David Brooks: Dems Party Of International Peace, Civilized Capitalism; GOP "An Ethnic Nationalist Party"

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PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the grassroots fervor meeting Republican members of Congress in their home districts, the challenge of a clear message for Democrats, how President Trump has influenced American conservatism and the impact of a president targeting the media as “fake.”

"Basically, global capitalism, basically to support it, or is it to be opposed? Is international order to be supported, or is it to be opposed? Republicans have taken a very clear line. Democrats can have a different version of the line, or they can just say, no, we are the party of international peace and activism, and we’re the party that’s going to have a civilized capitalism," Brooks remarked.

"Steve Bannon went to the CPAC this week and he said that there was a very important historical turning point, getting rid of the TPP," the conservative Times columnist said. "And the Republican Party has stood for that for as long as I have been alive. And then Trump today, he — you know, buy American, buy American, anti-free trade, and got big cheers. They’re waving Russian flags, probably partly as a joke. But, still, the party has become an ethnic nationalist party."

Brooks, commenting on Trump declaring he's not the president of the world, said Ronald Reagan would have never said that.

"We had the clip earlier in the program of Trump saying: I’m not president of the globe. I’m president of the United States," Brooks recalled.

"Reagan would have never said that," Brooks definitively said. "Eisenhower would have never said that, because he would have said, yes, I’m president of the United States, but it’s in our interests to be securing a world order."

Brooks said identity politics in the Republican party have no blossomed.

"Lee Atwater, Reagan’s strategist, had no patience for CPAC, because he thought they were sort of wild and immature, basically. And so that’s always been a strain. So, it’s interesting how identity politics and Ann Coulter-style tactics have now blossomed. But they were always there in CPAC," he said.


Transcript, via PBS:

DAVID BROOKS: First, I think Donald Trump is not going to be impeached this month. Let’s not close out possibilities.

I would say a couple of things. I do think that what’s happening is great and that people are active and people are just involved in the democratic process.

The Tea Party thing is only apt in some ways. The activism in the town halls, that looks superficially like it. But what the Tea Party did was, they went after the party, the Republican Party, as their vehicle. And parties is how you change history.

So, it’s fine to be an activist, but you’re not — if you’re not putting up candidates, if you’re not getting political, if you’re not in your party, then you’re probably not going to have long-term change. You will probably dissipate.

And then it’s tempting to remember that the Tea Party had a peak and then the Republican Party establishment sort of beat it back down. And so these things are won in a day.

And then the final thing the Tea Party had was, they fed into the philosophy that Donald Trump now embodies. So they had a different view of how the world should be governed. And so they had a lot of things that we didn’t appreciate going for them as time went by...

DAVID BROOKS: Things that change history tend to be organized.

And so I do think what the Tea Party also had was Obamacare and the unpopularity of that, at least at the time. And so whether there is something that is equally unpopular and equally galvanizing that is almost self-destructive from the administration, that’s another factor that we will wait and see...

DAVID BROOKS: I guess, to me, the fundamental thing — well, I guess I see a lot of people debating this in the wrong way. A lot of the debate is, should we go to the coasts, should we go to the center, should we go to the left, should we go to the right?

But Trump is instructive here, actually. You figure out, what is the crucial issue facing the country right now? And for Trump, it was that the global economy and the international world order were failing regular people.

And so he said, that’s the crucial issue. I’m going to take a clear stand on that issue.

And he did. And it’s very internally consistent. And he won with it.

For the Democrats, they’re trying to avoid having the Sanders-Clinton debate over and over again. But, to some degree, they’re sentenced to that debate. Clinton is much more embracing of the global economy and the international world order. Sanders and Warren are much less so.

And they have got to figure out which side the party is on, if they’re going to have a clear message. I think this is probably one you probably can’t straddle.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when you hear, as we heard earlier, when they say, well, opportunity for all, you’re saying it’s got to be more specific?

DAVID BROOKS: You have got to have — Franklin Roosevelt had a pretty clear line. Ronald Reagan had a pretty clear line, people who rescue parties.

And it doesn’t have to be the same line that we have had for the last 40 years, because that clearly isn’t working on any level. But you have got to have a pretty clear line on this crucial issue.

Basically, global capitalism, basically to support it, or is it to be opposed? Is international order to be supported, or is it to be opposed? Republicans have taken a very clear line. Democrats can have a different version of the line, or they can just say, no, we are the party of international peace and activism, and we’re the party that’s going to have a civilized capitalism...

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think the two are now one, that it’s the Trump and the conservative …

DAVID BROOKS: I don’t know if it will be forever, but, for this moment, yes, for sure.

Steve Bannon went to the CPAC this week and he said that there was a very important historical turning point, getting rid of the TPP. And the Republican Party has stood for that for as long as I have been alive.

And then Trump today, he — you know, buy American, buy American, anti-free trade, and got big cheers. They’re waving Russian flags, probably partly as a joke. But, still, the party has become an ethnic nationalist party.

And I don’t think it’s just because they, oh, that we agree with Trump on some things and not on others. I do think, over the last 10 years, a lot of Republicans have decided it’s not working, what the party believed in, free trade, global capitalism, open borders.

They looked at basically the failed wars and they said, oh, this, us being the policeman of the world, that is not working.

And so something really serious has shifted in the minds of Republicans and certainly others...

DAVID BROOKS: We had the clip earlier in the program of Trump saying: I’m not president of the globe. I’m president of the United States.

Reagan would have never said that. Eisenhower would have never said that, because he would have said, yes, I’m president of the United States, but it’s in our interests to be securing a world order.

MARK SHIELDS: A citizen of the world.

DAVID BROOKS: And that is — the two are so intricately linked. But Trump sees an opposition between the two. It’s a very different mind-set.

The other thing that has changed — and this is more detailed to CPAC than the general Republican Party — is they have always been an outsider, Ann Coulter, sort of protest style, a little ruder than most Republicans. And this goes back all the way to Reagan.

Lee Atwater, Reagan’s strategist, had no patience for CPAC, because he thought they were sort of wild and immature, basically. And so that’s always been a strain. So, it’s interesting how identity politics and Ann Coulter-style tactics have now blossomed. But they were always there in CPAC...

DAVID BROOKS: It’s both strategic, to get people’s minds off other things, and to pick an internal enemy. It’s part of his psychodynamics to always care about his press coverage intensely. He’s more interested in that than anything else.

Will it to stick? Of course, I tend to think not, the fake media. But I’m sure little Marco didn’t think it would stick. I’m sure crooked Hillary didn’t think it would stick. These labels do have a certain power to them. And so we will see how it plays out.

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