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Shields and Brooks on impeachment public opinion, shifting 2020 Democratic race

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including public opinion and legal debate in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, the shifting race among 2020 Democrats and what we’re thankful for during this holiday week.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now here to analyze the politics of this Thanksgiving week, as always, are Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Hello to both of you.

  • Mark Shields:

    Hi, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, the impeachment process, we are seeing the Judiciary Committee marching ahead, David.

    There's a hearing next week where they are going to talk to constitutional scholars about impeachment. The committee sent a letter to the White House saying the president has until next Friday to say whether he's going to call witnesses and provide evidence.

    Meantime, the president is out on the campaign trail saying the whole thing is a witch-hunt, and he's not going to cooperate.

    And is he making some progress, because we're seeing the polls show some slipping in support for impeachment?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, especially in swing states.

    And so I think the contrast for the coming week will be that the Democrats will be ever more treating this like a legal matter, and Donald Trump will be ever more treating it like a political matter, and them trying to close it in on the exact events and him trying to widen it, see, this is just what they have been doing at me. They have been — this is an attack on you.

    And they will both win. And the impeachment now numbers are just like every other numbers in our politics, completely divided right down the middle, and with nobody moving on either side.

    And so I suspect Trump will see this as a tremendous way to get his base, and Democrats will see the same way. And we will march forward. And eventually it'll end. And then we will turn our attention the Democratic Party, and I'm not sure what will have been achieved.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    His best defense, go out and call it a witch-hunt?

  • Mark Shields:

    David is such a Pollyanna.

    Look, Judy, I think continues to slide is just a little bit of an overstatement.

    If you think — compare this to Watergate, it took 26 months after the break-in at Watergate, 14 months of hearings, to get to the point where we are now with Richard Nixon. That was the summer of 1974, one month before he resigned, to the point we are with Donald Trump right now.

    And as far as — I mean, you can look at all the polls. Ipsos does it — has done six since the end of October. It's gone from 47 percent in favor of impeachment, to 41 against, to 47 percent in favor of impeachment, 41 — 40 against. I mean, it's been next to — next to no movement.

    I just I just think that we have, quite frankly, is early stages. And we're very much in the early stages. And I think for us to rush — Jeff Horwitt, the Democratic pollster who does The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll with Bill McInturff, the Republican, compares it, the impeachment and conviction in the Senate, as to the criminal part of a trial.

    And the civil — the civil trial will be the election of 2020. Donald Trump may very well be not guilty in the criminal part, but, right now, he's in just terrible, terrible shape looking at November 2020.

    Have 47 — 6 percent of Americans who say they would vote for anybody except Donald Trump. And 34 percent say they will vote for Donald Trump, regardless of who runs against him.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes.

  • Mark Shields:

    So, I mean, he's really just in worse shape than any incumbent in my lifetime.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So are you saying — and I'm going to turn to David on this. Are you saying that this is not about impeaching him and removing him from office by the Congress, but doing it — but damaging him enough so that it happens at the polls next November?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, that's not the way it's supposed to be.

  • Mark Shields:

    No.

  • David Brooks:

    It's supposed to be a legal thing to see if he did high crimes and misdemeanors.

    I don't — I agree, I think Donald Trump is in serious trouble, more than — more than most of my Democratic friends do. That having said, in swing states, The Times had a poll that gave everybody anxiety on the Democratic side about two weeks ago showing Trump winning all these swing states.

    And we have, surprisingly, shockingly little data on how he's doing in swing states or how impeachment is doing in swing states. The one thing we do have is a poll that Marquette did in Wisconsin, which was 40 percent support, 55 percent oppose.

    And so if that's the way the swing states are reacting, then that's not a good thing, because this is not going to be about looking at how the whole country views this. This is about how those swing voters are viewing it.

    And whether the Democrats want to go and do Watergate style or Watergate length set of hearings, it seems to me that's highly problematic.

    I think there's a case, as we discussed last week for bringing in Mike Pompeo, and trying to ask him some questions. But the Democrats so far seem loath to do this because they want to rush this thing. And so that — that's just a big philosophical difference. Do they go big and try to engineer that, or do they say, let's just get this over with?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The calendar is working against them, isn't it, Mark?

  • Mark Shields:

    The calendar — the calendar is the calendar. I mean, it's a reality. We're in dual realities, that the nominating process is going.

    But you're talking about Donald Trump's counteroffensive. And I think the worst mistake that the Democrats could make is to look for a Democratic Donald Trump, I mean, somebody who can go toe to toe with them in insult to insult with him.

    American voters, after a president lets them down and disappoints, go looking for the exact opposite of what was missing. They went after George Bush and sort of the off-the-cuff anti-intellectualism. They sought the cerebral, almost removed presence of a Barack Obama.

    After Watergate and Vietnam and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and all that experience, they wanted the outsider, Jimmy Carter. And I don't think they want more of somebody who can go elbow to elbow and insult to insult.

    I think, quite frankly, that's the appeal of Pete Buttigieg, is that he lowers the temperature, he lowers the thermostat, he lowers the rhetoric. He is — he's the Mr. Rogers of this campaign.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Whoa.

