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Shields, Brooks Mull Campaigns, Reflect on Russert’s Life

Analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks weigh campaign news as the race between Barack Obama and John McCain gains steam, and they reflect on the career of NBC's Tim Russert, who died Friday from an apparent heart attack.

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

    Mark, is this the week that the presidential campaign really started to take shape, we can see the outlines of it and the plans of attack?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    I think so, Ray. I think that, you know, we found out this week — most candidates revealed their tax plans — that we have a Democrat running against a Republican.

    I mean, John McCain's tax plan — John's a maverick, and I acknowledge his maverick inclinations and record — but this was about as solidly supply-side economics as you're going to get anywhere and as faithful to the orthodoxy of Republicans when it comes to raising taxes, which is not the third rail. It's the Eleventh through the First Commandments of the Republicans.

    But Barack Obama actually is going to raise taxes on one of his most dedicated, loyal and swooning constituency: upper-scale, higher-educated, well-off people.

    And, you know, it's kind of refreshing to hear somebody say, "Base taxes on ability to pay." It's sort of an old and established and, I think, valued tradition.

    But I guess what was missing in the whole debate was somebody to come up and do what was done 22 years ago, and say, "Hey, this system is rigged. I mean, we're just going to change it and tweak it here. Let's take the whole thing on frontally and overhaul it," like they did 22 years ago, with Ronald Reagan, and Bob Packwood, and Danny Rostenkowski.


    Over a long campaign, are we likely to see at least some chipping away, some more of what Mark wants to see?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    Well, they've talked about — McCain has talked about adopting the commission approach. And he's got an actually reasonably specific plan to totally gut the tax code, but that's certainly not what has come out.

    As Mark said, it's a pretty conventional race. You know, these guys are both, in theory, unusual candidates. And the Economist magazine, which is a very smart magazine, said they're the best America has to offer.

    But as Mark said, it's a pretty traditional, conventional race. On tax policy, McCain is for dropping the capital — the top corporate tax rate to attract more business. Obama is more for redistribution, taxing the wealthy.

    Even on the way the campaign is being run, there was some talk earlier, a couple weeks ago, that they would have these town meetings. McCain offered to have a bunch of town meetings.

    They've now gotten in a fight. Obama doesn't want to do that, maybe two or three. McCain is rejecting that offer. It's now looking extremely unlikely that we'll get anything unusual in the way the campaign is being run.

    So I'd say we're seeing a pretty traditional Republican-versus-Democratic race. Probably, on balance, bad news for the Republicans.