Why does David Brooks have a column in the New York Times? His weekly columns there are generally as fact free as this interview was. This turd-polisher made his regular appearance on the PBS Newshour and tried to downplay the rise in Islamophobia that we've seen as the Republicans and Fox News hope to get their base worked into a lather so they'll come out and vote in the mid-term elections. Mark Shields responded appropriately that there has been a rise in anti-Muslim activity and the Southern Poverty Law Center has more on that here.
And note to David Brooks. 9-11 had nothing to do with Iraq. Quit conflating the two.
JIM LEHRER: And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.
David, first, go back to the discussion that Jeff ran on 9/11 and tolerance, et cetera. What was your reaction to that?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, on Islamophobia, I think the evidence is at best mixed about the level of Islamophobia in the United States. The polls certainly do suggest an impact, but, in reality, as Nick Gillespie mentioned, the hate crimes are not up. I think most of the people who are the most vitriolic are off on the extreme. And, so, it is mixed.
As far as our ideals go, I wouldn't say the situation is where we would want it to be. But, as far as history goes, you know, I actually think United States culture is doing reasonably well. In Ray's piece, we just saw the fact that, for the last nine years, American soldiers and others have been getting killed and wounded by Islamic extremists, Taliban, al-Qaida in Iraq, and so on.
Well, we know what happens to countries in war. In World War II, do you think American attitudes towards Japanese were very good? No, they weren't. In World War I, attitudes towards the Germans, not very good.
So, it happens when you -- in a hot, emotional situation, when people in your country are getting killed, sometimes, prejudices do rise. I think, compared to those levels, or even compared to Vietnam, attitudes toward the Vietnamese, I think it is much, much better. So, my bottom line would be, not where we would want it to be to match our ideals, but, historically, maybe better than in past wars.
JIM LEHRER: Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I am not as upbeat about it as David. I think that there has been a frenzy of anti-Muslim activity and rhetoric. And it is not just the province of the marginalized, of the few. It has become mainline. It's become mainline with -- for political advantage.
Newt Gingrich, I mean, the man who is described as the brains of the Republican Party, is -- is a leading proponent and expropriator of this sort of language. Fifty years ago this coming Sunday, John Kennedy gave his speech to the Houston ministers. And he said in it, he said: "This year, it may be a Catholic whom the finger of suspicion is pointed. In other years, it has been and may some day be again a Jew, a Quaker, a Unitarian, or a Baptist," and you would add to that a Muslim.
And there is something the president said today I thought was right on point. And that is that there is a sense, when we don't know other people, and that ignorance is really -- and I'm paraphrasing him here -- but ignorance is -- is not risk-free. It is dangerous.
And that is, I think, an important element here. It shows how little we know about the Muslim world -- I think this past week has -- and how little, obviously, they know about us in a nation that, as David points out, is 70 percent illiterate and the second poorest nation in the world.
JIM LEHRER: David, the president also said and also it was mentioned in the discussion that a lot of this also rises at moments of legitimate anxiety about other things, which is what we have now about the economy. Do you buy that?
DAVID BROOKS: I do buy that. I think if you go back to, say, the late '30s, when the Depression was really lingering on, Father Coughlins of the world, I think you definitely get people looking for anxiety. And I think maybe it was Nick Gillespie also who mentioned the hostility toward immigration, which has been rising. And so I do think it's...
JIM LEHRER: The hostility has been rising, but illegal immigration has...
DAVID BROOKS: Right. Well, this has always been a phenomenon. You go to towns where there are absolutely no illegal immigrants, and hostility to it is very high. So -- but it has to do with attitudes toward the sense that we want to protect what we have. And so anything that seems strange, anxiety about that, that rises in times like this.