"Family Feud" came back to television on the weekend pundit shows.
The battle for President George W. Bush’s soul on foreign policy became personal as his father’s closest advisors—and perhaps President Bush the Elder himself—debated the wisdom of invading Iraq.
Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor in the first Bush administration, started the debate early in the week with a Wall Street Journal op-ed opposing a pre-emptive strike on Iraq.
David Brooks of The Weekly Standard nudged the family storyline Friday night on The News Hour, sharing some juicy speculation about the Scowcroft piece: "The wild card in this is George Bush Sr., who Scowcroft is very close to and what is senior saying to junior? That is sort of the gossip in Washington these days."
Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday advanced the story with a variety of Bush 41 veterans and players from both sides in the current debate.
Brian Williams, substituting for Tim Russert on Meet the Press, belied his lightweight image with a solid performance navigating a four-way interview with Henry Kissinger, Norman Schwarzkopf, and Sens. Richard Lugar R-Ind., and Jim Inhofe R-Okla.
Kissinger moved away from Scowcroft, saying he "disagreed" with his former protégé. President Bush has "made the intellectual case," but just "has not created the political framework." Schwarzkopf seemed to throw his lot with Scowcroft, emphasizing that a battle with Iraq would not be a "cakewalk." Lugar leaned toward the Scowcroft position, calling for "robust diplomacy" while Inhofe rattled sabers, comparing inaction against Saddam with inaction against Bin Laden.
On Fox, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger left no doubt that he stood with Scowcroft and openly made the dispute personal, criticizing administration hawks Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Echoing Schwarzkopf, he was contemptuous of their predictions that action against Iraq would be a cakewalk, saying "I’m scared to death that they’ll convince the president we can do it on the cheap." He accused them of being "devious" and scoffed at the Iraqi opposition: "I think there are six of them."
The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, on Fox, supported the hawkish view. "The people who are against this war are not against it because the president hasn’t made the case. They don’t like the case."
Juan Williams of NPR represented the less bellicose side on Fox. "If we go in and even if we win, what does it mean in terms of how many lives are sacrificed? How long and how many citizens are going to have to stay there?"
Other topics for the weekend pundits were the looming baseball strike and the impact of Elvis Presley. Tony Snow of Fox and Bob Schieffer of Face the Nation each tried to relate the two in their closing commentaries. Seldom seen Hall of Fame pitcher Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., appeared on Fox and supported what appears to be conventional pundit wisdom: the owners are more right than the players this time, but a plague on both their houses.
Interview of the Week
Brit Hume, teamed with Tony Snow, aggressively challenged every position on Iraq of former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, finally getting him to concede, "Where I am is a little bit confusing." Hume wondered why the U.S. should wait until Saddam is stronger and speculated that most opposition to the invasion was based on the fear of failure.
Critics of administration voices on economic policy got a brief glimpse of the latest contender to replace Paul O’Neill and Larry Lindsey. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the council of economic advisors, appeared briefly on Face the Nation. Physically resembling George Will, Hubbard sounded confident and authoritative, strongly defending tax cuts.
The Limits of Diversity
Wall Street Journal columnist Al Hunt, appearing on Capital Gang, referring to Congress after a discussion of upcoming Georgia congressional primaries:
"I think there's a tremendous value in diversity in the people's body, in different characters. But I think that [Bob] Barr and Cynthia McKinney, to my way of thinking, at least, are bookend kooks."
Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That
The "King of the Blues," B. B. King, reminisced about his reaction to "The King," Elvis Presley, when he first heard Presley sing "That’s All Right, Momma":
"Hey, the guy sounds black. That’s unusual. A white person. A nice, handsome, good-looking guy. Course, he wasn’t really good-looking to me."
Statistic of the Week
Fox reported that 112 major league baseball players earned more money than Tiger Woods won in golf tournaments last year. That prompted Ceci Connally of the Washington Post to confess, "When I hear these salaries, I think the only thing more appalling would be Jack Grubman’s $32 million severance package."
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.