Shields and Brooks on Trump’s ‘solitariness’ and Clinton’s fight for millennials

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HARI SREENIVASAN: And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, here we are. Monday night, you were here after the debate.

And now my first question isn’t about a significant policy discrepancy. The entire news cycle has been concerned with whether or not he paid taxes and also how he is treating a beauty queen, or how he treated her and how he is still treating her.

MARK SHIELDS: You’re right, although I don’t think they’re bookends. I don’t think they’re of equal value or significance.

I think that his disdain for paying taxes and his self-identification as a smart person for not doing so reveals any absence, a total absence of civic-mindedness, citizen responsibility.

I mean, the idea of John Kennedy’s ask not what you can do for your country — ask not what your country can do you for, but what you can do for your country, is just so alien to that.

But the attack on Alicia Machado fits a pattern. I mean, this is a man who, as Tony Schwartz, who wrote “The Art of the Deal,” the ghost writer of it, and made Trump really a central figure in America with that book, wrote — he said, every time he’s criticized or caught for any of his lies, he doubles down.

And that’s exactly what he does. And usually in the pattern with Mr. and Mrs. Khan, the Gold Star parents, and with Judge Curiel, is to pick on someone who doesn’t have the resources, the stature, the voice that he does, and try to overwhelm them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: David, we’re working on a story for Sunday on kind of the impact on the Latino vote in Florida, for example.

And we even saw, since the debate, increase in search registration, searches in predominantly Latino areas, according to Google. Is this going to matter, the fact that he has called this Miss Housekeeping? Did that resonate? Did that connect?

DAVID BROOKS: If the vote can go any lower.

It might affect turnout potentially. But his support in the Latino community wasn’t super high. And his support isn’t super high. So, it may go lower. But maybe it can’t.

But to me, the crucial fact of this story — well, first, we should just step back and be aware of its bizarreness, that we are a month away from electing a president and one of our candidates is up in the middle of the night tweeting about an alleged sex tape.

MARK SHIELDS: A 70-year-old grandfather.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Yes. It’s just another day in paradise as far as this election goes. And so we should just continue to remind ourselves of that bizarreness.

But, to me, the significance of the tweets in the morning or in the middle of the night were the solitariness of the guy. Now, most campaigns, they’re a campaign. It’s a team. An administration is a team. And there is a front person and an ultimate insider, but it’s a team effort, and decisions are made and strategies are discussed and decisions.

But he’s alone in the middle of the night upending his whole campaign with this, I don’t, impulse-driven tweetstorm. And that to me is the most unnerving part of the whole thing, let alone the low-class nature of the thing, is that he’s unorganizationable. And it’s just — it’s been his secret of his success, but it’s hard to imagine a president acting that way.

MARK SHIELDS: Could I just add one thing to what David said? And I agree with the point he made.

The discussion on the debate on Iraq, all right, 2.8 million Americans have served in uniform many multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 15 years; 6,890 have died, been killed. And as Donald Trump discussed that war, it was all about him.

It was about his alleged discussions, his discredited argument that, in 2002, as a real estate mogul in New York, in private, off-the-air conversations with Sean Hannity, he had opposed the war.

It turns out the war wasn’t about the United States or those who fought it or those people there in that area who suffered through it. It’s about Donald Trump. And it comes back to that. It is — a really successful presidential campaign is always about the voters. It’s about their hopes, their lives, their futures, their country.

And that’s the only chance you have to lead a country if you do win. And this is all about him.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Clinton’s campaigning today in Florida, a large Cuban American community.

And earlier this week, there was a story led by “Newsweek” and other outlets also talked about how Donald Trump had business interests that were trying to do business in Cuba. And this was during a time when there were economic sanctions, and this might be a violation of those rules.

Does that matter to that community there?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, the short answer is, I don’t know.

The second answer is that the Cuban issue, I think, has been dissolved by what’s happened over the last four years. And it hasn’t particularly hurt Barack Obama in Florida to take the position he’s taken. And so it may hurt him on some, but I have trouble believing that anybody not — the Cuban American population that is super Republican was already pretty super Republican.

To me, the violation of U.S. law with the Cuba thing is symptomatic of one thing about Donald Trump. And I’m a big fan of capitalism, but capitalism unrestrained by any moral system and any sense of moral restraint, that you’re just about money and you’re just about selfishness, is a very destructive and corrosive thing.

