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Shields and Brooks Debate Libby Conviction, Iraq Withdrawal

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted for perjury and obstruction of justice this week, while House Democrats debated a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. NewsHour political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss these and other events.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Mark joins us from New York this evening.

    Mark, to you first. The Democrats in the House trying — and in the Senate — but trying again this week to get some legislative language together to get U.S. troops out of Iraq by a certain date. Are they about to get their act together?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    I think they are, given the fact that the party is obviously not homogenous or a terribly unified group, but I think that this is probably a proposal, an initiative, Judy, that as many Democrats will agree on this as any other idea that could be proposed.

    And I think the problem that Nancy Pelosi faces as speaker is with her colleagues and comrades in arms philosophically, and that's the left of the liberal, antiwar wing of the party.

    And I think that, if anything, they may have been brought in to support for this new idea, this new proposal, by the White House's statement that the president intended to veto it, which, of course, then makes the case that it is not a toothless, meaningless resolution, if the president is so upset that he's going to exercise the second veto of his presidency.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    David, do you think they'll be successful, the Democrats this time?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    Not in passing it, no. I mean, this was a case where they actually had the opportunity. In private, there are a lot of Republicans who would love to get out tomorrow, and in private…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Really?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    … there's a lot of disunity within the Republican Party. Believe me, you sit around with those Republican senators, they're all over the map.

    But the Democrats actually made it easy for them to be lockstep on this because it seems to them like a partisan exercise. And I think there's some justice in that.

    I mean, they're arguing about whether to get out at the end of 2007, 2008. But the fact is, there's a surge going on now, and we'll probably know by summer whether it's working or not. And if it's not working, then everybody will want to get out. And whether we have a resolution now about the end of 2007 or end of 2008, it's somewhat abstracted from that reality.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark, has it really come down to that, where they're just arguing over whether it's this month, or that month, a few, six months later?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    No, I don't think it is, Judy. I think that, on one side, you've got an open-ended commitment on the part of the president, resistance on the administration's part for any limitation, any test, any benchmarks, that either the administration that we have to achieve in our own success or that the Iraqis have.

    And I agree that it's a political document, as all political statements are and initiatives are, ultimately. But I think it contains elements that make it very difficult for the president to veto it and for Republicans to oppose it.

    For example, $20 million more for Walter Reed, and another billion dollars for brain-injured troops, but even more importantly, an insistence that the president certify that the troops who are going over there have the best equipment, the best training, and the most safe body armor and vehicle armor available.

    And if, in fact, improvised electronic devices continue and the explosions continue, I think that is going to put the Republicans in a very difficult position, if the president has certified that the equipment is the best we can do and just waives that requirement.