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David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart on Kenosha politics, Trump and the military

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including visits to Kenosha, Wisconsin, by President Trump and Joe Biden and how their responses to social unrest have differed, developments in the fight against COVID-19 and alleged remarks by Trump disparaging U.S. military personnel.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now it's time for the political analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart. Mark Shields is away.

    So, hello to both of you on this Friday night.

    I want to start with something both candidates did. They went to a city, David, that is — where people are truly in anguish over the shooting of a Black man. His name is Jacob Blake. It is Kenosha, Wisconsin.

    We saw both of them go, make statements. What did you make, David, of their different approaches?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, they were both very true to their core mission, what they have been running on, especially this year, but maybe since the beginning of their political careers.

    Donald Trump has been running on a sense of menace, a sense that there is a lot of danger out there in the world and that he is the one to restore order. And so the keystone of his visit was the image of him standing behind — in front of a burned-out buildings, and he wants to convey that message.

    Joe Biden has run as a uniter. And so he went to speak to the Blake family. He pleased them very much with his sensitivity of what they were going through.

    And you would have to say the evidence so far is that the law and order campaign that Trump has been running since the convention has not shown much impact on the polls. He is still down seven or eight points.

    If you ask people on a whole range of measures which candidate makes you feel safe, Biden wins on — any way you ask that question, Biden wins. If you ask people, is Donald Trump making it worse, 55 percent say Donald Trump is making it worse.

    So, the law and order message, at least so far, and as expressed through Kenosha, not working.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jonathan, how did you see this?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, Judy, I look at it as — at the two trips like this.

    One was a political — both were political trips, but one was political; the other was presidential.

    President Trump's trip was strictly political. To David's point, it was all about law and order. It was all about stoking fear, white grievance, white fear of Black people, standing with law enforcement, which, on its face, is not — is not wrong or bad or problematic, but in a city where a 17-year-old shot — allegedly shot at three people, killed two of them, and those same police officers rolled right by him, the president has had nothing but good things to say about that person, who was part of a militia, right-wing militia.

    And so the president goes to Kenosha to buttress that.

    Joe Biden, on the other hand, I think, did a presidential trip. He went to the Kenosha community to meet with the community, met with the Blake family, apparently talked with Jacob Blake. But the community meeting he did at a local church, where he heard from all sorts of folks from the community, was him sitting, listening, responding in kind.

    And a young woman, Porsche Bennett, who decided not to read the list of demands from her organization, but instead decided to talk from the heart, and talk to Vice President Biden about how — quote — "heavily angry" she and her community are about not being treated fairly, and the way Joe Biden responded to that, I think, was sort of a balm over the entire situation, because, in situations that happen, as have happened in Kenosha, people look to the president for calm, for leadership.

    They got that from Joe Biden. But Joe Biden isn't the president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we — both candidates during this past week have released TV ads that address racial unrest, address protests around the police.

    Here is just a short clip from each one.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. It's lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted.

    Fires are burning, and we have a president who fans the flames. He can't stop the violence, because, for years, he's fomented it.

  • Narrator:

    Lawless criminals terrorize Kenosha. Joe Biden takes a knee. Biden and the radical left's weak response has led to chaos and violence, and their calls for defunding police would make it worse.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, what are these messages telling you?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, Biden did something he — his party failed to do during the convention, which was to acknowledge there is disorder in the country, crime really is rising, and there has been rioting and looting. It is not the mainstream of the protests, but it has been an element of the protest.

    Maybe about 8 percent of the protests have turned violent. That is still a lot and it's still on people's minds.

    And so, with that speech and then the ad they have cut out of it, he is acknowledging that, and he is making it a clear statement, which we talked about last week, of setting a boundary that rioting and looting are not protesting, and that he is going crack down on that.

    And that was acknowledging a real flaw in the Democratic approach at the convention, where they just didn't see that reality. And so I think he helped himself.

    I mean, his team — the downside of his team is, they are really experienced. They have been a part of the Democratic Party for a long time. The upside of his team is, they are really experienced and they know how to run a campaign.

    And so I think they have run a very effective campaign straight through. And it showed again this week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jonathan, does that ad help Joe Biden?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I think that ad helps Joe Biden, because he makes a clear line, which is obvious to folks on the ground, that there is a distinct difference between the peaceful protesters, who are out there wanting their voices heard about what happened to Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officers.

