What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Shields and Brooks on Jerusalem embassy conflict, Mueller investigation takeaways

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including a forthcoming rule from the Trump administration on family planning, the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and the deadly protests along the Israel-Gaza border, plus what we know about the Russia investigation, one year on.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now back to political developments, both here in the United States and beyond, with the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen. We haven’t all three been together in a little while. It’s great to see you.

    Let’s start, Mark, with the story we led off as a segment earlier, and that is the administration moving to close down, essentially, or close funding for clinics that either provide abortion services or refer women to clinics that do.

    It’s the early phases of this, but it’s something the Trump administration seems determined to do.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Determined, Judy, to make a political issue out of.

    I think that Donald Trump, if I’m not recalling — recalling correctly, as a candidate, made the issuing of executive orders by Barack Obama something noxious, pernicious and to be avoided.

    That was when Obama did issue executive orders, obviously. We had Republicans controlling both houses of Congress. Donald Trump has both houses of Congress in his party. He tried and Republicans did unsuccessfully in their attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act to defund completely Planned Parenthood and to achieve these objectives.

    Now he’s moving — all of these occurrences, I hate to sound cynical, happened to occur in an election year, not simply with President Obama, but it did with President Clinton, with President Obama, with President Trump. It did with President Bush. And it began with President Reagan.

    The one person who had clean political hands in this was Richard Nixon, who in 1971, invoked Title X, and to provide health care and to provide family planning advice to poor women who couldn’t afford it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So it’s become a political football. Is that what we’re talking about here?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, I’m not sure I totally agree with that.

    It has an election year — it has obvious political benefits for each party’s base, but for Ronald Reagan, I’m pretty sure it was probably a sincere belief that taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for abortions. For Bill Clinton, it was probably a completely sincere belief that this is a program should be longstanding.

    I’m not sure where Donald Trump actually stands in his heart of hearts on this issue. I do know he has made a deal with social conservatives that you’re going to have put up with a lot of lies and payoffs to adult film actresses, but I’m going to give you — on policy, you will get — and he’s been very consistent on giving social conservatives policy victories.

    This is something they have wanted for a long time. And Donald Trump is handing it to them. And so a lot of social conservatives who are willing to swallow his personal failures are going to feel vindicated that this was a deal worth making.

    I don’t particularly agree with that, but I think social conservatives will say, yes, if we’re going to get wins like this, which are for, in their case, for the good of the country and for the good of humanity, they’re willing to swallow a lot from Donald Trump.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I’m not questioning the sincerity of all involved.

    I do — their motives — but I think there is a strong political element to it. And it has to be noted of Planned Parenthood, while it provides cancer screening, all sorts of health care, it does provide also 330,000 abortions a year. So it’s a major element in the — in abortion-providing.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes. The tradeoff here is that Planned Parenthood, which does a lot of all sorts of health stuff, also does the abortions.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    An array of services.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And so you get — say you’re a social conservative.

    You get what you want on the abortion. It’s going to be harder to get an abortion and some of them will get less funding. But in places where they have done this — and we have now seen what happens when you do this — when you take people away from Planned Parenthood, you also — you do see a sharp rise in pregnancies, because contraception isn’t prescribed as much.

    You see some health — deleterious health benefits down the side. So, on the plus side, people who really find abortion morally abhorrent don’t have to pay for it. On the minus side, there are negative health effects.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, another step the president has taken within the last week, Mark, seen as something that may be a favor, you could call it, to another group of conservatives was the decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

    It was a big opening ceremony a few days ago, followed by huge protests on the West Bank, hundreds of people, young people, including children, were killed. And so I think the question there is, we know the administration — the president says he believes that this was the right move. He talked about it during the campaign.

    But is the scene that followed in the West Bank potentially going to undo any gain that he gets by moving the embassy?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I’m not sure it undoes any gains.

    I think the gains primarily, Judy, are with the evangelical community in the United States, who are strongly supportive. He had as the provider of the benediction at the ceremony Reverend John Hagee, a man whom John McCain repudiated his endorsement in 2008, after it was revealed he had called the Catholic Church the whore of Babylon, accused the Catholics of colluding with Adolf Hitler to exterminate Jews.

    But he’s right on the defense of Israel. And, you know, these are supreme Zionists. Therefore, they overlook, and to the point where it’s a total embarrassment that he was involved in this ceremony.

    That aside, the political benefits to Bibi Netanyahu are obvious. It shores him up politically at home. Any time there’s a threat to Israel from the Palestinians along Gaza or anyplace else, it strengthens the conservative party. That happens in any country.

    And I think that the fact that Donald Trump had, in that American delegation, no Democrats, many of whom supported his doing — moving the embassy to Jerusalem, and the only non — the only civilians were Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire benefactor of Donald Trump and Republicans, and a businessman in Israel.

    I mean, to me, it was so transparent as a move. And I think it weakens the United States as any potential agent, coordinator of any sort of peaceful effort there.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How do you see the political calculus?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, on the merits, I think it’s the right move. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. I don’t think we need to lie about that.

