Sunday, July 28, 2002

AWOL O’Neill Surrenders to Pundits

There was something surreal about Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill’s three appearances (Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation) on the Sunday talk shows. O’Neill, long ago written off by the pundits as an Administration non-entity, was brought in to respond to criticism that he has been, well, a non-entity during the recent corporate scandals and stock market collapse.

The Treasury Secretary defended himself from charges that he had been AWOL, touring former Soviet Republics, when he should have been at the domestic economic helm. He was doing important "national security work" on those trips.

O’Neill’s twin appearances on MTP and Fox validated everyone who sees bias, one way or another, on the part of networks. On MTP, host Tim Russert showed examples of O’Neill stock market pronouncements that have proven terribly wrong. On Fox, guest host Brit Hume showed examples of O’Neill prescience on economic growth. Russert focused relentlessly on calls for O’Neill’s resignation; Hume pursued a variety of economic condition questions.

Through it all, O’Neill stressed that the “fundamentals” were sound and that he was going to keep working on the “fundamentals,” not serving as a “horse whisperer” for the stock market. He also attempted to tie the dramatic rescue of those Pennsylvania coal miners, reported on all the Sunday shows, with those “sound fundamentals.”

Former speechwriter, now New York Times columnist William Safire was critical of the expression “the economy is fundamentally sound,” as used by O’Neill and President Bush. Appearing on MTP after O’Neill and reacting to comparisons of Bush with Herbert Hoover, Safire said, “If I was writing speeches for President Bush, I would say ‘the economy is fundamentally noisy.’”

Lawrence Lindsey mopped up for the Administration on economic matters, appearing on This Week and using the same formulation of “sound fundamentals.”

The best non-economic segment of the weekend was on Fox, with the panel discussing a Sunday New York Times editorial that called on Colin Powell to “throw a tantrum or two” to get his way on Administration foreign policy. “The whole idea that Colin Powell would throw a tantrum, that is so ludicrous, so outrageous,” scoffed Morton Kondracke of Roll Call. The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol also called it ludicrous, but went further:

There is something offensive and condescending about it. Colin Powell knows what he’s doing. If he wants to resign, he can do it. Colin Powell needs advice from a bunch of people sitting on West 43rd Street? Colin Powell is not a New York Times liberal.

Kristol claimed that any Powell resignation would be a two-day story, with Condi Rice nominated to replace him and confirmed almost immediately. The rest of the Fox panel disputed the length of the “hubbub” that would ensue from Colin Powell leaving.

Clintonian Phrasing

I’ve been expecting the President to come out with a speech with the words “the era of big business is over.’ --E. J. Dionne, Jr., Washington Post columnist, on NPR

Lay Off the Sheep, Mark

Last week, Mark Shields accused SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt with having the strength of a “sedated sheep.” This week, he accused the Democrats of having the “combativeness of sedated sheep.”

Quip of the Week

Tim Russert asked William Safire, NYT columnist and former Nixon speechwriter, if the Nixon White House ever feared that Watergate would affect the 1972 election.

No, that election was in the bag, to use the wrong phrase.

Reactions to the Corporate Governance Bill

Al Hunt: This is a good bill. It won't be a panacea, but it's a good start.

Bob Novak: This bill is a dog. This bill is a clinker. I just hope that the economy is strong enough to withstand it.

Kate O’Bierne: We know that this bill's going to have unintended consequences. And those of us who are not at all sure the remedy is further regulation think instead what Congress might have risked doing here is criminalizing risk-taking, which is not good for corporate growth.

Bill Kristol: If you’re an incumbent, Republican or Democrat, you can feel pretty good about what you can go to the voters with.

Dinner With Al

Bob Schieffer, on FTN, asked Senator Joe Lieberman about his recent dinner with Al Gore. Lieberman gave a cagey response when asked about Gore’s intentions for 2002: “The former vice-president is undecided. The sooner he decides, the happier I’ll be.”

Introduction of the Week

Susan Stamberg, NPR: Time to visit with our gurus of gravitas, [E. J. Dionne and David Brooks].

David Brooks: I thought we were ‘poseurs of gravitas.’


