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Shields and Brooks on GOP debate standouts, Schumer’s Iran deal rejection

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the first Republican presidential debate, whether Vice President Joe Biden is considering a 2016 run and Sen. Chuck Schumer’s announcement that he won’t support the Iran nuclear deal.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, the first debate among, David, 10 of the 17 Republicans running for president last night, what’s your assessment?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    It was great. It was a great debate. Trump brings the party, and I hope he stays. Maybe in the general, they can stick him in. I thought he was — he livens the atmosphere. He’s not a real candidate.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    He’s not a real candidate?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    No. He doesn’t have an ideology. He doesn’t have a belief system.

    He has himself. And they went after him, the three excellent moderators. And he defended himself and I think he did fine. Probably 70 percent of Republicans disapprove of him. A lot of the things he said were astonishingly inappropriate, that he wouldn’t support the Republican Party nominee. That’s kind of a big one. He likes single-payer health system. That’s the first Republican that sort of likes that.

    He is outside of all the categories, but he is a lord of self-esteem. And his main message is society is filled with losers, and they happen to be running it, and society has some winners who are being ignored. And if you’re a winner like me, we got to get rid of those losers.

    And that’s an ideology that is not a political ideology. It is a narcissistic ideology. But I suspect the 20 percent who like him will continue to like him and like him even more. And so he will be hanging around there.

    Among the real candidates, I thought Rubio did quite well. Carly Fiorina in the underdebate card did quite well. And John Kasich did quite well. And so I think those three helped themselves and they actually are viable candidates and make us rethink the race.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How do you size it up, Mark?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I don’t know where to agree and where — no.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I agree. Donald Trump fills up the hall. There were 24 million people who watched. That’s more people than had ever watched a cable event, other than a sports event.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Huge numbers.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    And this was a sports event.

    Donald Trump indicated right at the outset he is going to run as Donald Trump. And I thought it was an indication of the magic he has established, the chemistry he has with Republican voters, that the only person on the stage, candidate who would even take a shot at him was Rand Paul.

    All the others ducked him, John Kasich included, Jeb Bush included, when given opportunities. Who went after him? The three FOX moderators, who were tough. They really did. And I really think he made a serious mistake by going, retaliating, attacking Megyn Kelly. First of all…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    When she asked him about his comments about women.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Asked him about women, his misogynist comments.

    First of all, FOX News is the validator, it’s the gatekeeper for Republican, particularly conservative voters. And you don’t go after — it is not like you’re attacking Chuck Todd or Judy Woodruff or some of the liberal elite establishment. You’re attacking the mother church when you go after FOX.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, let’s make a distinction here, please. I’m not part of the liberal media.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    No, but I’m talking about by the definition of conservative America, where FOX really is the gatekeeper — I think you would agree, the gatekeeper and the validator.

    And when he went after her, I think he made a serious mistake. I thought, as far as the others were concerned…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You don’t think he helped himself?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think he hurt himself. I really do.

    He’s a combination quite unlike anything I have ever seen before. I agree partially with David that it is sort of egotism and cynicism. Everybody is transactional. You believe nothing. Why do you give money to Democrats? You give money to Democrats because you are going to give them a call and they’re going to do what you want.

    Everything. There’s no ideal. John Kennedy said he was an idealist without illusions. Donald Trump is a cynic without illusions. Nothing is on the level. You go into bankruptcy four times. You screw the investors. Hey, that’s the way it’s done now.

    I just — I thought he came across really, by having taken on FOX News, and particularly Chris Wallace and Bret Baier, and particularly Megyn Kelly, I think he made a mistake.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But you said, David, a minute ago you thought Marco Rubio did well and you thought John Kasich did well. What stood out?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes. So,

    Rubio has a message. The message is, America is changing fast. I’m surrounded by a bunch of old guys who don’t get it. And I get it. I get Amazon. I get Airbnb. That’s actually a pretty good message. And it goes with his belief system. And he presents very well. And he’s very articulate and well-spoken and smart. And so he has a message.

    Kasich has a different message, which is unique and I think reflective also of the times, which is we need growth, but we need compassion. And so he defends some of the New Deal social programs, even Great Society social programs. But he said we got to grow. And then once we grow, we got to share.

    And early in the program, we had his passage on going to a marriage of a gay friend. That is a broadening message. That is actually a general election message. And Rubio also has a general election message. And so if you are a Republican mainstreamer, and you are trying to think, who can win, well, walking in, you thought, well, Jeb Bush appeals to a lot of people.

    And we all go around the country and we hear a lot people who are not particularly political, but they think, Jeb Bush, he seems acceptable. He was meh at the debate. He was fine, but not terrible, not great. But these two guys have something new, and something that actually could be viable. And you know, Florida and Ohio, if those two are on the ticket, you’re doing OK.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Mark, but you see some delineation there? I mean, there’s now some — more separation between these candidates as a result of this debate?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes. Yes. It wasn’t — nobody has called — I will say the person who probably had the best night was Carly Fiorina.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Who was on earlier. She wasn’t even in the big debate.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    She was on the early one.

