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Shields and Brooks on Islamic State as ‘ideal’ villains, retirement for Holder and Jeter

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    President Obama spoke out at the U.N. General Assembly this week for support in the fight against the Islamic State. And Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation.

    For that, and a little more on Derek Jeter, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, another word, Mark, about Derek Jeter. What — what else should be said about him?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, Judy, I think sports is and rightly described as a mirror of our society at large.

    And beyond the unspeakable wife beating reports by some pro football players, conduct on football fields is just unacceptable, I mean, the showboating, the self-congratulatory dancing after a single tackle, the beating of the chest, and aren't I terrific, and the attempts to humiliate and embarrass your opponent.

    Derek Jeter, the Yankee shortstop, was the consummate professional. He showed up every day. He did his job. He never complained. He was never on TMZ. He never taunted an opponent. He was respected by them, and he respected them.

    He was — there's only two teams I root for, the Boston Red Sox and the team that is playing the New York Yankees.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    But let me say this as a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. He, Derek Jeter, was class. He is class in everything he's done. And he's a man of public modesty. And I just think that is so needed and missing in our society.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Class act, David?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, and sort of a story about the limits of big data.

    And so Keith Olbermann has this rant, which you can — if you go on YouTube, you can see it. And he takes down Jeter's stats. And they're good. Look, by any Major League standards, they're good. They're probably Hall of Fame, but they are not great. The stats are not great. His range as a shortstop wasn't great.

    And so, by the statistical measure, he wasn't a superstar. He was a great — he was a very good player, but he was not a superstar. And yet he was clearly a superstar. And he was a superstar in part because of his clutch performances, and the volley and the throw to home plate from the World Series, and his attitude there, but mostly he's a superstar because of the team cohesion that he built and the way he symbolized the team, the effect of one team player on a team culture.

    One of my colleagues said, the biggest number for him was the number on the back of his jersey. And that does symbolize it, that that was the number that truly measured his performance as a player, not so much the batting average, which was good, but not stellar.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Does it somehow override the other news, bad news that seems to come out of the world of sports?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    It does — it stands in stark contrast and welcome contrast.

    And I would just add the good point David made. And that is that the data — and Keith Olbermann — which baseball now lives on, I mean, we're drowning in information, but we're thirsting for wisdom, as somebody said. And I think the wisdom is that Derek Jeter is a great baseball player. He's on his way to Cooperstown, to the Hall of Fame, as he should be, even though, statistically, he — he's got more hits than anybody but five people who played the game, so…

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I would just say, it's always hard to know how seriously to take sports.

    Like, we — I have a friend who says the front clause of every sports story should be, not that it matters, but…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Because I can't remember who won the World Series or the Super Bowl a couple years later. But we get caught up in it. And we debate it like we just saw them debating there because it's where we rehearse our moral stories and debate morals and things like that.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, the desegregation of baseball before we desegregated society, I mean, that's — that's sports.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, we want to turn away from sports for a minute to talk about something that happened this week.

    President Obama, Mark, went before the United Nations, talked about defeating the network of death, the Islamic State, appealed for the world to come support the United States. Is that speech going to make a difference in the success of this effort?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I don't know, Judy.

    I mean, it certainly was a speech seeking allies and making the case and making it, I thought, far more assertively certainly than the president did when he spoke to the nation. And there obviously was a different constituency that he was seeking.

    But the White House is frank that this is a — seeking a reset of the president's leadership credentials, or burnishing his credentials. And I do think that it was a more muscular speech or a less conflicted speech.

    But, Judy, when you talk about destroying an ideology, I mean, Lee Hamilton, the former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House, I was talking to this week, and he said, who writes this stuff? You know, you don't destroy an ideology. You defeat an ideology with another ideology, with another philosophy, another point of view, in addition to content.

    And these people are the ideal villain, the ideal adversaries. They are the worst of humankind in their actions. But it sort of hearkens back to the end of tyranny in the world, which his predecessor, George W. Bush, spoke of. There is a rhetorical overreach, I think, to the speech.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You think the president advanced his case?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, I think so. I think it was mostly revelatory about his own mind.

    And so he had been half-measures, ambivalent, oh, I don't want to do this, reluctant. Well, clearly, he took off the reluctant cape this time. He was — people have accused him, and he has been sensitive to being called professorial and wan. And he was un-wan. He was whatever the opposite of wan is.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    W-A-N.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    W-A-N.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    So, he was bold and forthright and simple.

    And he spoke — he gave a speech in West Point a few months ago where he said military force is not the answer. Well, when you're fighting a military effort, military force is actually the answer. He has been stepping back some of the emphasis on democracy. He stepped that up. And so he was just more aggressive, more assertive

    And I think, as revelatory of his mind, I think, one, he really thinks these guys are evil, that you just can't allow them to exist. Two, he does feel the responsibility to rally a coalition. You can't do it with an uncertain trumpet.

    And I do think there — mixed within the high rhetoric is a pretty realistic goal. We're not going to reshape the Middle East. We're not going to bring peace to Syria and Iraq. We just want to make sure the worst that could happen will not happen. And the worst is an ISIS caliphate in the middle of the Middle East.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    What happened today in the House — in Parliament…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    That's what I wanted to ask.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    OK. Well…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    They had a debate and a vote.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    They had a debate. They did something that we are supposed to do.

