Episode: Shields and Brooks on the San Bernardino shooting, Trump’s poll appeal

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Shields and Brooks on the San Bernardino shooting, Trump’s poll appeal

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in the U.S., it has been a full week of news. The San Bernardino shooting once again sparked a political debate on guns and terror, while Paul Ryan ended his first month as speaker of the House of Representatives with a major policy speech.

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

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, another week, another shooting. Now we are learning from the FBI that they are considering this a terrorist incident. They’re going to focus on it that way.

And we’re already hearing, Mark and David, comments for different kinds of solutions from different sides of the political aisle, David.

Republicans are saying too much focus on guns, the administration isn’t doing enough to fight terrorism. Do you see any kind of consensus coming together?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I don’t see why it’s an either/or thing. It’s additive, not alternative.

The guns, you know, I don’t see why people need to be carrying these kinds of guns, the guns that were used in this kind of attack. And so it seems to me some sensible legislation, I don’t know if it will help prevent this. As I have said all along, there are 250 million guns in this country. It’s hard to control gun usage. Nonetheless, it couldn’t hurt.

But what’s unique about this is that it was sort of ISIS-inspired, not ISIS-run, but sort of ISIS-inspired. And that leads to two conclusions. First, ISIS has charisma. If you are a certain sort of person with some sort of mentality, suddenly, you want to latch on and swear allegiance to ISIS, apparently, and then go out and kill people.

And so giving — taking away some of ISIS’ charisma by handing them some defeat on the battlefield, the way we did to al-Qaida in Iraq, seems to me an important task.

The second thing is, this is religious. We are going to have many more religious attacks than we have had in the past, because there are going to be more religious people in the world and attacks. And that doesn’t mean they are motivated by religion. They are motivated by a politicized form of religion.

It’s not a real faith, but it’s a politicized form. You say, you go to my group, and then there are all those evil people in another group. And I’m going to go shoot up some of those evil people in the other group.

And so to me, when you have that kind of religious, political fanaticism, it’s going to take religious voices to combat it and say, we love our people in our group, but we have to treat other people outside our group with the theology of the other, with justice. And so we have to win the battle of ideas. And that has been true since 9/11 and it’s still true today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see a consensus coming around, either one of these ideas, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t. I endorse David’s assessment, especially on religion.

Judy, after Newtown, the last deadliest mass killing in this country since — of the dimensions that we had in San Bernardino this week, there was a sense of personal tragedy in the United States, the loss of — the slaughter of the innocence, the murder children and educators, but there wasn’t a sense of terror, there wasn’t a sense of widespread fear.

Since Paris, I think it’s fair to say, politically, the Democrats have been tone-deaf. They have not responded, in a sense. And it’s interesting, because Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most credentialed of the national candidates in this whole area, she did respond by calling this an act of terrorism even before the FBI did.

But the response — and I agree totally on guns. It’s an outrage. It’s indefensible, the vote in the Senate yesterday, to tell how far we have come from Newtown, there was not a single vote that changed. Now, Democrats who voted for it in 2013, exactly the same, by Pat Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania…

JUDY WOODRUFF: For gun control.

MARK SHIELDS: For background check, a background check for people buying guns, favored by nine out of 10 Americans — and by Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia — got a grand total of four Republicans who voted for it, John McCain, who is facing a primary next year, Pat Toomey himself from Pennsylvania, who is up next year, Susan Collins of Maine, and the fourth one is Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Other than that, every Republican voted against it. Democrats who had voted for it two years ago, Mark Udall lost, Kay Hagan from North Carolina lost. You basically are further away. You have seven fewer votes for it this time than you had two years ago.

And — but I think what the Democrats are missing — and it’s not either/or, but this is — there is a sense of fear in the country that was not present after Newtown. After Newtown, there as a sense of widespread sympathy and national tragedy, but there wasn’t that sense of fear.

And there is a sense of fear. Since Paris, you have Great Britain going in against ISIS. You have got Germany going in against ISIS. This was really a seminal event, Paris was, and I think San Bernardino is just another chapter in that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But I guess my question is, David, does that mean nothing changes, that we just continue with the status quo?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, we learn, and then we adapt.

What’s unusual about this is, all our stereotypes were sort of smashed. If you have the stereotype of the terrorist attacker, it’s the lone guy, maybe an engineering degree and something like this. Here’s a couple, they drop their kid off with grandma. The guy has a very successful job as an inspector. How do you profile that?

MARK SHIELDS: Accepted in the community.

DAVID BROOKS: Accepted in the community.


DAVID BROOKS: And so it feels more — it’s what’s going on internally with people, not some demographic factor.

And so that’s what makes it scary. And that’s why it’s a battle of ideas. And the only thing we can do is look at who’s swearing allegiance to ISIS over Facebook, whatever. But that takes some pretty massive data sweeps.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, if the Democrats aren’t finding their voice on this, is anybody finding his voice on this, Republicans or anyone?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, David’s favorite candidate obviously is, Donald Trump.

I mean, Donald Trump, whatever everyone else one says about him — and lord knows very little good has been said on this broadcast about him, beginning with me — but he is not hesitant about describing what is happening politically.

And he tweeted, which Donald Trump does on a regular basis, that his — every time there’s a national tragedy, his numbers go up. And it’s absolutely true. I mean, since Paris, he’s risen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s a new poll out today.


MARK SHIELDS: And he’s up further.

And, Judy, you can be sure that, in the last 72 hours since San Bernardino, there have been more guns have been sold in this country than there were in the two weeks prior. That’s what I’m talking about, that sense of fear.

