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Shields and Brooks on same-sex marriage sea change, politics of Ebola prevention

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    This week saw the Supreme Court make news on same-sex marriage and voting rights and the politicians respond to the first case of Ebola in the United States.

    For that and more, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, Mark, the Supreme Court made waves this week in a way by not making waves. They said, we're not going to get involved, we're not going to interfere with these courts that have — around the country have said they're going to put a stop to these bans on same-sex marriage.

    In fact, just in the last few hours, the Supreme Court issued another statement like this on North Carolina.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That's right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What do you make of all this?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Judy, I have never seen an issue, the velocity of change so intense in my life.

    Just to review the bidding, 2004 presidential campaign, the Republicans backing President George W. Bush put the ballot in question in 11 states outlawing same-sex marriage. It passed overwhelmingly. The key was Ohio. And the intent and the objective was simple, to generate larger turnout, voter turnout, in more rural and conservative areas.

    It worked in Ohio, and George W. Bush was reelected by the votes in Ohio. 2008, every Democratic presidential candidate went on record that he or she was only for same-sex marriage — marriage between one man and one woman. As 2012 approached, Joe Biden, the vice president, got in trouble by embracing for the first time same-sex marriage.

    But the numbers are just daunting. Among young Republicans — this is a Pew Research poll — 61 percent of Republicans, young Republicans under the age of 30 are in favor of same-sex marriage.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Favor.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    And, I mean, it's just — the issue, it's left — the train's left the station and it's just been a sea change in difference of opinion.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It's a dizzying change. The courts are just backing out of the picture.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Right. And you got to — I sort of applaud the minimalism here.

    Sometimes, you just let the country have its way, and you don't try to determine the shape of the country. You sort of modestly step back and let the country figure out what it believes. And I think they're doing absolutely the right thing in just withdrawing and not getting too involved.

    And I think, frankly, they have learned the lesson — and Ruth Bader Ginsburg has apparently told people they have learned the lesson the problem with Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade had — there was an issue that was evolving, and it's evolving. And then the court laid down a brick wall, and they polarized that debate. They froze the debate.

    And whatever — wherever you stand on that issue, that decision distorted discussion of abortions ever since. And so by staying out of the way, they're letting the country have its discussion.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And so this means the court, Mark, will — that it's spoken and we are not going to hear about — we are not going to hear about the issue?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think we will hear it.

    I think a debate, candidate debates, I think they will — in 2014, it will be a question. The question is, in 2016, in the Republican nominating process, because there are firm believers, true believers, I mean, people who believe devoutly and passionately that marriage is only between one man and one woman and that somehow it's compromising what they consider the sacrament and institution of marriage.

    And they are very active, many of them, in the Republican nominating process. And I think there will be one or more candidates who takes that position.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    You're already beginning to see signs of that. Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, who is thinking of running, he sort of said, OK, it's over. He was like happy to brush it off, like, OK, we don't want to deal with that.

    And I think that's the view of a lot of candidates. They just don't want to deal with it. Let — but then Ted Cruz came out and he was much more opposed. So, I do think…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Mike Huckabee.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And Huckabee, Huckabee really strong, really, really strongly.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And so we can expect to see, especially in states like Iowa, it to be an issue. And I will be fascinated to see how — if — Jeb Bush, if he runs, Chris Christie, it will be fascinating to see how they dance this through.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Just quickly, one other issue the court rule on, or made itself — declared itself on this week, Mark, was voter identification. They basically said that they blocked — they blocked a tighter voter I.D. law in the state of Wisconsin.

    So are we — do you have a sense that this makes a difference, that other states will be reluctant to pass these laws because of what the court does?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I'm not sure. This is such an aberration from American history, if you think of it. Only white male property owners over the age of 21 could vote when this country began. It eventually expanded to all males and even nonwhites and then eventually to women.

    And, you know, then in 1965, Judy, the Voting Rights Act came and said that the federal government has a responsibility to make sure that everybody can vote. And 96 percent of Republican senators voted for the Voting Rights Act, only 73 percent of Democrats.

    I mean, it was a great Lincoln issue. And what happened in 2010, when the Republicans swept all these statehouses and state legislatures, they did two things in shorthand. They made it easier to buy a gun and tougher to vote. And this week, the Government Accountability Office, nonpartisan research, found that, in a study of voter I.D. laws, that it actually lowered the turnout in Tennessee and Kansas, two states studied, among minority voters and younger voters.

    And I hate to say it, but that was the objective of those people who pushed it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What effect do you see on the…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yes. I confess I was persuaded by that study.

    I had assumed, looking especially at the national election results, that it had this backfiring effect, that the voter I.D. laws had so mobilized especially African-American voters that they had swamped, that it was actually harmful. And I think a lot of people believed that after the 2012 — or 2012, 2008 election.

    But the GAO support — study suggests that it actually did suppress votes. The other thing the GAO study said, which I think is the key to a lot of this — and I oppose these laws — is that the assertion that there's a lot of fraud out there is just not true. There's scattered fraud. But the idea that there is systemic fraud that you need the picture I.D.s to combat is just not out there.

    Nobody has ever been able to find it. And so it does lead to the worst assertions of why the people — these laws are being passed.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Senate races, three-and-a-half weeks left, Mark. Maybe some surprises developing in South Dakota, some other places? What do you see?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Right from the outset, all the conventional wisdom has been, three Democratic states — seats that are going to. The Republicans are going to win West Virginia. Jay Rockefeller is retiring. Max Baucus left Montana. The Republicans are going to win. And South Dakota with Tim Johnson retiring.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It was the mantra.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That was it.

