President Trump drew rave reviews on the right for a forceful address on global issues at the United Nations. But you wouldn't know that from the Week in Politics segment on Friday's PBS NewsHour. Liberal analyst Mark Shields gave it a "B for bombast and bullying and belligerence." Pseudo-conservative analyst David Brooks called it "self-destructive."
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, the president made his debut, first big speech before the United Nations General Assembly this week, and notable because he came out and said, basically, we will destroy North Korea if they make a wrong move. Does he come away looking more like a statesman? He’s followed that with days of squabbling, in effect, with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. How do we — how do we now look upon President Trump as somebody who’s leading foreign policy?
MARK SHIELDS: An embarrassment. I mean, you compare the words of presidents in the past, measured, you know, John Kennedy in Berlin, wherever free men live, to come to Berlin, they are citizens of Berlin, 'ich bin ein Berliner.' Or Donald — Ronald Reagan, Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate, tear down this wall.
'They were expressing principle. They were expressing coherently and lucidly and compellingly. And there was a sense of pride in the national direction.
That was totally missing. I gave him a B for bombast and bullying and belligerence. You know, it was a — it wasn’t a speech in which Americans could take pride or direction or comfort.
Conservatives thought some sections of the Trump speech seemed Reaganesque. But perversely, a little Googling shows that on March 28, 2014, Mark Shields compared Barack Obama to Reagan at the Berlin Wall when he was asked whether the U.S. would take any action against Putin after Russia's incursion into the Ukraine:
SHIELDS: But I do think that the isolation of Putin, rather than humiliation, which I think is what the president has approached, has been wise. Let’s understand, Putin doesn’t represent some international movement. It’s not communism, in the sense that there are outposts all over Central America following Putin.
This is one man. He is the decider. He is Russia right now. And I think to the degree that he can be isolated and made to — just as President Reagan didn’t say, let’s go in and take down that wall and destroy it, he said, tear down that wall, and I think that’s been really the approach that President Obama has taken this week.
Getting back to 2017, Brooks claimed to like Reagan's Cold War rhetoric, but couldn't endorse Trump's remarks at the United Nations:
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I don’t mind a little tough talk. When Reagan called the Soviet Union the evil empire, he was telling the truth, and that’s fine.
The problem with Donald Trump’s — with the rhetoric there is that it’s self-destructive. First of all, it may put the North Koreans in a corner, where they can’t back down because of their own psychic needs. And it creates a context in which North Korea can test whatever they want to do apparently in the atmosphere, where — and then, weirdly, against North Korea, somehow, suddenly, we look like the bad guys.
When Woodruff asked if our "war of words" with North Korea could become a real war, Shields cited Sen. Tim Kaine's trust in Trump's advisers for being serious and calm. But Brooks sounded pessimistic....as he put in a shameless plug for the Ken Burns PBS slog through Vietnam:
BROOKS: But I have been watching the Vietnam series on PBS. And countries can do really stupid things. And the veneer of civilization sometimes gets slender. World War I, there were a lot of very talented diplomats and world leaders at that time, but events just spun out of control. So I don’t think we’re going to go to war. I still think there’s some reason on both sides. But you look at the realm of history and you have a little cause for concern.
WOODRUFF: Yes, and watching the Vietnam series, which is a superb series — for any of us who haven’t started watching, you can do that.