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Shields and Brooks on persistent violence at Trump rallies, Clinton’s new line of attack

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the week in politics, including the continued violence at Donald Trump’s rallies, how the Obama administration could have approached the recession differently, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s conflicted presidential endorsement and Hillary Clinton’s new line of attack against Trump.

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    But, first, to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, our captains of civility, those who disagree agreeably.

    Welcome back.

    All right, so, first, there is the story we had about the longer-term kind of pattern of violence that is happening in this presidential campaign, and also the blame game that's being played by Trump supporters and the protesters outside, right, saying — well, what about the political dimensions of this?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, I think, taken most immediately San Jose last night and the protest/violence at the rally, the — everything I have been able to find out, the protesters, those who are critical of Trump were the ones — certainly not all of them — but the people who were guilty of the violence, of putting police at risk, of trashing property and so forth were the protesters, the anti-Trump people.

    And, politically, the consequence of this is that they make Donald Trump and his supporters into the victims, and it hurts — quote — "their cause," if they have a cause, if it's an anti-Trump political cause. They end up helping him, because his hope is that it creates sort of this sense of things being out of control, events being out of control.

    And that's the recipe: I'm the strong man, the authoritarian figure that you need to bring order to America.

  • DAVID BROOKS, New York Times Columnist:

    Yes, I guess I semi-halfway disagree.

    I agree that the victims were the Trump supporters. That's clear from the videos that we have seen. Whether — who it helps and hurts, I suspect it won't have a big effect either way, but you can argue it both ways.

    For Trump supporters, for people who are pre-convinced to support Donald Trump, it vindicates a lot of their world view. And so it will solidify his support.

    But the only time I can really think of political violence really having a political effect was 1968 in Chicago.


    Very much so.


    And in that case, it was sort of intra-left, but it certainly hurt the Democrats, because there was an aura of disarray.

    And so one can see among independent voters and who are just nervous about Trump as a phenomenon, the fact that there is all this violence and all this drama surrounding the whole Trump phenomenon could be nervous-making and it could drive some people. I doubt, either way, it will have a massive effect.

    But it's just a bunch of young thugs who like to punch somebody.


    We have always had protests as part of the political discourse.


    Oh, yes.


    Every national — every four years, there is the little section for the protesters at whatever convention. This just seems different.


    I think it is.

    I mean, I think Donald Trump, it's part of his shtick, is he plays to the audience and to those who do protest inside, and don't — help him out, get him out of here, that is part of his routine, his political routine, and part of his political appeal.

    But that in no way justifies or vindicates putting police officers at risk or attacking other people physically.


    This is a little more like soccer hooliganism to me. It's a group of people who like violence. They tend to be young men. And Trump happens to generate this sort of excitement that gives them a pretext.



    Earlier in the program, we had a conversation about the weak jobs report, the weak recovery. And there was actually an interesting clip that I want to play from the town hall that Gwen Ifill moderated with the president in Elkhart, Indiana.

    When he was asked by someone, insightfully, if there's something that you could change, what would you change, here's what he said.


    I think the thing I would have probably done differently is, I would have tried to describe earlier to the American people how serious the recession was going to be, which is — which would have hopefully allowed us to have an even bigger response than we did.




    I think he's right.

    If you look at the 21st century, the first eight years of the 21st century, by Barack Obama's election, there was a net loss in the creation of private jobs in the United States. I mean, so, for him to really make the case then, what we were addressing then was the crisis, the financial crisis, people losing their homes, in addition to losing their jobs and losing their life savings, but there was something seriously wrong with the economy, and it probably — it was the time when he could make the case — or should have made the case — for a massive infrastructure, for great public works initiatives, to really generate the economy in a bigger, far more bold way than he did.


    Politically, was that even possible at the time?


    I don't think so. I think the country cared as much as it could over the stimulus package.

    I think we all knew how serious it was at the time. Everyone was in a full-bore panic in 2008, 2009. I do think they could have targeted the stimulus a little differently.

    And so what we're dealing with now is this long-term lack of people in the labor force, as David Wessel was saying. And so there's a lot of people who just not — are not in the habit of getting up, whose skills have become rusty.

    And so when you have got people who want to hire, they still can't find anybody. And if we had taken some of the stimulus money and done some long-term investments in that, maybe that would have had some effect on the labor market, given people a few more skills.

    But I have to say, overall, everyone had criticism about the stimulus, the Fed's reaction. Compared to real-world countries, the United States got out of the recession faster and better than just about every other country.

    So I think historians will look back — and we all have criticisms — and think that both the Bush administration, the Obama administration, and the Fed did a realistically decent job.



    This week, a must-read was this tiny paper from Janesville, Wisconsin, I think, a gazette, right, where there was an op-ed. This is where — I think we have a quote we can put up on screen.

    This is Paul Ryan finally gave his endorsement: "It's no secret that he and I have our differences, but the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement."

    This is somebody who was almost, looks like, kicked dragging and screaming into this word, endorsement. And at the same time, the next day, today, he comes out and says, listen, I don't agree with what the presumptive nominee is doing and saying about a judge in a case that's being litigated.


    Paul Ryan obviously cares more about the House majority than he does his legacy as a disciple of Jack Kemp and the — his mentor and in many respects his idol politically. I think that's the calculation he has made.

