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Shields and Gerson on Netanyahu’s timing, DOJ’s Ferguson findings

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.

    We welcome you both. David Brooks is off tonight.

    So, a national leader, gentlemen, came to Washington this week and spoke before a joint session of Congress, got a rousing reception, Mark. It wasn't the president. It was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He roundly criticized any deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

    What is — what are we left with after this? What are the repercussions?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, Judy, when you feel it's necessary to say at the outset what I'm about to say or do is not political, you can be sure of one thing. It's political.

    And this was a political event. This was — Prime Minister Netanyahu could have given the speech two weeks from now, except that there's an election 11 days from now in Israel. He traveled 6,000 miles to make a very important campaign spot, appearance, under the auspices of the Republican speaker of the House, further partisanizing what had been a bipartisan support for the state of Israel.

    And he made a very impassioned, I would say, eloquent indictment, criticism of the president's policy. The Republicans were rapturous. They were adulatory.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Even, they were post-orgasmic, to the degree…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    On, my goodness.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    They passed, in the afterglow, the Homeland Security, which they hadn't been able to do.

    So, they would have nominated him on the spot, the Republicans, if they could have. And he made a case which has been made repeatedly in this country by other American commentators, politicians, public figures. And he put the administration on the defensive.

    Now, they're going to have to — whatever they do come up with, if they do come up with an agreement, they're going to have to counter the arguments that he made. And we will find out if it helped him on March 17 at home in Israel.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes, what — what — and what about the Iran — any potential Iran deal? Did this advance the case, hurt the case? What do you think?

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Well, I do — I want to agree that it's a bad precedent for a foreign leader to come and make the case before Congress in the place where the president speaks.

    George W. Bush wouldn't have wanted this from Jacques Chirac in the middle of the Iraq…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    … against the war.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Right. But — so, I think there are problems there.

    But the problem is not just the protocol. It's the argument. And the argument here is that the nuclear file that's all this — the emphasis, justifiably, is not the only problem here. Iran is actually on an aggressive march from Beirut to Baghdad. They have proxies with missiles aimed at Israel.

    They have proxies that are committing mass atrocities in Syria. They have proxies that are taking over the security sector, even the oil sector, in Iraq. And these are the real challenges here. As the U.S. is making this case on nuclear arms, a vacuum is being filled across the region.

    And it's not just Netanyahu that believes this. It's also the Arab states that are making this complaint. That case, as you said, is going to have to be answered, is the United States abdicating its role in this region, which I think is part of the question.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Mark, does this make it harder for the U.S. to get the deal, for the Obama administration to get the deal that it says it's working on?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think — I think it — the opposition is stiff. And I think it's going to be tougher, Judy.

    I think it's awfully tough to pay great heed to somebody who has been so consistently wrong, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has been about that region. He urged the Congress of the United States and the people of the United States to go to war against Saddam Hussein, on the grounds that it would bring positive, affirmative reverberations in the entire region.

    He was making the case not simply against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, that that would destabilize and change the regimes in Iran. Now, so, he was wrong. He said in 1996 that, within five years, by 2001, Iran would have a bomb.

    But I just think that this is really a terrible, terrible precedent. I think John Boehner has made a serious mistake. I think he realizes it now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    By inviting him.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    By inviting him.

    And I think it's — the implications are going far beyond this — 170 former military officials and intelligence officials and six decorated generals publicly excoriated Netanyahu for giving the speech and emboldening Iran and poisoning or making toxic the relations with the United States president.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    First of all, Israel wasn't very supportive of the Iraq war. They were concerned about so many of the consequences there.

    But I still think what you need to do is answer the arguments here. You know, I don't think that Netanyahu is wrong about Iran. That's the question. But the real question, of course, is then about the details of the pact…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That's exactly right.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    We don't know.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    We don't know. We don't know.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Let's turn to something very different, Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

    And, Michael, I'm going to start with you. We learned this week she had her own private e-mail, her own private server at her home in New York when she was secretary of state. Now, she says she's turned over these e-mails to the government, to the administration, but there's a lot of questions about that.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Well, I saw one headline saying that Hillary Clinton had failed the first test of the campaign, of her campaign.

