PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff recently boasted her show rose above "a false sense of combativeness." So when their week-in-review segment airs on Fridays, typically no one stands up for the conservative side as liberal NewsHour analyst Mark Shields combatively whacks at Republican officials as the worst kind of political villains and vandals.
On Friday, Woodruff's first question to Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks was about Trump: "Can he undo the Obama legacy?" In reference to Obamacare and the Iran deal, Brooks replied that this was what he promised, and he was elected on that promise. Woodruff asked Shields "What do you think?" and he quickly lectured "the fantasy that there was a Republican health plan has been totally exposed and exploded, and Donald Trump gave the final lie to that." Republicans only destroy and dismantle:
MARK SHIELDS: All he wants to do now is to destroy and dismantle that which was what he can’t — [Democrat Speaker of the House in the 1950s] Sam Rayburn once said, any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a good carpenter to build one. And so they’re just about — that’s what they’re about, is dismantling.
When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, a decorated Marine combat veteran, said that the Iranian deal, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, is in the national security interests of the United States of America, and Donald Trump, you know, gives some cockamamie explanation, is going to change it to — you know, he’s going to be playing right into the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Shields would hyperventilate if his debating partner suggested Barack Obama played right into the hands of Iranian hardliners. That might imply Obama was the enemy of American interests. That's beyond the pale...except when liberals do it.
Perhaps the shocking thing was that pseudo-conservative David Brooks refused to agree with Shields. Like a true moderate, he said the truth was more complicated than a barn-destroying jackass and his team:
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I would just say, it’s not like — we hear dismantle, dismantle, dismantle, and you think it’s just an act of destruction. That was my first impulse, but then, when you actually begin to look more into actually what they’re doing, it’s a little more complicated than that.
So, the Iranian deal, there are two pieces of it. And the last discussion just reflected it very well, that the Iranians are keeping the nuclear piece, but there was a hope which President Obama expressed often that it would welcome Iran into the community of nations.
On the contrary, they are behaving worse and using the money we gave them to arm terrorists around the world. So Donald Trump and his policy are completely right to recognize that second piece takes a looking at.
On health care, they are dismantling it. There will be a period of disruption. But what was interesting to me about the CBO analysis of what they’re doing, after this period of disruption, there will be more people insured, not less. So it won’t look like Obamacare, but as the markets respond, there is a possibility that more people will be insured. And so it’s not a simple, oh, we’re just tearing everything apart.
Shields underlined "I could not disagree more."
Excellent. That's a real debate, unlike most weeks on the NewsHour. This allowed Brooks to stick up for Trump once more, or at least the philosophy behind his executive order:
BROOKS: I’m just saying he has a philosophical position here. The philosophical position is that a lot of the cross-subsidization involved in these big insurance pools is unfair to a certain set of people who are subsidizing the sicker and the poorer.
And maybe, as a society, we should be doing that as matter of social solidarity. Donald Trump doesn’t think so. And so he’s giving more people, especially small employers, a chance to pool their resources, and create associations, and give people insurance that way. So it is a vision. It’s not just some nihilistic policy here. There is some sort of vision here, more than one would expect.
Shields only shot back: "David has just done the impossible. He has detected a coherent philosophy in Donald Trump."