Rev. Al Sharpton finally got his Meet the Press interview Sunday, a part of the "Tim Russert Primary" phenomena.

Russert, program host, had, in previous weeks, interviewed several potential contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, offering them a chance to make their case while gently probing strengths and weaknesses.

In a burst of candor, Russert introduced his Sharpton interview with the admission that the flamboyant New Yorker was outpolling many prominent Democrat officeholders who have preceded him on the show.

And, at the end of an interview that was almost exclusively a look at the Reverend’s controversial past, Sharpton expressed the hope that he would get a chance to appear on the show again, to discuss, "Healthcare, voting, the issues."

"We did both, issues and character," snapped Russert.

In between, Sharpton declared, "Where I am, many Americans are, and most Democrats are." That area apparently includes support for Louis Farrakhan’s comment that Saddam Hussein is no worse than President Bush.

Sharpton did separate himself from Farrakhan’s call for a "Nuremberg Trial" of American presidents. "We don’t have to go to Nuremberg, we have to go to Florida."

In a comforting declaration, Sharpton assured Russert, "I am not an anti-Semite."

Elsewhere on the weekend shows, pundits cast about for controversies. Last week’s furor over Brent Scowcroft’s op-ed arguing against invading Iraq was replaced by controversy over former Secretary of State James Baker’s New York Times op-ed arguing, with caveats, for an invasion. Washington Post columnist George Will, on This Week, said Baker’s piece complicates Bush’s plans for "preventative war" because of his call for a U.N. resolution.

Fox News Sunday gave prominent play to the hawkish side of the Iraq debate by interviewing Republican Whip Tom DeLay of Texas. DeLay had given a forceful speech supporting the President if he decides to invade Iraq. He claimed that the White House did not write his speech and it was shown to the administration only "hours" before he delivered it.

Fox also did a piece on the Wall Street Journal’s criticism of the New York Times’ coverage of the Iraq debate. Occasional Fox panelist Paul Gigot of the Journal made the case against the Times.

This Week gave "Breakdown," a new book on Sept. 11 intelligence failures, a huge boost by interviewing author and Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz .

The least compelling issue of the week was covered on This Week’s roundtable: the arrest of a mother at a county fair in Ohio because her children were sunburned.

A Bill Gertz Blockbuster Revelation

"In my book, I found a huge bureaucratic resistance to reform."

And You Think Our Bureaucrats Are Bad

Raymond Arroyo, news director and lead anchor for the EWTN, the international Catholic network, on Capital Gang:

"I think you're going to see an older pope next time out. Many figures in the curia are very upset with the length of this pontificate. You know, this man's been dragging them all over the world for 23 years. And he's internationalized the pontificate and taken it outside of Rome, and therefore out of the control of the bureaucrats at the Vatican."

A Ringing Defense

Seymour Topping, former managing editor of the New York Times, answered charges that the paper of record misrepresented Henry Kissinger’s position on invading Iraq:

"[It was] not a deliberate effort to take a biased position. It might be sloppy journalism."

A Bill Clinton Talk Show?

The Fox panel discussed the chances that the former president would host an afternoon talk show on CBS:

NPR’s Juan Williams: "I don’t see that he has the inclination or discipline to be there every day."

Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard: "He won’t do it because he wants Mrs. Clinton to be president."

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer: "He’s a man who sees the presidency as a steppingstone to be the next Rosie."

The Wit and Wisdom of George Will

On the Iraq debate: "We have to listen with a third ear and hear what we don’t hear."

On the Ohio sunburn case: "This is a society that considers sin a superstition and virtue a matter of opinion."

Quip of the Week

Asked about presidential "working vacations" on The News Hour, the Boston Globe’s Tom Oliphant noted, "Some people would say 'working journalists' is a contradiction too."

Mailbag

Evelyn Palmeri of Flagler Beach, Fla., writes:

Why on earth do you think that anyone with an above room temperature I.Q. cares what Al Hunt or Mark Shields has to say about anything? Please spare us the quotes of these two unfortunates.

Joseph Britt of Kennesaw, Ga., writes:

I think the media are missing a major part of this story, in that they are lumping people who really do not want any military action against Iraq (most Europeans and some Democrats, plus Scowcroft and Eagleburger) with people who do but distrust the Bush administration's ability to prepare for war and manage its aftermath (Kissinger, Lugar, and a few commentators including Josh Marshall and the Economist magazine. I predict you will see John McCain joining this group soon.)

I suspect that a major reason we are where we are on this subject is that the military is not ready to fight the way it wants to fight in Iraq right now, and may not be for some time. The Afghan campaign ran down its supply of PGMs, and its leadership is still not comfortable with the idea of fighting in a chemical environment -- which prudence demands we prepare for.

Steven Antler writes:

This is the first war in American history that is absolutely guaranteed to pay for itself.

Once regime change has been accomplished, Iraqi oil can be pumped freely and pay not only for Iraq's new democratic government but also for peace corps workers, environmental engineers, democracy trainers, teachers, development economists -- the whole package of postwar reconstruction. (Lots of productive job opportunities here for liberal social reformers!) Directly, and through the multiplier effect, Iraq’s working and middle classes will finally gain access to oil rents as their country's oil flows to the world.

Get control of the oil fields. It all starts there.

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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