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Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the biggest talking points at this year’s CPAC, an assessment of the Republicans’ fight over funding Homeland Security and the politics behind Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress.
And with that, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So, Mark, CPAC, the gathering, regular gathering of conservatives, seemed to be mixed messages coming from these potential candidates. What should we take away from this? What are we learning?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:
We should take away, first of all, there's a generational divide in that room, which Rand Paul reaches across to particularly younger voters.
But what I found most — I guess — and I thought Jeb Bush did a lot better in a question-and-answer than he did in a set speech last week. I thought he was far more effective.
But, Judy, what's coming out of that room — and it's basically the first primary for Republicans — is exactly the kind of language of no consensus, no compromise, compromise is capitulation, compromise is surrender. And it's exactly the wrong message that was going to Capitol Hill this week, where Republicans collapsed in handling Homeland Security.
And I just think the atmosphere created by that room and by the people there is harmful to the party. It could be crucial to the nominating process, but it's an unelectable message.
But isn't that the message — isn't that message of no cooperation, David, what — that's been the trademark for these conservatives, hasn't it?
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times:
Yes. Well, this is CPAC, remember. There's conservatives, and then there's conservatives, and then conservatives, and then way over on the other side of the room is CPAC.
And so you look at the people they have nominated over the years as their favorite speaker, it's Ron Paul, Rand Paul's father. President Ron Paul has been elected, Gary Bauer, Christian conservative. So this is like the hardest of the hard core.
Mitt Romney three times.
Mitt Romney did get it, but he packed the house.
They all do pack the house.
But you learn a few things. First, Jeb Bush did well. And so that was important, that if he stumbled, then a little rhythm gets going that Jeb Bush can't really campaign very well, and so he did well. Scott Walker seems to do OK with Tea Party and with the establishment part. So that's good.
Marco Rubio, fine, but what was, I guess, interesting was the foreign policy split. As we just heard, the hard-core interventionists were cheered. Rand Paul was cheered on the other thing. So, people are looking everything right now.
But I suspect the two main trends, so far, we see — I'm about to list three one, after saying two — one, pretty good candidates, better than last time, a lot of good candidates. Two, the party doesn't know where it stands on foreign policy, but it's a little more interventionist than they seemed. And, three — I'm not Rick Perry — I do remember — the social issues, abortion, a little less emphasized than in years past.
So you're saying this is a new Republican — this is a new conservative, conservative, conservative piece of the Republican Party?
The party — like every party, the mood of the party shifts. The Democratic Party is clearly shifting an economic populist direction. But the party shifts.
And I think it's a little more interventionist, a little less Tea Party, a little less social conservative than it seemed two years ago.
Let me take a slight dissent with David.
He's absolutely right. Historically, CPAC was a splintered group. It was the Young Americans for Freedom, it was the American Conservative Union.
It is now a trade show for all Republicans. You don't — you miss this event and you do so at your own peril. Chris Christie wasn't invited last year. He was happy to be there this year. It is now approaching Iowa and New Hampshire as events that, if you're a Republican candidate, you can't afford to skip.
Right. But there are also — there are more quieter events on Wall Street, where the message is very different, but we aren't invited to. But those are also…
But this is where their cameras are and this is what the message comes. And it was harmful on Capitol Hill.
But how does that — and I want to get to that a minute.
But how does that square? When you say it's a place you have to be, but on the other hand, David's point is, the winner there never goes on to become president.
Well, that's not always true.
No. Romney is one. Reagan — Reagan swept it. Reagan really made it an important event.
And since then — David is right — Ron Paul did well. There's a libertarian streak there among the younger members, and that's traditionally the Young Americans for Freedom.
One thing, to segue, Jeb Bush talked about the DHS issue, and he said he disagreed with what was going on, on Capitol Hill, which was a shift toward a more middle, mainstream, establishment, less confrontational thing.
So it was interesting that even at CPAC he did the less confrontational posture.
Well, let's talk about, Mark, what you raised, what has happened on Capitol Hill. The Republicans have been saying for weeks, for days that they are not going to fund the Department of Homeland Security until the president backs down on immigration.
Finally came to vote, and nothing happened today. I mean, what do we see?
Something happened pretty serious, Judy. And that is, the speaker of the House moved — actually voted.
But, I mean, there was no vote to fund the Department of Homeland Security.
No, that's right. No, no, exactly.
But, I mean, it was a stinging rebuke, I mean, a major defeat for the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. They had a three-week extension, three weeks into March, and they couldn't — they lost 51 members of their own caucus, and with the speaker himself, which is rarely done, going down and casting a vote for the losing side to pass a three-week extension.
So they rejected a three-week extension. So now, with the Senate having by a 68-31 margin today having passed a clean — that is, with no entangling amendments, just to fund Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year, the 31 Republican — the 31 senators who voted against it were all Republicans.
