David Brooks: Given The Atmosphere Trump Has Set, Acosta Was "Well Within Bounds" Of The New Normal


PBS NEWSHOUR: New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s political news, including the president's ongoing friction with the press, a leadership battle in Congress and proposed prison reform.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: So, before we talk about this new Congress, let's talk about our lead story tonight, and that is this judge's ruling today that CNN should get — that CNN correspondent Jim Acosta should have his pass press returned by the Trump White House. They took it away last week, saying he had behaved in a way that was disrespectful.

It's a temporary win, it looks like, for CNN. But in the longer term, David, what do we see in this relationship between the White House and the press?

DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: I see it as a parable of American decline.


A little, actually.

When you have grownups behaving like grownups, you don't need to have these big confrontations. There are certain sets of manners. If we go to a dinner party, probably we behave in a decently, civil-mannered way. And then we have a pleasant dinner party.

You can do that with a press conference, even though that is more contentious. But then you get one person breaks all the norms — and, in this case, it's the president — and then the other people, in order to be heard, have to get a little ruder. And then it just escalates.

And because it's America, it has to go to a law court and have somebody sue each other. And so what Acosta did was marginally rude, I think only marginally, but given the atmosphere that Trump has set, well within the bounds of what is now the normal.

What — the White House overreacted. So I think this is basically a win for civility. It's just sad that we have to be in a case where people are shouting at each other in this way...

Yes, well, they — basically, as Ruth read, it's just the maximal possible interpretation, that we basically have the right to control who comes here, even though it is the public house, it's not Donald Trump's house. It's the people's house.

On the other hand, there's just such a vast middle here. The White House is — their argument was clearly ridiculous, that they can control, totally control, when they're just doing a public service, they're part of a public servant.

On the other hand, if there is some complete troublemaker, then obviously that person doesn't get to monopolize — who has reported — becomes a reporter, that person doesn't get to monopolize the room.

And so there's — take away Donald Trump. President Smith or President Jones should have some discretion if somebody well outside the bounds. Nobody in that White House room is well outside the bounds right now.

I mean, we have had confrontational people before. Sam Donaldson was pretty confrontational. Helen Thomas could be confrontational. But nobody's really been outside of the grounds. These are professionals. They work for professional news organizations. They basically do their job within the realm of the human variable.

And so — the one — the one extreme, which was the White House position, is clearly wrong. The other extreme, that anybody should have complete access, that is also wrong. It's just a question of discretion...

But it is an underlying theme of this administration that there's no such thing as institutional power in this White House. It's all personal power.

And so they're not serving the presidency. They're serving Donald Trump. And everything Trump says goes. And it's the — it's the unwillingness to acknowledge that they are in public office, doing — serving public duties and acting in public roles that is a theme throughout the administration.

WOODRUFF: Well, the other big thing that we were watching, of course, this week was all these new members of Congress who arrived, most of them, many of them, Democrats.

And, David, we're seeing it's a — it's a group that's younger, it's more female, it's — there are people of color. They — many of them and many of the existing members who were reelected among the Democrats are saying they're not sure they want the same leadership.

And so you're watching out in the open what may be and what is already an interesting fight between Nancy Pelosi and some of the people who don't think she should be speaker.

BROOKS: Yes, she's speaking very confidently that she will be speaker. I don't quite see where the confidence comes from.

There have been about 20 who have said that they will not support. I think she could only afford to lose 16. so don't — not quite sure. And there are a lot of people who are still undeclared, lots and lots of people who are still undeclared.

The new class, the ones I have met, are very refreshing, very non-ideological, by the most parts. They're sort of the — especially the people who have military service, it's just like, how do we get this job done, sort of that kind of attitude.

They look like America much more than the other class. They're a sign of the vibrancy of the Democratic Party, frankly . They're moderates, though. Remember, two-thirds of the new members were endorsed by the New Democratic Caucus, the more moderate group among the out — all these caucuses.

And so the attack on Pelosi is generally coming from the center, not from the left.

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