After drawing wide condemnation for suggesting Ted Cruz offered “dark and satanic tones” last Friday, Brooks insisted this week that he still doesn’t like Cruz, but that he bested Donald Trump in the second Fox Business debate. Brooks said the GOP establishment is “in panic,” but seems immobile. Brooks is rooting for a moderate “conspiracy” of donors to pick one moderate. A squishy Republican “MoveOn.org-type organization,” he said.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, Jeb Bush is part of a large group of people who are like the team at halftime who - like the Republican establishment, who feel like they're down 50 points and they have decided they're going to lose the game.
And that's how the Republican establishment is right now. They don't believe that Ted Cruz or Donald Trump can win. They think it could imperil their majorities in Congress, and yet they're doing nothing about it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But what could they do?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I wish we had gray men in suits. We don't have that. But the donor class could do something. Frankly, the country is filled with state legislators who are Republicans, congressmen, senators, local committeemen, a lot of whom are in panic. And so maybe they should do something about it.
Maybe they should have a MoveOn.org-type organization and get some rallying, which the other side has already done, and have a counterweight, so they don't send the party into suicide.
And that might involve, not now, but after New Hampshire, winnowing the field, and donors and other people going and saying, we're just going to pick this guy. We're going to pick Rubio. I'm sorry, Jeb, you're not going to be president. Christie, you can be secretary of treasury, but we're going to get organized here and we're not going to go quietly into the night.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, go back to some kind of smoke-filled room? I mean, is that.
DAVID BROOKS: I'm pro-conspiracy right now. (LAUGHTER)
MARK SHIELDS: You think it's that critical?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, you know, I'm sort of - I have no confidence in my judgment. I shouldn't say that on TV. (LAUGHTER) Because --
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark and I have confidence in your judgment.
DAVID BROOKS: Because I thought Trump would fade. And I still sort of think he will fade. But it's not looking.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sort of? You have backed –
DAVID BROOKS: I mean, it's -- right now, Trump and Cruz are both looking pretty good. And I don't think either is electable, and neither do a lot of Republicans. And so the question is, why do they just sit there and do nothing?
When PBS anchor Judy Woodruff turned the discussion to the Democrats, both Brooks and Shields slammed the Clintons for insisting Bernie Sanders would “dismantle” the Medicare and private health care systems in a single-payer system. Shields called it “absolutely reckless and stupid,” an eye-opener:
SHIELDS: The Clinton campaign this week, in perhaps the stupidest act of the entire year, took the one person who’s a character witness, who is a privileged observer of Hillary Clinton, who can testify about Hillary Clinton as a human being, as a mother, as a grandmother, as somebody who’s always been there, who’s been a force for decency in her life, who’s taught her and loved her, Chelsea Clinton, and turned her into a political hack.
I mean, it was just absolutely reckless and stupid. They neutralized the advantage and the value of Chelsea Clinton by turning her into an attack dog on a phony charge that Bernie Sanders, a supporter of single-payer national health insurance, is somehow going to dismantle children’s health and Medicare.
I mean, it was — it tells you how nervous, how dumb, what bad judgment there is in that campaign.
Brooks agreed, as usual, that the Clintons would eventually prevail in more moderate and diverse states: “And if I were Hillary Clinton, I would think, I may lose Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s possible, but I got a lot of big states with more diverse electorates. I’m still fine. And so don’t poison the brand....And so I think they’re just getting too combative, overreacting and making it worse. If you’re going to hit a weak spot, Bernie Sanders’ weak spot is not that he is against health care for people who need health insurance.”
Shields added: “He’s absolutely authentic. And this attack was synthetic. It was fabricated. And I would say that there is a concern in the Clinton campaign. What you have got to do is somehow project her as a more likable person. This didn’t make her a more likable person or candidate.”