Shields and Rubin on Trump’s staff shift and Clinton’s ‘self-inflicted’ damage

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JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s Friday, and so we turn to politics, and the analysis of Shields and Rubin. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Jennifer Rubin, the opinion writer for The Washington Post. David Brooks is away this week.

We welcome you.


JUDY WOODRUFF: And good to have you back, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: Good to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s talk about this upheaval in the Trump campaign, phases one and two. We have a new — Mark, a new campaign manager. We have Paul Manafort out after some stories about his work in Ukraine.

We know that one of the new folks coming in is from Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon. What do we make of all this?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, first of all, Judy, every campaign is ultimately, inevitably a mirror reflection of the candidate.

The criminality and paranoia of the Nixon campaign began with Richard Nixon. The discipline and, I would say, the insularity of Jimmy Carter’s campaign began with Jimmy Carter. And I think that’s true of every campaign.

This is a year unlike any year, when voters are so angry with Washington. They think Washington is awash in money, that money buys influence, buys access, puts the fix in.

So, what does — Donald Trump, who has an advantage over Hillary Clinton of 3-1 on someone who would change Washington, he hires the ultimate insider, the guy who gets, according to reports, various reports, got $12 million in cash for representing the pro-Russian, pro-Putin interests and parties in Ukraine.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is Manafort.

MARK SHIELDS: Paul Manafort, the ultimate insider. So, now Paul Manafort is gone, amidst charges that this is just Washington as usual, the worst kind.

And who does he bring in? He brings in Stephen Bannon, who’s never run a campaign before, who has done a good job of running a Web site. It’s been very successful. And he lines himself up with Roger Ailes, Roger Ailes, the recently deposed chief of FOX News, the bete noire of every liberal in the country, many of whom are sort of lukewarm toward Hillary Clinton, and who has just left amidst a flurry of serious allegations about sexual harassment of women and misconduct.

So, I don’t know. I mean, it just — if personnel is policy, these self-inflicted wounds on the part of Trump are just, if not mortal, they’re seriously damaging.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see all this, Jennifer?

JENNIFER RUBIN, The Washington Post: Well, I think several strands of the campaign came together all at once.

One is this very odd relationship, maybe not even relationship, that Donald Trump has with Vladimir Putin and the number of advisers around him who are overtly pro-Russian, who have made money in Russia. So, that’s one strand.

The next strand is, there is no campaign. As you were saying, there is no one really running the store. There is something more to a campaign than the candidate showing up and giving a speech. There’s ad buys, there’s ground game, there’s all sorts of elements.

And I see none of that. And, apparently, Mr. Manafort didn’t do that. Maybe he tried and Donald didn’t let him. Maybe he didn’t know how to do that. So, that’s the second strand.

A third is, he’s behind. And the national polls, I think, underestimate the trouble he’s in.


JENNIFER RUBIN: He is trailing in virtually every poll in every battleground. And now we have new battleground states. They’re called Georgia and Arizona, which is unheard of.

So, that’s another strand that kind of came together this week. And I think the last thing is, how is this new mix going to work? Donald Trump throws people out and he pairs people together. Kellyanne…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Conway, the pollster.

JENNIFER RUBIN: … Conway is a very polished, very buttoned-down pollster, not a campaign chief, but a pollster, matching with this fellow who ran not just a right-wing Web site, but one that really made its money and attracted a very anti-Semitic, anti-minority clique called the alt-right. These two people are supposed to work together in some cohesive campaign? I don’t see it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Mark, this is all happening. The evidence that we’re seeing is, Donald Trump gave a speech in North Carolina last night where he said — for the first time, he said: I misspoke. I didn’t say what I should have said in some instances.

He didn’t say what he was talking about. He said: If I have caused people some pain, I regret that.

Today, he was touring the flooding in Louisiana. Are we seeing a different Donald Trump now?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, he certainly admitting that somehow he may have hurt somebody’s feelings, in sort of the contrived, counterfeit apology, that if I in any way offended you by burning down your house and killing your dogs, then I’m sorry.

I mean, this is a man that we saw at the opening called John McCain, an authentic hero, he said he wasn’t a hero because he had been captured. This is a man who accused Ted Cruz’s father of colluding with Lee Harvey Oswald just days before Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy, I mean, a man who has made just incredibly outrageous, offensive, vulgar, obscene charges, and who ridiculed a respected reporter with a physical affliction, and over and over again.

So, I mean, this is something new that we’re seeing in Trump. He’s giving — he gave a better speech, I think, this week than he’s given. I mean, it was a coherent speech. It had echoes of Nixon ’68. And I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. It really did.


MARK SHIELDS: But he’s not as good on the teleprompter as he is spontaneously.

I think the roar of grease paint the sound of the crowd really gets him. And I think, if he is going to give teleprompted speeches, he is not going to get that same reaction that really gets his adrenaline going.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Jennifer, some of what the campaign has been saying is, this is going to let Donald Trump be Donald Trump. So, is that what you see going on here?

