Daschle, Russert Duel to a Draw
Will VehrsTim Russert asked tough questions and Tom Daschle changed the subject. That was the highlight of the Sunday talk shows.
The major issue was the potential for an independent commission to investigate intelligence failures prior to September 11, along with the sub-text of since withdrawn Democratic criticism of what the President knew. The other top issue was the memo from FBI whistle-blower Colleen Rowley.
The Senate Majority Leader lead off on Meet the Press and a well-prepared Russert challenged him immediately with a Human Events article claiming Senator Bob Graham (D, FL) and the Senate Intelligence Committee had the same information the President did prior to September 11th. “It wasn’t all on one page like the President’s,” protested Daschle. To every Russert suggestion that perhaps the Senator might have known or might have inquired more into hints of a terrorist attack, Daschle changed the subject to the need for an investigation so that it “didn’t happen again.” A Daschle-satirizing “Tom the Dancing Bug” comic strip was even shown.
Daschle criticized Vice-President Cheney for getting “close to the line” of impugning his patriotism, but failed to criticize Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D, CA) for her remarks questioning President Bush. Daschle declined an opportunity to support Senator Zell Miller’s (D, GA) criticism of McKinney. The South Dakota Senator repeated his claim that President Bush and Vice President Cheney asked him not to investigate 9-11 in January. When asked by Russert why he had waited 8 months to press for an investigation, Daschle said that such an investigation would have distracted important agencies from the War on Terror—the same reason he attributed to Bush and Cheney’s January request.
When it was over, Russert appeared to have scored some hits, but Daschle appeared not to have noticed.
Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation devoted the majority of his show to questions about Minneapolis FBI Agent Colleen Rowley’s devastating memo about the Bureau’s failure to support an investigation prior to September 11th. Fox News Sunday also spent a considerable amount of time on the topic, with The Nation’s David Corn saying, “The memo that Rowley produced leads to serious questions … whether this is an agency that can be reformed.”
Corn and Fox’s Juan Williams have already started worrying that any FBI reform will resort to “cheap tricks” that make it easier to spy on “law-abiding” citizens.
President Bush’s treaty signing in Russia failed to garner much attention. Condoleeza Rice appeared on Fox to trumpet the achievement and Colin Powell appeared on Late Edition. Corn called it a “Junk food arms control treaty. It looks good, it doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value to it.” Fred Barnes called Corn “picky,” and touted the US-Russia friendship as the most important foreign policy development since 9-11.
Also far from the radar screen were tensions between India and Pakistan. On Late Edition, Powell again expressed disappointment at a second Pakistani nuclear test.
I Hate It When This Happens
This Week was pre-empted by the Indianapolis 500, so no Sam, Cokie, or George Squared for me.
Modesty or Calculation?
A few weeks ago I noted that Senator John Edwards (D, NC) never challenged a Tim Russert “What would President Edwards do?” question. Today, Tom Daschle was asked the “President Daschle” question and responded strongly, “There isn’t a President Daschle.” After a second question, Daschle asked Russert, “You’re hung up on this President Daschle, aren’t you?”
No stuffy committee report for Tom Oliphant of the Boston Globe, substituting for Mark Shields on The News Hour: "I still see and detect a great hunger for a narrative of what happened last fall that we can all live with and learn from."
Meet the Press Rehab
Tim Russert had plagiarist historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on a panel with Howard Kurtz and David Broder of the Washington Post.
I have a hard time believing the Administration would deliberately jerk the American people around. –David Broder, addressing concerns that terrorist warnings are politically motivated.
Code Red on Capital Gang
Bob Novak: Is it prudent to make these alerts and tell the American people to watch out? I don't know how you're supposed to watch out. Am I, you know, when I go on the show, am I supposed to be careful that Margaret doesn't have a concealed weapon or something?
Margaret Carlson: I would definitely use it.
Polls show that women actually support arming pilots at a higher rate than men, because they see it as a safety issue; they don't see it as a gun issue. This is a wonderful political opportunity for Democrats to make women feel safer, and appeal to men. They look so anti-gun in other contexts. –Kate O’Bierne, Capital Gang
Partisan Shot of the Week
If hypocrisy were a felony, the House Republican majority would be doing hard time at Leavenworth. –Mark Shields, Capital Gang
Non-News Tip of the Week
I don't think it is terribly significant that Ken Lay went to the White House Easter egg roll and that hadn't been disclosed before. –Tom Oliphant, The News Hour
Subtle Metaphor of the Week
We have a whistle blower, some leaks, we want investigations, we want to send some people off out of town in disgrace and then we'll all smoke a cigarette and declare it over. –David Brooks, The News Hour