Tag Archives: PBS NewsHour

SCOTUS vote reflects deep national divide

David Brooks and Mark Shields make a fascinating duo on the “PBS NewsHour.” Brooks, the conservative and Shields, the liberal, clash often on the issues of the day.

This week they discussed the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process and Kavanaugh’s eventual ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The men concluded pretty the same thing about the highest court in the land: It has become the third political branch of government. Moreover, the closeness of the committee vote — and today’s vote in the full U.S. Senate — reflects the deep, dark divide throughout the nation.

It was Brooks who put the matter into amazing perspective. He notes that the Supreme Court once was thought to be independent of political strife. The Kavanaugh debate and the anger expressed by the nominee as well as senators on both ends of the spectrum tell us that the court has become just as political as the executive and legislative branches of government.

There is no way the nation’s founders could have envisioned this happening when they established the three “co-equal branches” of government.

The judicial branch once was thought to be the last bastion of critical analysis devoid of politics. Oh, brother!

Shields took a moment to note how George W. Bush was elected president on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision to stop the recount of ballots in Florida after the 2000 presidential election. Five GOP-appointed justices ruled to stop the count; four Democratic-appointed justices dissented. Thus, President Bush took office on the basis of a single justice’s vote. That’s when it began, Shields seems to suggest.

And now we have Justice Brett Kavanaugh taking his seat on the court after the most contentious, bitterly fought and divisive debate of its kind in anyone’s memory.

The U.S. Supreme Court is a changed institution. To my way of thinking, it isn’t for the better.

PBS discussion sheds great light on campaign ’16


I feel compelled to begin this blog post with a disclaimer.

I am a freelance blogger for Panhandle PBS, the publicly funded television station based at Amarillo College here in the Texas Panhandle.

There. That said, I now want to say that the discussion that was broadcast Friday evening was one of the most intelligent I’ve heard yet about the state of the race for the presidency.

This discussion featuring liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields and conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks covered three critical points:

The Republican primary campaign, the Democratic primary campaign and, in a related matter, President Obama’s nomination of Garland Merrick to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Shields and Brooks occasionally spar when they appear each Friday on the PBS NewsHour. They disagree on substantive matters from time to time. They were in agreement on several critical issues, though, this week.

Hillary Clinton will not be denied the Democratic nomination; Donald Trump is the likely Republican nominee; Judge Garland deserves to have his hearing before the U.S. Senate.

The most interesting aspect of what was said, though, came in the discussion of Trump and Garland.

Shields noted that Trump has won everywhere. He smoked what is left of a once-huge GOP field in Florida, Shields said, where opponents spent millions of dollars in negative TV ads. They didn’t make a dent in Trump’s juggernaut. Whatever it is that Trump has mastered, he has turned it into an unbeatable — so far! — formula for political success.

As for Garland, Shields also believes that the Republican leadership in the Senate is going to pay a price for refusing to consider the judge’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Brooks agreed that Garland deserves a hearing — and deserves to take his seat on the court — he doubts there will be hell to pay in the campaign for Republicans.

Both men also believe that Garland is the best candidate for the court the Republicans are likely to get — particularly if Trump is the GOP nominee for president. Trump will lose the election to Hillary Clinton, who then will be free to appoint someone of her liking — and could present that nominee to a Senate led by Democrats.

And so it will keep going throughout this crazy election cycle.

You’ve got to relish — and share — intelligent discussion whenever you hear it.

That’s what I’m doing here.

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If you’re of a mind, please accept my invitation to look at my blog at PanhandlePBS.org; it’s called “A Public View” and it focuses on public affairs programming aired on Panhandle PBS.





What would ‘W’ do?

UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 16: U.S. President George W. Bush waves upon arrival at RAF Aldgerove in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Monday, June 16, 2008. Gordon Brown, U.K. prime minister said Britain is pushing the European Union to impose new sanctions against Iran, including freezing the assets of its biggest bank, to pressure the nation to give up its nuclear program at a press conference with Bush in London today. (Photo by Paul McErlane/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Mark Shields comprises one-half of a talk show tandem that appears Friday nights on public television.

