There's nothing the pundits like better than a partisan debate, unless it's a partisan debate that includes a debate about whether the debate is even legitimate.

When Senators Robert Byrd, D-W.V., and Tom Daschle, D-S.D., questioned aspects of the War on Terror and Senator Trent Lott, R-Miss., challenged their support of the President during wartime, the pundits had a "two-fer" as issue one.

Tim Russert, host of Meet the Press, brought both Lott and Daschle to the table for a surprisingly civil discussion. Both men sounded less partisan on Sunday than during the previous week. Daschle also appeared on Fox News Sunday.

The pundits overwhelmingly panned Lott’s remarks. "Overreaction at best. It was silly," according to Mara Liasson of National Public Radio on Fox. Juan Williams, also from National Public Radio, said on Fox, "We’re a democracy. We should have spirited debate."

There was less agreement on the politics of the debate. "This is not loyal opposition. This is opportunistic opposition," was the verdict of Kate O’Bierne of the National Review on Capital GangBrit Hume, speaking on Fox, said, "It places a marker for ... Democrats, that they have raised questions ... It is good politics if things go badly."

With fighting resuming in Afghanistan, US troops in the Philippines, and troops enroute to the Republic of Georgia, the debate about the War on Terror and whether that debate is divisive will likely continue to preoccupy the pundits. Bi-partisanship lasted longer than expected.

Segment of the Week 

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer and James Zogby, President of the Arab-American Institute, on Meet the Press, discussing anti-US sentiments in a recent Gallup Poll and the Saudi Arabian peace plan for the Middle East.Both men got testy.  Of the peace plan, Krauthammer scoffed, "It’s smoke and mirrors."

What Controversy? 

Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer bemoaned the ABC effort to replace Ted Koppel’s Nightline with David LettermanFox News Sunday discussed the controversy and the implications for news programming. ABC’s This Week didn’t mention it.

Margin of Error, One Decade 

David Brooks of The Weekly Standard, on The News Hour, discussing Iraq:

"There are 25 new democracies in the last 20 years...I would say that's something that's possible in Iraq. That's something that's happened 25 times in the last 30 years."

Isn’t This News?

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bob Novak, discussing social security reform on Capital Gang with Senator John Breaux, D-L.A., Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, said the following:

"I bet you in his heart, John Breaux will agree with me. He may not say so, but that won't do the trick. What you have to do is eventually, you have to take this crummy system and put it on a means test, so that people like me and my wife, who now receive Social Security and don't need it, will not get the Social Security."

Breaux surprised Novak with his reply: "I support means testing."

Suck-up of the Week 

Bob Schieffer, host of Meet the Press, after concluding his interview with the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman

"When I become President, I want you as Secretary of State."

Who Was That Rudy Guy? 

After Al Hunt of the Capital Gang interviewed Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, he called him "America’s premier mayor." Not to be outdone, Bob Novak responded, "Well, I couldn't agree with you more. He — Richard Daley — has been a surprise to everybody. He's a perfect mayor."

An Informed Electorate 

Also on Capital Gang, Los Angeles Times political reporter Mark Barabak discussed Tuesday’s California Republican gubernatorial primary:

"You could walk down the streets of California today, handing out $10 bills to anybody who knows there's a primary on Tuesday. And you probably wouldn't empty your wallet."  

Mailbag

Noel Razus of  Monroe, New York writes:

I was left with the feeling these media talking heads, faced with the reality of Mr. Pearl's grisly murder, are scared, maybe for the first times in their lives.

Pat Sweeney, Jr. of Pittston, Pennsylvania writes:

Maybe if all the TV stations, and all the press propagandists, were made to watch the tape of Mr. Pearl's death, a couple of them would realize what all us Americans out here have known for years.  Show the tape on every news cast in the western world, and we will find out for sure who is for us or against us.

Greg Strangis of Manhattan Beach, California writes:

Further supporting David Brooks' stout defense of the Administration's GAO position, I'd like to suggest that the Administration shouldn't be forced to reveal its sources any more than journalists should be forced to reveal theirs. Unless, of course, journalists are entitled to more protections than this nation's leaders.

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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