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Shields and Brooks on striking a deal with Iran, Planned Parenthood scrutiny

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    Next: to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome to you, gentlemen. A lot to talk about this Friday.

    Let's start with Iran.

    Mark, we just heard the secretary of state, John Kerry, what he had to say about this nuclear deal. What do you make of it?


    I think the president summarized it very well. He said don't let the unattainable perfect be the enemy of the obtainable good.

    And I think this is obtainable good, the object being a nuclear — a non-nuclear Iran. And I think this guarantees at least for 10 years that there will be a non-nuclear Iran. It doesn't change Iran's — as the secretary pointed out, its conduct and what it does. And we hope that that does change. But this is about dealing with nuclear arms in a very troubled area.

    And I think, in this sense, it's a step, very — a positive step, and one that I think the president is at the top of his game, quite frankly, from Charleston to the press conference this week. I thought he was compelling in both cases.


    David, what's your take?


    I'm extremely skeptical.

    I start much more than Secretary Kerry, I think, with the belief that this is a theocratic, fascistic regime that wants to, A, be a big power in the Middle East, the dominant power in the region and spread a radically — radical version of sort of religious ideology. And so I think to give that regime first the $150 billion to up their funding for Hezbollah and other terrorist armies around the region is dangerous.

    To legitimize their nuclear enrichment program is dangerous. To lift eventually the ban on conventional weapons, the embargo on the conventional weapons is dangerous. And to have a regime that — you know, the inspection regime, people are getting lost in the details. It is not a bad regime. I suspect it probably will delay the nuclear program, but it's their country.

    And if they're ideologically motivated to build this weapon, and they have every incentive to want to do so, I assume they are going to find a way to keep these centrifuges going in some form, and get a breakout after the sanctions are lifted. So, for all those reasons, I think I'm quite skeptical of what has happened.


    Secretary Kerry pushed back on this idea that Iran is going to use a lot of this money to great mischief in the region, Mark.

    But do the critics — you know, David's point, do they have a point, that after — it is, after all, Iran's to do what it wants with this money it's going to get.


    Sure. It's always — inaction is always preferable to chance action.

    This is a bold action on the part of the president, in my judgment. You have Vice President Cheney saying we don't negotiate with evil, we defeat it.

    And, Judy, quite frankly, I think the reality is that, after the experience of the past 12 years of the United States in the Middle East, of 4,500 Americans dead, of 31,000 severely wounded, of $2 trillion spent, I think Americans have lost confidence in the one size fits all, let's get tough, let's get powerful, let's go in and kick a little tail.

    That is not the answer, and it is not the solution. And, quite bluntly, the reality of fracking in this country and the production of oil in this country has relieved some of the urgency of the United States projecting further force in that area. So I really — I just — I think this is the best alternative, by far.


    So — but, David, you don't think the president's arguments help the administration. What — do you have a sense of what's going to happen on the Hill and whether they're going to either back this or reject it?


    I would be shocked if they rejected it.

    There are some senators — there are a lot of Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer from New York, Dick Durbin from Illinois, and various others, a lot are sitting on the fence right now until they read it, and that seems appropriate. And there are some who are making skeptical noises.

    I think Obama would have to lose a real big chunk of the Democrats in the Senate and it would be just a major setback from his own party. I would be stunned if that happened. It's possible, but it would be very surprising if that happened.


    You think…


    I think David is more bullish about the prospects on the Hill than I am.

    I think the Senate is right now very much in doubt as to what would happen over sustaining a presidential veto. I think the best chance the Democrats have and the president has is in the House, where you have got the most effective Democratic vote deliver and touter of the past generation, Nancy Pelosi, on your side. And I think that may very well be the key to this.


    Well, I want to turn to the 2016 race for president.

    But, before I do that, Mark and David, I want to ask about the story we just — Lisa Desjardins just reported for us, this Planned Parenthood controversy, the videotaped interview out there about selling fetal tissue and whether or not Planned Parenthood is profiting from that.

    A lot of Republicans, David, jumping on this story. Is this kind of a bonanza for Republicans? So many of the candidates for president are saying — are deploring it and calling for Planned Parenthood to be defunded.


    Yes, and Republicans have been sort of deemphasizing this issue. So, I guess when you go to the Iowa primaries — or the caucuses, you increase discussion of it.

    But they have been deemphasizing this issue, because it just hasn't been a great general election issue. But this particular video gives them a chance to talk about it in a way that is not going to be offending to a lot of people in the middle, because I think the idea of selling parts is not very delectable to anybody.

    And, frankly, the part of the video that offended me, I guess, was, whether you're pro-choice or pro-life, the state of the fetus late term is a mystery. And to talk about the body parts in such a cavalier way showed to me a corrosiveness of this issue, and the way this — the polarization of this issue tends to corrode people.

