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Shields and Brooks on protesting police shootings, sizing up GOP contenders

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss protests in Chicago against the killing of Laquan McDonald and lethal force by police, how the Paris attacks have affected the fight against the Islamic State, as well as recent remarks by Donald Trump on 9/11 and whether Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are seeing an opening.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Gentlemen, welcome.

    And I do want to get to the presidential campaign in just a moment, but, Mark, I want to start with a story that we reported earlier this evening, the protests in Chicago about the shooting last year of a young black teenager by a white Chicago policeman who's now been charged with murder.

    What does this and these other police shootings we have seen over the past year say about efforts to heal the relationship between police and the black communities?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, it's — it's a continuing challenge and a terrible tragedy personally, Judy, in this case, I mean, where we have this — that age-old question, who will protect the people when the police violate the law?

    And from every indication here, you have all the evidence pointing to a police officer essentially executing a 17-year-old boy, and the authorities sitting on it for 400 days, the prosecuting attorney in not — not going forward.

    And, to me, beyond the tragedy, the other story you reported on was that of Tyshawn Lee, the 9-year-old — a 9-year-old who was killed as a — basically a hostage, as retribution in a gang fight within the community. There is no tougher job in America than being a cop on the beat in a major city in this country, big and brawling.

    And for good cops, what happened in Chicago, with Laquan McDonald's execution — and that's I think all you can call it — it makes the job of the cop on the beat, the overwhelming of whom are good, that much tougher.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David, you know, we keep reporting on these incidents and we think maybe we have turned a corner, but then they just seem to keep happening.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes. We need structural change.

    Listen, there are — since 2007, there have been 400 police shootings in Chicago, and only one of them has been ruled unjustified.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That's right.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    That's just not credible.

    And so you have got to have some structural changes. And, listen, I understand why there has to be loyalty within the police force, basically loyalty within the criminal justice system. I was a police reporter in Chicago at a time when it was way more violent even than it is right now.

    And it's tough. And they want to protect each other. And I get that. And the situations are often murky. But you have to build structures so that, when there is something that goes wrong, that there actually is really a prosecutorial force somewhere within the system looking at the system from a hostile eye and saying, did something really bad happen here?

    And if they're exonerating 99.8 percent of the cops who are shooting people, that's probably not right. And so there has to be a structure to really investigate these situations. And, you know, I have been moving on the cop cam issue.

    When these things first started happening, I was sort of ambivalent about cop cams, because I think they will affect the civil-police relationship if everyone knows everything is being filmed. But the evidence is mounting that these cameras — and we happened to have a dashboard cam in this case — the evidence is mounting these are effective, and maybe cops should be wearing cameras everywhere.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Mark, what about cameras, public opinion, the fact these things are getting attention in the news media? Can that make a difference?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes. I think the value of the cameras is demonstrated in this case. And it's a great value to the honest cop, the good cop as well.

    And David mentions the 400 police officers who have been charged in Chicago, one shooting of which has been called unjustified out of those 400. This is a city that has budget problems like no other city in the country, really. And they have paid out $500 million in settlements because of these shootings that we have mentioned.

    So — it's a real problem. No one can question.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David, I want to turn to, this Friday, today, two weeks after the horrible shootings in Paris, the terrorist attacks, is there a sense that these efforts, you know, whether it's President Hollande of France, President Obama, anyone else, that the efforts to put together some kind of effective coalition, effort to fight ISIS is any stronger today as a result of what happened?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, we have got a little clarity.

    It's the — what's the definition of an effective coalition? To me, the definition of an effective coalition doesn't involve Vladimir Putin or the Russians, because they want to keep Assad, and most of the rest of the world wants to get rid of Assad, knowing that Assad is the key source of the problem here. He's the one who has created the instability and the genocide that leads the Sunnis to radicalize and embrace ISIS.

    And so there was this myth, this shimmering of early days that we were going to have a global alliance including Putin. And, at least according to the words coming of the Kremlin today and according to the controversy that Russia is having with Turkey, that grand dream, which was a bad dream, is falling apart.

    Whether we can create a Western alliance with the Gulf states to defeat ISIS another matter. But the key to it is getting the Sunnis. We don't have the boots on the ground. We're not going to put the boots on the ground. If the reasonable Sunnis don't revolt against ISIS, then nothing will happen.

    And they are not going to do it as long as Assad is really raining genocide down upon them. So, understanding the basic logic of the situation, the complex logic of the situation, is really the key, I think.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Do you see any progress?

    (CROSSTALK)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I see real progress. I think there has been a galvanizing of support and energizing, whether it's Mrs. Merkel in Germany and that most peaceful of great powers contributing to the effort.

    It's Prime Minister Cameron in Great Britain. It — I'm not a booster. I know up front what Putin is, that acts out of self interest, but if he recognizes that Assad's days are numbered and he's gone, then I don't have the problem with him hastening that departure.

    And I just really think that there is an effort. I feel badly for the president, because he has a great ability to express passion and emotion in a public setting, as he did in Charleston, as he did in Newtown. And, in this case, his words have failed him. He hasn't…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Why do you think that is?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I don't — I think because he was elected to end two wars. He's been committed to that. There is no question about it. It's a belief and a conviction on his part.

    I think he also understands — he becomes more nuanced and more cerebral, which at all times, but especially in matters of national security and foreign policy and engagement. I think he also understands that the United States is not going to lead in this.

    And to some degree, there is an advantage to the other countries actually taking the military lead.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark — I mean, David, how do you see the president coming to this effort?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Listen, nobody feels good sitting by while genocide happens and doing nothing, and that's essentially what he's been doing.

    I know Bill Clinton has said many times since he left office his greatest regret was allowing the genocide in Rwanda to happen. And Barack Obama, for good reasons or bad, has sat by while a slow-rolling genocide has happened in Syria. And it could have been prevented when people within his own administration were urging action very early in ways that maybe could have made a difference.

    But he sat by and let it happen. Again, maybe America had no choice. But we did nothing. And so it's hard to feel good about the American role in Syria over the past five or seven years. And if you don't feel good about it, it's hard to wax poetic and self-righteous about it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I want to turn you both quickly to the presidential campaign.

    I want to ask you about Rubio and Cruz, but first about Donald Trump, Mark, that the story that really has persisted all week, the claims that Donald Trump has made that there were thousands of people in New Jersey cheering after the Twin Towers went down, there's — as far as I have seen and have looked, there is no evidence that's come forward to support that, but he continues to insist it happened. He's not backing down.

    How does this fit into a presidential campaign? Does it make any difference? Does it change anything that a candidate says something that can't be substantiated, or at least that hasn't been, as far as I know?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes.

    I mean, if we're polite, we say it's unsubstantiated. It is demonstrably false. It's irresponsible. It's untrue. And we have predicted nine times the demise and premature fall of Donald Trump on this broadcast, the same wise people who I think predicted that Republican voters would choose a governor.

    And you saw in Lisa's piece that the first three people out were Governor Scott Walker, Governor Rick Perry and Governor Bobby Jindal. So — but it's cumulative. It has to be — when Republican voters focus — and, at some point, they do — on wanting to elect a president, they have to know that somebody who is contradicted in basic facts as openly and completely as he is becomes unacceptable and unelectable.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David, how do you see the fallout from this?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, I'm doubling down on my demise theory.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I think he is going to collapse. I think he is going to be, like, sitting, taking the oath of office on some January 1, and I will still be predicting demise.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    But here's my stat of the week for why I still think this is going to happen.

    Every four years, after Iowa and New Hampshire votes, they ask the voter, when did you make up your mind? And they make up their mind like a week before, a day before, a month before. They don't do it three months before, not that many.

    And so 80 percent of the voters are still undecided. Nate Silver had a good chart today in his — on his Web site or this week, where he said if the polls were accurately reflecting the way — the real state of the race, it would say 80 percent undivided, 5 percent Trump, 4 percent Rubio, 3 percent Cruz.

    And I think that's really where the race is. People may say they're voting for Trump, but they really make up their minds the last weeks or months. And we're simply just not there yet. So, I'm convinced demise.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right.

    Finally, less than a minute, let's get back to the point that Lisa Desjardins made, Mark, in her piece. Rubio and Cruz, as David just mentioned, they are hanging in there in the middle. What do you see them doing to distinguish themselves from each other? And you have got less than 30 seconds.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, 44-year-old Cuban-Americans from Sunbelt states.

    Basically, Ted Cruz is operating — who is an incredibly talented debater. I have never seen anybody better, quite honestly, at presidential politics.

    But he's operating on a false premise. And that is that there are millions of conservative voters who, in spite of the fact of despising Barack Obama, many of them, didn't — chose not to vote in 2008, 2012, because Republicans did not nominate somebody who was as true-blue conservative as he is, and they're going to come out in droves if he's the nominee. Wrong.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David, Cruz, Rubio.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, I'll tell you, it's resentment vs. hope.

    Cruz is waxing eloquently against Muslim, Syrian refugees. He's talking about shutting down government. He's very anti-immigrant, where Rubio is much more in the mainstream on the party, a little hopeful on immigration, hopeful about American foreign policy.

    So we will see which emotional tone the Republican Party is ready for. I suspect it's the Rubio one, but who knows.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I promise you are going to get more time to talk about this in the future.

    David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Thank you.

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