GEOFF BENNETT: All eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court as the nation awaits a ruling from the court on whether to ban mifepristone, the medication that's used and more than half of abortions in the U.S. We turn now to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart.
That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post.
It's always great to see.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Hey, Geoff.
DAVID BROOKS: Good to be with you.
GEOFF BENNETT: So, Jonathan, that the court is even weighing this question of national access to mifepristone really reflects the ways in which the post-Roe anti-abortion movement has escalated its effort to eradicate abortion rights everywhere.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes, but this is -- this is not surprising.
When the leak of the -- of Alito's Dobbs draft, of what we now know as the Dobbs final decision, the alarm bells started going off immediately about what this would mean for abortion rights, but also what it would mean for other rights.
And there was -- there were conversations about, if they do this, what then does that mean?
Will they go after medication abortion?
And with the overturning of Roe, we have -- I have seen a -- this is a pattern.
The dog catches the car, it goes to the states, and then the states go hog wild and pushing the envelope.
We saw that after Shelby v. Holder, where states, once they were given the right to change their voting laws, they did it, and they went the extra mile.
And what we're seeing here is states doing the same thing.
And now the danger here is that the Supreme Court is going to allow them to do it.
GEOFF BENNETT: How do you see it?
Because Dobbs, Republicans, said was supposed to be about states' rights.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, first of all, it was supposed to be about getting the courts out of the abortion business.
And so the whole logic was that we will throw us back in the democratic process.
And the idea that they would have the scientific knowledge to overrule the FDA strikes me as pretty, pretty audacious for a set of judges.
And so the fact that this is even a tough call for the Supreme Court is mystifying to me.
It should not be a tough call.
As for whether it goes -- whether the anti-abortion movement ups their demands, I mean, if you're an activist and you believe it's the killing of the most vulnerable people in society, I don't blame them.
The question for Republicans is how to handle it politically.
And so you're seeing in the United States Senate most of the leaders, the establishment types, John Thune, John Cornyn, from -- John Barrasso, all the Johns, I guess, they don't want to have a national policy.
They want to let the states -- and, personally, I think that's right for the civility of our country.
People in different states have radically different views on abortion.
That's what the federal system is for.
Let's let them do it.
That's not satisfying to a lot of people who want to have a national policy.
But I would say, for those who have proposed a national policy, even like Lindsey Graham, they have got relatively few co-sponsors.
There's -- it seems to me there's not a lot of support to do this nationally, and there's - - still most of the Republican Party wants to do it state by state.
GEOFF BENNETT: Well, as we await this ruling, this announcement, let's shift our focus ahead to next week, because President Joe Biden is expected to launch his 2024 reelection campaign with a video message as early as Tuesday.
That's what a couple of sources I talked to told me.
They confirmed what The Washington Post first reported.
He's eying April 25, the anniversary of his 2020 campaign announcement, which has really stood as an informal target among his team.
We should say, though, that nothing is official until it's official.
President Biden is famously deliberative.
How does an official announcement change the contours of this race, if at all?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, then, suddenly, everything that he says, everything that he does, everywhere he goes is not just viewed through the lens of, oh, it's the president who is saying, doing, and going to these places.
It's the candidate who is also saying, going - - saying these things, doing these things, and going to these places.
It also allows him to start raising money.
It also, more importantly, allows him to start really making the contrast between himself and the number one person in the Republican field, and that is Donald Trump.
President Biden loves to say, don't compare me to the almighty.
Compare me to the alternative.
By announcing it, officially announcing his campaign, he can start showing people how he is the alternative to the person he beat in 2020 and why he -- his bumper sticker mantra from the State of the Union address, let's finish the job.
He can start telling the American people about all the other things he wants to do with four more years.
GEOFF BENNETT: President Biden's allies say the fact that he's facing only token primary opposition from author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. really is a show of strength for him.
DAVID BROOKS: Oh, for sure.
