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Shields and Brooks

April 26, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT
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MARGARET WARNER: Now, our weekly analysis from syndicated columnist Mark Shields and the “Weekly Standard’s” David Brooks. Welcome back.

David, this energy bill was supposed to be a centerpiece of President Bush’s domestic agenda yet what’s emerged from the House and the Senate, first of all are miles apart, but secondly seem to satisfy almost no one. What happened?

DAVID BROOKS: It shrunk. It started out like a Lincoln Navigator with all these extra features, and now it’s a Honda Civic with an AM radio, mostly because it is easier to destroy than create because what you had was two lobbies on either side, right and left, who wanted to terminate the other side’s pet projects.

On the environmental side, get rid of ANWR drilling, on the industry side get rid of cafe standards, the fuel efficiency standards that would apply to SUV’s and other cars and trucks.

So they each were very successful at striking out each other’s ideas. And they got smaller and smaller and smaller and now we’re down to something that gets lost in the lint in the your pocket. Nobody is satisfied.

And I actually think this issue is coming back. John Kerry, some of the other presidential candidates, have big ideas about energy. It’s an issue that strikes a lot of people, both politically, because we have to have energy independence, and technologically because there are new things coming on board.

So it’s a small bill but a it’s a precursor to something later, I think.

MARGARET WARNER: Mark, given the rising oil prices, given the unrest in the Middle East, why wasn’t there any political will at the White House or on the Hill to override these? You always have these industry and interest group — this kind of opposition.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, the President is, you know, traditionally resistant to involving himself in the legislative process. I mean, some conservatives, some production people in the Senate were upset he never made a call on ANWR, drilling in the Alaskan Natural Wildlife Reserve.

And, Margaret, I think there is another dynamic to it, and that is the difference between the House and the Senate. The Republican leadership in the House decided to pass a bill, and they have done this each time and they do it, they force it through with their own discipline, they get their own troops lined up. There’s very little collaboration across the aisle. So they end up passing a bill with very few votes that has it in what they want. It goes over to the Senate–.

MARGARET WARNER: And it’s essentially the President’s bill or close.

MARK SHIELDS: And it goes to the Senate. And they don’t have the votes for it. So the Senate gets together and they put together a different piece of legislation, which they pass 88-11. Now you have a conference now where this thing is ironed out and you get entirely different conferees.

I mean, you’ve got the people from the House, Billy Tauzin, the chairman of the appropriate committee, said he wants to put ANWR drilling back in. And the Senate resistance to it is real because they couldn’t even get a majority for it in the Senate.

What was most revealing to me politically was the backpackers, the Birkenstocks, the Greenies, Enviros actually beat big oil, the White House, the Republican Party and the Teamsters and the Building Trades Union.

MARGARET WARNER: But only on ANWR, not on conservation.

MARK SHIELDS: No, but, Margaret, if you want to know, David put his finger on it. It’s a lot easier to stop. There were a total of three Senators, three Senators, count them. Dan Inouye of Hawaii, Dan Apaca of Hawaii, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire who voted to increase production by drilling in ANWR and for tougher standards on auto.

Everybody else was either for tougher auto standards or for drilling. And there was nobody – there were three Senators – a great consensus in the Senate – who were for both production and conservation.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let’s move on to foreign affairs, because it seemed a slightly rocky week for the President there too, David. Yesterday Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia made sure everyone knew that he told Bush, President Bush to rein in Israel.

Today Israel goes into yet another or reenters another West Bank town; it didn’t withdraw. Is this undercutting the President’s clout or perhaps the image that he has clout, the perception he has clout in foreign policy?

DAVID BROOKS: I think he had a pretty good week. The Abdullah visit could really have been a fiasco. Here is a guy who was the one demanding that Yasser Arafat walk out of Camp David and bust up the Oslo peace process. Here’s a guy whose regime is funding the madras as all over the world fomenting anti-American violence; here’s a guy who in the last couple of weeks has sided with Saddam Hussein more than anybody — comes to Washington, as you say, really with thuggish language in the “New York Times,” I’m going to threaten the U.S. if they don’t do what I want them to do.

It really could have been a week where either Bush would have done what I would have liked to have done, tell the Saudis to go jump in a ravine, which would have been unhelpful, as the diplomats say, or he could have caved in and really moved into a virulently anti-Israel direction.

From my perspective, and you’ve got to read these things carefully, he did neither. He stuck with the long-term plan, which is we’re focusing on Iraq, we’re focusing on al-Qaida, we are not getting deeply involved in the Middle East any more.

We tried that a couple weeks ago. So I think it was a period of relative stability and long-term sobriety for the Bush Administration.

MARK SHIELDS: In answer to your question, yes, the President did not have a good week. And he does not look sure-footed in the Middle East.

MARGARET WARNER: You disagree with your colleague.

MARK SHIELDS: I disagree with my colleague with enormous affection and respect, but he does not. I mean, if in fact the war against terrorism defined George W. Bush gave him a sense of mission, gave him a sense of purpose, gave him, you know, a clear view of the world, that prism has been clouded in the Middle East.

I mean you’re right. He said, I think now it’s three weeks ago, out now. That means now. That means immediately. Then I understand exactly what [Ariel Sharon] is doing. He is doing it on his timetable. He is a man of peace. Now it’s back, to I think there was another statement that he wants them out now or they should be out now.

