Senate Delays Resolution Vote; Giuliani Enters Presidential Race
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JIM LEHRER: The war resolution struggle first. Mark, what happened with the Senate? What’s going on over there?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, in the central issue of our time, as we listen to Judy’s interview with George and Ann, Iraq slips further into the abyss. And the Congress could not — the Senate could not come to grips on a nonbinding resolution to debate this issue of war and peace.
I guess it’s of some cold consolation to the Democrats, who didn’t look particularly effective, that the Republicans may have looked even less so or worse. But it’s a forum where great issues of war and peace have been debated in our history, the Senate; that was not the cause this week, and they failed.
JIM LEHRER: Who are the villains? Are there are villains here? There are certainly no heroes. Who are the villains?
DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times: No, it was an embarrassment, and it was a typical embarrassment. They’re responding in short-term ways to each other’s tactical moves.
And so, within the little game they’re playing, each move made sense. Viewed from the outside, it was insane, and I think they know that. And, privately, they were having really serious discussions.
Hillary Clinton just came out with a policy; Obama has a policy; the presidential contenders have policies. The Republicans more or less voted together, but privately they have a thousand different approaches. And so there is substance behind the scenes.
And even in the White House — you know, George Packer, who’s been one of our best reporters on Iraq, talked about how the White House is the same strategy, which is national reconciliation in Iraq.
But I was told this week something which I didn’t know, and which really hasn’t been reported, is that they’ve stopped talking about that national reconciliation, stopped talking about a national compact, and they’re beginning to look at more federal decentralized solutions…
JIM LEHRER: The Biden-Gelb plan?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, they wouldn’t go that far, but they’re really…
DAVID BROOKS: So there’s movement in the White House. There’s a ton of movement in the Senate. And none of it could come out in the public, because of stupid tactics.
MARK SHIELDS: There was a level of embarrassment, I think, on the part of particularly the seven Republicans who had voted on Monday to not to go forward with the debate.
JIM LEHRER: That was the — it was very complicated, but had to do — they needed 60 votes to have cloture so they could go ahead.
MARK SHIELDS: That’s right. And seven who are on record in support of the resolution of disapproval of the increase in troops.
JIM LEHRER: But voted against letting it go to debate.
MARK SHIELDS: Letting it go to debate, have expressed now, — belatedly, but nevertheless, I think, sincerely — some commitment to keeping this issue, raising it. The best I found out this afternoon was it will be the 26th of February before it comes up again in the Senate. But it will be in the House next week.
House war resolution debate
JIM LEHRER: All right, that's what I wanted to ask, about the House. Explain the difference. What do you think is going to happen in the House?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, historically, the Senate's where you debate war and peace, and the House is where you appropriate money. But now we've got the House debating war and peace. They're going to do 36 hours, everybody gets five minutes. It's a very straightforward resolution on the part -- the Democrats drew up, which is simply that we support our troops, but we're against the president's increase in the troop commitment there.
JIM LEHRER: And do the rules apply -- I mean, do the rules allow amendments, and the other side, the Republicans, to come up with different ones, and they vote on everything like the real world?
MARK SHIELDS: Go ahead. Yes, there will be. There will be Republican amendments, as well, Republican alternatives. And the best estimate was that there will be -- 30-plus Republicans would support the Democratic position, so that would be a pretty sizable majority. And there's no extended debate and filibuster in the House.
JIM LEHRER: You don't need 60 votes in...
MARK SHIELDS: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: ... I mean, any comparable thing like that. In other words, it just happens. So a nonbinding resolution you think is going to pass...
DAVID BROOKS: I still think it's a diminution, because, you know, the real experts -- there are some real experts in the House, there's no question. There's Murtha, there's Chris Shays, people who really know what they're talking about on different sides.
But the people who have been most involved leading this debate, whether it's Biden, or Hagel, or Kennedy, or Jack Reed, they've been in the Senate. And the Senate, I think, has a better -- you occasionally get two senators on the floor together having a colloquy talking to each other, and they're, frankly, more famous, and you get better viewership.
And so I think we've really lost something by not having a Senate debate. The House will be fine, but it's more dispersed and it will be more radical, too.
'The surge will go forward'
JIM LEHRER: Well, the House, the passing of the House resolution change anything, make any difference?
DAVID BROOKS: No, I don't think it will. The surge will go forward. And we'll know sometime by August and September whether it works. But unless the Democrats want to cut off funding, the policy will go forward.
JIM LEHRER: You agree, it's a message sent by -- a smaller message...
MARK SHIELDS: It's a message sent -- it's an important first step, though. And I think that the next step is appropriations.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think -- if the House passes this, could this push the Senate to act after all?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think they want to get involved. I mean, privately, they all have views. They all have different points of view. And I want to see them test each other.