  • And Mark Russell, the great satirist, said, who won the 5:

    00 debate? Carly Fiorina. Who won the 9:00 debate? Carly Fiorina. I think she represents something Republicans need. They want her on that stage, because when she goes after Hillary Clinton, again, we can’t be accused of misogyny if it’s a woman doing it.

    And she does it quite effectively. I thought Marco Rubio had a good night. Marco Rubio plays better to the punditocracy, those of us who cover it, than he has directly to voters. His numbers have not been great. He doesn’t seem to have a base. But he really — I thought he handled himself quite well last night.

    I wasn’t as impressed as other — David and others were with John Kasich. He was given the opportunity by Chris Wallace after Donald Trump made this outrageous statement about Mexico, the government is sending criminals across the border. And Chris Wallace asked him for any evidence. He had no evidence.

    He said, I was at the Border Patrol, had a visit in Laredo. And he said, what about that? He said, no, we’re doing it because American politicians and leaders are dumb, and the Mexican government is smart. And they’re sticking us with the bill. And he turns to John Kasich and he said, what about that, Governor? And John Kasich said, Donald Trump has touched into something in America, instead of confronting him.

    I just — I thought that Rubio had a good, good night. And Jeb Bush was wallpaper. There was no sense of command to him.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Whoa. That’s tough.

    Just quickly, if both of you think Fiorina had a good night, what does that say though about the system that is leaving the other seven, the people who don’t make the cut of 10, apart in a separate event? What does it say about…

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    There’s a super bad problem with the polls, which is they’re polling everybody. They’re not polling people who are actually going to vote.

    And Donald Trump’s voters are what they call low-information voters. They’re classically the kind of people who don’t vote in primaries. In some sense, his lead is completely — not completely, but largely artificial.

    Meanwhile, we have been hearing on the campaign trail there’s been a buzz about Fiorina for a couple months. And so she just got to show it to a broader audience. But she has earned her way into the next calendar.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Very quick questions about the Democrats.

    Earlier this week, Mark, a lot of reporting about whether or not Joe Biden may get into the race. There’s some fairly reliable reporting that he’s thinking about it. Pros, cons.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    He’s thinking about it.

    Judy, he ran for first time in 1988. He ran in 2008. He’s been vice president for eight years. It’s always been in his DNA to run for president. And Hillary Clinton’s numbers in the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll took a bad tumble between June and August.

    Among women, she now has a negative rating. This was supposed to be her golden source of support to give her the new coalition. It has to be tempting at this point. I don’t think anybody knows. I would bet that he doesn’t, but it’s got to be tempting if she starts to look very vulnerable.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Pros and cons?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    He shouldn’t do it. He shouldn’t do it. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man. He’s a great public servant.

    This country and especially the Democratic Party is in the mood for systemic change and something fundamental, different. They don’t want a sign of the establishment running their party. That’s what she is facing. She’s in a dominant position, but the tide is against her. The mood of the times are against her. The mood of the times are certainly against him.

    So you got to pick your year. It’s not his year. If he runs, I think he will do some damage to his long-term reputation.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    He doesn’t have a lot of other years to choose, David.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We will talk about that.

    Very different subject here at the end, the Iran nuclear deal. The president gave another passionate defense this week, made a speech at American University. He has had a number of Democrats come out, Mark, in favor, but he lost a big one in Senator Chuck Schumer last night.

    How significant is that? Is the president making any headway with this argument?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes, the president is. He needs a third plus one in either the House or the Senate, one of the two.

    And, obviously, Jewish members, including such as Chuck Schumer, are very much a target, because of, understandably, Israel’s position; 92 countries have endorsed this nuclear agreement, Judy, including Lebanon and Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Jordan, as well as…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Egypt.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    … great American ally, Egypt, but — Algeria.

    But the United States here, there is a real premium on Sandy Levin of Michigan supporting it. Chuck Schumer is an important legislator. He’s going to be the next Democratic leader. The fact that Kirsten Gillibrand, his colleague in New York and very close, at the same time came out in support of the president’s position may indicate that Chuck Schumer is not going to spend a lot of time, effort, energy trying to proselytize other members.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How significant is this?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, first of all, I don’t think Bibi Netanyahu’s opposition has anything to with Chuck Schumer’s opposition or the Israeli position has anything to do — I think it’s a terrible deal not because Israel does.

    I just think it’s a terrible deal that will endanger the Middle East for generations to come. And I’m sure Schumer came to the same conclusion. In the public opinion, Obama is losing the argument. The latest poll I saw was 2-1 against among the American public. And, frankly, I thought Obama’s speech — he’s a great speechmaker, he’s a great arguer. Certainly one of his weakest speeches, in which you’re sitting on the fence.

    It’s a close issue. He says, oh, it’s not a close issue. It’s transparently a close issue. It’s a tough debate. Second, if you are on the fence, he was insulting you in your thinking that, you’re so stupid. You were wrong in the past.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Equating it with opposing — or going to war in Iran.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes. It was just, I found, a very high-handed speech designed to offend, not to persuade.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I really — I do think Judy, quite frankly, that the president is making the same case that Ronald Reagan made in dealing with the Soviets, negotiating with Iran. They’re not nice people. They’re not good people, but it is important. And I think he’s making the case.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you.

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