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David Brooks: Young People Have A Sense Of Hopelessness, Are Not Eating, Crying On The Sofa


PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in political news, including how Americans are holding up amid the public health and economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic, where leadership is emerging, the outlook for President Trump’s management of the crisis and the end of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR: And, David, how would you say the country is doing, both at the federal level and at the state level? DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: I would say we’re hanging in there. You don’t get a sense of great competence and expertise at the federal level. You do get a little more of that at the state level. The deaths are mounting. The economy is really crashing down around us. I am focused on mental health these days. I asked 6,000 of my New York Times readers to write to me about how their mental health is doing. And I was gutted by their responses. People are really hurting. There are three groups in particular, young people just feeling their hopes and dreams are dashed. And there’s a sense of hopelessness, not eating, not sleeping, crying on the sofa. Senior citizens also very badly hit, especially widows and widowers, just that sense of just crushing isolation. And then those with mental health problems, those who already had mental health problems, who are now seeing these relapses. And so there’s another curve, a mental health curve. And yet I think America is still hanging together. Faith in our institutions is pretty good. There’s nobody rioting in the streets. There’s nobody looting. There’s nobody saying, we have got to do anything but what we have got to do, which is just hunker down… WOODRUFF: And, David, what’s your assessment of the president? He is holding these daily briefings, which sometimes run two, two-and-a-half-hours. And now he is talking about announcing next week what he’s calling a get back to – an opening up commission, open the country up council, if you will. Is this what the country needs to hear at this point? BROOKS: I think it is, actually. We need to know what phase two is. We know we’re going to hunker down for a while. We have got to know what the world is going to look like when we come out of this. And there are no good plans out there. The plans that are circulating – there are a lot of private plans – they tend to focus on massive amounts of testing, way more tests than we have right now, and then tracing, where you have an app on your phone, and somebody, the government, I don’t know who, Bill Gates, could – would track where you go, who you came into contact with, and you – if you contacted somebody with the virus, then they would like you know, and you would self-isolate. That is – that kind of pulling out of this is incredibly daunting, but it’s something we’re going to have to figure out as we slowly emerge from this. And so I’m glad the president’s setting up this committee. The problem is – as I have been told, is that everybody on that committee has to be 100 percent loyal. And so if you said anything nasty about Donald Trump, you don’t qualify for the committee. And that basically guarantees a very low level of competence from that committee. The North Korean-style loyalty tests are going to be crushing to the competence of any effort going forward. WOODRUFF: One other thing I want to ask you about that involving the president, David, and that is his firing over the past week of two inspectors general, one over the intelligence community, the other one at the Pentagon overseeing how this money is being spent to fight the pandemic. What do we learn from that? BROOKS: Well, it’s more North Korean loyalty tests. It’s a political vendetta, straight and simple. And you got to be a total loyalist. I’m reminded that, in World War II, there was the Truman Committee, led by Harry Truman, which was the president’s own party appoint – had this committee, which did everything on a bipartisan consensus, to crack down on profiteering and war profiteering, and phenomenally successful. And people in their own party were willing to look at the administration, if they could save some money, if they could save lives, if they could fight the war more effectively. And we apparently are not going to be able to get that. And so, when I look at the challenges facing us, one of them is just social trust. We have to have faith in our institutions, which means there has to be oversight. And we have to be – have faith in each other. With a lack of social trust, it’s really hard to get anything done. And you see that on Capitol Hill right now, where the Senate and the Republicans and Democrats can’t figure out what to put first, these small business loans or the public health loans. If we had a trusting institution, we’d say, OK, we will do one, then we will do the other, we’re not going to have a big fight about it. But we lack that elemental social trust… WOODRUFF: I want to ask you both about Bernie Sanders. We talked about that at the beginning, and his ideas for Medicare for all. We heard him say, David, he’s going to be supporting Joe Biden, even though he knows that Biden is not going to embrace this. And this is Sanders’ top priority. How do you assess his decision to suspend? BROOKS: Well, it was inevitable. He had two problems. One, the party is a little to the center of where he is, and, two, he was never really good at working with other people. And so he wasn’t able to build a coalition. I think the thing that’s inspiring about Sanders, whether you agree with him or not, here’s a guy who is fighting for a cause and has fought for it for decades, five or six decades, and he’s never budged. He’s been in the wilderness for decades. And his moment has arrived, to be honest. And so he’s created a movement. He’s given a new generation a voice. It’s a very impressive accomplishment, to just stick to it, stick to it, stick to it. And I imagine he’s still in it for the long game, whether he’s president or not, that some of his ideas will come to fruition with a new generation.

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