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Shields and Brooks Anticipate President Obama ‘At Bat’

September 6, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks talk to Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff about the "two exceptional nights" at the Democratic National Convention, and the very high bar set by Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton going into President Obama's nomination acceptance speech.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And with us tonight once again are Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, gentlemen, you only have to compete with Mary J. Blige.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: I didn’t even know she had a song about Paul Ryan.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: But she’s attacking him viciously.

(LAUGHTER)

GWEN IFILL: I will translate for you, David.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, here we are, 20-some hours after Bill Clinton, Mark Shields.

Are you still thinking about what he had to say, or are you projecting ahead to what President Obama has got to do tonight?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, President Obama has to be thinking about what he — what Bill Clinton had to say and what Michelle Obama had to say.

Angela Williams in that tape piece, the delegate on the floor, Bill said Clinton hit a home run. He hit a home run. Michelle Obama hit a home run. Now it’s Barack Obama at bat, OK, to carry it forward. He can’t get by with a ground rule double tonight. He has got to hit a home run. I mean, they have set a bar that is that high.

I mean, there have been two exceptional nights, Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton. And while David and I were quite admiring of Governor Christie in — at Tampa, there was nobody at the Republican event that established anything to the same standard, I think, that Barack Obama faces tonight.

GWEN IFILL: Well, you know, David, the Obama administration — or Obama campaign officials told me today that the first night with Michelle Obama was supposed to be about heart and values. The second night with Bill Clinton’s prosecution was supposed to be about the head.

What is tonight supposed to be about with the president?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I hope it’s about the future. It better be.

As you say, we know about what’s in him. We saw the argument about — against the Republicans. I went back and I read Clinton’s speech this morning. And when I was looking for what the future was going to be, there was nothing. There was one sentence.

And so that better be what this is about. A candidate for office is supposed to offer a vision, a vision and a set of proposals. And so he’s got to talk a little of theme, but he’s got to give us a road map, some sort of road map for the future.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But they say it’s not going to be like a State of the Union address, Mark. They are not going to give a laundry list of what has to happen. So how does he thread that needle?

People want the specifics. They want to know where he’s going to take the country, but he can’t just reel off a bunch of legislation.

MARK SHIELDS: No, I agree, Judy.

And it’s more than legislation. It is — American presidential elections about who captures the future, who captures optimism and who captures the future. And he has to give a sense that not only what he wants to achieve, but how the country is going to be better and how it’s going to, by his policies, going to make it better.

And that’s — to me, that’s his chore tonight, and it’s a tough one.