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Analysts Debate Deal on Terror Suspects, Congress Approval Ratings

Political analysts discuss the agreement between the White House and GOP leaders on handling terror suspects, and recent poll numbers showing low approval ratings of Congress.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Mark, is this deal on detainees going to hold?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    I think it is, Jim. Last week, it was great news for the Democrats. As long as the Republicans were involved in this brawl…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Like this.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Absolutely, Democrats stood aside, uncharacteristically were silent, incredibly circumspect and discreet. But they, as a consequence, they lose any standing, really, to enter into the argument, I think, at this point. I mean, I heard Congressman Ed Markey today say that…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Democrat from Massachusetts.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    … Democrat from Massachusetts say it was unacceptable. But very few of the Democratic leadership have been heard from to question this deal.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    In the deal between the White House and the senators, the three main Republican senators, were there winners and losers, from your point of view?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I think on balance the senators were the winners. I mean, they got the Geneva Convention. It's going to be not reinterpreted by the United States. The president does have the right to decide to interpret it to some extent, but that power is granted to him in the Constitution. And if he makes anything specific, it has to go into the federal register and Congress has the right to oversee.

    Lindsey Graham certainly won. The evidence that's going to be shown to a jury is going to be shown to the defendant, which is the one thing he was worried about.

    And then there were a whole series of negotiations about what constituted grave breach and things like that. And I think the bottom line is that water boarding, a lot of that stuff will not be allowed. Now, there will be some rough stuff allowed, I mean, sleep deprivation for a certain period of time, but I think on balance the Senate won.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Do you agree?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I do. I think it's a close edge, and I think it probably helps John McCain, who was caught in a very difficult and awkward place politically.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Why? Why? Explain that.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, because conservatives, who rallied to the president, who see the president's leadership on the war on terrorism being part and parcel of the holding of the detainees in Guantanamo, and the CIA prisons, and all of the rest of it, saw this as an insubordinate, if not in many cases treacherous, act toward the presidency. And John McCain has spent a lot of time at least trying to tamp down their all-out resistance to any campaigning in 2008.

    But having said that, I'd add this, Jim. I think a week ago we saw the president — and I commented on it, I think somebody else did, as well — that he looked…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Was it David Brooks?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think it was David. It might have even been you. You said he looked energetic, vehement.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Vigorous.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I mean, he looked really intent — vigorous, OK — in that press conference. And it played so badly, and that contrasted with the Colin Powell, General John Vessey letters playing so positively. I think the administration turned on a dime, sent Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, out Sunday on the talk shows. And then negotiations began.

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