    I mean, this is a man who is close to Mitt Romney. Donald Trump calls Mitt Romney a loser, walks like a penguin, ridicules him, just terribly offensive and vulgar stuff about him. But Paul Ryan knows that, if there's going to be a Republican majority — or is convinced if there is going to be a Republican majority next January, that the only way to do it, he needs Trump voters to vote for Republican candidates.

    So he's made this deal, sadly for him, because he's going to be spending the next five months — speaker of the judge case, do you agree with what Donald Trump said today in Boise, Idaho? Did you agree what he said yesterday in Hartford, Connecticut? That's — he has got a steady diet of answering phone calls and questions about does he agree and where he does disagree.


    We have heard that Karl Rove had a meeting with Trump.

    Does this just mean that basically the Republicans are all just going to get in line and say, all right, this is our guy, we're going to have to back him?


    Yes, it looks like — it looks that way. They won't be happen, but they will do it.

    I think, morally, it was a sad day for Paul Ryan to do that. I don't think his principles are there in what he said. I think, politically, it was also a sad day. If Donald Trump hangs in and is competitive in the fall, then maybe what Paul Ryan did will be good for the House Republicans.

    But Donald Trump is the definition of downside. Lots of bad things could happen, and he could do horribly. And if he does horribly in the fall, it would have been nice if Republicans could say, we have got some distance between us and that guy.

    And you could get a lot of people who would not vote for Donald Trump be a lot happier about voting for Republicans down-ballot. So, I think some distance would have been better than this plea for unity.


    Well, I would just add one thing, Hari. And that is, I don't think Republicans are falling in.

    I think there was sort of a post his victory lap. And people — I think you have seen a deafening silence this week among Republicans. After Senator — Secretary Clinton's speech, there was no rush of surrogates to defend him. There was no Chairman Bob Corker of the Foreign Relations Committee come out saying, this is unfair, Donald Trump makes sense.

    He is very much the lone ranger on the judge. I mean, there has been nobody who has stood with him as he has accused this judge of having Mexican heritage somehow influencing his rulings in the Trump University case.

    This is a man who was a federal prosecutor. There was a death contract put on him, or a kill contract, by a drug cartel he was prosecuting before his appointment to the judgeship.

    He — I think Trump is basically by himself this week among other Republicans.


    The Republicans have eyes.

    Trump has had a very bad week, a really bad week, the Trump University, those comments, the riots, the Hillary Clinton speech. This is not a guy who's sort of on the offensive anymore. And Republicans can see that. But that doesn't mean they're not going to say, oh, yes, I'm basically endorsing him, even if they do it from a small newspaper far away.


    Let's take a — that speech that you guys are referencing seemed like a new line of attack that the Clinton campaign has picked up on, because previous attacks — and I don't know if this is going to be effective or not — but didn't seem to work as well.

    Let's take a look at the video.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes, because it's not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.



    Will this work?


    I think it will work.

    I think, first of all, Secretary Clinton was better yesterday than I have seen her in the entire campaign. She seemed more comfortable doing it.

    She — if you recall, John Kerry was put on the defensive in the '04 campaign by saying, actually, I did vote for the $87 billion in aid to Afghanistan and Iraq before I voted against it.

    There's nothing like hanging someone on their own words. Mitt Romney had 47 percent people, I don't have to worry about them because they're dependent on the government, in 2012.

    That's what she did it yesterday. And she did it effectively. She did it with Trump's own words. And I don't think there's any question she elevated the spirits of dispirited Democrats.

    I think it's an alarm, an exhortation to Sanders voters that this campaign is very important. I think it probably also reaches to California primary voters, where she's in a — the fight of her life for California next Tuesday.

    And, finally, she got under Donald Trump's skin. So, I think, on all four counts, it probably was a very positive day for Secretary Clinton.


    Yes, I agree it was her best speech of the campaign, I thought.

    And I would add a few more counts. It was very good for independent voters, because it is not an ideological left-right attack on Trump. It's, this guy's unstable. And that's something — doesn't matter what you believe. You can buy that argument.

    And she did it in a way without sinking to his level. And that was something — a problem that Marco Rubio and other opponents have had. They get in the gutter with him. But she did it from a haughty, contemptuous, serious way, really. And so I thought it was quite a compelling speech.


    Technically, that's the kind of — the meta look, is, essentially, do you have to change the tone of the debate, does it have to become more coarse, does it have to become more personal?

    And this is technically before they're both presumptive nominees or leaders. But they're not even the candidates yet, and we're already seeing this basically go negative.


    Well, we're going to see that when you have two unpopular candidates, as we're going to see.

    But how you go negative and whether she would get dragged down was the real challenge. And she struck the right note. In politics, the lows are lower than the highs are highs. When somebody makes a mistake, it's much worse than the benefits when they do something right.

    And so people, voters are very nervous about politicians who seem unstable and disordered. And Trump — she's painting Trump as unstable and disordered. And that plucks at something that genuinely has had a lot of resonance in fall elections.


    All right.



    No, I think it's going to be that kind of a campaign. It's — you want the focus on your opponent and your opponent's shortcomings. And I think she put it squarely there yesterday.


    All right, Mark Shields, David Brooks, thanks so much.

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