    I mean, Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, I give him credit. When they were going through that sham debate before they fled the city, the Congress did, encouraged by the White House — all they wanted to do is talk to the leaders and kind of get a wink and a nod and we're all aboard — on board.

    Rand Paul said, if you're debating going to war, I would think every senator would be at his or her desk. And they aren't. And that was really refreshing and encouraging and sort of semi-inspiring to see the British today going through that, and the prime minister himself fielding questions and all the rest of it.

    Now, let it be noted that they — the British agreed to go and bomb in — only in Iraq, not…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Iraq, but not in Syria.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    … not in Syria.

    But, Judy, the absence of a debate in this country is a shame. Every member of Congress ought to be ashamed of himself or herself that the Congress left this town without debating the most serious decision that any legislator ever makes. And that is sending other Americans into war, into possible death.

    And I just think it's — and I think the White House is following the lead of every president since. They want a free hand and the Congress to go away.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Did they show up, the United States, in the way they handled this?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, I'm pro-debate. They didn't have an election coming up, at least for a little while. And they do have a bipartisan agreement.

    But we have a bipartisan agreement here. And I think to me what's interesting about the debate, it's less about whether than how. And so there is a big majority in the country and in the Congress and in Washington that there should be an effort. The question is how.

    And that's very hard to debate because we don't know if they're going to — if ISIS is going to collapse. We don't know if they're going to hang in the cities, not hang in the cities, but hang in the country. So, the question is how and the methodology.

    And that unfurls as the war unfurls. And so now what we're doing is, we're bombing their oil refineries to try to cut off some of their financial supplies, bombing some of the convoys. And we — the country will have to react. And having running debate as the war essentially widens, which it's going to do, having that debate as the war widens, that seems to me the crucial…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, it's OK to wait?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, I'm pro-debate. This is what I do for a living, so why should I mind?

    And I agree with all — with Mark's points. I'm just saying it's very hard to have the debate about how, what's effective, what's ineffective until we actually see some evidence.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, you can figure out, first of all, how you are going to pay for it.

    General Dempsey today admitted, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said, we're not going to have — we're going to run out of money on this, the Pentagon is going to run the money. And the bombing is antiseptic. But Barry Goldwater, God bless him, said, when you're thinking about bombing — this was in Vietnam, and it's true today — you have got to forget this thing the civilian, because — the civilian, because when you bomb, you kill civilians.

    The idea that you're just hitting oil installations, there are human beings who work at that — oil installations who aren't members of al-Qaida or ISIL or anybody else. So, I mean, these are acts that have long-term repercussions.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, in fact, Dempsey made it sound like they're making more progress than we realized.

    I do want to reserve the last few minutes to ask you about the attorney general.

    Eric Holder, David, surprised, I think, most people announcing he's going to step down. What's the legacy? He's been — he's had his detractors, he's had his admirers.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes.

    He's got detractors and admirers on both left and right, more admirers on the left, obviously, and more dislike on the right. But what has been said about him, which I think is the essential truth, is that he was quite strong on civil rights and not so strong on civil liberties.

    And so, if you look at the record, especially in terms of incarceration, sentencing, Voting Rights Act, very, very aggressive. And I would like to especially highlight the incarceration, which I think is out of control in this country. And so his efforts there are much appreciated.

    On the civil liberties, on the national security, he was very heavy on national security and not as respectful of civil liberty — liberties, and if you're worried about terrorism and if you're respecting the Bush administration, he followed a lot of the precedents and took them further.

    And the one thing I really do object to — and this is parochial — is his incredibly aggressive assault on the press, the Associated Press reporters, the FOX News commentators.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Going after…

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Going after the records and the phone records. That seemed to me appalling. And so — but that was of a piece of his national security approach.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I agree in great part.

    The — I mean, I do commend him for the civil rights, not simply for gay and lesbian people, which he did champion, but also the attempts, quite frankly, by new Republican administrations and states after the 2010 sweep to suppress voter turnout in minority communities. And he took them on, and I commend him for that.

    I think that the — he will be held accountable in history's judgment for big to jail, the — after the Wall Street collapse.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Wall Street.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That after the Savings & Loan crisis in the late '80s, Judy, 1,000 bankers and directors were indicted; 100 of them did time in jail.

    Not a single one of these CEOs or these people who brought the country to its knees, who destroyed people's futures — and so it was always going to be a fine, but you will do no time. And I really do think — you know, corporations don't serve time. Corporations don't go away. And I really think that was a failure.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    A thought on the Wall Street piece of his…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I think so. You would have to figure out who did what. That was always the challenge.

    It's possible it was stupidity more than crime. There was clearly fraud in the banking sector. But picking out the executives who did something wrong, a lot of it was just stupidity and ignorance.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Immunity leads to impunity, and that's exactly, I think, the attitude of the financial community.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right.

    We thank you both, Mark Shields, David Brooks. Have a great weekend.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Thank you.

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