What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Shields and Brooks on Trump’s delegate complaints and the Democratic debate

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including whether the GOP’s nomination process is rigged, takeaways from Thursday’s contentious Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton’s self-defeating secrecy and Sen. Bernie Sanders’s chances in New York.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff

    : And now we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    So, Mark, what did you make of Mr. Priebus’ comment about Donald Trump’s complaint?

  • Mark Shields, Syndicated Columnist:

    Reince Priebus is right. The parties, state parties, choose the rules, establish them. Those rules have been set since last August. They’re not particularly appealing rules in Colorado. Fewer than 1 percent of the 900,000 registered Republicans of the state even were able to participate in the choice.

    But those rules have been available. I mean, the irony of this whole thing to me, Judy, is that Donald Trump has run as the guy who’s going to be the tough, no-nonsense negotiator. His election sends nervous knees in Beijing and Tokyo. And here he is getting rolled by the Colorado State Republican Party, which, in the last 42 years, has managed to win the governorship with one candidate in 42 years, and twice lost the state to Barack Obama.

    If you can’t and negotiate and outnegotiate and outwit, and if you’re going to get flummoxed by dealing with the state Republican Party of Colorado, I don’t know how you’re going to negotiate these tough trade deals with China and Japan.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : How do you see it, David? Donald Trump just keeps hammering away at this argument that the process is — it’s rigged, it’s crooked.

  • David Brooks, The New York Times:

    Yes. Well, as others pointed out, as a businessman, he was perfectly willing to use the amoral bankruptcy laws to his own advantage. And now he’s just getting outfoxed I’m the amoral delegate laws. I think that they’re…

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Did you say amoral delegate laws?

  • David Brooks

    : Well, they’re just — the laws are the way they are.

    But I think, A, they’re in touch with the American tradition. We do not live in a straight-up Athenian democracy. We live in a republic. We have an Electoral College. We have a United States Senate where the two senators from Wyoming have the same power as the two senators from California.

    And we have, in that tradition and that spirit, we have a delegate selection process where it’s just not a straight-up democracy, where, as Reince said, it’s — every big organization, whether it’s General Motors or the Boy Scouts, they have an organizational structure in which they make decisions.

    And the people who are more invested in the organization, are more senior in the organization have more power than the people who are not. And that’s for very good reason. It’s because you want a party to have consistency over time. You want it to have a structure where people have to compromise with each other.

    And basically you want it to have a series of stability, so you don’t get carried away by momentary fads and crazy demagogues. So, by some logic, this structure exists to prevent Donald Trump and people like Donald Trump, who are of the moment.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : But is it smart, Mark, for Donald Trump to keep talking about this process? Because he’s not giving up on this line of…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Mark Shields

    : I don’t think it is.

    I mean, it obviously gets a great response from the crowd that it’s rigged, and this has been obviously a theme of his, that the whole system is rigged, the economic system, the political system.

    But I don’t think Donald Trump does well as a victim. I mean, he’s the guy that’s going to be, you know, the new sheriff in town. He’s going to come in and kick tail and take names. And this is where he looks a little bit victimized. And I just don’t — I don’t think it works.

    The rules of the parties, Judy, do have — I think there is a public interest in how they do it. I mean, the Democratic Party changed after 1968, when it was determined — a major anti-war movement emerged in that year to challenge President Johnson’s reelection and renomination, and it turned out that more than half the delegation — delegates had been chosen two years earlier.

    So the process wasn’t open and not available. And they made the process more open and available. But it is still autonomous to each state how to set the rules. Colorado did a lousy job of setting the rules. And there’s no question that both South Carolina and Georgia Republicans, where Trump won convincing victories, they’re already — the delegates are conspiring to dump him as soon as they can on the second ballot.

    So there is a legitimate point of view, I think, he’s raised. I don’t think it works for him politically.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : You agree he doesn’t gain anything by this?

  • David Brooks

    : Well, it’s the only argument he has, so he might as well use it. It’s an effective argument.

    It’s not like — if he was winning, he wouldn’t be complaining. But it’s the argument that the situation presented. So, I would point out that, as we have gotten more open in our selection process, I’m not sure the candidates are any better. Abraham Lincoln was pretty good. He was very…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • David Brooks

    : Franklin Roosevelt.

  • Mark Shields

    : That’s the old smoke-filled rooms.

  • David Brooks

    : I like smoke-filled rooms.

  • Mark Shields

    : Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Yes.

    But you were saying it’s the only argument he can make at this point, meaning he’s behind in the delegate — and figuring out how to pick up delegates, and this is all he can do right now.

    MARK SHIELDS: He has got two million more votes than anybody else. He’s won more primaries and more delegates.

    I wouldn’t — I don’t think this is a time we pass the hat and hold a benefit for Donald Trump. He’s about to win New York convincingly.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Right.

  • Mark Shields

    : He’s been ahead in Pennsylvania. I think the people who have been endorsing candidates have been moving in his direction. He’s stronger than he certainly was when he lost Wisconsin.

  • David Brooks

    : Yes.

    To me, it’s a confusing moment, because in the delegate process, Ted Cruz has a clear — has not a clear path, but a path where if he can deny Trump the majority on the first ballot, and Cruz is looking pretty good — the delegates keep racking up for him.

    On the public votes, though, Trump is rising in the national polls. He’s going to have a whole series of wins. Cruz is dropping in national polls. He could come in third in New York and a lot of other places. And so you really have a bifurcation. The delegate race really does look like it’s leaning a little Cruz’s way, but not the vote. So, in that sense, it’s disjointed.

