Saturday, February 11, 2006

Mark Shields [PBS]: Muslim Riots, it's all Bush's Fault?

MARK SHIELDS: …A sense [among] some Muslims that since the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq, that there's been a demonizing of their faith…
MARK SHIELDS: …legitimate grievance about double standards. I mean, we oppose any nuclear ambitions for any Muslim state. And yet we never mentioned the fact that Israel has nuclear capacity and that is just totally ignored.
The above is rather striking and it says something about the problems of the Democratic Party attempting to re-gain the White House, and to lesser extent, the problems that party has in re-gaining a majority in the House and Senate.

As is well known and conceded by Democrats, fighting terrorism and terrorists, and perhaps more broadly national security and national defense, are still big-time issues for Republicans. And, you don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to know that the presidency is in significant part, especially these days, about being Commander-in-Chief.

So, if the public at large feels much more comfortable with Republican leadership in fighting terrorism, they will have a strong tendency to support a Republican for President. And, the Democrats can have a lot of issues going the other way, and this will still be the case. The great majority of Americans still feel: if you are dead at the hands of a terrorist, it doesn’t help much to have a new and improved health care or educational system. [Further, the burden is on the Democrats to persuade the country that they can deliver on their promises to improve education and health care, in a cost effective way ]

Boys and girls, the terrorism threat isn’t a concern that is created by Bush’s top confidant and adviser, Karl Rove. This is just the way the country feels. Simply put, Bush, Hastert and Frist get it and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid don’t-- and Teddy Kennedy surely doesn’t.

So, you say, what does this have to do with the musings of old time liberal and syndicated columnist- Mark Shields, who weekly shares a soapbox with the somewhat younger and more sophisticated and urbane David Brooks every Friday on PBS’ Newshour with Jim Lehrer [The Newshour airs every weekday evening at 6:00 pm [CST], on WTTW in the Chicago metro area]. While still a conservative, Brooks is more of a center right conservative now that he lunches at the New York Times and serves as that liberal paper’s token conservative—and Brooks serves a similar function at PBS.

Although Shields is not, as far as I know, officially affiliated with the Democratic Party, close enough. And, what is Shields saying? While qualifying his statements a bit [See, below, including the link to the full transcript], Shields suggests rioting and violence by Muslims in response to a political cartoon is in some way attributable to “the demonizing of the Muslim faith,” which, of course, being a good Democrat, Shields suggests results from the “U. S. invasion” of Iraq.

Further, Shields implies, isn’t it awful that Israel might have a nuclear capability and yet we oppose “making things even by giving Iran, say, the nuclear capability.” Well, let me see, Mark, when is the last time Israel suggested Iran or any state, Muslim or otherwise, should be wiped off the face of the earth? Never. But, when is the last time Iran suggested Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe, last week? And perhaps a dozen other times in the last few years? Can Shields see that distinction, and the implications of that distinction for whether the nuclear capability by Israel might be a necessary deterrant to offensive military action by their neighbors? I don’t think so.

Mark Shields, unfortunately for more moderate Democrats, whomever they might be, trying to win a Presidential election, is the face of the Democratic Party. Would you buy a used car from that man? Would you buy a Presidential candidate whom he supports? Would the American electorate nationalize the congressional elections and vote, as Cong. Schakowsky [D-Evanston, 9th CD] would like, to give the Democrats a majority in the U. S. House, if Mark Shields, and his political friends, become the face of the Democratic Party? I don’t think so. Not in a million years.

But, don’t take my word for it. Ask DCCC Chairman and Congressman Rahm Emanuel [D-Chicago, 5th CD]. Do you think you will find the above musings of Shields in anything put out by Rahm Emanuel. I would very much doubt that. One, Rahm would like to have a Democratic Majority in the House and he knows Americans, by and large, don’t agree with Shields. Two, and more to the point, Emanuel doesn’t agree with Shields.

And yet there is Shields on PBS, providing “Democrat and liberal,” balance on The Newshour. Don’t discount that point of view in the Democratic Party. Indeed, Rahm’s problem is that many national Democrats do agree with Shields. Including, no doubt, many who work for PBS, not nearly the balanced institution it pretends to be.

Republicans hope they can ride the likes of Mark Shields to Victory in 2008 yet another time. In the Presidency, in the House and in the Senate. The Democrats may have corruption and the Jack Abramoff issue. But, the Republicans have anti-terrorism and the Mark Shields issue. It all evens out, and then some.
JIM LEHRER: Here in the non-Muslim world, how do you think the non-Muslim world has been handling this cartoon controversy, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Jim, haltingly. I think that what has emerged obviously is the great gulf between our western culture … and what parts of the Muslim world is greater than we I think calculated. … But I think there's also present here something very real, [I mean] the manipulation of the protest, [but] and that is a sense [among] some Muslims that since the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq, that there's been a demonizing of their faith.

JIM LEHRER: And this is just another sign of it?

MARK SHIELDS: And I think this is an indication of how far that feeling has come.

JIM LEHRER: Do you see -- are you as pessimistic as Mark is about seeing a resolution to this? Is this going to go on and on and on?

DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, I really would say it's not even about Iraq; this is about four or five centuries. It's really a group of people, some educated people have who gone back to the 13th Century, some who never left the 13th Century, but basically who have decided that the way we live with this barrage of ideas, the way we live our life trying to improve ourselves, is not the way they want to live their lives. They believe the truth has been revealed and the central epic in history is not progress; it's the conflict between the faithful and the invader, and the infidel and the Jew and the crusader, and that that's essentially the conflict they see and the conflict they long for.
DAVID BROOKS: The protest in London, the slogans and the signs were "Go to Hell Freedom"-- behead anybody who attacks Islam. [And], the imam in Copenhagen said they believe in freedom, we believe in the prophet, as if the two are totally opposed. You know, I do think it's not a clash of civilizations-- the West versus Islam, but these people who were the fundamentalists have opted totally out of our civilization and, you know, we've been sort of measured in how we respond to them which I think is silly. I mean, they are fundamentally opposed to the way we live; whether we're measured or not is not going to make any difference in their minds.

MARK SHIELDS: …And secondly, I'd say that there is in the part, legitimate grievance about double standards. I mean, we oppose any nuclear ambitions for any Muslim state. And yet we never mentioned the fact that Israel has nuclear capacity and that is just totally ignored. And I think that remains a sticking point and a very sore point-- that [sense] of a double standard that is applied to them-- by no way condoning, justifying, excusing the violence…

DAVID BROOKS: You know, there's political differences, obviously but what's at stake here is so much different. I think that the murder of Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch politician, the gay Dutch politician, who made this point, we can have multiculturalism or we can have pluralism, but we can't have both, with a subset of people that doesn't believe in pluralism that wants to enforce laws on homosexuals, on women. So you [gotta] make this choice and that's the choice Europe is making. I think they're feeling it much more seriously than we are but that's the choice they found they have to make…
The weekly Shields and Brooks segment, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, PBS,February 11, 2006. [See here] for a complete transcript.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at