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Shields and Brooks on Bolton’s book claims, Juneteenth amid racial unrest

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including major Supreme Court decisions on LGBTQ employment protections and DACA, the claims from John Bolton’s new book about President Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders and whether Joe Biden will pick a woman of color as his running mate.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Hello to both of you. So much to talk about this week. I guess that's the way it always is lately.

    But, Mark, let's start with these two big Supreme Court rulings this week. Yesterday, the court ruled in favor of young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally. Earlier in the week, they — the ruling was in favor of LGBTQ rights, saying that they were covered under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    In both cases, one or more of the more conservative justices sided with the liberals. The president responded by saying he wants new justices on the court. I guess my question is, what do these rulings say about the court? And is it in step with the country?

  • Mark Shields:

    I think the court is in step with the country, Judy.

    Ironically, the LGBTQ decision was a historical imperative from the 164 Civil Rights Act, when Judge Howard Smith, a segregationist from Virginia, chairman of the Rules Committee, inserted, after color, race, creed and national origin in the civil rights bill, sex, and hoping to submarine the bill, sabotage it.

    But it sailed through with sex there, and that was where, of course, Justice Gorsuch found the justification for changing the absolutely contradictory ruling that had been prevalent in the United States that a couple could get married on a Sunday legally, same-sex, and the bride or the groom could be fired on Monday for having been married, revealed to be an LGBTQ, a member of that community.

    So I think, in that sense, there was almost an important — a historical direction to it.

    And, as far as — I do not understand Donald Trump on the question of DACA, of children who came here, who were brought here without their will, not even involved in their will, raised, have gone on to college, have served in the United States Marine Corps or the United States Army, have no criminal record.

    Somewhere between seven out of 10 and eight out of 10 Americans believe those people should remain in the country. I don't know where he sees the mean streak in the American electorate that wants these people, who have only lived in the United States, who have served their country, and who are abiding by good citizenship rules, to be exported, and to a country and culture they do not know.

    And I just think he's on the losing side of this issue in public opinion and on justice and decency.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, what about these two cases? What do they say?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, when you don't have a functional Congress, then the power of the branch of government that is actually functioning is going to take control.

    And that's sort of what's happened here. As Mark said, both in DACA and the LGBTQ case, overwhelming majorities, 80 percent, 70 percent, think it's a terrible idea to be able to fire somebody on the basis of their sexual orientation. They support DACA.

    And Congress is unable to act, when you have got gigantic majorities. And so the Supreme Court acted. I'm not sure it was judicial, what they did. It looks a little legislative to me, if you look at the decisions.

    But the country moves with the people. And the people have moved on both these issues. And the court is now the only functioning branch of government we have.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the president saying on the young immigrants that they're going to try to come up with new language, but remains to be seen whether they can do that.

    Mark, another piece of bad news the president got this week came in the form of John Bolton's book, his former national security adviser, the title of the book, in — "The Room Where It Happened," and that's a lot of what's in the book, embarrassing for the president, saying that he asked the Chinese leader to help him with his reelection, that he didn't know Norway wasn't part of Russia, and just a lot more.

    The White House denying it all. But how much of this is damaging, Mark, do you think, to the president, and what does it say about John Bolton?

  • Mark Shields:

    What it says about John Bolton is, you can him a truth-teller. You can call it a snitch or a rat fink. You really can't call him a patriot.

    I mean, John Bolton, obviously, in reading this book, or looking at it, has concluded that Donald Trump is intellectually unqualified, morally bankrupt, and ethically handicapped.

    But he refused to testify, did not volunteer to testify at the impeachment hearing, and — this past February, very kind of artfully skirted around it.

    I think it could come back to bite some of the Republicans who voted against witnesses, Joni Ernst and Steve Daines and Thom Tillis and Lindsey Graham, who voted against witnesses, given this. His testimony then might very well have fallen into a partisan maw and just been chewed up.

    But now it's the center. And I would say the first person that owes us an apology is the University of Pennsylvania for turning out a graduate who did not know that Finland was not part of Russia, did not know that the third nation in the world to get the nuclear power was the United Kingdom, some 64 years before he was elected.

    So, I think, in that sense — but the point you raised, Judy, is the key one, and that is China, that — going to run against Joe Biden on China, that Joe Biden was too chummy to China? And what John Bolton tells us is that Donald Trump was asking China to give him a hand in the reelection by buying soybeans, so it would help him get reelected, and had no qualms at all, gave a moral green light to the millions Uyghurs, Muslims in China being put into concentration camps.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm glad you corrected me, Mark. I met Finland. I said Norway, but it was Finland that the president was — asked about whether it was part of Russia.

