JIM LEHRER: Now to our Friday night political analysis by Shields and Gigot. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. Paul, the president's choice for FBI Director Robert Mueller. You see any confirmation problems ahead for him?
PAUL GIGOT: Not problems right now. There will be questions though. There will be questions because of the FBI problems over the last ten years and because of Mueller's background which is as a career prosecutor, loyalist.
JIM LEHRER: Loyalist to whom?
PAUL GIGOT: Whoever he has been working for. Democratic administration, Democratic attorney general, Republican attorney generals. He is an insider. He has a fabulous resume. The question is, is a great resume at this time an insider what the FBI needs because the FBI has been beset by problems as we know. There's questions about its insular culture. Do you need an outsider, somebody to come in shake things up? You're talking about a ten-year term. There is a reason the FBI Director is a ten-year term. It is not supposed to be political; it's not supposed to coincide with administrations. So I think there will be difficult questions asked by both sides of the aisle, Chuck Schumer of New York and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
JIM LEHRER: Louis Freeh was also an insider. He had been an FBI agent and a prosecutor before he became head of the FBI.
MARK SHIELDS: A federal judge.
JIM LEHRER: A federal judge. What do you think of…
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, one of the legendary grand dames of Washington Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt, the wife of Nicholas Longworth, the Speaker of the House, was given credit for the line "if you can't say something good about somebody, then come sit beside me." And Washington is a city of hard knocks. What amazed me and Paul's criticism aside is how little negative I could get on Robert Mueller. I mean it's really amazing.
This is a man whose support ranges from Barbara Boxer, the unreconstructed liberal California Democratic, to Bill Weld, the former still unreconstructed conservative Massachusetts Republican governor. It just hits me that this is really a central casting ideal pick for the job in the sense that he was. He was born to privilege and left a white shoe law firm to be a Marine combat wounded veteran, decorated in Vietnam -- a fellow who left the comfort of that law firm to go as a criminal prosecutor in Washington, DC -- not a glamorous assignment. And everywhere he has gone, he has played to very good reviews.
JIM LEHRER: What about the insider thing, though, that Paul mentioned? Whether he may be perfect as a this and this and this but is he perfect for the FBI right now?
MARK SHIELDS: I think that's the question and I think that's unsolvable, Jim, for the very simple reason that I think the president, this is John Ashcroft's choice. And I think if it works out, John Ashcroft deserves credit for it, the Attorney General. But I think what they were looking for was really a marquis name, somebody that would say, wow, this is really going to shake up the FBI, who is going to be in charge. He is not a marquis name. He is not well known. And I hate to say time will tell but time will tell.
JIM LEHRER: Sure. Now the president has got another a big decision to make and that's on stem cell research, Paul, on whether to continue the ban on this. And the politics of this are kind of interesting. Tell us why.
PAUL GIGOT: They're very interesting because it's been caricatured in some circles, I think, as a fight between religion and science. But it's more than that. It is really a fight of bioethics and the future of genetic technology. We are beginning to get these big fights over the future and this is one of them. And in this case President Bush had a pretty clear position in the campaign. He was against funding for this. His pro-life community....
JIM LEHRER: Federal funding for stem cell research.
PAUL GIGOT: He laid that out in the campaign pretty clearly. But his own HHS Secretary - Tommy Thompson …
JIM LEHRER: This is on pro-life grounds, right, the opposition?
PAUL GIGOT: It was ethical grounds as well. When you take out the stem cells, you kill the embryo and therefore human -- potential life. If you're pro-life person, that is a human being. Catholic bishops are very strongly-- but the pro-life community itself now is split on this. Tommy Thompson, the HHS Secretary, who is an anti-abortion believer, thinks that they should support this research -- some pro-life figures in the United States Senate, Orrin Hatch, former Senator Connie Mack. On the other hand, you have the Catholic bishops. And President Bush has been trying very, very hard to do well among Catholic voters, particularly traditional Catholic voters. And so you have a very difficult decision politically, a very difficult decision ethically. This is why they pay the big bucks.
JIM LEHRER: To be President of the United States. How do you read this thing?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, Jim, this is a little different than straight up and down abortion whether you're pro-life or pro-choice.
JIM LEHRER: Why?
MARK SHIELDS: What complicates it is not simply that, as Paul pointed out as Connie Mack, pointed out, who has an ardent pro-life record from the House and Senate of Florida, and Orrin Hatch, who has certainly been a pro-life, antiabortion leader in the Senate in his 25 years, what complicates it is on the other side is the prospect or the potential, the promise, if you would, of great breakthroughs. So--.
JIM LEHRER: The point needs to be made here -- that's what stem cell research can lead to.
MARK SHIELDS: Scientists argue, you know, or insist this going to be a breakthrough for Parkinson's Disease, for Alzheimer's potentially, for diabetes. And there are enormously powerful constituencies, I mean, people who suffer from it, people who care deeply about people who are afflicted with diseases, are looking for a breakthrough, for a cure. So you have got that momentum on the other side.