And so whether it’s bragging about not paying taxes or just trying to make money any way you can regardless of the law or regardless decency, or stiffing your contractors, that’s sort of — we the devolution of what capitalism can become when the human beings who do it don’t have some other moral system to go to, to sort of check selfishness. And that’s what we see.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Hillary Clinton is working hard to try to win millennial voters back from third-party candidates.

You think that perhaps the Libertarian candidate would have pulled more from Donald Trump than from her, but why is she not connecting?

MARK SHIELDS: She’s never connected. Bernie Sanders cleaned her clock among younger voters.

There is not the sense of either rebellion or inspiration or vision. I mean, you can check off all the boxes. She’s good on the issues. She’s good on student loans and so forth. But it’s an important segment. I mean, this was a key segment to — element. They represented one out of five voters, voters between the ages of 18 and 29, in 2012 for Barack Obama.

They represented more votes really in actual terms than did voters over the age of 65. And they didn’t turn out in 2014, and the Democrats got murdered in the off-year. And the over-65 represented 9 percent more than did the 18-to-29-year-olds.

So, it’s not a question simply of reaching them and converting them. It’s energizing them and getting them to the polls.

If I may just add, Gary Johnson, who got the endorsement this week of The Chicago Tribune and The Detroit News, I mean, when he couldn’t name a single — he couldn’t name the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis or Justin Trudeau or anybody that he liked or admired as a foreign leader, may well have hurt the case for normalization of marijuana.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: He just — I think he hurt himself as a candidate — I really do — with this group and anybody else.

HARI SREENIVASAN: David, how much of this is the fact that the first-time voters perhaps don’t remember the impact that a third candidate or a party can have?

In the year 2000, these folks were maybe in elementary school.

DAVID BROOKS: It would be interesting, if the polls are super tight at the end, whether Johnson would begin to fade. I suspect that he probably would.

But she just doesn’t speak the language of millennials, not that Trump does, and he’s even worse. But one thing young people have a lot of, it’s future. And they want to feel some sense of lift and idealism about the future. And they want to be called. And just saying, oh, I will give you free college, without any sense of lift, without any sense of transformation of society, which Sanders did offer, then it’s just not speaking the language of hope and inspiration, idealism, which hopefully people of all ages respond to.

And that’s the part of a campaign that’s been lacking for her.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You mentioned the endorsements from The Chicago Tribune, but the USA Today took an unusual step.

Lots of papers are taking their steps. They’re making their case for one candidate or another. Do these endorsements matter, considering how upside-down world this cycle seems to be? Or are we just saying my Facebook feed says this, this is what I should do?

MARK SHIELDS: As an alumnus of editorial writing, of course they do. Everybody sits on the edge of their seat.

I’m not sure that people are saying, well, I want to see what The Arizona Republic said. But when you get papers like The Arizona Republic, which, in its history, has never endorsed a Democrat, The Dallas Morning News, the last Democrat endorsed was Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, the Cincinnati Enquirer was Woodrow Wilson 1916 — and I read it at the time.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: I think it has a cumulative effect, because the theme that runs through them is not an embrace of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform.

It’s a rejection. I mean, it’s going on the record in just categorical terms that he’s unacceptable as a presidential candidate.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I would say signed columns have a big impact, but unsigned editorials…

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, let me squeeze in one non-election-related.

This week, we saw a very strange thing from Congress. This was the first veto of President Obama’s first entire eight years, and it was about whether or not families should be able to sue Saudi Arabia, 9/11 families, and then it was overridden by Congress.

And then, the day after that, we get people getting up to that podium saying, well, we have to kind of look at this again.

MARK SHIELDS: I have been a defender of Congress for a long time.

And after they took off seven weeks and come back here to pick up clean shirts and their checks, and now, before taking six weeks off, they vote on this, and by 99-1. The next day, Mitch McConnell says, the president made me do it. You know, these are unintended ramifications. I really — he should have been stronger, like we’re puppets of the president.

Just in that sense, it was an incredible scene to watch.

HARI SREENIVASAN: David?

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID BROOKS: Substantively, I do side with the administration on this.

We just can’t have a foreign policy where every individual gets to sue a foreign government and run our own foreign policy through the court system. And so Obama is right on the merits.

It’s tough to vote against the 9/11 families. But the president didn’t make them sign a bill that he opposed. And I agree with Mark on that one.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David Brooks, Mark Shields, thanks so much.

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