Political Analysis of Mark Shields and Paul Gigot
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JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, the analysis of Shields and Gigot. That’s right, Shields and Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, and joining him tonight is his former sparring partner, Paul Gigot, now editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. David Brooks is off tonight.
Welcome back. Good to see you, Paul.
PAUL GIGOT: Great to be here, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: First on Iraq, an old review. We had a discussion at the beginning of the program about the state of play towards war. How do you read it right now, Paul?
PAUL GIGOT: I think we’re seeing everything come together so that we really are on the brink of a decision to go on war. I think domestically the president has made a more expansive case this week in a speech. I think internationally, you’re seeing the coalition coalesce. You see the Saudis now let America uses the bases; the Turks look like they’re going to make a decision to allow us down the northern front. Blair had a vote of support in his parliament this week, and of course the United Nations, I think, is moving towards at least a majority vote in the Security Council of support. So I think in that sense we’re very close.
JIM LEHRER: Very close, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I think we are, Jim. But what is intriguing, watching that piece and Dick Hughes of the, the statesman, the Salem statesman saying that his letters have run two to one against. The intensity and the passion that this seems to be against the war — there is no doubt about it. And it certainly is, I mean Paul mentioned, Tony Blair. The reason we’re going back to the U.N. is for Tony Blair because he needed domestically. Aznar in Spain, a strong supporter of the president said keep Donald Rumsfeld out, I want more Colin Powell. And I need that, I need your statement on the Middle East. So you have things being done with the sense that the popular support abroad is not there; that it is divided here at home. A majority still supports the president. But there is a sense of inevitability that we are going to war.
JIM LEHRER: But the public is being heard, do you think?
MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know if the public is being heard. I don’t know if there is a question of really measuring intensity in this.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
MARK SHIELDS: They say we want to go, but we would like to go if we have a coalition with us and more nations with us and if they give more time to inspections and so forth. It is not a stampede to war on the part of public opinion.
PAUL GIGOT: When has a democracy ever had a stampede for war, Jim — I mean, very rarely — democracies are very messy and war is the most momentous decision a government can make. I’m really actually pleased that there is an awful lot of debate and discussion about this. I would be upset if there was a stampede that we hadn’t thought about. I think it’s good that Bush has had to make his case but it is not surprising that these leaders are having to make their cases to their public and it is a difficult case to make.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Speaking of that, you mentioned the president’s speech this week where he laid out the connection between going after Saddam and democracy, not only in Iraq but in the entire region. What do you think? What did you think of his case?
PAUL GIGOT: I think it was a good case and one he had to make, Jim. It answered domestic critics like Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman, who had the fair critique that the president had been focusing mostly on making the case for war and not what comes after. Of course you have to talk about what comes after. And the president had to tell Americans, this isn’t going to be 30 days. This is going to be a long time. And here’s what we are going to have to undertake. He also had to do this, I think, to talk to Iraqis. There had been a lot of debate about whether the U.S. is going to have a U.S. leader there, whether there is going to be a general or something. He said look, this is not about — just about American conquest. This is not just about us going in and out. This is about us helping you and liberating your country and we are going to be there and help you rebuild it. I think he had to make that case.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think he did? Do you think he made it?
PAUL GIGOT: I think he made a very good start at it, yes.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, what has fascinated me about this whole debate has been how it has shifted each time with the objective. It was defanging Saddam Hussein. And then it was deposing Saddam Hussein. And then it was protecting us against an imminent threat from Iraq. And now it turns out, enforcing U.N. resolutions. Now it turns out that it is to bring democracy to the Middle East. I don’t know anybody, anybody, serious, who believes that the way to peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis lies in the invasion and occupation of Baghdad. I really don’t. I mean I’ve talked to people who fought there, who have been there, who spent their lives involved there.
