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Congress Elects New Leadership, as 2008 Campaign Begins

Political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the leadership elections in Congress including Speaker of the House-elect Nancy Pelosi's support for Rep. John Murtha for House majority leader as well as the possible landscape for the 2008 Presidential campaign.

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

    And something caught my eye in the president's visit to APEC. He was asked if there was any lessons from Vietnam that could be applied in Iraq. And he said, "We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile. Yet the world that we live in today is one where they want things to happen immediately."

    David, was he suggesting that, if we just stayed longer in Vietnam, we could have won there, too?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I don't know if I — I doubt he'd say that. I mean, that was a long debate, which I am not qualified to comment on, on the military possibilities of Vietnam. There's certainly a theory that the insurgency campaign turned around at the end and they became waging it more successfully. I don't know about that; I doubt the president has studied that.

    I do know that, within the White House, there is a lot more discussion, a lot more openness to various options in Iraq than ever before. There are some people who want more troops; there are some people who want less; there are some who think that a civil war is inevitable and we should just pick a side; there are some people who think the Maliki government is something they can have confidence in; there are other people who have no confidence in it; and then there are a lot of people who want to talk to Iran.

    And all that is new, and all this has come about, I think, since the election. It was like a shock through the White House. Steve Hadley went over to Iraq, the national security adviser, and they're having a real, open debate. And I think it will all settle down in about 10 days.

    But this is sort of new within the White House, where they've had constricted debates. Now it's pretty wide open. And I don't know if they'll come up with any good solutions. Probably not. But the debate has changed in there.


    Mark, you ask the president whether there's lessons about Vietnam for Iraq, and he says, "We tend there to want to be instant success in the world."

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, Ray, the Iraq-Vietnam comparisons are as inevitable as they are unwelcome at the Bush White House. I mean, we were lied into both wars. There was official deception — intentional, historians can argue about, but there was no question we were lied into both wars. They were both characterized by overly optimistic predictions and projections on the part of the administration.

    And as George W. Bush goes to Iraq — goes to Vietnam now for the first time in his life, he goes having not unlike Lyndon Johnson facing the political realities of 1968, when public support for his war in Vietnam had eroded, just as the support here at home for the war in Iraq has eroded. And the president has demonstrated in the elections, he's changed his secretary of defense, just as Johnson did, and brought in realists who are talking about new policy.

    And I just think the comparisons to the quagmire are inevitable, and I think they're not inaccurate.


    There is one interesting phenomenon that's always interested me about Iraq. Liberals were basically right about Vietnam, and yet it de-legitimized their foreign policy standing with the American people for a generation afterwards. And I think that's in part because people are focusing on — they say, "Maybe you were right about the last war, but are you tough enough about the next war?"

    And that sort of is the issue that's coming up. One of the things that's happened, as Democrats advocate withdrawal, is they begin going against a lot of the generals, like General Zinni they've been quoting for the past couple of years, who now say, "You know, we can't withdraw. As bad as it is, we can't withdraw."

    And so Democrats, too, have to think about their long-term reputation on foreign policy, and it becomes just much more problematic.