PBS's Mark Shields on the GOP Presidential Field: 'They Don't Have Anybody'

On the PBS NewsHour Friday night, the show's liberal commentator, Mark Shields suggested the Republicans have no one to challenge Barack Obama: "The reality of the CPAC meeting is that there's 11,000 people there at the hotel registered for this conference. They're a constituency in search of a candidate. There is -- I mean, usually, it is a candidate looking for a constituency. They want to beat Barack Obama, but they don't have anybody."

In 2007, liberal commentators treated the Democratic field like an embarrassment of riches. They couldn't even be truly embarrassed by Dennis Kucinich. But now the Republicans have "nobody."

Naturally, PBS's allegedly conservative commentator David Brooks agreed: "I personally think there are really very few plausible candidates." He joked that Donald Trump would be the GOP nominee, then suggested Sen. John Thune was promising...because he was "an extremely good-looking guy." He said John McCain likes to say if he had Thune's face, he'd be president. Shields also slammed CPAC for failing to discuss Egypt all day:

SHIELDS: What impressed me the most of all there was what they did not discuss. As the world was dominated and riveted on what was going on in Egypt, they didn't even address it in their speeches.

JIM LEHRER: Well, why do you think that is?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think it is a lack of self-confidence, surefootedness. They didn't know what they wanted to say. They weren't sure. The only one who was really critical that I saw was Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, who basically took the line that has been developed by both Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. And that was that the -- Barack Obama, by not supporting Hosni Mubarak in his hour of need, was turning his back on a great ally. And that -- that became the position. But there was nobody there really celebrating the moment of freedom and taking that, picking up that banner. And that -- that -- I think that does belie a lack of confidence, surefootedness, on a terribly important issue.

Brooks did not reply with the obvious rejoinder that Team Obama hasn't exactly shown "confidence" or "surefootedness" on Egypt, when their top intelligence officials wrongly proclaimed on Thursday that Mubarak had stepped down based on cable news channels (CIA director Leon Panetta) or wrongly proclaimed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is secular (James Clapper, director of national intelligence). Brooks picked up on Glenn Beck, saying his fears about Muslim caliphates in Egypt are "delusional" and "wacky" and siding with his old Weekly Standard colleague William Kristol.

This allowed Shields to claim that the revolution in Egypt was secular and yet a triumph for the public-relations face of Islam:

SHIELDS: Joyful, ecstatic. It's a -- it's bottom-up. This wasn't orchestrated from the top, no artillery, no carpet bombing, no IEDs, unlike Iraq, no -- no body counts, just a remarkable, remarkable, historic achievement.

And I think that it puts a brand-new face for those outside of the Middle East on Islam. I mean, this is -- al-Qaida hates what happened, is happening right now in Egypt. I mean, this is an -- this is an achievement of such signal proportion, you can't -- look, this is a, what, 90 percent Islamic nation.

And you look at Muslim faith, and you look at that right now, and you say, wait a minute, how different can they be? They crave democracy. They -- self-determination.

LEHRER: It was a secular -- it was a secular...

SHIELDS: Secular, better for their future. I mean, just a remarkable, remarkable moment, and encouraging.

Liberals claim that conservatives are too harsh on Islam, but they still find the word "secular" always "encouraging."

Shields also claimed that the House Republicans have clearly demonstrated their leaders are not as accomplished as Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her debut:

I think, Jim, what we see in -- there is a real problem for the Republicans in the House leadership, because any new leadership, when they take over, there is a question of, they're developing confidence in themselves, in each other, as a cohesive group.

And it just contrasts to when Nancy Pelosi took over the House, and with a Republican president, in 2006. In the first 100 hours or so, they passed -- they passed the -- a student loan bill. They passed an increase in the minimum wage. They passed veteran benefits.

I mean, and Republicans are kind of feeling their way along. And they are stumbling a little bit. I mean, John -- there is a question of confidence with John Boehner, how much he can have in his leadership, when -- when they can't count and they lose two floor votes this week.

And the freshman that David talked about, some 87 strong, are -- they have to be socialized. They have to be made part of a cohesive unit. And they're not -- they're not there yet. And they do want to cut. They want to cut bigger.

"They have to be socialized." Like they're incontinent puppies. This is how PBS types think about the people who now must be trained to keep funding PBS. House leaders didn't have a good week in counting votes. But the idea that Accomplishment arrived with Pelosi is a rich line. Just start with the idea that Pelosi came in to stop the surge in Iraq. Oops.

Finally, David Brooks suggested that CPAC (and the larger Republican Party)  is really becoming a haven for Ron Paul-loving libertarians, and social conservatism is waning:

BROOKS: These are true believers. And they will -- they are going to have a straw poll. And, traditionally, somebody like Ron Paul will win this thing. And so they want the hard-core stuff. And so -- and they want -- they want to establish principle. And the other aspect of this group, increasingly true of the party activists as a whole, is they are quite libertarian, not that interested in social conservative issues. And so they will tend to gravitate towards somebody like Paul.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis