Shields and Brooks on the Democratic Convention

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - September 4, 2012

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GWEN IFILL: And we go back to Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

You seemed to be -- you were chuckling at different points during that, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Pat Quinn has escaped the curse of Illinois governors up to now, Otto Kerner, Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, so many of his predecessors.

GWEN IFILL: He likes to point out that two of his predecessors are in jail.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Well, and others even before that.

No, I thought it was -- the writing-off of this four years as governor of Massachusetts was the first attempt at humor I have heard of the convention. We have been really spared any humor in this entire campaign. And it was just welcome. It wasn't a thigh-slapper, but I thought it was a pretty cute line.


One thing I noticed is the stage is gigantic and the speakers are very far away.


DAVID BROOKS: And so they have a tendency to shout to the hall, rather than talk to the camera.

GWEN IFILL: How is that different than from Tampa?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, in Tampa, first of all, the stage was in the middle of the arena. Here, it is at one end. And they were closer. And so it was natural to take a more conversational tone. I think it's fine for these short speeches.

But if you get out there and start shouting for 40 minutes or 25 minutes, it will begin to wear I think on TV audiences. As for Pat Quinn's facts, I would say he's absolutely right about welfare reform. The Republicans were inaccurate about that.

I think he's slightly inaccurate about the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan, where you would have the option to stay in Medicare. And the government -- for the people who decide to go away from the premium support, the government sets the Medicare standard there. So I think he's fudging a little there. He's right on Medicare -- on...

JUDY WOODRUFF: How much of a liability, Mark, is it for the Republicans that they have gotten so much attention about facts that they didn't quite get right?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, when Paul Ryan is still answering questions on a very tough forum like "The Today Show," when Matt Lauer is confronting him about what he said in his acceptance speech, and he finally today acknowledged that, in fact, President Obama wasn't responsible in any way and he didn't mean to suggest that and it was an erroneous reading of his speech to suggest that -- President Obama isn't responsible for the closing of the Janesville General Motors plant, but it was an impression left in his speech.

So, no, I think it is a problem. But let's be very frank about it. We have got people going through stop signs on facts on both sides of this campaign. And I just think that the campaigns must have concluded, Judy, that there isn't a big price to pay, that people's level of expectation about the candor and integrity of the political debate is pretty low.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On either side.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think that's exactly right.

They clearly -- one of the things the parties do really well is fact-checking. There are people in this building for Democrats, there are people for the Republicans that do meticulous fact-checking. And every speech is run through very carefully. When they lie, they do it intentionally. And they're doing it because they think there's absolutely no price to pay.

GWEN IFILL: As we begin this week of coverage, what are you looking for from this convention?

And, Mark, you as well.

DAVID BROOKS: Choice vs. change.

They really are emphasizing the choice, that the Republicans want to take us back, we want to go forward. And that's pretty much a continuation of what Obama is doing. I still think, when the country is -- two-thirds think we're heading in the wrong direction, you have got to present what Obama used to call change we can believe in.

He's got to have a second act, something new, because people do think the country is going in the wrong direction. You have got to give them a second act.

GWEN IFILL: That's a heavy burden.

MARK SHIELDS: I think the second term is explaining and acknowledging that there have been some disappointments and some missteps. I think that's important, but clearly laying out more than anything else, Gwen, how a second term would be different from and better than and how the country would be better off and American lives would be better off in a second Obama term. I think that is what has to come out in this convention.

GWEN IFILL: So it's not enough just to say the other guy isn't good enough?  

MARK SHIELDS: That's right.

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