JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, the analysis of Shields and Brooks: Syndicated Columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.
David, the new Bill Frist story, that he's going to participate in a televised event that claims filibustering judicial nominations are acts against people of faith. What's that all about?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, of course, that's an argument that is sure to drive away people in droves, and I've certainly spoken to many conservatives who think if conservatives say we're people of faith and they're against faith, that's just repulsive to a lot of people.
On the other hand, I think it's a little too early to convict Bill Frist on this. There are a lot of groups in towns which use over-the-top rhetoric. The Family Research Council is the one on the right. Moveon.org is one on the left; politicians do appear but that doesn't mean they embrace the rhetoric or embrace all the meanings.
So until we know what Bill Frist says at this event I think it's too early to convict him of saying that people who are filibustering are against people of faith.
JIM LEHRER: The one thing, though Mark, I looked all day through the wires expecting there to be some statement from Bill Frist's office or from him about this and that statement was not there. I guess he's waiting to see how it flies. What do you think? What do you think about that?
MARK SHIELDS: Bill Frist through a spokesman refused to answer whether he thought that the filibuster was an act against people of faith. So you're right, he hasn't answered. I think, Jim, what we have here at work are two factors: One, looking back at 2004 and the other looking ahead at 2008.
Looking back at 2004, what did we learn all the postmortems? George W. Bush won reelection in a majority because of the votes of people who go to church every week. Forty percent of Americans do; he won them by 20 percent. And secondly, by those voters who made their decision based on religious and cultural values. That's the context that these guys are looking at the race 2008.
JIM LEHRER: So it would be seen as a positive thing politically then?
MARK SHIELDS: Starting with Bill Frist. And Bill Frist -- and I think looking ahead to 2008, he's got two senators who are competitors for that nomination in his own caucus in the Senate, George Allen of Virginia and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, both of whom are going to push this filibuster issue. And if he doesn't deliver; he's got a tough decision to make. He's got at least three Republicans who've already said they will not vote for it, for the rules change.
JIM LEHRER: And he needs 50 plus the vice president.
MARK SHIELDS: He needs 50. I mean, actually, the Congressional Reference Service, the Library of Congress came out this week and said they actually need two-thirds of the Senate to change the rules. I mean, otherwise the place just becomes chaos. You can change the rules every other day with a shifting majority.
But, yes, that's exactly what he does need. And he's got to prove to these folks. And a senator said to me privately, who really likes Bill Frist, he said "You know, he's a very decent man, but he's weak." And he said "His response today has not been a strong response."
JIM LEHRER: Is he going ahead? What do your folks tell you, David, the ones you talk to up there, is he going ahead with this nuclear thing? We got to explain what this is. It is a vote that would keep -- would forbid the use of a filibuster to stop at only judicial nominations, right? They will try to change it where you can get a judicial nomination through by 51 votes, right? Is he going to go ahead and do that?
DAVID BROOKS: He is going to go ahead. I think now if he backed off it would be calamitous for his long-term prospects. I think the White House is sort of nervous about it. There are some in the White House who hope he goes ahead, some on the right of the party who hope he goes ahead. There are a lot of Republicans frankly who are nervous.
JIM LEHRER: Why are they nervous?
DAVID BROOKS: Because one reason is, this an electorate that is tired; tired of Iraq, tired of the election and now we're going to have a big blowup? You know, if you're in charge of the government, people want you to get things done. And then the second factor is all these members of the Senate have things they want to get done. They have all got their little bills they're working on.
If the Senate goes into complete deadlock, that all goes away, including Social Security, so a lot of these people think, you know, "Why should I take a backseat to this judicial fight? Is this really so important we're going to stop everything else?" So there's a lot of anxiety there.
JIM LEHRER: Now, the Democrats got something right in here, too. They now have committed, have they not, Mark, that if, in fact Frist goes ahead with this and it passes and they do get hair vote and the filibuster thing is off the table, that they'll shut down the Senate. Can they do that?
MARK SHIELDS: That's their nuclear retaliation.
JIM LEHRER: How can they do that?
MARK SHIELDS: That's their mutually assured destruction because then all you need is 40 votes to stop debate on the threat of 41 votes. We don't have real filibusters anymore. When I came to Washington, they had real filibusters. You had to hold the floor. You had to --
JIM LEHRER: Talk all night and all that stuff.
MARK SHIELDS: -- stand up there sixteen, seventeen hours at a time. And that's no longer the case. Now the threat of a filibuster is enough to do it. Jim, Lamar Alexander, Republican senator from Tennessee, I thought gave a pretty good flogging to Democrats.
He said, Democrats who think that they're -- that the Republicans are going to be blamed if the government comes to a grinding halt and the Democrats are going to be somehow elevated or appreciated are sadly mistaken. I think they're right. I think...
JIM LEHRER: You think Democrats got a danger door here?
MARK SHIELDS: I think in 1995 we saw this when the Republicans had a showdown with Bill Clinton over the close of the federal government. And they never came -- Newt Gingrich never recovered from it.
Just to add one thing to David's point. And that is I think there's a dissatisfaction with -- even though I thought the baseball hearings on steroids were good and positive, I mean, there is a sense of what are they doing in Washington? They're doing Schiavo, they're doing this and now you reported in the News Summary tonight that the stock market was down, the NASDAQ was down 12 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock market is down six percent -- worst week in two years and gasoline prices are up, up, up, it looks like they're changing the numbers hourly at gas stations. And they're going to do filibusters?
JIM LEHRER: That's your point, too, David, isn't it? The public is going to say "what in the world is going on"?
