Shields and Brooks
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JIM LEHRER: And to the analysis of Shields & Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Mark, is this the kind of business the Congress of the United States should be involved in?
MARK SHIELDS: Not this case, Jim, but I think it’s a serious enough public question that there ought to be debate and consideration as just to what – you know, what guidelines we have so that each case doesn’t become a circus like this. I mean, we’re seeing a total role reversal right now.
We’re seeing conservatives saying “we got to go to the federal courts.” They’ve been attributing — the champions of states rights. The liberals have always fought for the federal intervention and have said “No, we ought to leave it to the state court.”
I think there are serious ethical questions here. Is this medical intervention, or is it ordinary treatment? And you get ethicists on both sides of all faiths on that. But if there’s one thing that comes through in this, boy, it’s every one of us ought to have explicit directives for end-of-life treatment for when and if this happens, I mean, because the tragedy of this is just in human terms, is enormous.
JIM LEHRER: But what about the political intervention here, David? Do you support what the Republican leaders of the Congress are doing?
DAVID BROOKS: I find myself in complete agreement with what Mark just said. On a case by case basis, I’m a little uncomfortable with Congress going in case by case. But I am supportive of the idea that these life and death issues should be settled politically and not judicially.
JIM LEHRER: In other words, the judge in Florida should not be resolving this; there should be a federal law of some kind that would resolve this?
DAVID BROOKS: Right. And I would say building off the abortion example, I mean, I personally believe if we had settled the abortion issue politically rather than judicially, we would have arrived at some sort of muddled solution, which was not either or and most Americans would be happy with it. And most Americans would regard it as a little more legitimate. And just people would feel happy with the law. And as with that birth issue, I think the same thing is true with this death issue.
JIM LEHRER: But, David, this issue involving Terri Schiavo has been going on for seven years and Congress did nothing until issuing some subpoenas today.
DAVID BROOKS: That’s right. And there’s an element of political grandstanding. But there’s also an element of sincere belief. I mean, I’m personally sort of in the middle on this issue. I’m muddled. I confess I haven’t really come to conclusions about this subject.
But I do, just thinking about it, why does there seem to be a presumption toward the death option when the woman’s parents are willing to take care of her? Why can’t we have a law that says the presumption is toward life unless you sign something and there’s something very concrete that’s definable in a court of law saying “No, I don’t want these measures taken?” To me there should be a presumption toward life but everyone have the right to sign something, which makes it very cut and dry.
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, one thing, David used the term “grandstanding,” which I think was probably kind. I went back and checked the files; Tom Delay had not spoken on this issue — the House Republican Majority Leader, until Wednesday of this week. I mean, I think it’s a great diversionary tactic for him.
I don’t think there’s any question he identifies himself with Palm Sunday, that there are people of deep religious conviction who believe that this is totally wrong and that somehow he wants to divert attention. I don’t think there’s any question about it. And the idea of subpoenaing Terri Schiavo is a grandstand.
But the issue remains, and I think David is right, a political resolution of the abortion issue would have resolved that. We were headed toward that on a state-by-state basis. Some states were going to legalize it under certain terms, others were going to legalize it totally in New York, and then we short circuited it by going to the courts. And I think this is a mistake here.
JIM LEHRER: Picking up the subject of grandstanding, David, the Congress was accused this week of grandstanding on baseball players and steroids. Where do you come down on that?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m just struck that we’ve got, you know, a $40 trillion deficit; we have got all these problems…
JIM LEHRER: We’ve got a war in Iraq.
DAVID BROOKS: We’ve got this case in Florida and then we’ve got the steroid case. So maybe we’re not…our eye is not on the ball. Though I have to say in this case I was a little moved by what happened. I thought it was grandstanding. I think that what baseball has done deserves to be…let’s see how it works out this season. I think they’ve gotten a little tougher. Let’s see how it works out.
