Mark Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru on Democratic divisions, citizenship data

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that brings us to the weekly
analysis and that means Mark Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru, syndicated columnist Mark Shields
and Ramesh Ponnuru of “The National Review.” David Brooks is away. Hello to both of you. MARK SHIELDS: Judy. RAMESH PONNURU: Hi. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s pick up, Mark, on
what we just heard in Lisa’s report, what’s been going on all this week, this series of
disagreements between Speaker Pelosi and a group of newly elected women Democratic members
of the House They have been called the quad squad. What do you make of this? How serious a split is this? MARK SHIELDS: It’s serious, Judy, in that
it represents a profound change in our politics. When I came to Washington shortly after the
cooling of the Earth… (LAUGHTER) MARK SHIELDS: … there was a rule that you
didn’t get to learn any freshman member’s name until he or she had won a second term,
because they — that was what their first term was about, was learning the place, learning
what they’re supposed to do, and then getting reelected. That is no longer the case. I mean, AOC comes in with 4.7 million Twitter
followers. So, she doesn’t need the traditional means
of communicating, going to a press release or talking on — even on television. She’s just available. So it’s a real — politics is the most imitative
of all human art forms, with the possible exception of political journalism. Donald Trump showed that tweeting gets you
directly to voters, that you can bypass traditional media. That’s what these people are doing. I just wish that the four members of the Mod
Squad had ever served in the minority and known for eight years what it was like, and
the effort, energy, talent and skill of Nancy Pelosi and people who worked with her to win
back the majority after eight years. JUDY WOODRUFF: And they’re accusing her of
being too — not liberal enough. Ramesh Ponnuru, how do you read this? RAMESH PONNURU: Well, I think there are two
different voter bases going on here. Nancy Pelosi has remarked that she and these
members are in deep blue solidly Democratic districts, where a room temperature glass
of water with a D after its name could win the election. But most of the Democrats who won the swing
districts that made the Democrats the majority, they’re in moderate districts. They can’t take the same positions. And you add to that, they don’t have the Senate. So there’s always going to be frustrations,
when legislation passes the House, and then doesn’t get anywhere in the Senate. We had a loss for the Democrats on immigration. And part of what’s going on here is a blame
game, where people can’t just accept you have got one half of one of the three branches
of government. There’s just some times you’re going to make
— you’re going to take some losses. JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re referring to that vote
a few days ago on money for the border, wherein Speaker Pelosi, as Lisa reported, Mark, ended
up going along with Republicans. MARK SHIELDS: Yes. No, exactly. And just picking up Ramesh’s point, it’s only
— what is it now, 12, 15 years ago since Barack Obama electrified the political world,
and particularly the Democratic Party, at the convention in Boston, where he said, we
don’t — we worship an awesome God in blue America. We have gay friends in red America . There
is no red United States. There’s only the United States of America,
not a blue United States. And I just wonder if that kind of a speech
and that kind of a spirit would be well-received in this present climate of Democrats, who
are fractious, divided, and I think an increasingly divisive group. JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this — Ramesh, from your
perspective, is this the kind of split that lingers into next year’s and infects and spills
over into the presidential race? RAMESH PONNURU: Well, I don’t think that many
voters are going to vote on the basis of this kind of inside baseball dispute between Democrats,
especially since none of these members of Congress are going to be on the presidential
ballot, the ones that we’re talking about anyway. But I do think that it makes it harder for
the Democrats to have a unified message, where they’re talking about their shared agenda,
and they’re prosecuting the case against Trump, if they’re all pointing fingers at each other. MARK SHIELDS: It’s a very good point, Judy. I mean, the reality is that the Democrats,
I think, are misreading the results of 2018. In 2010, you will recall, the Republicans
won a stunning majority in the House. And Barack Obama was reelected two years later. In 2000 — in 1994, Bill Clinton was crushed,
and yet — Republicans swept into power for the first time in 40 years, and two years
later, he was reelected. A congressional election midterm is entirely
different from a presidential election. And I don’t think that’s quite understood
by some of these fractious Democrats right now. They’d better figure out — 30 million people
voted in the primaries in 2016; 135 million voted in the general. But that 30 million, what is said will be
remembered all the way through to the last hour in November, the first Tuesday after
the first Monday, by what is said in New Hampshire, what is said in Iowa. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. MARK SHIELDS: And I think Democrats would
be well-advised to remember that. JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn to President
Trump, Ramesh. And, yesterday, we were all waiting for the
president to announce that he was going to sign an executive action or take an executive
action in order to add a citizenship question to the census. As the day wore on, we learned that the White
House, the president decided not to do that, a complicated set of reasons. It was more — it was harder to do than they
thought it was going to be. Instead, they are ordering government agencies
to put out information, to share it with the Commerce Department, so we know more about
who’s in this country without documents. What does this say about President Trump’s
efforts to go after immigrants? Does it know an end? I mean, what else do we look for here? RAMESH PONNURU: Well, I think it says a couple
things about this administration. One, this is the biggest legal defeat that
it suffered. It had a mixed legal result from the Supreme
Court, but the ultimate end of it was that they didn’t get their way in putting the citizenship
question on the census. They ran up against the clock, and they ran
up, frankly, against their own incompetence. That’s the takeaway number two. The Supreme Court said, you can add a citizenship
question to the census, but you have got to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and provide
us with your reasons. And that was what the administration was incapable
of doing. That’s, I think, what led them to this place
