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Shields and Brooks Mull Torture Flap, Cheney’s Reemergence

Columnists Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the top news of the week, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments on torture tactics and former Vice President Dick Cheney's remarks on policy direction.

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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.

    David, what do you make of the — of Speaker Pelosi's news conference about the CIA and waterboarding?

    DAVID BROOKS, columnist, New York Times: I thought it was pathetic.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Pathetic?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    That's the other word I would choose. Listen, I think, in 2002-2003, she was caught up in a climate a lot of people were caught up in where either they didn't object or they thought it was the right thing to do, it was something we needed to do, because of the sense of an imminent threat.

    The climate has changed. A lot of people's opinions have changed. And so she was told — and we now know for sure — in 2003, early 2003, about some of this stuff. A colleague of hers, Jane Harman from California, a representative, wrote a letter in protest. Nancy Pelosi didn't.

    And I think if she had said, "Now, you know, times change. It was wrong. I should have been against it," in my view, that would have been the honest response. Instead, she's chosen a whole series of explanations with decreasing credibility. And the last one was the worst.

    To say the CIA was lying, to attack President Bush was just either a partisanship, and it was dishonorable, because you're attacking the people in the CIA. And I'm glad to see Leon Panetta struck back at her. So I thought it was — it's just been one bad and very, I mean, dishonorable course that she's taken all the way down.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Dishonorable course, Mark?

    MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist: No, I agree that the press conference was certainly something that she never would have done, should have done. It was really…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You mean have the news conference or the way she conducted it…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    The way she conducted it.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    … or what she said? Yes, OK.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    It really was. I mean, understand this, first of all, about Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi is not a message politician. She is not — Newt Gingrich was a message politician. He was a communicator of ideas and this.

    She is a brilliant, tough, inside politician in the House of Representatives. I mean, you don't get to be speaker of the House unless you are, and you certainly don't get to be the first woman speaker unless you're five times as tough. And she's protected her Democratic majority.

    I agree with David that it was a miserable performance yesterday. I don't think her criticism of the CIA — the jury is very much out on that. I mean, the CIA's response was that, "We never mislead the Congress."

    That was at the very same time that the director of the CIA was saying it's a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and the capacity to deliver them on the continental United States. So, I mean, let's forget that about deceiving or misleading the American people or the Congress.

    But that said and that acknowledged, I do think that the mistake that is made right now for the Democrats — this is not where they want the debate to be. I mean, Dick Cheney has done a service to his party. He's a lousy messenger, because he's 5-to-1 negative…

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