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Political Wrap

September 28, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: And that brings us to Shields and Brooks; syndicated columnist Mark Shields and The Weekly Standard’s David Brooks. Mark, have you picked up any rumblings of impatience in Congress or in the political world about hey, when is the United States going to act?

MARK SHIELDS: There are pockets of impatience, Jim, but what is most revealing is that they have been totally mute and the reason they have been muted is very simple. The president is a Republican and the most enthusiastic supporters of military action come from the Republican Party. So they in support, and particularly the right-wing of the Republican Party, they’re out of deference and respect for their president, being quite restrained in their public criticism. I think it’s fair to say that going on three weeks after an act so abominable and so atrocious as the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and President Al Gore hadn’t acted –

JIM LEHRER: It would be different?

MARK SHIELDS: I think the criticism from Charles Krauthamer, George Will, Rush Limbaugh would probably be a lot louder.

JIM LEHRER: Fair statement, David?

DAVID BROOKS: I don’t know. There’s an awful strong sense of unity now. I’m picking up some anxiety over the change of tone from last week to this week. Last week the administration was talking about getting rid of the Taliban. This week the administration said we don’t care if the Taliban goes. Last week the administration was much more hawkish on regimes being deposed, much more willing to float the idea there was going to be a big military action.

This week Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrote a remarkable op-ed piece in the “New York Times” saying, you know, the military might not even be the primary thing we use in this coming conflict, so there was just a head snapping shift in tone, which I think has caused some anxiety but I think the general feeling is the president asked for patience. We’re going to be patient. And the Pew Foundation did a poll showing (a) tremendous patience in the American people (b) people think it’s more important to move militarily abroad than build up homeland defenses. So there is real support for just hanging back.

JIM LEHRER: The only reason I even brought it up is just because there have been a couple of stories in the last couple of days in some of the newspapers about it.

MARK SHIELDS: I think that’s important to note, Jim. I was talking to Peter Hart today, the pollster who does the “Wall Street Journal”-NBC poll. He said we financial a patient public and a public that is thinking in broad terms, broader terms than capturing Osama bin Laden.

So it’s not how quickly we act, the United States acts, but how intelligently and how effectively. Just one thing, there is no question the administration is anxious because they leaked the story about U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan for the past two weeks. That was sort of to inoculate themselves against the charges that they weren’t doing anything. And that was obviously an administration leak.

DAVID BROOKS: The Pew poll had something interesting, which is that people think it is more important to deter future attacks than to punish the people who did this attack, which means anybody who is involved in terrorism, is a threat to the U.S., is a problem — not just Osama bin Laden.

JIM LEHRER: David, What has occurred to me, you know, whether Congress, with or without President Bush, is going to move on an economic stimulus package — that also has been creeping up to the front page this week.

DAVID BROOKS: Yeah. There is sort of a two-stage debate. The first debate is should we do anything? And there are a group of people saying let’s not do anything immediately. Let’s wait and see what is shaking down, Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Martin Feldstein of Harvard in today’s “Wall Street Journal” – his argument was, listen, we don’t know what is going on in the economy.

We’re terrible at timing these stimulus packages and there is already a lot of stimulus going into the economy with the tax cut and what the Fed has done so let’s wait. That’s the first debate. The second debate is the Keynesians on left and right now saying we’ve got– we know what we want to do and we have got $100 billion and we’re going to spend it whether it’s the left-wing Keynesians who want to have, you know, home heating subsidies, unemployment benefits or the right-wing Keynesians…. which is a new category these days.

JIM LEHRER: Who are they?

DAVID BROOKS: They are the people who say we have got these tax cut ideas and they will stimulate the economy whether it’s moving up the marginal rate cuts, which are in the Bush plan or the capital gains cut or anything else, but they suddenly a lot of Republicans are confident they can stimulate the economy at just the right time.

JIM LEHRER: How do you read it?

MARK SHIELDS: Jim, I don’t disagree with David except to add that everybody is a Keynesian right now. I mean George W. Bush is a Keynesian. We’re going to spend. I mean the president is about to agree to a spending level that is going to be so upsetting and unnerving to fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party that they’re going to have to bite their tongue and take cold showers for about three weeks.

Don Young, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee introduced $71 billion plan to build high-speed railways nationally: Direct grants, loans, loan guarantees. He is a Republican. He was backed by Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Senator; she’s a Republican. We are going to spend, and that’s what I think is really the economic stimulus.

JIM LEHRER: You think it is going to happen.

MARK SHIELDS: $40 billion already has been voted on aid. $17 billion for defense is waiting. $15 billion has gone to the airlines. You know, I think we’re just seeing the beginning.

