MARGARET WARNER: Now, to our weekly analysis by Shields and Brooks. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and David Brooks of the "Weekly Standard."
Well, Mark, what a difference an election makes. The President seemed to be getting his way this week from Democrats, even before the Republicans took over the Senate.
MARK SHIELDS: No question about it Margaret. I think there's a number of factors. One was pointed out to me by a historian friend of mine, Alan Ginsburg, who pointed out that George Bush did not have a honeymoon in January 2001 because of the circumstance under which he came and the cloud and the rest of it. And this actually is his honeymoon. We can argue about a mandate or not a mandate, but this is a political honeymoon and he has demonstrated political coattails to Republicans and put fear in many Democrats.
And add to that the fact that at a time of heightened security warnings, terrorist warnings, neither party wants to be seen as holding up homeland security, which the President has identified as commander in chief as the one important sort of legislative act that he is insisting upon, that he ran upon, and that he quite frankly used, Republicans used as a club against both Jean Carnahan in Missouri and Max Cleland in Georgia. They don't want the same thing to befall Mary Landrieu, the Democratic Senate candidate, who is in the runoff in the December Louisiana race. So I think -- I think all those factors converge, but we are seeing a political honeymoon of sorts.
MARGARET WARNER: How do you read it, David? Is it a general honeymoon or specifically on sort of terror and homeland security?
DAVID BROOKS: Especially on those, but the interesting thing is like a lot of men on their honeymoons, Bush is kind of in a hurry. On Wednesday he called Tom DeLay and DeLay was inclined to not do much this week.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right.
DAVID BROOKS: And he called DeLay and said I want a lot of stuff done.
MARGARET WARNER: And Trent Lott he called also, did he not?
DAVID BROOKS: So he leaned and said let's do a lot. The Drew Barkley era, which is three weeks, the temporary Senator from Minnesota, will be quite a productive era.
MARGARET WARNER: And, in fact, he also leaned on Tom DeLay and the House Republicans to give on the terror insurance bill, did he not? In other words, that was held up by them.
DAVID BROOKS: That was held up for liability reasons primarily. They were upset with the idea that court lawyers, if somebody blew up your building, you could get sued even though the terrorists did the act. And they wanted some protection for those building owners, and Bush said no, let's get it done. So they caved on that, unhappily, it must be said.
MARK SHIELDS: I think in fairness to the other side, it was the argument that if it demonstrated manifest negligence were involved in the building owner, that they shouldn't just skate because something happened two blocks away.
DAVID BROOKS: But it should be said that -- we criticize politicians all the time. They do earnestly respect the electorate. And no matter which side an election comes out, as you would respect your boss if they came in your office and yelled at you, when an election is clear and a candidate runs on a set of issues, as Mark said Bush did these, you generally get your way.
MARGARET WARNER: And he clearly prevails on those issues.
DAVID BROOKS: Right.
MARGARET WARNER: So David, what do you think is the political impact this week of some of the bad news on the terror front -- the tape purportedly of Osama bin Laden and all these heightened threat warnings?
DAVID BROOKS: We've gotten in a little tiff over that. I have to say, Osama bin Laden is an impressive guy. If he is still around, I mean, he is a formidable enemy. And it's been sort of dispiriting but it has gotten too politicized already. Tom Daschle went on TV yesterday and criticized the President saying Osama bin Laden is still around, we haven't made any real progress. I guess I would say to that, it is legitimate to make a criticism on the way a lot of the war on terrorism is being conducted but a two sentence sound bite is not the way to do it. There is a difference between carping and criticism.
And Democrats -- really somebody, or some Republican should make a long speech detailing what we are doing wrong. I'm not sure it's even sure that there is no real progress has been made. There are arrests every week you read about, so this has gotten too politicized too fast. It seems to me, we are over the election; let's have some serious looks at these things.
MARK SHIELDS: Tom Daschle did what Michael Kinsley the columnist once called committed a gaffe. A gaffe in Washington is when somebody says something that is true but they shouldn't say for political reasons. George Bush personalized Osama bin Laden: Wanted dead or alive. That was the O.K. Corral, gunslinger jargon that was so much -- it was very much of a personal we are going to get him, bring him back, string him up, and all the rest of it. Well, as the great philosopher Robin Williams put it, how tough is it to find a 6'4" Arab on dialysis? This really, as you look at it, Margaret, is part of the uncertainty.
We get t - the FBI is criticized by the administration this week for issuing warnings about hospital attacks, then they back off and it's yellow. So there is -- I think David is right -- there is the grounds here for a systematic and I think thoughtful critique of just what has been done right and what hasn't been done at all.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that's part of the reason, David, that the White House did give on this question of a 9/11 commission, an independent commission, something that it seems they didn't really want?
DAVID BROOKS: Right. Well, the commission is sort of a ticking time bomb. It is going to go off in 18 months and somebody is going to be blamed. They have been remarkably hesitant to blame anybody in the FBI and CIA -- a form of loyalty which I think is misplaced. The fight has been over who controls the commission and so there was a lot of back and forth this week about that. The President now has control over the chairman, the Republicans get half the seats, the Democrats get half the seats. Interestingly, within the Republican bloc there is a seat reserved for John McCain and Richard Shelby, the people who are the most vociferous about investigating. So there is the mini Republican block within the larger Republican block.
MARK SHIELDS: Yeah. I think the McCain-Shelby seat was an acknowledgment that there was strong bipartisan support for this - I mean from Porter Goss to Bob Graham.