JENNIFER RUBIN: Well, maybe Donald Trump is schizophrenic, because, on one hand, he’s reading off a teleprompter. On the other hand, I think we have come to know the real Donald Trump, who is irreverent, who is rude, who is aggressive, who loves that interaction, that spontaneity.

So I think they have to figure out whether he’s going to be something in between, or one on one day and another on the next.

And Mark raises something, I think, that is important. And that is, there gets to be an incoherence about that campaign. His supporters love him because he was outrageous and frankly said a lot of things that they thought were politically incorrect, which others might think of as racist or misogynistic.

But the rest of the voters are very skeptical of him. Does he lose both sides now, or does he gain supporters?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about the other side of the campaign, because, Mark, Hillary Clinton is out there. She’s ahead, as we have said, in the polls in most of the battleground states.

Do you see the kind of enthusiasm for her out there that we have been looking for throughout this campaign? And then you had another reminder this week about the email issue, that she told the FBI that she got the idea for using personal email from Colin Powell. He now says, yes, I suggested it, but I never suggested she use her own server.


Judy, this has been a campaign of self-inflicted wounds on both sides. From 2000 to 2014, Hillary Clinton was in the United States Senate, candidate for president and then secretary of state. She was mercifully and happily divorced from the Clinton Foundation, which was raising money from all sorts of sources, many of whom couldn’t take a frisk.

There were people with an agenda totally alien and hostile to anything that Hillary Clinton’s ever stood for, and some people who were rather shady characters. She leaves that job as secretary of state and plunges into the foundation. She goes right into it.

So, now she’s afflicted with that. She’s stayed with that. She gives speeches for $600,000 — six-figure speeches and won’t reveal the text of what she’s done, again, self-inflicted. And you point out the email server, the private email, all self-inflicted.

So the perception of her as somebody who plays too close to the edge, who has rules especially for her, who has — because of her righteous and moral impulses and beliefs is somehow exempt from ordinary rules and is overly secretive, I mean, that persists. And it didn’t come from Donald Trump and it didn’t come from Republicans. It came from her.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jennifer, we did have Bill Clinton saying yesterday that he’s going to — he would step down from the foundation if she’s elected president and that they won’t be taking any more money from foreign sources or corporate sources, he said.

JENNIFER RUBIN: This is the proverbial closing the barn door after the horse is out and gone and probably died, because he’s been out for so long.

Why did they have those donors all along, as Marks points out? It was influence peddle, from an objective eye. People who wanted to be in close with the Clintons, who knew that she was going to be running for office, gave to her foundation, paid her and her husband for speeches. It’s the typical pay-to-play kind of game.

So, now to say, now that we have taken all the money and we have gotten what we wanted, which is to get into office, we won’t take any more, I’m not all that impressed. And I don’t think the American people will be either.

I do think, however, she is the luckiest person on the face of the earth, because not very many people are going to focus on that part of this week, with Donald Trump doing his usual chaos routine.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, can she keep going like this, Mark, with — you have said self-inflicted wounds.

MARK SHIELDS: Judy, this is a year, if it’s the fundamentals, it’s a year of change. Voters want change, and they don’t want continuity. She’s the candidate of the status quo. It’s a third Democratic term.

But all the focus, Donald Trump, instead of being the candidate of change, is the candidate of chaos, the candidate of crisis, And, I mean, just — basically, he goes to Louisiana today, which was certainly good. And what does he say when he’s there? He says: Great place. I have had a great history with Louisiana.

I mean, this is a man who is in stage four self-centeredness. And so he draws the spotlight to himself, and it helps her.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Jennifer?

I mean, I was going to ask both of you. Donald Trump is there with Mike Pence, his running mate. President Obama hasn’t been there yet. He’s still on vacation. Hillary Clinton put in a call to Louisiana’s governor.

Is this the kind of thing that politicians should be jumping to go do right now at this point or staying away from?

JENNIFER RUBIN: This is the dilemma, of course, that George W. Bush faced with Katrina. He kind of played it halfway and got vilified because there was a shot of him looking down at New Orleans from the sky.

I think the president is right to stay away for a few days. He’s going to go on Tuesday. I think it is an incredible strain on the first-responders, on security folks, on all the people who should be spending 110 percent of their time on helping the people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is what the governor said.


And for a candidate who has no ability to do anything about it — you can understand a president who wants to see things, wants to assess how bad things are, wants to get a feel for things. But these people are just there to have their picture taken.


MARK SHIELDS: I thought the president should have — somewhere between his 312th and 313th round of golf, should have put on a suit and tie and spoken to the press.

The president is not only the commander in chief. He’s the consoler-in-chief. And I think just — just to tell, express the sympathy, support and what we were doing as a people, by television, to the people of Louisiana, not to go down. I think Jennifer is absolutely right, not to interfere with that or upset things down there.

But I just — I think that’s something that a president has to do and should do at that time. And I think the president, he doesn’t like to be forced into these things. And I think he resisted it. And I think now he looks like he’s going down in response to the criticism.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In a few days.

Well, this campaign doesn’t get any less exciting, less interesting.

MARK SHIELDS: No, that’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, Jennifer Rubin, thank you both. Have a great weekend.


MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.


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