The president did lay it out. Paul is right. And I think it is something he had to do. I think the analogy to Germany after War World II limps. Germany had had democracy prior to Hitler. And they had the Marshal Plan. There is no mention of the Marshal Plan. The administration doesn’t want to talk about costs. I mean Paul Wolfowitz basically said no, no, we don’t have any figures, which everybody knows is a lie. They have figures. They have been discussing it with the president. But they don’t want to talk about it. They will come up with another appropriation request when there are troops in the field and then everybody votes for the $95 billion they have to ask for.
JIM LEHRER: Because of the need to support the troops.
MARK SHIELDS: The need to support the troops. Once the guns fight — but that would make a $400 billion annual deficit, that $95 billion and that would be a new record.
JIM LEHRER: Paul, Mark is not the first one to raise this question about suggesting that the president didn’t make the case that peace between the Palestinians and Israel is going to happen by taking out Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I don’t think it is just going to happen. And I don’t — I don’t think that’s what he said but if you look at the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is 50 years old and is intractable. When would we make the most significant progress? I would argue we did with Camp David following the end of the Gulf War because both sides then said look, we have to be serious. They looked at America’s presence in that region and said, we have to make some progress. I think it’s possible that with Saddam removed, it is at least more likely you can make progress then than it is now. But I agree it is not going to be easy even then.
JIM LEHRER: Some domestic things — the Miguel Estrada filibuster — what’s going on there, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim –
JIM LEHRER: We ought to tell people that he’s the president’s nominee for the federal appeals court here in Washington.
MARK SHIELDS: And a Latino.
JIM LEHRER: And a Latino. And the Democrats are filibustering it in the Senate.
MARK SHIELDS: Let me quote two well-known conservatives; Roy Cohen, the distinguished New York attorney who said that I don’t care what the law is, tell me who the judge is. And Bill Bennett –
PAUL GIGOT: Your favorite conservative.
MARK SHIELDS: Joe McCarthy’s lawyer.
JIM LEHRER: See what you have been missing.
MARK SHIELDS: Youngest man ever to pass the bar exam.
JIM LEHRER: For people who just woke up, Roy Cohn is –
MARK SHIELDS: Under the age of 70.
JIM LEHRER: Roy Cohn was Sen. McCarthy’s counsel –
MARK SHIELDS: He was a major player. As Bill Bennett said, a judge is just a lawyer who has been blessed by some office holder. This is about politics — politics straightforward. If the election, according to Matthew Dowd, the president’s pollster — if the same percentage of the electorate that George Bush got in 2004, he got in 2000 he would lose by 3.5 million votes. Why is that? It’s because the electorate is changing.
The electorate is no longer white. Latinos are growing, Asians are growing and African Americans are growing as a percentage of the overall electorate, so there’s got to be some way of reaching in to Latinos. They nominate qualified conservative Latino, okay, and they want to make the case if the Democrats resist it and object to it, they’re anti-Latino, forget there are ten Latinos in the appellate bench and eight of them were appointed by Bill Clinton, but that will be the case. And if he does make it through, then you get credit for appointing a qualified Latino to the court of appeals.
JIM LEHRER: Why are the Democrats working so hard to keep him from….
MARK SHIELDS: Two reasons. One, is he is conservative. This is an ideological choice by president, there’s no doubt about that. The president — he is sailing under the radar in that sense. And if he does get confirmed, it is a prelude to the Supreme Court. Then he has already been confirmed by the Court of Appeals — for the Court of Appeals, how are you going to turn him down for the supreme court?
PAUL GIGOT: But Hispanic or not, you are not saying he is not well qualified.
MARK SHIELDS: I think he is a qualified fellow.
PAUL GIGOT: That’s the case the Democrats are not making. The ABA said he’s well qualified and he worked in the solicitor general’s office for Bill Clinton for three Democratic solicitor generals who gave him really outstanding…….
MARK SHIELDS: Spoke very highly of him.
