David Brooks and Mark Shields Agree Again on PBS: Cheney, Limbaugh and Beck Wreck GOP

The liberals inside the taxpayer-funded PBS sandbox know how to keep looking down their noses at their competitors in conservative talk radio and TV. Once again, on Friday night’s NewsHour, the supposedly opposing duo of Mark Shields and David Brooks offered their shared revulsion of any Republican spokesman to the right of Sen. Lindsey Graham.

It started when NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff asked their reaction to former Vice President Dick Cheney accusing Obama of "dithering" on Afghanistan. Sheields called Cheney a "gift." Brooks lamented that the Republicans lack leaders that sound exactly as moderate as he is:

I always wish it was John McCain or Lindsey Graham or somebody of that nature who was leading the charge.

The Republican Party has a terrible problem of who its spokespeople are. It tends not to be the best voices in the party. Lamar Alexander, senator from Tennessee, said he completely understood why Obama was taking his time to make this decision. And instead of those voices getting prominence, you get Dick Cheney, you get Rush Limbaugh, you get Glenn Beck. That's part of a larger problem.

Naturally, Shields agreed:

David mentioned John McCain and Lindsey Graham. And he's right. They're trying to reach out, and they recognize the country's changed. The party has to change. And the Republican Party got whomped, thumped, among those new emerging constituencies, among young voters. And I think it's probably best exemplified in the special election in the 23rd District of New York....

Dede Scozzafava, who is the Republican nominee, has been opposed by many in her own -- in the conservative wing of the party, the Club For Growth, the Family Research Council, and so forth, Sarah Palin. And Tom Davis, the former Republican from Virginia, a shrewd and astute man, said Rush Limbaugh and Family Research Council really want the Republican Party to be a social club, where there's an admissions test, rather than a political party, where, by definition, it's a coalition.And I think that's what the party is going through right now.

WOODRUFF: Weigh in on this.

BROOKS: Well, I agree. It's sort of a tea party movement, which is not Republican. They're ideological purists or they're filled with social resentments. And they want narrow definition of small community of purists. And they are running against any moderate Republican.

And, that, is the identity party -- identity crisis of the party. And the danger from I think a lot of people's point of view is, Republicans will probably do well in 2010. And they will draw the exact wrong conclusion, that it's because they went over to the tea party movement that they did well. And that will retard the growth of the party.

The logic train somehow derailed here. The GOP will make gains in 2010, which will retard its growth?

Then Woodruff asked about the White House fight with Fox News, giving Brooks another opportunity to criticize, associating the Fox talkers with childish things:

I think there are real journalists at Fox News. Major Garrett and the people on the 6:00 news who are reporters, they are real quality journalists. That doesn't mean you have to like Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck. So, I think they're factually wrong.

I understand why they're doing it. If they can identify the Republican Party with Glenn Beck, that's to their advantage. Nonetheless, I think, in the long term, you are defined by your enemies. And if you see yourself as the perpetual enemy of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, then you will come to appear as the anti-Rush Limbaugh and anti-Glenn Beck.

And your -- your -- the idea that Barack Obama came to office with, that we will put away childish things and rise above some of these petty fights, that will all be gone, because they will just be part of another petty fight.

SHIELDS: Do I understand their going after them, their anger? I guess I do, I mean, because they -- Fox News lists itself as fair and balanced. And anything -- Glenn Beck describes -- admits he's a rodeo clown. And Sean Hannity, who is out-and-out raising money for Republican, conservative causes, campaigning for Republicans, they're not journalists in any sense.

I do agree with David that people like Shep Smith, and Chris Wallace runs a good Sunday show. And there are people. But they just have merged, I think, opinion and news gathering there more than -- certainly than is traditional.

Both men then agreed – of course – that the attack on Fox was a bad idea. Brooks added that it was just unpresidential for Obama to lower himself to the level of Bill O'Reilly. Obama's battle was like Nixon's, but "it is anti-O'Reilly. And why would you want to do that? Just -- you're the president of the United States."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis