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 The TV pundits lauded the career, courage and humanity of one of their own this weekend. Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal, killed by kidnappers, was eulogized across the pundit spectrum.

His colleagues at the Journal, columnist Al Hunt on Capital Gang and Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot, spoke on Fox News Sunday of his great reporting skills and love of life. Gigot also announced a trust fund for Pearl’s unborn child. There was universal outrage against his killers, "a bunch of cowardly street thugs," according to Hunt.

Beyond Pearl’s tragic death, however, there was no clear consensus on the top issues. The GAO suit against Vice-President Dick Cheney gathered a lot of attention, but pundits looked past the politics to the merits of the case more so than in previous discussions of the issue. On Fox, National Public Radio’s Mara Liasson sees the GAO suit as "a pretty classic confrontation of two branches of government." She sees it taking up to two years to resolve.

The "Axis of Evil" was the prism by which the pundits judged President Bush’s Asian trip. Not surprisingly, the verdict was mixed, both on the durability of the expression "Axis of Evil" and on the achievements of the trip. "Successful and admirable," according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Bob Novak; "All areas of disagreement remain areas of disagreement as a result of the trip," according to Time’s Margaret Carlson. Both spoke on Capital Gang.

Most pundits reviewed the Pentagon’s alleged "disinformation" campaign with a jaundiced eye. "Now there is a role, of course, of disinformation and propaganda, I think, as a legitimate war tool, but it has to be kept completely separate from the Pentagon's efforts to inform us about the conduct of a war," said Kate O’Beirne of The National Review on Capital Gang. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seemingly defused the issue with strong clarifying statements on Meet the Press and Face the Nation.

Guest of the Week: The honor goes to Rumsfeld. He clearly overwhelmed Meet the Press host Tim Russert, correcting him on the name of the Pakistan Security Agency and delivering a lecture after hearing him read a New York Times editorial excerpt:

"It’s not clear that what you read is true. You read it like it’s true . . . It would be a mistake for you to draw inferences from what I said."

Rumsfeld also appeared on Face the Nation, where host Bob Schieffer and US News & World Report’s Gloria Borger were much more cautious with the feisty Secretary.

Pundit of the Week: David Brooks of The Weekly Standard on The News Hour, for a stout defense of the Administration’s GAO position: "The principle should be is the legislation good legislation -- not who did they meet with or what did they eat or talk about." He also offered this quip about campaign finance reform:

"Using George Bush technology, I've looked into the soul of the opponents of reform and they're beaten men. They just want to go home, take a nap."

Rhetorical Question of the Week: "Would you let your daughter be in a room with Mike Tyson?" National Public Radio’s Cokie Roberts, on This Week.

Separation of Church and CNN: A recurring oddity of Capital Gang’s "Newsmaker of the Week" on CNN is announcing the guest’s religious affiliation. Saturday’s guest was Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice. He is a defender of vouchers going to parochial schools. His religious affiliation? "Non-believer."

Huh?: "George is wrong to dismiss this initiative, if it is indeed an initiative." George Stephanopolous on This Week, commenting on doubts by Washington Post columnist George Will about a Saudi peace plan.

Mailbag

Aaron Hood of Columbus, Ohio, writes:

I could care less about all the big money in politics. If we could only get politicians to stop lying and making off the wall statements, every voter in this country would be more informed.

Julie Meyer of Deep River, Iowa writes:

It's my view after listening to the talking heads the last 3-4 days, that the elite press is far more interested in the political dynamics than the constitutional issues, of which I have great concern. Such a cavalier attitude by lawmakers toward our first amendment rights, political or otherwise, makes my blood run cold.

Matt White of Winter Spring, Florida writes:

What is wrong with this country? Treachery such as CFR should be scoffed at by those who love free speech.

Joseph Britt, Eau Claire, Wisconsin writes:

It's remarkable how people who know that most soft money goes to reelect incumbent Congressmen and that nearly all incumbent Congressmen get reelected think that yelling "incumbent protection" is their best argument against campaign finance reform. Perhaps they are not paying attention to how politics in Washington works, or perhaps they are just hoping no one else is.

Will Vehrs is an economic developer in Richmond, Va.  Unable to obsess on golf, fishing, or a weed-free lawn, he chose to stalk the weekend talk show pundits and their syndicated print brethren.   His "Punditwatch" column appears in Tony Adragna's Quasipundit.

 

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