    That young woman I just mentioned, Porsche Bennett, she even in her remarks said she was there speaking not for the protest — not for the rioters and the looters. No, she is there speaking on behalf of the protesters, who want equity.

    And I do think it — I agree with David. It is important and good that Vice President Biden put that ad out there and made it clear that he draws a line and a distinction.

    And I don't think he is reacting to President Trump, as much as he is reflecting the reality on the ground and the reality as the protesters see it. They are not part of the rioters or the looters either.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Two other quick things I want to ask you both about.

    And, one, David, has to do with several announcements from the administration in recent days about rapid testing for COVID, the president talking about we are going to have a vaccine this fall, maybe in October.

    Is all this likely to be effective in changing the minds of voters who are skeptical about his leadership or just don't know what to think?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, willing a vaccine into existence like a week before the election, probably not going to work. That's not the way science works.

    But I have to give the administration some credit on the rapid testing. And Abbott Labs apparently come with a breakthrough that gives you a chance to do testing fast. And the administration has poured a lot of money toward that, to get 150 million of these tests.

    And for all the flaws of the administration's COVID response, they have done a decent job of pouring money, both toward a vaccine and toward testing.

    And so I give them some credit at that. The — from what I understand of this test, it's not the ultimate solution for a testing. You want to be able to test at home and et cetera. But if we could do rapid testing, you could test as people go into schools and conferences and buildings.

    If that could be effective, that is a step back toward normalcy. And I have to give them some credit where credit is due. They have put a lot of money into this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Clearly, everybody wants vaccine as soon as possible.

    Jonathan, what about the political effects of this?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, what is unfortunate about what the administration is doing — I mean, great on the rapid testing.

    A vaccine coming before the election, not so sure about that. But it seems that all of these moves are being made not because of compassion for the sick and for the infected and for those who died, but as a political maneuver, to shore up a political problem that the president has.

    He has not been handling the response to the coronavirus pandemic well at all. And I think what the American people have been looking for is, where is the national plan? What are you doing to safeguard our health, but, by extension, safeguard our livelihoods?

    Because the pandemic has hit us in our health, but it also is hitting us in the pocketbook and our livelihoods.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally to both of you, this article that raised a lot of eyebrows that has just come out in "The Atlantic" overnight.

    David, Jeffrey Goldberg reporting from anonymous sources, but, in his words, credible sources, that the president used words like suckers and losers over the course of his presidency talking about people who served in the military, people who died in war.

    He's — the White House completely denies this. Do you see something like this having an effect?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I mean, A, Jeffrey Goldberg has had a whole series of scoops coming out of the Pentagon and the Defense Department in administrations going back for decades now. So, he's a high-credibility journalist.

    This story has now been confirmed by several other news organizations, including FOX News.

    And so we can fully expect that he — he did call — he dishonored the war dead by calling them losers and suckers. And it is no so far out of reach of what he's said in public about John McCain and others. So, I find it completely credible.

    And that the idea that a guy who is offended by Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, he says that dishonors the country, but calling the war dead losers, that is an absurdity.

    And so people are rightly offended. I mean, we get offended by this guy on an hourly basis, but this is an offense that goes to the core of the conservative value system, the military value system.

    And what has been shocking to me this year is, already, even before this happens, according to surveys of active military personnel, they were already for Biden, which is extremely rare, for the active military to be for Democrats.

    And so he was already in trouble with this group, and it has got to trouble everybody who is in and out of uniform.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jonathan, what are you thinking about this?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    It — I didn't think I could be shocked anymore, particularly since Charlottesville, about what the president says or thinks about things or individuals.

    I was horrified by what I read attributed the president of the United States, where Jeffrey Goldberg got basically — on four sources. And the fact that, to David's point, that it has been corroborated by other news organizations, including my own, The Washington Post, tells you something.

    And it is shameful. But I think what is even more shameful is the silence from Republican leaders around the nation and on — and from Capitol Hill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tough subject, tough — tough everything right now. It is hard to think of something uplifting.

    But we appreciate both of you. Thank you for being here. Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks, thank you.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

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