Shields and Brooks on Obama's Nominations

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - January 11, 2013

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

Welcome back, gentlemen.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Afghanistan. The president met with Hamid Karzai today at the White House.

David, what do you make of this announcement or sense now that they are going to try to get U.S. troops out of a combat role quicker than expected?

DAVID BROOKS: I guess I'm mostly impressed by how little resistance there is to us hitting the exits, maybe even quicker than what we heard about today.

Some of it just budgetary. We just can't afford it. But I guess I have two concerns. One is what happens to schoolgirls there if the Taliban takes over part of the country.

And, second -- and this goes to the whole mood of the country right now -- suppose something happens abroad, and we have to do something expensive around the world.

Where is the money going to come from for that? Where is the public will going come from? I think the mood of the country, it's not isolationist, but it's, don't bother us now. We got problems here at home.

And it's very unlikely that we will go eight years without having a major foreign crisis that will cost us something. And so when that crisis comes, will we turn around and say, OK, we're broke, but we're going to spend some money to do this?

JUDY WOODRUFF: So more arguments for getting out sooner?

DAVID BROOKS: I think right now there is no resistance. The president could pull everything out, as Ben Rhodes said, and there would be some people on Capitol Hill who would raise some questions, but among the country, very little resistance.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

MARK SHIELDS: I think David is right about the lack of resistance.

I think there is a sense, Judy, that, regardless of 25,000 troops, 30,000 troops, that that is -- it amounts to a corporal's guard. And it reminded me of what Sen. Ernest Hollings said about Ronald Reagan sending 1,800 Marines to Lebanon, too few to fight, too many to die.

And, of course, 241 of them were blown up in barracks in Beirut. But I just think there is -- there is not a sense of mission in Afghanistan today. There is not a -- and I think that contributes to the willingness to leave.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And so this debate, it sounds like it is all but over. It's about when.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I don't know what will happen on Capitol Hill. But I'm not sure that there's the political majority or even sizable minority in the country is going say we want to you stand up and fight to maintain 50,000 American troops in Afghanistan.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So the man, David, the president wants to oversee the withdrawal, the drawdown and the withdrawal, is Chuck Hagel to head the Pentagon. We talked about him last week. You said then that you thought it would be hard to get him confirmed. Do you still think so?

DAVID BROOKS: Did I? I have changed my mind.


DAVID BROOKS: Well, I was right then.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Giving you a chance.

DAVID BROOKS: But reality has changed, so I'm also right now.


DAVID BROOKS: Which -- I think he's going to get confirmed. There is Republican opposition.

Some people are saying it is up to Chuck Schumer, the senator, the Democratic senator from New York. He holds a key position. The idea that Chuck Schumer, who is one of the senior Democrats in the Senate, is going to vote against Obama's defense secretary, seems to me infinitesimally small. So, I think he is pretty likely to get it.

I think the one thing that strikes me with these picks, with John Kerry, with Chuck Hagel, is that, like Obama, they were among the least social of senators, that they have the similar profile, probably more intellectual than the average senator, but they were not Joe Bidens going around shaking everybody's hands. They were very solitary people.

And so we have gone from a team of rivals to a team of loners. And so they are very similar temperamentally.

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