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Shields and Brooks on the Hillary Clinton veepstakes, the latest Trump-Cruz dustup

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks talk take-aways from the GOP convention, speculate on the Clinton vice presidential pick and look ahead to next week’s Democratic convention in Philadelphia. Also, a look back at one of the biggest stories out of the GOP convention in Cleveland: Sen. Ted Cruz’s pointed refusal to back Donald Trump.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Back to politics now, and to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    And we welcome both of you, after four interesting days in Cleveland together.

  • Mark Shields:

    We can’t get enough of it.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You’re right.

    So, everybody’s speculating, Mark Shields, about Hillary Clinton’s choice for vice president. In fact, we just got word a few minutes ago that maybe she is going to tweet about it in the next few minutes. We’re keeping an eye on that.

    But, meantime, what should we be — what do we know at this point about what she’s thinking? Do you have insights that you want to share with us?

  • Mark Shields:

    I do.

    I have in my pocket — no, Hillary Clinton has emphasized that she is afflicted with or possessed of the responsibility gene. And that is that she takes a serious responsibility of her appointments and the people around her. And that’s probably the strongest argument that can be made for Tim Kaine, the senator from Virginia, who you tried — you talked with Hilary Rosen.

    But I have no inside information. And Bill Clinton, of course, went off the reservation, as he has more than once, by recommending Tim Kaine , which probably may put him in jeopardy, because now it looks like, if she does pick him, that he somehow would — she would be bowing to the big fellow’s will or direction or influence. I don’t know.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David Brooks, what do your direct sources in the Clinton camp tell you?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, it’s interesting to watch the two candidacies go — they used to go for geographical opposites or ideological opposites.

    Now they are apparently going for temperamental opposites, because Donald Trump picked a remarkably nice guy in Mike Pence. And the three people who are most often talked about with Hillary Clinton, whether it’s Tim Kaine or Vilsack or Cory Booker, they are three extremely nice people.

    And we will have a tonal change between the presidential debates and the vice presidential debates which will blow your mind. They are all — especially Kaine, sunny dispositions, open personalities and extremely likable.

    And so, as with the case of Pence, giving a little aurora of likability to a candidate, a lead candidate who’s a little lacking in that department.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, this is a decision, Mark. They say the choice of a vice presidential running mate doesn’t make all that much difference in the outcome, but it does tell you something about the thinking of the person who is running for president, doesn’t it?

  • Mark Shields:

    Absolutely, Judy.

    And remember this. The person you’re choosing is going to be 90 feet down the hall for four years. That’s a pretty intimate and close relationship, and it better be somebody you’re comfortable with, you like, you trust, you look forward to seeing, not someone you’re coming up with creative ideas on how to avoid.

    I had one very prominent and partisan Republican say to me that he personally hoped that Secretary Clinton would choose Tim Kaine. And I asked why. And they said because he’d like one of the four people running for vice president to be somebody he thought could be president, which I thought was quite a tribute and testimony itself.

    But it does tell you, I mean, whether you’re comfortable. I think David’s point is a very good one, that Mike Pence is a sunny conservative. I thought he had a good convention. And I think that the people that are publicly on her short list all are very congenial people. They’re not people with personality or Captain Queeg problems.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    David, what would you add to that?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes.

    I think I agree, especially on the plausible president point. Kaine has been obviously a governor. He’s been a senator. He’s one of the smartest rising stars in the Democratic Party. He is very plausible as someone who could sit in and be president.

    Jim Stavridis is the former NATO commander who is sometimes on people’s lists, also very plausible, self-possessed, someone with sobriety. And so there’s so much strangeness in this year. These are all people who do seem relatively normal, relatively stable and warm, but not without gravitas in their own way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, David, let me stay with you, because I was going to turn right now and ask you both about assessing the convention that we all have been watching closely over the week.

    But Donald Trump actually stepped into a little more controversy today. He had a news conference. He talked about how he didn’t want Ted Cruz’s endorsement, even if Cruz offered it. And he went on to bring up, to resurrect controversy in the past when he suggested that Cruz’s father might have some connection to the John F. Kennedy assassination, comments about the looks of Ted Cruz’s wife.

    What does this say to us about Donald Trump?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, he has teleprompter moments, but they always precede a relapse.

    And he’s had another Trump-being-Trump relapse. And we should get used to that. He’s never going to be someone who’s normal or is on message or who is particularly charitable to anybody.

    My two big takeaways 24 hours later, first, I’m beginning to think Cruz had a good convention, that if Trump goes down, Cruz is pretty well positioned to be the Republican major figure in four, six or even within two years.

    The second big thing, we talked about it last night, his decision to go law and order. And at the moment, I thought it was a mistake, because I do think economic and social anxiety is the number one issue. And I’m pretty confident Hillary Clinton will be really riding that train pretty hard.

    But what happened in Munich today, if there is a series of attacks like that or, God forbid, if ISIS is really sending soldiers across Europe and maybe across the world for a barrage of these things, then the political climate is revolutionized here. And maybe the Trump speech will look like a precursor to a climate that we’re all about to walk into.