Nonetheless, I think the hearing did a couple things: one is just raise the issue. And to me it’s going to be solved not by suspending players who use steroids but shaming them. And because of this week, which has been steroids week, the shame will be much higher and I think the incentive for players not to use steroids will just be much higher and much more effective. I have to say on a human level, I do feel a little sorry for McGwire, Mark McGwire.
JIM LEHRER: Do you really, for Mark McGwire?
DAVID BROOKS: Yeah. Well, first of all, this is a game where the guy took some drugs to maybe hit another 15 home runs This is less serious offense to me than DUI or a lot of crimes, and yet there’s this huge focus of anger because the guy cheated in a game, and he cheated in a game when the climate was a lot of people were cheating in the game and you know, he’s in this hypercompetitive business and he did something wrong but it was part of the culture that was accepted at baseball at the time.
JIM LEHRER: And yet he wouldn’t admit he did anything wrong.
MARK SHIELDS: It was sad at first and then it became almost comical as he refused to address it. Jim, I say kudos to Tom Davis and to Henry Waxman for holding these hearings.
Twenty years ago Peter Ueberroth, the baseball commissioner said, “There’s a dark cloud over our sport and it’s called drugs.” And it affects everything. And what we went through, Jim, this is a sport that passes from grandparent to grandchild where the record of Babe Ruth…
JIM LEHRER: It’s all about numbers.
MARK SHIELDS: It’s all about numbers: In 1927 — 60 home runs Roger Maris, 1961 — 61 home runs — 34 years. That’s how baseball…all of a sudden – and I thought Republican Sen. Jim Bunting, a Hall of Famer himself put it very well in his opening testimony yesterday. He said, “I played in the major leagues. I played with Ted Williams, I played with Willie Mays. I played with Henry Aaron. In their 30s they didn’t gain 40 pounds and bulk up, and they didn’t hit more home runs in their late 30s than they had in their late 20s.”
And he’s absolutely right. I mean, we’ve known this is happening and for baseball to come in and say we’re doing it ourselves is like Enron coming in, saying we’re investigating ourselves. I mean, you know, I thought the commissioner looked awful, I thought the baseball union — it was a blow to organized labor. And I mean, there’s no question — you look at these people, baseball players used to look like David or you or… you know…
JIM LEHRER: Wait a minute! No, that’s true.
MARK SHIELDS: You’d see them in the elevator.
JIM LEHRER: There was Pee-wee Reese – a little guy –
MARK SHIELDS: Exactly! Exactly. And then all of a sudden they started looking like the Incredible Hulk. And now I understand a little bit why Mark McGwire, whom I’ve always liked, was so deferential, so generous and so gracious to Roger Maris’s family as he was breaking his record. Because I think he was mindful of the fact that he was doing it with this artificial chemistry — better hitting through chemistry.
DAVID BROOKS: I agree with that, too. I think the records should be thrown out.
MARK SHIELDS: I do, too.
JIM LEHRER: You think the records should be thrown out?
DAVID BROOKS: It’s just not fair to the people who’ve done it honestly and it’s not fair to future ball players who presumably are going to be doing it honestly. It’s funny – just — my son, my 14-year-old son, is a very serious ball player, plays all year round. It’s funny to watch their reactions.
JIM LEHRER: Did he watch their hearings?
DAVID BROOKS: I actually was away so I haven’t talked about him the hearings but we’ve been going through this steroid thing. And it’s funny how for them, since it’s been such a long-standing problem, they’re disappointed in it but it’s just part of their reality.
Steroids have been part of baseball since…you know, he really started playing when he was six or seven. It’s just part of their reality. They’re not like morally offended by it the way I think a lot of people are who knew the game before. And so, you know, his love of baseball will not be diminished. I don’t think this will tarnish the game permanently. But it’s interesting to see how this has been a long-standing poison to the game.