  • Mark Shields

    : His argument is a plausible argument.

    I mean, the people are choosing one way, and the delegates are going the other.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Well, let’s talk about the Democrats.

    There was a pretty wild debate, Mark, last night between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. What did you make of it? It was — it got hot at several moments.

  • Mark Shields

    : It did.

    Gone is the cordiality and mutual respect of the earlier debates. I mean, this may very well have been the last time the two candidates are on the same stage together, and they — it couldn’t be over quick enough. I think that there was an intensity in the evening.

    If I could make one suggestion to both parties, is that you don’t have crowds at the debates, pep rally crowds. I think it brings out the worst in candidates, and they start playing to the room, and getting cheers and hoops and huzzahs and all the rest of it.

    But, no, it was a — Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, neither one of them came upon it as particularly warm or likable. I think that’s fair to stay. I think Bernie Sanders may be the most disciplined candidate I have ever seen. I mean, he stays on message very well.

    And Secretary Clinton showed herself — could take a punch and keep standing. I mean, she certainly is — there’s a toughness about her. But she doesn’t have an answer for the Goldman Sachs and the transcripts…

  • Judy Woodruff

    : The speeches.

  • Mark Shields

    : … and speeches and so forth.

    I mean, she said let others reveal their transcripts. I don’t know any other candidates for president who get a quarter-of-a-million dollars for speaking to Goldman Sachs.

  • David Brooks

    : The Goldman Sachs thing is so typical of Hillary Clinton.

    Remember the Rose Law Firm papers that showed up, like, mysteriously in the middle of the White House on the table after years? She will delay and delay and delay until it maximally hurts her, and then she will release. And she just has this pattern of secrecy.

    I do not think the Goldman Sachs thing is going to hurt her in a general election. Democratic voters care about that stuff. Donald Trump would love to be partners with Goldman Sachs. Most independent general election voters want their kids to go work at Goldman Sachs. I don’t think that’s going to hurt her.

    I do think — I’m sort of struck by the way Sanders has not really widened his critique. I thought one — a pivotal moment early in the campaign is when he didn’t go after the e-mails, which he — at that moment, he left — shut off an avenue.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Right.

  • David Brooks

    : And, secondly, he could really go on a class critique of her, that she’s living in a fancy house, she’s eating in fancy restaurants, she’s of the — she’s not only of the establishment. She’s of the 1 percent.

    And he — that could be a very big social, but not on discreet issues like the Goldman Sachs speech, on her whole life. And he really has not widened it out and, frankly, been as aggressive as he might be.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : That would be taking it to a personal level, wouldn’t it?

  • Mark Shields

    : I will say this.

    Bernie Sanders has been urged to do that on the e-mails. And…

  • Judy Woodruff

    : To go after the e-mails.

  • Mark Shields

    : Go out for that. And he made the decision not to. That wasn’t what his candidacy and his campaign was about, is what he said.

    And he — to his credit, he’s — what everyone says, he has dominated the conversation, I mean, that the movement by candidates in this race has been toward Bernie Sanders’ positions, not toward anybody else’s. So, I mean, in that sense, it was a disciplined decision. And it was a — and it obviously makes it easier.

    I agree with David that the Goldman Sachs transcripts are not of great interest to Republican voters who — on such things. But he could have just belted her on that. He could have run TV spots on that, and he hasn’t. He’s chosen not to go at a personal level.

  • David Brooks

    : It may be admirable, but the point that Mark said I would like to underline is the way movement of the debate is.

    I mean, you look at these issues. And the big one this time was with minimum wage…

  • Mark Shields

    : Minimum wage.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Right.

  • David Brooks

    : … where she suddenly flowed to $15.

    I personally think a $15 minimum wage makes total sense in San Francisco, but it’s completely crazy in large parts of the country. And she has made that point. She was for $12 minimum wage. Going up to $15 is way above anything we have ever done historically. I think it would really lead to historic job losses for the least educated and least skilled.

    But, nonetheless, that’s where the debate is going, and she’s sort of being dragged along on issue after issue.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Do you think either one of them, Mark, helped themselves materially or hurt themselves materially last night?

  • Mark Shields

    : I don’t know.

    I think Sanders played very well in the room. I don’t how much he played. I don’t he’s cracked into her non-white support in New York or anyplace else. I think his decision to go to Rome probably made sense to — because it plays to his issue.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Meeting at the Vatican.

  • Mark Shields

    : To the Vatican.

    I mean, the pope is the most — according to the most recent Gallup of 64 nations, the most admired, most popular figure in the world, and is most popular among Catholics, Jews. He’s got a majority approval among agnostics and atheists. You put those four groups together, you ought to win a New York Democratic primary.

    But if the pope is not going to endorse you, you endorse the pope. And you could say this has been a Pope Francis primary, in the sense of economic inequality and economic justice being central.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff

    : … you mention that, because some people criticize Sanders for being off the trail just a few days before the New York primary.

    But, very quickly, David, does all of this lead to something for Bernie Sanders? Does it help him move toward unthroning — dethroning Hillary Clinton?

  • David Brooks

    : He would have to win in New York, I think.

  • Mark Shields

    : Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Yes.

  • David Brooks

    : And it’s very hard to see, given where the polls are.

    But it does make her look bad. I think, if you’re in your home state and you’re being pummeled in this way, it just seeps even more of the little glow out of her campaign. It’s just a dogged, dogged race for her.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.

Listen to this Segment

Latest News