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Shields and Brooks on police body cameras, previewing first presidential debate

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the indictment of a white police officer for killing a black motorist in Cincinnati, the upcoming first presidential debate among the GOP candidates, plus the ultimate anti-Washington candidate Donald Trump and the populist popularity of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    From the shooting, police shooting in Cincinnati, to rising expectations for the first Republican presidential debate, it’s been a full week.

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

    Gentlemen, welcome.

    So, Mark, this shooting in Cincinnati of a black man by a white policeman, the video released this week, there is no question — there appears to be no question about what happened. Why do these things keep happening?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I wish I knew, Judy. I mean, I do — I have never heard, quite frankly, a prosecuting attorney, like Joe Deters did, just come right out and say this was essentially murder.

    But I have to say, I am encouraged by the use of body cameras. This is — where it’s been tried, where it’s been used, endorsed by the National Association of Chiefs of Police, it has led to the diminution of violence. We learned as kids that character is how we conduct ourselves when nobody else is looking.

    This is a great incentive to character. We know it’s not — it’s good for police as well. A bogus charge of sexual harassment against a police officer was totally discredited by the presence of these cameras. But, in answer to your question, I do not have an answer.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, it’s — David, and we don’t know if there is any connection, but we reported earlier tonight the city of Baltimore has had a record number of homicides, gun deaths just in the last month. And yet these incidents continue.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes.

    Well, you know, I suspect — my theory would be that these things have always been happening, and we just haven’t known about it and talked about it, or without the cop cam in this case, we probably wouldn’t know about this at all. It would just be an invisible case for most of us.

    And so I’m ambivalent about cop cams, because I think a lot of what police is, they go into homes of people at their most vulnerable moments. I’m a little nervous about the cameras in those circumstances. I’m also a little nervous about the way the camera may interfere with trust, a trusting relationship with a civilian and a police officer.

    Nevertheless, in this case, it’s a clear, obvious good thing that we have the cam. We can find out exactly what happened. And it’s very clear. He shot the guy when he was in his car. And so I do think this is a case where finally we have the technology that gives us the information.

    As to why the murder rates are rising, my reading of the research on this is that first there’s a lot of gang activity and a lot of it is extremely localized. But if police — we have seen all these cases of police abuse. But the police are there for a reason and they generally do good and they generally prevent crime.

    And if the police are being a little less aggressive, sometimes for good reason, it’s not totally surprising you’re going to see an uptick in crime.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes.

    Mark?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think, Judy, cameras, not that they’re a panacea, but I do think they’re going to help restore the relationship and trust in the police.

    I think they’re good for the police, quite honestly. And there’s no question that there’s been a breach in the trust between urban — especially urban community, African-American and minority communities and the police in major American cities.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    A tough thing to watch this week.

    All right, let’s turn to presidential politics.

    David, we are six days away now from the first debate. The Republicans are going to meet in Cleveland, I guess 10 of the now 17 Republicans. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore jumped in the race today. What do we expect? This is the first time we are going to see 10 of the 17 together.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, first, what’s Trump? Is this a Donald Trump reality show with nine supporting actors?

    That is to me the big story, whether he is able to dominate with his own voice, whether everyone, as they have been doing off camera in the last week, just try to get some publicity for themselves by attacking him, whether he becomes the central figure, or whether they try to ignore him.

    I hope they try to ignore him and just let the thing ride itself out. But to me, that’s the — he still remains, perversely, the big issue here.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What do you think is going to happen? What do you expect?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Here’s what’s going to happen, Judy.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    No, I go back to the Democratic race in 2004, when Howard Dean was the front-runner. And at the first debate, Dick Gephardt, the Democratic challenger who had won Iowa in 1988, took him on directly, to Dean, and said he wasn’t a real Democrat.

    And the problem is, when you have got a multicandidate field — and you have got 17, but this time you are going to have 10 on the stage — when A goes after B in a two-person race, then either A pays a price for the charge if it’s true, or B benefits from the charge if in fact it exposes A’s shortcoming.

    But when A goes after B and there’s a C, and D and a Q all lined up there, you have no idea who’s going to be the beneficiary. I don’t think there’s any question that there will be an effort to go after Donald Trump. I think…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But why isn’t that — isn’t that just going to make him…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, no, but you have to do it. You have to bring him down to earth.

    This is a man who was pro-choice. Now he’s pro-life. He’s for single-payer health insurance. He’s at odds philosophically through his career, his support of Democratic candidates, large checks for Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in the past, explains now that everybody is transactional.

    You want to bring him down if you’re his opponent, if you’re charging him. I think Chris Christie will go after him most directly, because Chris Christie had already preordained for himself the role of the no-nonsense, tell it like it is, straight from the shoulder, and Donald Trump has totally preempted that.

    But, no, I think it’s going to be fascinating. I think it’s always, Judy — debates are important even this early.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Even this early.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Even this early.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, David, what is to stop — Donald Trump has benefited, it seems to me, until now from the attacks. He’s gotten bigger and stronger.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I agree.