JIM LEHRER: New subject, Paul Wolfowitz, President Bush’s choice to be president of the World Bank. What do you think of that?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, I mean, only in the Bush administration do people fail up. I mean, Paul Wolfowitz, everybody — critics stipulate — a very smart man. He’s been wrong at every single important turn. He was wrong, Jim, about the number of troops we needed.
JIM LEHRER: In Iraq.
MARK SHIELDS: In Iraq. And he said that Gen. Shinseki was out of his mind when he talked about we needed more troops actually to occupy the country than we had to depose Saddam Hussein.
He was wrong about how we were going to be accepted. He was wrong in excluding the State Department from participating in the reconstruction. He was wrong about the cost. He said the oil monies of Iraq were going to pay for it. He was wrong about the allies. He was wrong just virtually about everything and, you know, quite frankly, now he’s gone over.
The interesting thing is usually the person who runs the number-two position at the Defense Department is the person who runs the department day-to-day. Don Rumsfeld’s a manager himself. Paul Wolfowitz is an intellectual so he never did run the department, and I think most intriguing on a political thing is that Condi Rice in both Wolfowitz and Bolton has been forced to take two people whom she had very frosty and touchy relations with in the first term and in key positions.
DAVID BROOKS: I can disagree with Mark on something. First of all, he did run the Department. Wolfowitz spent 75 percent of his time on budget and administrative matters, only 25 percent of his time on any policy, intellectual matters.
And as for being wrong about things, the most important event that’s happened this year has been the marches in Beirut. We had the largest pro-democracy march in the Arab world — in the history of the Arab world this week in Beirut. We’ve had political reform in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a little in Jordan. We’ve had movement across the Arab world in Afghanistan, Iraq, toward democracy.
Wolfowitz has been working for this for 30 years. He was right in and he was wrong in the execution of policy, I’m not going to argue about the post-war, but he was right in the essential instinct that people in this region want some sort of normal move toward freedom. He’s been pushing for that. He’s pushing for the liberation of Central Europe. In the three biggest civil rights movements of our lifetimes in this country, Central Europe and the Middle East, he’s been right about all of them.
That doesn’t mean he’s been perfect on the execution but it does mean to me that he’s sort of a bleeding heart. And that’s the guy you want in that kind of job, who has the administrative experience and who is a bleeding heart.
JIM LEHRER: Not a bleeding heart?
MARK SHIELDS: A bleeding heart, Jim, I mean, because we share the same end, means does matter. Means is determinant not only in an ethical sense but a practical sense. We’ve gone, Jim, from 14 attacks upon American troops in Iraq a year ago to 70 per day attacks upon Americans. We’ve gone from 38 allies down to 14.
Bill Richardson, the New Mexico Democratic governor, said George Bush’s foreign policy in Iraq reminds him of March Madness, the NCAA Tournament, where you start with sixty-four and end up with one. I mean, I don’t think you can look at that and…the fact that the president this week dispatched probably the person closest to him, enormously able individual, Karen Hughes, for the job of repairing American’s reputation in the world and the nations, and that is a consequence of the policies laid down by Paul Wolfowitz.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think about the opposition of Paul Wolfowitz that’s already being voiced from Europe and elsewhere? Do you think that’s going to be a real problem for him or do you think it will just be brushed aside?
DAVID BROOKS: I have trouble believing like a lot of people they would have put this name forward without clearing it with the heads of government. And if you look of people who’ve actually dealt with him, whether they’re Democrats like Joe Biden or Republicans or foreign affairs who’ve dealt with him on a face to face basis, they have a much different view than the caricature that exists on the streets of Paris.
History will decide who made mistakes, and I’m sure Wolfowitz will come in for a lot of blame, and I’ve written that. But this is about the World Bank; this is a guy who’s worked in Indonesia, in the Philippines and who has been a consistent champion of the sorts of things the World Bank wants to do. And I think he’ll shake it up in the way it needs to be shaken up but continue in the way it needs to continue.
JIM LEHRER: We cannot continue this however. And thank you both very much.