Shields and Brooks on Trump assault allegations, Clinton leaked email insights

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And with that, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and “New York Times” columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

Well, what a week. And it keeps coming. David, these allegations against Donald Trump, some of them we can’t even describe in full here on this program. He said — they’re very graphic, he says they didn’t happen, these are all lies.

Is this just more of the same or have we reached a new low?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: I guess we’ve always reached a new low, Judy, every Friday. So, we’re on a weekly basis. His case would be better if he hadn’t bragged about doing exactly what he’s alleged to have done.

And so, you know, when you get five or six of these people coming out, some of whom said things contemporaneously, I don’t know if it’s dispositive, but it’s kind compelling. And the fact that we’re talking about a major presidential candidate behaving this way in 2016, it’s kind of astounding. And the fact that the guy is still walking and the guy has a lot of support among a lot of decent people, I don’t know what the word s. And so, you just — just gobsmacked, British would say, surprised out of your wits end that we’re here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Gobsmacked, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: I’ve never been gobsmacked, but I know David — David has been — I just have to say, Judy, it amazes me that anybody with anything approaching this background, the tape alone would run for president. I mean, given —

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean the “Access Hollywood” tape.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, the “Access Hollywood”. I mean, irrespective of these charges, charges are quite serious, but I mean, I had one Republican reminded me today, well, how did Dennis Hastert accept the speakership with that in his background? So — but I don’t know what point you start to think that you’re invisible or just bulletproof.

And that — I have to say that the singular impressive moment of the week to me was Michelle Obama. It was — because she took it out of a — sort of a “men should be ashamed” or whatever, into a — and women are victims — into a very I thought human terms and spoke about the pain and the outrage that she felt.

And if you are talking about somebody as unassailable critic, she is, A, the most popular political figure in the country. She is the best known mother and mother two of daughters, wife, professional woman and happens to be African American. But I just thought authentic in the air that’s been synthetic in so many respects, and we hear about campaigns and what’s going on. I just thought that was an authentic moment, I thought it was a defining in this campaign.

DAVID BROOKS: And sign of national malaise that we’re all dragged into because of the conversation we have to have. And I will say —

JUDY WOODRUFF: That we have to talk about.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, and I will say one other thing, you know, oppo research gets a bad name. You shouldn’t go after your opponent, you shouldn’t go dig them up, but if Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush or John Kasich have decent oppo research, and had unearthed this in the primary, it would have spared the country a lot of turmoil. And their own party, a lot of self destruction.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you think they should have been doing this.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, things should come up. They had a lot of candidates in that race, once Republicans had a lot of decent choices, they could have looked away from Trump to somebody they could have stomached and it would have been fine. But now, and you watch a lot of Republicans who just feel — you feel like they’re lock in.

And then you feel other Republicans in morally incoherent state. Last week, a couple of senators calling for Trump to step down, and he didn’t step down. And now, they’re saying, we’ll vote for him, which is morally incoherent. If you want them step down, you can’t vote for the guy to be president of the United States.

And then you have a lot of people saying, I’ll just play it cool. I’ll just be with him. I’ll be good Republican, and then when he goes away, I’ll just be fine.

That is not the case. This is not like supporting Barry Goldwater in 1964. This is like supporting Joe McCarthy and you will not be fine. And a lot of the people are just hanging around on the fence or alienating both sides by being somewhere in the middle will not be recovering so easily, I do not think.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you explain their calculus?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think — I think the people who switch last weekend after the “Access Hollywood” tape, are ones who are in the most trouble politically. I think it was politically —

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean because they waited?

MARK SHIELDS: First of all, if I’m a Trump supporter, loyal supporter this is hour of maximum peril. And these are the people who picked up the knife and plunged it into his back when he was really hurting, I won’t forget that as a Trump supporter. If I’m one of the people like Mitt Romney or Ben Sasse of Nebraska who early on said this man is unacceptable, I have a legitimate question and say, wait a minute, what was it that finally tipped it? I mean, you know, it wasn’t the judge, it wasn’t libeling Mexican immigrants, it wasn’t libeling prisoners of war and their courage or whatever else? I mean, nothing else he did, libeling women throughout e, but this did it because he became politically radioactive at that point?

So, I think — I think in that sense, I’ve already seen it in a poll, congressional poll where Republican member who had changed, two to one margin, constituents in a post-weekend poll, regarded it as act of opportunism rather than political courage. So, I think David’s categories are right. It is a difficult thing to do, but if in fact he loses and they lose the Congress, Republicans lose the Congress, and I think that’s the key, if that happens, then association with him will have been regarded as a permanent stain. Not standing up to him and calling him for what he has done.

DAVID BROOKS: This is sort of psychological question, what happens, say he loses what happens the next day? Is there all the Trumpians saying, no, we were robbed, we are robbed, we are sticking with our man, we’re going into some sort of revolt? Or is it, like, I was a loser and I’m putting that behind me.

My intuition about the psychology is the latter is more likely. That people are just going to throw Trump to history, and then lot of the sense that mass revolt, this is not legitimate, this is not legitimate, I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

MARK SHIELDS: Could I just a little dissent there?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sure.