    I think the normal logic doesn’t apply to Donald Trump. I think if you go after him, as he’s gone after all these Republicans, all these Republicans have gone after him, and what it illustrates is that there are nine of them or 16 of them and one of him, and that he is the one who stands out.

    And a couple of things are happening here. One is, people always like an obnoxious middle-aged guy that tells it like it is. There’s a weakness for that. I built my whole career on that.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    But, second, he’s not like the rest of them. Somebody did a good speech analysis of the opening speeches all the candidates gave, and all the candidates had speeches using the same language, the same clusters of words. They’re all very similar, except for Donald Trump, different verbal style, different arguments, different words.

    He just stands out. And as Mark has pointed out on this show a lot, if you have two or three decades of politicians attacking Washington, and he is the ultimate anti-Washington candidate, and they’re all sort of Washington, then attacking him is going to make him look even more exceptional and probably help him, at least in the short-term.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Mark, if Donald Trump is getting bigger on the Republican side, Bernie Sanders continues to draw big crowds on the Democratic side.

    There’s some question about whether he’s taking fans away or votes away from Hillary Clinton this early. But how do you explain this appeal of these two outspoken people with very different views, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump? What is out there going on? I saw a quote today from the Democratic pollster Peter Hart, where he said he thinks the American people are — he said a lot of people are scared, and they want somebody who is going to protect them.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I have great respect for Peter Hart. And I — that may very well explain part of the appeal.

    But, to me, the appeal that they have in common is that they are essentially, as David put, out of the mold. Donald Trump is not your typical candidate that people have come to expect. He’s not tailoring his language to the moment.

    Bernie Sanders, he is — what you see is what you get. I mean, there are a lot of Democrats who are still, at heart, disappointed that the people that they felt brought the nation to its knees in 2008-2009, Wall Street, the top 1 percent, have skated, they have never been held accountable, they have never gone to the bar of justice, nobody’s paid a price.

    Bernie Sanders is the avenging angel. He’s the anti-candidate, Judy, in this sense. There’s no focus groups. He’s spent no money on polling, all right? There’s no pre-tested remarks. He just says exactly what he’s been saying. And I think that has appeal.

    And the crowds you mentioned are truly impressive.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Does that explain Bernie Sanders, David?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes, I think so.

    I mean, it’s not what you believe sometimes; it’s how you believe it. And Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have very — little different belief styles. I’m not sure Donald Trump believes in anything, except for his belief system sort of begins and ends with the morning mirror.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    But Sanders actually believes in this.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And he’s intellectually consistent and he’s intellectually rigorous. I don’t agree with it, but it is a coherent belief system.

    And, to me, his success is explained by the rapid and almost dam-breaking movement, intellectual movement of the Democratic base on economic issues further to the left. And so what had been an anchor of Democratic centrism, new Democrats, that anchor is gone. People are responding to what they perceive as the issues of the day, inequality, wage stagnation, and they are moving pretty far left very quickly.

    And I think they’re — a lot of the Democratic base really intellectually is where Sanders is. And Hillary Clinton is trying to catch up, but, for her, it’s catchup. For him, it’s home base.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You’re right. We are hearing some of that from Hillary Clinton.

    I do want to — in the couple minutes we have left, I want to ask you both about these super PAC — we’re supposed to be hearing tonight, Mark, the first filing — or the filing, fund-raising reports on these super PACs.

    In the past, money has not always been determinative. Just because somebody had raised or had a lot of money didn’t always mean they were going to do well.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But could that change this time? Because some of the super PAC money is just off the charts, hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    President John Connally and President Phil Gramm would agree with you that money didn’t deliver the White House to either one of them, even though they were great fund-raisers.

    Judy, this is so entirely different. In the past, in order to continue as a candidate, a serious candidate, you had to be in the top three finishes in Iowa. You had to be in the top two out of New Hampshire. All our presidents elected in the past half-century finished either first or second in New Hampshire and in the top three in Iowa.

    That changed with the Citizens United, when we gave unlimited amounts of money.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Supreme Court.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Newt Gingrich finished a bad fourth in Iowa in 2012. He finished a weaker fourth in New Hampshire, but Sheldon Adelson wrote him a $50 million check and he could go to South Carolina and savage Mitt Romney, which he did in half-hour spots.

    Now we have got 30 people so far, as of an hour before this show, who had given a million dollars to a PAC; 70 percent of them have given it to Jeb Bush.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David, could money make a difference this time?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, I think it makes a difference in who stays in the race.

    So, some of the Republican candidates are pretty poor. And I suspect, even with some super PAC help, they just won’t be able to run a campaign after a little while and so they will drop out. So it helps you stay in the race, like Newt Gingrich did.

    But once you’re in the race and you’re in the major leagues, I don’t think it matters, because there is going to be so much money, so much swamping of money, that you’re just making the rubble bounce. And I don’t think the money will give you a huge advantage over the other candidates, because everybody will have plenty of it, and you will be — we will all be bombarded with ads, and they will cease to make a difference after a while.

    So, back then, it gets up to the reality of who the candidate is, what they’re saying and how distinct they are.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, the next time we get together, we will be talking about the first Republican debate.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    We will.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Thank you.

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