PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff the discuss the week’s news, including the last days of the Alabama Senate race, the resignation of Sen. Al Franken over sexual misconduct allegations and the politics behind President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Brooks said if Roy Moore wins in Alabama it will be a short-term gain and long-term generational setback for the Republican party and the pro-life movement. Brooks also said the Democratic party treatment of Senator Al Franken was "unfair" and influenced by political expediency.
"It felt like a lot of the pressure against Franken was not about Franken," Brooks said. "It was just for political expedience, so we could have the contrast with Roy Moore. And whatever Al Franken did and didn’t do — and I bear, I carry no water for him — it seemed a little unfair that his case had to be so much influenced by political expediency and Roy Moore."
The NYT columnist said Republicans made a "deal with the devil" when they supported him as the party's nominee for president and he has slowly made them tolerate more and more of what he supports.
"And at every step along the way, the Republicans just say we’re not standing up to you, you own a little more of our soul," Brooks said.
"And, finally, he owns all of the soul," Brooks warned. "And that’s the case whether you’re working around Harvey Weinstein or you’re working around Donald Trump. You make a deal with the devil, he takes over everything. And that’s what’s happening in the Republican Party. They don’t know where to draw the line."
Transcript, via PBS NewsHour:
Judy Woodruff: And now that leads us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So, we just heard from Robert Costa, David, about the Alabama race. It is on everybody’s lips, as he said, not only in Alabama, but in much of Washington.
But how — what do we make of it right now? There is so much attention on these women’s accusations, but, as Robert said, it’s gotten much bigger than that down there.
David Brooks: Yes, but what I hear is a lot of Republicans looking at the Roy Moore case and it seems to have just flipped a switch, a lot of Republicans disgusted by Trump, not liking Trump, conservatives, and then, suddenly, Roy Moore, you enter a whole new realm of depravity, to be honest.
How are people not nauseated with a guy hitting on 14-year-old girls, and then, suddenly, that guy becomes a U.S. senator, and people are not minding this?
And so how many Republicans have I talked to who have said, I guess I’m not a Republican anymore? And these are lifelong Republicans. Evangelicals saying, hey, I’m a Christian, but I’m not an evangelical. If that is what being an evangelical is, that I don’t have to care about character, that’s not what I believe.
And so, to me, the big test of this is that, sure, if he wins, the Republicans will have one more vote for a couple of years, but they will have a generation who find the Republican Party something they can’t relate to. And they will find the pro-life movement as something that’s a movement of epic hypocrisy.
So they may get a short-term gain if he wins, but I think there will be a long-term generational setback for the Republican Party, for evangelical Christianity, for the pro-life movement, for all of the things that Donald Trump and Roy Moore purport to be for.
Judy Woodruff: Serious consequences if he wins?
Mark Shields: Serious consequences, Judy, either way.
If you’re an Alabaman who loves your state, who cares about your state, wants your children to grow up there and come back, and your grandchildren not to move away, you’re thinking about the fact that you have already had your overtly religious governor, Republican, resign with an adulterous relationship with a woman staff member.
You have had the speaker of the House indicted, convicted on 12 counts of corruption and felony convictions. And you know that your state’s been a punching bag. It’s been a one-line joke. If it weren’t for Mississippi, Alabama would be 50th in everything.
And so you want pride in your state. You want a sense of self-respect. And Roy Moore is not going to help in any way. It’s going to reinforce that negative stereotype.
I think Robert Costa is second to none as a reporter, but I think one of the problems with the polling, which has, quite frankly, shown the race very, very close is this- If you’re a churchgoing Alabaman who is a Republican, you face economic and maybe social pressure if you admit you’re voting for Doug Jones, the Democrat.
But, at the same time, if you’re a churchgoing, serious Alabaman and you’re going to vote for Roy Moore, you face moral criticism. So, I don’t — the candor level in polling is pretty difficult.
Right now, from everything I have been able to find out, I would say that Roy Moore will lose on Tuesday.
Judy Woodruff: Really?
Mark Shields: I really do.
Now, it’s 96 hours to go. The president is going down tonight, but I think that Roy — Doug Jones will spring an upset. And I think it will be a political earthquake.
Judy Woodruff: But, meantime, in Washington, and, David, which you were just talking about, you have got the Republicans torn asunder, if you will, by what’s happened to Roy Moore.
But Democrats came together this week, and basically drummed Al Franken out of the Senate, a bunch of — led by Republican — I mean, by Democratic women senators.
