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Week In Politics: Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ferguson, Mo.


And with more on the week in politics, joining me are David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, and, sitting in for the vacationing E.J. Dionne, Suzy Khimm, senior editor at The New Republic.

Good to see you both here.

DAVID BROOKS, BYLINE: Good to be here.

SUZY KHIMM, BYLINE: Good to be here.

SIEGEL: And we'll get to Jeb Bush in a moment. But first, the question of the week. I think you both would bet your press passes against either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders winning a nomination. But those two men are connecting with people, they're doing well in the polls.

David first. What's up?

BROOKS: I don't even have a press pass.


BROOKS: I wouldn't bet it anymore. You know, 3 in 10 Americans believe their views are represented in Washington, according to a CNN poll. Twenty-nine percent of Americans think the country's on the right track and everybody else thinks it's on the wrong track. If you ever wanted a recipe for insurgent campaigns, that's it. And you look around the world, you know, Silvio Berlusconi, you look around Europe, there are a lot of populist nationalist candidates winning. And so this is...

SIEGEL: There's a lot of encouragement right there.

BROOKS: Yeah, well, Berlusconi actually won, and we're in a country with a great deal of anxiety and a great deal of self- esteem. And Donald Trump answers that.

SIEGEL: And Bernie Sanders, Suzy?

KHIMM: Well, Bernie Sanders really speaks to a contingent of, I think, the Democratic Party that really does back his policy views. I mean, the fact that Democrats - many Democratic voters believe that big money in politics has had a really nasty effect, not only on the Republican side, but they're frustrated with the impact that Wall Street donors, for example, might have on Hillary Clinton. I think unlike Donald Trump, they're really gravitating towards Bernie for what he actually represents, the policies he actually would love to see enacted. They would love to see single payer enacted, they would love to see less of a corporate influence on Washington.

So while on the one hand he is - does embody this kind of outsider spirit, I think that the Bernie kind of phenomenon is a little bit different because it actually is based on policy.

BROOKS: Yeah, I completely agree with that. They're both insurgents, but very different kinds of insurgents. Sanders is obviously ideological. And what's interesting to me is the Democratic Party has moved pretty far left, or has moved significantly left - I don't mean that pejoratively - in a very quick period of time. And Hillary Clinton's trying to catch up, but Bernie Sanders was already there. And so it's interesting to me to see a party move so quickly and because of inequality, because of wage stagnation, because of a lot of things.

Trump is not an ideologue in any normal sense of the word. He doesn't divide the world into left-right, but into the stupid and himself. And so the basic ideology is the society is run by stupid people and the winners are not getting the just recognition they deserve, and he sort of speaks to that.

SIEGEL: Do you think that we're talking about the flavors of the week, the month, the summer, the year or the presidential cycle?

KHIMM: Well, I think there's one thing that's important to keep in mind, for example, about Bernie Sanders. I think there was really big - it was really big news when - there's a recent poll that showed, in New Hampshire, him actually pulling ahead of Hillary for the first time. But keep in mind the demographics of New Hampshire and the fact that that state is ideologically in a lot of ways probably the most similar of the early primary states to Bernie Sanders's home state. There's also the direct geographic proximity. Sanders still lags, you know, significantly far behind in most polling in Iowa, and that's ignoring the rest of the field. I mean, if you look at the national polls for Bernie versus Hillary, Hillary is still...

SIEGEL: She's way ahead.

KHIMM: ...Double-digits ahead.

SIEGEL: Jeb Bush - David Brooks, should we read in the success not just of Donald Trump, but some attraction to non-politicians, like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Is there a real problem here for Jeb Bush?

BROOKS: Yeah, first a generic problem. If you look at the polls after the Republican debate, all the people who went up were Trump, Carson and Cruz, what you might call the protest candidates. The people who dropped the most were the governors, Bush, Walker and Perry - well, not even Perry, another governor who I'm now forgetting - the plausible candidates. And so there's just an insurgent mood in the party.

As a candidate, I find Bush uneven. Sometimes I think he's really sharp, and sometimes he's just vague and sort of out of it. What's interesting to me about him personally is, he actually - to his credit - enjoys the tasks that are involved in governing - the nuts and bolts of going to work and doing that kind of stuff, which, frankly, I'm not even sure Barack Obama really even enjoys the nuts and bolts of governing. But as a candidate, he's sometimes just abstract and un-passionate. And, frankly - and I think he shares this with Hillary Clinton - unimaginative.

SIEGEL: Yeah. We just heard him fielding the question, you know, would you do waterboarding? And his answer was, that's not torture because we don't do torture. Which is, he didn't seem to have an answer prepared for that one.

Hillary Clinton surrendered her email - the email server this week to the FBI. A big problem for her, Suzy, or just something we'll forget about within a year?

KHIMM: Well, I think that the bigger problem is the fact that there continues to be this drip, drip, drip of news and developments and new questions that are raised. I think the question that was - the main question that was raised this week was in terms of the classified information that intelligence officials says that was in there. Dianne Feinstein, the California senator, says, well, it wasn't in any of the emails that Hillary herself sent. But this keeps raising new questions. And I think this contributes to a general feeling of unease and questions surrounding whether Hillary really is or should be inevitable. And I think the bigger problem for her is the degree to which this does lead voters to question how much they can trust her. And I think while she still leads in many of the polling against Republican match ups with Republican candidates, her ratings in terms of trustworthiness and whether this is someone that you feel like you want to be your commander-in-chief is still the looming question, I think.

BROOKS: Yeah, I'd just say experientially - maybe listeners have a different experience - my experience is, a lot of Democrats are profoundly unexcited...


BROOKS: ...By her. And I just find that at dinner party after dinner party. And my dinner parties are completely representative of America, of course.


SIEGEL: You have a careful screen on the people...

BROOKS: You know, sometimes they're in Aspen, sometime East Hampton. I've got the whole country covered.

SIEGEL: (Laughter).

BROOKS: No, no - I'm joking. No, I just find a lot of, yeah, I guess I accept her. But the elemental fact is, there's nobody else right now, and so I think she's a bit of a favorite still.

SIEGEL: One other subject. This week, demonstrators marked the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. And the week - which involved a shooting, there was a state of emergency declared for several nights - also raises a question, does the Black Lives Matter movement matter in national or electoral politics, or is it something that's a minor phenomenon? Suzy Khimm, what do you think about it?

KHIMM: The one thing that really stood out to me actually took place outside of Ferguson over this past week, and it was the shooting of a black college - fatal shooting of a black college student in Arlington, Texas. So it was - he was shot and killed by - he was unarmed - by a white police officer, who was actually dismissed after that. What struck me about that case is, it's the kind of case that I'm not sure would have caught any national attention before Ferguson happened. And I think to the extent that that happened, it sort of shows just how much Black Lives Matter movement is changing the discourse.

SIEGEL: Changing the way we discuss these things. Thank you very much Suzy Khimm of The New Republic and David Brooks of The New York Times.

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