DAVID BROOKS: I want to point out to Mark fiscal conservatives take cold showers every day anyway. They don’t need this.

JIM LEHRER: This is part of their daily life.

DAVID BROOKS: One of the things we are seeing is that the whole presidential campaign of 2000 was predicated on peace and prosperity. And all that is just out the window. We’ve just wasted two years of our lives studying that compassionate conservatism. That’s not going to define the Bush presidency. We are in a new era, an era of war and ailing prosperity where there are going to be new coalitions, new forces, just a whole new landscape.

JIM LEHRER: Mark, what is the status of the debate over security versus civil liberties?

MARK SHIELDS: It’s just starting to emerge and take form, I think. We’re seeing already interesting coalition, coalition partners, American Civil Liberties Union on one side, the traditional liberal bastion of constitutional protection joining ranks with the National Rifle Association. And I think, Jim, what you are going to see, practices like money laundering, which has been used constitutional argument — this is an invasion of privacy.

There is a report this week they were going to buy, the terrorists tried to buy a 757 jet airliner, the full thing. The only way you can do that is through money laundering. I think there is a strong case to say look, you know, I’m sorry if it violates your privacy, you’ve got a little deal going in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands and you want to hide from it your dental partners, I think there is a strong impulse in that direction to say we have to find this stuff even if it means some discomfort. We are going to find these people.

JIM LEHRER: Is a major debate coming, David?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it is already under way, sotto voce, within the back offices of the Capitol. The administration set up a pretty aggressive bill on cracking down on all sorts of things, foreign nationals, e-mail traffic, Internet traffic, this would give the federal government huge authority to permeate all these areas of American life. Little by little, the Congress, this left-right coalition Mark talks about has been rolling it back. And so they’re trying to get a bill out quickly but it looks like the White House is being very cooperative and it is going to be a very quick dramatically scaled down bill.

JIM LEHRER: Purely political question, but it relates to all of this, David, is Rudy Giuliani, who has decided he would like to stay a few more weeks as mayor of New York. What do you make of that?

DAVID BROOKS: He wants to finally move into Gracie Mansion, which he has been kicked out of.

JIM LEHRER: That’s a long story we are not going to explain — has to do with his marital problems. Don’t mention things, David that you are not willing to explain.

DAVID BROOKS: I’m new at this. The argument is there is this incredibly complex cleanup job going on, if you have an entire administration and not just Giuliani leave office, the new guys don’t know where everything is and you need that continuity for at least three months. It seems to be an idea getting some momentum.

JIM LEHRER: What do you think?

MARK SHIELDS: Jim, the reality of this is truly fascinating. Since September 11, Rudy Giuliani has been flawless. I mean he comforted the afflicted, he encouraged the discouraged, he reassured the anxious. He never missed a beat. He was perfect. I think he just stumbled for the first time and it was in a political grab. I have to say the conservatives who so hard pushed for term limits, that they were somehow going to clean up our political process.

The irony is that the only two presidents who could have won a third term hands down since it was passed at the presidential level were Republicans Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower. Here’s Rudy Giuliani who could be mayor for life. And Rudy Giuliani wants to hang on for a very simple reason.

Six months ago he was, because of the Gracie Mansion, because of the attacks upon the mother of his children, he had fallen in public esteem. Now for the first time — New Yorkers have already respected Rudy and deferred to him, but now they like him. He doesn’t want to give it up. He doesn’t want to leave the stage but I don’t think it is going to happen.

JIM LEHRER: You don’t think it is going to happen?


JIM LEHRER: Is there an issue here, David, beyond Rudy Giuliani and what great things he has done during this crisis, issue that has to do with there is a democratic process and there are elections and people come and people go and you wipe the slate clean and start all over again?

DAVID BROOKS: Yeah. I think in normal times people would say your term is up. You had eight good years; leave the stage. But in this case it has to be remembered Mark Green, who is one of the Democratic primary contenders has agreed to the plan. Michael Bloomberg, the Republican nominee has agreed to the plan. One of the Democratic nominees has not agreed to the plan. So people do understand it is a remarkable time.

MARK SHIELDS: Rudy Giuliani right now has a 1 percent very unfavorable rating in New York. Now New York are admirable people but they’re caustic, cantankerous and totally confrontational. Mother Teresa has an 11 percent unfavorable rate rating in New York. The fact is he is in an unrealistic zone politically and he wants to stay there. I don’t think it is going to happen.

JIM LEHRER: Thank you both very much. When we come back in moment, the subject is going to be New York.