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Shields and Gerson on Supreme Court’s gay marriage and Obamacare decisions

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

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

    The first topic is going to be a total shocker, gay marriage. We have talked about it a little bit. The country struggled with it for quite some time.

    Does legal acceptance mean cultural acceptance?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. That was the shortest answer…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    No, I really — I really do think this has been moving.

    Unlike Roe v. Wade, where, quite frankly, 40 years later, opinions are still frozen, as it was moving toward a legislative solution, which is always the ideal in a democracy, that you can do it by popular vote and so forth, I don’t think there’s any question that the momentum behind the support for same-sex marriage, for equity was just exponential.

    It went from 40 percent just five-and-a-half years ago of Americans to 60 percent now, 70 percent of men under the age of 49 — 49 — 18 to 49, 70 percent of women. It’s just — it’s incredible. So, I think that this just accelerates it and seals it.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Michael Gerson, we heard someone from the Heritage Foundation earlier on in the program say that this conversation is not over, that this could be long-lasting.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Well, I think I agree with Mark on this. This has moved unbelievably swiftly.

    Seven years ago this summer in August, the current president of the United States said that he believed that marriage was a sacred woman of a man — a sacred union of a man and woman, seven years ago. That viewpoint has now been declared illegal as a basis for law in all 50 states, in seven years. I don’t know any precedent for that. That’s pretty extraordinary.

    If you step back a little bit, there are some broad cultural reasons for this, not just the court. But there’s really the strategy of coming out, in which more Americans now know people who are gay, which I think has changed and humanized this debate in many ways, change in sexual mores that you see in Hollywood and other places that have taken place over the last few decades, and a change in strategy in the courts, really going — wanting to join a bourgeois institution, marriage, and making a conservative argument to people like Andrew Sullivan and Jon Rauch, making conservative arguments for stability and commitment.

    This was an argument that appealed to Middle America. And it is the argument that won in this court today.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, I might have misattributed. It might have been Alliance for Freedom, not Heritage Foundation.

    But none of this happens in a vacuum. We’re in a presidential cycle. And there, as expected, responses. The ever growing group of presidential candidates for 2016 also reacted to today’s decision. Each of the four Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, praised the ruling.

    But, for the Republicans, it’s a very different story. Some, like Jeb Bush, said they were opposed, thought the decision best left to states and called for religious liberty. Others, like Scott Walker, called for a new constitutional amendment to oppose it.

  • In a statement, he said:

    “Five unelected judges have taken it upon themselves to redefine the institution of marriage. The only alternative left is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.”

  • Some, like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, called it the new law of the land. He said:

    “While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.”

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    The court this week did a — beyond the wisdom or courage or vision of its decisions, did an enormous political favor in two instances to Republicans.

    It — they kept the Republicans off the hook on this issue. This had been a central plank of the Republican platform, support for one man — marriage being between one man and one woman. I mean, this was Republican solid creed.

    And if this is to become — if Scott Walker’s position prevails, and he makes that and his supporters and other Republicans make it a litmus test issue in the nominating process of 2016, whoever the Republican nominee who emerges from that will be hurt and damaged in the general election of 2016 for having had to satisfy the — this litmus test.

    I just think — I think the same thing is true on health care, which I assume we will get to, that they let the Republicans — great relief that they don’t have to have on their hands that all of a sudden six million or seven million Americans are stripped of their health care.

    But I don’t think there’s any question politically.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    I agree that, if that litmus test is employed here, that that’s of political detriment.

    But I think that Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush both came out with probably the more sustainable political position, to say they disagreed with the decision, but it’s the law of the land and now we need to move on to protect religious liberty, a real set of issues that surround the institutional religious liberty in the aftermath of this court decision.

    I think that’s the sustainable decision, the one that the nominee is likely to have. But Walker has taken a different way. It’s analogous to the debate on abortion, where people supported a constitutional amendment that was never going to happen. It became like a salute, like a meaningless gesture. And I think that’s true in this case as well.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, shifting gears to the Confederate Flag, since we spoke last week, really, the topic was about the tragedy.

    Now, throughout this week, we see retailers making shifts, states taking this emblem off the flag. What does this moment mean for the country?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    For the country, first of all, I was absolutely wrong a week ago, when I thought that — Judy asked about the flag, and I didn’t see it emerging as an issue.

    I think two things happened. I think the example that we saw by the surviving members of the family of those who were slaughtered in Emanuel AME Church, the dignity, the forgiveness that they demonstrated — we don’t have forgiveness much in our society. We don’t have it in Washington, D.C. We don’t have it on Wall Street. We don’t have it in faculty clubs of universities.