The House of Representatives will change hands. The Senate will change hands. –William Safire

Lamar [Alexander] by a nose in the Senate [primary] race. In the gubernatorial race, Van Hillary probably will win fairly comfortably in the Republican primary. The former mayor of Nashville, Phil Bettison, will probably win fairly even more comfortably in the Democratic primary. Bob Clement by a nose, or just a whisker, maybe [in November].
-- Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News Sentinel, talking about Tennessee politics on Capital Gang

Unasked Question of the Week

Tim Russert showed Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill a quote critical of the administration from former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and Fox’s Brit Hume mentioned Bob Rubin during his O’Neill interview. Both missed an opportunity to ask O’Neill if Rubin should testify before the Senate. Bob Novak probably wouldn’t have been surprised, having said the day before, on Capital Gang,

Congress is rough on corporate executives these days, especially Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, who chairs the Senate investigation. But one executive is exempt, Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's revered secretary of the Treasury, who now heads Citigroup's executive committee. Citigroup was Enron's largest creditor, and it's accused by Senator Levin's own investigators of helping to hide Enron debt.

Besides that, Mr. Rubin telephoned the Treasury seeking intervention to support Enron's credit rating. But Robert Rubin is a Democratic icon, and Senator Levin will not call him before his committee

O’Neill did get a slight dig in at Rubin, claiming on MTP that Rubin’s remarks were made in Singapore, where Citigroup was losing $50 million.

Harken and Halliburton Aren’t the Democratic Hope

David Brooks, who last week said a loss of 30-40 Republican seats in November was “not implausible,” was critical of the Democrats using the personal "scandals" of Bush and Cheney as a strategy:

Having watched the Republicans try to get the country to hate Bill Clinton, I can tell you, it ain't going to work. The American people are not going to hate Dick Cheney; they're not going to hate George Bush. It seems to me the vulnerability the Republicans have, and I'm a pessimist about Republicans fortunes, is they do not have the answer to the question, which people are going to start to ask in November, which is what are you going to do to make me feel secure? I don't think it's the scandals.

The Rehab Continues

Historian and plagiarist Doris Kearns-Goodwin got a rare media booking from old pal Tim Russert on Meet the Press. When will PBS relent?

Monday, July 22, 2002

Kurtz Endorses Punditwatch and Other Matters

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post was answering questions online again, offering Punditwatch a chance to check his work against one of the big time media critics. Here are the questions I submitted that he took and answered, along with a note or two:

Shockoe Slip, Va.: The New Republic online has a weekly feature on the Sunday talk shows, as does with "Punditwatch," one of their weblogs. What do you think of these efforts to cover the news shows?

Howard Kurtz: I think it's great. Sometimes the Sunday spin needs some serious decoding. Why did this guest duck the question, recite the same talking points, etc.? Seems like fair game to me.

[Note: Shameless self-promotion, mitigated by mentioning TNR!]

Fairfax, Va.: What do you think of Andrew Sullivan's long-running critique of the New York Times' Howell Raines? Fair or unfair?

Howard Kurtz: It's obviously inspired by his own experience at being bounced from the Times after several years as a contributor. And these are the opinions of a conservative beating up on what he sees as a liberal newspaper. But that's what Andrew does, dish opinions, and readers can make up their own minds as to whether he's developed a Howell obsession.

[Note: A NY reader follows up on this question and Kurtz seems to side with Sullivan’s recent piece in the NY Sun about bias in a NYT poll story.]

Brandermill, Va.: Was ABC's "This Week" filmed on Sunday? In my area it was pre-empted by the British Open, so I don't know if it appeared anywhere. Why wouldn't ABC affiliates run it later, or offer it to another outlet?

Howard Kurtz: The same thing happens to Meet the Press during Wimbledon and other sports events. It probably ran at 8 am or some other odd hour when you wouldn't be looking for it.

[Note: Jeesh, Howard, I’m not an idiot … I know to check the newspaper for TV listings and to turn my ABC station on at 8AM. Tell me what time it’s filmed and what goes into an affiliate’s decision to give it to another outlet.]

Manassas, Va.: The pundits are now all rushing to the conclusion that the Dow's slide may lead to a rout of Republicans in this fall's elections. David Brooks said Dick Gephardt's prediction of a 30-40 seat Democratic gain is not implausible. Doesn't this kind of speculation begin seeping into news coverage, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Howard Kurtz: Most prognosticators that I've seen haven't been so bold. They've said, at most, that the Democrats' chances seem to have improved in recent weeks as the stock market has tanked. Anyone who would embrace the idea of a 40-seat gain in July, with all that can happen between now and November (including the market heading back up, another terrorist attack, etc.) is really crawling out on a limb. Forty seats is a political earthquake, and right now there are just tremors.