MARGARET WARNER: Time for this end -

MARK SHIELDS: Time for this to end. So there isn’t a sense of sure-footedness You can see for the first time the fault lines emerging in the Administration publicly. The factions are going public.

And there is open tension, open, not hostility then certainly enmity between the State Department, Colin Powell, and the Defense Department and other folks in this Administration.

So I think the President, it doesn’t look like he is exercising that senses of command, which is what projected him to that position of dominance on the political landscape, that he seemed an enormously organized, resolute and determined commander in chief, which he doesn’t in the Middle East.

DAVID BROOKS: Mark is referring, I think, to an eye popping story in the “Washington Post” today which led the “Washington Post” and it was State Department people saying our policy is in shambles. The Defense Department is winning, they didn’t say it explicitly but you understood the White House is winning beating up on the CIA and the State Department on one side of the camp.

But listen, the State Department had their chance. What happened is Bush has two different approaches in his Administration — one which is really the White House Pentagon approach, one which is the CIA-State Department approach. One emphasizes American leadership, one emphasizes partnership and coalition building.

MARGARET WARNER: But what about the point Mark is making, that whichever side you think has the right policy, is this helpful to the President to have this? Is this creative tension or is this actually undercutting his effectiveness?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it’s creative tension. I think it is useful to have different approaches in the Administration as long as the President makes up his mind. I think the President did make up his mind. Colin Powell took that trip to the Middle East.

George Bush was beaten up about it because it seemed to cloud or moral objectives. It did not help pacify or rally around the Arab countries. So Bush really cracked down on the Powell approach. And that’s what has the State Department so upset.

Now Colin Powell is a man of character who would not question Bush. When decisions go against him, he does not leak. The leaks that were in the “Washington Post” today must have come from lower level. They were incredibly self-destructive because if there’s one thing the “Bushies” don’t like it is going to the “Washington Post” with your complaints.

MARK SHIELDS: Margaret, I think first of all, just to pick on David’s point about Prince Abdullah, he was against Oslo, which puts him in the great company of Ariel Sharon and BB Netanyahu, both of whom were against Rabin going there, so this was an important meeting for the President.

There was no joint communiqué at the end of it, Margaret, which I think is revealing in itself. And the President went in there for five hours. We are the biggest consumer of oil. They’re the biggest producer of oil. We are not there because we share long traditions together or long values, but it was an important meeting.

I don’t think much came out of it, and I think right now what you’re seeing is an administration that, while it hasn’t lost its bearings, has certainly lost its sense of absolute self confidence.

MARGARET WARNER: Let’s leave that on the table because I know we’ll come back. New topic, the cardinal’s meeting at the Vatican. Last week, David, you said, and I’m going to look at your quote here.

DAVID BROOKS: That’s unfair.

MARGARET WARNER: That you hoped the meeting would somehow get some initiative, some control over this process meaning the sex abuse scandal. Did the Cardinals achieve that?

DAVID BROOKS: First of all, I’m impressed that my quotes are in Bartlett’s quotations. No, it didn’t. I read you know but I’m not Catholic, but I read the document from the U.S. Cardinals. I was incredibly disappointed by it. One because there was no sign of being shocked by what happened. Secondly, there was no imaginative empathy for what the kids, what the victims went through.

It was just like legal pettifoggery between notorious molesters and non notorious molesters. So to me it really was still an organizational response; it was not an empathetic response. It was not even a religious response to what happened. I thought it was really a dud of a response.

MARGARET WARNER: Mark, last week you said you hoped this meeting would restore trust, the trust Catholics have. Do you think it did that?

MARK SHIELDS: No. I think the points David make are very valid points. But I was astounded. I mean as a Catholic for a long, long time, like my entire life, I was astounded to see Cardinals answering questions from CNN reporters and NPR reporters. It was amazing.

So the sense of openness that we’ve gone at least from talking about it to doing something about it, which I think is good. David makes a very good point. There was missing, was that senses of making whole, making healthy, helping those who are victimized.

And most of all, I think what was missing was any sense of accountability for the hierarchy that moved these predators around to prey upon children. And I think that was not confronted in Rome.

And I think now the focus shifts to the Dallas meeting in June of the all American Bishops. But the time is short, and I think patience is running out and I think American Catholics remain disappointed.

MARGARET WARNER: And our time is short, but a brief final comment. Karen Hughes, long time aide to President Bush announced this week she is leaving the White House. Is that a big loss?

MARK SHIELDS: I think it is a big loss. Most powerful woman, let’s be very frank about it. Most powerful woman not married to a President in the history of the American White House.

Happened not under lightened liberated Democrat. Happened under a conservative traditional values Republican. And Karen Hughes held that– there is an old saying in Washington, they never go back to Pocatello, which means once you lose a congressional seat, you hang around the city.

She is going back to Pocatello, which happens to be Austin in 107 degree temperatures, but I mean, she is doing it voluntarily. She wasn’t pushed. That’s the story in Washington. We are sure there was a subterfuge and conspiracy and it turns out there wasn’t.

MARGARET WARNER: Really actually family reasons.

DAVID BROOKS: You see this again and again in Republican administrations. They’re afraid of Washington. They don’t like Washington, so instead of moving to Annandale, Virginia, which is a normal American community, they go to northwest Washington D.C. where everybody is a lawyer, they send their kids to St. Albans, where you have got James Carville running the president, the class president campaigns, the Washington atmosphere, and then they find there is culture shock. Move to Annandale, Virginia next time.