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Health Reform Push, Clinton’s N. Korea Trip Top Week’s News

Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the news of the week, including tensions in the health care debate and former President Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea to obtain the release of two U.S. journalists.

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    Finally tonight, the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Gentlemen, thank you for being here.

    MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist: Judy.


    Well, Mark, let's pick up on Betty Ann Bowser's report. What do you make of these protestors showing up at town meetings in congressional districts all over the country?


    Well, first of all, there are legitimate and authentic concerns about the plan and questions about the plan, and we see that in public opinion polls.

    But there is, I think, a danger here that civility becomes a sign of weakness and that the public debate is debased when I shout you down. It doesn't become a question of, "My opponent is ill-informed or just mistaken or has the facts wrong." It becomes one that, "He's illegitimate. He's part of a vast conspiracy."

    And I really think that's a danger. It has — obviously, I think the speaker, it's her fondest hope that there would be a communication, but I think that this has changed the debate from the merits of the bill and the proposals to a coverage now about the protests and the shout-downs and so forth.


    David, how do you size this up?

    DAVID BROOKS, columnist, New York Times: Well, first of all, I've been sitting at this table long enough to hate that kind of shouting. I hate it when they shout down Lloyd Doggett or whoever. I hate it when the Code Pink ladies would stand up at every hearing during the Iraq war and start shouting people down and have to be arrested and carried away.

    But I do agree that the concern is real. If you look at the polls, it's much broader than any astro-turf operation.


    The concern…


    The concern about health care reform. The polls right now, a slight majority are very suspicious of the basic approach. And if you compare where the polls are now to where they were when Clinton-care died in the 1990s, it's exactly the same. We are at the low point of Clinton-care already.

    And my suspicion is that will only increase, because the basic problem the proponents have is there's no good bill sitting out there. So the president is going to spend the month going around, but he has nothing actually to sell. And so that leaves him sort of empty-handed, which is one of the reasons I think they're sort of shifting attention to the protests rather than the bill.


    But is it a legitimate worry on their part that what's being proposed could lead to government takeover, which is what so many of these…

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