There was also an exchange that Dawson might enjoy, from another questioner:

Arlington, Va.: What little I saw of Donahue's Ann Coulter interview was pretty funny. He had her totally off balance and whining about him not being fair. A total "pot calling the kettle black" moment.

Howard Kurtz: On the other hand, Donahue kept interrupting her to the point where it was hard for her to answer the questions.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Dow Falls, Politics Rises

The politics of a falling Dow dominated the weekend pundit shows.

There were no new corporate scandals reported this past week, removing SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt and CEOs as punching bags for the pundits. Pundits turned instead to the political blame game for the Dow’s slide and speculation on its effect on the November elections.

Homeland security was a distant second on the pundit radar, with soon-to-be expelled Rep. James Traficant (D, OH) providing enough comic relief that Janet Reno’s dance party was not mentioned.

David Brooks, on The News Hour, spoke most bluntly about what was behind the pundit focus on the Dow:

Richard Gephardt privately predicted the Democrats could pick up 30 to 40 seats, which would be a Democratic landslide in the fall and suddenly that doesn't look implausible. I don't think it's because of Halliburton and Harken and the corporate scandals. I think it's the Dow. There's a wave of anxiety going across the country. People don't connect it to politics because it's July. Nobody is thinking politically. Right now, Bush's approval rating is high, Republican approval ratings are quite high... quite high, but come November when they have to make a connection to politics, they could take it out on the Republicans. There are plenty of cases where a party's fortunes look good, good, good. Ten days before the election, bing.

Mara Liasson, on Fox, outlined the strategy:

One thing the Democrats are counting on is that people are now beginning to draw a straight line between the condition of the stock market and the economy.

Her colleague on Fox, Juan Williams, put the strategy in a sound byte: “It’s time for the politicians and President Bush to stop supporting the big business guys and look out for Main Street.”

Numerous market analysts were trotted out to assess future prospects, but optimism was hard to find. “It always darkest before the dawn … a bottom is very close,” said a hopeful Dick Grasso, President of the New York Stock Exchange, on Meet the Press.

“We are looking at 8-10% [more] possibly down .. we may just have to live with this,” was the judgement of Allen Sinai of Decision Economics, Inc, appearing on Face the Nation.

Neil Cavuto of Fox looked at past history for a potential bright spot: “When we’ve had sell-offs of this magnitude, the market comes back.”

Efforts by Congress to address the problem via the Sarbanes bill were not particularly popular. Cavuto blamed Congress: “There is a fear that Washington’s overdoing it. I think that’s the reason for the big sell-off.”

“Politicians should keep their hands off the technical details, including accounting,” cautioned Abby Joseph Cohen of Goldman Sachs on Face the Nation.

Brit Hume summed the situation up this way on Fox: “You have this picture of Congress riding to the scene of a house that’s been burned down and deciding when to install smoke detectors.”

Most pundits agreed that the Homeland Security Bill would become law very quickly, if only to remove it as a distraction for the fall political campaign. Asked about the impact of the governmental reorganization that he called “like rearranging a bowl of spaghetti,” David Brooks said it could be a “fiasco.”

On Capital Gang, Bob Novak and Al Hunt bemoaned the lack of “colorful” characters like James Traficant in the House, but Kate O’Bierne would have none of it:

I prefer my congressmen boring to being crooks and liars, which is what we've, of course, known Jim Traficant to be. Republicans should be grateful to him. There was some talk a couple of years ago about him switching parties. Overnight he would have gone from being a colorful, amusing rogue to being a felonious Republican. I don't get this, how amusing Jim Traficant is. It's not like he's any great wit. There will never be a book called "The Wit of Jim Traficant." He engages in bathroom humor and people all seem to think that that's endlessly witty. I don't think he'll be missed...

Mark Shields got off the Quip of the Week, saying of Traficant: “He looks like an eggbeater did his hair.”

Schieffer Scolds

Presidential hopeful Senator John Edwards (D, NC) avoided tough questions on Face the Nation by filibustering with a lengthy talking point-laden reply, leaving host Bob Schieffer to scold, “If we could hold those answers to be a little more concise, please.”