David Brooks: Yes.
Judy Woodruff: So, do we now have some sort of moral separation between the two parties? How do you read this?
David Brooks: Well, it’s indisputable that the Democrats have kicked Al Franken, pushed him out of the Senate for things which are much less egregious than anything Roy Moore is accused of or anything Donald Trump is accused of.
So, there’s that fact. I would associate myself a little bit with a column Ruth Marcus, our friend Ruth Marcus, wrote today, which said, it feels — for the Al Franken case, it should be judged on the basis of Al Franken and what Al Franken did or didn’t do.
And it feels like we don’t totally know. And it feels like he was pushed out of the Senate not just because of what Al Franken did, but because for the political opportunism of the Democratic Party to say, hey, we’re not the Republicans.
And so it felt like a lot of the pressure against Franken was not about Franken. It was just for political expedience, so we could have the contrast with Roy Moore. And whatever Al Franken did and didn’t do — and I bear, I carry no water for him — it seemed a little unfair that his case had to be so much influenced by political expediency and Roy Moore.
Judy Woodruff: Unfair, Mark?
Mark Shields: Well, we’re in uncharted waters here.
Yes, I think capital punishment is not the answer for everything from winking at an office Christmas party or to what Harvey Weinstein did.
And, by the way, Judy, I just have to digress for a second and say, if you want to see newspapering at its best, this past Thursday’s New York Times, with Megan Twohey, and Jodi Kantor, and Susan Dominus, and Jim Rutenberg, and four pages, and this is what — this is really the crime involved.
This is a consortium of applying economic, social, personal, emotional and physical pressure and threats to anybody, a witness, a woman who wanted to confess, or anything of the sort. And so…
Judy Woodruff: This was around supporting Harvey Weinstein.
David Brooks: Yes, Harvey…
Mark Shields: It was about Harvey Weinstein. That’s right, exactly.
And everybody — it was like Donald Trump. Everybody who got near him is stained, sullied and diminished by it. But this was a terror — really, a terror organization.
This is not Al Franken. This is what Al Franken did. But there’s no question that the serial nature of it, the picture, the photographic evidence, was damning.
Judy Woodruff: Putting his hands on a woman’s chest, yes.
Mark Shields: The hands, and the fact, Judy, quite honestly, that women led the march.
I mean, it wasn’t just Kirsten Gillibrand, but the other women in the Senate. That was it.
When John Conyers fell, one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, there was a question of double standard. There is no question that Democrats are trying to make this — draw a line between themselves.
If, in fact, Roy Moore wins or loses on Tuesday, if he wins, then he becomes the face, along with Donald Trump, of the Republican Party going into 2018, which is not good for the Republicans.
If he loses, then there’s only one person who hasn’t paid some price for this charge, and that’s Donald Trump. So, either way, Republicans are facing a very bleak Wednesday.
David Brooks: Yes.
And, you know, the Republicans, all the honorable Republicans, thought, oh, this guy Trump will win. We will give him a little. We will sort of tolerate him, but I can still go ahead and have my honorable career.
But the point I tried to make in the column today is, he — Trump always asks something more. First, he asks you to tolerate his tweets, then his sexual harassment. Now you have to tolerate Roy Moore.
The next question is going to be, oh, I’m going to fire Bob Mueller. You got to tolerate that.
And at every step along the way, the Republicans just say we’re not standing up to you, you own a little more of our soul.
And, finally, he owns all of the soul. And that’s the case whether you’re working around Harvey Weinstein or you’re working around Donald Trump. You make a deal with the devil, he takes over everything. And that’s what’s happening in the Republican Party. They don’t know where to draw the line.
Judy Woodruff: Well, another move President Trump made this week, Mark, that has drawn reaction all around the world is to say that Jerusalem, the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Not only that. The U.S. is going to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
How did you read this move? Some people are saying it’s just politics. Others are saying, no, this is what American presidents have promised they were going to do for years, and he’s finally done simply what Americans said they were going to do.
Mark Shields: Presidential candidates have promised for years.
Mark Shields: Barack Obama didn’t. He won twice without promising it. Bill Clinton did promise it, didn’t do it. George W. Bush promised it, didn’t do it.
It was — it’s a very popular campaign statement. And it’s been particularly popular with evangelical Christians, the idea of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and recognizing that. It is no accident that it happened the week before the Alabama primary, where Donald Trump, according to the Pew national poll, has fallen from 78 percent support among evangelical Christians down to 61 percent.