He and the other half, David Brooks, were spot on in their analysis of the political talk arising from the Paris terrorist attacks one week ago.

Shields, a noted liberal columnist, noted how President Bush responded immediately after al-Qaeda monsters hijacked those four jetliners and inflicted the terrible carnage on U.S. soil on 9/11.

“He went to a mosque,” Shields noted, and said “we are not at war with Islam.”

Shields and Brooks — the more conservative member of the “PBS NewsHour” duo — then both described the white-hot rhetoric we’re hearing today from politicians of both parties as being un-American and unpatriotic.

President Barack Obama has sought to make the same case that his immediate predecessor made. Yet the Republicans who 14 years ago saluted President Bush’s stance contend that the current incumbent, a Democrat, is “soft,” that he isn’t serious about this war against radical Islamic terrorists.

George W. Bush was the first leading politician to declare that the current war against terror must not be seen as a war against a religion. Barack H. Obama is the latest one to say the same thing.

Yet we hear other leading politicians talking about shadowing people of a certain religious faith. One of them, Republican candidate Donald Trump, hasn’t yet told us whether he would intend to track U.S. citizens who also happen to be Muslim, which if that is the case is categorically in defiance of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of religious liberty.

This is what this current discussion has revealed.

George W. Bush had it exactly right. His political descendants have it exactly wrong.


Republican calls out fellow Republicans


David Brooks isn’t a squishy liberal.

He’s no fan of progressive political policies. He believes in small government. He is, in my mind, the personification of what could be called a “traditional conservative” thinker.

He writes a column for the New York Times and is a regular panelist on National Public Radio and on the PBS NewsHour — which in the minds of many of today’s new found conservatives would categorize him as a RINO … a Republican In Name Only.

Well, his recent NYT column lays it out there. Conservatives have gone bonkers, Brooks writes.

Here’s a bit of what Brooks writes: “By traditional definitions, conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible. Conservatives of this disposition can be dull, but they know how to nurture and run institutions. They also see the nation as one organic whole. Citizens may fall into different classes and political factions, but they are still joined by chains of affection that command ultimate loyalty and love.

“All of this has been overturned in dangerous parts of the Republican Party. Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.”

To be fair, much of what ails the GOP can be laid at the feet of Democrats, who fail to heed the warnings of their own bombast. Each party’s leader feel the need to play to their respective “base.” They seemingly neglect the great unwashed middle, comprising people who aren’t far left or far right, but instead see value in both ideologies.

I believe it was Colin Powell, another fine Republican, who once lamented that the extremes of both parties were talking past those in the middle who want their voices heard, too.

For now, though, the Republicans are controlling both legislative chambers of Congress. They want to take back the White House. They are seeking the clean sweep of the two government branches by bellowing at the top of their lungs that the nation is going to straight to hell and it’s because of the Democrat in the White House, Barack H. Obama.

It is doing no such thing.

Brooks laments the Republican “incompetence.” He writes: “These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around.”


Brooks, Shields speak with reason, clarity

If only conservatives and liberals could speak to each other the way these two fellows speak on subjects that have driven the ideologies so far apart.

If only …

David Brooks is a conservative columnist for the New York Times; Mark Shields’s left-leaning column is circulated in newspapers all across the country.

They took on the issue of what to call the terrorists with whom we are at war.

I particularly liked Brooks’s assessment of whether the monsters are “Islamic terrorists.” His view? All religion is open to interpretation. Christians, Jews and Muslims all interpret their faiths differently. He said the terrorists don’t practice mainstream Islam, but they’re Islamic, so why not call them such?

I don’t necessarily think it’s important that we call these terrorists Islamic. We know what they’re doing. As Shields noted, most of the Islamic State’s victims are Muslims. They’re also killing Christians and Jews. They’re evil in the extreme and we need to respond accordingly — which we are doing.

