Vice President Dick Cheney, reporting back from his Mideast trip, was the lead guest on three Sunday talk shows. He said little that was newsworthy and offered no cause for optimism on an imminent breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Some pundits judged his trip harshly. "It didn't look like Cheney made any progress. It was a failed trip," said Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot on Fox News Sunday. On the same program, NPR's Mara Liasson noted, "The Palestinians are the only ones with a clear strategy."

One Cheney point — Arab leaders were more supportive of action against Iraq in private than in their public comments — was supported by Tom Friedman of the New York Times, appearing on Face the Nation. Friedman believes Arab nations will support action against Iraq if the U.S. utilizes the U.N., neutralizes Palestinian conflict and "shoots to kill." Arab states do not want a wounded Saddam remaining in the region.

The passage of Campaign Finance Reform and President Bush's decision to sign it was the other big pundit topic. "I think it is a time for celebration," syndicated columnist Mark Shields told host Jim Lehrer on The News Hour. Then, on Capital Gang, Shields said Bush signing the reform bill would inoculate him from poll numbers showing that 50 percent of Americans thought Republicans were more beholden to "special interests" than Democrats. "A Bush surrender," said National Review's Kate O'Bierne on Capital Gang.

I Want to Thank the Academy …

Mark Shields gave an Academy Award-like acceptance speech on Campaign Finance Reform:

"And I think Enron deserves credit along with McCain and Feingold and Marty Meehan and Chris Shays in the House. But also Bill Clinton's sleepovers at the White House deserve credit. The Buddhist Temple deserves credit. The Marc Rich pardon deserves credit."

Conservative Bush-Bashing

Bush's war on terror is lapsing into incoherence. –Washington Post columnist George Will on This Week.

On domestic issues, he's a lover, not a fighter. If you beat him, you don't pay a price. –Paul Gigot on Fox News Sunday.

Even a Fanatic Has Limits

David Brooks of The Weekly Standard, on The News Hour, speaking of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's refusal to testify before Congress:

"I'm a fanatic on the subject of executive privilege. Nobody thinks executive privilege should be stronger than me except for Napoleon and Julius Caesar, but even I cannot defend what the president and the administration are doing here. Tom Ridge is in a public role just like a Cabinet secretary. He should be forced to go up there and talk to Congress."

Teetotaler of the Week

Attorney General John Ashcroft, responding to a question from Fox's Tony Snow:

I tell you, what's happened in the INS is enough to drive a man to drink; not me, particularly, given my habits.

Campaign Slogan of the Week

This Week's Claire Shipman interviewed ex-Clinton aide and Illinois Congressional candidate Rahm Emanuel. Her softball questions allowed him to mention his not-so original healthcare slogan: "Leave no grandparent behind."

Grandparent Health Check

Vice President Cheney, a grandfather, told Meet the Press host Tim Russert that his heart defibrillator has not gone off since it was installed.

Pundit Musical Generations

George Will played an excerpt from the musical Oklahoma! on This Week and said, "If that doesn't make your pulse race, you're dead." Meanwhile, Claire Shipman described the music from the Oscar-nominated film Moulin Rouge as being "on speed." George Stephanopolous disagreed, saying its music was "on acid."

Mailbag

Sean McKinney writes: 

[Margaret Carlson is] confused by the color yellow? What color light is between red and green in her state? Purple? Maybe she should think before she speaks, but then that may be asking too much.

Bryan Melan writes:

Calling Fox News "fascist" is almost as funny as calling Alec Baldwin an "actor"!

Martin Meaders writes:

I am still wondering why these "pundits" are given any airtime at all. Williams wanting Tipper to run because she was strong on Oprah talking about rap music? These people are brain dead!

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.

Respond to the Writer