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Shields and Brooks on the Week in Washington

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - January 7, 2011

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

Well, here they are, a new Congress, the 112th Congress. What should we expect, sir?

DAVID BROOKS: Drama. I mean, you have got these guys coming -- men and women coming in who have a strong belief: Government is out of control. We're going to cut it back.

And then they're going to come into a constitutional system which frustrates clear action and forces compromise. They're also going to confront a series of bills, most notably the raising of the debt limit, which is actually going to force action and prevent gridlock to avoid a catastrophe.

And so they are going to face a challenge to be true to their principles, but to actually compromise in a system that frustrates clear action. And while the leadership is trying to force them to make these compromises inside the Congress, people like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin and some of the talk show hosts are going to be beating the crap out them.

And so this is going to be a very interesting few months.

JIM LEHRER: A very interesting few months, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think it will be, Jim. And I don't disagree with David's assessment, in the spirit of comity, of the new session, the new year.

JIM LEHRER: In other words, you agree with...

MARK SHIELDS: The gentleman -- the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

JIM LEHRER: ... the spirit of the new Congress.

MARK SHIELDS: I do. I agree with him.

But I do think that the real tension and the real drama is going to be on John Boehner's side of the aisle. I mean, he's got his hands full. The Democrats are probably more united than they have been. They are in the minority. That minority's role, is to be -- it's a lot easier to be united when are you in the minority.

But John Boehner has problems with those Tea Party folks.

JIM LEHRER: The Renaccis of this world?

MARK SHIELDS: And not simply Renacci. I mean, he is an example.

JIM LEHRER: Sure.

MARK SHIELDS: But I think that the freshman Republicans came here with the idea that to cooperate is to collaborate, and to collaborate is to be open to charges of not being totally patriotic and committed.

I mean, I think that's been the watchword of the Tea Parties.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I'm not convinced of that yet.

JIM LEHRER: No?

DAVID BROOKS: I mean, you take a guy like Renacci, who ran a business, was CPA. I find, so far, they tend to be, personally, quite impressive people. They have had careers. A lot of them were state legislators. A lot of them ran businesses.

They are not sort of wild-eyed people who were screaming at summer meetings about health care. They tend to have been leaders in their community. They were not -- remember, they were recruited to run for these offices. And it was Republicans in Washington who were recruiting a lot of these people.

And they recruited people who they thought would be estimable figures. So they do have strong beliefs. But I am not sure they are going to be totally 100 percent or nothing.

JIM LEHRER: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: When you have got people who are on record as saying they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling, I mean, that's not negotiable, Jim. That means...

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

JIM LEHRER: Explain why that must be done.

MARK SHIELDS: OK.

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