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As Congress Changes Hands, Bush Administration Undergoes Key Overhaul

As President Bush instituted major changes among his Iraq policy advisors, Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi requested early troop redeployment from Iraq. Political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the shifts and the newly sworn-in 110th Congress.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The specifics of all of this aside, the discussion we just had, in a general way, Mark, we're now about 24 hours into a new Democratic Congress, a Congress that has a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. Do you notice anything different?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Oh, I think so. I mean, I think Bob Walker and Martin Frost were both right. I mean, these are real changes.

    I think, Jim, it's practical. It's not that the Democrats are necessarily more virtuous or pristine than Republicans. We just went through an election where one of the great bromides of American politics was totally repealed, and that was, "I don't care whether people like the Congress as long as they like their individual member."

    And what we saw this time…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    They didn't like either one.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    … they didn't like either one. And the Congress was seen as corrupt, inept, unresponsive, incompetent, sleazy, criminal, and, finally, and not doing its job in passing bills, in legislation, in appropriations, in passing a budget, in overseeing the disaster that's Iraq. They've totally forfeited their responsibility in that area.

    And so, consequently, the Republicans paid for it at the polls. The Democrats cannot afford to have two more years people having the same attitude in 2008 toward the Congress.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    A new attitude, a new Congress?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    Right, new bipartisanship. It's like that old Woody Allen joke that the lion will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won't get much sleep, so the Republicans — but, no, I do think, in general, there are step forwards.

    I was struck — Jeff Flake, who's a Republican and a true reformer, said on the floor today, "You guys," pointing to the Democrats, "have done better than we did," which is to say the earmark reform, a lot of the reform efforts, the budget reforms, those are genuine steps forward.

    Now, a number of Republicans — and I think a lot of Democrats — would say there is still a ways to go. There were loopholes. There was lack of enforcement in some of this stuff. But, nonetheless, steps forward.

    I think everybody would wish they had gone through the committee process, which is how you're supposed to write legislation as opposed to circumventing that, but, nonetheless, a good day.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    It seems so simply done, and it was all because of the election, right? I mean, the election results caused everything to be done so — I mean, David Dreier from the floor was in the piece, saying, "Oh, well, we wanted to do this, and Dennis Hastert wanted to do this," but nobody did it until now.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Right, in part because the message hadn't been sent. And they're politicians. They really do respect that.

    I think if the shoe had been on the other foot and the Republicans had won this victory, they probably would have done some of that, too, but they got in a rut. The Republicans got in a rut where they couldn't imagine doing things differently. Even though people like Jeff Flake and David Dreier wanted to do things, the leadership was mentally just stagnant.

    And so, new leadership, fresh…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Jeff Flake wasn't in the same position that David Dreier was. David Dreier was the chairman of the House Rules Committee…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    The Rules Committee, right?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That's a very — Chris Shays, an authentic reformer, said the Congress…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    He's a Republican from Connecticut.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    … Republican from Connecticut — the House did the right thing. I just wish my party had done it, the Republican Party had done it.

    The Republicans, I just don't want to give them a total free ride here, when John Boehner…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Well, that's what…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    John Boehner of Ohio, the leader of the Republicans in the House, goes on, and he said, "What we really expect out of the Democrats is for them to treat us as they would liked to have been treated."

    Now, that's a new moral standard. I mean, it's not, "Do as I do." "Do as I want you to do that you should have done and would have done if you had been there instead of me." I mean, it's convoluted.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    It's going to take me 10 minutes to figure out what you just said.

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