And this is seen — it’s not a foreign policy move. It’s an isolating move for the United States. Not a single ally of ours in either Europe or the Middle East has backed us on this. Netanyahu — Bibi Netanyahu’s government is pleased. And I’m sure several others are. But it’s not a strategic move. It’s a political move.
Judy Woodruff: How do you read it?
David Brooks: Well, I think the first thing to say, it is a fact that the Israeli Knesset is in West Jerusalem, the prime minister’s office in West Jerusalem. West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Now, if we put our embassy in West Jerusalem and we recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that’s not a statement of something new. That’s just the facts.
To me, it doesn’t rule out any two-state solution. In any two-state solution, where the U.S. capital — where the Israeli capital is, that’s always going to stay Israel. What part of East Jerusalem becomes Palestine, that’s what the negotiation would be about.
So, to me, it doesn’t necessarily destroy or create anything new. It just revives a fact that is already on the ground.
Now, if I were counseling the president, I would say, it’s perfectly fine to move the embassy to West Jerusalem, but you got to get something from the Israelis for it. You have got to make it part of a deal. And the deal would be, you are going to got to stop settlements. If you stop settlements, we will give you this gift.
And that strikes me as a reasonable thing that other administrations have broached. To just give them this, without striking any deal, without getting any concessions that will help simmer the region down, that strikes me as just a stupidity.
Judy Woodruff: What about that, Mark, that this could just — this could be a way to ease the — a way into a peace process, if you can get the Israelis to give something back?
Mark Shields: If, in fact, it were, Judy.
But wouldn’t one want to announce that? Wouldn’t one indicate it? This is not a man known for his subtlety, for his unwillingness to mention major achievements of his.
I mean, this looks like a straight political act on his part. This is the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal” — or somebody wrote “The Art of the Deal” under his name. And if this is the deal, there’s no quo for the quid.
Judy Woodruff: And the consequences — just quickly about the consequences.
I mean, there have been protests.
Mark Shields: Yes.
Judy Woodruff: We reported earlier they’re not as bad as — David, as they had been expected, but you could see conflict and worse in the…
I mean, some of that’s legitimate from the Palestinian side. They have sort of messed up the peace process. There’s no question about that. Some of that is not legitimate. Hamas doesn’t recognize the existence of the state of Israel period, so, them — the distinction between East and West Jerusalem is not a distinction they make. They think they should have the whole region.
So, some of the opposition is just based on the idea that there will be no Israel state.
Nonetheless,, among sophisticated people on both sides, it’s no doubt true that if you thought there was a peace process going on, which I’m not sure there is, this no doubt makes it much, much harder.
Much more difficult.
Now, I know the last 11 U.S. ambassadors to Israel and the presidents of both parties have criticized and faulted this decision by President Trump.
Judy Woodruff: Just a minute or so left, but I do want to ask you about the tax legislation.
Mark, the Senate has now passed it. They’re trying to work it out between the House and the Senate. Tell us, what does your crystal ball say? What is the final result going to look like?
Mark Shields: This is — it’s going to look like redistribution in the country, I mean that — in the worst sense, economically.
But, Judy, it’s become the Republicans’ last gasp. We have got to do it. I mean, there’s almost a desperation, an urgency about it. Somehow, if we do this, things will get better, that they will — I think that — already, you have seen Jeff Flake, senator from Arizona, and Susan Collins, senator from Maine, have the House Republicans sabotage, submarine the concessions that were made to get their votes.
But I still think that desire for unity, for something to show and to reward their donors is deep.
Judy Woodruff: Twenty seconds.
David Brooks: Yes, it’s likely to pass.
There’s some hope — I have some hope that Susan Collins will walk away, just because it’s polling terribly. The people in the Senate are not happy with it as a piece of legislation. They’re only passing it because they want unity.
But I have some 10 or 20 percent hope that Susan Collins, maybe Flake, some of the others will say, oh, we can’t — we couldn’t come to a good deal in conference, and we’re going to walk away from this thing.
Judy Woodruff: And then it goes up in flames?
David Brooks: Right. That wouldn’t be likely. But…
Mark Shields: How about if Jones wins on Tuesday?
David Brooks: Well, then it becomes much more likely that it goes down.
Judy Woodruff: All right, you heard it here first.
David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.
Mark Shields: Thank you, Judy.