Politics & News
David Brooks on Clinton: I Like Institutionalists; I Think Organizations Change History, Rarely A Person

PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss takeaways from an in-depth interview with Hillary Clinton on her election memoir "What Happened,†President Trump’s move to work with Democrats on protections for young undocumented immigrants and what it means for his base of support.

Brooks said he likes institutionalists and that Clinton is an institutionalist. Trump, however, is anti-institutionalism and wants to hollow them out.

Transcript, via PBS:

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, as for the book, it’s tough to be reflective and a good storyteller and be in the public sphere.

You’re so active that you don’t have time for reflection. And I read the book. And I thought it was interesting, by political standards, way more interesting. I think she’s right, as she said in the interview, that it was just not her year. She’s not going to the anger, outsider politician.

I think she’s pushed up too much emphasis on Comey and all that other stuff and the Russians in blaming this. But she has cusps of thoughts throughout the book.

For example, at one point, she says she really loves the parable of the prodigal son. And she says, I’m so much like the older brother, who is the rule follower. And, of course, then you think, well, Bill Clinton is the ultimate younger brother, the prodigal son. And she’s on the cusp of a really interesting insight about her relationship with him.

But she can’t — she never, never takes the next step. And I think that’s just because active people — I remember I once interviewed Margaret Thatcher, and she was the same way — so much active, not a writer, not reflective, not getting the analysis you actually want.

But that’s just a product of being in the public sphere. I think the book with is far more interesting than most political books of that sort…

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, she’s an institutionalist.

When she was in the Senate, she respected the rules and the standards of the Senate. When she was secretary of state, she was very much of the building and of the body and going around the world interviewing people.

And I generally like institutionalists. I think organizations are really what change history, rarely a random person. But let’s face it. This election was about anti-institutionalism.

It was about, we don’t like the way those things are working in Washington. Let’s burn the place town. And so it’s not surprising the Trump administration is bad at institutions, and they’re hollowing out all our institutions. They were sort of hired to do that.

I happen to think that was a mistake, a bad way to run government, but that sort is what they were hired to do.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s also a section on race where she weighed in on the divisiveness that she says Trump exacerbates.


I — there’s a mixture here. Trump clearly plays identity politics, and white identity politics. And race has been a strong factor in this election. There’s no question about that.

I think it’s always necessary to be careful and not say Trump won because of race. I think a lot of the people who voted for Trump voted for him on a million different reasons, a lot of them quite legitimate reasons.

And so I think she sometimes, in this interview with Judy, gets a little close to saying, he’s the KKK candidate.

I think that’s overly simplistic. Is there a white identity stream running through his thought which is deeply disturbing? Well, after Charlottesville, we saw that to be the case.

But I don’t think you want to play this election as, well, white racism won this election. I don’t think that’s fair…


So, all my life, I have been waiting for a president who would go with the Democrats when the merits of the argument are on their side, and go with the Republicans when the merits are on their side, and now finally it turns out to be Donald Trump who is doing this.

So, oh, well.

I guess I think two things. I think that, one, this particular deal, if it is a deal, is a good deal. And I think most of the country — only 12 percent of the country thinks the DACA people should be sent out of the country. It’s a pretty popular position to want to some way codify their position in this country.

And the wall is a stupid idea. I don’t think Donald Trump actually believes that we should build a wall with Mexico. And so, if that is the deal, that’s a good deal on the merits.

Can Donald Trump continue to be a bipartisan president? Well, I wish we had a skilled political operator who could do that. I don’t think Donald Trump is that skilled political operator.

It takes great skill to go with one party and then go with another. And I fear what he’s going to end up doing is isolating himself, the distrust with both parties, isolating himself from his administration, which is pretty down-the-line conservative, and discrediting bipartisanship along the way.

So, if we are going to have an independent president, which is something I think we need, I wish it was somebody a little more politically skilled…

HARI SREENIVASAN: But speaking of — continuing with that sort of sports analogy, but what does this do to his die-hard fans, the ones that show up in the middle of winter?


I think the evidence so far is that it doesn’t really hurt him. There are some of the die-hard fans, like Ann Coulter, who are upset. And there are a lot of people who are burning their MAGA hats, the make America great again hats, because they’re upset.

But if you look at the Sean Hannitys and those people, and a lot of the people who are calling into the Rush Limbaugh show, they want to drain the swamp. And they don’t like Mitch McConnell very much.

And if he goes against Mitch McConnell and he changes things …read more

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