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Shields and Brooks on Koch brothers’ near-billion dollar spending plan, no third run for Romney

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including Mitt Romney’s decision not to make a third presidential run, the Koch brothers’ plan to spend $889 million on the next election, plus predictions for the Super Bowl game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For Mitt Romney, a third time won't be the charm. For the Koch brothers, nearly a billion dollars might be the right number. And for congressional Democrats, what's life like in the minority?

    For all that, the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen. We have something to talk about.

    Mitt Romney announced he is not running.

    Mark, what do we make of this, and especially the part of his statement where he said he expects the next generation of Republicans to produce the nominee.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, if you're a very sensitive maybe Jeb Bush, you might think that he was talking about people who are baby boomers.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    But that's — it's falling in the same generational grouping, slightly younger than Romney.

    I was surprised, as were most of my Republican sources, three weeks ago, when Mitt Romney said he was going to reconsider. I was surprised, as they were, today when he announced that he wasn't going to run. I think what he got was, he got a lot of goodwill and respect, as he is respected within the party, but not a stampede of people signing up and wanting to jump on board, either as committed supporters or contributors or fund-raisers.

    And I think he, being what he is, a professional man who makes hard, severe judgment based on facts, he made one about himself, and didn't sit around. And he just made the decision and let it be known.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Were you as surprised as Mark?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    No, I'm never surprised.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    No, I never expected him to run. The people who re-run, the Adlai Stevensons, it's because they represent a faction in the party and they have a group of passionate followers. And Romney had neither of those.

    As for the rivalry with Bush, that's — there's obviously a longstanding rivalry between the two. But I thought — sort of thought he's right, that the estimation that the Republican campaign is going to look a lot like the Democratic campaign, where you have a Hillary Clinton, who is clearly the dominant figure, that Jeb Bush is that dominant figure, I do think that's wrong.

    The way I appraise campaigns at this early stage — and Mark may disagree with me — is to ignore the fund-raising, ignore who's getting the consultants, and just judge the candidates the way you might judge a picture in spring training. Who's got the stuff? Who's showing they can deliver?

    And if you had looked at Clinton vs. Obama early in that campaign, you saw how good Obama was on the stump, you would think, oh, he's going to be real. And so now, as the Republicans are beginning to do their auditions, what you're beginning to see is, like, Scott Walker just had a great week.

    He went out to a group of conservatives and sort of unexpectedly showed that he had a little spark. Marco Rubio has done OK. And so just look at who has raw talent and ignore some of infrastructure issues that we probably pay a little too much attention to you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What does the rest of the field look like to you?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, just to pick up on David's point, by 2000, by that definition, John McCain was the Republican nominee, and probably was elected president, because he was certainly the far superior candidate to George W. Bush that year. And he was connecting and he had the right stuff and all the rest of it.

    But Bush did had and overwhelmed him with — eventually with infrastructure. And…

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I always hate it when Mark comes back to me with…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    But I would say Bush wasn't a bad candidate.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    No, Bush wasn't a bad — Bush wasn't a bad candidate, but McCain was the better candidate.And I — but I think the point you make is a very valid one.

    As far as the rest of the Republican field, I think, right now, the early footing — we are really early in the footing — you would have to say Scott Walker. And I — Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, I think, has this going for him. There was a governor of New York named Hugh Carey, who was a long-shot congressman running for governor.

    And he was running against a well-financed candidate with 21-point plans. And Hugh Carey had a very simple slogan. This year, before they tell you what they're going to do, make them show you what they have done.

    And he had a good record in the Congress he could talk about. And I think that's Scott Walker. Scott Walker, three times in four — the space of four years, in a blue, or purple state, call it what you want, has beaten the Democrats, done what he said he was going to do, and hasn't trimmed, and maybe — maybe made a little connection last weekend in Des Moines.

    I mean, I think, in that sense, you have got to give him a little shout-out.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, he certainly fits the definition of next generation.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Do you want to defend yourself here or you want…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, no, I — whether Bush — I thought Bush was as equally a good candidate. We don't need to relitigate that race.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    No.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    But I do think the Upper Midwest is really important, winning that. And Scott being a governor is really important.

    And so — and the problem with Walker was, people thought he was Tim Pawlenty, that he was just a little too boring. And, frankly, there's a look, there's a presidential look, and people weren't sure he had the look.

    But if he can generate sparks, then that's somebody to look for. But the general point is, the assumption that it's Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, some of the old guys…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Or Hillary Clinton.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Or Hillary Clinton. I totally agree with that. I think she's way overpriced.

    And so there's going to be a campaign that's going to be run. You know, Ben Carson, who we — doesn't seem that serious because he hasn't run for office, he will have his moment. I will guarantee you Ben Carson will have a moment in the Republican primaries, a surge in his run for president.

    And so a lot of people are going to have their moments. There's a lot that is about to happen. More candidates are coming in, I think at the rate of about 40 or 50 a day. Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina came in today, or indicated.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Just one thing, Judy.

    Talking about the Super Bowl, Kevin and Christine were in the earlier segment. The Republican race is a little bit like that, in the sense that there's one representative of the American Football Conference and one for the National Football Conference, Seattle against New England. And that's how the Republican races go.

