Week In Politics: The Politics of Impeachment In The Future
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
And it is Week in Politics time, and we have our regulars here, David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Georgetown's McCourt School.
Welcome back, you two.
DAVID BROOKS AND EJ DIONNE: Great to be here.
KELLY: You will be stunned to hear we're going to talk impeachment. This is the week that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced it's full steam ahead. Democrats will draft articles of impeachment. Now, interestingly, the moment that stuck from her announcement, David Brooks, was after she finished. She was exiting the stage when James Rosen of Sinclair News shouted out to ask if she hated President Trump. She whipped around. She came back to the podium to answer.
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NANCY PELOSI: I don't hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is full - a heart full of love. I pray for the president all the time, so don't mess with me when it comes to words like that.
KELLY: Don't mess with me. David, what do you take from that?
DAVID BROOKS: It was a beautiful moment, actually. You know, political scientists say Americans aren't necessarily more polarized on policy terms. We're more polarized on emotional terms. We just hate each other more over the same policy differences. But that's never been true of Nancy Pelosi. She is - I've always found her exceedingly gracious.
And I think that's - growing up in a political family, she's a pro. I mean, she's a craftsman at politics. She's just a very impressive figure whether you agree with her or not. And I think she's handled this situation very well, and I thought that was one of the more beautiful political moments of the year, frankly.
KELLY: She is also a Catholic, E.J., and she attributed - I don't like the word hate; don't mess with me about that - because of her Catholic upbringing.
EJ DIONNE: Well, all of us liberal Catholics really loved her argument that her faith means not hating people and praying for everybody, including President Trump. But I think there was something else she showed, which is she understands that Republicans want voters to focus not on Trump's behavior but on the motives of his adversaries. And she was having nothing of that. She pushed that aside.
And she was very careful to say that while she disagreed with Trump on guns, on immigration, on climate, those were issues for the election and that impeachment was about his abuse of power. And I thought she sent that message to the voters and, by the way, to all Democrats as they talk about this in the future.
KELLY: OK. So she says impeachment - this is all about the Constitution. This is not politics. This is not the election. But we are about to turn the corner into an election year. Democrats want to get this done. Democrats need public support for it. Speak to the political calculations that you see playing out here for the Democrats, E.J.
DIONNE: Well, I was struck by a piece that ran on fivethirtyeight.com which showed that about a quarter of Americans have still not firmly dug in on where they stand on this. Now, a lot of them have not paid as much attention as other Americans. But I think the arguments that we're going to have going forward are going to be important, A, in determining those attitudes even if they don't change the Senate vote.
But B, I think they'll be important for probably a half dozen of Republican senators like Senator Collins of Maine, who are going to be in a really tough position here with - if the - if it gets to a vote in the Senate because they'll risk either alienating base Republican voters or alienating a lot of middle-of-the-road voters they need.
KELLY: Yeah. David.
BROOKS: Yeah. I don't think anything's going to change anybody's mind from here on in. There's no prospect of some gigantic event. I don't think people's minds are going to be changed. I don't think this is going to be a voting issue next November. I just don't think for most of the public - the swing-type voter - that this is a big thing they care about. They care about health care, the economy and the jobs. And as long as the economy is humming along, as today's jobs report suggested, Trump will be popular among Republicans.
And so I think Nancy Pelosi is smart to sort of cut and run. Like, we got to do this for constitutional reasons. We got to make a point here about establishing norms. But let's get back to the campaign. And I think she's doing the right thing. The interesting question to me is, how long does Mitch McConnell go in the Senate? Does he want to keep the Senate occupied and all the Democratic senators in Washington, or does he want to come around to...
KELLY: Away from the campaign trail.
BROOKS: Right. His calculation is the more interesting one to me.
DIONNE: By the way, just in passing, the fact that Trump is still only at 38-, 40-, 42% with jobs numbers like we had today...
KELLY: Amazing jobs numbers...
DIONNE: That suggests some real problems still. And I think some of the hangover is on his behavior on...
DIONNE: ...Matters like this.
KELLY: Let me flip us to the campaign trail since we started to head there. A couple of interesting developments to note - Kamala Harris dropped out this week, and Joe Biden got into a spat with a voter in Iowa who challenged him on his son and corruption in Ukraine.
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JOE BIDEN: You're a damn liar, man. That's not true. No one has ever said that. No one has proved that.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah, (unintelligible). I see it on the TV.
BIDEN: You see it on the TV.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: That's all I got to do - is watch TV.
BIDEN: No, I know you do.
KELLY: All right. So that's one moment from Biden, but Biden also jumped on a video that surfaced from the NATO summit in London this week that appeared to show world leaders, including Justin Trudeau of Canada and Emmanuel Macron of France - appeared to show them laughing at Trump. Biden spun it into a campaign video.
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BIDEN: The world sees Trump for what he is - insincere, ill-informed, corrupt.
KELLY: He says we need a leader the world respects. So great week for Joe Biden, lousy week for Joe Biden - David, what do you think?
BROOKS: I vote a great week for Joe Biden. You might as well...
KELLY: You like - yeah.
BROOKS: ...Be angry. I like the angry ad, and I like the effective ad - the angry confrontation, the effective ad showing his own experience. And if you're going to go be tough, you might as well go Clint Eastwood and get off my porch.
BROOKS: And so I thought that worked. And then finally, he dominated the news cycle for once. When he - if he goes against the fall, he's got to show he can be creative and dominate the cycle against the guy who is actually quite good at it.
KELLY: OK. What do you think, E.J.?
DIONNE: I think the only problem is whether Clint Eastwood plays really well in Democratic primaries. I think the ad was terrific, and it really probably was the best moment of Biden's campaign so far because it really showed him as a serious leader and Trump as what he is. And the laughter part of that ad was really effective. It just was news clip after news clip.
KELLY: Because this has been one of Trump's things on the campaign trail. It was - the world has been laughing at America. They won't anymore with me in charge.
DIONNE: Right, and then everybody's laughing. The voter, I was mixed on. I agree that looking tough is good. I just am old-fashioned. I think it's never a good idea to attack voters if you're a candidate.
KELLY: We will see how that plays in Iowa and beyond. E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, David Brooks of The New York Times, thank you.
DIONNE: Thank you.
BROOKS: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.