Next time you catch the PBS News Hour on Friday evening (it’s partially funded by your taxes, after all), close your eyes and try to tell the difference between liberal Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post and “conservative” counterpart David Brooks of the New York Times during the show’s weekly political roundtable.
Capehart is one of many liberal voices on PBS, but Brooks does not balance the program out with conservative-leaning arguments. In fact, there’s often no daylight between Brooks and Capehart on many issues, making it less a partisan debate than a nod-along session among Brooks, Capehart, and the liberal host.
This week, Brooks earned the prize for wackiest comment, when he found it offensive that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was comparing wokesters to Nazis (he wasn’t).
Bennett talked about “the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion.”
Capehart called the issue “political death in a general election,” citing voting results in “Kansas, ruby-red Kansas,” where “people came out in support of abortion rights,” proving “the American people have shown time and time again in the last year that they don’t like what the Supreme Court’s done.”
Bennett actually gave the show’s “conservative” an opening to downplay the harm the abortion issue may play in 2024:
But Brooks only marveled that “there are more abortions being performed than in June of ’22. So it has this weird and very surprising effect on people’s actual behavior, which kind of surprises me. …the evidence is incontrovertible. The country has shifted sharply to the left on abortion.”
Bennett introduced a clip of Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis from a conservative conference:
Capehart complained that Republicans would not define woke, then preceded to define it in flattering terms. But the show’s supposedly conservative counterweight was utterly offended.
Brooks then actually made a decent summation of what conservatives are actually against, and said they had a point. Too bad he’s a snob about the word “woke,” which encapsulates everything Brooks said in a palatable, pint-size message.
This tax-funded example of liberals and “conservatives” agreeing with each other was also brought to you in part by BDO.
June 23, 2023
7:35 pm (ET)
Geoff Bennett: President Biden’s son strikes a deal to avoid prison time, GOP presidential candidates embrace abortion restrictions one year after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and a report outlines fresh examples of questionable ethics from the country’s most powerful judges For analysis of this week’s news, we turn to Brooks and Capehart. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post. It’s good to see you both.
Jonathan Capehart: Good to see you too.
Geoff Bennett: So, we have a lot to talk about, and let’s get to it, starting with the 2024 Republican presidential hopefuls in Washington for the Faith and Freedom Coalition, one of the largest gatherings of Christian conservative political activists, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion. All of the GOP candidates were really emphasizing their anti-abortion credentials, chief among them Mike Pence.
Mike Pence (R), Presidential Candidate: The cause of life is the calling of our time, and we must not rest and must not relent until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state in this country.
Geoff Bennett: Jonathan, Mike Pence says he rejects the conventional wisdom that Republicans paid a price in the midterms for the Supreme Court overturning Roe. You heard him say there should be restrictions in every state. How might that play politically?
Jonathan Capehart: It played well in that room. It’ll play well among Republican primary voters, for sure. But it is political death in a general election. You can look at the midterm elections to see that that is the case. Even before the midterm elections, the vote in Kansas, ruby-red Kansas, people came out in support of abortion rights. Wisconsin state Supreme Court justice seat decided on the issue of abortion.
And a new poll out from NBC News on the one-year anniversary of the overturning of Roe shows that 61 percent of the American people disapprove of Roe being overturned. So, I believe that the former vice president firmly believes in his gut what he’s saying, but the American people have shown time and time again in the last year that they don’t like what the Supreme Court’s done.
Geoff Bennett: How do you see it? Because, in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine signed a six-week abortion ban, got reelected handily. In Georgia, Brian Kemp, same thing, signed a six-week abortion ban, easily defeated Stacey Abrams.
David Brooks: Yes, first of all, the most amazing thing in the past year since Dobbs was how has it affected the number of abortions done in this country? And they went down a little. And now, in June — in March of 23, there are more abortions being performed than in June of ’22. So it has this weird and very surprising effect on people’s actual behavior, which kind of surprises me. I do think it’s possible for people like DeWine and Kemp to get reelected, because I think, for a lot of independent voters, it’s not the deciding issue.
And I suspect that will probably be true in the presidential elections. Nonetheless, the polls are — the evidence is incontrovertible. The country has shifted sharply to the left on abortion. If you ask people, should first trimester, second trimester, third trimester, in all those three different trimesters, more people think it should be legal.
And so the country has decided they feel — the majority feel constricted by the new laws that are being put on the states, and that has caused them to move to the left.
Well, abortion is a major topic at this Faith and Freedom Coalition. So too are the culture wars, with Republicans promising to fight what they call woke beliefs.
Here’s Ron DeSantis.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Presidential Candidate: My pledge is this. We will fight the woke in the schools. We will fight the woke in the corporations. We will fight the woke in the halls of government. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob. We are going to leave woke ideology in the dustbin of history, where it belongs.
Geoff Bennett: So when Governor DeSantis says we’re going to fight woke in the schools, woke in the corporations, woke in the so on and so forth, what is he really saying?
Jonathan Capehart: I don’t know. No, Geoff, I’m being serious. I do not know. I would love for the governor to define woke. What does it mean to him? Because, to me and millions of other Americans, when Republicans start spouting off about woke this and that, it’s usually something that an aggrieved person on the right usually doesn’t like about what’s happening in the country, oh, I don’t know, about African Americans wanting the fullness of American history being taught in schools, or LGBTQ+ Americans wanting to be able to just have their kids go to school and be able to talk about what’s going — what did they do that weekend without getting their teacher or themselves in trouble.