  • Mark Shields:

    And I say that in the most — in the most appealing and most flattering of ways.

    I mean, he's reasoned, he's reasonable, and he listens.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, that's the segue. You're giving it to us, Mark.

    But, David, I mean, there has been a little bit of shifting in the presidential landscape on the Democratic side this week, Elizabeth Warren slipping a little bit in the polls. And we have seen some critical stories about Kamala Harris' campaign.

    Where are we? Michael Bloomberg is in there spending a lot of money to get his name and message out.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes.

    It could — well, what we're seeing is, we in the pundit class often put people in buckets, which are based on ideology. And voters are not quite in the buckets that we think they're in.

    And so we had the Warren-Sanders bucket, and then we had the moderate bucket. And — but people are moving straight from Warren to Buttigieg. There's a lot of people — votes between one of those two. And they're somewhat similar. They're analytical, a little academically, and so they said, let's get a technocrat. Let's get an expert with plans.

    And I think a lot of people, at least the ones I talk to, like Elizabeth Warren. They just think she's poisoned herself with Medicare for all. And they just say, we can't go for that. So let's go for Buttigieg.

    And Buttigieg is doing well, just a slow, gradual rise.

    The Kamala Harris thing, I think, is just remarkable. My newspaper had a story on the deconstruction of that campaign, where they spoke to 50 current and former members of that campaign who were willing to go off the record criticizing the campaign and the candidate. That's just amazing.

    And they had the resignation letter from a senior official. And it was as poorly structured a campaign as I have heard of. Like, they had — part of the headquarters was in Baltimore and part of the headquarters with her sister in California.

    Like, who structures anything like that? So, that's just a remarkable incident. And it's hard to see how she turns around, if her machinery is so bad.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot of talking from inside — from inside that campaign.

  • Mark Shields:

    You find that people are far more voluble in losing campaigns. That is the poll, when people start talking about what went wrong and who to blame. It's the cover your own area aspect. It's not the most attractive feature in American politics.

    And as far as Elizabeth Warren is concerned, I think what happened, there's a real cold shower of reality into it, Judy. It was 1949, 70 years ago, Harry Truman proposed national health care. It was defeated by calling it socialized medicine.

    Every Democratic President Trump that point forward fought for it, from — and they were talented people, jack Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton. And they did their best effort. And the only time it broke was Medicare and Medicaid in '65. That's 54 years ago, all right?

    And that was Lyndon Johnson because of the Goldwater landslide. Other than that, there's been resistance. Finally, in 2010, the Democrats get it. Give Barack Obama credit. Give Nancy Pelosi, people who voted for it credit. It costs a lot of people their careers and their seats. It cost the Democrats their Majority.

    And it took seven more years before people said they were favorable. Now, the idea that you're going to pass Medicare for all with the whisk of your hand is just absolutely blowing smoke. It is self-delusion. It's self-deception.

    It's going to require careers. It's going to require the same kind of effort Bill Bradley put into four years of working on tax reform, which was, if anything, a lot less tough…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you're saying that's what's hurt Warren?

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Mark Shields:

    We found out the cost, I mean, the reality. It's a cold shower. I mean, nice to talk about it. It ain't going to happen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You heard it here.

    So, we are in Thanksgiving week. And I can't let you get away without asking both of you, what do we have to be thankful for?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David?

  • David Brooks:

    I'm thankful that this is — we didn't begin our career in the Trump era.

    We got to see what real politics is normally like.

    Actually, I have been thinking about the quality of Thanksgiving that we give this year. We have been having a very healthy exercise in the country of going through our history on racial injustice, on treatment of the Native Americans. And so we have laid open the sins which have to be laid open.

    But I think it's still possible to love your country equally, even after being aware and paying a lot of attention to these sins.

    And so giving thanks to be born and — or grown up or living in what, to me, is still the most lovable, amazing country on the face of the Earth is something you can still say, even after looking at the history of slavery, the history of genocide and all the other stuff.

    It's possible to have a mature love for your country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A country that keeps renewing itself.

  • Mark Shields:

    Good.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Keeps working on its problems.

    Mark.

  • Mark Shields:

    After standing in awe of Marie Yovanovitch, and William Taylor, David Holmes, and George Kent, and David Hale, and Fiona Hill, my admiration, gratitude for public employees of integrity, of decency, of commitment, of patriotism, who put their careers at risk to speak truth to power and to the American people is — I'm grateful for it.

    I'll say this. This is the 19th Thanksgiving that David and I have been lucky enough to spend on the "NewsHour" together.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ah.

  • Mark Shields:

    I have misspoken. I have contradicted myself. I have said stupid things.

    And never once in those 19 years has David taken a cheap shot. And for his friendship and decency, I thank him.

  • David Brooks:

    And I thank you.

  • Mark Shields:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This is a place where people treat each other with more than respect.

    And we are thankful at the "NewsHour" for the two of you, Mark Shields, David Brooks. Thank you.

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