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Brooks and Corn on Cuba as campaign issue, Jeb Bush on Islamic State blame

New York Times columnist David Brooks and David Corn of Mother Jones join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, why Jeb Bush is calling out the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton for the rise of the Islamic State, including how 2016 candidates are responding to renewed relations with Cuba, whether Hillary Clinton is losing ground in the 2016 race, plus the appeal of Donald Trump.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    That does bring us now to the analysis of Brooks and Corn. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine David Corn. He’s also a contributor to MSNBC. Mark Shields is away.

    And, gentlemen, welcome.

    So, Cuba, let’s — David, let’s talk about that, historic moment today. You already have Republican candidates, though, like Marco Rubio, we just heard from him, Jeb Bush, saying this is a big mistake by the Obama administration. Is this going to be an issue in the 2016 presidential race?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Not in the general. It will be in the primary.

    If you want to win a Republican primary, you have to be against — you have to be pro-embargo. That’s where the electorate is. But unlike all past elections, A, the Cuban-American population is not as big. They’re not the majority of Hispanics, even in Florida. And, second, this is one of those issues where generational change matters a lot.

    Older Cuban-Americans are very pro-embargo, the younger ones not much. And so among the population as a whole, it’s very evenly divided. And so I have trouble believing that it will be a big general election issue and that it will hurt Democrats, even in Florida.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How do you see it?

  • DAVID CORN:

    What is interesting is that Marco Rubio, who puts himself as the face for the future, fresh leadership, and going against Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton, is tied to the position of the past; 54 years hasn’t worked.

    And David is right. There has been a tremendous shift. If you look at the polling coming out of Florida International University, right now, a majority of all Cuban-Americans support Obama’s policy. And if you break it down by age, it’s overwhelming. It’s close to 60 percent for people who are the younger half of the population, or, interestingly enough, if you came here after 1980.

    So it’s really just the people who came here early and who are old, who may be Republican primary voters in certain places, who are holding onto the vestiges of this policy. But, otherwise, it’s going to the wayside.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, it’s not — even in the margins, you don’t see it making a difference?

  • DAVID CORN:

    No. If there is a competitive Florida primary at some point for the Republicans, yes, but in the general election, this is a looking-backward position. It’s a minority position. It won’t help any Republican in the general contest.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And in — and the primary, maybe Rubio has a little more credibility because he’s Cuban-American, but they all have the same position.

    It’s sort of an interesting race politically. I think we really could get down to the Florida primary between Bush and Rubio. And they’re polling kind of even. In the general election, neither are guaranteed to deliver Florida for the Republicans.

    One thing I didn’t learn until today, none of them, neither Rubio nor Bush, in all their races, they have never run in a presidential year. And the electorate in Florida is quite different obviously in a presidential year than it is in the years they have run.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, something else Jeb Bush brought up this week was — as an issue in the race was going after Hillary Clinton, blaming her and the Obama administration for — essentially for helping create ISIS.

    And he said that with the Obama administration did under her leadership as secretary of state was to leave an opening, pulling the troops out, he said, too early in 2011. Is this something, David Corn, that he can get some mileage?

  • DAVID CORN:

    I mean, I have to laugh a little bit, because I think he was setting a record for chutzpah.

    I mean, it wasn’t until after his brother’s invasion of Iraq that you had something called al-Qaida in Iraq. And that was the group that morphed into ISIS. So ISIS is a direct result of the war in Iraq right there. And so he’s wrong on the history.

    But then he said what happened was that Obama and Hillary Clinton orchestrated this quick withdrawal after everything was secure. Nothing was really secure in 2009-2010. You can ask Tom Ricks about that. But it was George W. Bush in December 2008 who created the agreement with Prime Minister Maliki that said that U.S. troops had to be out by 2011.

    And then Obama didn’t renegotiate that. And there is a lot of question as to whether he could even have, given the political situation in Baghdad itself. So Bush is totally — Jeb Bush is totally rewriting this. And my question is, why is he even talking about Iraq?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes. He wants to have an anti-terror foreign policy.

