Shields and Brooks on GOP’s health care uncertainty, Trump’s UN nationalism

Shields and Brooks on GOP’s health care uncertainty, Trump’s UN nationalism


JUDY WOODRUFF: But let’s go right now to Shields
and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields,
as you just saw, and New York Times columnist David Brooks. The only thing better than seeing you guys
once is seeing you guys twice, three times. MARK SHIELDS: Just a great… (LAUGHTER) 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: 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: What does it look like to you? MARK SHIELDS: I hate to say that I agree with
David, but I agree with David. And I would just add this. It’s no accident, Judy, that the Republicans
find themselves in this position. It’s really since the retirement of John Chafee
of Rhode Island in 1999 or David Durenberger from Minnesota in 1995 that there’s been any
Republican senator who has any earned credentials or any deserved reputation for working on
health care. They have just been an against party. That’s all. So, who’s the sponsor of this? Lindsey Graham. I happen to like Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham’s credentials, military, national
defense. He’s worked bipartisan on global warming,
campaign finance. Is there a — Lindsey Graham on health care? And Bill Cassidy, who got to the Senate a
year ago, not exactly a long-toothed, long-term legislator. I mean, all they have succeeded in doing this
year is taking the Affordable, which had always been controversial and never had majority
support, and now has majority support in the country. And they have convinced voters that Democrats
care much more about health care than they do. And Democrats had an advantage. They believe in Medicare and Medicaid. They believe in federal action. There is no coherent Republican organizing
principle or philosophy about health care. Everybody should have it, and it should be
private. It’s an abstraction. It doesn’t work in the real world. And voters have concluded it doesn’t. And Pat Roberts, to his credit, the senior
senator from Kansas, said, this is not the best bill possible. It’s the best possible bill. And this is the last stage out of Dodge. Because of the quirky rules of the Senate,
they need 50 votes until the 30th of September, when the fiscal year ends. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. MARK SHIELDS: After that, it’s 60. So, they’re trying to pass something. And they won’t. 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: Well, while we’re talking about
Senate Republicans, President Trump, Mark, is headed to Alabama tonight to campaign for
the man he endorsed in that runoff Senate election down there, Luther Strange. He’s the appointed senator. What’s made this race so interesting is, the
man he’s running against is Roy Moore, the state chief justice, who made a name for himself
by trying to get the Ten Commandments publicly displayed in the state capitol building. This is a race that probably otherwise wouldn’t
be getting a lot of attention, but Roy Moore is now ahead in the polls. And, last night, I want to show everybody
just a clip from the debate that Moore and Strange had last night, because Trump’s name
was front and center. Let’s listen. SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R), Alabama: I know you may
get tired of hearing this, and you may resent that the president is my friend and is supporting
me in this race. But I think it’s a good thing that the president
of the United States has a personal relationship with the junior senator from Alabama. ROY MOORE (D), Alabama Senatorial Candidate:
The problem is, President Trump’s being cut off in his office. He’s being redirected by people like McConnell,
who do not support his agenda, who will not support his agenda in the future. SEN. LUTHER STRANGE: And to suggest that the president
of the United States, the head of the free world, a man who is changing the world, is
being manipulated by Mitch McConnell is insulting to the president. That’s why he’s chosen me. JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, what does this tell us
about the Republican — the state of play among Republicans in the Senate right now? MARK SHIELDS: Well, first of all, Judy, we
must understand this. Alabama, Donald Trump’s sixth best state in
public polling. He’s the most popular there. A leading Republican campaign manager who’s
deeply involved in this race on behalf of Strange, or at least on the side supporting
Luther Strange, told me they will spend, they being Mitch McConnell’s Senate leadership
fund, political action committee, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States and the National
Rifle Association, over $12 million on behalf of Strange against Roy Moore. What it tells me is, Luther Strange is presenting
himself as Donald Trump’s new best friend, and that Roy Moore is running as: I am the
real Trump candidate. I’m going to go to Washington and let Donald
Trump be Donald Trump. He’s trying to make it a referendum on Mitch
McConnell, who this week in The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll was at his all-time low,
11 percent favorable. And so I think what Strange’s side is counting
on is Donald Trump, the president, going there to Alabama and convincing Trump voters, who
are more comfortable with Roy Moore, to vote for Luther Strange. 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. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, turning quickly from populism
to foreign policy, Mark, the president made his debut, first big speech before the United
Nations General Assembly this week, and notable because he came out and said, basically, we
will destroy North Korea if they make a wrong move. Does he come away looking more like a statesman? He’s followed that with days of squabbling,
in effect, with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. How do we — how do we now look upon President
Trump as somebody who’s leading foreign policy? MARK SHIELDS: An embarrassment. I mean, you compare the words of presidents
in the past, measured, you know, John Kennedy in Berlin, wherever free men live, to come
to Berlin, they are citizens of Berlin, ich bin ein Berliner. Or Donald — Ronald Reagan, Mr. Gorbachev,
open this gate, tear down this wall. They were expressing principle. They were expressing coherently and lucidly
and compellingly. And there was a sense of pride in the national
direction. That was totally missing. I gave him a B for bombast and bullying and
belligerence. You know, it was a — it wasn’t a speech in
which Americans could take pride or direction or comfort. 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, Mark, what do we look for
in the weeks to come, because, right now, it’s just a war — it is literally a war of
words. MARK SHIELDS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of people are out there
listening to this, thinking, are we going to go to war? MARK SHIELDS: I certainly pray not. I hope not. I take some comfort, quite frankly, as a citizen,
in your interview with Tim Kaine, the senator from Virginia, who said that he, who had been
— not hesitated to criticize President Trump’s policies, had great confidence in the defense
team of chief of staff… JUDY WOODRUFF: Defense secretary. MARK SHIELDS: General — chief — I’m sorry
— of Secretary Mattis, General Mattis, and General McMaster and General Joe Dunford,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I mean, they are — they provide him direct
— confidence and direction and maturity. And that’s our best hope. 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. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, and watching the Vietnam
series, which is a superb series — for any of us who haven’t started watching, you can
do that. All right, David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank
you both. MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

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