MARK SHIELDS: I think reaction is, Judy, whether the Republicans see themselves as congressional party or presidential party. If Donald Trump loses badly, OK, and Republicans lose the Congress, lose the Senate, lose the House, which is for this first week people are talking about, Republicans are even talking about it. If that were to happen they say, in 2018 we’ll come back because the natural sequence of things, Republicans then return to majority.

This is what Democrats went through, 1980, 1984, 1988, the Democratic presidential candidates won total of 17 states in three presidential elections cumulatively. But they kept the Congress. So, insulated the congressional party they said just the candidates’ fault. If the Republicans, you know, take a whipping across the board, we’re doing something wrong, not just the presidential level but the congressional level, then I think you’ll see the soul-searching.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But I want to ask you both about what happens to the country. I know we’re still 3 1/2 weeks away. But what happens to the country after this election, David? I mean, there are people at Trump — Trump himself is saying, this thing is rigged, it could be stolen. People are booing the press. They cheer him on when he says the country, there’s a big conspiracy.

How do you put anything together? I already hear from people saying how is the country going to be put together after this?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I will say Hillary Clinton wins, there are two scenarios. One, that there’s such a vicious hatred that nothing going to happen. But I happen to think she was mediocre secretary of state, but I thought she was an excellent senator and very good at working around the aisle. McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Barrasso, she was good.

And so, I see possibility whatever is happening out there in the country, I think there will be a — people may check out for a little while because they will be so exhausted, so down, including a lot of Trump people. That she may have an opportunity, at least elite level to be effective in some way if she picks issues that sensible Republicans can sign on to.

And they’re going to want to put a window — or a curtain between what just happened and what they are going forward. So, you could paint an optimistic scenario. So, I’m clinging to that against all odds.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Trump voters are going to want to listen to her, Mark, if she were elected?

MARK SHIELDS: You know, what’s going to — I think David’s point is a good, Judy. I don’t know. I hope so. I hope that’s the case, I think it comes down — I mean, Hillary Clinton highest moment in public life was in the United States Senate. I mean, she was good at it.

She made 130 trips to New York on first 18 months. She went to subcommittee meetings. She insisted on sharing the spotlight. She turned down the Sunday — I mean, she was really good. She recognized that this was a collaborative, collegial. And you know, we hope that that — will be some response to that.

You know, I think it comes down to the — it comes down to how she does it. I think it comes down to some degree how President Obama handles the transition.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are — I don’t want to jump in too much, but we still have days to go before this election is over.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, we do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But we’re taking about Hillary Clinton, another — David, another WikiLeaks dump this week from what apparently the Russians hacked from the Democrats, from Hillary Clinton’s own campaign manager, John Podesta. Is there anything consequential there that we’re seeing in these day after day of e-mail dumps?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I was shocked to how boring it was. Usually, if you’re in the height of campaign, they are setting up private e-mails, ripping into so-and-so.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: Exactly. There is some stuff like the Catholic — lot of people who are Catholic think there’s — become Catholic, they don’t want to become evangelicals. They’re living in cities so they become Catholics. Catholics are systematic thinkers. You would say it’s like — it’s not like something horrible.

You know, they’re saying like Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, is kind of annoying and overbearing and Governor Richardson from New Mexico can be a bad guy or sort of pain in the rear.

But by the standard of what I expected, to get the inside of a campaign, it’s pretty mild. I think Clinton people should be lot more imaginative.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think, Judy, if there weren’t what’s going on with Donald Trump’s campaign, I think it would be a big story. I think it’s hard to make the case reading those e-mails that Hillary Clinton is a candidate of change. She’s very much an establishment candidate. She’s a status quo candidate.

The open borders, open trade, the hemisphere would have been — would have sent some signals and shock waves. But — and there’s a certain moral arrogance I think, especially on the — looking down their nose at Catholics and Evangelicals. I think that comes through.

The thing about John Podesta, ten years of his e-mails, he’s incredibly discrete. I mean, that’s one of the reasons he’d be able to survive, but no candidate comes through to vote Hillary Clinton on her inability to apologize, it’s been a problem. She has not effectively, believably apologized for the e-mail, the personal e-mail server to this moment.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And there was a draft that was leaked of the speech that she might have given where she would have been a little bit more direct but she didn’t give that version. We’re still sorting it out.

DAVID BROOKS: And the key point, which is why Trump is still in the race, it does indeed make her look like very pinion of the establishment which happens to be true. So, there are lot of people who are supporting Donald Trump not because they like sexual abuse but they just think the country needs some big, big change, that she’s not, they’re willing to swallow a lot, it turns out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, we’ll see you next week. Thank you.

And tune in next Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. for our coverage of the final presidential debate. Mark and David will be with us.

And in the meantime, you can watch all the presidential and vice presidential debates dating back to 1960. Pull up a chair and that’s at our new website, watchthedebates.org.

LLOYD BENTSEN, Former Vice Presidential Candidate: Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

GERALDINE FERRARO, Former Vice Presidential Candidate: I almost resent, Vice President Bush, you’re patronizing.

MITT ROMNEY, Former Presidential Candidate: Whole binders full of women.

MICHAEL DUKAKIS, Former Vice Presidential Candidate: I have proposed death penalty during all of my life.

ANNOUNCER: Interact with all the general election debates on our website watchthedebates.org.

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