SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt, bloodied earlier in the week by demands that he step down, waded into the Sunday talk show corporate scandal feeding frenzy with his mission unclear.
Did he appear on Meet the Press and Face the Nation to fight for his job and answer his critics, or was he sent to divert attention from questions about President Bush’s Harken Energy and Vice President Cheney’s Halliburton problems?
Only time will tell, but early indications are that nothing an underling does or says will derail this scandal for the president and vice president.
The best news for Pitt was that Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., did not join fellow Meet the Press guest Sen. John McCain in calling for Pitt’s resignation. "He has to get with the program," said Sarbanes, noting that it would take months to install a new leader at the SEC.
Pitt remained cool and composed under tough questioning, vowing to stay on the job. "We want to solve today’s problems," was his response to Harken questions, and "Nobody in this country gets a pass" was the sound byte he used regarding the SEC investigation of Halliburton. He denounced charges of "guilt by occupation" being lodged against him.
One of McCain’s charges against Pitt is his 10 percent rate of recusing himself in SEC cases. Pitt claimed that his recusal rate was actually less than those of his predecessors, but Meet the Press host Tim Russert did not pursue the point. Someone should clarify this accounting.
This Week hyped "new revelations" about WorldCom, brought to them courtesy of Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La. Based on documents his committee received, the congressman charged that top WorldCom officials knew of the accounting irregularities.
There was no discussion on the ethics of Tauzin broadcasting subpoenaed documents.
Metaphor of the Week
ABC news correspondent Michel Martin, on This Week: "CEOs are the crack dealers of this year. People are legislating in an atmosphere of fear and loathing."
More Fear and Loathing
ABC news correspondent Linda Douglas, on This Week: "The mood in Washington is not to put people in jail, but to lynch them."
The Weekly Standard's David Brooks, on The News Hour: "There was an emphasis on throwing these guys in jail, hanging them from mosquito ponds naked, just to torture them."
Exchange of the Week, Blame Game Division
It occurred during the Fox News Sunday panel:
Brit Hume, Fox: "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, NPR: "How is it you fail to notice that Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution were talking about doing away with regulation?"
Bending Over Backwards
George Stephanopolous was surprisingly tough in an interview with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., on This Week. "What does the market have to do with Harken Energy?" Stephanopolous asked, interrupting the senator in mid-talking point. Later, he pointedly asked Lieberman to defend his 1990’s effort to derail a measure that would have expensed stock options.
Who Needs Consensus?
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bob Novak, on Capital Gang: "Whenever the Senate has unanimous votes on anything important, that's a totalitarian state, and I'm very, very worried about it."
Washington Post columnist George Will, on This Week: "The Senate passed a bill 97-0. It’s either meaningless or they don’t know the meaning of it."
Kate O’Bierne of the National Review, on Capital Gang: "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."
Fox’s Tony Snow showed three contrasting pairs of network reporting clips on Klayman and his Judicial Watch group. He was always "conservative" when filing suits against Clinton; he was just a "watchdog" in the filing against Cheney.
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields, discussing President Bush’s Wall Street speech on The News Hour: "He gave up the bold colors of moral clarity for sort of a pale pastel, a nuanced gray of accountability."
Runner-up, Quip of the Week
Margaret Carlson of Time, on Capital Gang: "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?"
Quip of the Week
Tony Snow, on Fox: "Ted Williams’ son is trying to turn the ‘Splendid Splinter’ into a freeze pop."
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.