Weekend pundits tackled the current apocalyptic topics: potential war with Iraq and economic upheaval in the wake of corporate scandals.
Face the Nation added pestilence to the mix, doing a segment on the West Nile virus outbreak.
Politics reared its ugly head, too, as pundits feasted on Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe’s fiery Las Vegas speech criticizing President Bush.
The recurring theme on Iraq is that President Bush needs to make a compelling case for an invasion, with each guest asked a variation of the question, "Will there be war?" It’s "not inevitable, but probable," according to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., on Face the Nation.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., appearing on Meet the Press with substitute host Andrea Mitchell, answered the question by contending, "President Bush’s rhetoric over-commits us to that war." Levin claims that "containment of Saddam so far is working."
Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., on Fox News Sunday, confessed, "One of my worst nightmares is that he [Saddam Hussein] lets inspectors back in."
Much was made of House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s, R-Texas, apparent opposition to an invasion. On The News Hour, "hawks" like the National Review's Richard Lowry downplayed it as "gamesmanship." Doves like Levin said it shows "significant lack of support" for the president.
America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia went under the microscope in light of a Rand briefing questioning the Saudis as allies. Levin charged that the Saudis "are too inconsistent in their support."
Saudi advisor Adel Al-Jebeir appeared on Meet the Press and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was interviewed on This Week. Both bitterly criticized the Rand report and downplayed every instance of Saudi complicity with terrorism.
Former ambassador Dennis Ross, appearing on Fox, summarized the Saudi-U.S. relationship best: "We have shared interests, not shared values."
Sam Donaldson interviewed Terry McAuliffe on This Week. Appearing to be enjoying an adrenaline rush, the Democratic party leader stood by his criticism of Bush and the upcoming economic forum. He also defended his Global Crossing investment by saying he was a "venture capitalist."
A jovial Donaldson appeared to enjoy McAuliffe’s energy level and failed to press him on the issues.
On Fox, The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol confided, "Every Republican I talk to hopes Terry McAuliffe is the face of the Democratic Party." He also speculated that McAuliffe was taking his orders from Bill Clinton as part of a "tactical change."
Andrea Mitchell could not have been pleased when the AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney answered one of her Meet the Press questions about corporate malfeasance by saying, "Your husband said it best when he called it ‘infectious greed.’" Mitchell, of course, is married to Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.
Gratuitous Slam of the Week
"I think [Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.,] just realized he could make a nice TV career by constantly going on any foreign policy question saying this is very, very complicated, which sort of passes for sophistication but it is a sound bite, not a policy." — Richard Lowry, on The News Hour
Quip of the Week
"Remember term limits? John Dingell has been in Congress longer than most of the term limit advocates have been alive." — Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on Capital Gang, discussing results of the Michigan primary.
Capital Gang’s "Newsmaker of the Week" interview is notorious puff piece filler. The National Review’s Kate O’Bierne, who interviewed Colorado Gov. Bill Owens for the Saturday edition, joked about it with host Mark Shields:
O'Beirne: "How did you like my tough interview, Mark?"
Shields: "I was going to say, boy, oh, boy, that poor guy, he must have been squirming."
O'Beirne: "I confess that I'm smitten, but so are a whole lot of other people."
You Go, Al
Bill Kristol, on Fox: "Gore’s grass roots support is impressive. His populist track is not foolish."
Margaret Carlson, soon to be leaving Time magazine, joked on Capital Gang about Vice President Dick Cheney’s desire to be on the 2004 ticket: "The guy picked himself the first time. It's good to see he's picking himself the second time."
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.