JIM LEHRER: And now some analysis of this and other matters by Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
David, the president spoke about a message being sent to Gadhafi. Gadhafi got the message. What would you read into why Gadhafi did this?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think there are a number of reasons. The administration will say it was the context of Iraq, that was part of it; nine months of steady negotiation which showed there is a good way to do this and a bad way to do this. And I think Gadhafi has made a genuine change. I'm told that -- we already had a team in there and....
JIM LEHRER: In Libya?
DAVID BROOKS: Already had a team in there. Our team said we know what you have. Show it to us and apparently the Libyans said here's what we have and here's what we have that you don't know we have. And so that's a sign that they really have made a conscious decision showing us stuff we didn't know they had, that they really want to join the side of the axis of good. The other thing that's significant....
JIM LEHRER: Because they were in the axis of evil.
DAVID BROOKS: Almost. The other thing that's significant is that they didn't just invent these weapons. They got it from other countries. And I think now we will be able to trace some of the relationships they had with other countries, possibly leading to North Korea. So that's a ripple effect that will come off of this.
JIM LEHRER: Mark, how do you read the significance in this?
MARK SHIELDS: I was talking to one prominent Democrat when the news came out. And he said, you know, George W. Bush is only as good as tomorrow's headlines and tomorrow's headlines are going to be good. There is no question about it, Jim. It is good news: I think Tony Blair... it may truly turn out to be historic. Politically, domestically, not a lot of Americans have been losing sleep over Libya and they have to be reminded which one Gadhafi was, the one with the hair. And so I think in that sense, there is not the immediacy as there would be if this had been something like Iraq. But any way you look at it, it is good news for the United States, it's good news for whoever is president of the United States at the time. It happens to be George W. Bush.
JIM LEHRER: Sure. But what about the president's point that he had very pointedly in his, he made his point pointedly in his remarks just now that this happened because Gadhafi got the message of Iraq and this is... in other words, to give credit to this to the Iraq incursion. Is that going to sell?
MARK SHIELDS: It depends on how the facts bear out. But I mean certainly he is going to argue, and the big stick policy worked that struck fear into the hearts of tyrants will be the argument. I don't know if that was the case. I don't know if the nine months of negotiations are included. I know they began apparently at the time of the Lockerbie resolution, and the British played a major part in it. But, you know, whether in fact there was the fear that the 82nd Airborne, First Marine Division was going to land in Tripoli, that was the case? I don't know. But I hadn't seen that threat expressed in even a semipublic fashion.
DAVID BROOKS: The one thing that will come out is the Bush administration can now make the argument, we don't just bang the drums of war. We have other tools at our disposal in the war in terror we do it in some places this way we do it in other places another way. We prefer the Libya way. They can say that for the next couple of years. We prefer not to do the Iraq way but we are capable of both.
JIM LEHRER: Both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair said if this turns out to be as terrific as it appears to be, we will welcome Libya back into the international community. In fact, the president said they would have a good relationship with Libya.
DAVID BROOKS: I was struck he wasn't exactly embracing them. There was a lot of let's take our time and you show me. But I think they have to do that to induce the other nations who hope to follow the Libya example.
MARK SHIELDS: The president of the United States does not interrupt television on a Friday night to make... if that were not the case, if we were going to negotiate later the recognition of Libya, it would have been made in due time and due course by somebody else, secretary of state or somebody at the White House, Condi Rice. But this was big news. The president made it big news and this is a welcome. This is 17 years that they have been frozen out, not by Great Britain but by the United States. I think this would lead inevitably unless as Mr. Taylor said, they're playing against it. But there is no reason to play cat and dog.
JIM LEHRER: Particularly, as David said, we had a team in there. Speaking of big news for the president, it was just five days ago that we were talking about the big news, the capture of Saddam Hussein. How does it look five days later in terms of political impact, particularly on the Democratic presidential race which got all aflutter as a result of this?
MARK SHIELDS: It gave the president a lift. What was fascinating was the difference between --there are two poll numbers that really party at this stage of any campaign. They are the country headed in the right direction? Or is it seriously off on the wrong track, the second one is do you think the president, whoever he is, deserves reelection. The president's reelection numbers which were split, 46, 47 either way, went up. So that gave him a lift. And all of a sudden... and so did the right direction. I mean how long that lasts, obviously we don't know.
But it's always good news for an incumbent. As far as the Democrats are concerned, the stop Howard Dean movement, which has been organized about as well as a Chinese fire drill up until now, all of a sudden became galvanized. They said he had been the anti-war candidate and maybe for the first time, candidates who had sort of muted their own opposition to the war became quite vocal, and....
JIM LEHRER: Has it made any impact, do you think?
MARK SHIELDS: I don't think it has. I think that....
JIM LEHRER: Dean is still ahead.
