Anti-War Side Wins 'Most Improved' Award
Last week’s Sunday shows featured anti-war Hollywood activists and a marginal presidential candidate. The reviews were decidedly mixed, so this week’s anti-war guests were a more serious lot and the debates proved more illuminating.
Gone were actress Susan Sarandon, comedienne Janeane Garafolo, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich. In their place were Win Without War Director Tom Andrews, presidential candidate Gov. Howard Dean, and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. Actor Mike Farrell made the cut, returning for a second week.
Meet the Press
host Tim Russert demonstrated impressive balance as he first moderated a debate between Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, and Andrews, followed by a debate between Farrell and pro-war actor-turned-Senator-turnedactor Fred Thompson, R-Tenn. Graham was the most entertaining guest, calling the French and Germans “appeasers” and accusing those serving as “human shields” in Iraq of committing an “act of treason.”
Farrell and Andrews stood their ground on continued UN inspections as the best policy. “Hans Blix tells us we are making progress. We are destroying missiles as we speak. No one has to die,” said Andrews. Sen. Thompson was much less effective as a guest than in his televised ad supporting the President.
George Stephanopolous conducted a fair but aggressive interview with de Villepin on This Week
, drawing an admiring comment from Sen. John Warner, R-VA: “You pressed him hard and he stonewalled you.” The position of de Villepin was almost indistinguishable from that of US anti-war leaders. “There is an alternative to war—inspectors. How many American boys are going to die in Iraq? Is it worth it?”
The French Foreign Minister refused to say if France would use its veto on another resolution at the UN. Stephanopolous asked what he would say if US troops invaded Iraq and discovered a huge cache of chemical or biological weapons. “We should have given more time to inspectors,” said de Villepin.
Former Vermont Gov. Dean, feeling “the big ‘mo’” as his anti-war message continues to be well-received, appeared on Face the Nation
and sounded extremely bellicose on everything but Iraq. He favored more funding to the CIA, agreed with assassinations as long as they were not of heads of state, criticized FBI Director Robert Mueller, and seemed to support unilateral action against North Korea and Iran.
How Big Was It?
Most shows began with a recap of the Khalid Sheik Mohammed capture and guests were asked for their reaction:
Howard Dean, on FTN
: “A real coup.”
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan, on Fox
: “He’s the big fish, the king fish, he’s the Operations Manager.”
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del, on Fox
: “This is a phenomenal development. A significant breakthrough.”
Winner of the hyperbole award, however, is Rep. Porter Goss, R-FL, on This Week
: “This is a very huge event, the equivalent of the liberation of Paris in the Second World War.”
Walking and Chewing Gum
Many pundits used the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed to discredit one anti-war argument—that focusing on Iraq limits the War on Terror. Kate O’Beirne of the National Review
, on Capital Gang
, was the strongest:
It seems to me the administration's case about whether to remove Saddam Hussein got stronger today. The arrest of Khalid Sheik Mohammed was a huge arrest that the CIA, FBI, and Pakistani intelligence cooperated in. Those who've been wondering, Can the United States lead a war to get rid of Saddam Hussein while fighting an effective war against al Qaeda? It seems to me his arrest is an emphatic yes to that question.
Surprisingly, only Fox
host Tony Snow pressed a guest on this topic, getting Sen. Biden to suggest that he would have supported 200,000 troops on the Afghanistan—Pakistan border.
Biden Bashes, Warner Rethinks
, Sen. Biden also accused the French of “grandstanding” and said dismissively, “The French care so much about the Palestinians, but they don’t give a damn about the Iraqis.” Sen. Warner, on This Week
, said he considered taking down the Croix de Guerre
in his office that his father earned in WWI, but decided against it.
Shameless Promo of the Week
Retired NATO Commander General Joe Ralston was introduced as a guest on Face the Nation
and as a new CBS consultant. “You’re moving from one good outfit to another,” said host Bob Scheiffer.
Surreal News Hour
Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal
, returned to The News Hour
to sub for David Brooks. He claimed “I'm really actually pleased that there is an awful lot of debate and discussion about this,” referring to anti-war demonstrations, while syndicated columnist Mark Shields approvingly quoted Roy Cohn, former chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Gigot also appeared on the Fox
panel and claimed the recent Orange terror alert was related to intelligence that later led to the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
The Capital Gang
looked at the Pentagon’s policy of “embedding” the press into military units to cover the possible war with Iraq. Veteran Knight-Ridder reporter Joseph Galloway was asked if this was a good idea: “There's no way to roam, really, independently in a place like Iraq, with tank divisions attacking. And if you've got a lot of journalists running around there loose on their own in SUVs, a lot of them are going to get killed.”
George Knows This Angle
On This Week
, ABC’s Michel Martin complained that President Bush gave his speech on the future of Iraq to an “interest group” (the American Enterprise Institute) instead of a more diverse audience, but George Stephanopolous disagreed, praising the White House’s effectiveness in convincing the networks to televise it.
Quips of the Week
Brit Hume, on Fox
: “If I die, I’d like to come back as Hans Blix’s son. You’d never be in any trouble. Any effort would be good enough. Grades would never be bad enough to get you in any trouble. It would be great.”
Margaret Carlson, Time
, on Capital Gang
, speaking of just-declared presidential candidate Sen. Bob Graham, D-FL: “The Democrats, instead of having a smoke- filled room, are having their candidates come by way of an ICU. If he puts his heart into it, he'll be a serious candidate.”