    Forgiveness is a rare and — valued, but increasingly rare commodity. These people showed — I think they set aside almost a political earthquake by their demonstration. And Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, I thought, showed enormous courage and leadership.

    And what we have seen is the dominoes fallen since, I mean, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia. It’s a remarkable, remarkable response. And I — unplanned and unorganized and spontaneous, but totally genuine, and I think sparked by the families of the survivors.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Nikki Haley didn’t have this position just a few years ago. So, is this an opportunity for Republicans to change their minds?

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Well, I think this is their opportunity in many ways.

    I could not agree with Mark more. But this is a group of people in Charleston and the families and a church that surrounded this group of people that have raised the standards and ideals of everyone around them through their conduct.

    You had politicians in — Republican politicians in South Carolina and other places. You could just see it in their mind, they were saying, you know, I’m a Christian. This is a horrible symbol of exclusion and violence. I should have known better over the years.

    And when Nikki Haley gave people an opening, when she opened the door to do this, a lot of Republicans walked through. They had been clearly uncomfortable for this for years. It had only — it had been an issue because of South Carolina’s position in the primary season, where all these candidates had to come through and say things they didn’t want to say, probably for the most part, as John McCain eventually said.

    But this gave, I think, an opportunity for Republicans to get out from under a burden that they didn’t really want.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Yes.

    And just off camera, when we were talking, this — also the moment that we saw with Obama singing “Amazing Grace” or just delivering this eulogy, you were both commenting on it. And I wanted to share that with the audience too. But there is still this opportunity for a president to do something that no one else can.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, Michael knows far better personally than I do, but the president, at times of tragedy — and this is a time of national tragedy — is the comforter in chief.

    And words, presidential words at a time like this, whether it’s the Challenger tragedy and Ronald Reagan, or after Oklahoma City with Bill Clinton, the president, I thought, stepped up and spoke to and for the nation today.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Often, that involves faith, not sectarian faith, but a broad kind of faith that the injustice you see in front of your eyes is not the final word, that there’s actually an order of justice and hope that lies above and beyond the circumstances that you’re seeing.

    And I think that that’s often what a president provides, some vision that, you know, you’re — what you’re seeing in the moment is not final.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Final topic, not a small one, the Affordable Care Act. Could a new president attempt to dismantle this law, or has this finally been settled?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think it has been settled.

    I think now — as I mentioned earlier, I think the Republicans again were given a political lifesaver by the court. Now the Democrats have to make it work. I mean, it’s a serious program with serious problems.

    Too many low-income are happy they are finally covered, but not enough, middle-income or higher-income people into the exchanges. I just — I think it — but I don’t think anybody’s going to run quite bluntly on changing it.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    I don’t think the structure here of Obamacare is immortal. But I think the president has succeeded in embedding a series of expectations in our common life, that the government is going to help with preexisting conditions or with affording coverage, insurance coverage.

    If Republicans want to get rid of Obamacare, they will now have to replace that system in some important way.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Yes.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    And that is an accomplishment of the president. You know, he’s forced his opponents that, if they want to get rid of Obamacare, they’re going to need to do something else.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    And, Hari, I just point, it’s 22 years since Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton introduced health care. And we have been waiting for a Republican plan ever since.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    There are a couple of good ones out there.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    But, I mean, there’s nothing that the Republicans have said, this is our plan and we’re…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    We are not rallied around…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    No.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    But there’s serious policy work being done.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, I’m not questioning that.

    But there’s a difference between concept and reality, and I just haven’t seen — the fact is that Barack Obama put a lot of Democrats at risk and they took great political risk, many cost their own career, to pass this. And I don’t see anything approaching that in the sense of unity on the other side.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Is this something that we see on the campaign trail? Is this something that…

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Republicans believe that health care is still an advantage for them.

    This is a system where premiums are increasing, where people aren’t all that happy sometimes with their choice of services. So, Republicans believe they still have a good issue here. Obamacare is still not wildly popular in America. But it is going to be difficult to replace this system.

    It’s going to require a mandate, an electoral mandate, a Republican president, a Republican House and Senate, and some serious policy work. That’s a lot to come together.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Opposition is waning, public opposition to the Obamacare, Affordable Care Act. I think there’s a growing acceptance. Not by any means it’s reached the sacrosanct level of Medicare or Social Security, but I think it’s becoming, you would have to be able to replace it.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right.

    Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, thanks so much for joining us.

  • MICHAEL GERSON:

    Thank you.

     

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