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Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including whether public impeachment hearings are making President Trump more or less vulnerable, what stood out about the witnesses who testified so far, whether Trump’s Ukraine dealings are surprising or "in character" and the latest dynamics among 2020 Democrats.
Now joining us to analyze this historic week in American politics are Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Hello to both of you.
So, David, I guess you could say it's the best of times and the worst of times for President Trump. On the one hand, we just reported the financial markets today were off the charts, setting new records all over the place, but, meantime, there are impeachment hearings going on just down the street from the White House.
Look at this first couple of days of hearings. Have the Democrats strengthened their argument, or where are we?
Yes, I think they have.
The case is very solid and airtight that there was the quid pro quo. All the testimony points to that. And, mostly, you see a contrast.
In the first two, the first two gentlemen that testified on the first day, they were just upstanding, solid public servants. And I was like — I felt like I was looking back in time, because I was looking at two people who are not self-centered. They, like, cared about the country. They were serving. They had not partisan axe to grind. They were just honest men of integrity.
And I thought we saw that again today with Yovanovitch. And in her case, the day was more emotional, because you got to see a case of bullying against a strong, upstanding woman.
And so I thought she expressed — like, the heavy moments of today where when she expressed her reaction to how badly she was treated. And so that introduces an element of emotion and pathos into what shouldn't be just a legal proceeding. It should be something where people see the contrast between good people and bad people.
What do you — how is it all adding up for you?
Well, the conventional wisdom, Judy, last Friday, was that it would be — the Democrats would impeach in the House and the Republicans would acquit in the Senate.
I think the conventional wisdom has been dealt a blow. I think we have learned and reminded ourselves again that this is a not a static process. It's a dynamic process.
Each testimony changes the narrative and changes the reality. There's no question that the first two witnesses, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kent, have inspired and encouraged and given spirit to other people to come forward, David Holmes today.
And Ambassador Yovanovitch, I agree with David. After listening to Ambassador Taylor and Secretary Kent, you came away with a sense of respect and admiration.
Today, you were moved, not only at Ambassador Yovanovitch's own story, but there's a sense of outrage building. This is a story of corruption, corruption not in Ukraine, corruption in the United States.
I mean, why? Why did they go to such lengths to denigrate, to attack, to try and destroy and sabotage the career of a dedicated public servant, a person who had put her life on the line? Why did they do it? What was it, money? Was it power?
Why was Rudy Giuliani doing it? Why was the president involved? I think there's a real narrative that's developing.
And you're saying that you think the Democrats are making the point…
I think the witnesses are making the point.
And, obviously, the president, today, by tweeting and attacking, I mean, he invariably punches down. This is a man who doesn't punch up. He never takes on somebody his own size or somebody bigger. It's always somebody smaller.
The idea of witness intimidation, of just the worst of bullying, before God and man, as he did it, is just — it's unforgivable.
And I think, as Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman from Michigan, put it very well, the only time he isn't shooting himself in the foot is when he's stopping to reload his gun.
So, David, I mean, the Republicans kept pushing back today, just saying the whole thing is a sham, is a waste of time, and worse.
What should we measure the success of these hearings by?
I mean, what…
I mean, if this were a football game, it would be 42-3.
The Republicans, I don't blame them. There's just not much of a case there. What he is accused of clearly happened. And it's so hard to — you can throw up some flares and do some defensive measures, which Republicans are doing. And they're complaining about whether the process is fair. But they don't have much to work with.
I do disagree that this is somehow changing minds. I have seen no polling evidence that it's changing minds. I don't think people are watching particularly out in the country.
Since this whole impeachment thing has started, I have probably been in 20 states. I can't think of too many places where people have talked to me about this. And I talk to — you go out and interview lots of people and people are talking about other stuff.
And so if it's changing minds, especially in Middle America or in the swing states, I see no evidence of that. My newspaper did a big story this morning, interviewing a lot of people there. There was no evidence of that.
So I do think the case is a very strong one. I do think what he has done was appalling. But Americans who like him like him. And the economy is the economy.
And so I'm not sure I see the evidence that Mark sees.
How do you — yes, sure.
Let me just make two quick points in response to David.
First, it's a legal constitutional case, which I think is building and was — certainly the witnesses buttressed this week. But the other thing is — whether it's the diabolical plotting of Nancy Pelosi or whatever, there's a political case.
And it makes it more difficult to stand up for Donald Trump. It's going to make it more difficult for Republicans to stand up. You just say, oh, that's Donald Trump being Donald Trump.
What he did today to Ambassador Yovanovitch, I mean, is just unforgivable at a human level. You can't say, gee, he's my kind of guy, I like this kind of guy.
