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Politics & Government

Week In Politics: Biden's Possible Run And Bush's Handling Of Katrina


And we'll go next to our regular Friday commentators, David Brooks, columnist with The New York Times. Hey there, David...


CORNISH: ...And E.J. Dionne, columnist with The Washington Post. Welcome back.

E.J. DIONNE: Thank you. Good to be with you.

CORNISH: So you heard people there taking quite seriously the idea of Joe Biden running. And E.J., I want to start with you. Looking at that kind of map, what does it say that people are taking this so seriously?

DIONNE: Well, I think they're taking it seriously partly because there's a lot of affection in the party and beyond it for Joe Biden, and partly because Hillary Clinton has had a really rough summer. I've made some calls over the last couple of days, and I truly think that the one thing we know is that Biden hasn't made up his mind yet. If you talk to people close to Biden, they can lay out very plausible ways in which he could enter the campaign and have a chance to build a strong enough campaign to win. But I talked to say some other people who like Biden very much but are still of the view that he's not going to do it. I don't think this would be happening if Hillary had had - if Hillary Clinton had had a better summer. And I think what you're seeing now is, as the piece suggested, she's trying to lay out, here are all the super delegates I have, here's how organized I am and...

CORNISH: Right, making the case.

DIONNE: ...Think twice before you get in, but trying to say it in the nicest possible way.

CORNISH: But David, if Joe Biden was to get in, I mean, what is the idea here in terms of what he would bring for the party, right? Is there a particular kind of voter or state we're talking about when Democrats talk about looking at a run by someone like him?

BROOKS: I really have no idea what he brings. You know, I think he's a wonderful guy and he's been a tremendous public servant. But the reason Hillary Clinton is suffering - it's in part because of the baggage issue and all the doubts about honesty and authenticity. But the main problem is two things - she's the establishment, and she's not run that exciting career in a year that is anti-establishment. The party, like the Republican Party, there are a lot of voters hungering for something different and something anti-establishment, and that's why Bernie Sanders is doing so well. Joe Biden is also of the establishment. And so he - he suffers from all the things Hillary suffers from, in terms of being part of the establishment, but doesn't have a lot of the benefits that she has. So the void is not something he can fill. It's something Bernie Sanders or somebody like him can fill.

DIONNE: I think there's truth to what David said, but I also think the Biden people see him partly running a bit to her left because he has just sort of been a working-class guy's Democrat. And they - you know, people who want him to run think he could make a very strong case on the economic issues that a lot of Democrats, including a lot of the Bernie Sanders people, care about.

CORNISH: I want to turn to the Republican primary and Jeb Bush. This week, he was talking about how he handled hurricanes as governor of Florida, and this is happening in the week where people are talking about the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Here is Jeb Bush in a video posted to YouTube at an event in Pensacola on Wednesday.


JEB BUSH: It wasn't in the playbook when I got elected. They didn't say, OK, get ready for eight hurricanes, four tropical storms.


CORNISH: David, I want to start with you 'cause George W. Bush was in New Orleans this morning to mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. What do you make of how Jeb Bush is trying to play this and play this distinction?

BROOKS: Yeah, I - obviously, George Bush is going to have a lifetime problem with Katrina. I don't think it'll reflect too much on Jeb Bush. In part, Jeb Bush has many flaws as a candidate, but being a good manager is not one of them. He, as governor, was a very good manager. And he did have his own hurricanes, which apparently he handled reasonably well. The second way it may even help him is that his signature issue - one of his signature issues - was charter schools. And one of the things we've learned from Katrina and the post-Katrina New Orleans is how well charter schools are doing. Stanford University did a study of 41 cities, and New Orleans charter schools were among the fastest rising of schools in the country. And so if that's his signature issue and New Orleans is a symbol of the post-Katrina world, well, it's a pretty good testimony to the strength and power of charter schools.

CORNISH: E.J., what do you make of this Bush visit to New Orleans, or Jeb Bush - his attempt to make a distinction?

DIONNE: Well, I think Jeb has had a terrible time dealing with his brother's legacy. He hasn't been able to come up with a truly consistent story. He had that problem earlier in the year on Iraq where he couldn't quite give a straight answer for days about whether Iraq was really a mistake. Donald Trump is really playing on this anti-legacy candidate idea where - you know, and he has made Jeb look kind of weaker than I think Jeb Bush is. And I think Jeb on the campaign trail, I got to say, has been far less of an effective, tough, appealing candidate than I expected him to be. I had seen him before he announced his candidacy and saw him as pretty effective. I think he's a guy who has an opportunity with Trump to be very different. He wants the party to be wide open to diverse people. But so far, I think Trump has got the better of them in this exchange in constantly talking about how he's not, kind of, weak and not exciting.

CORNISH: David, last moments to you. Were you surprised to see George W. Bush in New Orleans?

BROOKS: Yeah, you might as well go after your weakness. And, you know, I think there are things he cares about. I think there are certainly moments he regretted from those days. I remember back in the White House in those days. First of all, they regretted how badly they handled it in the few days. There was a lot of real anger they had when they tried to recover at the House Republicans, who were unwilling to do nothing. Bush belatedly wanted to do something. House Republicans wanted to do nothing. And so he's saddled with sort of a double-negative legacy from this.

CORNISH: That's David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution.

Thanks to you both.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

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