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Shields and Brooks on shutdown resolution, Roger Stone indictment

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the deal to reopen the government temporarily, the president’s falling approval ratings and the indictment of former Trump adviser Roger Stone.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Hello to both of you.

    We meet just a matter of hours, Mark, since the president announced that he was going to go along with a Democratic plan in the short-term just to get the government back open.

    But we just heard Amna speaking to these two, the federal employee Brad Hufford, LaJuanna Russell, who's a contractor.

    You get a sense that this really did harm people. The 35 days, it wasn't just a blip. It was something that affected people's lives.

  • Mark Shields:

    I don't think there's any question, Judy.

    And particularly with the move, pushed by Vice President Cheney, but endorsed by Republicans, and not totally resisted by Democrats, to privatize by contract so many federal responsibilities.

    And these people are not federal employees. They are not going to be reimbursed for the time off, the time off, the time out of work.

    And so I think, you know, it's being felt everywhere. And it was capped by Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce, absolutely insensitive remarks about, why don't you just take a loan?

    I mean, get a payday loan? How about that? That's a pretty good deal. And if they dismantle the Consumer Protection Agency anymore under Mick Mulvaney, it'll even be probably 35-percent-a-week interest.

    So it just — it does. It hurts. And there's pain all the way around.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, what about that?

    And we just heard Ms. Russell say at the end, if nothing else, maybe the public gets a little bit of an education about what the federal government means.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I'm more on the conservative side. Not always a fan of gigantic government, but always been an admirer of federal workers.

    When you get inside these agencies, you see how good and how high-quality the people are.

    I had a chance to talk to Brad backstage. And he's traveling a lot for FEMA, going to where people are in need, inconveniencing himself, living out of a suitcase, for a government worker, and for us, for the citizens. And those people really do sacrifice.

    I recommend a book by Michael Lewis or a podcast by Michael Lewis on the National Weather Service. And you see from this podcast, which you can get on Audible — not to do an ad for Michael — but how fanatical they are about trying to get the weather forecast correctly.

    And they're making public sector incomes, but these people are generally — whether you like big government or small government, the people who do this work are dedicated to that work.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It makes a difference.

    So, let's talk about this agreement, or temporary agreement, Mark. Three weeks, no money in there for the border wall, but the president is right now saying, I want it to — it's got to be in there, or I'm not going to sign a permanent funding deal.

  • Mark Shields:

    A very respected national Republican said to me this afternoon, everybody knows what happened. Five weeks, and the president got nothing.

    It was a cave. It was a total fold.

    I give both Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer credit for not doing a victory dance in the end zone or spiking the ball today, and being rather generous in their remarks. But this was a total — I mean, the president insisted and demanded the money for the wall. It's not in it.

    He demanded to speak to the nation from the House chamber, the majestic, historic setting, not the state capitol in Lansing or Charleston, West Virginia, that was offered to him. He didn't get it.

    So, it was — it was a total defeat for him. And, believe me, Judy, there will not be the will among Republicans in three weeks to go back and do this again. Once it's open, it's going to be opened.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what does that mean, David?

    (CROSSTALK)

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I agree with that totally. It was a total victory.

    It's so unfair. Mark's football team is going to the Super Bowl. The Democrats have this big triumph.

    (LAUGHTER)

    He paid his dues in years past, as a Boston sports — sports fan.

    But it is a total — a total victory for the Democrats.

    I turned on some conservative talk radio, the Sean Hannity show this afternoon. And Sean was trying to defend it, but his callers were having none of it. They thought, this is a collapse, this is a defeat, we're really downhearted.

    And they understood what happened, that the poll ratings were just terrible. His poll ratings have dropped to 37 percent. I saw in one poll today 34 percent, which is an all-time low.

    And now they're likely to go a little lower, by the way, because now he's base is a little upset with them. And you think, three weeks in advance — I would say this to federal workers — the Democrats are feeling great about themselves.

    If Donald Trump wants bring this on again, they're happy. If — the Republicans are miserable. They never want to come back to where they are right now. And so the odds that we will have another shutdown strike me as low.

    And it would be — for Trump, it would be suicidally low to — just to try this again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But he's sticking. I mean, Mark, the president right now is saying, I'm going to have money for the wall.

  • Mark Shields:

    No, he is saying that.

    I — just to pick up on one point that David made, a Marquette University poll, which is a respected poll in Wisconsin, reported that not only simply that 29 percent supported the shutdown and 66 percent opposed it, but the important question came out this week, their results; 27 percent would definitely vote to reelect Donald Trump, 27 percent, and 49 percent would definitely vote for anybody else.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And this is a state he won.

  • Mark Shields:

    And it's a state that he carried.

    And it's a state where yesterday, Ron Johnson, the Republican senator, chastised and publicly scolded the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, for allowing this to happen.

    So if one wants to see how things do develop here in Washington, and we do listen to the people back home, I think this is a case of the Republicans listening to the people back home.

  • David Brooks:

    McConnell's whole affect today was a masterpiece in, I have nothing to do with this. He was like, that happened in some other universe, it wasn't me.

    And so nobody wants to be associated with this.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Mark Shields:

    The thing, Judy, he had no next move. I mean, Donald Trump…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president.

