JIM LEHRER: And that brings us to some thoughts from Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Mark, David, first of all, a kind of general sweep kind of question. Do you see this election result, I'm talking about the presidential election result, as a victory for George W. Bush or a defeat for John Kerry, which, I know it's both, but which is it most of?
MARK SHIELDS: A victory for George W. Bush because George W. Bush was the issue in this election. Nearly half of John Kerry's voters said they were voting primarily their motivation was to vote against George W. Bush. Overwhelmingly the people voting for George W. Bush were voting for him rather than against John Kerry. So he was the issue -- as it is the case when an incumbent seeks reelection but I think this year more than most.
JIM LEHRER: So David, if another Democrat had been the nominee, and then let's say a better candidate and had run a better campaign, do you think it would have been possible to have defeated George W. Bush and the kind of campaign he ran?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think Dick Gephardt probably would have done it; I think an orthodox Democrat would have done it. I basically see this election as tectonic, geological; up to 9/11, this country was tied 49/ 49. Post-9/11, I think if you look at the 2002 election, this election, it's 51/48, and that if you put an orthodox Republican against an orthodox Democrat, then you will get a 51/48 result if they run orthodox campaigns.
I think for the Democrats to get over that hump, they have to do something unorthodox. But I think basically you had a lot of people who were very firmly planted to their party who were not going to switch unless something strange happened and that the Republican people were just bigger than the Democratic people.
JIM LEHRER: What about just as far as the...
MARK SHIELDS: I disagree with that.
JIM LEHRER: You disagree with that?
MARK SHIELDS: Yeah.
JIM LEHRER: Go, go.
MARK SHIELDS: I think the easiest thing in the world when somebody loses a campaign is to say, well, the winners write history, especially write the history of political campaigns. You win a campaign, if George Bush had lost last night, which, you know, there was certainly a live possibility, Karl Rove would have been seen as the guy who lost the second term and almost blew the first one.
Now he's being genuflected all over town as an authentic genius. The people who ran John Kerry's campaign and Al Gore's campaign, we are going to get rid of them I've heard people say today. Winning a Democratic Party nomination, a Republican Party nomination, coming within an eyelash of winning the presidency is a pretty big campaign.
Could others have run -- the definition of the presidency changed on Sept. 11. Commander-in-chief became central to the job description of the president. John Kerry was the one Democrat in the eyes of Democratic primary voters who met that test and could be competitive, so I think the argument that John Edwards, who is a better campaigner, a more naturally gifted campaigner would have been a better candidate, Dick Gephardt, who I think would have been a better president than either one of them... would have been a better candidate.
DAVID BROOKS: That's not what I was saying though; I was saying the campaigns don't matter that much. I'm saying that people are firmly attached to party, to a sort of leader, and that the campaigns didn't move that because they were both so orthodox. I think they both ran good campaigns, both very professional campaigns.
JIM LEHRER: You don't think, you don't agree with Mark that the commander-in-chief issue was what essentially lost it for John Kerry?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, no.
MARK SHIELDS: It won the nomination for him, no question about it. I think it won the nomination for him, no question about it.
JIM LEHRER: I know. But he lost the election, and most of the polls show it was on that issue of war and all of that that they chose President Bush over John Kerry.
DAVID BROOKS: Right.
JIM LEHRER: In other words, for the opposite reason that... I'm making this too complicated, but John Kerry got the nomination because they saw him -
MARK SHIELDS: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: -- as... the Democrats saw him as a better commander-in-chief. George W. Bush won because they saw George W. Bush as a better commander-in-chief than John Kerry. That was my point
DAVID BROOKS: To me this goes to the discussion that we just had with the four people with Gwen, which was are we in a cultural war between the two sides or what are we in? To me we're not in a cultural war.
There are people like Rick Warren for whom social values are very important. There is a secular left for whom social values are very important and those are minorities, big minorities but minorities on either side. And for them, they really do have fundamental values difference.
To me, if you look at most people, whether they're in mega churches or they don't go to church, they don't see themselves involved in a cultural war. Some of the splits in this country run down the middles of families living identical lifestyles with similar cultures.
To me what this divide is about, and we have to be very careful about it because it's being exaggerated as Bible thumpers versus godless hedonists, but to me what the divide essentially is about is about an image of leadership, what sort of person should lead this country.
