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Obama, Clinton Face Off; Gonzales Testimony Challenged

As presidential hopefuls Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., take aim at one another following a Democratic debate,
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may face perjury charges. NewsHour analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the week's political events.

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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, how do you view the push to investigate Attorney General Gonzales on perjury charges?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    I think it's authentic. I think it's genuine. I think — on both sides of the aisle. I don't think it's just partisan nitpicking on the part of the Democrats.

    I do think that it's an issue that has risen to a level of far more intensity here in Washington than it has in the country. I don't get a sense that it's crossed over beyond the Beltway and that Americans in Earl Pomeroy's district in North Dakota are exercised about it…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Has it crossed over to you, David?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I guess it hasn't. I was just out on the campaign trail, and certainly nobody is asking about this subject. I do think — I don't know whether it's perjury or not. I don't know what this moving target, this intelligence program was.

    But I would say for anybody paying attention to this stuff, it certainly is not something that makes your government proud. It's pretty clear that Gonzales is — I don't know if he's committing perjury or lying. He's not telling you the sort of stuff that you'd want to know after hearing the story of what happened in that hospital room.

    And I just think it's a continuing drain on the administration. Like everyone else in Washington, I can't believe why they haven't gotten rid of this guy.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    The Justice Department is in shambles, it really is. And as an indication of that, when four Democratic senators, led by Chuck Schumer of New York, made a request yesterday in a public forum for a special prosecutor, they had to send it to the solicitor general of the United States, Mr. Clement.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Explain who he is.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, he's a very…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    No, I don't mean him personally, but the office.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, he's number four. I mean, you couldn't send it to Gonzales, because you're asking for the attorney general, to get the attorney general. McNulty is leaving. The third one is there on an acting basis, so they had to go to Clement, who's got a great reputation. He's a very conservative guy, but straight arrow, and everybody says how competent he is.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And his job is to represent the government before the Supreme Court, as his number-one job.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That's right. And it tells you something about, you know, where the whole chain of command is.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I mean, I believe in a strong presidency. And at some instinctual level, I'm with Gonzales on protecting the power of the presidency. But if you want to establish the foundation for a strong presidency, you've got to tell the Congress the truth, and not only the legal truth. You've got to be honest with them, or else you will never get a strong presidency, because they will never trust you. And right now, the Congress is completely right not to trust Alberto Gonzales and, with him, the administration he works for.