PBS NewsHour


Brooks and Dionne on vaccine hesitancy, Jan. 6 hearings

New York Times columnist David Brooks and E.J. Dionne from The Washington Post join Judy Woodruff to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure deal, new information about the delta variant's threat, and the Capitol Police testimony during the Jan. 6 hearings.

AIRED: July 30, 2021 | 0:12:59

JUDY WOODRUFF: Its been another jam-packed week here in Washington, with infrastructure

appearing to be on the path to passing the Senate, the January 6 select committee kicking off their

hearings with emotional testimony from police who defended the Capitol that day, and a new challenge

facing President Biden as hospitalizations increase due to the Delta variant.

Joining us to examine the political implications of a lot of this all are

Brooks and Dionne. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks

and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post. Jonathan Capehart is away.

Very good to see you.

E.J. Dionne, good to have you back with us.

E.J. DIONNE: Great to be here. Thanks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the topics, though, pretty sober, David.

Here we are. A lot of us thought we were on the way to a good place with this COVID-19,

and we find out this variant is very tricky.

Even people who are vaccinated can spread it, and a lot of breakthrough infections.

Democrats, the president practically begging people to get vaccinated,

wear a mask. Republicans are divided. You got some say get vaccinated, get vaccinated, others not.

How do you read what's going on? And it where do we go?


I mean, I -- we were all looking forward to a smooth glide path, a fall of me in my bar

scene, my clubs, and going to my Cardi B concerts and all this stuff I normally do.

(LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: Where you hang out all the time.

DAVID BROOKS: Where I hang out all the time. But that's probably not going to happen.

And so we have just got to deal with that. And the question is, will social fragmentation

happen alongside that? Will the pressure of going back down

into a more alarmed position tear us apart even further?

And I think what's interesting to me is how geographically different it will be.

In some places, where vaccination rates are up in the 70 and 80 percent,

you're going to feel very different than when you're in Mississippi.

And, in my view, we need to, as Marx would say, heighten the contradictions, that -- where we

have to make sure that people understand, where people are vaccinated, life is a lot better.

And I think we have learned even over the last couple weeks, even this week,

where there have been an uptick in vaccinations, that if you make it

mandatory for some workplaces, and if you make the incentive structure very clear,

you have to get vaccinated, that a lot of the vaccine-hesitant people will get vaccinated.

And so it may be cruel to say, but I think we just have to make the incentives overwhelming

to get vaccinated, for the sake of the common good.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, E.J., it's not all about politics.

We know some people just have an innate fear of getting a vaccination, apparently.

But there is a political component to this, in that a lot of influential

conservatives are saying, don't do this, it's not the threat that they say it is.

Is this a moment where we're just -- when things are going to get worse because of that?

E.J. DIONNE: In an odd way, I'm a bit hopeful because the message is getting through,

sadly, because of the deaths and the sickness, and people are

starting to become very clear that, if you are not vaccinated, you are in trouble.

But it is profoundly political. The 20 states that have the highest vaccination rate,

all those states voted for Joe Biden. You couldn't

be more political. The Biden counties are way more vaccinated than the Trump counties are.

And what gives me heart is, the Republican Party has been divided into three.

There's one part of the party that right from the start was saying, vaccination,

you got to do it. Mitch McConnell, who had polio, is very sensitive to the vaccination

issue. Governors like Asa Hutchinson and Mike DeWine have been there from the beginning.

Then you had the other group, the anti-group,

where, if liberals are for masks and vaccination, then masks and vaccination

got to be bad things. And that's the profound dysfunction of our politics.

Where I take a little hope is, there's a middle group that was afraid of the second group, really

didn't want to speak out. And they have started to say -- you know, Steve Scalise, finally, the

Republican leader in the House, a Republican leader in the House, finally gets vaccinated.

They're starting to say, you know, this is bad for our states, and it's bad for our people.

It's red counties and red states that are in the most trouble. And I'm sure a lot of businesspeople

who support Republicans are saying, this is not good. You have got to get off this anti-vax stuff.

So, they have created space for companies and the National Football League,

for example, to get much tougher and say, you have got to get vaccinated,

as -- with some compulsion. I don't think compulsion would have worked two months ago.

I think it can work now, because people realize we have got to get out of this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And by telling federal employees, David, the hope is that

private businesses will tell employees as well.


And I know a lot of people who didn't -- young people who didn't want to get vaccinated,

because they figured the odds of them getting really sick were

small and they didn't know if the vaccine was rushed. And then when a school tells them,

if you want to go to school, you got to get vaccinated, they say OK.


DAVID BROOKS: And so the practical demand

overwhelms the natural hesitancy that especially some young people feel.

And so I'm with E.J. I think, in general, there's been a drift

toward making this a little less of a culture war issue, at least for 80 percent of the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I do want to turn to something that I think we all

had to be looking at this week, E.J., and that is the hearings,

the January 6 select committee hearings, where we had very powerful testimony from

four Capitol -- U.S. Capitol Police officers who physically battled the rioters that day,

and spoke very movingly about what it meant to them and why they were there to testify.

And yet, again, you have Republicans who don't want to be part of that committee -- there's

still the anger over Speaker Pelosi about not - - about taking Republicans off the committee.

Is that effort going to lead to something productive? What do you see right now?

E.J. DIONNE: I think that hearing, all by itself, made the case for this investigation,

because I think those officers not only moved the country -- just it was a moving moment.

