Democratic issue. That not should be a Republican issue. That should be an American issue. And Glenn Youngkin should have jumped out there immediately and said that that is wrong and I don't want any part of it. And yet he didn't.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just 30 seconds.

  • David Brooks:

    I give him a little more credit.

    When I read the transcript of when he was asked, it wasn't clear to me he understood the question was about — he might have thought the question was about a Pledge of Allegiance, not about January 6. I think, once he knew it was about January 6, he — then he said it was weird and wrong. And so I think he was clear.

    The question is whether voters in Virginia are going to vote on Donald Trump. My impression is, they're going to vote on the economy and COVID, the issues that directly affect them, not so much Donald Trump. But I could be wrong.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we will — we have a date certain when that election takes place. We will find out.

    David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

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