So, yes, I would say that Trump, who — conventional wisdom, beginning here, as a Middle Atlantic distributor of conventional wisdom, said, after Paris, people would get serious about picking a president. They want a president with national security credentials, with foreign policy ability, none of which he has. And yet, somehow, he seems to be stronger and more popular.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, do we have then, David, a sharper picture of this Republican race as a result of these terrorist incidents?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, as the Northeast distributor of the conventional wisdom…


DAVID BROOKS: That’s my region up there — I’m doubling down on the idea that it will not be Donald Trump.

He’s up, he’s up, he’s up, but, as I have said, when you look at where — when people make up their mind, not people like us, but normal Americans, when they pay attention, it’s the last three weeks.

And that’s in Iowa. It’s the last two weeks in New Hampshire, and then it’s later and later. They’re just not paying attention. There’s sort of two different decision-making processes that goes on. Now, you’re buying — you go looking for a car. Well, what car makes me feel good? Well, maybe it’s the hot red Ferrari.

But what car am I actually going to buy? I have got six kids. I probably can’t all fit them in the Ferrari. So, for a couple of month, yes, I want the Ferrari. But when you actually make the purchase, I’m getting the damn minivan.


DAVID BROOKS: So I think we’re in the Ferrari stage. And we will get to the minivan stage when people start paying attention.

And I — it’s literally true that, in most of America, people are not paying attention in any real way. They just want something that will make them feel good. And Trump says — oh, there’s a guy who kicks some tail. He makes me feel good.

But when it comes to the guy with the nuclear — his finger on the nuclear trigger, I still believe — and I’m doubling down on this — that there will be a big shift in mentality like three weeks out.

MARK SHIELDS: I think Donald Trump is enormously vulnerable on one major issue. And that is one of temperament. He does not presidentially have the temperament to be president.

And I’m amazed that nobody else has taken him on, on that issue, just by his own video clips of those outbursts, that intemperance of — in remarks and abusive talk that one doesn’t expect in a president.

And — but the fact that they haven’t says something. It says something about Donald Trump. A couple of money people have criticized him. And he admittedly has called them out in public. They don’t want to be in the papers. They don’t want to be on the receiving end of Donald Trump’s punches.

And I think about this race, and I think about 1976, when George Wallace was dominant. He was feared by the Democrats. The Democrats were terrified of George Wallace, especially in the South. And one candidate had the nerve and the guts to take him on.

Jimmy Carter went into Florida. Nobody else wanted to go near George Wallace in Florida. Jimmy Carter went in and beat him and banished him, saved the Democratic Party from George Wallace’s nomination, or at least a serious candidacy, and emerged himself.

I don’t know who the Jimmy Carter is in this Republican field who is going to — I mean, Kasich has tried to do it, but he doesn’t seem to be getting traction doing it.


MARK SHIELDS: That is going to come in and say, I’m going to take on Donald Trump, because everybody in the Republican Party says, we don’t want him. We’re going to lose the Senate with him.

The Democrats want to run against him. Now, maybe everybody again is wrong. And they could be, but…

DAVID BROOKS: The scary thing — there are a couple of scary scenarios here, from my point of view anyway.

The first is — well, first, it’s worth pointing out that, at this stage, Gingrich was up in one year. Giuliani and Fred Thompson were up at this one stage in one year. So it’s still early days.

The thing that could happen is that Ted Cruz takes him on. And then — Cruz is rising right now. Cruz has had a good couple of weeks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But he hasn’t taken Trump on in a big way.


DAVID BROOKS: He hasn’t taken Trump on. But if Trump begins to falter, maybe Ted Cruz would take him on.

The other scary — the other weird thing that could happen is that you get a war between the non-Trumps. And Jeb Bush has just a ton of money. He goes after Kasich, he goes after Rubio. And the non-Trumps all destroy each other. And then suddenly Cruz and Trump are sitting out there looking a little less bad than the others.

And so those are two scenarios.

MARK SHIELDS: Cruz and Trump?

DAVID BROOKS: I’m saying that Jeb takes out Rubio, runs a bunch of — you know, he has got all this money, runs ads against Rubio, runs ads against Kasich, wherever he needs to…

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, Christie.

DAVID BROOKS: … to become the mainstream candidate.

And so you got nobody on that — they have sort of built rubble on that side of the party. And then Cruz and Trump are sitting there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, because he has got the money, because he has got the resources to stay.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, but he doesn’t have it. His PAC has it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Bush, right.

MARK SHIELDS: We know that’s separate from his campaign.

DAVID BROOKS: Of course. Of course.

MARK SHIELDS: And that’s the law.


MARK SHIELDS: But Chris Christie, I mean, has apparently benefited, Judy, in New Hampshire by personal campaigning. He’s a good personal campaigner, as we know.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Endorsed by the…

MARK SHIELDS: By The Union Leader, which endorsed President Pierre du Pont, President Newt Gingrich, President Steve Forbes.


JUDY WOODRUFF: You have a good memory, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: But they did have — they endorsed Pat Buchanan, and he won it.


MARK SHIELDS: And they did. They endorsed — so, they have picked winners. They endorsed McCain in 2008, and he won it, too. But it’s not necessarily guaranteed a victory.

But I think the reason of his rise is not only his personal campaigning in New Hampshire, where he’s essentially living, but is that, again, the national security. He’s the former U.S. attorney: I have prosecuted these guys.

And I think, post-Paris, I think…

DAVID BROOKS: When you talk to the candidates, they say there has been a sharp uptick in the questions and the concerns. It’s turning into a national security election.


We heard it from both of you tonight. I was taking notes.

David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.

The post Shields and Brooks on the San Bernardino shooting, Trump’s poll appeal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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