The other thing is, Judy, the collateral story, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state…
… the hollowing out of the department, this is a hollowed-out man.
In the Marine Corps, there's a simple rule every enlisted man learns. And that is, officers eat last and that any officer worries first about feeding his or her privates and lieutenants before he even picks up a knife or a fork.
And Mike Pompeo is the antithesis of that. He is missing in action. He's absent without leave. When his own people are under attack and under siege, he goes quiet. He goes mute. I mean, he is a disgrace to the United States military, the United States military academy, and is just a hollowed-out man.
Well, Trump governs by fear.
But I think this only changes if we're surprised. And if Trump had been a Boy Scout up until this week, we would all be shocked by this behavior. But we have been sitting here three years angry and outraged week after week, throwing spittle around because of how upset and offended we are.
So, you're saying there's not that much new?
There has to be a surprise for this to change.
And Trump's behavior today and over the course of this episode is totally in character.
Stay tuned, David.
Well, we — I know we say this maybe every week, but this has the effect of taking the oxygen out of the room, or however you want to put it, David, of the 2020 Democratic candidates for president.
We had another one announce this week, the former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick, on top of Michael Bloomberg last week.
Is someone like Deval — Governor Patrick going to be able to make any headway in this environment?
It will be challenging.
As I said last week, I think — I thought he and Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, were the two strongest candidates. And he couldn't run for various reasons. His wife had illness and things.
But he's now into the race. It's obviously going to be very hard. He doesn't have a campaign, he doesn't have money. Things happen very quickly. We have got a few states, and then suddenly we're into California, Texas, North Carolina on Super Tuesday.
So things are really going to unfold very quickly.
It's worth taking a shot, because among the Democratic elites, the Democratic establishment, there's genuine serious anxiety about Elizabeth Warren's Medicare for all plan. And so they're looking for somebody who can rescue them.
Right now, if you look at the polls, if you look in Iowa, the person who looks like the rescue is Pete Buttigieg, who's still rising. Amy Klobuchar is also suddenly rising a bit.
So out on the campaign trail, where the campaigns have built staff and where they're doing events, they're having — they're having more movement than I expected. And it's just away from the impeachment story. It's away from the national story.
How do you see this field now that — I mean, what do you make of Patrick getting in? Why?
Well, I mean, he wants to be president.
That's the only — that's the reason people run for president. They want to be president.
Thank you for straightening me out on that.
And they have had a number of people tell them. Certainly, in Mike Bloomberg's case, he's had a lot of people telling him.
But, no, I think Patrick — Patrick made sense on paper, made a lot more sense a year ago than he makes now. There's two finite resources in any campaign, time and money.
Bloomberg, you could say, can overcome the money thing. Patrick is behind the eight ball on both of them. But he does present a potential threat to Joe Biden and to Pete Buttigieg.
I mean, as David says, there's — the sense of alarm goes up, especially among Democratic elites, and especially among Democratic elite givers, about Elizabeth Warren. And Medicare for all is part of it, but part of it is the wealth tax, too. Let's be very frank.
To see billionaires crying, which has probably given her a political issue that she didn't have and a political advantage. When you see, you know, literally billionaires crying over the prospect of her wealth tax, is kind of a lift to her candidacy.
So, money can make a difference.
You're saying Deval Patrick — Bloomberg has a chance because he has a lot of money, endless amount of money, whereas Patrick may have some good ideas, but if you don't have the money at this point…
Right, because say Pete Buttigieg wins Iowa, Warren wins New Hampshire. I don't know what happens in South Carolina, but suddenly you go to California, and Mike Bloomberg has the money to play in California, in those states, North Carolina, Texas, California.
Those are a lot of big states. And Bloomberg may be the only one that has money to play in those states. And if there's chaos and panic, it could spin in a million different ways. So it's not crazy for Deval Patrick to enter the race, because, if you got so many people, it could really go crazy.
And people are like, who can we all agree on? And Deval Patrick is the kind of guy everybody could agree on. And so if there's total panic — but it's certainly a long shot.
A lot of people are going to be recycling the lines people used in 2012 used against Mitt Romney about Bain company, because that's where Deval Patrick has been since he was governor of Massachusetts.
Which is not exactly fighting for widows and orphans.
This is a financial and business advice — business counseling firm.
Yes, I guess we call it private finance.
Private finance. I will let you define it.
But, anyway, the race keeps — Mike Bloomberg — we should say, Mike Bloomberg's not in yet, but may officially get in.
All right, we will leave it there.
Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.
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