    But, David, what about the book? What does it say about the president? Does it change opinions of the president?

  • David Brooks:

    I don't think it really changes our opinion.

    I mean, he uses the office for personal gain. I think that's the portrait that gets — we get from the whole book, certainly get from the excerpts. And that's the definition of corruption, not using the office to serve the public good, but to serve Donald Trump's good.

    I think, if he had said — the one thing, the story that stuck out that I did not know about was the tele — the Chinese telecom company GTE — or ZTE, which, apparently, Trump offered to give them a break on the investigation of their apparent breakage of the Iran blockade.

    And Trump said: I could go light on that investigation.

    And that's true corruption. That's what a president is not supposed to do. If Bolton had come out with that story in the middle of the impeachment process, it would have been a gigantic story. Would it have ended in impeachment? I doubt it. But it would have been a very big story, and we wouldn't know a lot more about what exactly happened.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I want to come back with both of you to the — so much discussion in the country lately about race relations, treatment of Black Americans.

    That had a lot to do, I'm sure, with Amy Klobuchar's statement last night in a TV interview, Mark, that she wanted to be taken out of the running. I guess she had called Vice President Biden earlier. She wanted to be taken out of the running to be his vice presidential running mate, then saying she's urging him to choose an African American woman.

    How much pressure is on Joe Biden to choose a woman of color?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, the pressure on Joe Biden is self-administered.

    He volunteered, of course, he was going to pick a woman in an unpressured debate situation with Bernie Sanders. So, there he is. And, obviously, events have given greater impetus and support to a woman of color joining the ticket.

    I'd say this, Judy. The polls are not unimportant. The wider the gap between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and if it does continue to widen in the polls between now and the 1st of August, it gives him a lot more latitude on whom he chooses.

    Most decisions for vice president are made on who can help me. I need that help. But I would say right now that the chances of a woman — a woman of color being chosen are pretty good.

    One leading Democrat said to me this week, "I wish he could choose Elizabeth Warren."

    And I — "Why?"

    And he said: "Well, because Elizabeth Warren in 10 minutes took $350 million of Mike Bloomberg and a public career of distinguished achievements and reduced it to rubble, in 10 minutes. And what she would do to Mike Pence, the Humane Society would have to intervene to stop the carnage."

    But the problem is that you want Elizabeth Warren there on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. And I guess that's the dilemma to some degree that Joe Biden faces.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Referring back to how she handled Mike Bloomberg during the primary debates.

    But, David, what about Joe Biden and his coming decision, whenever it comes?

  • David Brooks:


    Well, first of all, I think it's unfortunate that, if you were a prosecutor, that's now a problem to be the Democratic nominee — to be a nominee for vice president. And that's true of Amy Klobuchar or Kamala Harris. Being a prosecutor is a necessary and a noble public function.

    And I don't think it was — it turned out to be a negative for her. And I think that's unfortunate.

    If I'm Joe Biden, I don't think the vice presidential pick matters that much in getting elected or not elected. What it really matters is in governing. He needs someone who can help him govern. He needs someone who can make sure that there is no gigantic civil war between moderates and people on the left within his administration.

    He needs somebody who maybe can take over on a moment's notice. And so I would focus on that. Now, are there women color who can do that? Obviously. Maybe Mayor Bottoms. I don't know. I think there's a — there's a lot of people who could fit that bill.

    And so I think he has a lot of great options. But I just would say it's about governing, not about running.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, of course, a lot of people bring up the point that, if Joe Biden's elected, he would be the oldest person ever to occupy or ever to take office as president of the United States.

    We have only got about a minute, so just in a few seconds to both of you.

    Juneteenth, Mark, it's a day we were aware of, but now, in a way, never before. What does it say about this country, in just a few seconds?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, Judy, it's remarkable.

    I mean, if you think of January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation, and then two-and-a-half years later, the word finally gets, after some two-and-a-half months after the end of the war, gets to Galveston, Texas, that slavery is abolished, its end, in one day.

    I mean, what a remarkable transformation, and what a day to celebrate. And I just — I think our dawning awareness of it is important. And I think it ought to be nationally institutionalized. And it's a positive, it really is, that we do fulfill the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, in just a few seconds.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I'm struck by, for many decades, the pioneer experience was the defining American experience. And then the immigrant experience was the defining American experience.

    Now the struggle for racial justice is the defining American experience. And it's natural that a holiday about that rises in prominence.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Today is Juneteenth.

    And we thank both of you, Mark Shields, David Brooks. We will see you next Friday.

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