Shields and Brooks on the Week in Politics

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - January 4, 2013

Make a Comment

Listen: MP3

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

 Welcome, gentlemen.


 JUDY WOODRUFF: So, before we talk about this process of what's happening here, assuming these news reports today are right, Mark, and it is going to be Chuck Hagel the president nominates for Defense, good choice or no?

 MARK SHIELDS: I think Chuck Hagel comes with enormous strength for this position at this time.

 First of all, I mean, the question is always raised, you know, is anybody able to run the Defense Department? He was a co-founder of Vanguard Cellular Systems, ran -- was a president and CEO of USO worldwide.

 But nobody -- Leon Panetta, who has been, I think by all measures, a great secretary of defense, or certainly an outstanding secretary of defense, had no similar background. But I think what Chuck Hagel brings to the administration, in addition to his great credibility from his own military experience in combat, where he saved his brother's life, and his brother saved him, after he requested to go to Vietnam, with orders -- he enlisted in the Army, Chuck Hagel, with orders to Germany.

He instead went, enlisted, insisted on going to Vietnam. And he said that there he vowed that he would make sure the United States did not go into wars without thought, reflection, with all the elements to it. And that has been the hallmark of his foreign policy. It's always dangerous, Judy, in this town to be right on matters in which the established authorities are wrong.

And the established authorities were absolutely wrong about the nuclear capability and capacity of Iraq. Chuck Hagel raised red flags about that at the time, even though he did vote for the war. But he publicly went on. And so I think there are questions about him, but he's a Republican. It's bipartisanship. He brings, I think, credibility as an enlisted man.

I just think that there's a lot of strengths to him, and, plus, he's an interesting and thoughtful man.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of strengths, David?

DAVID BROOKS: I more or less agree with that.

I spent -- first -- on three subjects, first, his integrity. I spent a lot of time with him during the Iraq war, and I didn't agree with where he was going, but he followed his conscience, he followed the evidence, and he did the hardest thing that is -- one of the very hard things, which is to be unpopular in your workplace.

And he was extremely unpopular with Republicans and with Democrats because he was going off on his own course. And I thought he showed great courage and integrity, even though I may have disagreed with him. On the substance, he's a realist. He's -- more or less, his views are similar to Colin Powell's, I would say.

I think that puts him very much in the part of the foreign policy establishment. The idea that he is beyond the bounds on Israel or any other subject is simply not true. He's a realist. He may not agree with you if you want to do more humanitarian interventions, the way Susan Rice actually would have, but the cautious use of power, but a pretty muscular use of power.

As for the management, that to me is the open question. He did run a business. But we have had two great managers in a row. We had Bob Gates and Leon Panetta.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Managing the Pentagon.

DAVID BROOKS: Managing the Pentagon.

And this is going to be a time that is going to require incredible management skills, because it will mean reducing the Pentagon budget, while cutting things that should be cut, and not being outfoxed by all the people who are going to want to keep programs on the Hill and within the building.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, how do you explain this big campaign against him, and the second in a row after Susan Rice?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, part of the realism is less of a moral and ideological commitment to Israel, and more of an effort to rebalance our position in the Middle East.

I think there is some genuine element to that. And so I do think he is a bit a part of that. He has been part of some organizations that have run articles, you know, about the Israel lobby that have talked about an apartheid Israel. So he has been associated with some people who have said some reasonably inflammatory things.

That's not to say that he believes all that. So, I think that is sort of at the heart of all this. I do think it will be hard to get him nominated -- or get him confirmed, because the Republicans, as Lindsey Graham said, aren't there. And a lot of Democrats -- he is a Republican, so a lot of Democrats are not quite there either.

MARK SHIELDS: He's got incredibly widespread support, I mean, bipartisan support, I mean, just in the national security field, Frank Carlucci, who was national security adviser to President Reagan, Brent Scowcroft, to both President Bush 41 and to Gerald Ford, national security adviser, and General Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's national security adviser and a great security scholar, and General Jim Jones, who was Barack Obama's.

I mean, it is across the board. It is Paul Volcker. It's Tom Pickering. It is Ryan Crocker. It's really widespread. I do think that there is some people -- he wears no man's collar. Chuck Hagel is not someone who is absolutely predictable and you're going to -- he is going to be with you 99 percent of the time and say what you want.

And I think there are some people who view any criticism of whatever the administration is in Likud as somehow disloyal to the state of Israel. If you say what the Labor Party in Israel says about Benjamin Netanyahu in this country, you would make yourself vulnerable to charges of anti-Semitism in some quarters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, if there was a fight over -- if there is a fight coming over Chuck Hagel, there has been an even bigger fight for the last weeks, months, David, over the fiscal cliff, and whatever it has been called since we first heard about it.

Is the country better off because of what this Congress passed finally at -- on New Year's Day, the day after New Year's?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, no, I think we are immeasurably worse off. I think it was a complete failure.

Read Full Article »

Latest On Twitter

Follow Real Clear Politics

Real Clear Politics Video

More RCP Video Highlights »