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Week In Politics: New GOP Candidates, Donald Trump


So will 2016 be a very good year for Donald Trump? That's my first question to our regular political commentators, David Brooks of The New York Times and E J Dionne of the Washington Post, here to talk about the week in politics. Welcome to you both.

E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

DAVID BROOKS, BYLINE: Good to be here.

MARTIN: So Donald Trump - he is running near the top spot in several polls, second only to Jeb Bush on the GOP side - in another poll, second to Scott Walker. At this rate, he is likely to win a spot on the debate stage for the first debate this fall. David, is he a contender?

BROOKS: Narcissism is meeting history, and narcissism is winning.


BROOKS: You know...

MARTIN: Does that mean yes?

BROOKS: Yeah, this is sort of a crucial moment for the Republican Party. You know, what he said is by any definition just a slur. I mean, whatever you think of your position on immigration, most people who come here are very hard-working, industrious, sending money back to their families. You can have a few anecdotes about rapes and murders, but that is simply not reality, and what he said is a slur. And if the Republican Party wants to have any future, it has to come out denouncing it.

Secondly, he's playing the classic culture war game, which is you offend the East Coast establishment, you force everybody else in the Republic Party to decide are you with me or are you with the establishment? The other Republican candidates can't fall for this, because he's going to do it again and again and again. It's the Sarah Palin strategy. So this is a moment to see how they react.

MARTIN: And, E J, theoretically, if he takes a debate spot, that means someone else is not going to be on that stage.

DIONNE: Right. Well, for example, a very serious candidate and a serious person like Governor John Kasich of Ohio would - is less likely to get on that debate stage than Donald Trump. This is a great blessing for cable news networks. They should - those are - but it's very bad for Trump's businesses. I think it's worth noting that a lot of people are pulling away, including the PGA. And you would think that when a Republican got in trouble with golfers, that would be a real problem - not a constituency that's usually hostile to them.

But here you have, I think, both a huge problem and a big opportunity for the Republicans. The problem is that this - these awful statements about Mexican-Americans and, more generally, this intolerance, will once again brand the Republican Party, which is something they need to fight against if they're going to win the next election. The opportunity is if some Republicans have the guts to stand up against him. It shouldn't be that hard to say. Millions of Mexican immigrants come to the U.S. They're working hard. They're, in many cases, churchgoing, family people. Why is that so hard?

Some have started pushing back - Jeb Bush a little bit - but they were kind of slow to do this, which shows that they're still trying to sort out. Do they really need to show they're a tolerant party, or are they still worried about a base that might respond to Trump?

MARTIN: So I want to ask you about that, so let's stay with the GOP. I do want to note that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got into the race. That's something we should highlight. But I want to ask you about comments former Texas Governor Rick Perry made this week, calling his party out for not doing enough to draw in African-American voters. Let's take a listen to this.


RICK PERRY: For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found we didn't need it to win. But when we gave up trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln.

MARTIN: David, has the GOP made inroads with black voters?

BROOKS: It's sort of shocking, but I certainly endorse everything he just said.


BROOKS: You know, and to me, the crucial moment here is social conservatives. In my view, they've fought the last 30 years, trying to fight against the sexual revolution, and they've been consistently losing. And so what I would hope social conservatives would do - to pivot and do, in public, what they're already doing in private, which is to address poverty, is to tithe to the poor, to nurture the lonely and to use their great energy and ambition to heal the divisions in the country, some of them racial, some of them economic. And to me, that's the most attractive face of Christian conservatives and social conservatives. And if Rick Perry wants to lead that charge, more power to him.

MARTIN: Let's move to the Democratic field. We saw former Virginia Senator Jim Webb jump in yesterday - not really a jump, though. I mean, it was a blog post. E J, this isn't - you know, I know he's a reserved guy, but for a presidential announcement, this was pretty reserved.

DIONNE: It was. I mean, I just want to say, Rick Perry - God bless him if he wants to be a Nelson Rockefeller Republican. Who knew? That was a remarkable statement he made. You know, Jim Webb - it's going to be very interesting to see - does he get any traction? Right now, the big news on the Democratic side is Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont. He is a self-described socialist. He talks a lot about economic injustice. This week, he drew 10,000 people in Madison, Wis. Now, granted, that's a good town for him.

But if you don't count a - if you don't count Ted Cruz's announcement, where a lot of the kids had to show up at Liberty University, it was the biggest event of the campaign. So the energy is on that side of the Democratic Party.

Rick - so Jim Webb is going to be a kind of non-interventionist hawk. He stands up for the Southern tradition. He calls himself a Jacksonian Democrat. I don't see this candidacy going very far, but I sure would love to see a debate stage that includes, you know, not only Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but also Jim Webb, to see how he'd stand in that group.

MARTIN: David, does Jim Webb change the race fundamentally?

BROOKS: No. I think E J's right. The energy's on the right - on the left of the party, as we've seen with Bernie Sanders. The big mega-story for me is that Republicans have spent, as I said, the last 30 years losing a culture war over the sexual revolution. I think Democrats are about the start a class war over the global capitalism, which they're going to lose, too. And so the norm of politics is parties end up shooting themselves in the foot, and we're at a pivot point from one party shooting itself in the foot to another.

MARTIN: So let's get big picture. Both of you wrote pretty, you know, contemplative pieces this past week about the impact of the Supreme Court rulings last week, particularly the same-sex marriage ruling. And despite that ruling, David, you point out that this is not a decided issue for many Americans, especially Christian conservatives.

BROOKS: Yeah. I do think, you know, I've always been supportive of gay marriage, but 37 percent of the country is not supportive. And for those of us who were delighted by the decision, and especially with the momentum going the way it is, I think this is a moment to show civility and respect and allow the issue to develop and allow people to, I hope, change their minds, as they are doing in great momentum, in supporting gay unions. I do not think this is the moment to polarize the debate and to call people bigots. I just think that would be counterproductive for any kid in a rural area who wants to come out. He'll find himself in the middle of a very angry and polarized atmosphere.

MARTIN: E J, how do you see the last couple of weeks?

DIONNE: Well, I think - I disagree with David, obviously, on the class war. I think a lot of Americans, including a lot of Republicans, are very upset about inequality and what's happened to the living standards and wages of a lot of people. President Obama made a big move this week to open up overtime for a lot of workers who were just being denied it by getting reclassified - salaried workers who were getting reclassified as managers when they're only making $28,000 a year - around there.

But I think on the gay marriage issue you are seeing a huge cultural change that is largely being driven by millennial's finally being - becoming the dominant group in the American electorate. They are slowly entering the electorate, but they're also changing the minds of their elders. The shift on gay marriage is not only because young people are uniformly for it, but because older people have had second thoughts. I agree with David that we don't want a kind of triumphalism that marginalizes part of our country that's resisting this. And religious liberty should be upheld, but it shouldn't be extended to become an excuse not to accept the fact that we're not going to discriminate against gays and lesbians anymore.

MARTIN: E J Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times. Thanks to both of you.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

BROOKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.