PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the battle over filling her Supreme Court seat, President Trump’s continuing rhetoric about the integrity of voting by mail and concerns over election confusion or dissent.
“In a platonic, ideal world, I think presidents should be able to nominate justices until Inauguration Day. You’re elected to a four-year term, not a three-and-a-half-year term,” Brooks said. “So I think, in an ideal world, Trump is right. You should be able to nominate somebody.”
“One of the things we have learned is that our system depends on the goodwill of the players involved,” Brooks said. “And if that goodwill isn’t there, then the spiral of accusation and animosity and enmity — I don’t think we’re going to see physical violence, but we will see a level of psychological violence that we just haven’t seen since 1865.”
But that is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Hello to both of you on this Friday night.
Not much to ask you about, Mark.
But why don’t we start with not only Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who I had planned to begin with, but now we have learned in the last hour or so, our colleague Yamiche Alcindor confirmed that the president does plan to name the appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be the next nominee to the court.
I guess I’m asking you to wrap it together. Early reaction to Barrett, but also final thoughts about Justice Ginsburg, whom we have seen honored this week.
DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, it’s amazing to me first that she’s the first woman to lie in state. That is mind-boggling in 2022, that this is the first time that has happened.
She — judges, when they go and go to before their confirmation hearings, they all say their personal feelings won’t affect how they judge; it’s the legal automatons. I think that’s never true. It was certainly not true with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
She comes from a neighborhood and a culture I know very well, the Flatbush in Brooklyn, the Jewish immigrant culture there. And when you grew up in that culture, A, you have a strong preference for the underdog. You have a strong love of America. She said one of her heroines was Emma Lazarus, the author of the poem on the Statue of Liberty.
You have a reverential respect for law. And I think she carried those values, not being unfaithful to being a judge, to the judicial system, but carry those values. And I think she’s admired because of those values.
Amy Coney Barrett also has values. She’s a conservative. She is well-regarded. When she was Supreme Court clerk to Antonin Scalia, all of the clerks, regardless of party affiliation, admired her. When she was on the Notre Dame Law faculty, all of the faculty members, regardless of party ideology, admired her, that, personally, she seems — I have never met her.
She seems reputed to be a wonderful person. But she has a conservative record. She was a law professor for a long time and wrote a lot of articles, some of which were controversial and, in her 2017 confirmation hearings, were brought up.
I think it’ll be hard to mount personal attacks, given what we know now. But there will be some conservative attacks…
WOODRUFF: David, we look back. There’s never been, in an election year, someone nominated to the Supreme Court in 230 years of the republic this close to an election. The closest we could find was, what, 1892. It was four months before the election.
We’re now within weeks, even days, by the time there’d be a vote. What does that say about where we are, Republicans and Democrats, and what we should look forward to in the next several weeks?
BROOKS: Well, in a platonic, ideal world, I think presidents should be able to nominate justices until Inauguration Day. You’re elected to a four-year term, not a three-and-a-half-year term.
So I think, in an ideal world, Trump is right. You should be able to nominate somebody.
The problem is with Merrick Garland. Once the Republicans set a standard, to then shred the standard so quickly shows a complete sign of opportunism, a complete sign that we’re not a nation of laws and precedents, that we’re just a ruthless power grab.
And so, in this case, I think it’s an error.
As for the process, I think it favors the Democrats, frankly. I think it would not favor the Democrats if they go after, as Mark said, Barrett personally, or if they go after her faith, that she’s a member of a Christian community people have praised. And some people have said that’s a kind of cult.
I have been reading their magazine, “Vine & Branches.” It’s a very good magazine, very intelligent magazine. They seem to be a completely mainstream, charismatic Christian community. And I don’t find anything creepy about it at all.
But I think it’s going to be an advantage for a Democrat, because I don’t think it’s going to be abortion as the main issue, as it normally is in the Supreme Court. I think it’s going to be health care.
I think the Democrats are smart enough not to go after her faith. They’re smart enough to say, health care is a real issue. People are concerned about losing Obamacare. And this could tip the balance in the court, so that Obamacare comes under threat.
And I think that’s a very strong argument that Democrats can make, and it puts one of their best issues at the top of the agenda…
WOODRUFF: David, I do want to ask you both about what President Trump has been saying, raising questions about the legitimacy of the results if he’s not the winner, casting doubt about mail-in ballots, virtually every day talking about that.
And you just heard the interview that William Brangham did with Bart Gellman.
Are we — should Americans be worried, as we are almost — we’re just, what, a little more than five weeks from this Election Day?
BROOKS: Yes, I was in a call, a conference call, with a bunch of scholars and political observers yesterday, and we all said, how scared are you, from one to five? And we were pretty much at 4.5. Some people were at nine and 10.
I have never been more pessimistic about where this country is than I am right now, I mean, in my whole life. We have had a bad few years with the social fabric fraying. We have had a president ripping us to top from the — ripping us apart from the top
The Supreme Court fight maximizes the sense that people have on both sides of the other side is completely illegitimate and not playing by the rules. And then we walk into an election night, as Barton Gellman said, where all sorts of bad things could happen.
And I think he makes the core point. I mean, the two moments that I think I’m most afraid about is, one, election night, when we’re sitting there and it looks like Trump is ahead, and what that psychology does to the country, and then the crucial distinction that he makes, which is, it’s not that Trump is going to lose and refuse to go.
It’s that the results could be genuinely unclear, and then we start monkeying with the electors, especially in states like Arizona and Florida, where you have a Republican governor, Republican state legislator. A lot of key states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, you have got a Republican legislator, Democratic governor.
There’s all sorts of mayhem.
And one of the things we have learned is that our system depends on the goodwill of the players involved. And if that goodwill isn’t there, then the spiral of accusation and animosity and enmity — I don’t think we’re going to see physical violence, but we will see a level of psychological violence that we just haven’t seen since 1865.