    But it's not even the first one. She's also really bobbled her speaking fees, the donations of foreign countries, a variety of things. That is returning memories of the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008, which wasn't a very good campaign. It was chaotic and ineffective. And it's also returning memories of some Americans to the downside of the Clinton years in the 1990s, where you had deception and bullying and really style of politics that Americans tired of at that time and may not want to return to now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Does this hurt her in the longer run?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    It's — the secretary of labor reminded us it's been 20 years since this country has created 200,000 jobs a year — 200,000 jobs a month for 12 consecutive months, which we're just doing right now in this country.

    We did it in 1995 when President Clinton — that's where the Clintons want the focus to be. That's where they want the attention to be, the economic good times, the boom, the accomplishments. But it is a reminder of sort of the Clintonian quality about missing billing.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Whitewater.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    The Whitewater, the secret…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The travel records.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    The travel records, the secret health care task force meetings.

    But I will say this. Time and again, the Clintons have been saved by their political enemies. I mean, Newt Gingrich and the Republicans closed down the government in 1995. Bill Clinton was reelected. The Republicans tried to impeach Bill Clinton and made him into a martyr and a victim and the most popular American president in a generation.

    And what happened with Hillary Clinton and these? And I agree that it's — the billing record — that this whole e-mail thing is kind of sketchy and not particularly defensible. The Republicans come up with Benghazi. I mean, immediately, they turn it into a political back-and-forth.

    So people who might be bothered by it say, geez, it's a back — it's a tit for tat. I will say. I think the Democrats, there's a certain nervousness in the ranks and a question that she is the ball game. There really is nobody else out there on the Republican — on the Democratic side.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Last thing I want to ask both of you about. On the eve of the anniversary, the 50th anniversary on the march on Selma, Alabama, the Justice Department this week issued a report.

    And essentially what they did was, they cleared the police officer who killed Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, teenager, but they said the police department in Ferguson was guilty bias, it was driven by a push to raise a lot of money, and had just essentially, in example after example after example, treated African-Americans in the community far worse than their numbers would warrant.

    Michael, is there — what do we take away from this? But the president today said today, this speaks about something bigger than just Ferguson, Missouri, 20,000 people.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Yes.

    No, I think it does. The indictment, particularly on the Ferguson police force that relates to using the police as a fund-raising tool municipalities, and then having an unrepresentative police force, which then introduces an element of bias and discrimination, but the thing that disturbed me most reading the stories today was how — how much confirmation bias we see in a story like this.

    Everybody looks at the report and finds some support for what they think, OK? Instead of analyzing, you have to approach this from an element of empathy. If you were a young African-American man in America today, you would see a system that's deeply biased against you. You wouldn't trust the justice of that system.

    I think we need to be able to go in one another's shoes when we read a report like this. Empathy is the real basis for eventual reform of these types of abuses.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I do believe and I want to believe that Ferguson is the exception. I mean, the report on the Ferguson police and the pervasive racism of their practices is — cries to heaven for vengeance.

    It's the arrests. It's the only people upon whom dogs were loosed were African-Americans. And if there's anybody who needs policing, good, effective, honest policing, it's people in lower-income communities in the United States, especially people of color, where the crime rate is, tragically, higher.

    I would say that — you mentioned Selma. Judy, it is a political travesty that today — this weekend, we spend the 50th anniversary of Selma, the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Dozens and dozens of Republicans, including President George W. Bush, are going to be there — not a single member of the House Republican leadership, and least of all Steve Scalise, the Republican whip, who needs a — or deputy whip — who needs most of all to get right with people after his David Duke association was revealed.

    I don't understand it.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    That was a terrible message, I think.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, we're going to be watching.

    Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, we thank you both.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Thank you.

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