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Shields and Brooks on Supreme Court lessons, Donald Trump controversy

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including what we learned about the Supreme Court this session, new presidential candidates Gov. Chris Christie and former Sen. Jim Webb, as well as controversial comments made by Donald Trump about immigrants.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, as we do every Friday, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who joins us today from Aspen, Colorado.

    So, gentlemen, the Supreme Court, I think you could say it went out with a bang this week, David, issuing historic decisions on everything from same-sex marriage to the president's health care law, much more, and with some interesting divisions among the conservatives.

    What have we learned about the court, do you think, from this session, and how much of an issue is it going to be on the campaign trail?

  • DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times:

    Well, the interesting one to me is the same-sex marriage decision, which hit a lot of social conservatives extremely hard.

    A great sense of fear that they are going to be labeled as bigots if they disagree with gay marriage, a sense that the culture war they have been fighting is one they have lost. And I'm — interesting to see how they reacted.

    My basic view is that for 30 years, a lot of social conservatives have been fighting a culture war oriented around the sexual revolution, around contraception, gay marriage and other issues having to do with sexual activity. And I do think that that's sort of not the fight they're going to win anymore. The country is moving pretty far to the left on that.

    And I would like to see social conservatives do in public what they do in private, which is to do a lot of work for — show work for the poor, heal the social fabric, tithe to the poor, heal the lonely and really address some of the economic and social dislocations we're seeing in the country. That's an endemic part of the social conservative lifestyle, but it hasn't been part of their public message.

    And that's been a disaster for them. So I guess I think the wise choice, both from a Biblical and also from a political point of view, is to emphasize to the public that the key cultural revolution we need now is one to repair the social fabric, and the sexual revolution and views on the definition of marriage are important. And no one's asking anybody to renounce them, but should be second-order businesses, given the actual problem we face today.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Mark, do you think that what we saw on the court could somehow play out in this Republican — Republican contest for president?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Yes, I think it already is Judy.

    Senator Ted Cruz, conservative senator from Texas, candidate for president, has already offered a constitutional amendment that — for eight-year terms on the Supreme Court, that they vote up-or-down retention. An interesting proposal, the one body that would — consistently and consciously designed to avoid politics, to put it right into political campaigns.

    So you would be having year-long, two-year-long campaigns to remove justices or to keep them on the Supreme Court. Scott Walker has already said he's for a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage to define marriage between one man and one woman.

    The Wall Street Journal editorial page has given a green light by calling John Roberts the chief justice copy editor for Nancy Pelosi. So, I think it's in the campaign. I think David's point is a very good one. What's most interesting to me is the Supreme Court is the one place in Washington — the undemocratic Supreme Court, where policy is actually being made, where decisions are being made.

    In the democratically elected Congress and White House, we see gridlock, we see paralysis, we see threats of filibuster, threats of vetoes and very little action. The Supreme Court is the one place where national policy is being decided, not as was intended, but it's actually happening.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, so, David, do you see this affecting what happens in Congress?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, I take Mark's point very well.

    First of all, it used to be you would pass — and this, I'm talking about the ACA ruling the Supreme Court has. You would pass a big piece of legislation, and there would be parts that would be unexpected. And so you would pass a follow-up piece of legislation to sort of fix it up.

    We no longer work in a functional Washington that does that, and so now we rely on the Supreme Court, more or less, which is what they did in this decision, to go against the exact letter of the law, but to go with the interpretation of the law and to fix it up. And so it's funny how the dysfunction in Congress has created the need for the Supreme Court to essentially step in and perform that role.

    As for the Republican Party, as Mark says, it's interesting to see, on issue after issue, some people like Ted Cruz, who really — it's really very much a base mobilization campaign, and almost in defiance of any Republican effort to reach out beyond the Republican base.

    And others, like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who are right now just hanging back, not declaring war, but eventually they are going to have to say, no, we're going to outreach. And that outreach is sometimes going to cause our base some discomfort. But we are going to do it because we actually want to win this thing.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, let's — I want to turn to somebody who jumped into the Republican field this week, Mark, and that is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

    Some people had all but written him off, but he's in, he's jumped in, and he said he's going to go from door to door if he has to, to win over Republican voters. What does he — how does he change this Republican field? I mean, we have got 15 — 14, 15, 16 people running now.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, he's probably, in my judgment, a natural talent, as a campaign talent. He's got great drawbacks and certain personality disorders.

    But he has a great natural talent. Politics, being the most imitated of all human activities, with the possible exception of political journalism, he's following…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    He's following the John McCain playbook from 2000, when McCain held 114 town meetings in New Hampshire and sprang a big upset by beating the establishment choice, George W. Bush.

    The problem with Chris Christie is, 65 percent of New Jersey voters tell Quinnipiac poll they do not think he would be a good president. And he's fallen from grace. Two years ago, he was at 73 percent approval in New Jersey. He won a smashing reelection. He carried women and Latino voters in a blue state.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Right.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    But, Judy, I mean, he's not worn well.

    And the great strength of being a governor to run for president is, you can say this is what I have done. I have a record. I don't just make speeches and press releases. The big disadvantage for running for president as a governor is, other people can say, this is what you have done.

