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Shields and Brooks discuss Clinton on voting rights, Republicans on Islamic State

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the 2016 candidacies of former Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Lincoln Chafee, former Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Lindsey Graham, why Hillary Clinton is talking about voting rights, whether Republicans have a better Islamic State strategy and Joe Biden’s personal loss.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who joins us from New Jersey.

    Gentlemen, it's good to have you both.

    2016, David, Mark, four candidates have entered the race just since the last time we were together.

    David, let's talk about the Democrats first. How does the addition of Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee affect the shape of the race? Size up their candidacies for us.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, Chafee seems a completely implausible candidate, but he does have one issue that he will raise, where he opposed the Iraq War. And so Hillary Clinton supported it.

    And it will be interesting to see how that plays out, whether it's significant. I think it's probably passed its sell date, at least in the Democratic primaries. But that's something she will have to talk about and defend again.

    Martin O'Malley is a plausible candidate. I'm of the belief that Hillary Clinton's major opponent is herself and that, if she is going to come down, it is going to be because of an error she made or some scandal or something like that, and nobody else can touch her.

    But if something does happen to her campaign, then he seems at least like a plausible president. He was a moderately successful governor of a pretty major state. And he presents well. And so he's more or less plan B as it stands right now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How do you see them, Mark?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I see that, first of all, Martin O'Malley, two-term governor of Maryland, and I would agree with David, a successful governor, and a liberal governor with appeal to many of the constituency groups that are active in Democratic presidential primary politics.

    He has advanced positions, progressive on same-sex marriage, on immigrant rights. And I think he presents a — he's very charismatic, he's appealing, he's a good speaker, plays the guitar.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I mean, he's got…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Important qualifications.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    You know, but he's got a certain bobby socks appeal. He's got a — he's a natural politician.

    But I think the threat he represents is, Judy, he, in his announcement, came out strongly against Wall Street and said, you don't get to pass the presidency back as some sort of a crown between two royal families. So, he put Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush in the same category.

    And, believe me, that is a popular line among people on both sides of the political…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So you think that could affect — could be a…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think — put it this way, Judy. At this point in — Bill Clinton was at 6 percent, in fifth place. Michael Dukakis was 21 point behind. Jimmy Carter didn't even register in the Gallup Poll for the entire year before he was nominated. Democrats like underdogs and dark horses.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, meanwhile, David, Hillary Clinton, the front-runner, is out talking this week about voting rights, naming her Republican challengers one by one. Is this a smart tactic?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes.

    First, can I note — Mark, did you say bobby socks appeal or…

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    He did.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I did. I did. I did say bobby socks.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    … are wearing bobby socks.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I was trying not to show that I recognized what he was talking about.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes. That's right.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    How about support hoses?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    … second baseman for the Red Sox.

    You know, I think Hillary Clinton, it's a good issue for her. It's an issue that mobilizes a lot of people, especially in the minority community. She's clearly trying to reorganize the Obama coalition. And to do that, she really has to get the — at least similar turnout levels among African-Americans, among Latinos.

    And so this is a good issue for her. I would say that it's still problematic in this one regard, that her last campaign suffered because it didn't have an overarching theme. It had a bunch of series of targeted policies toward specific constituencies. And sometimes you can pay so much attention to the polls and pick out this issue to get that — people and this issue to get that person, and that you lose an overarching theme.

    And I say, now that she's dropping in the polls kind of significantly now, at least for right now, that she needs some big, imaginative overarching theme to offer a new narrative, to counter the things that are dragging her down right now. And microtargeting in what looks like sort of a cynical way is not necessarily the way to get there.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I want to get to the Republicans, but what about this voting rights that Hillary is talking about?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think David is right. It works politically.

    But I think she's right on the issue, Judy. I mean, we talk about American exceptionalism. Our founding fathers limited the right to vote to white male property owners. Over the next 176 years, it was expanded to include free black slaves, male, and then eventually to women, and then eventually to African-Americans, and 18-year-olds, and we have expanded democracy.

    And one of the great frauds that Republicans have perpetrated over the past generation has been this idea of voter fraud, that people are showing up, 31 cases in 14 years, Judy, of people stealing identity or voting improperly.

    So, I think she's absolutely right. It is our responsibility to make voting available to as many people as possible who want to vote.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, maybe she can get some traction on that.

    Well, let's talk quickly about the Republicans, David. Former Governor Rick Perry threw his hat in the ring just yesterday, Lindsey Graham earlier this week.

    How do they change the shape of the race, what they're talking about?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, Lindsey Graham is a foreign policy candidate primarily, though he has been a very effective legislator. He is the kind of guy who can work across lines and can craft coalitions.

    And so it seems to make him a bit of a niche candidate to raise the foreign policy issue and maybe shape the debate. But it's hard to see him rising to the first tier. Rick Perry by resume should be in the first tier, but he ran such a bad race last time. I was going through my head trying to think of somebody who ran really a bad race and then suddenly emerged as a superstar next time.

