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Shields and Brooks on the Week in Politics

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - November 5, 2010

JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight: the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Mark, what do you make of Nancy Pelosi's announcement that she wants to continue to lead the Democrats in the House?

MARK SHIELDS: It's a very human statement. I think that Nancy Pelosi, by any measurement, has been the most effective speaker, certainly of the past generations, and there never would have been a Barack Obama administration legislative program without her. And there wouldn't be a national health care bill.

And she became demonized in this campaign. And there were millions spent against her. She became a liability in many districts. And having been the architect of the Democrats' takeover of the House in the last two elections, she became the piñata in this campaign.

And I don't think she wants to leave. I can understand it at a human level, you know, skulking off the stage, having been vilified and demonized. And she would like this volatile era, perhaps to -- that it swings back in two years, and, as Sam Rayburn did in 1946 to '48 -- he was knocked out of -- in the minority.

But, you know, I think...

JIM LEHRER: And Sam Rayburn stayed as minority leader, did he not?

MARK SHIELDS: Sam Rayburn -- Sam Rayburn did. That's unlike most since then who have -- Newt Gingrich left when he lost five seats. But she's always been a better inside player than she has been an outside player. She is the inverse of Gingrich.

Gingrich was great outside. Gingrich was great at a lectern or on a TV show. He was terrible inside. He had a revolt of his own members. She is -- the caucus is now more liberal than it was, sadly, before last Tuesday's election, because many of the losses were sustained by Blue Dog Democrats, moderate to conservatives that she had recruited. But they lost.

And so there is not a question in my mind that she will be reelected if she wants to be. The question is, should she be, and is it in her historical interests, reputation, or is in the interests of her party?

JIM LEHRER: How do you -- what do you...

DAVID BROOKS: It may be in her interests. I understand not wanting to leave at the moment of maximum defeat.

I don't think it is in the party's interests. The fact is, if you are a Democrat running for Congress or the House in North Carolina, or Ohio, or Indiana, it is harder if Nancy Pelosi is the leader of your party in the House. She just has a reputation. She is from the liberal wing of the party. It is just harder.

And it's harder for -- it will be harder for her party to win back a majority if she is there. And it is a sign, I think, to me, that the party isn't ready to change. And maybe it's early. It's just been a few days. But if I were House members, I would want a new face. I would want at least a new face, and maybe a slightly new direction. But that doesn't seem much in evidence.

JIM LEHRER: Did you expect her to just step down?

DAVID BROOKS: Uh-huh. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

JIM LEHRER: You did?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I mean, I think, you know, she can go -- if she left now, which she's not going to do, but she could say: I passed major legislation. This will be on the books for the rest of our lives. And she can say: I accomplished this. We suffered a political setback, but the good of the party means that it has to be a different face.

Obviously -- and it's obvious -- she is a political liability, whatever you think of her as a -- her performance as a speaker.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with Mark that, if she wants to do it, she can do it?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, she is extremely smart and she's an extremely good speaker, I mean, tactically and legislatively. And so I assume, if she started off on this bid to win this job, minority leader job, I assume she can count the votes, and I assume she has got them in the bag.

JIM LEHRER: Well, do you agree that, that she would never have made this announcement if she didn't already have the votes?

MARK SHIELDS: No. I mean, she met with Steny Hoyer, her -- who has been the majority leader. His job is now abolished. There is no more leader on the Democratic side. There's a -- other than the minority leader. So, and she told him that. And he announced that he would not oppose her...

JIM LEHRER: As speaker -- I mean, as minority leader.

MARK SHIELDS: As minority leader.

JIM LEHRER: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: But, no, I think you have to look at it in this perspective. Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, those have been the three leaders of the Democratic Party. Who has been the most effective in the past two years? I don't think anybody could argue.

JIM LEHRER: From the Democratic point of view.

MARK SHIELDS: From the Democratic point of view.

JIM LEHRER: Liberal Democratic point of view.

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