Analysts Weigh Fallout from Muhammad Cartoons
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JIM LEHRER: Here in the non-Muslim world, how do you think the non-Muslim world has been handling this cartoon controversy, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, haltingly. I think that what has emerged obviously is the great gulf between our western culture in the sense of western democracy and what parts of the Muslim world is greater than we I think calculated. I think the sense of pessimism about the ultimate resolution about working is there.
But I think there’s also present here something very real – the manipulation of the protest. And that is a sense some Muslims that since the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq, that there’s been a demonizing of their faith.
JIM LEHRER: And this is just another sign of it?
MARK SHIELDS: And I think this is an indication of how far that feeling has come.
JIM LEHRER: Do you see — are you as pessimistic as Mark is about seeing a resolution to this? Is this going to go on and on and on?
DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, I really would say it’s not even about Iraq; this is about four or five centuries. It’s really a group of people, some educated people have who gone back to the 13th Century, some who never left the 13th Century, but basically who have decided that the way we live with this barrage of ideas, the way we live our life trying to improve ourselves, is not the way they want to live their lives.
They believe the truth has been revealed and the central epic in history is not progress; it’s the conflict between the faithful and the invader, and the infidel and the Jew and the crusader, and that that’s essentially the conflict they see and the conflict they long for.
And it is – I think it is a major week for the West because it has reminded people how vast the conflict is between us and some, as Mark says, some elements of the Muslim world.
We have seen in Indonesia and also in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani has been very strong against the protests and you have begun to see a lot of moderate Muslims rise up. But nonetheless, it’s an ugly – it’s an ugly scene.
JIM LEHRER: But is it a conflict that is possible to say, okay, we have this conflict, now let’s move on, or is there any — to use Mark’s word, resolution? How do you resolve something like this?
DAVID BROOKS: The protest in London, the slogans and the signs were “Go to Hell Freedom” behead anybody who attacks Islam. The imam in Copenhagen said they believe in freedom, we believe in the prophet, as if the two are totally opposed.
You know, I do think it’s not a clash of civilizations or the West versus Islam, but these people who were the fundamentalists have opted totally out of our civilization and, you know, we’ve been sort of measured in how we respond to them which I think is silly. I mean, they are fundamentally opposed to the way we live; whether we’re measured or not is not going to make any difference in their minds.
MARK SHIELDS: There is two things: First of all, this is not the first time infidel has been used in the Middle East. I mean, you recall the crusades were about the infidels and those weren’t organized by Muslims — if we’ve got to go back four or five century or even more.
And secondly, I’d say that there is in the part, legitimate grievance about double standards. I mean, we oppose any nuclear ambitions for any Muslim state. And yet we never mentioned fact that Israel has nuclear capacity and that is just totally ignored. And I think that remains a sticking point and a very sore point that sends a double standard that is applied to them by no way condoning, justifying, excuse the violence.
But, I mean, this violence is well manipulated by some people for their own narrow and most vile purposes, there is an authenticity to it on the part of many people. I mean those Norwegian troops that were attacked in Afghanistan really felt, you know, they felt that.
DAVID BROOKS: You know, there’s political differences, obviously but what’s at stake here is so much different. I think that the murder of Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch politician, the gay Dutch politician, who made this point, we can have multiculturalism or we can have pluralism, but we can’t have both, with a subset of people that doesn’t believe in pluralism that wants to enforce laws on homosexuals, on women. So you have got to make this choice and that’s the choice Europe is making. I think they’re feeling it much more seriously than we are but that’s the choice they found they have to make.
JIM LEHRER: So to summarize, both of you think this is going to get worse before it gets better?
MARK SHIELDS: I think there is a sense of pessimism that wasn’t present before about working harmoniously in the future. I think this perhaps has just given further evidence of how deep the divisions can be.
DAVID BROOKS: We’re involved in this democratic moment where they feel threatened, at the same time they feel strong; they’re winning elections. But the elections are a threat to their mentality –
MARK SHIELDS: And winning elections, the results of tough elections. So there is a double –
JIM LEHRER: You mean like Hamas -
MARK SHIELDS: — Hamas did win. We can say they didn’t but they did.
JIM LEHRER: All right. The NSA surveillance story: How would you summarize the week on that story, David?
DAVID BROOKS: I think surreptitious movement.
JIM LEHRER: Oh, my.
DAVID BROOKS: We’ve had this with this lockdown and we’ve talked about it week after week where the White House says we had the power, we had the power, and a lot in Congress said we don’t have the power.
And I think what you’ve seen are first two things, Democrats much less willing to talk about it for political reasons; the Republicans more willing to talk about it, Brownback and Specter and Lindsey Graham, so suddenly more opposition is coming from the Republican side than the Democratic side.
But secondly, I think you’ve become to see some signals that they’re thinking of having – the White House – thinking of having some conversations with the Hill, maybe to find some way which we’ve been talking about of trying to get both parties together to have some law that will regularize the oversight or this spying, or whatever you want to call it.
JIM LEHRER: How do you read it right now?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, compared to Homeland Security, Homeland Security, when that department was created and it was major political fire storm, it was Democrats like Zell Miller moving to the Republican side. What you have now are Republican defectors, however you want to call it. I mean, when you’ve got Heather Wilson, Republican congresswoman from New Mexico, and the key position on the Intelligence Committee, saying we have to hold hearings on this in a tough race against Patricia Madrid, the Democratic New Mexico attorney general, I mean, that reflects something.