Some people take a look at a man of faith like George Bush and say, that's the sort of person who should lead this country. Some people take a look at the educated, more nuanced, more complex, more articulate John Kerry and say that sort of person should lead our country. And to me that's essentially what the divide is about. That's the constant that's run through several recent elections which explains the red and blue map.
MARK SHIELDS: I think the point I drew from Gwen's discussion, which was a terrific discussion were two, particularly Jim Wallis's point of the Sojourn. It's far more complex than the one-dimensional. It's the individual versus the communitarian.
If you say partisanism is essentially an individualistic religion, your relationship to God is individualistic and your moral acts really determine that relationship, whereas, communitarian and Catholicism have a far more communitarian concept, that your responsibility, your religious commitment is measured by your involvement in the community, your responsibility to those less fortunate and so forth, I think that's it.
I don't think there is any question that the Democratic Party has become a secular party. I think the Democratic Party to its disadvantage politically --
JIM LEHRER: You mean secular now on the personal part of this rather than in a societal part...
MARK SHIELDS: Secular in its approach to public life of the country. I mean, the country believes in separation of church and state. I think too many Democrats have gone to the point of separation of church and society. I mean, there's an awful lot of good that churches do. Just give the Salvation Army as a start.
But I think the central point of that discussion, Jim, was the two parties are very close. I mean, you had two candidates who were for tax cuts. You had two candidates who were for untrammeled free trade. You had two candidates who were against any restrictions upon immigration. You had two candidates who were for prescription drugs. I mean, it really was... I mean, the values is where the differences were drawn between these two --
DAVID BROOKS: Fiorina in that section wrote a book showing, it's not only these issues, it's abortion, it's gay marriage. Fiorina proves there's a middle there. There's sort of this mushy middle. People are ambivalent. And therefore the parties have congregated on a lot of these issues, but on other values issues they've gone off to their side.
And to me they've not gone off -- they've gone off the side on things we're not good at talking about, which are character and leadership. And people somehow when they see a person, they say that's a leader. When they see a George Bush or a Bill Clinton or a John Kerry, they have strong opinions. That's a leader; that's not a leader. But we're not good at talking about that.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree that character and leadership was -- picking up on what David said earlier and he just expanded on?
MARK SHIELDS: I have a problem with it. I really do, perhaps because I see George W. Bush and I don't respond that way. I mean, I see him as, you know, as somebody who obviously draws bold, defining lines; I mean, with us, against us. You know, you can't accuse him of being mushy. The country is pro-choice but anti-abortion. But the two parties are totally different.
One party is for unrestricted pro-choice and abortion, the other party is for imposing things and we're going to see a fight on it according to the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania who just sent a warning shot across the bowel of the White House not to send up judges to the Supreme Court who are interested in repealing Roe V. Wade.
JIM LEHRER: We'll pick up this conversation on Friday, but before we go tonight, just quickly, what did you think of the two statements by Senator Kerry and the president today?
DAVID BROOKS: They were very good. I think they were heartfelt and sincere. They are going to face a lot of challenges. They are going to hold out their hand to the mature members of both parties; they're going to be slapped way and there are going to be people in their parties saying you can't trust those guys.
We'll have a Supreme Court fight. There are going to be strong incentives not to hold out the hand, but I think they both know, the mature people in both parties both know they have to keep trying, whether they'll succeed or not, it's doubtful, but I do think this has to be seized.
MARK SHIELDS: The first line of John Kerry's obituary was written last night. John Kerry, Democratic presidential nominee, who lost in 2004. That is how publicly painful that moment is. It's beyond understanding. It's beyond comprehension to those who haven't been there, haven't been in a presidential campaign that has lost. And I thought it was an enormously poignant moment.
The irony is that the two most poignant moments of 2000 and 2004 for the Democrats were the concession speeches of the two candidates. It's when they connected most... Al Gore in 2000, which was a gracious, generous speech. John Kerry today, which for the first time I had a sense of him personally connecting with people - that your heart kind of went out and understood him. I thought that was really a rather remarkable moment.
JIM LEHRER: I had 30 more questions to ask you, and we will pick them up on Friday night. Thank you both very much for last night and tonight.