    And now, all of a sudden, South Dakota is a race. An aberrational independent candidate, Larry Pressler, 40 years ago elected to the House from South Dakota two terms, then three terms in the Senate, and a Vietnam veteran. No money. But he's scrambled that race.

    And so all of a sudden, Rick Weiland, the Democrat, thinks he has got a chance. Democrats are putting in — and Mike Rounds, the Republican governor, former governor, who was coasting to — coasting to election and coronation, finds himself in a race, and it's a real fight.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It may be interesting after all on election night.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    It may be.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I still have — I still have it in my bones that it's going to be a tide for the Republicans.

    And I look at it — and first, in the South Dakota race, what Pressler is doing is amazing, and so it should be saluted. It's great for anybody who follows politics.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The comeback. If there's comeback.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    If there's a comeback.

    It should be said, though, they haven't really turned their guns on him yet. And so it gets worse for him as he — it doesn't mean he don't survive it, but it gets harder for him from here on out, because now he's a big player and they're going to turn their guns on him.

    I still — I still think that we're in a race like 2006, where you have an unpopular president which, at the end of the day, the people who decide late, they tend to decide against the president's party. And the candidates who have approval ratings of under 45 percent, which is a lot of people, even Kay Hagan, they tend to not do well, because the late deciders tend to go against the president and tend to benefit the other property.

    In 2006, Democrats was the unpopular — Democrats had a late surge. It feels parallel to me that, that the Republicans may have a surge.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You feel it could be the so-called wave?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, I don't know how big the wave. There's a lot of breakers there.

    So, I still think it feels like that, just because you look at the president's approval number and you look at a lot of the Democrats, even the incumbents, they're 40, 42, 45 in approval, and historically those candidates have not risen to 50 by Election Day.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What's your gut telling you?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think it's a depressing year.

    It's as dreary and dismal a campaign as I have ever seen. In 1994, even Democrats had to acknowledge that the Republicans had a Contract with America. Even in 2006, when the Democrats swept back in, there was a six for '06.

    I have no idea what the Republicans want to do if they win or what the Democrats, other than minimum wage and equal pay, that they — so it's an election, Judy, not about, we want to win. We want the other guy to lose. Beating the opposition is somehow more important.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Look at the commercials.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes, really.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And it's identical. It's the Democrats saying right-wing extremists, the Republicans saying, oh, you like Obama. And that is the — that's it, nationwide, nationwide, nationwide. So, it's paint by numbers. There's very little creativity.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Very, very quickly, some conservatives have been saying this week that the administration has dropped the ball on the fight against Ebola to keep it out of the country, there's not enough being done. Could this become a political issue between now and Election Day, Mark?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Obviously, I think some Republicans are trying to raise it in certain campaigns.

    You know, I think it's tough to make the case. I think the president and the government is doing far more. Contrast it with what we did on AIDS just a generation ago. Should we be doing more? It's kind of tough when you cut the National Institute of Health budget on infectious diseases, and it requires cooperation and collaboration with other countries.

    We have cut by a quarter, the Republicans have, since 2010 the contribution to the World Health Organization. But it's — there's no question there's a concern and an anxiety in the country.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Substantively, one person's died on our shores from Ebola, but it plays into the larger argument that we have lost control of the borders, and that we're insecure.

    And that's terrorism and immigration. Ebola is just like a way to remind people of terrorism and immigration. So, I think they're playing it for that reason. Whether there's really an actual health scare about Ebola in this country, I find it hard to believe that it wouldn't be legitimate.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, in just the few minutes that we have left, I want to shift gears slightly.

    There was a memorial service today for James Brady. He was President Reagan's White House press secretary. He was an ardent gun control person. He died in August, 33 years after being shot in the head during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan.

    A number of Washington hands who knew and worked with Jim Brady — I was honored to be among them — paid tribute to Jim this morning.

  • BILL PLANTE, CBS News:

    I asked him if he was still bitter.

    He paused. "Well," he said, "it's not classy to be bitter. And I try to be classy, as you know."

    (LAUGHTER)

  • BILL PLANTE:

    "Is it very much of an effort?" I asked.

    He answered, "Yes." But he made that effort valiantly for 33 years.

  • VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN:

    What is interesting about Jim, he turned it all into action.

    He not only reached out to survivors of gun violence, but he reached out to the disabled with a message of encouragement and hope on the road to recovery. And the reason why it mattered so much to them — and you could see it in their eyes — it mattered because they knew he knew. They knew he understood. And he literally helped heal. And he gave hope.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, David, you are too young. You weren't around back during the Reagan administration.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark, you and I — you and I were around, to be gentle about it.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    You were in the sixth grade, Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Thoughts about Jim Brady. He was a special guy.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Jim Brady was a very special guy.

    In 1974, there was a saloon in Washington called The Class Reunion, where Republicans and Democrats and politicians and journalists used to meet and laugh and tell stories. And Jim Brady was sort of the unofficial mayor of that place. He was great company.

    But what I remember about him — Joe Biden is absolutely right. Joe Biden knew him well because he was the press secretary for Joe Biden's Republican colleague from Delaware Bill Roth.

    But in the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan was factually challenged occasionally. He said at one point trees cause more pollution than automobiles. And…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Brady repeated that.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Jim Brady was his press secretary on the train — on the plane. They're flying over a small forest fire. And Jim points out the window and says, look, killer trees, killer trees.

    He just was marvelously humorous. He was thrown off the plane. But he was so good…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    By the campaign.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    By the campaign hierarchy. This was irreverent.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But he was back in a few days.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    He was back in a few days because was indispensable. He was good. He was a noble and good and wonderful man.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    One of the best press secretaries in the White House ever.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark Shields, David Brooks

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