Anti-War Leaders Make Their CaseThe conventional wisdom among most pundits is that Bush hasn’t made “the case” for a war against Iraq. The Sunday shows demonstrated that the anti-war forces don’t make a particularly compelling case, either.
When the questioning gets tough, “peace” advocates change the subject. Someone else in the world is as bad as Saddam, a war will cost too much, or a war will spawn new terrorist attacks.
The Hollywood anti-war faction got plenty of face time: Comedienne Janeane Garofolo appeared on Fox News Sunday, while actress Susan Sarandon and actor Mike Farrell were paired off against the National Review’s Rich Lowry on Face the Nation. Garofolo, asked if there was such a thing as a “just war,” replied, “That’s a tough one,” refusing to concede even WWII. Sarandon and Farrell argued simply, “Sanctions work, war doesn’t.”
Non-Hollywood anti-war Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, ran into a buzz saw on Meet the Press. Host Tim Russert’s first question put Kucinich on the defensive: he voted in October 1998 for the Iraq Liberation Act, a measure calling for regime change in Iraq. Wasn’t that what President Bush is trying to do? The Congressman claimed weakly that he was voting to “continue to use sanctions.”
Russert paired Kucinich against Administration Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle. Perle managed to keep the pressure on Kucinich, charging that he was advocating a “policy of paralysis, unwilling to put teeth in the legislation he signed.” Perle also called Kucinich’s charge that the war was about oil “a lie, an out and out lie.” For his part, when asked about the missiles Chief Inspector Hans Blix has asked Iraq to destroy, Kucinich said the US should not go to war over “mere non-compliance.”
On Face the Nation, Time’s Joe Klein called Kucinich a “buffoon,” putting him in the same category as Al Sharpton and Carol Mosley-Braun.
In a newworthy development, the White House appeared to be ratcheting up the campaign to get judicial nominee Miguel Estrada confirmed. White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a rare appearance on Sunday, appearing on Fox News Sunday. Asked about the possible political fallout from opposition to Estrada, Gonzales’ message was cautious, but unmistakeable: “If the Hispanic community thinks Miguel Estrada is being treated differently, it will have political repercussions.” Gonzales noted questions Clinton appointees refused to answer, arguing they were similar to questions Estrada would not answer.
Newly declared Presidential candidate Richard Gephardt, D-MO, made his 39th appearance on Meet the Press. Claiming “I am the epitome of the American dream,” he declared President Bush “out of touch with the reality of what’s going on with working families.” Russert was fairly gentle on the former Minority Leader, not following up on the contradiction of Gephardt advocating fuel cell powered cars while voting against increased fuel efficiency standards.
Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal is Pundit of the Week for his sharp tongue on Capital Gang, beating out Joe Klein, a pundit who deserves more airtime.
Pundits were suddenly bullish on a Gephardt candidacy, even though Joe Klein declared, “Listening to him speak is like walking up the down escalator.”
Ceci Connolly, Washington Post, on Fox: “Gephardt isn’t quite as boring or predictable as maybe people were indicating a few weeks ago.”
David Brooks, The Weekly Standard, on The News Hour: “I was impressed as he presented himself. He said I'm a Washington insider; I'm an experienced guy. A lot of these candidates go down to the Dean and Deluca in Georgetown and buy some hay seed to put in their hair so they could pretend they're just off the farm.”
Mark Shields, syndicated columnist, on The News Hour: “He is a guy who has been a political leader in the legislature and in the Congress and as an executive. He ran for president. Very few people inspire that kind of trust in their colleagues. Once they run for president, they're discarded as congressional leaders. He wasn't. And he has great, great affection and loyalty on the part of the staff -- something not to be underestimated.”
Al Hunt on Capital Gang: “Dick Gephardt is one of the three or four candidates who really has a real shot to be the nominee. He's got some strengths, he's been around before, talented staff, a deep knowledge of issues. His problem is that he appears like yesterday.”
Retort of the Week
On Capital Gang, after Bob Novak of the Chicago Sun Times expressed agreement with President Bush’s assertion that he would not use anti-war demonstrations as a “focus group,” Al Hunt replied tartly, “I guess you can only use focus groups if it's homeland security with this administration.”
Slam of the Week
Al Hunt again, on the Governor of Texas: “I know Rick Perry of Texas is a lightweight.”
Whose Line Is It, Anyway?
Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer was fulsome in his praise of the excitement presidential candidate Howard Dean created at the recent DNC meeting when he said, “I am here representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, on Fox, wondered why Dean didn’t give proper credit: “That’s Wellstone’s line,” referring to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn. Joe Klein reported that Dean “blew those people away” with his speech.
Pundits were harsh on Dennis Kucinich’s change of heart on abortion, moving from a pro-life to pro-chance stance:
David Brooks, The News Hour: “The strange thing about him is he had a 95 percent pro-life voting record until last week where he had a conversion and now he's decided he is pro-choice. If you're going to sell out, you might as well sell out when you have a plausible chance of winning.
Al Hunt, Capital Gang: Kucinich's transformation this week was breathtaking. The Ohio Democrat, pro-life his entire congressional career, upon declaring his presidential candidacy, suddenly decided he was pro- choice, a more popular posture with Democratic voters. Congressman Kucinich says his candidacy, his presidential candidacy, is based on his principles against a war in Iraq. I wonder if those principles also could be vulnerable to public opinion.
Tim Russert asked Kucinich on Meet the Press why he “turned on a dime.” Kucinich claimed “years of thinking” had gone into his decision. “The position I’m taking now is an expansion, not a reversal,” he explained.
Quip of the Week
Retiring British Ambassador to the United States Sir Christopher Meyer revealed to Capital Gang that Donald Rumsfeld pulled him in after he was tossed from his raft on a Colorado River whitewater trip. The National Review’s Kate O’Beirne quipped, “I found myself wondering what Don Rumsfeld would have done had he been whitewater rafting with the French ambassador.”
Punditwatch Gets Help
This Week was pre-empted again by Punditwatch’s ABC affiliate. Reader Dave Schipani reports that Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. made a telling comment: Bush's Iraq policy is "unilateral, or
semi-unilateral." Apparently, only the French and the Germans make a policy "multi-lateral."
American Culture Conquers the UN
Juan Williams of NPR, on Fox, drew an analogy between American culture and countries taking sides in the potential coming conflict with Iraq: “It’s like the show ‘Joe Millionaire,’ where at the end you got to make a choice. You gotta pick one side or the other. What are they going to do ultimately? They’re going to go with the United States.”
Those Were the Days
Tony Snow of Fox had fun showing a film clip of presidential candidate and former Sen. Carol Mosley-Braun being unable to remember her college major, but promising to “check.” While acknowledging that memories from college might be “foggy,” Snow and all members of the Fox panel remembered their majors.