DAVID BROOKS: It's going to be a pox on both Houses. There are six or seven judges sitting out there. Why can't they just do a deal? In my line of work, we do deals -
JIM LEHRER: That's right. You take three; I'll take three. Yeah - whatever --
DAVID BROOKS: Why can't they just behave like adults? That's going to be the attitude.
JIM LEHRER: But you think this collision is going to happen?
DAVID BROOKS: It's like - I don't know - it's like the Peloponnesian War where everyone says "it's inevitable, it's inevitable, it's inevitable" and nobody wants to back off. I don't see how either side backs off except if Republicans just can't get that 50 votes.
JIM LEHRER: Can't get the votes.
DAVID BROOKS: And I think that's quite possible, Sen. Warner from Virginia, a bunch of others I'm not sure about -
JIM LEHRER: The Republicans are saying no, they're not --
MARK SHIELDS: John McCain is already on record, Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chaffee --
JIM LEHRER: Susan Collins of Maine has said I'm not sure yet. Yeah. What's your reading on Tom DeLay Is he still surviving? What's your count at this point?
MARK SHIELDS: David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal made a good point; he said "Don't mistake Tom DeLay's situation with that of Speaker Jim Wright and Speaker Newt Gingrich." When you're speaker, you're speaker of the whole House so you're responsive to both parties. I mean, if you lose support -- even though you're elected by one of the parties, you're an officer of the House.
A majority leader, which Tom DeLay is, is just a creation of one caucus. And so what Tom DeLay really has to worry about is, in my judgment, politically, is the erosion of Republican support. And that's what we're starting to see. I mean, Tom Tancredo, a conservative Republican Congress from Colorado, said today, maybe you should step aside for a couple months till it's clear, everything is cleared up.
JIM LEHRER: Not resign from the House but just step aside as majority leader?
MARK SHIELDS: Right. Now, you think if Roy Blount becomes majority leader, he's going to be majority leader for a couple of months, or John Boehner or Tommy Reynolds? That's not going to happen. But Newt Gingrich took a couple of shots at him this week too. Again, this is 2008. If Gingrich wants to run in 2008, which he's thinking about doing --
JIM LEHRER: For president?
MARK SHIELDS: For president -- he was the reform leader. He organized that reform that led -- Republicans became the reform party under his leadership.
JIM LEHRER: And he brought down Jim Wright under that guise.
MARK SHIELDS: And they have ceased to be the reform party under Tom DeLay
DAVID BROOKS: The Gingrich/DeLay story is fascinating; story that goes back, way back to when they were running against each other.
JIM LEHRER: Tell the story.
DAVID BROOKS: There were fights when they were running for the party whip. I think it was Madigan against Gingrich.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right. And he...
JIM LEHRER: They don't like each other?
DAVID BROOKS: They've had animosity going way back.
MARK SHIELDS: He supported not Newt Gingrich, DeLay, he sported Ed Madigan from Illinois.
DAVID BROOKS: And then there was a coupe against Gingrich, which DeLay may have been involved in with after he was speaker.
MARK SHIELDS: He admitted he was involved.
DAVID BROOKS: So there's a whole history there and you got to remember, when you talk about either party in the House, it's like a family that has a long history of feuds and competitions. So you're talking about a lot of internal little warfare. And I find what's happening now within the Republican Party in the House is that they're anxious about DeLay
They are sort of grateful for what he's done. They don't want to cow down to the Democrats or what they see as the mainstream media, but they're already beginning to think, well, who's next? Well, there's Roy Blount; he could be majority leader and he's quite a good guy, and so they're beginning to think beyond DeLay And once that psychology starts happening, then if they're thinking beyond you, then you're in trouble.
JIM LEHRER: Two other quick subjects were before we go. John Bolton, have the Democrats done any damage to him?
DAVID BROOKS: I don't think so. I think he's going to be confirmed.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think he's going to be confirmed?
MARK SHIELDS: I would not bet against him, Jim. But I -- you know, the measure of any officer in any branch of the service is how does he treat his men? And this guy, you know, I thought the most devastating comment is he kisses up and kicks down and, boy, if one thing Washington doesn't need is one more suck-up --
DAVID BROOKS: That was completely inaccurate. He kicks up and he kicks down. He's as rude to Colin Powell --
MARK SHIELDS: I've talked to literally dozens of people, professionals who worked with him in various incarnations and found him to be intimidating and bullying. And that's --
JIM LEHRER: Finally, sources tell me that both of you were present when the Washington Nationals played their first home game last night at RFK Stadium. True?
DAVID BROOKS: True and by coincidence, both our sections were very close to each other.
JIM LEHRER: Why is such a big to do being made over this, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, Tom McGraw, who's the batting coach of the Nationals Baseball Team said "this was a team that needed a hometown and a hometown that that needed a team." Washington needs baseball.
JIM LEHRER: But why?
MARK SHIELDS: We all come from someplace else. We need something, I mean, to transcend our differences. We emphasize, sometimes overemphasize the differences between us, red and blue and all the rest of it. Here we are in the bluest of blue jurisdictions, 85 percent George Bush didn't get in this vote. He got a pretty good hand, the red president at that place; it did that.
And secondly I'd say this, Jim, about baseball, Washington and the nation need baseball because in baseball I don't care how much clout you have, how many soft money contributions you've made, how wired you are on K Street, three strikes and you're out. It's wonderful. It's perfect that way.
JIM LEHRER: What is your analysis?
DAVID BROOKS: You know, we were excited. Everyone was excited to be there. The atmosphere was very carnivalesque; it was a wonderful atmosphere, those of us in the red seats, those in the blue seats; we were all joining together. And, you know, the nation of Italy was joined by soccer. Sports, because it's like nationalism. It's your love of your community expressed through love of the team. And that's what's joined us.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. I have to un-join you now. Thank you both very much.