The Political Analysis of Shields and York
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MARGARET WARNER: Fourth of July attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, a decision looming on whether to send troops to Liberia and a Democratic primary race in full gear. We begin tonight with an analysis of all that from Shields and York. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Byron York of National Review. David Brooks is on vacation. Happy 4th of July.
MARK SHIELDS: Happy 4th of July to you, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: Let’s start with Liberia. Reports are, Mark, that inside the White House, the president is getting conflicting advice on whether to commit U.S. forces there, true?
MARK SHIELDS: True. Margaret, when General Eric Shinseki left as the army chief of staff, his admonition was beware of ten division army for a 12 division need. We are only talking about 12,000 troops being sent to Liberia, the secretary of defense recognizes that the American military is over deployed it’s exhausted, and it’s stretched very, very thin around the world: Afghanistan, Balkans, as well as Iraq, 230,000 in the greater Iraq area of operations. So the diplomatic side, Colin Powell representing plea of allies, of Kofi Annan and the U.N., and the pleas of many African nations saying just 2,000 American troops could make the difference in this tiny land of three million.
BYRON YORK: The fight, as it always is, is between the state department and the defense department. And the Defense Department is saying exactly what mark says. Colin Powell has received entreaties from all sorts of people, including Donald Payne, an Africa expert, representative of Donald Payne. And the thing that is driving the timing of this, however, is the fact that Bush is going to Africa on Monday. And he is going to have a summit in West Africa and the State Department does not want him to say to the West African leaders, gee, the situation in Liberia is bad, you guys ought to do something about it. They don’t want to say that. The people who are in favor of going to Liberia are arguing cases like East Timor, in which regional power went in there, settled things down, the united nations took over, there was a certain timeline and they feel that this could be something that fits in with the president’s general rules for military interventions.
MARGARET WARNER: Mark, is there a political problem for the president and this is a president who campaigned for president scorning nation building. Wouldn’t this be classic nation building?
MARK SHIELDS: This would be following the pattern that has been broken. The president has certainly pursued an activist nation building program in Iraq, certainly most ambitious, but Afghanistan as well. And, you know, that along with the humble foreign policy seemed to have been sent somewhere to the new presidential library yet to be designated. To add to what Byron said earlier, the reality this is, Margaret. We have 1.4 million people in uniform today, that’s 2.1 million fewer than we had in Vietnam. This is a small military service and it’s stretched very, very thin. I understand Rumsfeld’s predicament and Powell saying it is only 2,000.
BYRON YORK: I don’t think this is an argument that democrats can really make.
MARGARET WARNER: Hypocrisy argument?
BYRON YORK: The hypocrisy argument: They’re going to say this is a change in President Bush’s position, and by the way, this is really a pretty good idea, and we support it. It is difficult to base an opposition on that. Politically, given the fact that African Americans vote in such preponderance for Democratic candidates, it seems hard that there would not — democrats are not going to be able to say Liberia is not our problem. There is the memory of the Clinton administration not intervening in Rwanda. Hundreds of thousands of people died and I think that there is probably going to be bipartisan support for this.
MARGARET WARNER: Iraq. During the week where U.S. soldiers are wounded and killed, the president made a remark that stirred a lot of controversy on Wednesday, Byron. Let me just read it. He said there are some who feel the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer there is bring ‘em on. The Democrats landed with cleats on.
BYRON YORK: They were suggesting that the president was inciting violence or inviting attacks on American troops. I really saw it a different way, which is, I think it was almost word of encouragement to the United States troops and to the United States side. If someone is challenging to you a fistfight, and you say bring it on, you are not saying oh, please hurt me. You’re saying I’m going to kick your behind. I think that’s what Bush said. He is a very plain spoken man. It’s kind of like the Osama bin Laden dead or alive comment he made after September 11. I don’t think it is a major issue.
MARK SHIELDS: I think, Margaret, that Bruce Buchanan, University of Texas political scientist long time watcher of George Bush put it very well. George bush under pressure goes to this sort of Texas speak. He did it in the time of wanted dead or alive, smoke them out of their caves shortly after 9/11 and did it this week. He has been under pressure and criticism. This is the first time that the president, as commander in chief his policies and their application and their implications has been severely attacked and under scrutiny, not just from beyond the shores but from within these shore. There is no question the president, the aides of his winced when he said it. Let’s put it that way.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think what is going on in Iraq and these almost daily attack, that there is political danger for the president in that?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think Democrats who quite frankly were paralyzed when the war was going so well in combat phase now emboldened and they are emboldened for a couple of reason. First of all, is the combat efficiency and effectiveness and minimum of casualties left us with no real post-war plan. And I think it’s fair to say, Bob Schrum, the Democratic speechwriter, put it very well. He said this is the first post-war conflict where the entire plan consisted of an ideological presupposition. That was because we hated Saddam Hussein because Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein so much that they would be filled with gratitude and love and appreciation for the Americans. And it’s quite obvious that we didn’t anticipate this. And I think it’s fair to say that that was the neo-cons rosy scenario, that this would all work out, they would strew flowers in the paths of GI’s coming into Baghdad. It hasn’t been a success.
