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Shields, Brooks Consider Mukasey Vote, Kerik Indictment

November 9, 2007 at 6:40 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, good to see you this Friday.

DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times: Good to see you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, Michael Mukasey confirmed today, but only six-vote margin among Democrats. Does that tell us something about how he’s going to do during — or how he’s going to be confronted during his tenure?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, I think the honeymoon will be short. I mean, this is somebody who really came with great bipartisan backing, and the hearings themselves really precipitated and provoked the opposition to him.

I think Republicans are enormously relieved to have an attorney general they’re not embarrassed to defend. There’s a hope that his leadership and just his presence will restore the department, where morale is very low and which for a long time has been quite leaderless. Before Gonzales left, he was under investigation himself and has been on autopilot or worse ever since.

But I think one good thing will come out of the hearings, and I think the Congress now faces the responsibility on dealing with waterboarding and bringing civilians under the same code of ethics and law that the military has observed and lives by.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that, in essence, the legacy of these hearings?

DAVID BROOKS: I think so. And Mukasey has said he will enforce — if Congress passes a law on waterboarding, he will enforce it. And I think that will put the central controversy over his nomination to rest, and he’ll go on and run the department.

And aside from this issue, there was basically very few complaints. Most people think he’s a very serious guy, very good guy, and I think he’s probably likely to be part of this new team that the Bush administration has put together with Gates and Paulson and a bunch of people who are far superior than anybody had before. So I think he’ll have a quite successful tenure.

Fallout from Kerik indictment

Mark Shields
Syndicated Columnist
He [Rudy Giuliani] has defended Kerik. And he's admitted that he made a very serious mistake. But this is not somebody he inherited. He made Bernie Kerik.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Different story today. The former New York City police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, who's long been associated with Rudy Giuliani, indicted today, stepped out of the courthouse and said that all this would be proven -- he'd be proven innocent. Does this have, is this going to have fallout for Rudy Giuliani?

DAVID BROOKS: My suspicion is no, in part because people aren't voting for Rudy Giuliani because they think he's Mother Teresa. Republicans are voting for him because they think he can beat Hillary.

And the core of the campaign that he's running is electability. And unless this begins to hurt there, I suspect it will have a limited political fallout, at least in the near term.

I was interested to see the way the other Republican candidates went at Kerik. And it was not on corruption; it was on competence. John McCain said, you know, I was in Baghdad when Kerik was supposed to be training these Iraqi troops. He was terrible at it. He just got up and left.

And so this was a suggestion from McCain that Giuliani will not be -- is really not qualified yet to be president. And so they attacked pretty hard, actually I would say, on that grounds, on competence grounds.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So it's a competence rather than...

MARK SHIELDS: I really think it's both. I think Giuliani has handled it well so far. He has not denied the relationship. He has defended Kerik. And he's admitted that he made a very serious mistake.

But this is not somebody he inherited. He made Bernie Kerik. Bernie Kerik was his driver. He elevated him to commissioner of prisons and then to top cop in New York City. And from the moment he was in any position of leverage or power or influence, according to the indictment today, he was on the take. He was corrupt.

And the fact that that went on and that Rudy Giuliani then became his principal character witness and reference to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, much to the embarrassment of the Bush administration.

Just one minor correction. It wasn't the troops, the soldiers. It was the police, which remains, to this moment, to this moment, the open sore in Iraq. I mean, the police -- by every measurement, the police remain a corrupt and absolutely nonfunctioning...

DAVID BROOKS: But there are some years where voters really want authenticity and purity. I don't think this is, in general, one of those years. I think this year they want craftiness, manipulativeness and effectiveness.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Really?

DAVID BROOKS: And so I think, in general, they're tired of being out-manipulated by our enemies. And I think this year their tolerance for some of the stuff that may not be pure is higher this year, in both parties, than in other years.

MARK SHIELDS: I disagree, in this sense. Americans always want both in a leader. They want a leader who's transparent and open and direct, but at the same time is savvy and worldly wise.

But I think that what Giuliani faces is, first of all, I think this will cause him to lose any advantage he might have had against Senator Clinton or anybody else on sort of ethical issues or anything like that. He won't be able to raise that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just this connection with Kerik?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, it's more than this connection. I mean, there are four others, as the Wall Street Journal mentioned today. There's a defrocked priest who married Giuliani, who was best man at another one of his weddings, who has, you know, been removed from the priesthood for alleged sexual abuse of boys, who remains an associate of him in his business.

I mean, Kerik was his business partner, in addition to his good friend, so I think that it just opens up the exposure. A governor or a mayor has a greater exposure than a senator does, simply by virtue of having appointed that many more people.

Republican candidate endorsements

David Brooks
New York Times
[The] Christian conservative community is no longer one community. It's a much more diverse community. It's much more politically diverse. There are many more people who are not interested in politics.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, sticking with the Republicans, you had three prominent figures in the Christian conservative movement this week endorse three different Republican candidates. You had Pat Robertson endorsing Giuliani. You had Sam Brownback endorsing John McCain. And then, endorsing Mitt Romney, let me get the name, it was Paul Weyrich.

DAVID BROOKS: Paul Weyrich.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, what does this say, either about the Republican Party, or about the Christian conservatives?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, they're prominent, but not too influential. Some evangelicals say Pat Robertson has three main constituencies, ABC, CBS, and NBC, that he doesn't have roots in the evangelical community anymore. He has roots in the media because he happens to be extremely well-known.

But I think the deeper message is that the Christian conservative community is no longer one community. It's a much more diverse community. It's much more politically diverse. There are many more people who are not interested in politics. There are people who feel burned by the Bush administration after the strong support they gave it.

