PBS NEWSHOUR: New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including how the surging coronavirus is affecting President Trump’s public support, the significance of the Supreme Court’s recent rulings and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s economic policy recommendations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And now for their take on this week in politics, we turn to Brooks and Capehart. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart. Mark Shields is away.. So, hello to both of you. Let’s start with the coronavirus, David. As we just heard in Amna’s conversation with the head nurse there in Houston, these cases are surging. Hospitals – some hospitals are having difficulty. We are seeing cities set new records across the South and the West. But President Trump says things are going well, that he expects things to get better in just a couple of weeks. He’s now insisting the schools open in the fall. What do you make of the president’s approach? DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, this is a – just a tough disease. Why is it rising in California and Florida, with totally different lockdown rules? It’s rising in countries that seem to have been doing well. I think epidemiologists are now humbled by what a complicated and tough disease this is. It’s just not a help that Donald Trump is detached from all that, detached from the reality of the disease, detached from Anthony Fauci. He hasn’t spoken to really the best person in America to talk about this. He hasn’t spoken to that guy for two months, it turns out. And so he’s living in a different world, which would be bad enough, but he’s polarized the country, successfully polarized the country. A few weeks ago, I was on the program, maybe a couple months ago, talking about all the bipartisanship there was. There was a lot of – back in March and April, people were reacting, not as Republicans and Democrats, but as one. You got these 77 percent majorities. That’s really not the case as much anymore. We have the president and FOX and the polarization industry has successfully turned this into a left-right thing, which is just crazy. It’s a disease… And, David, it – I mean, there are arguments to be made. Surely, children need to be in school. The American Academy of Pediatrics made that case this week. But you combine that with what you mentioned a minute ago, the president now criticizing the man who’s arguably the most trusted person in the country when it comes to this disease, to COVID, Dr. Fauci, what – I mean, is there a strategy there that you see that in some way is going to benefit the president? BROOKS: Well, I don’t think it’s going to benefit. If you look at his polling, back in the – when this started, at least the lockdown started in March, he at one point reached a spot where he – 55 percent of Americans approved of his COVID handling. Now it’s down to 33 percent. And those numbers have really plummeted in the last two weeks or so, as reality has dawned on Americans that we’re losing to this virus. And America is not fooled by what’s going on. Donald Trump – and they know Donald Trump is out of touch. Opening the schools strikes me as a classic problem that should, A, be settled into some sort of subtle way by people who know what they’re talking about. And maybe, in some places, you can open the schools, and maybe you can’t. Politics is about competing goods. And competing goods are getting kids educated, getting parents some relief, and keeping them safe. And so it should be possible in local areas, in New York, maybe, where the disease is not so good – or is not so high, to strike some sort of workable way to do this. But having an all-or-nothing and forcing schools to do stuff strikes me as insane… WOODRUFF: Separately, David, the president got bad news and good news, I guess you could say, in split decisions by the Supreme Court this week, cases wherein there was an effort to gain access to the president’s personal financial records, the court ruling the president has no absolute immunity from prosecution, as his lawyers had argued. Does the president – does the office of the presidency come away changed? And what about the effect on this president himself by these rulings? BROOKS: Well, there won’t be much effect on President Trump, because he will litigate this at lower courts, and we will not see tax records before the election. The – I think it’s important to establish that the president does have to reveal tax records. And whether that’s done that the Supreme Court or through legislation which is being talked about, that’s a good precedent. It does strike me that, for a conservative court, this has been a pretty bad month for the president. John Roberts again and again has said, this is – it’s not a – this is an administration that doesn’t do things correctly. And he slapped them down repeatedly for not doing things correctly on abortion, on a whole series of rulings, religious liberty. Conservatives have no reason to be happy with the last month of the court. It’s striking to me that this is the case… WOODRUFF: I want to bring both of you back to the other fellow who’s running for president this November, Joe Biden. This week, David, he – and I guess they were calling it a task force. The Biden camp and Bernie Sanders were looking at ways they could put together an agenda that would be acceptable to the folks who support Bernie Sanders. What do you make of this? It’s a look at some of the things that Joe Biden says he wants to do if he’s elected president. I mean, is – is this the kind of progressive agenda that’s going to appeal to those fervent Bernie Sanders supporters? BROOKS: Yes, I would say this. The Sanders-Biden reconciliation has been made easier by the fact that we’re in a depression or a severe economic recession. And so there’s a lot of room for government action. And I would say, Biden has made some concessions to the left, I guess, you want to call it that. But he hasn’t done anything that would scare away voters, like Medicare for all or anything like that. What’s really striking to me is – in his economic announcements this week, is that he’s talking like Donald Trump. He’s got a populist rhetoric of America first. And it’s a different version of America first, but this is not Bill Clinton, or, frankly, Barack Obama’s Democratic Party anymore, which was a free trade party and a more open party. This is, we have to secure our own supply chain. We have to move away from China. We have to close in and serve America first. And so this is – looks like Dick Gephardt, if people remembered Dick Gephardt. This was the Democratic Party he tried to lead us toward decades ago. And economic populism is here.