    I give him a little more credit, of course. I think the war did help create al-Qaida in Iraq. So, both parties have something to answer for. Ultimately, ISIS created ISIS. It wasn’t us, but allowing the environment — so the Bush administration, the failed war, that had a — some contributory factor.

    I do think that we abandoned Iraq too quickly, left too quickly, left a void in the Sunni areas, which ISIS was completely happy to fill. But more important — and this is a bigger indictment of the Obama administration — we did nothing about the Syrian civil war. And that created the biggest void.

    And that’s not necessarily Hillary Clinton’s fault because she was arguing for a more aggressive policy. Nonetheless, we did nothing. Even today, our attacks on ISIS are paltry, and we have continue to do nothing. And there are strategic issues. There are just moral issues.

    Today, my newspaper had a front-page story on just rape academies, this institutionalized rape. And the fact that we can stand by and do nothing while this is happening, to me, that’s an indictment of the sitting administration.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Extraordinary story. We interview the reporter, Rukmini Callimachi, last night. It is just such a disturbing story.

    But does he have a point, though, David?

  • DAVID CORN:

    I think you can have a policy dispute or debate, a discussion about what should be done, what has been done in the last three, four years regarding ISIS and Iraq.

    You can’t blame Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for giving us ISIS, which is what Jeb Bush did. And if he wants to get to brass tacks and talk about what he’s willing to do in terms of putting in troops and taking on targeting that hasn’t been done already — I mean, Barack Obama has mounted thousands of airstrikes.

    And the real question is, at the end of the day, can the U.S. go in and make a difference? We have learned with the invasion of Iraq that military might doesn’t always give us what we want in this region.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, let’s — his criticism was aimed at Hillary Clinton, which raises another question this week. She’s not only dealing with that, but, in a larger sense, she’s dealing the e-mails, her server now turned over to the FBI, questions about whether a couple of them were marked top secret.

    She’s now — she’s facing Bernie Sanders being ahead of her in the polls in New Hampshire, David. She — there is talk, there is serious talk about Joe Biden, Vice President Biden looking at running as a Democrat, and even a rumor today about Al Gore.

    What’s going on in the Democratic Party? Is Hillary Clinton more vulnerable than anybody thought?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Obviously.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And a lot of people thought it. A, she’s a good candidate. She’s not a fantastic candidate. She’s not creativity — creative — and imagination is really important when you’re running for office.

    But, to me, the biggest problem — and the joke is she carries more baggage than United Airlines. Just over the years, she’s accumulated all this stuff. And the e-mails are a reminder of that.

    The biggest problem for her is, she’s running in the wrong year. She is a dominant candidate. I still think she’s going to get the nomination because there’s no alternative. But she’s the establishment. She’s purely the establishment. This is a country where only three in 10 Americans think their views are represented in Washington. Only 29 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right place.

    This is a country especially wanting some sort of structural change, whether they know what that structural change is or not. And that’s especially true on the progressive side. And so she’s running against the prevailing winds of our current moment. And she can fight all she wants, but it’s going to be a fight because she’s in the wrong year.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Do you think she’s really more vulnerable?

  • DAVID CORN:

    Well, I don’t think she’s vulnerable in the sense that other Democratic nominees can take her out.

    I think Bernie Sanders can win New Hampshire, but often nominees lose some primaries going on. I find it hard to see how he — even if he does that, beats her in long run. I haven’t seen Martin O’Malley gain any traction. Al Gore’s office — he’s already shut down the office.

    Joe Biden could be a bit of the problem. But I know people close to him who have been talking about this. The consideration is real. It’s really happening.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    He really is talking about it?

  • DAVID CORN:

    But if you’re looking — there were two establishment front-running candidates in this presidential race. One is Hillary Clinton. And she is at pretty high in the polls, most standings, for Democrats in most places.

    And then there is Jeb Bush, who is 5 percent in Iowa. So, I mean, he is — I would rather be her than him at this point in time if you have to be an establishment front-running candidate.

    But the e-mail stuff, maybe it’s good that they’re litigating this early. But it does bring back at least what people in the political media world don’t — complain about the Clintons. I don’t know if that is going to be a pressing issue a year from now.

