JIM LEHRER: Yes. What about the selection of Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff? Do you have a view of that?
DAVID BROOKS: I think it's a good selection. It's a controversial selection, because many people see him as a very partisan figure and a tough partisan figure, and he has been. He has elected a lot of Democrats.
I think on balance it's a very good selection. And I say that, A, he has been partisan, but in that he's shown a great grasp of reality. The members of the House who he recruited to run, especially in southern and swing districts, are conservatives. And he understands where the country is.
JIM LEHRER: Blue Dog Democrats?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, and they're sometimes quite conservative. I got the impression sometimes every Iraq vet with a pro-life belief got a letter from Rahm saying, "Why don't you run for Congress as a Democrat?" Because he wanted those kind of people. And that's a sense of broadening the party.
The second thing I would say about Rahm is that he is a -- I think, a very moderate Democrat in his policy beliefs. He wrote a book called "The Plan" with a fellow named Bruce Reed, another moderate Democrat. And it's a sort of...
JIM LEHRER: Worked in the Clinton White House.
DAVID BROOKS: And he was also active in the Democratic Leadership Council and -- it is a Democratic plan, but it's not flaming liberal plan.
And then the third thing everyone talks about is sharp elbows, and he's an aggressive person. I think that's useful in the circumstance for two reasons.
One of the weaknesses I think Obama will have to overcome is that he'll want to throw out every decision-making process and think about every little nuance. And there will be no time for that, and Rahm will say, "Make a damn decision." And I think that's useful.
And then, facing the Congress. The chairmen -- it's not a question of left versus center. Chairmen have prerogatives. They have institutional interests. You're going to need a strong voice in the White House to sometimes step on their institutional interests and get people in line. And I think he's good for that, too.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I think Rahm Emanuel is a person of enormous ability, unique experience, having been in the Congress and then risen to positions of leadership there, having worked in the Clinton White House.
He's tireless. I don't think anybody knows...
JIM LEHRER: He was in the private sector for a while as an investment...
MARK SHIELDS: For a brief -- did very well. Did very well for Wasserstein and Company.
I don't think anybody knows what Rahm Emanuel's ideology is. He's a rather strong-minded nationalist on military matters.
But I would say this: What has been conspicuous about the Obama campaign is it's been totally free of drama of any sort. There haven't been any soap operas. There haven't been...
JIM LEHRER: You mean internally?
MARK SHIELDS: Internally. I mean, throughout, it's just been remarkably so, the equanimity of the candidate has been -- and the president sets the tone in every White House.
Rahm Emanuel is a three-act drama daily, and his greatest admirers would acknowledge that. Probably the best character witness he has is a wonderful retiring Republican from Illinois, Ray LaHood...
JIM LEHRER: From Peoria.
MARK SHIELDS: ... from Peoria. And Ray points out...
JIM LEHRER: He was on our program a week or so ago.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right. And Ray pointed out to me many months ago, years ago, that Rahm and he had sponsored a group of dinners together where they invited Democrats and Republicans who -- in current Washington, they don't get to know each other.
They go home. They get here on Tuesday. They go home on Thursday. They're on the same caucus. It's been a closely divided place -- where they could just kind of sit, and chat, and say -- find if each of them like baseball, or whatever, they've seen any good movies.
And Ray is a real Republican, a loyal Republican, but he always spoke glowingly about Rahm.
But Rahm, somebody's going to change. Either the Obama operation is going to change or Rahm's going to change, because, you know,
JIM LEHRER: Like oil and water you mean?
MARK SHIELDS: I just think Rahm's whole modus operandi was in the Clinton White House. And you can't have that kind of bombastic, I don't think, in a chief of staff at the White House.
DAVID BROOKS: The only thing I would say -- and there's certainly a point there -- he has not been a stranger to the Obama campaign. You know, he's been very active with Obama for the past many months, especially since Clinton dropped out and he could do it openly. They're close friends.
JIM LEHRER: Of course, he had worked in the Clinton White House, and he's tried to remain neutral during the primaries.
DAVID BROOKS: Right. And that was his posture, at least during the primaries.
But in the general, he has been very closely involved with Obama. So he's been -- he hasn't had the formal role, but I think it's an acknowledgment which I think is an essential acknowledgement. I personally don't think the Obama campaign has really made this transition from the campaign to the White House.
The campaign really can be very tightly controlled, kind of secretive, very message-controlled. The White House is just too big an operation. It's just a different beast. And I think bringing Rahm in will widen -- is an acknowledgment of that change.
MARK SHIELDS: I don't think it's a question of control at all. I think it's a question of tone. It's a question of temperament. It's a question of the way they run things.
And they don't run things, and they haven't run things in the Obama campaign where David Plouffe has been blowing up at people or David Axelrod has.
I mean, it's been -- and that's been enforced by Obama himself on a daily conference call with his staff. So, I mean, Rahm is somebody who just can't go 20 minutes without kind of exploding and letting you know exactly what he feels.