MARGARET WARNER: Are the Democrats in a position, going back to your earlier argument about Liberia, in a position to exploit this and do you think they will?
BYRON YORK: They’ll try but they won’t succeed right yet. It’s been 63 days since the president declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. In that time, 27 Americans have been killed in action, to add to the about 100 Americans who were killed in action in the war itself. These are terrible calculations to make because these are real people dying. But in a major ground operation like that, those are historically low casualty figures. I think the American people have a sense that this kind of assignment is dangerous if it is continuing a year from now, yes, I think there could be a political price to pay. I think this is one of the reasons we are seeing such a huge effort on the part of American troops to wipe out these Ba’athist resistance elements. So I don’t think the Democrats will succeed, at leave in the short run in trying to make play lei out this, especially since so many supported the war.
MARGARET WARNER: I was going to say since several leading candidates supported the war.
MARK SHIELDS: That’s true and they’ve seen the political fate, fortune and future of Howard Dean who opposed the war, seem to soar in the midst of the bad news since and the sense of vindication. Let’s be very frank about this. We’ve asked 70 troops to send troops and help. Exactly 10 have responded. And France hasn’t been asked but Italy and Spain haven’t sent any. The Indians willing to send a regiment but only under international, not under U.S. direct control and authority. We are paying a little price for we can do it, we can do it on our own, we can do it by ourselves which was the president and the secretary of defense’s assertion and swagger before the war. We are paying a little price for that not having the international force right now.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me go on to the Democratic race. This was the end of the second quarter fund-raising and unofficial totals, surprise winner, Howard Dean, more than $7 million. First of all, why is he being so successful in raising money, Byron?
BYRON YORK: One of the things he has done is made great use of the Internet. He has raised anywhere from $3 million to $4 million of that 7.5 million came from the Internet. The problem with Dean, I think, is that there’s still no indication that his core support has expanded beyond the anti-war left. And he’s almost very much like the anti-war movement, which made great use of the Internet, they got good turnout at demonstration and thus they could attract a lot of press coverage, but they never represented a wide spectrum of the American people. And they never turned American public opinion against the war. Dean is making good news of the Internet. He can turn out great people and he is getting great press right now but there is no indication that he represents a wide spectrum of Americans or even of Democrats, actually.
MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure he represents a wider spectrum but I point out that 85 percent of Americans thought the war was going well in May — down to 56 percent in the latest Gallup poll, same Gallup Poll, hemorrhaging of support there. Howard Dean, I think to look is at the Internet as the explanation is a little bit like the people who looked at FDR and said he is good on radio. If we could get somebody as good on radio. Or people who looked at are Ronald Reagan and said he is good on television. It is not a trick. Individuals are giving. It is not the Internet giving. Not an A.T.M. Machine. He has persuaded people to give. Mark Hannah, the great Republican king maker of presidents said only two things matter in a political campaign. Money is the first and I can’t remember the second. The reality is that he has gotten attention. He is probably going to be around for the rest of the race. And I thought the fact that John Kerry and Dick Gephardt both jumped on George Bush’s bring ‘em on statement, was a reflection not simply that they think the president’s support for the war has drifted and the President’s policy but they’re saying that but that Howard Dean is on to something. Democratic voters were against the war. The Democratic leadership was for it. Howard Dean made that connection fairly early and his fate has been with the war. He kind of went in the trough when the war itself was going so well. Post-war period he seems to h seems to have had a resurgence.
MARGARET WARNER: If you think of the universe of voters in the Democratic primaries, being anti-war may not be such a limited appeal.
BYRON YORK: But in that case, the winner of the democratic nomination will go on to a general election. The Republicans I know right now are pulling for Howard Dean because he appeals to a certain core constituency in the Democratic Party that is more active in the nominating process as conservatives are more active in the nominating process. The problem is, and a lot of Democrats are very worried about this. The problem is will they get a candidate who is broad enough to win the general election. I don’t think most of them think Dean is that guy.
MARGARET WARNER: Briefly, do you think we are making too much about the money primary? Is it because the media has nothing ills to cover right now?
MARK SHIELDS: Sure. We are. Let’s remember Senator Phil Gramm who in 1996 raised $21 million and never made to it New Hampshire primary. So, I mean, money in itself is not… but what it does is it gives him gravitase and a seriousness. I would point out that In 1968, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for president in the middle of Vietnam were peace candidates, they were both against the war, and for ending the war as soon as they could — Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.
MARGARET WARNER: Sorry we have to end this. Thank you both.