And one -- Michael Fanone, one of the officers, saying that he felt like he

went to hell and back. And he really had a pointed jab at the Republicans saying,

they're trying to say it wasn't hell, and it was. And he was attacking the denials of January 6.

Then Officer Dunn, who talked -- used - - talked about having a word yelled

at him that we never say on this show and the overt racism of some

of the people in that crowd. I think people learned things from this.

And so I think a couple of things came out of it. One is, the best hearings in Congress are not

when people on the committee give long speeches. It's when they allow witnesses to tell the story

and provide information. And I think these four officers gave a lesson to Congress going forward.

The other is, I think Nancy Pelosi made the right call in keeping off the committee people

who were going to basically try to wreck the conversation. There were two Republicans there,

Congressman Kinzinger and Congresswoman Cheney. They were great. They were clear.

And I think this is going to be productive.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You still though, do have, David, the Republican majority in the House,

Kevin McCarthy, and everyone around him saying

this is a travesty and starting to blame Speaker Pelosi herself for what happened on January 6.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, which is 90 percent B.S.

But a couple things. The hearing showed that this

was not just a bunch of tourists visiting the Capitol. This was a violent assault.


DAVID BROOKS: And the violence of the assault

was made clear by those testimonies. And that's powerful.

I had a conversation with a military expert who said it looks like, to him, when you have a bunch

of people coming in to different entrances all at once, there must have been some coordination. And

so I'd love to know, was their coordination and where was that coordination? That's important.

But then, on the Republican side, if I can get a little autobiographical,

I came to Washington in 1985, the same year as a guy named Dinesh D'Souza,

who was a conservative guy from Dartmouth, and I was from University of Chicago.

And we used to go to brunch. And we were part of the same community of,

like, conservative pundits and politicians.

I saw a segment of Dinesh D'Souza on YouTube today,

which was him showing bits of the testimony,

really emotional testimony, and Dinesh D'Souza is laughing at them for being wimps and cowards.

And it was repulsive. And to think that I spent my career as part of, like,

a community, and half of the community went off in the never-Trump world,

which I did, and then the other half went completely bonkers, in my view.

And so Dinesh D'Souza is part of that community, and Tucker and

all -- Carlson -- and all the people we grew up with. And so that's in my little world.

But that's the Republican world, that you -- people went off in

radically different directions from where they were in the Reagan years.

And that's part of our national life. And I wonder where the elected officials,

where they're going to end up, because, eventually, you have to decide whether

you're going to be with Dinesh D'Souza or you're going to be with reality.

And so, to me, this hearing was a little piece of that decision of,

where is the American right going to evolve?


E.J. DIONNE: And if I could just say quickly...


E.J. DIONNE: ... I think one of the depressing things,

particularly about Republicans in the House,

is that the vast majority are either there on the Dinesh D'Souza side or afraid not to be there.


E.J. DIONNE: And that doesn't bode well for the Republican Party in the long run.

And I think, politically, it's not going to be good either, because the 2022 elections

are going to be decided by turnout, yes, of the base,

but in significant part by moderate people in the suburbs, many of whom swung to Biden.

This Republican Party that doesn't want to take on the violence at the Capitol,

those suburban voters are not going to warm to that in 2022.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you do still have the former president out there, David, saying,

this committee is completely wrongheaded, nothing happened.

It's -- the divide could not be more -- deeper than it is.


And I would put the odds of him getting the Republican nomination are pretty good in 2024.


DAVID BROOKS: But as E.J. was talking about with the masks,

there are Republicans who are in the middle who are shifting away.

And we will talk about infrastructure, Republicans being reasonable. And so you're beginning to see,

within the party, a sense that, we want to - - just want to have normal politics again.

And we don't want to be governed by this guy.

But that's a recipe for political end of your career right now. And

so they're feeling their way toward reasonableness.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's what I wanted to ask you about, because we do have what looks to be

a deal on infrastructure, where you have got at least 10 Republicans who look like

they're going to go with the Democrats on this bipartisan infrastructure plan.

And the question is, what does this mean? I mean, we're -- in everything else, the divisions

couldn't be starker, but, on this, they are working together.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, and as many as 17 voted for this thing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. Yes. DAVID BROOKS: So, there are two worlds.

You read, frankly, a lot of the media,

whose -- their charge is to show the Republican Party are all completely

awful, and the Democratic Party are all completely socialists. And this is sort of the revenue model.

You go to interview people, like Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio, who's

the leading Republican, he's still a normal, sane human being. Mitt Romney,

Susan Collins, like, these people are just normal human beings who want to do a good job.

And so the reality, in my view, is not as polarized as sometimes the media portrayals. And

that was evidenced this week. And it's evidence that Joe Biden's theory that compromise can work

is -- at least seems right now, in this week.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Only 30, 40 seconds left to sum it all up.

E.J. DIONNE: I worry this is a one-off.

And I do think it shows that, for a long period,

they couldn't even pass a transportation bill because of the really strong anti-government

sentiment in the Republican Party. During the pandemic,

we learned you needed pretty strong government to keep the economy from going off the rails.

I think there is a philosophical and ideological shift reflected in this

deal. And it reminds me of the good old Whigs and

internal improvements. I -- this is -- I'm bowing to David's inner Whig here...


E.J. DIONNE: ... where it's a much better term than infrastructure.

Internal improvements are in the Republican Party's DNA.

And they're finally coming back to it, at least for this one moment.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I'm taking away the image of the inner Whig in David Brooks.



JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, E.J. Dionne, very good to have you. Thank you.

E.J. DIONNE: Great to be here. Thanks.



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