Support Intelligent, In-Depth, Trustworthy Journalism.
New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the plea deal cut between Robert Mueller and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s lack of a White House security clearance and the reaction to the Florida school shooting from students and political leadership.
Now to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.
And welcome to both of you on this Friday night.
Let's start, pick up I guess where we left off, David, listening to the last conversation about the Mueller investigation. There have been a flurry of indictments, some guilty pleas.
What does it all add up to right now?
I really have no idea.
We don't know — Gates is an interesting story because he did have access to the administration during the crucial period of the transition and during the campaign. And does he have some witnessing of collusion? I guess that's the million-dollar question.
I remain a skeptic about that just, because I think they're too incompetent to have colluded. But it could be. But the other interesting thing to me is how big this investigation is, 19 people they have brought charges on. And so where does that go when they hit Donald Trump?
Do they stay with Russia? Do they go to some of the broader financial issues that have been alleged with Deutsche Bank? To me, just the scope of the investigation is interesting because where it could go and for the increasing pressure it puts on the Trump psychology, because he seems to never be able to get out of feeling that pressure just coming down upon him.
What do you think it all…
Well, truer words were never spoken about the Trump psychology.
I mean, we saw it emerge over the weekend with the indictments you were talking about last Friday night of — not central to the Trump campaign, but involving the Russian interference. And he couldn't leave that alone, needed to blame it on his predecessor, needed to say that it showed no collusion, that they concluded no collusion, when they hadn't.
This latest set of indictments and guilty pleas with Manafort and Gates, I find extremely tantalizing, because I'm not quite as convinced as you are on the no collusion front. It sort of depends on the meaning of collusion, because what we know from these indictments is that these were people who were working very closely with Russian interests.
At the time they were working with the campaign, they felt themselves — it's incredible to anybody who reads about the amount of money they were making, but they were in financial straits. They needed money to support their incredibly lavish lifestyles.
This is Manafort and Gates.
Manafort and Gates.
And so we know things happened. We know there were contacts with Russians. We know that there were changes in the platform regarding Ukraine. So, was there collusion that might have fallen short of President Trump? I don't know.
But I know that there is, like, this submarine of the Mueller investigation that just keeps plowing forward. We don't see where it's going until it decides to surface.
How much, David, is it affecting what the president's able to do? He brings it up. He tweets about it. He brings up Obama, blames him for not pursuing this investigation.
I should say I'm not convinced of anything. I really don't know.
But it's clearly having an intense psychological effect on the administration, as it does on even on — even on a normal administration under investigation, you don't know who's about to turn, you don't know which conversation you had months ago is about to get you into trouble, you're thinking about hiring lawyers.
This is an administration that's already not an happy place to live. It just ratchets up that pressure. And that is a normal administration. In an administration where a man is at the top who is — I'm trying to think of polite words — volatile in the face of pressure, I think it makes it extremely miserable to be there.
And, Ruth, the story that came out in your newspaper late this afternoon about the security clearance, the president's son-in-law.
He's been in office over a year. There still is no security clearance for Jared Kushner.
He's been in office over a year, and he has had access throughout that time, according to my newspaper, to the most sensitive information available, the president's daily briefing, which would require, you know, the highest level of security clearance.
This is another one of those, you don't — it's hard to precisely know from the outside what it is that's holding this up. We do know that he has repeatedly had to amend his disclosure forms and come up with more meetings that he hadn't remembered previously.
But, to me, this just underlines the degree to which basically Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump just have no business being in the White House. It is a bad idea. They brought no special expertise. All they brought to it was their personal relationship with the president.
And no other person — well, we did have Rob Porter, with his security clearance going on, but it's hard to imagine another individual with this level of problems with a security clearance being allowed to stay there for so long.
And my guess is that his problems with obtaining a security clearance and having to keep that interim status kind of skewed the decision-making for others, because how can you question others' interim status if Jared Kushner is allowed to keep his?
Well, meantime, what this story was pushed aside by was the terrible tragedy of last week.
David, it's now been, what, over a week since the Florida school shooting. Emotions are still running high.
What do you make, at this point, of the reaction from our political leadership and, frankly, of the students who have been so outspoken?
So, to me, the question is, what kind of pressure leads to change?
We have seen from the students much more pressure than — and from the country than in any of the previous shootings. So will the boiling bit of rage and outrage and the passion, will that bowl legislators over and lead to some sort of change?
It could be. We're just in uncharted territory. I remain skeptical. Since Sandy Hook, we have had more than two dozen states have passed gun legislation. And in almost every single case, it's been to make access to guns easier, not harder. And, now, why is that?
First — and because imposing restrictions is super popular — 70 percent support some kind of restriction. That's because most legislatures are held by Republicans. And the second reason is, the gun issue is not about guns. It's become sort of a proxy in a culture war.
And a lot of people who are on the gun side feel, this is not really about the guns. It's the elitists who want to crush our culture.
