PBS News: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the decision by a federal appeals court to deny the Trump administration’s request to reinstate an immigration ban, President Trump’s comments attacking judges and the contentious battles in the Senate over Cabinet nominees.
Brooks defended Betsy DeVos from critics and acknowledged that Jeff Sessions is probably more conservative than most.
Transcript, via PBS NewsHour:
DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, on that last clip of Trump on the plane, his staff is briefing reporters in somewhat of a chaotic manner in just the last few minutes. People are saying, oh, they are going to just take it to the Supreme Court, they’re going to rewrite it.
And the two different briefings are contradicting each other. And that’s something The Times reporters have been talking and tweeting about publicly, which is some of the White House staff is in a high state of misery because of the general lack of — chaos.
On the larger issue of the travel ban, our friend Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post I think put it pretty well. I’m not sure it’s illegal, but it’s extremely stupid.
I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of judges overruling presidents on national security matters. Nonetheless, so whether it’s unconstitutional or not, I leave to others. But it certainly has sucked the wind out of two or three weeks of this administration for no good reason.
There has never been evidence that people from these countries are disproportionately likely to commit terrorist acts. We have sent chaos to the airports. We have offended the world. We have derailed the administration. We have done it in such an incompetent way, the administration has, that people with perfectly legal residence have been widely inconvenienced.
And so it’s just been a screw-up from beginning to end, and so it’s just been a running derailment...
JUDY WOODRUFF: And there is a sense of conflict, David, virtually every day.
But what about — is there a strategy to criticizing the judiciary, the judges, the courts over this?
DAVID BROOKS: No, I don’t think there is a strategy.
There is world view. And Donald Trump’s world view is that it’s a dangerous, miserable place, people are out to get him, and he needs to strike them first. That’s been the world view from the beginning. And it’s the world view.
To me, the big event of the week is not one thing. It’s the whole agglomeration of things. It’s the rising tide of enmity in the country, Donald Trump attacking judges, Donald Trump attacking John McCain, Senator Blumenthal, the town halls, the riots in Berkeley. You have got the incivility on the floor of the United States Senate. You have got just a rising tide, every single story.
Every time Kellyanne Conway goes on TV, there’s another fight with whoever’s interviewing her that particular day. And so what you have is this just succession and a rising tide of conflict and incivility and the breakdown in the moral norms that usually govern how we talk to each other.
Marco Rubio gave a pretty good speech on the floor of the Senate this week sort of acknowledging this fact. And so it’s not one thing. It’s every day. It’s the barrage of hostility that seems to mark our politics emanating from the White House, but not only in the White House, from his opponents as well....
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what about that, David? Because some people are looking at Washington and saying, oh, it’s just more of the same, the wheels are not turning in the nation’s capital.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, that’s patently true.
On the various nominees, I generally think the president should get his Cabinet picks, unless they’re egregiously out of the range, either ethically or intellectually out of the range of what’s acceptable.
And I have to say a lot of these nominees are not necessarily my cup of tea, but I think they’re clearly within the range. Jeff Sessions has some problematic spots on his history, but he has been a pretty normal, respectable senator, more conservative than a lot of us, but a respectable senator for a long period of time.
So, one could — I think the Democrats are right to protest, but I don’t think he’s so far out of the range of normalcy that he shouldn’t be confirmed.
Betsy DeVos is not the most informed person on education policy, but I have seen her present a few times, and she presents as a pretty respectable, intelligent person who has cared passionately about education and cares about charter schools. The teachers union may not like her, but she’s clearly within the range of Republican policy-makers.
As for multimillionaires, a lot of us hope to be a multimillionaire some day. Again, spotty records, but it seems to be not without the range. I don’t blame the Democrats for fighting. They have got a very energized base. And there is a lot to complain about a lot of these nominees. But I think, if you are actually going to turn someone down from a president’s own Cabinet, it better be a lot more egregious than the cases we have seen...
JUDY WOODRUFF: I think even Republicans are saying Puzder may have a problem.
David, what about the point that Mark is making?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, in some cases, I agree. On the Puzder point, I do agree there has been a double standard.
On the DeVos case, I agree that the gun — her gun position is kind of weird, kind of crazy, but I do think she does know about public schools. The reason the Betsy DeVos case was the centerpiece case for the Democrats wasn’t about her weakness as a knowledgeable person on education policy.
She does care about charter schools, which are public schools. She does care about choice, which is a perfectly legitimate thing to care about. It’s because it’s the one issue where the Democratic donor base was really energized, which was the teacher unions.
People ask, quite legitimately, why DeVos and why not a lot of the others? But it’s because it has to do with the special interest groups that run a lot of Washington.
Would she be my first pick? No. Is she someone who has dedicated her life to education policy? Yes, actually, she has. I have seen her present a few times. I don’t really know her. But I have seen her present on education policy, and she’s not a stupid person.
She’s quite a smart person, capable, pretty sophisticated in subtle thought. And so to me, that puts her in the realm of policy. But we’re in a climate where, as today, she tries to visit a school, and she can’t even do that because protesters are blocking that.
And that’s what I mean about the rising tide of incivility that’s sweeping over politics.