PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including their reactions to the Republican National Convention and President Trump’s speech in particular, how the conventions could affect the presidential race and the public and political fallout of ongoing unrest over policing and racial injustice.
“Democrats, I think, have come to understand, they somehow got on the wrong side of order,” Brooks said. “And they got somehow attached, even though Biden is not actually attached to it, to the idea of defunding the police.”
“They need to somehow make some gesture to show they understand the insecurity of the American people,” he said. “The country has been through an anxious time, with the pandemic, economic turmoil. There’s just this great sense of fear, of fear and a sense of unsafety, physical unsafety, from the pandemic and everything else.”
“Your movement doesn’t stay healthy unless you draw a boundary separating what’s good and peaceful and democratic and civil from what’s not, from what’s illiberal, violent and, frankly, self-destructive to your whole movement,” Brook said. “And so I think that boundary line can be drawn. It’s been drawn by most politicians in most times. And I think — I hope, in the days ahead, the Democrats will draw that line.”
DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: You know, when you start a big enterprise, you try to have a strategy.
You figure out what year, it is, what the big issues are and what you’re going to do about it. And you give the Biden team credit, because they started in 2019 and said, the number one issue is Donald Trump. The country is exhausted, wants a uniter. And they stuck with that strategy through thick and thin.
I really don’t know what the Republican strategy is right now. They have no coherent critique of Biden. They have no coherent critique of or sense of what the priority is right now. And they have no general argument to make.
I think that was revealed in the Trump speech, that he was just all over the map, because there’s no core idea at the center of the thing. They may be on the course of gravitating toward law and order as their central argument. But I wouldn’t say they have got there yet. They’re just kind of scattershot…
WOODRUFF: David, the Republicans did spend a lot of time going after Joe Biden.
Does that help them? I mean, they have clearly tried to not only draw distinctions. They have painted him in some pretty dark places.
BROOKS: Yes, I’d say it went both ways over the last two weeks.
The perversity of this year is that I would say the Democrats had the better convention, a more creative convention. Biden gave a much better speech. Obamas gave good speeches.
But I would say, if you measure the mood both in the Democratic and Republican camps, Democrats are a little more anxious and Republicans are a little more confident.
And so I think that has something to do with the conventions. It has something to do with what’s happened outside of the conventions, Kenosha, and this sense of rising crime and violence.
And I do think — the Democrats, I think, have come to understand, they somehow got on the wrong side of order. And they got somehow attached, even though Biden is not actually attached to it, to the idea of defunding the police.
And they need to somehow make some gesture to show they understand the insecurity of the American people. The country has been through an anxious time, with the pandemic, economic turmoil. There’s just this great sense of fear, of fear and a sense of unsafety, physical unsafety, from the pandemic and everything else.
And somehow they have to address that. Now, a lot of law and order talk is code word for racism. There’s no question about that. But I think a lot of it is not.
And I think Democrats would be making a mistake if they just said, oh, you’re all just a bunch of cryptoracists. I think people have legitimate concerns about expressing their opinion safely, about living safely.
And so I think Biden really would do well by himself to somehow address this issue and say, no, we’re for policing, we want to reform policing, but we will keep you safe.
This is just an elemental issue of politics stretching back 3,000 or 4,000 years…
WOODRUFF: David, it’s interesting you say that, because we went into these conventions thinking the pandemic was the overwhelming issue, thing out there that these candidates were going to have to grapple with, that the president was going to have to answer for.
It sounds like you’re saying, in the last few weeks, that that’s been displaced?
BROOKS: Yes, I wouldn’t say displaced.
I think, out in the real world, the pandemic is still the number one issue. And if you ask people, that’s number one. I think crime and rising disorder, I think it’s number four or five on the list, bigger — higher than immigration, higher than a lot of things.
So, I still think the pandemic is the issue. But it’ll — I will be very curious to see. The Times, my newspaper, had sent out two reporters to Wisconsin after Kenosha. And they interviewed a series of people who were leaning toward Biden, and had second thoughts because of a sense of rising insecurity.
And whether that’s anecdote or data, we will find out in a few days. So, I still think it’s in the mix.
But political correctness was a big issue for Republicans and for Trump in 2016. And the sense that you can’t speak freely, the sense that — you look at pictures of Rand Paul, for example, Senator Rand Paul leaving the White House, and getting brutally verbally assaulted, these pictures are not good.
Most people are not on Twitter, and they’re not seeing them. But, for those on Twitter, those who are seeing them, those in the Facebook conservative sphere, it’s become the dominant story, at least in that world…
WOODRUFF: David, how do you see the Democrats handling this, what they’re hearing from their constituents, many of them saying, what are you going to do about racial justice, at the same time the Republicans are yelling, are saying to them, hey, we’re afraid?
BROOKS: Yes, I mean, I am really struck by the importance of boundary-setting.
I mean, what happened here in D.C., the march today, was wonderful. What’s happened in the NBA is wonderful. I talked about baseball last night on the show. Some of this stuff is wonderful.
I think people are really proud and hopeful that progress — amidst all the pain, that progress is being made, education is being made, that people are mobilizing.
But you have got to draw a boundary between that and a lot of the violence. And, frankly, a lot of the violence I see in Washington, it’s young white people who are doing a lot of that stuff. And — but so you draw that boundary.
And that should be a boundary that Kamala Harris and Joe Biden can draw. Trump has not drawn any boundaries. He can’t draw a boundary between the Republican Party and QAnon, which should be the easiest boundary to draw.
And so your movement doesn’t stay healthy unless you draw a boundary separating what’s good and peaceful and democratic and civil from what’s not, from what’s illiberal, violent and, frankly, self-destructive to your whole movement.
And so I think that boundary line can be drawn. It’s been drawn by most politicians in most times. And I think — I hope, in the days ahead, the Democrats will draw that line.