David Brooks Warns Republicans: "This Is Like Supporting Joe McCarthy And You Will Not Be Fine" After Election

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Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news on Friday's broadcast of PBS NewsHour. Brooks said he is "clinging" to the optimistic scenario, "against all odds," that a potential President Hillary Clinton "at an elite level" could work with "sensible Republicans." He also criticized Republican primary opponents for not doing "oppo research" against Trump to avoid this mess.

Brooks warned Republicans who support Trump that they will "not be fine" after the election. The columnist said this is not like supporting Barry Goldwater in 1964, but like supporting Senator Joe McCarthy in the days of HUAC.

"They had a lot of candidates in that race, once Republicans had a lot of decent choices, they could have looked away from Trump to somebody they could have stomached and it would have been fine," Brooks said.

"That is not the case," Brooks declared. "This is not like supporting Barry Goldwater in 1964. This is like supporting Joe McCarthy and you will not be fine. And a lot of the people are just hanging around on the fence or alienating both sides by being somewhere in the middle will not be recovering so easily, I do not think."

Brooks, however, conceded that there are Republicans who support Donald Trump, "not because they like sexual abuse," but because they believe the country needs a big change.

"There are lot of people who are supporting Donald Trump not because they like sexual abuse but they just think the country needs some big, big change, that she’s not, they’re willing to swallow a lot, it turns out," Brooks observed.

Brooks also chided Sen. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush for not doing proper opposition research on Trump during the Republican primary where they could have dug up the infamous Access Hollywood tape. "It would have spared the country a lot of turmoil," Brooks lamented.

"Oppo research gets a bad name," Brooks said. "You shouldn’t go after your opponent, you shouldn’t go dig them up, but if Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush or John Kasich have decent oppo research, and had unearthed this in the primary, it would have spared the country a lot of turmoil. And their own party, a lot of self destruction."

Brooks also said the Wikileaks dump of John Podesta's private emails were "boring."

Transcript, via PBS NewsHour:

DAVID BROOKS: And sign of national malaise that we’re all dragged into because of the conversation we have to have. And I will say —

JUDY WOODRUFF: That we have to talk about.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, and I will say one other thing, you know, oppo research gets a bad name. You shouldn’t go after your opponent, you shouldn’t go dig them up, but if Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush or John Kasich have decent oppo research, and had unearthed this in the primary, it would have spared the country a lot of turmoil. And their own party, a lot of self destruction.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you think they should have been doing this.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, things should come up. They had a lot of candidates in that race, once Republicans had a lot of decent choices, they could have looked away from Trump to somebody they could have stomached and it would have been fine. But now, and you watch a lot of Republicans who just feel — you feel like they’re lock in.

And then you feel other Republicans in morally incoherent state. Last week, a couple of senators calling for Trump to step down, and he didn’t step down. And now, they’re saying, we’ll vote for him, which is morally incoherent. If you want them step down, you can’t vote for the guy to be president of the United States.

And then you have a lot of people saying, I’ll just play it cool. I’ll just be with him. I’ll be good Republican, and then when he goes away, I’ll just be fine.

That is not the case. This is not like supporting Barry Goldwater in 1964. This is like supporting Joe McCarthy and you will not be fine. And a lot of the people are just hanging around on the fence or alienating both sides by being somewhere in the middle will not be recovering so easily, I do not think.

###

DAVID BROOKS: This is sort of psychological question, what happens, say he loses what happens the next day? Is there all the Trumpians saying, no, we were robbed, we are robbed, we are sticking with our man, we’re going into some sort of revolt? Or is it, like, I was a loser and I’m putting that behind me.

My intuition about the psychology is the latter is more likely. That people are just going to throw Trump to history, and then lot of the sense that mass revolt, this is not legitimate, this is not legitimate, I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

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JUDY WOODRUFF: But I want to ask you both about what happens to the country. I know we’re still 3 1/2 weeks away. But what happens to the country after this election, David? I mean, there are people at Trump — Trump himself is saying, this thing is rigged, it could be stolen. People are booing the press. They cheer him on when he says the country, there’s a big conspiracy.

How do you put anything together? I already hear from people saying how is the country going to be put together after this?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I will say Hillary Clinton wins, there are two scenarios. One, that there’s such a vicious hatred that nothing going to happen. But I happen to think she was mediocre secretary of state, but I thought she was an excellent senator and very good at working around the aisle. McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Barrasso, she was good.

And so, I see possibility whatever is happening out there in the country, I think there will be a — people may check out for a little while because they will be so exhausted, so down, including a lot of Trump people. That she may have an opportunity, at least elite level to be effective in some way if she picks issues that sensible Republicans can sign on to.

And they’re going to want to put a window — or a curtain between what just happened and what they are going forward. So, you could paint an optimistic scenario. So, I’m clinging to that against all odds.

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JUDY WOODRUFF: But we’re taking about Hillary Clinton, another — David, another WikiLeaks dump this week from what apparently the Russians hacked from the Democrats, from Hillary Clinton’s own campaign manager, John Podesta. Is there anything consequential there that we’re seeing in these day after day of e-mail dumps?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I was shocked to how boring it was. Usually, if you’re in the height of campaign, they are setting up private e-mails, ripping into so-and-so.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: Exactly. There is some stuff like the Catholic — lot of people who are Catholic think there’s — become Catholic, they don’t want to become evangelicals. They’re living in cities so they become Catholics. Catholics are systematic thinkers. You would say it’s like — it’s not like something horrible.

You know, they’re saying like Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, is kind of annoying and overbearing and Governor Richardson from New Mexico can be a bad guy or sort of pain in the rear.

But by the standard of what I expected, to get the inside of a campaign, it’s pretty mild. I think Clinton people should be lot more imaginative.

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DAVID BROOKS: And the key point, which is why Trump is still in the race, it does indeed make her look like very pinion of the establishment which happens to be true. So, there are lot of people who are supporting Donald Trump not because they like sexual abuse but they just think the country needs some big, big change, that she’s not, they’re willing to swallow a lot, it turns out.

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