    So the Munich thing has to adjust the way we look back at that convention.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark, what about that?

    Does — we talked about the law and order emphasis from Donald Trump’s remarks last night. Does he automatically benefit from incidents like this one today in Munich?

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes. Yes, he does.

    Judy, the pattern of American presidential elections is that the more optimistic candidate, whether it’s John Kennedy and let’s get America moving again, Ronald Reagan, it’s morning in America, or Barack Obama, yes, we can, always wins, or nearly always wins.

    And that’s been tapped into sort of the DNA of Americans, that optimism and confidence. We are not nearly as optimistic and far less confident than we were as a people. And Donald Trump is writing a different theme, which is it’s midnight in America and that things are bad, and they’re bleak, and they’re gloomy and they’re doomy, and the only thing that is going to save you is someone with the authority and power of somebody like me.

    And so I personally believe that he’s wrong on the condition of America.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    About the condition…

  • Mark Shields:

    We’re not being invaded by undocumented immigrants who are coming to kill police officers and commit crimes.

    I don’t think that’s true. And I don’t think most Americans think it’s true, but it does reinforce his argument, as the law and order candidate, when there are acts of such reckless and terrible, horrific lawlessness as there was today in Munich.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, David, all in all, this was a good convention for Donald Trump?

  • David Brooks:

    I would say I would give it maybe a five out of 10. It was shambolically organized.

    I still think the speech was relentlessly negative and probably off-key, but it did hammer home some points. And the one thing I do think Hillary Clinton really has to do in her convention is to rebut this frame that Trump has set up, nationalism vs. globalism. She cannot appear as a globalist, whatever that means.

    She’s beginning to do that by talking about American greatness, but that’s the task in front of her.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about that, Mark? What does she need to do?

  • Mark Shields:

    I think she has got to be optimistic. I think she has to be — she has to reveal herself. I mean…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you mean? She’s been around for a long time.

  • Mark Shields:

    I mean, there are people who know Hillary Clinton who tell wonderful stories about her, how likable she is, how funny she is; 99 percent of American people don’t — have never seen that side of her.

    Whether it’s her guarded privacy or whatever else, I mean, there has got to be some sense that this is a human being that I can identify.

    Let me argue with David, dissent with him on Ted Cruz. If Donald Trump does lose, and especially if he loses the way that David describes, being revealed as this bizarre personality, Ted Cruz is not going to be what Republicans are looking for in 2020.

    Dan Coats, retiring senator from Indiana, a mild-mannered man, a former United States ambassador to Germany, former congressman, a respected member of the Senate, said of Ted Cruz after this week in Cleveland he’s the most self-centered, narcissistic, pathological liar I have ever seen. And he said, you can quote me on that.

    Now, this is the kind of feeling that his colleagues have. People are going to be asking anybody at 2020 after this kind of election that David and I both expect it to be, what kind of person is this? Is this somebody we can be comfortable, somebody we can be confident in, somebody who is not neurotic or worse?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You’re talking about Ted Cruz at this point.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Mark Shields:

    And Donald Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Donald Trump agrees with him.

  • Mark Shields:

    That’s right. Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David Brooks, what about Mark’s point about Hillary Clinton needs to show more of who she really is, something personal about herself? What about that?

  • David Brooks:

    It is true there is a contrast between the candidates.

    It is absolutely true the people who work for Hillary Clinton speak of her in glowing terms and say she’s loyal, she’s thoughtful, she thinks about them, she remembers birthdays. When something bad has happened, she’s there for them.

    These are not stories you hear about Donald Trump. Nobody is saying, I wish — the Trump I know is so personal and warm. Nobody says that. Even if his own daughter, when she talks — Ivanka, when she talks about her dad, it’s because she got to go see him on a work site. It’s not because he is ever at home.

    But, with Hillary, there is apparently this warm side that she has never let us see, but that intimates really do talk about. But to reveal that would mean breaking through the wall of distrust that she’s encased herself in for the last 25 years.

    And I’m not sure she’s — she’s never shown a personal willingness to do that, because it makes her vulnerable. And her emotional invulnerability has at once made her survive, but has hurt her politically and her likability ratings. So, I really don’t expect her to do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just very quickly to both of you, there was such a vitriolic — no other word for it — hatred of Hillary Clinton, with the “Lock her up” and “Hillary to Prison” coming out of the Republican Convention.

    David, quickly, is there something she can do to undo that animus, or is it just baked in?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I don’t think she can do anything.

    It will be interesting to see how much animus there is against Donald Trump and whether we have the same sort of emotional tone.

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes, Democrats, if they’re smart and they’re not brain-dead, are doing two things right now.

    They’re having self-deprecating humor written for them. There was no humor in Cleveland. And they are not making this a Donald Trump…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Bashing convention.

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, get some rest this weekend. We will see you Monday at the convention in Philadelphia. Thank you both.

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