On Friday night’s broadcast of PBS’s “NewsHour,” New York Times columnist David Brooks and syndicated columnist Mark Shields criticized both presidential candidates for avoiding substantive issues in the months leading up to Election Day.
“I went back. I said, ‘Am I imagining the way old campaigns used to be?’” Brooks said. “I went back and looked at some of the 1980 speeches, or the debates, Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan. They actually were talking about the major issues of the day, the Soviet Union, and inflation and stagflation. If you look at the major issues of the day, well, widening inequality — well, that has not really been talked about. Wage stagnation that has barely been talked about, global warming — you go down the list of the big issues of the day, and this campaign I think more even than real-life campaigns, it’s not imagining some campaign, even more than recent campaigns, has ignored a lot of those issues.”
“NewsHour” host Judy Woodruff asked Brooks how and why campaigns have changed so much.
“Because the consultants have taken over,” Brooks replied. “And I think both of the candidates are not particularly sincere, especially Mitt Romney. And so they’re not running on things that sort of motivate you to get into public life. They have decided they have got strategies of how to do it, and the candidates are playacting out those strategies.”
Shields, a chronic Republican critic and Obama apologist, surprisingly took aim not only at Romney, but also President Barack Obama.
“I challenge either one of them to tell — President Obama doesn’t have grandchildren — but tell his daughters what he is proud about in this campaign, I mean, or to Mitt Romney, that huge, handsome, wonderful family of his, and say, this is what grandpa stood for in 2012,” Shields said. “Judy, when you win, whatever you say about Ronald Reagan — and I said a lot, but he ran on double the defense budget, cut taxes by a third. So when he won in 1980, there was a mandate to do it. And I don’t see any mandate coming out of this election, unless I’m missing something.”
Brooks added one example of frivolity in the presidential contest: A television ad from the Obama campaign airing in Ohio that proclaims Romney is “not one of us.”
“One of the things that offended me this week is Barack Obama running — Obama running an ad, I think in Ohio, that ends with, ‘Mitt Romney, he’s not one of us.’” Brooks said. “And that’s code. That’s an old code language. And, you know, you just — as a sense of principle, you just don’t run that ad with that sort of slogan.”