I mean, there's -- in the polling, there's still a lot of Democrats who think he should not run, but that's mostly an aged issue, not an ideology issue.
But the midterm election sort of silenced all that.
And he's been looking strong.
He gave a strong State of the Union.
There hasn't been any obvious gaffes, big scandals or anything like that.
And so there's nothing -- or, even ideologically, I'd say, over the two years so far, two and a bit, that he's pretty well massaged the center-left fights that happen in the Democratic Party by doing things that some people, the centrists like, and some things that people on the left like.
And so there's no natural home for an opposition candidate, and everyone's united by Donald Trump.
And so I think what's interesting about him, he's been sounding pretty candidate-y for six months now.
(LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: He's been talking like, I really want to go after Trump.
And he's been doing it.
I think what has to concern the White House a little is, they have had improving inflation, a lot of good domestic policy achievements.
Republicans have staked out some pretty extreme ground on a lot of issues.
And if you look at the polls, it's still reasonably close.
His approvals are still in 46's.
And it could be that we're just in an extremely partisan, divided country, an extremely cynical country, where, on the national level, nobody - - and this is global -- no national leader gets popular anymore.
No national leader gets to 55, because there's so much cynicism across the Western world.
GEOFF BENNETT: Yes.
Jonathan, I remember covering then-candidate Joe Biden back in 2019, and there was this moment where he suggested, and his aides did too, that he would be a one-term president, that he would be this transitional figure.
The fact that that hasn't happened -- and, objectively, there is a deep Democratic bench with a lot of talent.
But the fact that that hasn't happened -- and feel free to push back on the premise of this question, because I can... JONATHAN CAPEHART: Oh, I'm ready.
GEOFF BENNETT: I can see you getting ready.
(LAUGHTER) GEOFF BENNETT: How is it that, four years later, Joe Biden is apparently still the only Democrat who can pull together a wide, potentially winning coalition?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, remember, when Joe Biden said -- I don't know what his -- what his people were saying behind the scenes.
He did say he would be a transitional -- a transitional figure.
But transitional doesn't translate automatically to one term.
You could get your two terms, be transitional, and then the next person who comes behind you is a generation or two -- or two behind you.
So, I see him in that regard.
Also, the guy's got -- he's got a record.
He's got a record of achievement that is startling for a lot of people who've been watching this for a long time, a guy whose approval ratings are below 50 percent, hovering in the high 30s, everyone fearing that there's going to be a red wave because the president's so unpopular and unfocused on inflation, talking too much about threats to democracy.
And yet that guy has his finger on the pulse of the country, as we learned through the exit polls.
That guy just put his head down and went about the work of giving Democrats, both his administration, but also Democrats running around the country, something to run on.
And so, of course, the party -- yes, it's Democrats.
Democrats are never happy.
(LAUGHTER) JONATHAN CAPEHART: They're never happy with the person that they have in office.
And yet, when push comes to shove and they start looking at the alternative, the -- fingers crossed, the Democrats will come home and Americans will come home, because the alternative is -- we have been through it before.
We don't need to go through it again.
GEOFF BENNETT: Meantime, on the Republican side, allies of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis insist he's still making up his mind about whether to run.
But Donald Trump is treating him as if he has already thrown his hat in the ring.
A Trump-aligned PAC is spending millions of dollars on attack ads.
Donald Trump has openly mocked Ron DeSantis on social media posts and on rallies and the whole thing.
And it appears to be working.
A new Wall Street Journal poll out today shows that, in head-to-head matchup, in a head-to-head matchup, Trump has 51 percent support among Republican primary voters, compared with 38 percent for DeSantis.
Does DeSantis find a way back from that if he decides to run?
DAVID BROOKS: Obviously, it's possible to find a way back, but I wouldn't say he would - - he would -- should continue his current method.
The current -- the dominant idea in the Republican Party is that the old party, the Romney-Bush wing, were getting beaten by the left every day of the week, and we needed a tough guy.
And so they're looking for somebody who's a tough guy.
