TV Punditwatch: Cardinals Clobbered
Will VehrsFor the first time in over a month, the Middle East was not the absolute top issue for the weekend pundits. Criticizing the US Cardinals after their meeting in Rome topped the pundit agenda, while viewpoints and approaches varied on the latest Middle East developments. Pundits paid homage to the departing Karen Hughes.
The closest a pundit came to a positive comment on the Vatican trip was Bob Novak's suggestion that the Cardinals could still correct their mistakes at the June Bishops' Conference in Dallas. "I was incredibly disppointed," said David Brooks, referring to the statement from the Vatican meeting. "There was no imaginative empathy for what the kids, what the victims went through." Mark Shields, "a Catholic for a long, long time, like my entire life," agreed with Brooks. "What was missing was any sense of accountability for the hierarchy that moved these predators around to prey upon children. And I think that was not confronted in Rome. "
Margaret Carlson and Bob Schieffer were succinct. "Those Catholics loking for a miracle did not get one, " noted Carlson. "Why are they making this scandal so complicated?" asked Schieffer. "It must be stopped. A few sentences will suffice."
Schieffer also asked a blunt question on Face the Nation: "Don't heads have to roll to restore credibility?" Unfortunately, he didn't ask that question of his guest, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. George had a rough interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press but did better with the more genial Schieffer. It was obvious that Cardinal George did not have much experience with tough questioning and had not been schooled in the power of "talking points." He should study the "run out the clock" techniques of Father Richard McBrien and Father Richard Neuhaus, the guests who followed him on Meet the Press.
On the Middle East, pundits on the early shows--The News Hour and Capital Gang--repeated tired refrains. On Sunday, however, the Fox Panel and This Week's roundtable saw some daylight for a breakthrough as news from the Israeli Knesset and other developments with the Saudis were reported. "There is a possible peace plan," concluded Juan Williams on Fox.
This Week continued to showcase George Stephanopolous by leading with his interview of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal. The interview did not live up to the hype. Faisal thinks Sharon's response to President Bush's requests to withdraw is "strange."
Karen Hughes was hailed by the pundits.
Most powerful woman not married to a President in the history of the American White House. Happened not under enlightened liberal Democrat. Happened under a conservative traditional values Republican. --Mark Shields
Most influential White House aide since Michael Deaver. --Michael Duffy, Time, on Washington Week in Review
Karen Hughes not only was the most influential woman who ever served as a White House Aide to the President but she was that rare commodity, someone who's only agenda was the President's. --Al Hunt
The thing about Karen is that she was not a Republican activist, she is not an ideologue. She is just a Bush person, she is irreplaceable, and she won't be replaced. --Bob Novak
Most pundits do not think much of Hughes' chances to be influential after she leaves Washington. "It's hard to have the same influence without the proximity, " according to Cokie Roberts. Al Hunt agreed, calling proximity the "sine qua non of power and influence in Washington." Sam Donaldson boldly predicted that Hughes would be back as soon as President Bush ran into trouble.
Location, Location, Location
David Brooks didn't join in lionizing Karen Hughes. Instead, he explained where she went wrong:
You see this again and again in Republican administrations. They're afraid of Washington. They don't like Washington, so instead of moving to Annandale, Virginia, which is a normal American community, they go to northwest Washington D.C. where everybody is a lawyer, they send their kids to St. Albans, where you have got James Carville running class president campaigns, and then they find there is culture shock. Move to Annandale, Virginia next time.
Republicans and Democrats: The Difference
Republicans like women individually. Democrats only like them as a group. --Margaret Carlson
The J. Edgar Hoover-Karen Hughes Connection
After a catty Margaret Carlson mentioned Karen Hughes' shoe size, Mark Shields quipped,
They said after J. Edgar Hoover left a big pair of pumps to fill at the FBI, but I do want to say about that Karen Hughes, it is a testimony to George W. Bush that he not only had a strong woman and she was a strong woman in that job, but she was taller than he was and very few politicians like to have aides who are taller, let alone, taller women.
Cokie Roberts interviewed Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and was surprisingly tough, following up on questions about why he wouldn't work to repeal the tax cuts he opposes and why the farm bill is so laden with subsidies.
What Happened to the Energy Bill?
It shrunk. It started out like a Lincoln Navigator with all these extra features, and now it's a Honda Civic with an AM radio, mostly because it is easier to destroy than create because what you had was two lobbies on either side, right and left, who wanted to terminate the other side's pet projects. --David Brooks
Delayed At the Cash Register
Al Hunt was "appalled" by the closing press conference at the Vatican.
He [Cardinal Law] and Cardinal Egan didn't even show up at that press conference. They said they had another appointment -- last minute shopping at the Vatican gift shop? I mean it was really really outrageous.
But Could He Be Confirmed by the Senate?
I don't think some Republicans will be satisfied until George Will is Secretary of State. --Democratic strategist Bob Schrum, on This Week.
The Wit and Wisdom of George Will
The biggest French export is cultural snobbery.
[Saudi Arabia is] a freak of geology, a tribe with a flag.
No incumbent president has ever been defeated when his approval rating was above 47%.
Cheap Shot of the Week
Christopher Caldwell of The Weekly Standard appeared on Capital Gang to discuss French politics. Caldwell is CG panelist Bob Novak's son-in-law and predicted Jean-Marie Le Pen's rise in an article written before the election. Mark Shields called it "a terrific piece," but Margaret Carlson sniped:
I don't think this runs in the family, this really crack reporting.