And so they put a wall down and say no compromise at all. And so, to me, the way to move forward is, let's depressurize this and let's say, we're not trying to take your guns. We just want a few things.
And that way, you can separate a lot of Republicans from the NRA and actually get some concrete things done. But, instead, we're seeing the exact opposite. We're seeing a rising of passion, a rising of rage, and sort of a national frenzy on both sides over this, which, to me, makes it much, much less likely we are going to get something done.
But, Ruth, this passion, this rage is very real on the part of these students and others.
It's very real. It's very powerful. It will be very interesting to see the difference that it could make.
I share David's skepticism on that, in part, because I remember sitting with the Sandy Hook moms and thinking that there could be no powerful story. I sat with them a day before they failed to get the votes to stop the filibuster of a very mild measure to close the gun show background check loophole. They were not able to do that.
If — I love these students. I'm so impressed by them. If those moms couldn't do it and the grieving dads, I'm not sure that these students can.
On the other hand, I just — I need to take issue with something that you said, David, which is, I agree with you that turning this into a culture war and letting people yell that we're going to be taking their guns, people are trying to take their guns is a bad idea.
That is not what has been happening in the gun debate over the last 10 years. What's been happening is an effort to do very minor things, like closing the background check loophole, like reinstating the assault weapons ban, like even these bump stocks that we weren't able to do after the last Las Vegas shooting.
And thing that's so frustrating and infuriating is that, in our political system, even that has been very difficult to do.
What about that?
Well, I would say, first of all, there's a long history of this debate.
The NRA did a horrible thing by turning to an absolutist position. They started the culture war. And then I think there has been a series of attacks, sometimes unheard by the people who are making them, but deeply heard certainly on my Twitter feed, by people who think, they're just out to get us.
So, just take, for example, the CNN town hall. I was just following it on Twitter because I didn't have access to a TV. There were two moments when the right side of my Twitter feed totally exploded. The first was when Marco Rubio was accused of being like a mass killer. And people thought that was outrageous on one side.
The second, where Rubio said, it's not like we want to take away all our guns, and the crowd applauded at that moment.
And one of the valuable argument that those of us who want to control guns have made is, no, we don't want to take all of our guns. We just want to do these few practical things.
And then the right side of my Twitter feed took a look at the applause and said, see, they're lying. They want to take all of our guns away.
And I saw — you could see the walls shutting down and any chance of reasonable debate shutting down. And I don't mean to say the attacks and the over-the-top passion is all on the left. That's certainly not the case, but it has become a very roiling culture war, in a way that I don't think is just healthy for an argument where 70 percent of the country is on one side.
But, at some point, the passion will at least — will subside a little, Ruth.
Will there be the will to get something done? Yes, there's going to be passion that is going to continue. These young people are saying, we are sticking with this.
Well, I think the interesting thing has been that the passion in terms of passion translating into political power, which is at the voting booth, the passion in the debate for many years has been on the right, on the pro-gun side.
The question is whether we are now seeing an emergence, and maybe fueled by younger voters, maybe fueled by first-time voters, of an equivalent passion on the left, because as much as the gun control side talks about the economic power of the National Rifle Association and urges people to stop taking their donations, it's not the economic power.
It's the mobilization power. They need equal mobilization on the other side. Maybe this is the time.
And we haven't — and Ruth's right, David. I mean, we haven't seen that. The passion has mainly been on the right.
Yes, I have been talking to college students this week. And I asked them about how they see their generation.
And a couple of students were trying to define their generation. And they said, you know, we're the school shooting generation.
And that struck me as interesting. So, if it's become so a large part of their consciousness, maybe it does rise to the level that people who are on the more controlling side want to — will vote on it. It has not been the case really so far.
That's pretty awful, isn't it, to think that these young people think they're the school shooting generation.
And they are. I mean, the numbers tell us that they're right.
And I have to sort of segue here, if you don't mind, into President Trump's idea to solve this problem…
To arm teachers.
… by arming teachers.
When Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association said this in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, it was treated as NRA lunacy. Now we're getting the same — and I'm sorry, it's a lunatic idea — from the president of the United States.
There could not be a worse idea for stopping another generation of the school shooting generation.
A thought on arming teachers?
Totally agree. It's a demented idea.
I mean, aside from everything else, the dangers of it, just think of how it changes the student-teacher relationship to see them packing a gun. It's truly demented.
There are a lot of good ideas that have surfaced, raising the minimum wage, putting some more control…
You said wage.
Oh, I'm really turning left.
We know what you meant.
I'm so left-wing.
But, so there are a lot of good ideas that have come up.
That's the opposite of one.
Well, they're talking about it. So, we will see.
David Brooks, Ruth Marcus, thank you both.
Watch the Full Episode
Support Provided By:
Support PBS NewsHour:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Additional Support Provided By: