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Shields and Brooks on same-sex right to marry, Romney run resistance

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the Supreme Court’s move to consider same-sex marriage, next steps for Republican congressional leaders, emerging GOP candidates for the next presidential race, plus thoughts on the NewsHour’s decision to not show the post-attack cover of Charlie Hebdo.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    This week, congressional Republicans met to plot next steps with their newfound power in Washington. And there were more steps taken by potential 2016 presidential candidates, as they gear up to run for the White House.

    For all that and more, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    It’s so good to see both of you.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Mark Shields:

    Thank you, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, before we talk about politics, I want to ask you about what we — what I discussed with Marcia earlier, Mark, and that is the Supreme Court announcing it is going to take up the same-sex marriage question. Thoughts?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, as Marcia pointed out, along with Affordable Care Act, which the court is also considering, these are two big ones.

    But, Judy, David’s made the point here before about the velocity with which this issue has moved. On May 6, 2012, Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States, said he was comfortable with same-sex marriage on “Meet the Press,” and it absolutely exploded. I mean, how could he do this? He put the president in a terrible position.

    Now, that is three years ago. We just missed — Rob Portman, Republican senator from Ohio, announced that he was not going to run for president, going to run for reelection. He would have been the first Republican candidate for president to endorse same-sex marriage. This issue has moved so far, so fast, 36 states, as Marcia pointed out.

    So, there’s a little bit of an anticlimactic feel to it, even though it’s of great importance constitutionally.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes. You would have to think about, go back 2,000, 3,000 years, the prejudice against gays and lesbians. And it’s sort of washing away.

    And so you ask, how did it happen? I think, partly, it was activism. Partly, it’s people getting to know each other, partly effective media. Media rarely changes culture rapidly, but a lot of the shows that had gay and lesbian couples changed rapidly.

    And then there was the selection of the issues. The two big issues that really have been at a central of this for the last 10 years have been gays in the military and marriage. So it was two institutions at the core, and I would say the conservative core, of American culture, and by saying we just want to be married, we just want to serve in the military, people were coming out and they were coming out in full human dignity, in a way that showed respect for the institutions of our country.

    And once that embraced, then the country has begun to embrace them as individuals and then the institution of gay marriage.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We heard Marcia say it’s going to be huge, it’s going to be historic when it comes out.

    OK, politics. This is the week, as we said, the congressional Republicans met in their retreat.

    Mark, this is a time when you have got not just Speaker Boehner, but now the brand-new Republican majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, trying to corral these big numbers in both bodies. What do you see? Are these — do you see the Republicans coming together? Or do you see them still having to deal with some rump right-wing conservative critics who are just going to continue to give them a hard time?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, Speaker Boehner had 25 members of his own caucus not support him for speaker. That’s a bit more than one out of 10, more than in recent American history that that’s happened, where a speaker has failed there.

    So, even though his numbers were enlarged of Republicans in the House, his own position was somewhat shaky at the outset of this Congress. And what you have, the tensions within the party. After the 2012 election, the Republican Party went through a soul-searching, in which they came out with a rather serious document, saying the party is seen as too narrow-minded, out of touch, not mainstream, mean-spirited, unappealing to non-whites and to women and to younger voters, and we have to do it, we have to endorse immediately comprehensive immigration reform.

    And you have got a party that just won a big election totally on the opposite. So, now, the first action they take is a — the House passes a bill that is, quite frankly, restrictive and punitive even to as far as DREAM Act members are concern. Those who are those were brought here as children and they have grown up and gone to school and so forth.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On the president’s executive action.

  • Mark Shields:

    And the president’s executive action. And it can’t pass the Senate. Mitch McConnell knows he hasn’t gotten the votes.

    And I just think it’s not the issue Republicans wanted right at the outset to deal with. I think Boehner felt he had to deal with it because Republicans had made it such a centerpiece of their campaign. But I don’t see it. They’re working out the difficulties and the wrinkles very much in public, and I think rather awkwardly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You see they’re united or how do you see it?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, it’s governing party, so they’re — or it’s a majority party, so there are bound to be fringes. And we saw both the left and right fringe of the party protesting what was going on.

    I actually agree with Mark completely. They win this big victory and what do they decide to do? Well, they decide to do Pickett’s Charge. They decide to — they decide to pick a campaign they cannot possibly win. So the House passes a bill that cannot possibly pass.

    So, what’s going to happen? They are going to have to walk embarrassingly down the Hill in defeat. That’s just going to happen. And so why do you do that? And I think the reason you do it is because you have got an opposition mentality that says, let’s make a statement. We want to show the president we’re standing up to him.

    And so they make a statement, instead of passing a law. But if you’re in the majority, you’re in the majority. And you have got to start thinking that way. And I think the party — I don’t blame McConnell and Boehner. I blame the rank and file. You have got to start thinking like a majority. Are you here to make statements? Well, go to FOX or do what we do.

    But if you’re going to pass laws, you actually have some ability to influence that.

  • Mark Shields:

    And, Judy, we have seen this movie before.

    In other words, picking up on David’s point, that is that they have to come to the reality they have to fund Homeland Security by the 27th of February.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Mark Shields:

    And there’s not going to be a government shutdown. And every story we read, whether it’s out of Belgium, whether it’s out of Northern Europe, whether it’s across the globe, is about terrorist threats or plots or actual events.

    And the idea that Homeland Security would be put on hold and not fully funded or more funded is absolutely incredible. So they have no bargaining chip and no bargaining power and just to suffer this sort of symbolic defeat.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let’s talk about another part of the Republican story, and that is the race for president.

    We have seen so many names out there, David. But I think the remarkable — one of the remarkable things this week was Mitt Romney, a lot of pushback from other Republicans, including, I think, one of his campaign co-chairs, about his looking seriously at running again.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes.

    Well, the donors don’t seem to like him. The Republican committee people don’t want him to run again. And the field is just a lot stronger this time. I mean, he ran against people who couldn’t possibly win, so he won more or less by default.

    So there are people who lose and get renominated. And — but they are people who have passionate, intense followers who believe in them, and so Adlai Stevenson, William Jennings Bryan.

  • Mark Shields:

    Reagan.

  • David Brooks:

    Reagan.

    And so there’s just an intensity. These people will walk through hell for a certain guy, man or a woman. And if those people exist for Mitt Romney, they’re, like, in a phone booth in Massachusetts somewhere.

    He never generated that sort of intensity. People liked him. He’s a decent guy. But he never generated that intense followers. So when he announced he’s running again, people looked at it very coolly and very practically and said, you had your shot, buddy.

  • Mark Shields:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to write him off.

    I would say that the other example of somebody who was renominated was Richard Nixon, and didn’t have great, passionate, intense followers, but he — Mitt Romney sort of followed the Nixon formula, was, after he lost in ’60, Nixon campaigned across the country in ’64 and ’66.

    Romney, after 2012, became the national Republican surrogate in 2014. He went everywhere, and he was welcome everywhere. And I think that was as long as he was being contrasted to Barack Obama. And Barack Obama was at the lowest point of his presidency, maybe some buyer’s remorse on the part of some voters.

    I think that David is right that there’s more options now. We’re not talking about Herman Cain and Donald Trump. But we have also got a field that is not — doesn’t have dominant figures in it. And you’re in a competition. Jeb Bush has accelerated this system.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Mark Shields:

    You have competition for fund-raisers, for talent who can work in the campaign and for the — to inspire and engage voters. I mean, whoever can do that, that’s the competition.

  • David Brooks:

    But, also, the mood is — first of all, people are really sick of this — the status quo, so they want change, they want freshness.

    But then the mood toward all these other candidates who are flowing out there is kind of intrigued. So, some people are sort of intrigued by Marco Rubio or intrigued by Ted Cruz or intrigued by Chris Christie. They’re sort of like interesting figures. And you sort of want to see how it will play out.

    And I think Mark and I agreed the John Kasich juggernaut is unstoppable.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    The Ohio governor who…

  • Mark Shields:

    Ohio, the mother of presidents.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We have heard you mention him before.

  • David Brooks:

    I think John Kasich is undervalued as a candidate. Mark disagrees slightly.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    Maximally.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    But there are interesting figures out there. And so you don’t need to go back to somebody you have already known too well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it’s not that there’s a — you’re saying it’s not that there’s a front-runner out there, but there are several folks who could develop into a front-runner.

  • Mark Shields:

    This is a party that’s always had a front-runner.

    Since — in the last 60 years, Judy, with one exception, the candidate, Republican candidate who led in the Gallup poll one year before the convention became the nominee. There’s a natural order that Republicans follow. They’re a very almost — I don’t want to say conventional, but predictable.

    It’s like the Kiwanis Club or the Rotary Club. If you have been sergeant at arms, you have been vice — you’re going to be the nominee. And this is a party that’s ahistorical in 2016. It doesn’t have a front-runner. And I really it’s kind of fascinating to watch the Republican…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Unlike the Democrats, who — they have reversed roles.

  • Mark Shields:

    The Democrats have this — they have never nominated the front-runner, never nominated the front-runner. They always nominate somebody at the back of the room who excites people, whether it’s George McGovern or Barack Obama.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So are you trying to tell me we’re going to have an exciting race for president this time on the Republican side?

  • Mark Shields:

    I think the Republican race is fascinating.

    And I do not write off Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney’s speech tonight before the Republican National Committee may be the most important speech of his career. I mean, he’s got to say something new and different, I think, and engaging tonight. If he just does the Barack Obama’s bad, we’re good, it’s — he’s going to fall flat.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This is before the Republican meeting out in San Diego.

  • Mark Shields:

    That’s right, with the USS Midway.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, one other thing I want to ask the two of you about.

    This week, the NewsHour announced and said on the air we have made a decision not to air the pictures, the cover of Charlie Hebdo, the French newsweekly, of course, the genesis of the tragic attack in Paris last week.

    There’s been a lot of viewer comment about it, the majority of it negative, some of it positive.

    But I’m just curious to know from the two of you, how do you think about this? I mean, our explanation is that we believe the offense that it could cause outweighs the news value. But there’s a big debate about it. So I wanted to hear from the two of you.

  • David Brooks:

    Well, I agree with the viewers, whatever they say.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    But, you know, I have changed my mind about this. My newspaper, The New York Times, made the exact same decision.

    And I thought, no, the news value, you have got the show what — the subject of what all this fuss is all about. But as I thought about it more, when you actually look at the actual cartoons, some of them involve sodomy, some of them involve things that violate every standard of decency which we have.

    And so my view is that our standards of what represents decent behavior and civic conversation are more important in this case. And if people want to see the cartoons, they can go online, they can go somewhere else.

    And my basic attitude is that, when it comes to speech, is that we should almost, almost never invite somebody off campus, we should almost, almost never pass a law, but we should have certain social standards, what’s polite, what’s acceptable, what gets you respect, what doesn’t. And maintaining standards of just decency, we don’t curse on the air.

    And that’s just — it’s a way of behaving respectfully, and that encourages conversation. So, I think the call is ultimately the right one.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we wouldn’t permit a cartoon on our program that offended another group, a religious group, a minority group.

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes.

    I think that anything that’s — I believe in the First Amendment, and the stipulation obviously. But it wasn’t that these photos or these images weren’t available. I mean, it wasn’t — they were widely available and — anybody who wanted to see them.

    And I just — I really think that when it comes to ridicule and satire, I’m a strong supporter. I’m a particularly strong supporter when you’re doing it to the powerful, to the mighty rich, and those who have control over people’s lives.

    And, you know, when it’s deliberately and needlessly offensive, and especially in the case here, it struck me of those who are marginalized and in many cases powerless and poor. I thought you and Gwen and the people at “NewsHour” made the right decision.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we wanted to hear what the two of you think. And I’m glad we were able to talk about it.

    Mark Shields…

  • David Brooks:

    We agree with our bosses.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … David Brooks, thank you both. And we will see you next week.

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