MARGARET WARNER: And do you think that the Senate will go along now next week with these bills that have passed the House, despite some of the problems they have with them as outlined in Kwame's piece?
MARK SHIELDS: As Kwame reported, I think the homeland security is no question. I think that will pass. But no, I think, Margaret, this is going to be Homeland Security and a continuing resolution in Congress and a couple of judges.
MARGARET WARNER: David, switching gears. Both parties elected new leaders this week. Ideological opposites, Tom Delay and Nancy Pelosi: Do you think that fact in and of itself is going to be significant, that they are such polar opposite?
DAVID BROOKS: It would make a good West Side Story dating theme. But I don't think either of them were elected primarily because they are one quite liberal, and one quite conservative. I think they supply services to the members and politics is local in this case.
Nancy Pelosi is the best fund-raiser in the house. She raised more money than anybody, any other Democrat in the House. I sometimes think she has squatter rights in Barbra Streisand's wallet she spends so much time there. And so she provided money to a lot of Democratic candidates and she is a forceful advocate.
Tom Delay, I'm not a particularly big fan of Tom DeLay, I think it sort of cheapens discourse every time he opens his mouth sometimes, but he is a great whip, the best whip I've seen while covering politics. I can't tell you the number of times I thought Republicans would never be able to hang together on some issue and in some way Tom DeLay got them to hang together, not he did it not through being the hammer, which he talks about, but through a level of subtly. And there is one other distinction here. Tom DeLay is quite conservative, made sure he was not the Speaker, he is not the top person in the Republican caucus, put Denny Hastert up there, a more moderate, appealing figure. On the Democratic side, there is this liberal figure up there.
MARK SHIELDS: All of whom were provided by Tom DeLay. I mean, Tom DeLay, Deborah Pryce was elected to the Congress. The whip was Roy Blunt to Tom DeLay and Deny Hastert was Tom DeLay so Tom DeLay is there.
As far as Nancy Pelosi, the team that was elected a couple without her support and over her opposition, Bob Menendez as caucus chair, a Latino from New Jersey, Steny Hoyer as whip, who had been her opponent for the original job, the son of Danish immigrant and finally Jim Clyburn, the former chairman of the Black Caucus from South Carolina, add to it John Spratt, a white male Democrat from South Carolina, a very respected budget and Armed Services member, endangered species, if there ever was one, a white male Democrat from South Carolina. It shows the strength and weakness of the Democrats.
There are at least six Democratic parties in the House of Representatives there. There is the women, the Hispanic caucus, the black caucus, the new Democrats, the progressive labor caucus, the blue dogs. And Dick Gephardt's great strength was that he could deal with all of them. This was going to be a test for Nancy Pelosi. If I had to say one thing, I've noticed not from David but from many conservatives, there has been a sort of branding of San Francisco Democrat, okay. And you know San Francisco is a liberal city. And San Francisco has been for clean air and it's been against offshore drilling. But the subtext there is, it's gays. Real men and real women are Republicans and gays and that type are Democrats.
And I really think, if one wants to look at San Francisco Democrats, I look at the Texas Republicans. Okay. The Texas Republican platform calls for abolishing the Federal Reserve board system, returning to the gold standard, recapturing the Panama Canal, at the same time abolishing or terminating the Social Security system completely, and taking the United States out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the United States. Now I guess if Nancy Pelosi is going to be held accountable for no smoking provisions endorsed by San Francisco Democrats, maybe Tom Delay and George Bush and Dick Armey ought to answer to the Texas Republican platform.
DAVID BROOKS: They stand on the Eerie Canal.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, David, Nancy Pelosi was on this show last night, and she said, look, I understand the difference of being a member of Congress -- even a member of the leadership and being the leader, and I am going to be leading a consensus and I know the difference. From what you know of her, do you think that's the case? Or do you think as some have charged and in fact she had some opposition from the moderates in the party, that she is going to try to pull the whole party farther left?
DAVID BROOKS: No. I think the party is where she is in the House, it's a liberal party especially in the House. And she is a very smart and effective politician. So I don't think she will become someone pulling the George McGovern -- pulling the party radically to the South. The problem with me, and I've spent a lot of time with Democrats this week, I still don't know what they're smoking. This, the one part of the Democratic Party that doesn't yet exist is the war part of the party, the foreign affairs part of the party.
There is a lot of talk and a lot of very intelligent talk about the party needs to be more clear, needs to be more aggressive in saying what it really believes. That's all very true, but they were down 42 points and who do you trust on security, and if the American people don't trust on you security, it doesn't matter what you say about prescription drugs because they don't hear that. And so far, I haven't really seen too many Democrats, and really I don't see Nancy Pelosi coming to grips with this. Foreign policy has not been her strength.
Tony Blair is out there as the model for how you handle this thing if you're on the left. And yet I just haven't seen it in the Democratic Party coming to grips with foreign policy and defense. It's as if they don't want to talk about these issues; they want to talk about the issues that are their genuine strengths: education, health care.
MARGARET WARNER: And briefly, Mark, even on this show last night, Nancy Pelosi didn't want to pick any fights on military or national security issues, just on economic.
MARK SHIELDS: Nancy Pelosi understands it is a Democratic Party that is domestic. David is right. What you are seeing right now is a fascinating civil war on the Republican side over those who have quite frankly opposed to inspections. Some of David's colleagues at The Weekly Standard and others are very upset at even going to the U.N., so I think we have maybe a shortage of policy on the Democratic side and too many policies on the Republican side.
MARGARET WARNER: On that note, thank you both.