JIM LEHRER: Some last words on the inaugural now, from Shields and Brooks-- syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks. David, what kind of start did the second term of the Bush administration get off to today?
DAVID BROOKS: It was an aggressive articulation of what he said in London, when he said threat is since Sept. 11; it's a shift in American politics, a shift in the American debate. When his father was president, the people in the Ukraine were trying to break away from Russia, the Soviet Union. We were against the Ukrainian people. They later had a referendum and broke away. We have sent diplomats to Saddam Hafez Assad's couch in Syria, even though he's a dictator and supported dictators like Marcos, supported dictators throughout Latin America.
What the president said today was that the bias in American policy will be against that sort of behavior. We'll be in favor of democracy. Does that mean we're going to invade everywhere and declare democracy? No. And, frankly, I thought the speech was very careful about the limits of what we're going to do. It said we'll try to clarify the choices. We'll try to urge reforms. The idea we're going to go on a global crusade for democracy is repudiated by the words in the speech. It was an idealistic summons to the noblest in America, but I thought the idea that it was an imperial crusade for democracy is just not what the president said.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think he said?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, I think it's a remarkable trip, a remarkable journey if you think of the campaign of 2000. Candidate George W. Bush upgraded the Democrats for their passion for nation building, criticizing them for using the United States' military for very limited activities in the Balkans at that point by comparison. Now we're into world building. Make no mistake about it. That's what this president outlined today. This is world building. We're not stopping at nations. We're going to rebuild the world.
JIM LEHRER: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
MARK SHIELDS: It's a different thing, and I think, you know, the key is not the statement of universal principles, which is a re-articulation, but it's a statement on the president's part of at least suggested action, and what is the action statement? We today have 1.4 million Americans in all the branches of the military.
During the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, we had more in the Army alone. We had twice as many; more than twice as many; two-and-a-half times as many in active duty. I don't know what we're talking about in terms of how we're going to implement this. Are we just going to state these principles and I'd say, the exceptions are if it's trade with China, the exceptions are if it's Uzbekistan and Pakistan, and we're going to use their bases and they're going to be a help to us? I mean, those were pretty strong moral statements he made today, and do you begin with a series of exceptions and aberrations?
JIM LEHRER: David?
DAVID BROOKS: I'll read the speech: We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require decent treatment of their own people. We will encourage reform. That means you sit with Putin, as the president already has, and said your treatment of your people is outrageous and we can't have successful relations unless you change. Does it mean you go to war with Putin? Does it mean you break off all relations? No, that's not going to happen.
But what the president did was lay down a standard by which he will be judged, and he will have to say there will be less, there will be a bias against kowtowing to certain sort of dictators, which we did, there will be an uncomfortableness with dealing with Musharaff and other people when we have to do that, but sometimes you have to do that because it's reality, but nonetheless, I think what the president did was say a true fact, that all people on earth are deserving of having freedoms. And that should be our lofty goal.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with what Walter Russell Mead said a while ago, that what you just said and what the president said is a major restructuring of the American role in the world?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, it's come and gone. It's been a debate. There was a guy named George Sidney Camp who wrote a book in 1845 called "Democracy."
JIM LEHRER: I missed that one.
DAVID BROOKS: You missed that one; most everybody else had. But it said -- it was an argument that said democracy should be universal; it should be around the world. And America has an exceptional mission to do that. So that was 1845.
JIM LEHRER: Whether people want it or not?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, the supposition was people do want -
JIM LEHRER: Do want -
DAVID BROOKS: -- freedom. Abraham Lincoln said we were the last best hope of earth. The crucial word there is "last," meaning that our system was the final answer. Democracy is the answer in this long history of political systems, and that people have a right to those sorts of freedoms. So it sprung from American history.
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, the statement of universal freedom and human dignity is non-controversial. That goes back far before 1845 and Mr. Camp. It goes all the way back to the man who gave this country its citizenship papers, Thomas Jefferson.
But there's a disconnect here between rhetoric and reality. We now this week see the Los Angeles Times Poll, a very respected poll, say that support for the president's policy that was worth going to war in Iraq is at an all-time low at 39 percent; 4 percent of Americans believe we ought to send more troops to Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: 4 percent?
