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Shields, Gerson Reflect on Historic Year, Challenges Ahead

After a year that saw a global economic crisis develop and a historic presidential election take place, Mark Shields and Michael Gerson look back on 2008's news highlights and discuss what to expect in the year to come.

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    Now, with some end-of-the-week and end-of-the-year analysis, NewsHour regular and syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, sitting in tonight for David Brooks.

    Welcome, Michael.

    And welcome, Mark, as always.

    Let's start with the big political news of the week, which was finally the release of the report, the internal inquiry that the Obama team did of its dealings with the Illinois governor, Blagojevich, over replacing Obama in the Senate.

    Mark, what did you make of the outcome? And how do you think they handled it?

    MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist: Well, I think, first of all, anything they do is going to be measured, inevitably, against Senator Obama's repeated promises of transparency and greater openness.

    And Greg Craig, who was the designated White House counsel for President Obama, conducted this interview. We've seen interviews before, investigations where the in-house counsel has done them, but he was under enormous pressure, I think, strong incentive to be totally forthcoming, Margaret, because, A, it's his first. He has to honor that pledge.

    And, most important of all, all the conversations probably are on tape. So if anybody leaves something out, there's a good chance that Patrick Fitzgerald, rather than corroborating the report, will contradict it, and that would be a disaster politically.

    But I think they've done a good job. They didn't rush it out. I think they took enough time. It wasn't dilatory in their presentation. But the proof will be when Patrick Fitzgerald comes forward.


    And the conclusion, as we know, was that there was no, quote, "inappropriate contact" between anyone in the Obama team and anyone on the Blagojevich team.




    Michael, this was their first exercise in crisis management. How do you think they did?

    MICHAEL GERSON, Washington Post columnist: Well, you know, I think they did fairly well. This is a case where we haven't seen nuclear revelations. I think that they did respond in a timely fashion.

    But it is, of course, a selfish report, not a report from a broader source. Autobiographies always tend to be pretty favorable.

    But it's a case where they need to keep a few things in mind. One of them is, as many people in the Bush administration discovered, Patrick Fitzgerald is a dogged, thorough investigator.

    Secondly, you know, many — as somebody like Scooter Libby discovered, sometimes the mistakes are made not in the underlying crime, but in the investigation itself, and that can be very dangerous. Any time you talk to the FBI, it is a very serious thing.

    And, you know, I think, lastly, one of the problems here is that the governor's defense team seems determined to drag in the Obama team, as they think it's going to benefit them and as they do this.

    And so, you know, the reality here is I don't think it's a massive crisis, but I also don't think it's over.

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