SHIELDS & O'BEIRNE
November 28, 1997
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Kate O'Beirne, Washington editor of the National Review, examine the political fallout from this week's major news stories, including the Iraq standoff and the APEC summit in Vancouver.
MARGARET WARNER: Our political analysis comes from NewsHour regular and syndicated columnist Mark Shields. Paul Gigot is off tonight. Joining Mark tonight is Kate O'Beirne, Washington editor of the National Review.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
December 8, 1997
Participate in an Online Forum on the state of the Asian economy.
November 26, 1997
A look back at the APEC Summit.
November 25, 1997
U.N. Inspector Richard Butler discusses the latest in the standoff between the U.N. and Iraq.
November 21, 1997
Shields & Gigot on the Iraq standoff.
Browse the Shields & Gigot index.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle East.
The APEC summit: The political component.
Mark, let's talk first about the Asian currency crisis. The President spent most of his week out at this APEC summit in Vancouver trying to deal with this Asian financial crisis. Is there a domestic political component to this?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: I think there's a big one. First of all, let's remind ourselves what used to happen at these summits. The United States would go in and get lectured, beaten about the head and shoulders because we had these huge deficits. Japan would sit there and sermonize to us, and, you know, other countries say, what's wrong with you people. That's no longer the case obviously. The United States is in a unique position right now. We are not only militarily the strongest and unchallenged leader of the world. We're economically the strongest unchallenged economic leader of the world. And everyone looks to us. And they're looking to us, and there is a component, I think, domestically in two respects, Margaret.
First of all, there's a certain resistance resentment on the part of some Americans against the Asian miracle. We've been lectured too about how wonderful Asia was because they paid workers 2 cents an hour. There was no government interference. The market policies worked, and all of a sudden they came a cropper. So there isn't a real rush to bail out on a lot of people politically. And the other factor is there is a moving populism, not simply Democratic but Republican. John Kasich, chairman of the House Budget Committee, putative candidate for president in the year 2000, is running against the International Monetary Fund as corporate welfare, that this is a bailout of the well off. And so I think there is--I think the politics there--whatever the president decided to do, or does decide to do, is not going to be easy to sell politically.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree?
KATE O'BEIRNE, National Review: Well, I do. The--IMF is pretty widespread. That's not a new phenomena on the side of Republican conservatives. They have long charged that the IMF subsidizes people for bad business decisions. I mean, the market should punish bad investments and reward success, and the IMF, of course, steps in far too often and bails out people for those bad decisions. Secondly, they impose very often wrong measures. First, they tighten down and force countries getting their help tighten down. So and typically to the IMF, which of course the Republicans did fail to fully fund this time around it's pretty widespread. The bigger problem on the Republican side, it seems to me, and here Bill Clinton's been pretty good, talking up free trade, which he did again in Vancouver, which I think is critically important; some younger members not nearly being as committed as more senior Republicans or certainly Ronald Reagan's days, to an aggressive free trade agenda. They have--there's some work to do on their side of the aisle too. They--overwhelmingly--2/3 of them supported the fast track authority, but younger members are less persuaded.
MARK SHIELDS: I think this is a political consideration at home, though, because the followership of the Republican Party is a lot less free trade than is the leadership, and you'll see surveys--including Frabezio-McLaughin's running up to 2/3--Republican pollsters--up to 2/3 of Republican voters having grave reservations about untrammeled free trade. And that, at the same time, I think, it puts the Republicans somewhat in the position the Democrats were on bussing a generation ago, where the leadership of the party was committed to school bussing across county lines, and school lines, and the followership of the party said, hey, no, no, that doesn't appeal to us; that doesn't make sense.
Using the Asian crisis to promote fast track.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Kate, some White House officials were out in Vancouver telling reporters that they thought the Asian currency crisis would help them persuade Congress that they needed fast track authority to open up these markets more. Do you think that's true?
KATE O'BEIRNE: I think those who opposed fast track are not going to be persuaded by what's going on in Asia. We're just fortunate ourselves, the U.S. economy, that we're not very dependent upon exports to Asia. If anything now, capital's leaving Asia and coming to the United States. The public I think will be unsure as to how what's going on in the Asian markets is going to affect us, but they seem, based on how the market's doing, to maintain their confidence in our own economy, which I think is well placed. I don't think this is going to help them with their--unfortunately--isn't going to help them with their agenda they need to get that fast track authority.
MARK SHIELDS: It's going to run up the trade deficit I think in the short run, Asia's troubles. It's going to increase, make exports cheaper for them--for us to buy theirs, and at the same time, it's going to make it tougher for us to sell there -- to them, and tougher for American manufacturers to sell in this country.