So a majority of Republicans voted against it, but Leader McConnell is so secure in his own leadership that he could pass it and not worry about any kind of revolt. What John Boehner has is a 57-margin in the House of Representatives. He's got the biggest margin since — Republicans since 1928.
And yet his speakership is so shaky that he really is looking over his shoulder every minute. He had 25 members of his own caucus vote against him when he was elected speaker in January. And now 50 of them took a walk on him today. And it's just a terrible position to be in.
You agree the speakership is shaky?
Yes. It just looks like unseemly. It's like a retreat. I'm thinking of the great retreats in history, Napoleon coming back from Russian.
It was like that, bedraggled, people split. And it's a failure of vision. Like, this was a day that was preordained weeks ago, when they decided to take up this issue, which was going to be a failure anyway. And, second, it was a political failure. You ask people around the country, OK, do you approve of the immigration? That doesn't matter. Whether they approve what Obama did on immigration or not, they don't like the idea of shutting down government because it brings back to mind all the Ted Cruz shutting down government.
It brings back dysfunction. It gets you lost in the legislative morass that Mark just described. Why they did not foresee this is a mystery to people who are professionals at this.
So, as we are sitting here talking early on Friday, what happens? Where do we go from here, Mark?
Well, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House whip, told the membership after the vote to stay in town. Could be votes tonight. Could be votes all weekend.
But we know that the funding ends for the department.
And you're going to ask people to work, some at considerable risk over the next two weeks, without being paid.
It's almost as though they're out of touch. They don't understand that there are millions and millions of American families who live paycheck to paycheck, who worry about car notes and children's tuition bills. And they are expected to work for nothing?
Now, there is some — there is some point being made that the Democrats could have pushed this over the top.
The president had said he would sign a short-term funding, a three-week funding bill, but Democrats in the House didn't go along.
Oh, I mean, but the speaker's position has been that he would pass a majority of the majority, that he would — he could pass it, and that — you're absolutely right. I mean, the Democrats said, we want a vote on what the Senate just passed, which was an extension.
Well, are we left — is this the end of the new Republican leadership, David? How big a blow is this?
It's a bad childhood.
So, it's just — you know, it's a blow. You know, they will come back. There are other issues.
Presumably, they will get to the issues that are facing the country, maybe at some point, the economy. Iran is going to be on us next week. And so some big things will be happening, but it's just been weirdly undermined.
All right, speaking of Iran, the prime minister of Israel, we heard Margaret Warner's report a few minutes ago, Mark, coming to Washington, coming to speak to the Congress on Tuesday, at the request of the man you have both been talking about, Speaker Boehner.
Margaret talked about all the splits that have happened in the American Jewish community between the administration and Israel. Is this — how big a division is there now between this administration and Israel? How does it compare with previous splits? Because we have seen tension in the past between the Americans and the Israelis.
The most recently and probably memorably was 1991. Jim Baker was secretary of state and George H.W. Bush, and the freeze on the settlements. And the administration, the Bush administration held back $10 million in guaranteed loans to the Israelis and aid to the Israelis.
But this is big, Judy. Since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, support has been bipartisan. I think that this was a political move made by both the prime minister of Israel and his supporters and the speaker of the House.
The prime minister was pretty open in his support and endorsement of Mitt Romney against President Obama, could be accused of having meddled in our election. And now, on the 3rd of March, the Congress of the United States will be used as a photo opportunity for a campaign stop for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who faces the voters on the 17th of March, and has some problems, basically domestic and doing what everybody does when they're in trouble, as a leader, is, you make it a matter of national security.
I'm not questioning there is national security involved, but that's what this is. It was a dumb political move to begin with and it's backfired on — I think on both Netanyahu and Boehner.
As I turn to you, David — full disclosure — your son serves in the Israeli army.
We talk about this.
But how do you see this?
So, I sort of agree with Mark. I think it's a political disaster. It's a substantive disaster for the state of Israel.
I think it's political disaster for Bibi Netanyahu back home, because they're — most Israelis are really worried about the state of the relationship. It's different than the past times, in part because it's — as Mark said, it's partisan now. Suddenly, Republicans are pro-Israel. And what are Democrats supposed to do?
Second, support for Israel, especially on the Democratic left, especially on college campuses, is more fragile than it's ever been before. Third, the Iran situation is just this gigantically big issue, and existential for Israel, a serious issue for the United States. And to mess this up at a time when this issue is looming is cataclysmic, distracted the debate over the — what's being settled between the U.S. and Iran into some sideshow.
And I happen to think Netanyahu's concerns about what — the deal we're apparently getting close to with the Iranians are legitimate, but he has sidetracked that debate into something very self-destructive.
Do you think it makes it harder to get a deal? It complicates it in some way?
I hope so. I hope so. I think the deal is a very dangerous deal, because I think we're granting a very rogue regime access to at least a nuclear capability, which I think is a very perilous thing to do.
But we're not having that debate. We're talking about whether Bibi's coming.
We will have to leave it there.
David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you both.
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