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Health Reform, Sotomayor Hearings Top Week’s News

Mark Shields and David Brooks consider the news of the week, including the confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor, efforts at health care reform and the shape of the economy.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

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

    Mark, where do you think health reform legislation stands as we speak?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Betty Ann Bowser's last point to Ray is crucial to this discussion. She said that, unlike the Clinton people, who presented the Congress with a full-blown piece of legislation with minimum consultation from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, George Mitchell, Bill Bradley, ranking experts on medical care…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    John Chafee was also…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    … John Chafee, 1994.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    They ignored him, yes.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Exactly, 1994. The Obama White House, in my judgment, has over-learned that lesson. They've let a thousand flowers bloom. And, you know, well, you know, don't worry, we'll kind of guide this with an invisible hand. It's crunch time right now, Jim.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Crunch time?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Crunch time, it is about to pass. Mark Leibovich, David's colleague at the New York Times, had a marvelous piece today about Ted Kennedy's absence. And Ted Kennedy brought to this debate, this negotiation something that's irreplaceable: an infinite capacity for understanding all the nuance to the legislation, but, more than that, knowing how to build a coalition, knowing how to assemble people from the other side, where to give, what the history was, where somebody was.

    He's irreplaceable. The only person who can play that role is the president of the United States. He has to insert himself full time, big time right now.

    Nobody knows right now what the nonnegotiable elements are in the Congress, I mean, what the White House insists has to be there and cannot be in it. So I just think it's time for him to go full bore and to emphasize that, if this goes down, Democrats in 2010, there's no safety for them. There's no asylum that they voted against it. The fate, fortune and future of their majorities and his administration rides on health care.