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Brooks and Marcus on Obama's Nobel Prize

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - October 9, 2009

JIM LEHRER: And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus, New York Times columnist David Brooks, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away tonight.

David, share your views on the Charlie Rangel thing to us.

DAVID BROOKS: I agree with my editorial board...

DAVID BROOKS: ... which is actually kind of rare sometimes.

Yes. No, he should step down, certainly as chairman of the Ways and Means. Now, whether other Democrats act, the guy has got to look himself in the mirror in the morning. He basically writes the tax code, has got the most powerful job in the country probably for writing the tax code.

He keeps discovering $500,000 here or there, apartments, Dominican rental properties. It's just one thing after another. He just doesn't help the integrity of the country, faith in Congress, faith in institutions. There just should be some personal standards to say: This is not good. I have got to step down.

JIM LEHRER: Ruth?

RUTH MARCUS: I think his personal standard is, he is the chairman and he's not giving that up, because he is an incredibly powerful figure.

His power actually is only going to get greater next year, when -- not only -- because not only does he have jurisdiction over health care, in part, but we're going to have to deal with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. And who is going to be at the center of that, if he is still chairman? And I somewhat suspect he will be. Charlie Rangel.

So...

JIM LEHRER: So, you -- what do you think of Amy's point, Amy Walter's point, that the Democrats are the ones who really have a problem here, staying with Charlie Rangel? Do you think -- do you agree with that?

RUTH MARCUS: Well, it doesn't help.

I mean, each party has its cross to bear, right? The Republicans seem to be specializing these days in sex scandals and paid-off mistresses. And the Democrats seem to be specializing in ill-gotten cash and financial questions.

It is not a good thing when the chairman of your tax-writing committee has tax problems, can't get his financial disclosure forms straight. It's also not a good thing when your treasury secretary has tax problems.

And, look, it will be used against Democrats. Is that the biggest problem they're going to have in 2010? Probably not. Is the Ethics Committee report going to be done? Nobody should ever bet on quick action from the Ethics Committee.

JIM LEHRER: So, you -- you think he's going to -- he will survive this?

RUTH MARCUS: I -- that was a pretty blistering Times editorial this morning. The Washington Post editorial board, which I happen to agree with, because I'm part of it...

JIM LEHRER: And one of your fellow columnists in The Washington Post also took a similar position, Gene Robinson.

RUTH MARCUS: Right. I -- that -- that adds to his discomfort. It adds to the discomfort that some of his colleagues may feel. But I still think it's going to take a lot to dislodge him.

JIM LEHRER: David?

DAVID BROOKS: I agree with that logistically.

JIM LEHRER: Logistically.

Suppose that coup...

JIM LEHRER: Including the speaker, right? The speaker...

DAVID BROOKS: Probably. But suppose that coup fails? Then you have just alienated the most powerful -- one of the most powerful people in your caucus.

So, it would take the president or somebody like that to really force him out. It would take this -- a giant conspiracy. And they probably do not want to have that kind of fight.

But I would say, I -- I think President Obama should think seriously about it. It's very hard to go against your own chairmen. That is always a problem. But I think it's going to be a significant problem in 2010, because people have -- people take these scandals, which may not be the biggest issues, but they see them as symptoms of a congressional reign of error.

And they loom large in elections. I was out in Yakima, Washington, a couple weeks ago. And people were talking about the government. And one of the things really leapt out of people, this group of people I was having breakfast with at a diner, was Tim Geithner not paying taxes. This was a huge issue.

And for reasons, it seems like those people operate by different rules. And it does have a -- I think a much larger affect than we might think.

JIM LEHRER: And you think the president needs to step -- not just the speaker, but the president needs to step up?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it's his -- he's the leader of the party.

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