PBS Panel of Brooks and Shields Hits Tea Party Holding Congress 'Hostage'

On Friday's PBS Newshour, host Judy Woodruff joined liberal columnist Mark Shields in declaring that the House GOP's conservative wing is holding the Congress "hostage," with allegedly right-leaning regular and New York Times columnist David Brooks then complaining that Tea Partiers are good at "destruction," but not "construction."

Brooks further griped that, "to get elected, especially as a Republican," there is an incentive for "radical rhetoric," referring to the situation as a "mental problem."

After a report recounting the latest in the GOP battle over replacing House Speaker John Boehner, Woodruff brought aboard the two PBS regulars and asked Shields to "explain what's going on." The liberal Shields began:

Turmoil, chaos, toxic, upheaval. And those are how friendly sources are describing what's going on in the House Republican caucus. What you basically have is a group of Republicans -- one-sixth of the House Republicans -- who view their election as a mandate to stand up and oppose the Democratic President and his overreach, by their judgment, in power, to frustrate him, to oppose him, and to repeal what the Obama thing, and do not accept the concomitant responsibility of the governing party -- of which they are a member -- to govern. They're the majority party. And so they're essentially holding the entire caucus hostage.

The PBS host then jumped in briefly to voice agreement:

They're holding the Congress, I mean, the House of Representatives.

After the liberal columnist recounted some of the critical numbers pertaining to electing a House Speaker, Woodruff turned to Brooks and wondered why it has "gotten to this point." The supposedly right-leaning PBS regular began by cracking that his liberal colleague had not been "critical enough" of Republicans. Brooks:

Ah, well, as usual, Mark isn't critical enough of the Republicans. It's not that they don't believe in the Democratic President. They don't believe in the democratic process. There's a way you do elections. You have an argument, you have candidates, you evaluate the candidates, you have a vote, and the majority wins, and then the minority says, "Well, we didn't get the majority, but, okay, we'll go along because we believe in the greater good."

He further took a shot at the Tea Party movement and introduced the term "radical" as he added:

Well, there are 40 people who don't believe in that. McCarthy would have had the majority. They said, "No, we don't care, we're still going to, we're not giving up, we're just going to roadblock." And there's been a set of institutional practices that have built up within that institution, and they're just not playing by those rules. And so, as has been true of the Tea Party for a long time, they're really good at destruction, they're not so good at construction.

And this is, to me, it's deep. This has been a party, and politically our entire political system that has lost the art of deliberative argument and then coming to conclusions. And to get elected, especially as a Republican, you have got to be, and to be conservative, you've got to be radical, you've got to be revolutionary, you've got to be an outsider, your language has to be totally radical.

After host Woodruff suggested that there has been radical rhetoric in the GOP presidential contest, Brooks brought in the words "mental problem":

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we're seeing that in the presidential race.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. And so if you adopt radical rhetoric, then the normal practice of politics -- which is compromise, which is accepting defeat for the greater good -- all that stuff gets washed away. And so, to me, it's just a mental problem.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, October 9, PBS Newshour, with critical portions in bold:

JUDY WOODRUFF :Welcome, gentlemen. So please explain what is going on. Mark?

MARK SHIELDS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Sure, Judy. Turmoil, chaos, toxic, upheaval. And those are how friendly sources are describing what's going on in the House Republican caucus. What you basically have is a group of Republicans -- one-sixth of the House Republicans -- who view their election as a mandate to stand up and oppose the Democratic President and his overreach, by their judgment, in power, to frustrate him, to oppose him, and to repeal what the Obama thing, and do not accept the concomitant responsibility of the governing party -- of which they are a member -- to govern. They're the majority party. And so they're essentially holding the entire caucus hostage.

WOODRUFF: They're holding the Congress, I mean, the House of Representatives.


SHIELDS: They're holding the House, but, I mean, it means the majority cannot operate the House. Speaker Boehner, after four years, said, "I've had enough, leaving." Kevin McCarthy, his heir apparent, could not get to the 218. You have to get a majority of your own caucus.

There's 247 House Republicans, you have to get 218 of them in order to get elected Speaker. So I guess that's it pretty simply, So there's paralysis, quite honestly, and the party is in turmoil, and it has an implication nationally in the presidential election because this is supposed to be the governing example of the Republicans.

WOODRUFF: David, why has it gotten to this point?

DAVID BROOKS: Ah, well, as usual, Mark isn't critical enough of the Republicans. It's not that they don't believe in the Democratic President. They don't believe in the democratic process. There's a way you do elections. You have an argument, you have candidates, you evaluate the candidates, you have a vote, and the majority wins, and then the minority says, "Well, we didn't get the majority, but, okay, we'll go along because we believe in the greater good."

Well, there are 40 people who don't believe in that. McCarthy would have had the majority. they said, "No, we don't care, we're still going to, we're not giving up, we're just going to roadblock." And there's been a set of institutional practices that have built up within that institution, and they're just not playing by those rules. And so, as has been true of the Tea Party for a long time, they're really good at destruction, they're not so good at construction.

And this is, to me, it's deep. This has been a party, and politically our entire political system that has lost the art of deliberative argument and then coming to conclusions. And to get elected, especially as a Republican, you have got to be, and to be conservative, you've got to be radical, you've got to be revolutionary, you've got to be an outsider, your language has to be totally radical.

WOODRUFF: And we're seeing that in the presidential race.

BROOKS: Right. And so if you adopt radical rhetoric, then the normal practice of politics -- which is compromise, which is accepting defeat for the greater good -- all that stuff gets washed away. And so, to me, it's just a mental problem.

2016 Presidential Congress Conservatives & Republicans PBS News Hour David Brooks Mark Shields TEA Party Kevin McCarthy Judy Woodruff


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