Exchange of the Week

Tim Russert and Dick Armey (R, TX) got into a testy exchange over the political implications of the Dow’s fall, with Armey railing against the fairness of the New York Times ("The New York Times writes their stories for the Democratic Party") and an article Russert cited. After grudgingly acknowledging Russert’s fairness, Armey was then subjected to a withering series of questions about a technical Congressional pay raise/automatic cost of living increase, an issue this observer hasn’t seen anywhere else and was at a loss to see connected realistically to Congressional action.

Not a Trusting Soul

Neil Cavuto on Fox: I don’t buy [stock market] technicians. I more trust chicken entrails and reading tea leaves than these guys.

The Pitt, continued

Last week, SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt was on the firing line; this week he was barely mentioned.

“Harvey Pitt …has been accused of having the strength of a sedated sheep [in] pursuing irregularities.” --Mark Shields, The News Hour

“This is a guy getting a raw deal.” --David Brooks, The News Hour

I'm a bit of a contrarian on Harvey Pitt. I do feel good about him. I think he knows exactly where the bodies are buried and wants to do the right thing. –Nell Minow, editor of, on Capital Gang

Question of the Week

Tony Snow asked the Fox panel if the political reaction to corporate scandals was panic or leadership.

“Panic.” --Brit Hume

“Panic, but they think it’s leadership.” --Mara Liasson

“Panic, but they call it leadership.” --Bill Kristol

“Leadership.” --Juan Williams

Bob Novak Channels Gordon Gekko

When the chairman of the Federal Reserve, conservative like Arnold -- Alan Greenspan and a conservative president like George Bush attack infectious greed, the climate of greed -- greed is what makes the American system and the capitalist system work.

And sometimes you have some bumps in the road. But don't start with that Marxist propaganda about capitalist greed

Dean Debuts

Vermont Governor Howard Dean underwent the “Russert Primary” on Meet the Press, following Senators Edwards and Kerry. Dean came across as thoughtful if a bit self-righteous. Russert tripped him up a bit on possible contradictions in his Federalism vs. States’ Rights positions on abortion and gay rights. Dean called for an aggressive “nation building” foreign policy and claimed that he could provide universal health care, better roads, and better education for the price of the Bush tax cut.

Russert never gave Dean a chance to show a sense of humor or to comment on a lighthearted topic like sports. While Russert billed Dean as a potential "Jimmy Carter" candidate, he ended the show by pointing out that no Northeast Democrat has been elected President since JFK in 1960.

Watch Out for the Posse

Today’s New York Times articles (here and here) on possible changes to the Posse Comitatus laws were raised with Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D, DE). Both favor taking a look at easing restrictions on the US military being used for domestic police functions.

Musical Interlude

Russert did get lighthearted with Dick Armey, well after their testy exchange. They discussed Jimmy Buffett and the song a retiring Armey says describes his career best:

(Billy Joe Shaver)
« © '72 ATV Music»

I've spent a lifetime making up my mind to be
More than the measure of what I thought others could see
Good luck and fast bucks they're too few and too far between
There's Cadillac buyers and old five and dimers like me
She stood beside me letting me know she would be
Something to lean on when everything ran out on me
Well fenced yards ain't hole cards and like as not ever will be
The reason for rhymers and old five and dimers like me
[ harmonica ]
Well it's taken me so long now that I know I believe
All that I do or say is all I ever will be
Too far and too high and too deep ain't too much to see
Too much ain't enough for old five and dimers like me
An old five and dimer is all I intended to be
(You know country people don't shine their boots very often
And they don't shine other folks' boots either thank you)

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Pundits Become Better Business Bureau

Does a bear market take business to the woodshed?

The Sunday talk shows were all business scandal, almost all of the time. It was 48 minutes into Meet the Press before Tim Russert briefly mentioned another issue that might be important—war with Iraq. It was 33 minutes into This Week before George Stephanopolous did.

Pundit of the Week was Nightline Correspondent Michel Martin, appearing on This Week. She captured the major pundit themes succinctly. On the scandal focus:

There’s what a lot of people would call a feeding frenzy about this and it’s backed by legitimate concern.

On the Democrats and Republicans blaming each other and personalizing scandals:

When does the cycle of retribution stop? The answer is not yet.

On the actions of Congress:

The CEOs are the crack dealers of this year. People are legislating in an atmosphere of fear and loathing.

Last week the Administration sent no one to the talk shows; this week embattled SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt led on Meet the Press and Face the Nation. Low profile Commerce Secretary Don Evans appeared on This Week, but only after Congressman Billy Tauzin (R, LA) led with “breaking” news on revelations from WorldCom documents his committee had received. The ethics of him broadcasting the contents of subpoenaed documents was not discussed.

Pitt faced a workmanlike series of tough questions from Russert on MTP. He kept cool and was not rattled. “I’m the right person for the job,” Pitt maintained. He defended his previous ties to the businesses he regulates by saying, “Guilt by occupation in a needless diversion.” “Nobody in this country gets a pass,” he promised, speaking of the Cheney-Halliburton investigation. His 10% recusal rate on cases before the SEC, a factor John McCain has used in calling for Pitt’s resignation, is lower than previous SEC Chairmen, Pitt maintained. Russert failed to clarify this with McCain when interviewing the Arizona Senator after Pitt’s appearance.

McCain was in vintage form on MTP. Russert showed him a list of donations McCain had received from WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, and other troubled companies. Wasn’t that “tainted money?” he asked. “Of course it’s tainted money,” McCain replied. He claims to have donated it to funds supporting displaced workers. Paired with McCain was Senator Paul Sarbanes (D, MD), appearing for the second straight week on the Sunday shows after years of obscurity. Sarbanes did not echo McCain’s call for Pitt’s resignation and was more cautious in other areas: “Congress shouldn’t be legislating accounting standards.”

Cruel and Unusual CEO Punishments

Pundits saw some excess in Congressional efforts to punish CEOs:

The mood in Washington is not to put people in jail, but to lynch them. –Linda Douglas, This Week

[They want them] hanging from mosquito ponds naked. –David Brooks, The News Hour

Exchange of the Week, Blame Game Division

It occurred during the Fox News Sunday panel:

Brit Hume: “All this stuff happened between 1993 and 2001, presided over by a Democratic president whose name is very rarely mentioned in all this. All this criticism by Democrats, how is it that they failed to notice who was president?

Juan Williams: How is it you fail to notice that Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution were talking about doing away with regulation?

Toughest Interview, Runner-Up

Russert’s interview with Pitt was the toughest--he had more material to work with--but a surprising runner-up was George Stephanoplous’ interview with Senator Joseph Lieberman (D,CT) on This Week. “What does the market have to do with Harken Energy?” Stephanopolous asked, interrupting the Senator’s talking points. Later, Lieberman was asked to defend his 1990’s effort to derail a measure that would have expensed stock options.

Who Needs Consensus?

Whenever the Senate has unanimous votes on anything important, that's a totalitarian state, and I'm very, very worried about it. –Bob Novak, CG

The Senate passed a bill 97-0. It’s either meaningless or they don’t know the meaning of it. –George Will, This Week

Good Question

This Week reported that Army Secretary Tom White is scheduled to testify before Congress on his role at Enron. If he pleads the Fifth, should he resign? Watch for that controversy in the days ahead.


I want to reassure our audience, they could be forgiven for not being sure who Larry Klayman is, because when he was filing an avalanche against the Clinton administration, he was largely ignored. Now that he's filing lawsuits against Dick Cheney, he's an avenging Clarence Darrow leading off all the network shows. –Kate O’Bierne, CG

Fox’s Tony Snow showed three contrasting clips of network reporting on Klayman. He was always “conservative” when filing suits against Clinton; he was a “watchdog” filing against Cheney.

Purists Riding Corporate Jets

Fox News pointed out that numerous Democratic Senators took corporate jets to a recent fundraiser. Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer pointed this and other examples of Democratic ties to business and asked House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D, MO) about it. “What matters is what you do after the election,” Gephardt maintained.

The Martha Stewart of Pundits

He gave up the bold colors of moral clarity for sort of a pale pastel, a nuanced gray of accountability. –Mark Shield, The News Hour, on President Bush’s Wall Street speech

Runner-up, Quip of the Week

What makes you think you could get another Ted Williams out of a petri dish when the actual money-grubbing son is nothing like the old man? --Margaret Carlson, CG

Quip of the Week

Ted Williams’ son is trying to turn the ‘Splendid Splinter’ into a freeze pop. --Tony Snow, Fox

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Bush’s Birthday Weekend Celebrated

It was President Bush’s birthday weekend, but his staff got the gift. No member of the administration appeared on the Sunday talk shows.