where this basic priority, they are not able to follow through on. JUDY WOODRUFF: But do you end up in a situation,
Mark, where ordering the government to turn over health records, Social Security records
of individuals who may or may not be citizens, does that end up being even more invasive
than rounding — I mean, than asking them to answer this question? MARK SHIELDS: Potentially so, Judy. But I think it was a stinging defeat and rebuke
of the president. And the president doesn’t admit defeat. I mean, I think this was a way out. I mean, the president took a stinging defeat
last November. We learned today it was Paul Ryan’s fault
that the Republicans suffered the loss of the House in November of 2018. The closing of the government, that wasn’t
a defeat for the president. So he can’t accept that it is a defeat. I think all of this, quite frankly, to look
at it in a very uncharitable way, is nothing but a fear campaign to intimidate people from
the census, and therefore to lead to an undercount. JUDY WOODRUFF: A fear campaign? RAMESH PONNURU: Well, look, I think that there’s
an open question about whether congressional districts can be drawn based on voting eligible
population or based on total population. And, obviously, what Republicans want to do
is draw the lines according to the voting-eligible population, because that will increase their
representation in Congress. But that’s the real motive. (CROSSTALK) RAMESH PONNURU: But they weren’t willing to
say it and defend it openly in court. And, again, I think that that’s why we ended
up with this — this alternative, which, as you point out, does have some privacy implications
that are troubling. MARK SHIELDS: The problem is the Constitution. I mean, there’s nothing about voting age population
in the Constitution. RAMESH PONNURU: Well, the Supreme Court just
left it open whether — so we will — we would have to see. MARK SHIELDS: No, but I think it’s pretty
clear we’re talking about — in a census, we’re talking about the number of people. At the same time, we have got a number of
social programs, the formula of which is based upon the people of — who need it in an area. If you’re living next door to people, and
you need and your family is in — qualifies for a needs program, and you’re denied it
because somehow they’re undercounted in your district, I mean, that’s unjust and, in the
final analysis, inhumane. RAMESH PONNURU: Well, that’s right. I mean, there’s a lot of federal money that
is tied to these sorts of numbers. So the stakes are very high. JUDY WOODRUFF: Quickly circle back to the
Democrats, to the presidential race. We had some movement in the presidential race
this week, Mark. Eric Swalwell, the congressman, got out. The billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer,
who’s Mr. Impeachment, he’s the one who’s run millions of dollars of ads advocating
the impeachment of the president, is in. He’s now running. This comes in the same week that Bernie Sanders
issues his — announces his anti-endorsements, billionaires and millionaires, who he says
he doesn’t want their endorsement. How much money does — how much difference
does money make in 2019 in American politics? MARK SHIELDS: It is the mother’s milk of American
politics. JUDY WOODRUFF: Still. MARK SHIELDS: And, as Mark Hanna said, there
are two things that matter in American politics, money, and I can’t remember the second one. And there’s no question about it. And, obviously, the number of people who contribute,
650,00, or 130,000 in September, contributors necessary to get on the stage in the Democratic
debate. So it is. It is important, and whether you can hire
people, run a campaign and all the rest of it. As far as Bernie Sanders, he’s just borrowing
a page from Grover Cleveland, whose nominating speech at the 1884 convention was, we love
him most for the enemies he has made, and, therefore, to identify the special interests,
big money that is opposed to you, and to thereby give you a virtue. And I think it’s a totally legitimate strategy
on Bernie Sanders’ part. RAMESH PONNURU: You know, the money obviously
matters. There is a reason politicians spend so much
time raising it. But there are so many past candidates who
have been big spenders and not gone all the way. MARK SHIELDS: That’s true. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. RAMESH PONNURU: John Connally in 1980, Phil
Gramm in ’96, Jeb Bush in the 2016 cycle. I think — so, if you’re Tom Steyer, it’s
not going to be the money that determines whether he wins or not. It may be a prerequisite, but what he’s got
to show is that he’s got a message that takes off. And maybe being an impeachment obsessive will
be what does it. Maybe enough Democrats will be frustrated
by inaction on that front that they will rally to him. But that, I think, is the question. JUDY WOODRUFF: Is whether impeachment, Mark,
is the cachet that can get him, not just into the debates… MARK SHIELDS: If it is, Democrats have just
written the longest suicide note in the history of American politics, if that’s the case,
Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: Speaking of billionaires, we
want to finally remember someone who ran for president twice back in the 1990s, Ross Perot. He died this week. Mark, he was remembered as somebody who talked
about deficits and standing there with his charts. Some of us who covered those campaigns remember
it well. MARK SHIELDS: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: What is his legacy? MARK SHIELDS: His legacy is not to be confused
with any other billionaires who have run for the office. He was sui generis. And he, quite frankly, in 1992 ran a campaign,
Judy, that forced the two parties to confront the national debt. If you recall, from the founding of the country
to 1980, nine wars, one Depression, we had run up a total in debt of some $1 trillion. In 12 years of supply-side economics under
Reagan and Bush, we had quadrupled that. And Ross Perot said, you got to do something
about it. It’s unfair to your children and your grandchildren. Democrats didn’t want to go near it, because
they were dying to get back in to get the keys to the treasury. Republicans didn’t want to touch it because
they acknowledged it happened on their watch. Bill Clinton was forced basically by Ross
Perot persuasiveness to address it. And they were the only balanced budgets in
the past half-century, since World War II, Bill Clinton’s, as a consequence of that. JUDY WOODRUFF: And only a little more than
30 seconds. RAMESH PONNURU: The strongest third-party
showing in the last 100 years, in part because of that. I think the other thing that comes to mind
is whatever disagreements one had with Ross Perot, he wasn’t running for himself. He wasn’t running for fame. He wasn’t running for fortune. He was running as a patriot who had serious
concerns about his country’s future. And that, I think, is something to admire. MARK SHIELDS: Amen. JUDY WOODRUFF: And on that note, we thank
you both, Ramesh Ponnuru, Mark Shields. MARK SHIELDS: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

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