JIM LEHRER: And there are all kinds of folks politically.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right. Exactly.
JIM LEHRER: You agree.
PAUL GIGOT: Very powerful.
MARK SHIELDS: And I think that's it. But Paul put his finger on it. It comes down to, it is a metaphysical and a philosophical question. Is it life? Is it potential life? We know it is potential life. Is it life. We know that in order to get the stem cell you have to take a fertilized human embryo and eliminate it. And so you've got three of the four Republican leaders in the House, Dick Armey, the majority leader, Tom DeLay, the majority whip, and J.C. Watts, the chairman of the House Republican Caucus, who wrote in really emphatically strong language to the president about death and this is a death for profit enterprise. So the pressures are enormous here. The public, the polls are in favor of stem cell research -- I mean a lot more than they are in favor of abortion.
PAUL GIGOT: This is also politically -- for the pro-life community itself because they made a lot of progress politically in changing the minds of people by focusing on the end of pregnancy, that is on the potential child through partial birth - that partial birth debate. They really have changed a lot of minds because that makes a lot of people queasy. This is something that focuses on the very beginning. As Mark says, you the potential of cures of things. So they have the-- the pro-lifers I think are going to lose this with a large part of the public if they're not careful. There is a real danger they could lose some of the progress that they have made some over the years and some of their own leaders are worried about this.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Another subject, Mark. The compromise the president made on allowing some new oil drilling off the Gulf of Mexico. That's an interesting compromise, is it not, involving his brother and environmentalists, et cetera.
MARK SHIELDS: I thought Governor Jeb Bush was quite humble in victory. He gave the president great credit for his environmental stand. They took, Jim, a plan, which basically began with drilling some 17 miles off of Pensacola. For those who are not familiar with the panhandle of Florida, it's a big tourist area. They love their beaches. It has been a well kept secret for a long time. And unlike Alabama, which abuts it, they're not interested in drilling up there. And they didn't--.
JIM LEHRER: Or Louisiana -
MARK SHIELDS: Or Louisiana, exactly.
JIM LEHRER: -- which is on further down the coast.
MARK SHIELDS: And the prospect of drilling with even those cleaner natural gas than the oil spills, it led to a great political uproar. I first learned about this issue in the California's governor's race years ago with Pete Wilson, then the Republican governor-- candidate for governor, who came out so strongly against offshore drilling in California. And I said gee, I didn't realize Pete Wilson was so green. I knew he was mayor of San Diego and a Republican friend said, do you know who owns property along the waterfront? That's not low rent. Those are major players and major contributors to both parties, and so there is a lot of political clout on the beachfront property owners....
JIM LEHRER: Even in Florida.
MARK SHIELDS: In Florida, and you saw it with 70 moderate Republicans broke in the House to vote against that drilling.
JIM LEHRER: What is your analysis of what happened?
PAUL GIGOT: The most interesting detail is the fact that Gale Norton - the Interior Secretary -- said that the leases they were granting would all be so far away that nobody would be able to see the rigs from the shore. It goes to show you how this is kind of an aesthetic lifestyle issue for a lot of people. We want cheap energy but we really don't want it in our neighborhood to have it produced. I think this is another indication though that President Bush has not been able to change the politics of energy. The country somehow is not persuaded that there really is, outside of California, an energy crisis. And if you couldn't persuade them of that, they're not going to change, make the sacrifices that President Bush is asking them to, even if they are aesthetic, of where to drill and nuclear power in your state or your neighborhood. He's losing this issue.
JIM LEHRER: What would you say to somebody who would say, hey, wait a minute, what if the governor of Florida, say, were a Democrat, or even a Republican who wasn't the brother of the president? Would we have had a different result?
PAUL GIGOT: We may have. I don't think there is any question that the fact that Jeb Bush's running for reelection in 2002 probably concentrated the mind of some folks in the White House maybe even the president. But ultimately you also had enormous pressure here from the delegation in Congress as well, Republican and....
JIM LEHRER: In other words the Florida delegation.
PAUL GIGOT: You had this vote in Congress. This was going against them no matter who was governor of Florida.
JIM LEHRER: And the president was already under the gun from the environmental movement. Does this help him out on that at all?
MARK SHIELDS: I don't know if it helps him out. Any time a president seems to bow to pressure-- Paul is right. 16 of the 17 Republican members of Florida voted against the White House to ban the drilling, as well as Republicans in other coastal areas. From California, Lindsay Graham was running state-wide in South Carolina, running for the Senate you know. So this is a coastal-- you can almost look, Jim, if there isn't drilling and there are beaches, then you can be pretty sure that Florida had allies on this one.
JIM LEHRER: And he's also going to have the problem now, wait a minute, you did it for Florida. How about doing it for us?
MARK SHIELDS: And that's what complicates it because the argument has been in Alaska that the Alaskans want to drill there and the argument in Florida was that Floridians didn't want to drill there. Where does local control and the conservative philosophy operate?
JIM LEHRER: Local control is right here. Thank you both very much.