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Analysts Discuss the Middle East Crisis and the Stem Cell Veto

Columnists David Brooks and Tom Oliphant discuss the continuing crisis in the Middle East and President Bush's first use of the veto on a stem cell research bill approved by Congress.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, the analysis of Brooks and Oliphant, New York Times columnist David Brooks and columnist Tom Oliphant. Mark Shields is off tonight.

    Tom, did you know all about the oil futures market?

  • TOM OLIPHANT, Columnist, Boston Globe:

    Some of it. It is amazing how many people will tell you that as much as a third of the price in the market is the result of speculative activity. I mean, it makes you wonder where the government is.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Yes. Well, the government is totally out — this market is completely free, is it not, David?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    Well, it certainly is, though oil in fungible. You know, it is affected by politics, and that's why we talk about politics and not just economics. They are kind of ruthless about the war in Israel, by the way.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    I know, to listen to them discuss the war, they discuss it in very, very clear economic oil-price terms. Yes, yes, not that we were not going to talk about it.

    And speaking of that, David, what kind of marks would you give the Bush administration, and particularly Secretary Rice, for how they're handling this situation in the Middle East?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I think they and she are actually doing quite well. I think they have two priorities. The first is to make sure Hezbollah is the loser in all of this, and that has to be if the Lebanese government is going to survive. And so they're waiting. They're letting Israel hammer. And we'll see whether that military effectiveness works, which is the key.

    But then their second strategy, which really hasn't been talked about that much, though if you talk to them on the phone privately this is all they're doing these days, which is to make sure the Lebanese government comes out the long-term winner. So you don't just have a Hezbollah loser, you have a winner, and that winner is the democratically elected government.

    And they're doing a bunch of things to try to make that the case. The first thing they're doing — and they're on the phone all the time these days — is to get the moderate Arab governments, the Saudis, the Jordanians, and the Egyptians, together with the Europeans and us to create a Security Council resolution that can send in international force, and then that international force will retake control of the south of Lebanon.

    The second thing they're doing is setting up the financial packages that will allow the Lebanese government to have something to offer the people of south Lebanon when the military thing is all over.

    And then they're trying to work out some — what they call outside issues. And I think Martin Indyk earlier talked about Shebaa Farms and other things, which would give the Lebanese government a chance to say…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Explain what that is.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Shebaa Farms is a very small bit of disputed territory between Lebanon and Israel. And the Israelis — and, indeed, the U.N. — says it's a totally bogus issue, but that's not the point right now. The point is to give the Lebanese some chance to say, "We delivered for you," so to give that government some legitimacy. And so they are working both sides, the military side and the coalition side.

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