    And so this is a good and easy shot for the Republicans, because it's not really engaging the issue where they're sort of unpopular, and it allows them to defend the rights of the unborn, attack Planned Parenthood in a way that is politically more or less cost-free.




    I think David is right.

    I think abortion remains a painful and difficult issue in this country. America, I think it's fair to say, is pro-choice. They don't want to criminalize a woman who, in consultation with her conscience or confessor, her physician decides on the very painful process of ending a pregnancy.

    At the same time, America's anti-abortion. The idea that this is somehow a virtuous act is objectionable and unacceptable to Americans. And I think what you have here is — and, admittedly, I give Lisa Desjardins great credit for going through the three hours of it — but an edited version. But, still, you have the woman, the doctor from Planned Parenthood in a very cavalier and callous fashion talking about, we're going to go in, in a way — not that this is some surgical procedure being performed on a woman and ending a life or potential life, but in a way that we're going to preserve the organs for use.

    I mean, it was — I think Cecile Richards had no alternative, the president of Planned Parenthood, except to apologize for that tone and the way it was done.


    Well, let's broaden out for a minute and talk about the 2016 race.

    One more name has formally joined, David, this week, Governor Scott Walker, of Wisconsin. We have talked about him on this program before. But at this point, now that he's in, what does that do to the race? Does it shake things up? What do you see?


    Well, politically, he's got a reasonably straight shot. His strategy is pretty clear. He's got to win Iowa, the first caucuses. He's not expected to do super well in New Hampshire, but then he's got to probably do pretty well in South Carolina.

    And if he does that, he will be sitting pretty. He will be — he's definitely in the top three, I think, now, but he will be riding high just from the media exposure. His advantages are that he has got a genuine working-class voice. He's not the greatest orator in the world, but he is a good explainer, he's a good retail politician.

    And for conservatives, unlike people like Ted Cruz, who haven't really achieved much, Scott Walker can actually point to legislative accomplishments as governor. And so I think he has a reasonably strong story to tell, will be a reasonably strong candidate.

    The only caveat I would put in, I would say, in the last two or three months, he hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire. And he's let Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and others sort of take some of the momentum of the campaign, but he is going to be strong, I think.


    Setting the world on fire, Mark?


    I think setting the world on fire is a euphemism.

    Judy, the fact is Wisconsin is a blue state. No Democrat has lost — presidential nominee has lost Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan won it for the Republicans in 1984. It's the only state that has elected an openly lesbian United States senator, Tammy Baldwin. Three times in four years, Scott Walker has won very close elections in Wisconsin.

    And he's a favorite of a lot of conservatives because he did take on public employee unions. He has delivered. He's a social and cultural conservative, as well as economic conservative. He has got a story to tell. And he's a formidable candidate. He's going to have considerable financial backing.

    The problem is that there's a lingering sort of "I can see Alaska from my front porch" of Governor Palin with him. He said, for example, that, dealing with ISIS, he had dealt with public employees unions, and he didn't — couldn't say whether the president himself was a Christian, and he ducked on evolution.

    And it just was a question. There was a Rick Perry problem. Is he really ready for prime time? And not helped by the fact, when he did announce, that Patrick Healy of The New York Times quoted his principal consultant as saying that smart was not in the lexicon of voters when they talked about him, but they were working on that.



    So, I think Scott Walker has a great story to tell, but there is a question, is he going to be able to hit big league pitching?


    Well, we can't talk about this week in the Republican, I guess, contest, David, without bringing up the name of billionaire Donald Trump, because he's moved up in some of the national polls.

    There is a lot of conversation about it. But is it having a material effect, David, on what this contest is all about?


    I don't think so. I think he's the circus act of the week.

    He does — doing pretty well in the polls among the people who like the show, who like the thumb in the eye of the establishment, but he's got huge negatives. There are huge numbers of Republican primary voters who say they would never vote for him. And there is just a very low ceiling.

    But he sucks up oxygen. He embarrasses the party. I think the only way it really — he's not going to get elected. The only way potentially is if he loves the attention and he decides that he wants to run a third party in the general election or just be like a stunt candidate out there. Then he would really suck some votes away from the Republicans. That's the only way I can see it possibly affecting the actual electoral outcome.


    Judy, in the Washington Post/ABC News poll, in May, he was at 65 percent unfavorable among Republicans. That dropped 25 points between May and July.

    What happened between May and July? He announced. He announced and he presented himself as the most vehemently anti-immigrant campaign, candidate in the entire field. He's appealed, sadly, to a dark side of the Republican Party and Republican voters.

    And I have to say, the one Republican who has taken him on — Jeb Bush has kind of pussyfooted around, and so has Marco Rubio — is Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham said, this is a moral question. Are we going to — if we do this, we deserve to lose.

    And I just think what's he has done is, he raised the stakes for the first debate in August 6. And it guarantees that it's going to be a question of who bells the cat, who stands up to Donald Trump and stands up on immigration.


    It's become a question in the primaries.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you both. Thanks.

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