PBS NewsHour Duo Come Rushing to Joe Biden's Defense on Segregationist Gaffe

On the PBS NewsHour on Friday night, liberal analyst Mark Shields and "conservative" analyst David Brooks aggressively agreed with each other, as usual -- this time, in defending Democrat front-runner Joe Biden after he brought up (on his own) working with segregationist Democrats in the 1970s to get work done. 

Brooks, a New York Times columnist, compared segregationists to "homophobes," which is highly offensive if it's used to describe social conservatives and orthodox religious people. Brooks said "my view is, if you're in the Congress, and your chairman happens to be a segregationist, you got to work with the person. And that's just part of politics. It's about conversation And the second thing, you hope to change their minds. How do people become ex-homophobes? It's because they're in conversations with people who are not homophobes, or who are gay or lesbian. And so, to me, engagement is usually the right thing."

Shields was more aggressive, shaming Biden's opponents as purists who would make a minority party.

MARK SHIELDS: I agree with David to this extent. Politics is a matter of addition, not subtraction, Judy. If you're looking, you're looking for converts. You're looking for people to come over to your side. You're not looking for heretics. You're not hunting down people who are somehow morally defective or imperfect, to be banished to the outer darkness.

It is no accident that, when the Democratic Party did have Jim Eastland and Herman Talmadge, they were in the majority. They were in the majority, which meant that people like Phil Hart, and Mike Mansfield, and Ted Kennedy could write great legislation, and that we had the Civil Rights Act, and we wrote Medicare, and we passed Medicaid, and we gave federal education. We passed the G.I. Bill.

I mean, it's just — it's rather remarkable. Now, you can be pure, you can be noble, and say, oh, no, I only want people on my side who are absolutely pure. I don't want anybody who may have sinned in my church.

That's a prescription for a minority party. And I will say it must be very satisfactory to be as noble as Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, to sit there and tsk-tsk Joe Biden.

It is no accident that Joe Biden alone of anybody in public life has been asked give the eulogy at Strom Thurmond's funeral in South Carolina, and Fritz Hollings' funeral in South Carolina, at John McCain's and Ted Kennedy's, at George McGovern's.

I mean, he is — that's the politics he's practiced. It's an imperfect politics. He's an imperfect man. But it's the right politics if you're going to be in the majority and make change in this country.

On Sunday night's NewsHour, Jeff Greenfield suggested that the NBC moderators should press Biden on this statement: "What did you mean by saying that you can work with James Eastland is to ask a broader question is that so many of the people that he cites and working with have literally not been in the Senate for 30 years and isn't this an indication that you may be past your prime?"

Greenfield may not want to bet his hard-earned money on that question being asked. 

Campaigns & Elections 2020 Presidential PBS News Hour David Brooks Mark Shields Joe Biden
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