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Analysts Assess Upcoming Congress, Democratic Agenda

Democrats are hoping to push an ambitious agenda during Congress' first 100 hours. Political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the upcoming congressional session and House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi's plan.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    A divided nation, Mark. Can Nancy Pelosi be a healer, in the context we were talking about earlier, about Gerald Ford and others?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Probably not. I mean, she can be speaker of the House. She can certainly start a healing process.

    You know, I think, if Gerald Ford were the speaker of the House, he probably wouldn't preside over a House where only he'd bring legislation that had a majority of his own party before he brought it. He would seek across the aisle.

    I think that's the test of healing, in the process and the good faith. But, first of all, I just thought that was a terrific piece that Spencer Michels made and this group did.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    … that Spencer Michaels did. He had some great old footage. My goodness.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Great footage. Great footage. And he really did.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Well, describe what you expect, in terms of style and approach, from this speaker of the House.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Nancy Pelosi is a political anomaly. I mean, she did not go into politics in an electoral way until she was 47 years old.

    I mean, you think about these people who, you know, literally do start running for the state legislature or wherever else until their last child is in the last year of high school. She wouldn't do it; she wouldn't work full-time outside the home.

    And she — I mean, the rise is rather phenomenal, in that sense. I mean, she came to Congress in 1987. She's now the speaker of the House.

    There's two things about her that are fascinating. One, obviously, the highest-ranking woman ever elected. I mean, she's third in line for the presidency.

    But the other thing — and you can't forget it — is she's Italian-American.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And that's important?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    It's important because every minority group waits for the first of its own to get there, and there's a sense of acceptance. There's a sense that, well, people are going to have to look at us differently.

    The sense of pride in the Italian-American community about Nancy Pelosi is — irrespective of — the same was there for Mario Cuomo. It's there for Rudy Giuliani, as well. There's never been an Italian-American running for president. So, in that sense, she's the highest ranking Italian-American.

    I think how well she does perform — I mean, she presided over a Democratic Party, it was the most united — according to Congressional Quarterly, which keeps tracks of these things — of any party in the Congress in the past 25 years, but that was in opposition to George W. Bush.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You're talking about when she was House minority leader.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    When she was House minority leader.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Right.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I mean, but it takes great discipline to do that. It's a lot different when you're in the majority, I mean, to hold that same kind of discipline in your ranks.

    And she's got to prove in the next two years that the Democratic Party is capable of governing, of moving the country, and of moving legislation that people see is in the benefit of the nation.

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