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Brooks and Capehart on Trump’s impeachment and Biden’s relief plan

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including President Trump’s historic impeachment, the fallout from the Capitol insurrection and President-elect Biden’s economic relief plan.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now, for the final Friday analysis of the Trump presidency, we turn to Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

    Hello to both of you on this Friday evening.

    So, David, it was just two Wednesdays ago that there was the attack on the Capitol. Five people died as a direct result of that, then, a week later, President Trump impeached, with only a few days left in office, impeached a second time.

    Was it the right thing to do?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, absolutely.

    The Yale political scientist Bryan Garsten made the point that our system depends on an equal branch of government, that the — we have an executive branch and we have a legislative branch. And the executive branch can't just go off inciting riots to take over the legislative branch.

    And that's more or less what just happened. And if that's not an impeachable offense, then nothing is. And so I think they were right to impeach.

    I have to say, emotionally, I feel, somehow, weirdly, that impeaching the president of the United States is still emotionally overshadowed by the events that happened on January 6 and by the turmoil that has been set off within families, within churches ever since.

    So, the impeachment happened, but we're still reeling as a nation in a way that seems to me somehow even larger than that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about that, Jonathan?

    What about the move to impeach and about where we are left as a country after January 6?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I think the move to impeach was necessary. It had to happen.

    We're reeling from it now. I agree with David. We are reeling from it now. But I think, when we read about this in the history books, that folks will see that it was a necessary thing, not just to hold President Trump accountable for inciting people to insurrection to try to overthrow the American government, but to send a signal to anyone who might come after Donald Trump to signal to them that, if you try to do the same thing, that there will be consequences.

    And then what this says about where we are as a country, Judy, I think we are in — I think we're at the beginning of the middle. This is not the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. What we are now about to talk about in this country is about deep fissures and deep pain within this country that's centered around race.

    It should not be lost on anyone that those insurrectionists going up into the Capitol were Boogaloo Boys, Proud Boys, but they were also white supremacists. And, most notably, the person who was carrying that Confederate Flag in the U.S. Capitol, the Confederate Flag, a traitorous flag, that person, thankfully, has been arrested.

    But what he represents, what that insurrection represents is something that we're going to have to talk about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, David, where do we go from here? I know that's a big question, but — and in particular, what about the Republican Party? You had 10 Republicans in the House, hardly — that's not very many, but it's more than certainly the last time the president was impeached.

    And you now have a Senate that seems to be open to an impeachment trial. Where does — where does the Republican Party head and the American people, still divided over what happened?

  • David Brooks:

    You know, I did a lot of reporting this week on the white evangelical church that has been so the backbone of Donald Trump's support.

    And you found some people really doubling down on Trump, saying it was all Antifa, et cetera, et cetera. You had a lot of people, the majority of people in the white evangelical church, saying, this is not what — how did this happen?

    John Hagee, a very Trumpy pastor in Texas, said, that was not patriotism. That was anarchy.

    And so what you're seeing — and a lot of people who have — who have made these comments against the marches, against Trump have received vicious backlashes. And so this is, in a way, a weird democracy in action, the Republican Party trying to figure itself out.

    And I happen to think the Republican Party is reasonably well-poised, postured to do decently politically over the next few years. But, meanwhile, half of the party is detached from reality.

    And so how they figure out — how you reattach people to reality, to facts, how you address the — what Jonathan talked about, the racial issue, the economic resentments, I have lost track of how these things are all separate. Somehow, race, extreme nationalism, Christian nationalism, it's all — economic anxieties — it's all become fused into one poisonous fiber.

    And that's hard for a party to expunge. But, somehow — we need two responsible parties, and that's part of the job.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jonathan, clearly, a lot to sort out here. And it's not just about the Republican Party, the people who are supporting Trump, but, surely, they are part of it, because they're going to figure out where they are now, where they stand now.

  • Jonathan Capehart:


    There are serious conversations that need to be had within the Republican Party and also within — among people, as David was talking about, who are conservative and who support the Republican Party and support their candidates and their leaders.

    I think one of the ways to remarry reality to a lot of the folks within the Republican Party is to have leaders within the Republican Party who start talking truth again, who start talking about what's really happening, doing away with the theater of outrage and all of that, but dealing with, OK, this is what the problems are, here's where we are as a country, and here is our solution, as a Republican Party, as conservatives, and have that argument based on — based in fact.

