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Political Analysts Discuss Terrorism, Connecticut Senate Race

Columnists Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the plot to set off explosives on U.S.-bound airliners and Sen. Joseph Lieberman's loss in the Connecticut Democratic primary.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

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

    Well, gentlemen, quite a week. Let's talk about the domestic political ramifications of the thwarted terror plot, Mark.

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, I mean, certainly it works immediately to the advantage of the Republicans and to the Bush administration. Out of all the measurements, the president's handling of Iraq, the economy, health care, foreign relations, he gets relentlessly negative marks. This is the one where he has been even and, in some cases, even got majorities giving him approval.

    So this is where the Republicans would like to have the debate be rather than on all those other areas, especially the war in Iraq. And I think, Margaret, that the question is how long it lasts. I mean, it does have a relevance because it was going to be here. It wasn't Spain; it wasn't London; it was going to be here. There were identified planes and all the rest of it.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    There would have clearly been a lot of Americans killed.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That's right. But what we have not seen is the longstanding political momentum or traction gained from the capture of Zarqawi, from the elections in Iraq, and all the rest. So I think that's the question that remains politically at home.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Do you see it that way, at least short-term advantage Republicans?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I guess so. I guess, short term, disadvantage politicians. I mean, I think what struck a lot of people about what happened this week was that they had arrested the guys at 2:00 a.m., and by 2:05, the Democrats and Republicans are issuing highly partisan attacks on each other.

    And it was just — you know, give it a day. Let people throw out their toothpastes. And so I think that was just over-political. Give us a break for a day.

    But then an interesting debate has crystallized over the past 24 hours, which is Republicans are happier to talk about the arc of extremism, the broader problem of Islamic fascism. And then the Democrats are happier to talk about narrow — or not so narrow — but the problem of Iraq and the Iraqi civil war.

    And so when the issue is on the broader problems, the Republicans are happy; when it's on Iraq, Democrats are happy.