Those are just two examples. And so if Governor DeSantis wants to have that, you know, we will storm — meet them on the beaches and meet them on this or whatever he’s saying, fine, do that. Play — do that to the Republican faithful.
But then explain to the nation what exactly do you mean and how you’re going to implement that as president.
To Jonathan’s point, I was speaking with a Republican strategist who said, the political utility of woke is that it is whatever you want it to be and it is whatever the listener hears.
Is it effective politically?
Well, yes and no. First, I should say, DeSantis is obviously quoting Churchill or citing Churchill there, we will fight them on the beaches, on landing strips. It’s offensive. Churchill was talking about the Nazis. And to compare fellow Americans, to even evoke an anti-Nazi speech as an anti-fellow American speech is just an offensive rhetorical device. I do think if you — I hate all the way that the word woke has stood in for all this. If you do want to say the educational schools where teachers go to get trained are overwhelmingly progressive, unrepresentative of the country, and they’re spreading curriculums that are probably unrepresentative of the country that a lot of conservative and moderate families find uncomfortable, then I would agree with that.
And that would be a way to say that they are spreading a version of American history which is elementally and exclusively between oppressor and oppressed groups. Now, I think part of American history is between oppressor and oppressed groups, but there are a lot of different stories of American history that I would want to see represented.
Now, that speech I just gave, if I gave it on the presidential stump, everyone would fall asleep. So — but I find the use of the word woke offensive. But if they want to say there’s something wrong with the way education has evolved in this country, then I think that’s actually a reasonable argument.
Well, let’s talk about the latest development in the Hunter Biden legal drama, because Attorney General Merrick Garland today really forcefully rejected allegations from congressional Republicans and an IRS whistle-blower that political considerations affected the federal investigation into Hunter Biden.
Jonathan, what’s your assessment of the plea deal and the way that Republicans are targeting Hunter Biden as a proxy for Joe Biden?
When we talked about this earlier, I was asked the question, is this justice?
How do you define it? What does that mean in this case of Hunter Biden? To me, look, a special counsel was appointed. That person is someone who was appointed by President Trump and was given unbelievable power in terms of investigating, in terms of doing all sorts of stuff. And this is what he came up with, two minor tax charges and then something involving — involving a gun charge.
And, meanwhile, you have got House Republicans, Chairman Comer — Chairman Comer, who keeps talking about whistle-blowers, but he hasn’t talked to them in three years. There seems to be a lot of people pumping up smoke about Hunter Biden and not coming up with anything.
In a lot of ways, I think it’s really sort of unseemly that, fine, you want to go after the president and use his son as proxy? OK, that’s the nature of ugly politics these days. But we’re talking about the son of a president who was an addict, who went through some really hard times and did some really stupid things.
And I’m having a hard time raising that to the level of a twice-impeached, now twice criminally indicted former president who we really should be talking about and really asking Republicans, why don’t you talk about him and what’s going on with him? Because there are national security implications, rule of law implications that are at stake here, not with Hunter Biden, not all the stuff that we have seen over the last few years. Come on.
Geoff Bennett: David, the way Republicans tell it, President Biden has been complicit in this years-long scheme of Hunter Biden to profit off the family name. They have yet to provide evidence to support at that.
Yet Hunter Biden has forged business dealings that raise questions about whether he is trying to cash in on access to his father. And Republicans have used that. They have opened that up for political attack. Talk to me about the effectiveness of that strategy.
Yes, I mean, I think that it’s worth investigating.
This week, the lead IRS investigator released this WhatsApp where you have Hunter Biden going to a Chinese official and saying, you better send me the money. I’m sitting with my father right here. If you don’t send the money, there’s going to be a world of hurt laid down on you.
Now, was Joe Biden actually sitting next to Hunter Biden when he sent that on WhatsApp? I kind of doubt it, but we don’t know. It seems to me worth investigating. It does seem there has been some — the tax thing, I think — probably I think is a little more serious than Jonathan. The gun thing, I think, is what it is.
I think it was perfectly legitimate for the prosecutor not to include jail time. That’s absolutely normal in these kinds of cases. But the influence peddling, I doubt Joe Biden is involved, highly doubt Joe Biden is involved. But Hunter Biden was playing on the family name. And that WhatsApp message, it deserves to be looked into.
Geoff Bennett: We have got a couple of minutes left. And I want to end with the reporting from ProPublica this past week that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito did not disclose a luxury trip he took with a hedge fund billionaire, Paul Singer. Is this the tipping point where we might finally see the Supreme Court enact some serious ethics reform?
Jonathan Capehart: I would hope so. I would hope that Chief John Roberts takes this really seriously, because if we get one more ProPublica story about either Justices Thomas or Alito or another justice on the court, not only will Congress start moving, but public sentiment against the court will move even faster against it, I think.
Geoff Bennett: How do you see it?
David Brooks: Yes, I thought the Singer thing was more serious than what Thomas was, because, with Thomas, there was no quid pro quo. There was no — Harlan Crow was not involved in any — but Paul Singer clearly was. He had his major case. The court ruled in his favor. Alito was a major figure in that ruling. It yielded Singer lots and lots of money. And so that makes you feel very uncomfortable. He should have at least disclosed his relationship with Singer before ruling on that case. So, Roberts has in the past sort of gestured to some openness to reform. I think it’s a — he’s now got an invitation to really, yes, let’s change the rules here.