    And it was, for example, in 2008. John McCain represented sort of the right-of-center governing wing of the Republican Party. And his foe came from the more ardently true conservative side. And that was Mike Huckabee. In 2012, Romney was in that governing center, and it was Rick Santorum.

    So there are two finalists. I would say that Romney was competing with Bush and Christie in that governing wing. And maybe Walker is a hybrid that could go either way. But I think, then you have got the true conservatives already, you know, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and a whole host of others.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, the two of you touched, I guess tangentially, on money and whether that matters.

    We know this week the Koch brothers, the billionaire Koch brothers, announced that their network is going to raise almost a billion dollars to put into this race.

    David, are they now their own political party? What effect is this going to have, or is it? You said a minute ago we shouldn't pay attention to the money.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Right. I still believe that.

    The first thing we learned is a lot of people who are really smart at raising money are really stupid about giving it away. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars four years ago. It had no effect. They lost most of their races. This year, they're doubling up.

    And — but the one thing we know, in these big national campaigns, whether they devote it to Senate races or presidential or even House races, the money is vastly overvalued. There's just a ton of political science on this, that you can dump in a ton — once people reach a threshold, you can dump in a ton of money and have very little effect.

    So, I think they're just wasting their money, money that could be given to poor schools or something like that. And it is kind of offensive on that level. It will have an effect, as I say, not on the vote, but on the Republican Party, because candidates will pay attention to this money and they will flock over to a certain side of Koch-style politics.

    And the Koch-style politics is, we're going to give you money, but if you compromise and do something we don't like, next time around, we are going to give your opponent the money. And so what they do is they reinforce a noncompromising style of politics.

    And so I think it will have a weird negative effect on the Republican Party because it will pull people away from — from independent voters.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How do you see…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes, I think David's last point was absolutely salient.

    And that is, it will pervert — money does pervert the process. We saw it last weekend. We saw the candidates going out to Palm Springs for their audition. You go in, and you're seeking to please. You don't want to displease.

    And the terrible part of this is, Judy, that it means you are going to spend more time worried about raising money and less time about raising issue, less time meeting with hairdressers and schoolteachers and nurses and truck drivers, and more time with moneyed people, because what are you terrified of? You're terrified of somebody dropping a million dollars against you in a primary.

    I don't care if it's a swing district or it's a safe district. That possibility always is there. And that increases when you're talking about — but the thing about the Koch brothers that amazes me, these are men, the fourth and fifth on the Forbes list of richest men in America, each of them, worth $83 billion between the two of them, is their lack of shame, I mean, their openness in saying this.

    We're reminded of the court's decision to open up, to say that money was speech, which they did in…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Supreme Court.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    At the Supreme Court of the United States.

    And we were told at that time, assured by the justices, so politically savvy themselves, that the Congress, of course, would demand total disclosure, that you would have immediate disclosure of who the people who were giving.

    Now half the money that is given by millionaires and billionaires is never even recorded. It's not even in the Federal Election Commission, because it goes through this charitable loophole.

    So it's a perversion. And to their credit, they — or maybe it's just like a lack of shamelessness. The fact that they made it public tells you something about the swagger with which they approach it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I think we should say that, in the past, they weren't so open to talk about how much they're giving.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    No.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But now they are.

    Just quickly, David, do the Democrats have anything comparable, where…

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, they have done well.

    I mean, when Obama was running, he outraised his opponents. The Democrats have done phenomenally well. In the Obama-McCain race, Obama had a huge fund-raising advantage.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes, he did.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    So, if you're walking through the Upper East Side of Manhattan, if you're walking through Santa Monica, California, Seattle, there's some money there for the Democrats.

    So, there will just be more money than we can believe. And each diminishing dollar is just making the rubble bounce.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think Barack Obama was sui generis. I think he was unique.

    He raised millions of dollars. David is right. He raised a lot more than John McCain did on individual contributions. It was a mission. I don't think that's replicable by just any other candidate. And a president can always raise money, whoever the president is, with respect to the party, because of the power the president has.

    And Hillary Clinton would be able to raise money because her husband because of her and her record and the fact that she's now seen as leading in the polls. But if you took a generic Democrat and a generic Republican under the existing system that the Koch brothers have laid out, I just think the Republican has an enormous advantage fund-raising.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But I hear you saying Hillary Clinton can be on par with the Koch brothers and with the Republican Party?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes, the Clintons have demonstrated an ability to raise money.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right.

    Less than a minute, the most important question for this, for the end of this, the Super Bowl. Is it going to be the Seahawks or is it going to be the Patriots?

    David?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, it's going to be the — I have to say it's going to be the Seahawks, because I know what Mark is going to say.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And I just have to disagree.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    But I can't get excited. It's Amazon and Starbucks vs. the biotech industry and Harvard.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I mean, I don't care. I want a town I can actually root for.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I mean, Foxborough, Massachusetts, Taunton, Brockton, Massachusetts, they aren't chichi.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    OK. OK.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    They aren't — they aren't — they are not upscale. )

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Did you bring a football, Mark? Can we see a football?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    We're taking the air out. We're taking the air out of David's argument right now.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    It's deflationary policy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I'm shocked you're…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    … the Patriots.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I'm for the Patriots. And, listen, I mean, the fact that we cut a corner or two, so be it.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I'm going to be watching.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Politics ain't beanbag.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    OK.

    David, Mark, thank you both.

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