David Brooks: Suddenly, "We Look Like The Bad Guys" After Trump's "Nationalistic" U.N. Speech Against North Korea

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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 fate of the latest Senate Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, President Trump’s role in the special Senate election in Alabama and what that runoff says about the state of the GOP, plus the president’s debut address at the United Nations.

"If you’re the country who is the top dog in the world, which we are, you need international organizations and alliances as a way to extend your power," Brooks said about the United Nations. "And if you take that away, you are diminishing your own self."

"And so his nationalistic pose makes sense if you’re Vladimir Putin, if you’re a second-rate power. But if you’re a top-rate power, it’s a self-destructive thing. And we see it here, where we actually end up having less leverage, rather than more," Brooks also said.





Transcript, via PBS:

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the health care story.

David, the Senate Republicans have been trying to so hard to once again resurrect an effort to repeal Obamacare. They thought they were getting — or at least they sounded like they were getting somewhere.

But, today, John McCain throws down the red flag, says he’s not voting for it. Where does this leave all this?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: It’s pretty grim. Francisco Franco is still dead, to quote that old “Saturday Night Live” joke.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: It’s — I should say, first of all, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with having state flexibility and sending the health care thing back to the states. We’re a diverse country. We might profit from different systems.

And there is nothing wrong with reducing the rate of increase in the cost, the amount we spend on health care. We would spend a lot more than other countries. Personally, I would be happy if we spend a little less on health care and a little more on education.

But the way the Republicans have done this yet again is without a deliberate process in a way that seems to have magically offended every single person outside the U.S. Capitol Building, no matter what party, and in a way that raises anxiety on every single level.

And so, it’s very easy for John McCain to say, you haven’t followed regular order, you haven’t worked with Democrats, you haven’t held hearings, and so I’m going to be against this thing.

And that’s him being very consistent with the way he’s been over the past several months. And one would have to suspect that Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski will follow suit. And, therefore, it’s down the tubes...

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a tough moment for Republicans.

DAVID BROOKS: They’re caught with a divide.

I do think there is a defensible case that an intelligent market-based system could reduce — cause efficiencies. There’s models around the world that Republicans and conservative policy wonks can get to, to point to that.

But if you are going to get people to entertain the idea of some sort of reform, you have to give them universal coverage. We’re at the point where even a lot of conservative health care economists think, if we give them universal coverage, if your get your preexisting, you’re going to have coverage, then we can work on the reforms.

But the Republican Party and the Republican Congress — congressional party is basically out of touch with their voters. Their voters are not libertarians. Their voters are insecure economically and want some security. And Medicaid and Medicare and even now Obamacare offers some of them security. And they will not support their own Republican Party when it takes that away...

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the president’s poll numbers, David, have ticked up a few points in the last week or two.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, because he’s done something with the Democrats, and bipartisanship is popular. So, he gets ticked up on there.

But, in Alabama, the revolution devours its own. He ran as the anti-Washington candidate, Trump, Donald Trump did, got to Washington, and has to play a little by some Washington rules, which is supporting guys in the Senate who are supporting you. So, he’s supporting Strange.

Roy Moore is a Trumpian before — of the letter, as they say, before Trump, and a guy who made his name on the Ten Commandments, on some gay marriage issues. It’s Alabama. And so he’s saying: I’m actually the Trumpian.

And so what — I think what we see for the Republican Party is that this populist tide is not ebbing. If Moore wins, then there are some signs — Alabama is unique, Moore is unique — but there are some signs the party is still getting more populist.

And that’s caused by two things. First, as Mark said, McConnell is still the enemy for a lot of Republicans. The Washington Republican establishment is still more than ever. And the things that fueled the populist rise, rise of the opioid crisis, the decimation of the economy, the white identity issues, all those things are still rising, not ebbing.

And so the populism that Trump tapped into might be getting more extreme...

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I don’t mind a little tough talk. When Reagan called the Soviet Union the evil empire, he was telling the truth, and that’s fine.

The problem with Donald Trump’s — with the rhetoric there is that it’s self-destructive. First of all, it may put the North Koreans in a corner, where they can’t back down because of their own psychic needs. And it creates a context in which North Korea can test whatever they want to do apparently in the atmosphere, where — and then, weirdly, against North Korea, somehow, suddenly, we look like the bad guys.

And that’s the interesting thing about the speech, was so nationalistic.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: If you’re the country who is the top dog in the world, which we are, you need international organizations and alliances as a way to extend your power. And if you take that away, you are diminishing your own self.

And so his nationalistic pose makes sense if you’re Vladimir Putin, if you’re a second-rate power. But if you’re a top-rate power, it’s a self-destructive thing. And we see it here, where we actually end up having less leverage, rather than more...

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, he’s surrounded by people who are getting some high marks, some of them, David.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, he’s got very good people.

But I have been watching the Vietnam series on PBS. And countries can do really stupid things. And the veneer of civilization sometimes gets slender.

World War I, there were a lot of very talented diplomats and world leaders at that time, but events just spun out of control. So I don’t think we’re going to go to war. I still think there’s some reason on both sides.

But you look at the realm of history and you have a little cause for concern.

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