MARK SHIELDS: Dean is the front-runner and I think the other attacks on Dean organized by a coalition of interests, labor unions and some of the other candidates, ran spots showing him, the image of Osama bin Laden. Two things happened. One, when you attack Howard Dean like that, it establishes and acknowledged that he is the front-runner. Secondly, when you are doing Osama bin Laden, it makes him sympathetic, if anything because it is such beyond the bounds and an unfair attack.
JIM LEHRER: How do you read it?
DAVID BROOKS: Dean is still ahead but there are some straws in the way. John Kerry is doing suddenly well in Iowa, according to a poll. If he suddenly crashes through and does okay against Dean in Iowa, that transforms the whole race. Dean's volunteering, the rate of people joining the campaign has flattened. That is a sign that possibly there is a ceiling. And there is a poll this week saying how many people in this country, registered voters, strongly dislike Bush or hate him, and that's 22 percent of the country. You can't win with 22 percent. And I think there's been - the establishment Democratic Party, as Mark said, has finally cohered into an argument against Dean. They're not driving for his jugular yet but their mixture of fear and what he may do to the party and attraction to him because of what he says is now much more complicated.
JIM LEHRER: What about the specific, his specific comment that drew a lot of heat from his fellow Democrats, which was that he did not believe the country was safer, our country was safer because Saddam Hussein was captured?
DAVID BROOKS: This guy could take jingle bells and turn it into a war song. He is bound to offend people with anything he said. He gave the speech which is, in many ways, a boring speech but he made this comment.
Yesterday he gave another speech where he said the Clinton administration was just about damage control because the Republicans were ascendant and the Clinton administration were just trying to control the damage. Well, the people in the Clinton administration hated this. Many of them really hated this and....
JIM LEHRER: They came down hard on him today.
DAVID BROOKS: That is the rift in the party right now between those who say the Clinton model is the right model, third way, centrist model, strong on defense, pretty strong on values, fiscal discipline versus the Dean model. The party needs to have the argument. I think it started with Joe Lieberman, but other candidates, I think, are going to be drawn into this argument and that's what we'll have.
JIM LEHRER: Can it survive this argument, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Sure it can, Jim. The party, you recall in 1980, great argument raging on the Republican side, George Bush former ambassador won the Iowa caucuses, Ronald Reagan came back won in New Hampshire. Ronald Reagan had a rather bizarre plan for cutting taxes and this was going to lead to a balanced budget and all sorts of things and George Bush called it voodoo economics. Democrats picked up the chant and if I recall, I think he was asked to be on this ticket with him and I think he made him vice president.
JIM LEHRER: I think you're right. One other subject before we go, and that's the two appeals court decisions yesterday one of them involving Jose Padilla, an American who's been held for 18 months as an al-Qaida person. That court said that he needed to be dealt with through the regular court system. Another decision by another court said that Guantanamo Bay detainees had the right to counsel and access to the U.S. legal system. Is this a huge setback to the Bush administration and its war against terrorism?
DAVID BROOKS: It is a setback, though apparently it's going to go to the courts. It is a fight --
JIM LEHRER: The Supreme Court.
DAVID BROOKS: The Supreme Court -- it's a fight over whether these people are enemy combatants or criminals. At the moment, I think we are in an incoherent position where we can bomb these people until they're dead but if we hold them without a lawyer, somehow we can't do that. And so somehow that doesn't make sense. One does sympathize that you should not be able to hold people in silence without lawyers. On the other hand, if this guy was going to blow up a dirty bomb in Washington, D.C. or New York, I want to be able to interrogate him without somebody reading him his Miranda rights. It's a new problem that we are faced with, with this new war.
MARK SHIELDS: I think, Jim, after -- ever since Sept. 11, the White House, the administration had claimed a sense of authority as commander in chief in wartime and the Congress, quite frankly, was complicit, compliant and quite docile.
The courts have kind of raised these questions and they're important questions, and, you know, once again, perhaps the most controversial and maverick in American politics, John McCain, crystallized it by going down to Guantanamo with Lindsay Graham, a conservative Republican of South Carolina, Maria Cantwell, a liberal Democrat from Washington, and raising serious questions about the detention in perpetuity without access to any legal counsel, without any charges being leveled against them, and, you know, if anything, was ahead of the courts.
JIM LEHRER: It really goes to the heart of who we are and we're under attack in one way but we have got to think of who we are on the other to defend.
DAVID BROOKS: I sort of sympathize -- it should not be -- criminal rules should not apply to this but there should be some rules. That's the problem, the Bush administration has said no rules at all.
MARK SHIELDS: It has been executive authority, really, run amok. And finally the courts said there is going to be a check... the Congress, there was no check, no balance, and no backbone. And the courts, to their credit, raised this question, forced us to confront it.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Thank you both very much.