MARK SHIELDS: 4 percent, if necessary. So, I mean, you know, where's the president - and Walter Russell Mead said something very true, and so did Dr. Brzezinski. They think this has been a success. They think Iraq --
JIM LEHRER: The administration?
MARK SHIELDS: The administration thinks it's been a success. And all they have to do is go out in the country and by every single measurement of public opinion and popular sentiment, that is not the case, Jim, even among their own people. So, I mean, this is the reality. I just think it's there's a disconnect here.
JIM LEHRER: Meaning you're saying that the president has suggested today, let's build on the success of Iraq --
MARK SHIELDS: Absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: And you're saying the country doesn't see it that way.
MARK SHIELDS: And I just come back to the old truth about war demanding equality --
DAVID BROOKS: I guess I'll go back to the speech. What the president said was that there will be tough times, but it would be dishonorable to withdraw now. And the word "dishonorable" I think was strong.
But let me agree with Mark on one thing, that it didn't lay out certain things; the implications of the speech, the implications are the one we've been talking about, when do you have to compromise with reality and deal with a Musharaff in Pakistan?
The second problem it didn't lay out is: What institutions do you need to promote liberty. There are a lot of people in the State Department and it's part of their job to be nice to whoever is in power around the world whether they're Democrats or not. If you want to really pursue this, you really have to think about the State Department; you have to think about what size Army you want.
And then the final thing which I would say to me is the most serious is that it's fine to say promoting liberty, but government is more than liberty. Government is about just authority, about law and order. We promote liberty in Iraq, but if all you do is promote liberty, you get chaos. And so what government needs to do is balance liberty with order and authority, law and order, and we go out and say, let's spread liberty, but if you don't have that balance of order and law and order, then you get chaos, which is what we have in Iraq and what we have also wreaked in the former Soviet Union.
JIM LEHRER: A practical question: we just ran in Kwame's second piece on what the president said to the congressional luncheon today, Mark, how is Congress, and particularly the Democrats in Congress, likely to react to what the president had to say today and his big picture that he drew today?
MARK SHIELDS: I think the reaction is at two different levels. The first is when any leader says, for example, the tsunami, the suffering, our hearts go out to the people who have suffered in this terrible human disaster, this terrible, terrible tragedy, the question becomes what is the action statement? Okay. You have sent your prayers; you've sent your best wishes. What are you going to do? That's the key to politics, is the action statement. In other words, it isn't just my hand wringing; it isn't my saying, this is what I believe, it's what I'm going to do about it. Jim, we want everybody to run the Boston marathon. We want everybody. The president, however, doesn't then say, I want you to run the Boston marathon next April, I want you to finish; I want you to do well. I'm not going to ask you to train. I'm not going to ask you to change your habits of drinking or smoking or anything of the sort. There is no action statement involved.
The president expressed very noble and admirable sentiments today about a new restructured world, but there wasn't, so that's what politicians want to know is: What is the action statement? The other thing that politicians, elected politicians, said up there today, and they say, here's a president who devotes his entire speech overwhelmingly to the world, to foreign policy, to defense policy, to other nations and basically comes down to a single paragraph about the domestic situation in this country. That isn't the way they're going to get reelected. They don't think they're going to get reelected or do well on George Bush's Iraq policy. They have got to have something else.
JIM LEHRER: David?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, two separate subjects: One, I was surprised at how little domestic policy there was.
JIM LEHRER: You expected more?
DAVID BROOKS: I expected more because when you go in and talk to people in the administration, they're very interested in domestic policy in a way they weren't two years ago. So I expected more of that. Second, about the action statement, first, I think idealism is a good thing. Democrats used to do it. This was a very liberal speech in some ways.
JIM LEHRER: A liberal speech?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think, you know, it's very Wilsonian, as people have been saying. Liberals used to be the idealists. And this was the president being a little idealistic. But then the action statements will come, say in the Middle East. The president has decided, and I think he's right about this and a lot of Democrats agree, that what matters for the Palestinian Authority is not the size of the border but the character of the regime, getting a Democratic and accountable to its own people. So there will be decisions to be made about pursuing that.
JIM LEHRER: I have to make a decision and that's to say good night. And thank you both. And we'll continue this tomorrow night. I also want to talk to you about what the vice president said about Iran that we didn't get to that. They mentioned that earlier. But we'll talk about other things tomorrow night. Thank you both very much.