    And have that come from the number one leader within — elected leader within the Republican Party, which, right now — correct me if I'm wrong, David — is still Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on down.

    When we have leaders who speak truth to their constituents, that is when it takes hold. And, so far, within the Republican Party, that has just gone like that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, you want to pick up on that?

    I mean, what — I'm thinking, I'm wondering, what is it that Joe Biden is inheriting here as he steps into the presidency next Wednesday?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, our "NewsHour" friend Mike Gerson wrote George W. Bush's inaugural speech in 2001, and that was a bitterly divided election, if you remember 2000.

    But Mike went back and looked at that speech this week, and he said, I — we could still count on an underlying unity to the country, and we could appeal to that in the inauguration. And Mike said: I looked back on that speech, and it seems so naive now.

    And so it's a bitterly divided country.

    But the first thing Joe Biden needs to do is, he needs to show physically, materially, he cares about people who think they — he despises them. And so he's got this $1.9 trillion COVID relief. It's got unemployment insurance. It's got up to the $2,000 check. It's got a child tax — care tax credit.

    It's got all these physical manifestations of government saying, this is a hard time. I care about you. I'm helping you.

    I think, if those programs went out to red America, they would see that Joe Biden is not the doom of America, which they have — a lot of people have convinced themselves he is, but there's actually someone who can help you.

    And I do think that's the beginning of turning around. They're not going to listen, they're not going to attach to reality until they feel that somebody cares and sees and hears them. And these are — this has to be done physically, not just with words.

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes, I agree with that completely.

    And talk about a person who is the person for the time. I mean, if anything, if there is a word to describe president-elect Joe Biden, it is empathetic. I think it was the one thing — the one big attribute that he had that was his calling card in this election, that he was someone who, when he spoke and people looked at him, they felt in their bones that he felt in their bones whatever issue that was hurting them.

    He felt — he felt their pain. And it's in every speech, it's in every comment, it's in every — it'll be in every policy. And I think, if the Biden/Harris administration pushes forward and keeps empathy at the top of their agenda, at the top of what they have to say to the country, I think they will succeed in showing all of America that they care about them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, David, finally, is it a good thing for Joe Biden to begin his presidency, back to impeachment, with an impeachment trial in the Senate competing for attention and for time and everything, for that matter?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I completely support impeachment, think this is the right thing to do. I think it'd be a bad thing to have to trial in the Senate.

    Joe Biden has to pass that legislation. We just had a horrifying report 10 minutes ago on COVID. That was horrifying. And so we need to solve that problem. We need to pass this piece of legislation; $1.9 trillion is a very complicated piece of legislation.

    I think it's got a lot of things a lot of Republicans can support, a lot of things Joe Manchin of West Virginia can support. And so you can get — I think that bill can be supported, and we can get $1.9 trillion out the door to the American people, but it's not going to be an easy lift.

    And maybe, in — a Senate trial, A, takes up a lot of time. B, it'll stoke all the flames. The Republican Party will find it very easy just to go in opposition mode. I'd love to think that we can at least have a couple months of action before they go in opposition mode. And I'm afraid the trial will do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jonathan, what about that? Is a trial necessary?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes, it is necessary.

    And this is my first time disagreeing with my friend David.


    It is necessary, for what I said — the reason I said before, because of the message it would send to someone who might try what President Trump did in the future.

    People elect senators to come to Washington to do hard things. And over the last few cycles, what we have seen is a Senate that gets nothing done, unless it's confirming judges or voting on inconsequential legislation. They come here to do hard things.

    And there's nothing harder right now than holding a sitting president, soon-to-be-not sitting president, but to hold a chief executive responsible for very bad acts, but also to help a nation that is reeling from a global pandemic and then the subsequent economic implosion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, David, I'm going to give you the last word, unless you leave time for Jonathan again.

    What about the argument he's making, that this — this is something that country needs to do?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I just think we — our legislative capacities are not very high right now.

    And doing a pretty confrontational and violent — not a violent, but a confrontational impeachment, at the same time we're trying to pass a very complicated, and a lot of resistance legislation, I just think that's too heavy a lift from us.

    And so we have to choose, in my view. And I choose the COVID relief bill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Jonathan, you get 15 seconds.


  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I hear you, David.

    I just hope the Senate — I hope the Senate does both. They can do both.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks, we thank you both.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thank you, Judy.

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