MARGARET WARNER: So what does that do politically?
MARK SHIELDS: So politically I think the trade deficit widens and could go to $150 billion--the estimate is for 1998, and with 2/3 of that coming from the Asian countries. I think there's a greater resistance at the same time. I think obviously it's a boom for American consumers for lower prices, but I think it could be a bust or at least a burden for American manufacturers.
KATE O'BEIRNE: Our export economy is not very dependent upon exporting to Asia. I think, if anything, it should heighten need to be able to negotiate more with Latin and South America, because they're much more important trading partners to us, than is Asia.
The Iraq situation: What's the President to do?
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's turn to Iraq. Now, Mark, last week, you said that you thought the administration had really handled the situation pretty well, and that it looked like it was going pretty well. The inspectors were being allowed back into Iraq. Now, given what's happened and not happened at the U.N. and in Iraq, do you still feel that way?
MARK SHIELDS: I don't think that this is the shining moment in American leadership of the world. I think Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, was given very, very limited parameters for the way in which he could work, and I don't think there's any question that the coalition has been losing its enthusiasm for sanctions, losing its enthusiasm for quarantine of Saddam, and I don't think there's anything the President, quite frankly, could have done on that.
MARGARET WARNER: You mean, he had to take the deal that the Russians offered--
MARK SHIELDS: I think he had to take the deal--getting back in. I think there's no question that the failure of Saddam to allow the inspectors did enable us to hold the Security Council, but I don't think the long-term prospects of containing him--Margaret, the biggest problem with Saddam, it strikes me, as pointed out this week, was not the threat to the United States that he represents. I mean, he is not going to drop anthrax in Des Moines. It's to his neighboring countries. And they--is where there seems to be minimal alarm, and I don't know how the United States can organize an Arab coalition or a Pan Arabic coalition or general Persian Gulf coalition against Saddam when that apprehension doesn't translate into a desire for collective action.
MARGARET WARNER: So if Saddam Hussein continues to deny the weapons inspectors' access to all these sites they'd like to get into that he calls his palaces, what's the President to do?
KATE O'BEIRNE: Well, he's thereby shown that he can flaunt a U.N. resolution, get away with it, which is a terrible precedent to set. President Clinton's mistake was he put as his highest priority unanimous backing from the Security Council. Well, of course, then he can only act to the degree of the most reluctant member of the Security Council's willing to act. If he shows the willingness to act unilaterally, which George Bush communicated back in 1991, we shouldn't forget--I mean, he had the resolve to react unilaterally. Saddam's neighbors, of course, have stuck right in his neighborhood. They're going to want to appease whoever they think between ourselves and the U.S. and Saddam. It's going to be the ultimate victor. At the moment in the short-term at least it appears to them Saddam won this round, in which case their instincts--because they're stuck right next door to them--is to appeal--appease Saddam.
If they thought our leadership was reliable and resolute, there's every reason to believe people would rally to the courts. You know, if Secretary Cohen keeps going on TV and fighting us all to death, showing us bags of sugar, or a drop of liquid that could wipe out the entire world, if we're serious about, if they're serious about the fact that Saddam Hussein is developing these weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deliver them, he has to be removed. There's no alternative. And if U.S. leadership has to step up and rally these reluctant allies to our cause, so be it.
MARK SHIELDS: I think that, Margaret, nobody would argue that China, France, Russia are enthusiastic about sanctions, our policy of containment towards Saddam. Even Great Britain, the staunchest of allies to the United States, was cautionary in its approach to this problem. I think there's been a little too much talk, not from Kate but from others, about Munich and that this is a sellout and all the rest. And I have to say I don't know anybody who seriously thinks the United States is going to invade Iraq, occupy Iraq, and, you know, so what are--we're limited to further--without full coalition support, and 500,000 troop and a several ship armada--we're limited to bombing again, and we did it for 43 days before. I don't know if it's going to have an impact this time. There's no question. He is--he has a united country behind him at this point.
MARGARET WARNER: But, Kate, do you think the administration is making any headway? You mentioned that Sec. Cohen's gone on TV, other Pentagon officials saying this guy, Saddam, is creating a lot of dangerous chemical and biological weapons, or at least we think so. Obviously, they're trying to make the case for something. You think they're doing it effectively, or not?
KATE O'BEIRNE: I think evidence is the American public would rally, as they often do, to a President who's facing down a bad actor, who's seen as opposing our interests. The President doesn't seem to know whether or not he wants to make that next step, you know. We're all now concerned. I think the public broadly supports the notion that he poses a serious, potentially fatal, threat. What's the next step? That seems to be what the administration is unable to answer.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you both very much.