    (CROSSTALK)

    Did he have an alternative?

  • Mark Shields:

    He had no alternative.

    And what's remarkable is, the difference in real estate, in real estate — respect to the profession — I tell David, oh, no, we just had the plumbing done a year-and-a-half. Oh, no, the roof is in great shape, because it's a one-off deal. I mean, if it isn't David, then I'm doing with Mr. X, OK?

    In politics, your word is the coin of the realm. That's what — the one thing you have, and seeing the same colleagues every day. And if the word gets out that Shields can't be trusted, that Shields folds, that Shields doesn't keep his word, then you're dead — you're dead meat in a legislative body. No one's going to trust you.

    And Donald Trump doesn't understand that. He comes out of real estate. You cut the deal, then you move on. But now he's got the same people he's dealing with.

    And part of Mitch McConnell's timidity, beyond natural caution, was he was terrified. He knew exactly that Trump had broken his word just in December.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But he's still the president, David. He still got a Republican Senate.

  • David Brooks:

    Right. But I'm not sure how many of them will want to walk in any difficult confrontation with him.

    And just the — as Mark said, it's always great to declare a shutdown, because you get that first burst of, oh, yes, we're really standing up. But then you have to have step two, three, four, five, and you have to have a path to victory.

    And in every government shutdown, from the Ted Cruz one to this one, they have never had a path to get there. And it's always hurt the side that instigated it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk about the other big story today, Mark, David, and that is Roger Stone, the president's longtime friend, confidant.

    We have been expecting this would happen, but today early this morning, the FBI agents showed up at his house in Florida with — apparently with guns drawn, banging on the door, knocking on the door. And he's been indicted now on a number of charges, perjury, obstruction of justice.

    Where are we in this Mueller investigation? There's still so much we do not know.

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, there's an awful lot I don't know.

    I do know Roger Stone. I have had the distinct, unique pleasure of having known Roger Stone since 1971, which is 48 years. Roger has — was always a political idealist. He was working then for Richard Nixon, doing dirty tricks at the age of 20. And Roger passed through the idealistic stage sometime around recess in the second grade in October.

    (LAUGHTER)

    And got over it in a hell of a hurry, and has been there ever since.

    I thought the most interesting thing to me today was the subtlety of Rogers' "I won't — I will never turn on my oldest — one of my oldest and dearest friends."

    And all I could think of, pardon me, boy, is this, will you get a presidential pardon? That's what it struck me.

    And it's serious, what we're talking about earlier in the segment, Judy, with Yamiche and Lisa. I mean, when you get the president's personal attorney, the national security adviser, the campaign manager, the deputy campaign manager, old dear friend, crony — and Roger's idol was Roy Cohn.

    And, boy, I got to say, he's been faithful to him.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, what are we left with here?

  • David Brooks:

    One, you have to bow down in admiration for the audacity of his lying.

    One of the things he told the House committee was that he had never had any contact ever in text or e-mail with this guy Randy Credico, this talk show host.

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes.

  • David Brooks:

    And he had texted him 30 times that day. So, most people — there are a lot of people who are dishonest, but that's super perjury. That's uber-perjury. And so he is what he is.

    As for the larger where this takes us in the investigation, I'm not sure where it takes us. Why would the Trump White House be trying to get information out of ran out of Stone, trying to talk to some talk show hosts, trying to talk to WikiLeaks, trying to talk to Russia if they actually had a channel to Russia?

    So the whole idea that this…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Mark Shields:

    You mean the campaign, the campaign.

  • David Brooks:

    The campaign. Sorry. Sorry.

    That there's some channel to Russia, and that they're masterminds who somehow colluded with Russia to affect the election — first, the other subject we saw today, I don't think they're masterminds. And, second, why are they taking this back route to try to beg for information if they have the channel?

    And so it may be they're just a bunch of bumblers who did a lot of bad and illegal stuff, but the big collusion story, that may not be the case, though we don't know.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Or that this was the channel, but it was just a bifurcated channel that went a different direction.

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes.

    I mean, it could be many different avenues in. That's it. But it's serious stuff, make no mistake about it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the president, is he — can he literally say today — the White House said today, this has nothing to do with us, that this happened, we see it, but it didn't touch anybody in the White House.

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes, I mean, I don't know — go through the litany, Judy, of the people close to the president who have already pleaded either guilty or — it becomes circumstantial.

    I mean, if I go to sleep tonight and the ground is bare, and I wake up tomorrow and they're six inches of snow, but I didn't see it snow, it's pretty strong evidence that there was snow — it's snowed overnight.

    And you start to look at the accumulation of the blizzard of indictments. That's a bad metaphor, isn't it?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But we — but, just quickly, David, we wait. We don't know. There's so much that we still do not know.

  • David Brooks:

    And it's consuming the presidency.

    And when the House investigatory committees really get going, that will completely consume what is left of an organization in the White House.

  • Mark Shields:

    I will say this, Judy. He took on a San Francisco Democrat, and found out that Nancy Pelosi had steel in her spine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's the president.

  • Mark Shields:

    He did.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

  • David Brooks:

    Thank you.

  • Mark Shields:

    Thank you.

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