Mike DeWine, a tough race in Ohio, moving on it; Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, as David pointed out, but Sam Brownback pointing out that, look, this war is going to be a long war; we’ve got to give these powers in perpetuity. There’s a sense of Congress feel maybe we do have a responsibility here. The administration, you know, has made a very calculated decision based upon Karl Rove’s statement and Dick Cheney’s statement. They can’t win on any other issue right now. They’re getting negative poll numbers on the Iraq, on the economy, on education, the environment, overwhelmingly on health care.
The president, the majority of the people do not think he is honest. And so this is the one positive issue they have going for them is terror and the war on terrorism and that’s the card they’re going to play.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, it is a positive issue for them. I think you’ve seen Democrats disappearing from the talk shows because a lot of them don’t want to talk about this issue, especially with the riots around the world, people say, hey, this is a scary world. Mark’s right, there have been these defections, if you want to call them that. People say, Congress has a role here, Congress has a role in oversight. But what they’re trying to do is preserve the program, just give it that legal framework.
JIM LEHRER: Lindsey Graham, Mike DeWine, and all those people say the program is fine, let’s just take the legal argument off the table and move on.
MARK SHIELDS: David’s right. David’s right. Let me just add, he’s right about that.
The Democrats have to understand. The Democrats can win in 2006. I mean, this is an election where you really don’t have to have a program to win a congressional election because the Republicans are in such disfavor. I’m not recommending it as a strategy but they could win that way.
You can’t lead the nation, you can’t win back the presidency unless you’ve established your credibility on national security and I think that is — that’s what the Democrats are confronting right now.
JIM LEHRER: Michael Brown, the FEMA hearings, we heard the discussion between Senators Lieberman and Bennett. What’s your impression of what’s going on here? What are we finding out that surprises you, if anything?
DAVID BROOKS: I think we are finding out, I wonder if Michael Brown is now going to be become a hero as he begins scapegoating the administration when he was the symbol of the administration he was the villain. Now suddenly he’ll be the poor little scapegoat.
I think what most senators, Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Bennett, both said, and they were – what you saw in those two senators were pretty a non-partisan look at the hearing and Susan Collins, also the chairman. They said the guy has some responsibility but it’s not clear that not only him and it’s clear that there was this complete failure of this chain of command.
As for the exact timeline, and I think Sen. Bennett spoke about this, it’s incredibly hard to tell exactly what happened when and who as Sen. Bennett said, the importance of which call and what moment. I’ll suspect, as he said, we’ll never know that. We know it was a big mess-up and that’s all we need to know at least from my point of view.
JIM LEHRER: Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Homeland Security is not working. I think that’s what comes through from this. That’s what this department was created for and it was organized.
JIM LEHRER: You mean for things like Katrina?
MARK SHIELDS: That’s right. And it was organized for protecting the nation against natural disasters and foreign invasion or attack. And, Jim, what you have: Where was Michael Chertoff? He was dealing with avian flu.
I mean, this is a hodgepodge. They’ve got the Coast Guard worrying about what’s going on in the marijuana deal off of Newport. They’ve got all of these disparate duties under here.
I mean, I was looking at containers in ports, natural disasters in addition to worrying about who’s coming into our country, and I just — I think it’s a serious indictment.
It’s funny, you saw Michael Brown, he’ll become a laugh line on Leno.
JIM LEHRER: Oh sure.
MARK SHIELDS: And you had to watch him and there was a certain feeling; there’s a human being behind it. Let’s be honest about it. FEMA went to hell in this administration. I mean FEMA really was one of the real –
JIM LEHRER: For whatever reason.
MARK SHIELDS: That’s right, was one of the real stars of the Clinton years.
JIM LEHRER: One quick thing before we go. There’s been some criticism of the political overtones of the Coretta Scott King funeral this week. Do you have any thoughts about that?
DAVID BROOKS: Yeah. I thought when they swore in Hillary, it was a little much. No, I think – you know, I think there are moments when you don’t politicize. And a funeral is one of those moments just as a matter of principle. I don’t care whose funeral it is. You just don’t do it there.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think — the big criticism has been of President Carter.
MARK SHIELDS: Joseph Laurie got the most attention because of the weapons of mass destruction.
President Carter drew the parallel between Martin Luther King’s being spied upon by the FBI and this, administration was spying on Quaker groups. I mean, that was it.
I thought what was most revealing about it, quite frankly, was sort of the debut of Bill and Hillary Clinton as a national ticket because I think she’s both compared to him to her detriment and she benefits from him and at the same time she carries his liabilities. It was really – it was intriguing to watch it.
DAVID BROOKS: That’s why you don’t politicize it. It’s not about you, Bill; it’s not about you, Hillary; it’s not even about you, George and Laura; it’s about her. That’s why you don’t politicize it.
JIM LEHRER: Well, he finally said that himself; he did say that.
MARK SHIELDS: He did say that.
JIM LEHRER: Bill Clinton said, this is not about us; it’s about Coretta Scott King.
Okay, speaking of us, it’s over. Thank you both.