But the discussion on PBS is worth seeing anyway.

If only the two sides could talk to each other the way these fellows do.


Rudy talks himself out of relevance

Two of the smarter pundits — one a liberal, the other a conservative — have found common ground on the remarks delivered recently by former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani.

Mark Shields and David Brooks agree that Guiliani’s assertion that President Obama doesn’t “love America” are unacceptable and the Republican Party to which Guiliani belongs needs to call him out.


What “America’s Mayor” seems to be doing — if the GOP follows through on the advice — is talking himself out of becoming a relevant voice in the nation’s political discourse.

Brooks, who writes a right-leaning column for the New York Times, told the PBS NewsHour that Guiliani’s remarks are “self-destructive” and are just plain wrong.

Guiliani spouted off during a political event honoring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. It took place in New York City. He prefaced his remarks by acknowledging it was difficult to say, but then he said the president doesn’t love the country he governs.

This is a shameful act of demagoguery.

Shields, whose column tilts to the left, brought up a fascinating element to Guiliani’s doubts about Obama’s patriotism. It was that Guiliani received six draft deferments to get out of serving in the Vietnam War and persuaded a judge to get him reclassified to 2A specifically to keep him from going to war. Are those the actions of a patriot? Shields asked.

Shields also noted: “I go back to John McCain, who in 2008, when this was a hot issue, had the courage to confront a Republican audience in Lakeville, Minnesota, when they made this charge and said, no, that is untrue. President Obama is an American. He cares about this country. He loves this family, and I like him, but I disagree with him on the issues.”

If the mayor is setting the tone for the upcoming GOP presidential primary campaign, then the developing field of candidates talking about entering the race need to switch to a new song sheet.

NewsHour moderator Judy Woodruff did note that several Republican officials denounced Guiliani’s remarks. They were correct to do so.

Brooks responded: “It’s incumbent on Republicans to do that, just to police the party.”


Yes, there's intelligent discussion out there

Public television, as well as public radio, get vilified by those who object to a so-called “liberal bias” in both media.

I don’t see it. Then again, perhaps my own bias clouds my vision.

A recent discussion by two noted pundits — one liberal and one conservative — points out, though, that common ground can exist and that two ideological foes can actually agree.

David Brooks, the conservative, writes a column for The New York Times; Mark Shields, the liberal, writes a syndicated column distributed by newspapers around the country.

They took up the issue of President Obama’s speech this past week at the National Prayer Breakfast. Speaking on the PBS NewsHour on Friday, I was struck by Brooks’s comments in particular.


The president said Christians shouldn’t be too quick to cast stones at Islamic terrorists because Christianity has been used by radicals to do bad things “in the name of Christ.” Obama cited the Crusades and the Inquisition as examples.

Obama’s remarks have drawn considerable fire from the right. Brooks, however, takes a different view:

“I think, if the president had come as an atheist to attack religion and to attack Christianity, the Republicans would have a point. That’s not what a president should be doing.

“But that’s not how he came. He has used that prayer breakfast year after year to talk about his own faith, his own faith journey, his own struggles. He’s used it — he has come as a Christian. And the things he said were things — I have never met a Christian who disagreed with what he issued, that the religion has been perverted, that we have to walk humbly before the face of the lord, that God’s purposes are mysterious to us.

“This is not like some tangential, weird belief. This is at the core of every Christian’s faith and every Jew’s faith. And so what he said was utterly normal and admirable and a recognition of historical fact and an urge towards some humility. And so I thought the protests were manufactured and falsely manufactured.”

This kind of view illustrates, in my opinion, what makes public television so valuable. You do not hear the screamers — on the left or the right — trying to outshout the other side. Oh sure, you have the McLaughlin Group, but even those discussions are mild compared to what one hears on MSNBC or Fox.

As for Brooks and Shields, these two men are known for their agreeable disagreements.

I’ll take that level of civility over the scream fests any day of the week.