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Political Analysts Discuss Military Tribunals, Sept. 11 Anniversary

Analysts David Brooks and Tom Oliphant discuss President Bush's proposal for military tribunals for terror suspects, how Republicans and Democrats are using terrorism as a political tool and their views on the world since the Sept. 11 attacks.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to the analysis of Brooks and Oliphant, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and columnist Tom Oliphant. Mark Shields is off tonight.

    David, the president's secret prisons, 14 terrorists transfer, alleged terrorist transfers, announced, how big a deal was that?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I think it's a pretty big deal. I think it reflects a couple things.

    The first thing, obviously, is, there are some decisions that have forced their — their hand to be a little more open, but, secondly — and almost more importantly — change in the internal power structure of the administration.

    There have always been two these tensions in fighting terror, one, to kill the bad guys, two, to have some moral authority to win over people and to — to be a good citizen of the world. And the former camp was winning for about three or four years. And, for a number of reasons, the latter camp is now winning. And, if you want to put in it a shorthand, I would say it's the State Department winning over the vice president's office.

    But I do think there has been a slow evolution within the internal debates of the administration.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Do you see it the same way?

  • TOM OLIPHANT:

    Sort of.

    One reason that I don't think it has proved to be a big deal is that the political content of this move was drained almost immediately. Factually, there is no rush here. I mean, the procedures for trials could be agreed upon tomorrow, and it would still be a long time before there would be any trials.

    And, secondly, to the extent there's been a difference of opinion here, as David noted, it's been inside the administration. And it's also been between the president and Republicans in the Senate, and between the politicians in the administration and the uniformed military legal system in the Pentagon.

    So, I think, when all this was — happened on Wednesday, there was an expectation of politics that the reality underneath it kind of eliminated.

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