Pundits gingerly explored Democratic efforts to get traction against the President on business scandals, unrest in Afghanistan, and a possible pre-emptive strike against Iraq. There were two notable firework displays.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, hosted by capable stand-in Andrea Mitchell, former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt and Representative Billy Tauzin (R, LA) exchanged bitter words over whether corporate scandals were due to Congressional foot dragging or lax SEC enforcement during the Clinton years.

Appearing as a guest on ABC’s This Week, CNN’s Lou Dobbs did what Al Gore has only promised: he let it rip. He denounced “partisan prattle,” noting that “we’re hearing more about political advantage than corporate responsibility.”

“Both sides are culpable,” he announced, and he mourned the “Six trillion dollars” that investors have lost. Of the disgraced corporate chieftans, he spoke for almost all pundits when he said, “These are not bad apples, these are crooks.

Dobbs came out for the Sarbanes bill, Democratic legislation sponsored by Senator Paul Sarbanes (D, MD). Sarbanes also appeared on This Week and gave a presentation on the corrective measures in his bill that was remarkably lucid and free of partisanship.

For the partisan point of view, one needed Gloria Borger of US News and World Report, interviewing Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D, SD) on Face the Nation. Asked what he recommended President Bush say in his upcoming Wall Street speech, Daschle spoke in vague platitudes. Borger then asked the Majority Leader to comment on a series of charges against the Republicans. One could almost detect a sly smile on Daschle as he ruefully shook his head in mock sorrow that he had to deal with such messy issues.

Daschle refused to say whether Senator Phil Gramm (D, TX) should recuse himself because of his ties to Enron and he recommended that President Bush let the SEC release the file on his controversial Harken Energy stock sales. He stopped just short of demanding SEC Chairman Harvey Pitts' resignation.

Senators Bob Graham (D, FL) and Chuck Hagel (R, NE), just returned from a Mid-East trip, appeared on Meet the Press. Both warned that the situation in Afghanistan was unstable.

“It may be that we need to be more of a participant,” said Graham.

“I fear we may see this government and our efforts unwind. We cannot allow this to go down,” Hagel warned.

As to pre-emptive action against Iraq, most pundits agreed with NPR’s Juan Williams on Fox: “The administration has yet to make the case.” Except for the Chicago Sun-Times’ Bob Novak, most felt the case could be made.

The Fox panel was treated to an overview of Iraq invasion scenarios by military analyst LTG (ret) Thomas McInerney. Rather than discuss the scenarios, they debated the possible reasons behind the leak to the New York Times of an invasion plan involving a huge number of troops.

According to Brit Hume, it was a “Classic Washington leak designed to kill it” as an alternative.

Advice for Bush

Show honest indignation. --George Will

Support the Sarbanes bill. --Cokie Roberts

Easy Answers

Mark Shields: Why did J. C. Watts really quit?

Margaret Carlson: Two words: Tom DeLay.

The Real Culprit in the Gore Campaign

The consultant he should have blamed was maybe his daughter. –David Brooks

Conservatives on Prescription Drugs

Bob Novak: This debate has not moved an inch in three years, and the problem is that all this whining by senior citizens because they want to go out to Wendy's and they want to go out to the dog track, and if they saved their money and bought some drugs, most of them can afford it.

Kate O’Bierne: Two thirds of the elderly, of course, do have prescription drug coverage. And the typical senior citizen spends $800 a year. A small minority have trouble paying for drugs, and now if they have to choose between buying drugs and food, it'd be a lot cheaper to provide food for them, and then we won't run the risk of introducing price controls on pharmaceuticals and cripple the miracle industry that is the American drug industry.

Worst Guest of the Week

John Dillon, CEO of International Paper, interviewed by Cokie Roberts on This Week. Appearing in a golf shirt against the backdrop of an Upstate New York lake, Dillon was in favor of everything and nothing all at once. Roberts could not get a straight answer from him. Even Lou Dobbs blasted Dillon’s lack of passion.

Armed Pilot Debate Returns

Margaret Carlson: Two drunk America West pilots were stopped just before taking off last week, not because the flight attendants noticed they were smashed, but because an alert security guard had.

Let's hope they're grounded for life. But let's also ground the FAA for not earlier revoking the license of pilot Thomas Coit, who'd already had two drinking-related arrests

Mark Shields: Those drunk pilots really hurt the case for guns in the cockpit.