PAUL GIGOT: Used the precise word — outstanding. I think I agree with Mark in the sense Estrada, this is only a little bit about Estrada. He is a pawn in a much bigger game, which is that the Democrats need to tell their core voters we are going to fight George Bush. They came away out of the last election and said, with a lesson — the lesson they learned from the last election is not that we didn’t fight George Bush enough. But our voters wanted to fight him more, they want to cut and fight him across the board, so we’re taking this extraordinary step of requiring 60 votes to approve an appellate judge. Now the last time that happened for Supreme Court — and that was a Supreme Court judge, Strom Thurmond and Abe Fortis filibustered for the Supreme Court. This has never happened for the appellate court.
MARK SHIELDS: Fourteen times, Paul, since 1980, they have had to use cloture to cut off nominations. I don’t want to suggest… court of appeals nominations in the Senate. And just to make the point, Richard Pias was the last time they had to bring a cloture, and he was a Bill Clinton nominee, a Latino for the ninth circuit court of appeals; he sat there for four years because they wouldn’t give him a hearing.
JIM LEHRER: If it is politics, Mark, why are the Democrats filibustering a Latino, which is, you say, is part of the growing electorate, of their –
MARK SHIELDS: No, democrats feel, I think, they have to make their own case, that they can make the case themselves that they stand for the Latinos as opposed to George W. Bush. That’s the one growth constituency that the Bush folks they have a shot with because Bush did well when he ran for reelection in Texas. He got almost half the Latino vote in Texas. The problem was nationally he didn’t do nearly as well in 2000 and in large part because of California.
PAUL GIGOT: They’re worried more about angering their base, Jim, and the people who are their core supporters.
JIM LEHRER: Both sides are doing that?
PAUL GIGOT: I think Estrada, most core supporters are Republicans, don’t even know who Miguel Estrada is, so this is not an issue. But the judicial nominations are very, very important on the Democratic side and they’ve said look, you have to beat this guy. And the Democrats don’t think they’ll suffer as much among the broader population because it’s an appellate court nomination and it’s not going to be that… there is not going to be that much attention paid to it.
MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure this is a bottom up — I don’t know if there’s a lot of — I mean, the Latino groups are split. The farm workers and people like that– and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, they are — but I think that this is a macro political decision.
JIM LEHRER: Macro political?
PAUL GIGOT: Give Tom Daschle credit. He can keep the Democrats united, no question about that. He has proven that. And last time he united them right into the minority. You pay no price if you are a Democratic senator from the Northeast but some of the southwest, southern Democrats, it is a little dicier.
JIM LEHRER: Before we go, there are now nine candidates, Democratic candidates running for president. Bob Graham has, the senator from Florida has filed his papers. How do you read him as a candidate in this race?
PAUL GIGOT: Serious man, nice man. What I have a hard time thinking of is what is the rationale as he fits into the field. You don’t see a lot of people saying that there is an issue Bob Graham has.
JIM LEHRER: He’s the only one in the race who voted against the resolution to go to war.
PAUL GIGOT: There are other people in the field.
JIM LEHRER: Sure. A lot.
PAUL GIGOT: In the field for that. He is from a big state, which is important, Florida. He reminds me a little bit of the Democratic version of Dick Lugar from 1996 with a serious good Senate record but where is the passion out in the rank and file.
MARK SHIELDS: Absolutely unbeatable in a very big state — if he had been on the ticket all due respect to Joe Lieberman, if he was on the ticket in 2000, Al Gore would be president today. He does bring that sense of a cause and he gives legitimacy to it that the president, who he admitted this week had not gotten enough money from his own Republican Congress for homeland defense, he has been the guy on that. He has been Paul Revere on that issue saying we’ve got to do more on homeland defense, we’ve got to do more for protecting against terrorism here at home.
JIM LEHRER: And speaking of home, we have to say good-bye. And have you been missing us?
PAUL GIGOT: I have, without Mark to keep me on my toes. I have been slacking off. Good to get back in here.
JIM LEHRER: Get the blood going. Thank you both.