    And, you know, for her, I think it’s good if there is a lot of story going on about other races. It’s hard to be the center of attention for a year-and-a-half and give speeches and not do much else, and have people still feel good about you at the end of the race.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I mean, there is an argument, David, that if — to have all this talk and have the race roiling around a little bit, and then if she emerges victorious, she has accomplished more than if she’s just been the assumed person all along. What do you think?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    It’s better to be the Yankees than to be the Amazin’ Mets.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • DAVID CORN:

    Hey, hey, I like the Mets.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    That is something we have in common.

    But, listen, she just hasn’t — as I said, her party is riled up. They think there are big structural problems in the economy. Bernie Sanders speaks to that. She doesn’t yet. She’s trying, she’s catching up, but it doesn’t seem authentic to her. Is she really going to talk about inequality, given how cozy she’s been, how rich she’s been, the lifestyle?

    It’s just more of a challenge for her to side with where the energy of the party is. And I meet so many people…

  • DAVID CORN:

    Well, that happens in Democratic primaries.

    If you look at like Bill Clinton 1988 vs. Jerry Brown — John Kerry beat Howard Dean. John Kerry didn’t win ultimately. But, sometimes — with Barack Obama, he was in the sweet spot, right, where the energy and the passion of the party was. But that’s not always the person who gets the nomination and goes on to win or get a good shot at it.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes.

    No, I agree with that.

    I mean, she — Bernie Sanders has white progressives. The party is much more multiracial. And so he has got to limit — O’Malley made a good joke today that he has avoided the problem of peaking too early.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Which he has.

    So, she’s still — there’s still no alternative. And that’s why Jeb Bush is — he has got at least five real alternatives.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, speaking of a roiled-up party, Donald Trump has been dismissed by everybody from one end of the spectrum to the other, but he is just — David Corn, he seems to be just getting stronger.

  • DAVID CORN:

    Oh, yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    He’s going to Iowa. He’s landing in a helicopter at the Iowa State Fair tomorrow. He’s in the catbird seat, at least this weekend.

  • DAVID CORN:

    And I think will be for months to come.

    I think it was foolish to dismiss him, not because as him. He comes across as a reality TV tycoon buffoon. But the people who are, you know, attracted to him are a real important part of the Republican primary base. You know, a lot of Republicans still believe that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, that he’s some sort of secret socialist and secret Muslim who has a secret plan to destroy the United States.

    And they just really don’t like him. And so they want somebody who’s going to vent their fears, their frustrations, not someone who’s for good government with policies. And that bloc is anywhere between 10 percent and maybe 25 percent. And in a divided field, that gives Donald Trump, if he speaks to these people, yes, what he said, this outsized influence.

    I don’t think that bloc is going away, and Trump isn’t going away.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I agree Trump isn’t going away, but he’s not going to get votes. I think his voters are…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You think he’s not going to get votes…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I think much less than he polls. He will poll really well. I think he will hang around 20 forever.

    But he — his voters are what they call low-information voters, that is to say, people who don’t pay attention to politics. And this is a conservative party, and he is not a conservative. He’s against entitlement reform. He’s for a single-payer health care system. His ideology is not left/right. It’s winners and losers. And I’m a winner, and all those people up — that you don’t like and you feel alienated by, they’re a bunch of losers.

    And so it’s not a classic ideology. I think he will get it because — for the reasons I said it earlier. For the same reason Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are struggling, he’s rising. He’s at the moment where the country wants some sort of weird insurgency with a lot of ego. And that’s him.

    And so he’s at the moment of the times, but I don’t think those people are going to show up. And he will just hang around at 20 percent forever, but somebody will eventually beat him.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, we keep talking about him every Friday. So, we will see how long it lasts.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, he continues to be an incredibly gross human being.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    The comments about Megyn Kelly….

  • DAVID CORN:

    Well, you know…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    They get some comments.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right.

    David Brooks, David Corn, it’s good to have you with us.

  • DAVID CORN:

    Thank you, Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Thank you.

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