A colleague of mine, David Kirkpatrick, wrote a New York Times Magazine piece a couple of weeks ago called "The Evangelical Crackup." And I do think that suggests that the old highly unified or coherent group or the small number of leaders that could be swung, that doesn't exist anymore. Now they have new leaders, Rick Warrens of the world, and it's a much more diverse and less focused, but more broader-based group than it used to be.

Influence of the conservative vote

Mark Shields
Syndicated Columnist
I think Mike Huckabee has gone to the membership. And the leadership has just ignored him, because he doesn't raise enough money or whatever. But he's showing all the movement.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And can we say, Mark, at this point, what is that going to mean for the election?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think what it means is that Rudy Giuliani's worst fear, that the Christian Coalition or the religious and social conservatives in the Republican Party would coalesce around a single candidacy -- for a time, they thought it would be Fred Thompson. That is not going to happen. I mean, you saw Giuliani, they've split and gone in different directions. So that's to his advantage.

What he's looking for is not delivering votes, because nobody delivers votes, quite frankly, in this country. What Giuliani is looking for was sort of a limited Good Housekeeping seal of approval from somebody that says, look, in spite of his positions on abortion, in spite of his position on gay rights, and gun control, and all these other sophisticated New York issues, that Rudy Giuliani is OK.

And, of course, Pat Robertson stands, I think, open to quite severe scrutiny, because, after 9/11, he and Jerry Falwell engaged in a very famous colloquy on Robertson's TV show where they said that this was God's revenge upon the United States for abortion, for lesbians, gays, the ACLU, the People for the American Way, and secularists. And they were in total agreement, and now he says abortion is just one issue.

DAVID BROOKS: Right, and there's just been a generational change in the evangelical leadership, and Robertson is the old wave that's dying and many people have high intolerance for. And I think if you want to look at a candidate who speaks the way the new generation of evangelicals speaks, it's more likely to be Mike Huckabee, someone who speaks about environmental issues, about poverty issues, about middle-class anxiety.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And who's been overlooked in these...

DAVID BROOKS: But less and less recently. I mean, here's a guy, if you look at all the charts of all the different campaigns, Huckabee's chart is just going up, especially in Iowa. He is now, I think...

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the polls...

DAVID BROOKS: ... in the top two or three. He could easily come in second in Iowa. And that represents this new wave.

MARK SHIELDS: I agree with David. I think Mike Huckabee has gone to the membership. And the leadership has just ignored him, because he doesn't raise enough money or whatever. But he's showing all the movement.

And Iowa is this place where it has to happen. Forty-two percent of Americans go to church every week. In Iowa, it's 47 percent. In New Hampshire, it's 50th in church attendance of all the 50 states.

So Pat Robertson did well in Iowa in '88, got a second, and then cratered in New Hampshire. So Iowa is the most fertile group for Mike Huckabee.

Americans nervous about economy

David Brooks
New York Times
I don't think people think the government is about to raise their salary. They just want government to take care of the big forces that threaten to disrupt their lives, so they're very defensive and nervous about that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, from the church to the economy, to the markets, rough week on Wall Street. The Dow was down, what, 550 points this week. The price of oil near $100 a barrel. The dollar is down. How does all this tie -- there are also some interesting new polls out this week looking at Americans, how worried they are. What do you see here, and in terms of the effect it's going to have on this election?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, the big effect I see so far is the gap between private satisfaction and public satisfaction. If you ask people "Are you satisfied with your own life?" 65 percent of Americans say, "Yes." If you asked "Are you satisfied with the way the country is headed?" 25 percent "Yes." That's a 40 percent gap. That's the fourth highest gap of any nation in the world.

That means people feel they themselves are doing OK, but they think the country is going in the wrong direction. And they think there are these forces that only the national government can take care of, whether it's globalization, trade, health care, terrorism, that are not being taken care of.

So, to me, it's a little different than the normal economic anxiety campaign, where people want more -- think the government can give them more money. I don't think people think the government is about to raise their salary. They just want government to take care of the big forces that threaten to disrupt their lives, so they're very defensive and nervous about that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that good news for any of the candidates?

MARK SHIELDS: It's good news for the out party. I mean, Ronald Reagan won, you'll recall, in 1980 by asking the question, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" If the Democrat, whoever that Democratic nominee is, can say, "Are you better off than you were eight years ago?" and voters overwhelmingly answer, "No," it puts the Republicans very much on the defensive.

I think there's other evidence, as well as what David describes. I mean, 277,000 American employers that offered health insurance in 2000 don't offer it today. The dollar is slipping, and it's worth less. In addition to that, the cost of college and the cost of health care are just increasing exponentially a lot faster than are salaries and earnings of American workers. So...

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you're saying people look at the Democrats, the out party, and say, "They can fix all this"?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, there's a sense that the party that's been in power, that this has happened, and the Democrats can point seemingly to an eight years ago time when things were, you know, substantially better, at least in people's memories of what the case was.

And I think that the question that was asked, "Do you think America is in decline?" in the Wall Street Journal-NBC poll, and by a 3-2 margin Americans said, "We think the country is in decline," that included Hispanics. Immigrants have historically been the most optimistic of all Americans. When you find Hispanic immigrants saying the country is in decline, additionally to whites and blacks all agreeing, it's a sense that things are not moving in the right direction.

DAVID BROOKS: But there's also -- I'm sorry.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Save that thought, David...

DAVID BROOKS: It was profound. It was profound.

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... for next Friday. Fortunately, neither of the two of you is in decline.

DAVID BROOKS: It's a matter of dispute.

MARK SHIELDS: It was very kind of you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark and David, thank you both.