In a Muddle, Saudis Rise to the TopThe weekend pundit shows were a muddle of issues, but breaking news about another potential financial connection between the Saudi Arabian government and terrorists was the most compelling story.
Smooth Saudi spinner and foreign policy advisor Adel Al-Jubeir was the star of this story, appearing on Face the Nation and This Week. Usually clad in a western style suit when appearing on US television, Jubeir instead wore the traditional thobe with ghutra and agal. He defended Princess Haifa al Faisal, wife of the Saudi Ambassador to the US, from charges that she knowingly sent money to individuals who provided support to two of the 9/11 hijackers.
“We don’t know if this was a con job,” he claimed. “People in Saudi Arabia are outraged.”
This Week host George Stephanopolous was a tougher interviewer of Al Jubeir than Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer. Stephanopolous’ effort to get around Al Jubeir’s spin exasperated the Saudi, who said at one point, “George, we seem to be going in circles here.”
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman defended Princess Haifa on Face the Nation, as did Senator John McCain, R-Az, on This Week. Friedman attributed the money trail to royal families being “shaken down” by religious extremists, a practice McCain denounced as a “Faustian bargain.”
Friedman went even further in assigning blame, saying Mid-East terrorism is “funded by your gas guzzler.” He has been an outspoken proponent of a national effort to achieve energy independence through technology.
Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn, demanded a “full accounting” from the administration, asking, in a familiar framing, “What did the Saudis know and when did they know it?”
In other noteworthy pronouncements, NBC’s Tom Brokaw, reporting from Iraq on Meet the Press, said the Iraqis were on a “charm offensive” and that he saw no evidence of a “nascent coup d’etat” against Saddam Hussein.
On the same program, Senator Bob Graham, D-FL, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed “Hezbollah is more of a threat to the US than Saddam Hussein.” Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala, also on the Intelligence Committee, speaking of Osama Bin Laden’s threats, said, “It’s going to happen. I think it will be spectacular."
Al Gore: The Pundits Speak
Al Gore’s media tour was a hot topic. Some sound byte highlights:
Mark Shields: “I thought Al Gore did fine.”
David Brooks: “I actually think he is coming a little unhinged.”
Margaret Carlson: “His script that he's unscripted is disproved by the fact that he says the same thing, just about at every stop.”
Bob Novak: “He had this whole year or two years of sitting around, God knows what he was doing that period of time. And he didn't come up with anything. It's all cliches.”
George Will: “This vindicates Ralph Nader.”
Quip of the Week
“It is amazing that Putin and Chirac are now closer to Bush on Iraq than Al Gore is.” --Bill Kristol, Fox News Sunday
Passionate Pundits of the Week
On Capital Gang, Bob Novak and Al Hunt bitterly disagreed on provisions of the Homeland Security Bill, especially the one protecting drug companies from lawsuits:
HUNT: "Bob may think that autistic kids aren't part of the productive element of American society, and perhaps they're not, Bob. But this was Congress in a political payoff to drug companies. That's outrageous."
NOVAK: “I said that the outrage is these sleazy trial lawyers attacking pharmaceutical companies on the vaccines. They've been after the vaccines for years, and an attempt to try to protect the pharmaceutical manufacturers from the bar is an important thing.
I just can't understand, Al, I'm disappointed in you that you find yourself in bed with these people who are the cash cow for the Democratic Party.”
HUNT: “I'm disappointed that you consider autistic kids so irrelevant.”
That’s Why It Frustrates Pundits
Bob Woodward, appearing on Meet the Press to discuss his latest book, “Bush at War”: “This is neutral reporting.”
ABC’s Michele Martin, on This Week, explaining why “The Bachelor” beat “Victoria’s Secret Lingerie Show” in the ratings: “Marriage is seen as unattainable in a way that sex is not.”
Shameless Plug Rescue Mission
Fox News Sunday tackled the dust-up between Senate Majority Leeader Tom Daschle, D-SD and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh by inviting Sean Hannity, conservative co-host of his own Fox program. In an effort to balance this shameless plug, NPR’s liberal leaning Juan Williams did the interview. The pugnacious Hannity turned every Williams question into an attack on Democrats. Finally, Fox host Brit Hume tried to rescue the interview by commenting, “Sean, I love you, buddy, but you still haven’t given Juan an answer to his questions.”
Is Night Time the Right Time?
On Capital Gang, Bob Novak and Margaret Carlson debated when to best craft legislation:
NOVAK: “I've been covering legislating since 1954, and things get done better at night in the dark when you don't have a lot of lobbyists around.”
CARLSON: “No, it's at dark, in the night, when you do have the lobbyists around pushing their special provisions.”