David Brooks: Do The Norms That Governed Politics Reestablish Themselves After Trump, Or Are We Here Forever?

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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 difficulty Republican leaders are having getting enough support for the Senate health care bill, including tense relations between the White House and Congress, plus the political reaction to President Trump’s tweets about two cable news hosts.

Brooks said the Republican health care proposal "massively redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich," and that the "Ted Cruzes" of the world believe they are "job-killing taxes."

Brooks called the controversial Trump tweets about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski is an issue of "the corruption of our public sphere." The Times columnist said Trump tweets "makes it harder for us, our country, to ever get back to normal."

"And, you know, the big question for me is, do we snapback?" Brooks wondered. "Do the norms that used to govern politics reestablish themselves after the Trump administration, or are we here forever?"

"And I hope, from the level of outrage, that we have a snap back. But the politics is broken up and down. And Trump may emerge from a reality TV world that is much more powerful than we think. And there is the prospect that this is where we are, which is an horrific thought." Brooks fretted.

Transcript, via PBS NewsHour:

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times: Yes, I’m hearing negative vibes, but not quite as negative as Mark. I still think there’s a chance.

What you hear is frustration over, one, it’s hard to take away a benefit people have already been given by law. Two, the Republicans are more ideologically divided than they thought they were. Three, it’s very hard to pass a bill without a White House.

And the president basically ineffective here, and the vice president barely more so. And so they’re trying to do it without him. And I think what they’re beginning to hear, as the calls come in, is that this is a proposal that hits a lot of Republicans really hard.

If you’re a 60-year-old white male in Ohio, this can be devastating to you, both in the coverage loss and in the deductibles and the out-of-pocket expenses, so the calls are coming into the offices. And that’s making people skittish.

I think it’s an uphill fight. I don’t think it’s quite as impossible maybe...

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, that’s right. I mean, the president did tweet this morning, well, if they can’t agree, they should repeal now and replace it later.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it’s the definition of bad leadership.

He had a more sensible position not too long ago, which is you do both things at the same time. If you repeal in the fantasy that you’re going to replace later, when you can’t replace now, that’s just not a realistic way to make policy.

I think Senator Blunt made a good point, that, we got a piece of legislation. If you can’t agree on this, there’s not some mythical future piece of legislation out there that’s going to pass.

The basic problem is that this is a bill that massively redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich. And there are a lot of senators, including Bob Corker of Tennessee and Portman of Ohio and Susan Collins of Maine, who are just uncomfortable with the level of upward redistribution that this bill entails.

And then there are other senators on the right, the Ted Cruzes, who just want to get rid of what they call job-killing taxes. And that’s just a diverse party. And McConnell is trying super hard to find some formula that will please both sides, but it just may be an unsolvable problem...

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re right. Senator Thune — David, Senator Thune’s comment, that wouldn’t be a good time to go after members of your own party.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

Yes. No, it’s — the relations are — it’s interesting to watch even the reactions to the tweets and everything else. They can’t get away from this guy. And what’s been interesting, talking to members of Congress, is, it would be one thing if he would just sort of disappear, but they have to spend so much of their time just reacting.

And it’s just very hard to make policy, aside from the problem of just making policy from Capitol Hill, which is difficult to start with.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of the tweets, David, we have seen some eyebrow-raisers. We have heard some gasps. But I guess the president’s tweet yesterday morning about the “Morning Joe” MSNBC cable hosts, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, where the president tweeted very personal insults, low I.Q., face-lift, and so forth, it seemed to reach a new low.

Do we learn anything new about this president at this point?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, one of the nice things, if we can find a silver lining here, is, it’s possible for everybody to be freshly appalled, that we are not inured to savage, misogynistic behavior of this sort.

And I saw a lot of people around. And I certainly felt in myself a freshness, a freshness of outrage.

And I must say, when I hear Roy Blunt say it’s unhelpful to himself, well, that’s true, but it’s more than unhelpful to Donald Trump to tweet in this way. It’s morally objectionable. And I do wish more senators would say that. Lindsey Graham and Ben Sasse have said it, but a lot of others, oh, it’s just not helpful.

It’s more than that. And the issue here is the corruption of our public sphere. And that’s what Donald Trump does with these things. And it makes it harder for us, our country, to ever get back to normal, when these things are corrosive to just the way people talk to each other.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Are there consequences, David? I mean, I heard what you said about some senators are just saying, well, it’s not helpful, but other senators are going further and saying, this is really wrong.

But are there ever consequences? Do we just go on like this?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, we will see if people eventually get disappointed and get tired.

I do think if it — one of the things that may begin to offend people is potential mafioso behavior. One of the things we heard this morning in the op-ed piece in The Washington Post by the two hosts was that the White House sort of threatened sort of extortion, that, if the show becomes more Trump-friendly, then a National Enquirer investigation into their relationship will be spiked.

And that’s sort of mafioso, extortion behavior. That’s beyond normal White House behavior. It’s beyond political hardball. It’s sort of using your media allies, The National Enquirer and the Trump administration, to take down enemies. And that’s not something we have seen in America since maybe Nixon, or maybe never...

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is true, David, that this is — it’s hard to find you said there may be a silver lining in fresh outrage, but beyond that, I’m not sure where it is.

DAVID BROOKS: No.

And, you know, the big question for me is, do we snapback? Do the norms that used to govern politics reestablish themselves after the Trump administration, or are we here forever?

And I hope, from the level of outrage, that we have a snap back. But the politics is broken up and down. And Trump may emerge from a reality TV world that is much more powerful than we think. And there is the prospect that this is where we are, which is an horrific thought.

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