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Economic Strategy, Stem Cell Policy Top Week’s News

Columnists Mark Shields and Michael Gerson weigh the news of the week, including President Barack Obama's approach on the economy, his decision to lift restrictions on stem cell research funding, and more.

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    And to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is off tonight.

    Gentlemen, good to see both of you.

    Mark, you're in New York. I'm going to start with you. New efforts over the last day or so by President Obama, his administration, to boost public confidence in the economy, in what lies ahead. Are they striking the right tone?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, I think it's important, Judy, that the president, in addition to being the commander-in-chief, also be the empathizer-in-chief, that he understands what people are going through, and, to some degree, the inspirer-in-chief.

    What you want to avoid is that overly rosy scenario where, "Tomorrow morning, everything is going to be better." And I don't think that has been part of the message, but it is necessary for the leadership to try and inspire confidence, both in their policies and the course being pursued.


    Michael, is it the right tone? I mean, they've been criticized for being too downbeat; as Mark says, they can't do the rosy scenario.

  • MICHAEL GERSON, Washington Post Columnist:



    What should they be saying?


    Well, you know, as a former speechwriter, I believe in rhetoric, but I believe in reality even more. And the problem here is that the president has not been particularly reassuring on the major economic challenge we face, which is the credit crisis.

    The administration has not intervened in a decisive, effective, credible way on this set of issues. People don't understand how it's going to work, how they're going to get from here to there. That seems to me the largest sap of confidence in this system, is, in fact, a substantive one, not a rhetorical one.


    Mark, you agree, not reassuring?


    I think it's reassuring, Judy. I find some of the criticism of the president rather interesting in this sense, that a number of commentators, columnists, pundits, even some who've graced this show, have expressed disappointment in the president, somehow that they attributed his victory to great personal qualities or superb campaign or maybe a rejection, a referendum on President Bush's policies.

    And it's very much — the reaction is very similar to that of Democrats when Ronald Reagan won, and that was that Ronald Reagan had won because of his personal qualities, that people liked him, but they didn't endorse his policies.

    Well, Barack Obama has not done anything as president of the United States that he did not stand for and endorse in his campaign, whether it's in health, in education, in taxes in particular, where he wants to return to — my goodness — the runaway rates of the Clinton years, the most pro-business Democratic president in the 20th century, and, you know, in education.

    So I think there's a disappointment which was totally misplaced in the criticism of the president.