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Shields and Brooks

February 18, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: Back to Mark Shields and David Brooks. Mark, what do you think should be said about Howard Dean tonight?

MARK SHIELDS: Jim, Howard Dean… I thought it was a terrific discussion and there’s some terrific points made. One of which I want to amplify on. Howard Dean gave the Democrats their voice. In spite of the “Washington Post” editorial page, in spite of the establishment and the “New Republic” and the… all the best minds saying this is a great war, 70 percent of Democratic primary voters in state after state were opposed to the United States’ invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Howard Dean stood up and spoke against it, gave the Democrats their voice, and gave the other Democratic candidates their vertebrae. When he began, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards were all explaining, qualifying, defending their vote. Today every one of them… I mean certainly John Kerry and John Edwards sound a lot more like Howard Dean than he did like them. I think that’s the most important thing he did. The second thing he did was he gave the Democratic Party back its soul on fundraising.

JIM LEHRER: Its soul?

MARK SHIELDS: Its soul on fundraising. The Democratic Party had mortgaged its independence and integrity during the Clinton years to big money and all the rest of it and Lincoln bedroom sleep-overs to big money and all the rest of it, and he showed you could do it the right way with small contributions.

JIM LEHRER: He raised $41 million.

MARK SHIELDS: $41 million plus. And the most important thing, one out of four of us his contributors was under the age of 30. That is an amazing, remarkable achievement. You can’t get voters but they’re writing checks for him.

DAVID BROOKS: He shows we cover money too much. Money doesn’t matter. He might have spent closer to $50 million. He’s in debt right now. He won zero primaries so money… let’s not exaggerate the role of money in this race.

MARK SHIELDS: The other guy has $200 million, David.

DAVID BROOKS: In the future we’ll see about that.

JIM LEHRER: What else would you add or subtract?

DAVID BROOKS: I would disagree about how much he’s helped the party. Mark said 75 percent of the primary voters opposed the war. 65 percent of Americans support going to the war, still support going to war. I think he made it harder for the Democrats in the fall in this way, in a subtle way. Clinton always said “there’s no us and them; There’s just us.” Clinton had a center out way of building majority. I think Howard Dean ran against Clinton and deeply against the Clinton methodology.

I think that’s going to hurt Democrats a little in the fall. I think the support that John Kerry and John Edwards did not give to the $87 billion bill for supporting… for the troops in Iraq, they would have voted for it if not for Howard Dean. I think that may come back to haunt them though I do agree finally with mark on the way he did cleanse the soul from what he really could call the Ron Brown disease which did infect the party.

MARK SHIELDS: And still infects the Republicans.

JIM LEHRER: What about the point though that he did mobilize an awful lot of young people who were not… not only were they not supporting… they weren’t supporting anybody and probably would not have supported anybody if Howard Dean hadn’t come along. What kind of points do you give him for that and what happens to them now?

DAVID BROOKS: In some way… the Deaniacs won’t like this, but in some way the race reminded me of the Pat Robertson race in 1988. Robertson mobilized the religious right. Dean mobilized a group of people, the secular left or something like that you could call them. They had not been mobilized. He mobilized them, he put them together. The infrastructure is now there. They were never going to be the majority of the party.

I really think you know we over estimated. We made too much of a big deal about him months ago. He had 18 percent of the primary vote. I don’t think it was ever going to get higher but it’s a solid 18 percent and it is still sitting out there for some candidate who can mobilize those people again just as the religious right is sitting out and needs to be mobilized.

JIM LEHRER: Is that a good comparison, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t think it is, Jim. I think if you look at Howard Dean, I mean, timing is everything in politics. The mistake he made was getting the covers of “Time” and “Newsweek” as Kwame said in the set up piece in August.

JIM LEHRER: Too early?

MARK SHIELDS: For four months he was the target. It was the target of the press that didn’t like him. He was the target as well of all his competitors. John Kerry, as I look at it, has been front-runner for exactly three weeks. He’s already restless in that position without the scrutiny. Yes, he did. I thought both the point that Matea and Karen made particularly about the mistake he made about did the president know before September 11?

I think what changed the race for him he was the John the Baptist. He made the case for what had to be done by the Democrats. I had two Democrats in Iowa tell me in December– and I should have listened to them– that they had decided to vote for John Kerry rather than Howard Dean even though they liked dean better after they saw George Bush go to Iraq on thanksgiving. They said this election is going to be fought on national security.

JIM LEHRER: David, all that’s been said about it and will be said about it when it comes time to look back on 2004 and this election year, will Howard Dean be a small asterisk or a large asterisk or will he be mentioned at all?

DAVID BROOKS: He’ll be a big story. He is the most interesting thing that’s happened this year, the rise and fall of him as a person and of the movement he’s created. He’s a big story.

JIM LEHRER: You agree it’s a big story?

MARK SHIELDS: Most people run for president and leave no footprints or fingerprints. Everybody in politics wants Howard Dean supporters, his list, how do you do it?

JIM LEHRER: He said in his statement I think I’m going to keep them and I’m not going to give them to John Kerry or John Edwards or anybody else. Thank you both. See you on Friday night.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.