    Candidates tend to get better. They don't get that much better. So, I have to remain as a skeptic. The one person who is sort of rising in the buzz sphere is Carly Fiorina, the former business executive who has never been elected really. But she's outperforming. She's getting good crowds. And so if there's any buzz on the Republican side right now, it's sort of with her at the moment.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I'm a Lindsey Graham fan. And I think Lindsey Graham comes with real credentials and real credibility, ISIS, foreign policy, national security. This is somebody who is long and deep in the — on this area. He's knowledgeable.

    You can disagree with his policies. And I do in many cases. But he's a real player. As far as people wanting bipartisanship, this is someone who voted for both Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to confirm them. He vs in immigration reform. He has stood constant for a path to citizenship and a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    On climate change.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes. And, no, I just — I think he's a grownup. John McCain calls him his illegitimate son because they're so close on national security. But I think Lindsey Graham, in this climate of concern about ISIS, is a real factor.

    Rick Perry, if he'd done this year what he did — had done four years ago in preparation and studying and all the rest of it, he's a natural politician. He's a very gifted one-on-one politician. And he has got a real story to tell. I mean, the Texas — whatever you say about Texas, and wages not being good or treatment of workers not being great, there are millions of jobs. It's created more jobs than anyplace in the country.

    So, do you get a second chance to make a first impression? That's his dilemma.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I do want to ask you both quickly about what Lindsey Graham — you both have made the point he's making foreign policy, national security the main thrust of the campaign.

    David, it raises the question, do the Republicans have a better idea, does anybody have a better idea what to do right now about the Middle East, about ISIS?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, well, nobody has a great solution.

    But I think Lindsey Graham has some solutions. And some of the Republicans have some others which personally I think are better than what's Obama is offering, first to give the Sunni tribes some arms directly. The central government in Baghdad has not given them anything. And so ISIS is pretty much free to take over. And sending a bunch of Iranian-backed Shia militia into the Sunni Triangle is not actually a great idea. And that's we, perversely, are doing.

    So, that's one improvement I think that could be made. Second, there are reports of ISIS convoys are just wandering unmolested across the battlefield, and so maybe stepping up some of the attacks. And then not putting American troops on the front line. Nobody wants to do that, but putting more trainers in there, a little more infrastructure in there would probably be helpful.

    I'm not sure these are great solutions, but I think the big solution is, let's try — let's not pretend that Sunni or Shia are going to govern together any time soon. Let's try to federalize the system. And so that's something that — these are in contrast to what's been happening in the last six and even the last 12 years. And a lot of Republicans are at least standing for — at least they have got an alternative. It's a plausible alternative.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It would be a big change, Mark, wouldn't it?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I'm not sure, Judy.

    I'm not sure the country is ready for a change. I'm not sure that there is a certain trumpet or even an uncertain trumpet being sounded by anybody in the race at this point. I think there's a limit on Americans' expectations of what we can achieve and a disappointment and a sense of disenchantment and a sense almost of tragedy of what has happened.

    At the same time, I don't see the plan, that we're going to send troops in when — how do we know when they have succeeded? How do we know when they come out? And, you know, I think arming Sunnis at this point, given the tension and the reality in Syria and in Iraq, is maybe helping ISIS, quite bluntly.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And we reported earlier in the show that the U.S. is finally sending weapons now to help the Iraqi army, something that I guess they were — the prime minister had been complaining about.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I want to ask you both about something we have watched all this week, and that is the vice president and his loss.

    We have just seen this striking outpouring, David, of sympathy for Joe Biden and the loss of his son Beau Biden. The funeral is tomorrow. What is it about this family and about the really extraordinary personal losses that the vice president has experienced?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, well, there are some people in Washington that people just like on the strength of their character and on the strength of their warm heart.

    Lindsey Graham — I agree with Mark — Lindsey Graham is one, but Joe Biden is certainly another. You could agree or disagree, but the man has an extraordinary, glowing heart. He's a wonderful guy, a decent human being and a man of genuineness.

    And I only met Beau Biden a few times, but he struck me as having some of the same qualities. He was a public servant, not a media hound at all. But when you met him in off-the-record setting, he was very warm, and glowing, and had a big handsome smile. And so people just sense, through all the maze of politics, just genuineness and a large heart. And that's what both Bidens, father and son, have and had.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I agree with David, Judy.

    I would just add this, that no parent ever wants to bury a child. And now, in Joe Biden's case, some 46 years apart, he's buried his second child, himself a father and a husband and with two children.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Lost his first wife.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Lost his first wife and his daughter in a tragic accident when he was 29 years old.

    And Joe Biden is a model for every male who is a father or aspires to be a father, widowed at the age of 29. He drove two hours each way back and forth to work to be home with his kids at night. And, as he put it recently at Yale: I did it because I needed my kids more than they needed me.

    And I would just add one little P.S. And that is, every year at Christmas, Joe Biden, who road Amtrak back and forth to Wilmington, threw a Christmas party for the workers who worked on the train, the engineers, the conductors, the people there.

    I mean, it just further example of what David said. He is a man of a warm heart, an open heart, generous heart. And I think the outpouring, especially on the president — the president has been more unguarded in his own feelings, I think, about — toward Beau Biden and to Joe.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And he will be speaking tomorrow at the services.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That's right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We thank you both, Mark Shields, David Brooks.

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