Because one of the reasons you have debate, in theory, is that you get to test people. Hillary Clinton has a new policy out. She's certainly a serious person. I personally don't understand the policy, why you want to cap troops. I think the current troop level is the wrong. Either get out or go up.
JIM LEHRER: You're saying talk about it?
DAVID BROOKS: But at least have somebody like a Biden or a Hagel or McCain challenge that. And that's how the debate develops. Frankly, it's my instinct it won't happen as quickly like that in the House.
Giuliani enters 2008 race
JIM LEHRER: I see. Mark, speaking of people like the names you just mentioned, the 2008 presidential race, it's never too early to talk about that. All kind of things are happening. Rudy Giuliani, the polls increasingly are showing him either right up there with or even over McCain among Republicans for the nomination. Isn't this a surprise to some of you professional pundits?
MARK SHIELDS: It's a surprise, especially to Republican candidates, because Republican candidates, in secret, in their managers, will say there's no way in the world Rudy -- there's the good Rudy and there's the bad Rudy.
The good Rudy is the Rudy that conservatives loves, and a lot of other people as well, who cleaned up New York, maybe stepped on a few civil liberties on the way, but got tough, was a crime-busting, white-collar crime-stopping U.S. attorney. Then...
JIM LEHRER: 9/11?
MARK SHIELDS: ... 9/11, he became Winston Churchill. I mean, he held the city together. He was a calming, and inspiring, and confidence-building force.
The bad Rudy was the Rudy who had to pull out of the race against Hillary Clinton, had a personal situation that was sordid. He was trying to get the mother of his children, his wife, moved out of the mansion so he could move in his girlfriend. It was really rather...
JIM LEHRER: He's got some...
MARK SHIELDS: He's pro-choice on abortion. The Republicans have not nominated anybody pro-choice on abortion since it's become an issue. He's pro-gay rights. He is pro-gun control. And so...
JIM LEHRER: What's going on?
MARK SHIELDS: But if you're an opponent of Rudy's, whether you're John McCain, or you're Mitt Romney or anybody else, you say, "Look, as soon as conservative Republican voters are aware of the bad Rudy, they won't vote for him."
But you don't want to bring it up, OK, because you don't want to be the guy that's out there tarnishing him. Plus, in a multi-candidate field, if the three of us are running, and I go after David, I'm not the beneficiary. You are.
JIM LEHRER: Sure. Sure.
MARK SHIELDS: So they're all waiting for somebody else to go after Rudy.
JIM LEHRER: Go after Rudy.
DAVID BROOKS: The rule of three, as they call it.
JIM LEHRER: Rule of three. How do you read what's going on?
DAVID BROOKS: I think he has a shot.
JIM LEHRER: You really do, to get the Republican nomination?
DAVID BROOKS: ... Mark didn't even mention, he moved in with two gay men, which is not a typical evangelical lifestyle choice.
So, you know, you're thinking -- and then the pro-life. And people underestimate the fact that he's pro-gun control. And so all these things seem to lead up, yet he's ahead.
Is there a chance, will it go down when more people find out he's pro-choice? Yes, it will go down. Does it finish him? I really do not think it does. First, because I think evangelicals are down. They want to win.
But, secondly, they're not single-issue voters. They're looking at the world, and they're looking the way the world is going to look in a year. And they could say, "Hey, he's not going to be great on a lot of my issues, but he'll do judges fine."
And Mark mentioned Winston Churchill. A lot of people in Britain didn't like Winston Churchill in normal times. But when the war came, they thought, "OK, we need a Winston Churchill," and they could say that about Rudy.
JIM LEHRER: What about McCain? Is McCain -- is this a result of Rudy going up or McCain going down or a little bit of both?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, it's both. Rudy has always been up there. And his strength has always been further right in the party than McCain's, because for a lot of party people, whether they're social conservatives or whatever, partisanship trumps ideology.
They want somebody who's been a party loyalist, and that McCain has not been. And so there's a level of distrust there. And McCain is more popular with the media, also a cause of distrust.
JIM LEHRER: How do you read the McCain thing?
MARK SHIELDS: John McCain, I think out of principle and conviction, has been the strongest, most visible, and most vocal supporter of George Bush in Iraq. As the war and the president have tumbled, and the popularity, his identification with that has taken its toll.
In his attempt to win the Republican nomination, he's making nice with some people who savaged him in 2000. So his most loyal constituents in the national press, said, "Wait a minute. Is this the guy we saw as different and unique and the truth-teller in 2000? Or is he just another pol seeking a party's nomination?"
So I think both of those things have combined to hurt him. But he has never been a natural fit with the Republican base.
JIM LEHRER: McCain or Giuliani? McCain.
MARK SHIELDS: McCain. I don't care if it's on global warming, gas mileage, you name it, I mean, John McCain has walked where he chooses to walk, and he's been his own man.
JIM LEHRER: OK. All right, we'll leave it there. Thank you both.