Shields and Brooks on the Economy

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - October 8, 2010

JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, good to see you both.

David, I'm going to start with you.

Go back to the news of the day, the jobs report. The stock market rallied, but it is still pretty bad news.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I can never figure out the stock market.

It is bad news. I mean, politically, it's bad news. This is the last jobs report before the election. So, there is no -- going to be no uptick for Democrats. It will enhance the sense of pessimism -- 65 percent of Americans think this is a country in decline.

And I don't think that is right, but this will sort of enhance that. But, you know, just substantively, I think there is actually some -- there is a process that we're going through. We had a couple decades of just big debt. And now people are actually beginning to save. The savings rate is up to 6 percent. The financial corporations and the finance houses are beginning to store away some money.

So what we are doing is rebalancing our balance sheets, getting some sort of sustainable debt level in order. And that's just going to take a long, long time. But the good thing is, if you want to look for good things, is that we're going to have a new economy. We're in that birthing process, where we have a more sustainable debt load, but we are now paying for 20 or 30 years of high debt.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, how do you see the effect on the elections?

MARK SHIELDS: Bad for the Democrats, Judy, who are looking for good news. And David is right. It is the last before the election. It is an economy that has only produced on the average 100,000 jobs a month, which is not enough to even meet the population growth, let alone to make any dent in unemployment.

And for the 15 million Americans who are unemployed, 42 percent of whom have been unemployed for more than six months, it's another blow.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, anything that can -- is there anything the Democrats can say about this to help themselves?

MARK SHIELDS: I mean, the only way I think they do it is the way that Speaker Pelosi did today, is try and draw it between, we're fighting for the middle class and the other side isn't. And that is the only message that seems to make any sense for Democrats at this point on the economy.

DAVID BROOKS: It should be said, this is a global issue. If you look at Europe, you look at Japan, we're not the only ones facing this problem. The debt crisis went up high all around the world.

So when you look at it globally, you come to the conclusion that governments can have some effects, but there is only so much a president or a Congress can do. Nonetheless, in election after election, voters take it out on the party.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Another big story today, Mark, the turnover at the White House, General Jim Jones leaving as national security adviser to the president, his deputy, Tom Donilon, stepping in. What is the backstory here? There was the report about what the defense secretary, Bob Gates, had said to Bob Woodward.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I state a bias. I mean, I know Tom Donilon, have for a long time, and like him. I like Jim Jones. And Jim Jones was sort of unique in this White House.

National security adviser, Judy, is a unique position. Cabinet officers represent departments. They have other constituencies besides the president. Now, the only constituency the national security adviser has, beyond obviously the mandate on national security, is to serve the president.

And so the relationship does matter deeply, how close and how comfortable it is. Jim Jones didn't want the job. Unlike most people in White Houses, who scheme and dream and plot to get there, he had to be asked to do it. And he -- this is the first administration that -- David could correct me on this -- since World War II when neither the president nor the vice president has ever worn a military uniform.

And he was the anomaly in the White House, 40 years as a Marine, commandant of the Marine Corps, combat veteran of Vietnam. There was a culture, I think, of unease with some. And it began with sniping.

There was a lot of sniping at Jim Jones. And I guess what bothered me the most -- I mean, it's the president's decision, certainly -- and Tom Donilon is an enormously capable guy -- is that never once, with all the sniping going on against Jones, most of it from inside the administration, did he ever ask the photographer to come in late at night as they are poring over the plans and the...


JUDY WOODRUFF: Never did the president ask.

MARK SHIELDS: The president did or a walk between the two of them at Camp David to sort of put the lie to that, and say, he's my guy and we are close.

So, I think it wasn't -- a relationship that never worked the way that both of them hoped.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it say anything about change in policy?


DAVID BROOKS: No, I think this happened a long time ago in fact, but just not in name.

I think for a number of months now, the president has gone to Donilon first for advice. He has trusted him more, has a better relationship than with Jones. Jones has been sort of just sidelined on some issues.

And so, this, it was just a matter of personal chemistry. And I have to say it was a cultural mismatch for a lot of reasons. One, this White House really loves the big intellectual policy debate. And I think Jones' tone wasn't really in sync with a lot of those debates. And I put a little onus on Jones.

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