And Donald Trump proved he can be a tough guy.
And if Ron DeSantis is going to take on Donald Trump, he has to prove he's at least as tough as Trump.
And, to do that, he has to actually go after Trump.
And so it's a battle for who's the dominant alpha male here.
And Ron DeSantis has painted himself into a position where he won't criticize Trump because he's afraid of losing the pro-Trump people who do support him.
And so he's sort of caught in a trap.
And it's been a very interesting foil to watch Chris Christie run against Trump.
And he's run against Trump and DeSantis simultaneously the way normal people campaign, which is to try to take down the other side.
And DeSantis is not doing, let's try to take down the other side.
That just strikes me as a very hard way to campaign.
GEOFF BENNETT: Yes.
How do you see it?
Because there are DeSantis allies who are a little frustrated that he's not fighting back.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Does he want to run?
That's what I have -- that's been my perennial question.
Does he really want to run?
Does he have what it takes to do the retail politics that's involved in Iowa and New Hampshire?
We -- you keep reading all these stories about how he does speeches, and then he runs off, doesn't glad-hand... GEOFF BENNETT: He doesn't engage, yes.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: ... doesn't do -- doesn't engage, doesn't do the rope lines.
I also wonder, to David's point, I don't think he has the guts to go after Donald Trump.
I mean, Donald Trump has no floor.
So, if you attack Donald Trump, you have to be prepared for just a fuselage of nonsense and belittling nonsense.
But I want to know, when they're on that debate stage -- and they're always arrayed by most popular in the array out -- with Donald Trump standing right here, will Ron DeSantis turn to him, look him in the eye, and attack him, and -- one?
And, two, how will he respond when the dragon fires back at him?
I have no confidence that Ron DeSantis will do any of those things, none.
GEOFF BENNETT: Well, lastly, let's talk about the FOX News and Dominion settlement, which I forgot was this week.
It happened on Tuesday... (LAUGHTER) GEOFF BENNETT: ... the $787.5 million settlement, narrowly heading off this trial, after the jury was sworn in.
There was no public apology.
The Dominion attorney said in this case that the money, the settlement, the colossal dollar figure, that that was accountability, that was apology.
That was the apology.
The fact that there was no grand recanting, there was no contrition shown by the FOX News prime-time personalities, who, knowingly, according to all of the discovery in that case, spread lies about the 2020 election, what's the net effect of that?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, $787 million is a lot of money.
I mean, FOX has taken a big hit.
I think, for -- if you're running FOX, and - - you realize that having Lou Dobbs on your staff can be very expensive, and so it's got to change some of the internal calculus.
I think the thing that strikes me about a lot of coverage this week, a lot of people have said over the years that FOX has ruined the Republican Party, that Tucker and all those people sort of took over the minds of Republicans, and they went crazy.
I think what the whole trial shows is that it wasn't FOX doing it to the Republican Party.
The Republican Party was running FOX, and that it shows that they did -- what Tucker and those people and Lou Dobbs and Laura Ingraham believed was not what they were saying on the air.
They had to say it on the air because their audience was already there.
And so I think the lesson for me is -- from this whole trial is that it's a bottom-up thing, not a top-down thing.
GEOFF BENNETT: And, Jonathan, one wonders if an apology, if an on-air retraction would even matter at this point, given that the election lie has taken hold.
It's the bedrock of Donald Trump's 2024 reelection campaign, and he is miles ahead of any other Republican.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Right.
But I also question whether a public apology is even necessary, because an apology will only work if the viewers see it.
They're not covering the trial.
They didn't cover the January 6 -- the January 6 hearings.
The hope is, because of the discovery and all the text messages and e-mails that we have learned where we know that they were telling lies, that it somehow trickles down and gets to that audience, so that they finally start to see how they have been lied to.
GEOFF BENNETT: Jonathan Capehart and David Brooks, thanks so much.
Have a great weekend.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks.
DAVID BROOKS: You too.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: You too.