    That’s where the Knesset is. That’s where the prime minister lives. It’s the capital of Israel. And every nation gets to pick where their capital is. It doesn’t buy us any future negotiations, because everything is going to be in West Jerusalem, which is always going to be Israel.

    Presumably, we’re going to get a two-state solution. Whenever that comes, the Palestinian capital will be in East Jerusalem. And they will split the city some way.

    So, I don’t think it biases moves that way. So, I think it’s just an honest statement of where the capital is and we should be unashamed of that.

    As for the Hagee thing, that was absurd, the Adelson thing. I agree they did it in the worst possible way. They could have gotten some concessions out of the Israelis on settlements and other things in exchange for this move. They didn’t even try to do that.

    As for what happened in Gaza, I think one of the things we have seen — it was relatively quiet on the West Bank, and much more militant on Gaza.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You’re right. I said West Bank. I meant Gaza.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And so one of the issues to me which is an open question among the two different Palestinian governments is, is the problem 1967 or is the problem 1948?

    For the Palestinian Authority, traditionally, 1967 has been the problem. Get Israel to roll back to the ’67 borders or something like that, and we can have peace.

    For Hamas, the problem is 1948. It’s the existence of the state of Israel itself. And so there you’re dealing with an entirely different entity, which we saw the effects of.

    The final thing to be said is that Hamas started announcing what happened on the fence there in March. The Israeli military had months to prepare and months to take most of the people who are coming across the fence and figure out a way not to shoot them.

    And they took no effort to do that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And so that redounds to their debt. And that is an insult to a government that’s gotten less clever and, frankly, a little more callous.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes, our reporter Jane Ferguson was in the field hospitals showing so many young boys there. And the ones who survived, who didn’t die, had been shot, most of them, below the knee, she said.

    So they couldn’t…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes. The failure to use nonlethal means is real and is an indictment. There’s no question.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes.

    And I would just put it on the planners. The troops that are there — and full disclosure, my son formerly served in the IDF. He’s back in the U.S. now.

    But there were actual armed terrorists in the group. And so they were trying to pick out the terrorists from the non-terrorists. So, they were in a tough situation with 40,000 people coming at them. But the planning is what I fault.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    But just one political point here, Judy.

    And that is that Donald Trump, it’s pretty clear what he’s doing. I disagree — I happen to disagree with David on the timing or the logic of moving the embassy at this time. But Donald Trump is playing domestic politics here.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Catering to the evangelicals?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Catering here in this country, and in the worst possible way.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    An anniversary this week. We have only got a couple of minutes left.

    But, David, Robert Mueller started his Russia investigation a year ago this week. Where are we after a year of that? Of course, it’s all been behind closed doors. We have seen indictments. We have seen some pleas. Where does it stand?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, we have had a year of speculation about what is about to happen.

    What we have learned is that it’s a pretty broad-ranging investigation. There’s a lot of dirty businesses, a lot of guilty pleas already, a lot of people brought under indictment. So it’s a real investigation, investigating what looks like real crimes.

    As for the collusion charge, we know there were many more meetings between the Trump people and the Russians than we thought before. There was a meeting in Trump Tower. And so there’s clearly more smoke there than we knew before a year ago.

    What we don’t have is actual evidence of real collusion, and particularly by an awareness of the president himself. That may be still out there, but that part, we still don’t have.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And we know he may be pursuing other charges as well.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark, how do you see it?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    What we do know, Judy, is that the Senate Intelligence Committee is composed of grownups and led by Senator Burr and Senator Warner, and they deserve credit.

    The House Intelligence Committee is led by just outrageous adolescents who are about as deep as a birdbath.

    At the same time, I think what we learned is that the defense of Donald Trump, led by himself and Rudy Giuliani, is to savage and torment, denigrate, vilify and libel Bob Mueller.

    Bob Mueller happens to be an American who turned down an eight-figure income to be a major corporate lawyer, instead became a public servant. He’s a man who volunteered and carries the wounds of battle from having been a Marine platoon leader in Vietnam. He is a public servant.

    He has not said a word. He has not given an interview. He has not leaked to anybody. And he stands vilified by Trump and Giuliani and their cohorts and their outriders.

    It is indefensible. And they are trying to exact the same damage upon the Justice Department of the country, the FBI and this country that Joe McCarthy did on the State Department, which has never fully recovered from his libelous attacks.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Twenty seconds.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, I don’t disagree with that.

    I would just say, I observe politically, I do think if Trump fired Mueller tomorrow, the Republican Party would back him.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Do you really?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Because I think FOX News has created a predicate. They have done thousands of surveys and investigations about Mueller as a political operative.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    He’s a lifelong Republican. I mean, how…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But they have done — they have worked hard to undermine the integrity of his investigation.

    Gentlemen, thank you, David Brooks, Mark Shields.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment

Latest News