    And there's no New Jersey miracle for Chris Christie to talk about.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David, how do you see what Christie brings to this contest?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I would imitate Mark.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I think he's an underpriced stock.

    At this rate, I just look at the political talent of the people, of the candidates. And he has a lot of political talent. He's just great at formulating issues. And McCain did the town hall thing. And I think Christie has the talent to just see a lot of voters in New Hampshire. There's a lot of time.

    And I think, if he performs well, we will see a rise. Mark points out that he's the kind of dinner guest who, at the appetizer, you're thrilled to have the guy in your house. By dessert, you wish he would get the heck out of there.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And there is an endurance problem.

    But he's got time. And if he can perform well over time, he will — people will not get exhausted by him. And so if I were picking stocks, he would be one I would expect to rise.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How much does it matter that he's not as — viewed as favorably in his home state as he used to be?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    To me, it matters a little.

    And Mark's right, he doesn't have a great story to tell, but, frankly, other governors have risen to power on the stories of fake economic miracles. I think it would hurt him eventually. But we're just now hoping he gets — or expecting to get to the top rung of candidates.

    I don't think it will hurt him too much among New Hampshire voters, I don't South Carolina voters, who everybody else has to face. It will help — hurt him if he ever gets to be a big national contender. Then the New Jersey story will get more coverage.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    David's mention of Chris Christie and dessert, I think, was sort of a cheap shot at those of us who are weight-challenged. And I know he didn't intend it as such.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, moving on, on the Democratic side, Mark, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb jumped in, joining three others who are challenging Hillary Clinton, along with Bernie Sanders. And I want to ask you about Bernie Sanders.

    But what does Jim Webb bring, a Vietnam veteran, somebody who left the Senate a few years ago?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Jim Webb, September 2002, Judy, the war drums are being beaten in Washington by the Bush administration, their friends in Congress and the press to go into Iraq. And Jim Webb stands up, a combat veteran, as you point out, of Vietnam, who not only won the Navy Cross, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, carries shrapnel in him today from combat, and warned.

    He said — challenged the leadership of this country, if you're sending troops into Iraq, understand this. Are you ready to occupy the Middle East territory for the next 30 to 50 years? And pointed out prophetically that, in Japan, our occupying forces had become 50,000 friends, and in Iraq, American troops occupying would become 50,000 terrorist targets.

    I mean, this is a man, I think, who has been right. He opposed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in going into Libya. And he — in one term in the Senate, he wasn't a particularly gifted politician, not a grip-and-grin guy, not very collegial, but he passed the G.I. Bill of Rights.

    And — but he doesn't raise money, and he's a long shot. But I have to tell you, on that debate stage, he can stand up and say, this is somebody who truly was right from the start.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How do you see the effect of Jim Webb in the Democratic field, David?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I think he's probably the best novelist ever to run for president.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I'm trying to think back at other novelists who have done as well. So, he gets props for that.

    I just — he's a Jacksonian. And he hearkens back to an ancient Jacksonian tradition in American politics. I just don't think that's where the life of the Democratic Party is now. There's sort of a moderate tradition in the Republican Party. There's a Jacksonian tradition in the Democratic Party.

    I don't think those traditions are particularly vibrant. Bernie Sanders has the action, drawing huge crowds around the country. I think, if Hillary Clinton is wondering about her future threats, it's going to come from the Bernie Sanders direction.

    And, frankly, I think she's helping flame those threats by being such a prevaricator on issues of trade and the Iraq deal — the Iran potential nuclear deal and other issues. And I think it's Bernie Sanders is where the fire is right now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Tough language, I noticed today on the campaign trail. I think it was in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton said she takes a backseat to no one when it comes to fighting for progressive values, so clearly responding to Bernie Sanders.

    I do — only a couple minutes. I want to ask you both about something else that's come up. And that is comments that Donald Trump, who announced a few days ago he's running for president, has made about Mexicans.

    And here's a quote from Donald Trump. "I love the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border that are from all over, and they are bad. I'm talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists."

    Big reaction, Mark, on the Republican side to this. What does this mean for the Republican field? The other candidates, are their comments appropriate, given what Donald Trump is saying?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I guess I disagree with your question, in a sense that I don't think there has been a big reaction for the Republican side.

    They want him to go away. And when the moral leadership of the Republican Party, on the nation rests on — in the hands of Univision, NBC and Macy's department store, who have objected and have…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And separated…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    … severed relations with Donald Trump…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Right.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Donald Trump, I mean, this has been bad for the brand and it's bad for business, but it's worse for the Republican Party. It's worse for the national debate.

    This man's going to be on the stage, and he's a disaster for the Republicans, in addition to being a messenger of division and hatred.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David, just 20 seconds.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    It's an actual crucial moment for the Republican Party. This was a slur, a completely inaccurate slur. It's culture war politics of the worst sort.

    If the Republican Party can't stand up at this moment against this guy and make the obvious accurate case, then there will be in long-term trouble with Hispanics. They will be in short-term trouble because they will have self-polarized themselves.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You do think the other candidates will say something about this?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Not Ted Cruz so far. But I'm waiting for the others.

    It's really essential that the Bushes and the Rubios say something.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Thank you, Judy.

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