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Shields and Brooks Examine Auto Plan, Blagojevich Case, Kennedy’s Senate Bid

This week, the White House announced an aid package to keep the Big Three afloat, and Gov. Rod Blagojevich denied accusations of plotting to sell President-elect Obama's senate seat. Mark Shields and David Brooks offer their analysis.

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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.

  • Their first subject:

    Governor Blagojevich of Illinois. Here's more of what the governor said today.

  • GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, D.-Ill.:

    Now, I'm dying to answer these charges. I am dying to show you how innocent I am. And I want to assure everyone who's here and everyone who's listening that I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way.

    However, I intend to answer them in the appropriate forum: in a court of law. And when I do, I am absolutely certain that I will be vindicated.

    Now, I know there are some powerful forces arrayed against me. It's kind of lonely right now. But I have on my side the most powerful ally there is, and it's the truth. And, besides, I have the personal knowledge that I have not done anything wrong.

    To the people of Illinois, I ask that they wait and be patient, sit back and take a deep breath, and please reserve judgment. Afford me the same rights that you and your children have: the presumption of innocence, the right to defend yourself, the right to your day in court, the same rights that you would expect for yourselves.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Mark, David — Mark, I don't know if you felt this way, but just watching it when he did this, this afternoon, seemed to be really enjoying himself. I mean, did you feel the same way?

    MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist: He did. I do think he complicates life for the Democrats enormously. I mean, he'd been a cartoon figure up until now. We'd only seen pictures of him, ducking in and out of the SUV, the state SUV, or read the transcript.

    And he came across — you can understand why he could have been a very successful politician on the stump, I thought. And I think that the only thing he didn't include was I want — when everybody is under oath, my accusers are under oath and I'm under oath, that's why I choose that forum.

    But I — while he didn't answer any questions, I think he put a human face on himself which he hadn't had until today. And I think he did complicate life for the Democrats.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Complicate life?

    DAVID BROOKS, columnist, New York Times: Yes, I didn't see it quite the same way. I mean, to me, the emotional highlight, he said all this stuff, and then he quotes Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If," which is, if you're being hated, you don't give in to hate. If people are lying about you, but you don't get into lies, keep your head…

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And, you know, I am a devotee of grandiosity, and so I expected maybe Santayana, Lord Acton, but if you've risen to the level of Rudyard Kipling, in my book — and the theme of that poem is he's the only honest man. Well, there's one honest person; everyone else is going crazy.

    And so if he thinks he's the only honest man, I give him an A-plus for grandiosity and bellicose poetry. I was thinking we were on the glide path to Dylan Thomas, you know, don't go gently into the night. So I thought it was a pretty grand, eloquent performance, and I would say completely unconvincing.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Completely — what about the question, though, that is beginning to float around a little more now? You know, maybe he only talked bad and maybe he didn't do anything illegal. Has that occurred to you, David?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Yeah, no, my paper had a front-page story on that point…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    I know.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    … quoting a lot of lawyers, and I think, on the narrow thing of the Senate, of filling Obama's seat, from what I can see of the evidence, there's a good case that all he did was talk like a parody of a Chicago pol.

    But it's not as if this is the only thing floating out there about him. If you've been around Illinois, you've been hearing stuff about this guy for a long time. And…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Four years he's been under investigation.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And the investigation is gigantic.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    The fact that he's been under investigation for four years is not proof of his guilt. I agree that…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Of course, they haven't made the case.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That case has not been made. But — and I agree that this is certainly not the only charge against him.

    But, you know, I do think that we're not going to see him go quietly or gently into the night. He has, in fact, I think, concluded, at least for the time being, that holding onto the office is the strongest bargaining chip he has.

    And I think this week has been an important week, because we've seen a couple of guys flip who were close to him, who are now — have entered guilty pleas in Illinois, who were close to him in the fundraising.

    So apparently Fitzgerald is trying to bring in — and the U.S. attorney there is trying to bring in the net around the governor.