"I think the president is pursuing a brilliant bit of diplomacy."
With those words on Meet the Press, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, the man who arguably ignited the debate over Iraq back in August, made the essential pundit point of the weekend.
Everyone agreed that President Bush’s speech to the United Nations totally changed the political landscape. Internationally, the focus moved from a saber-rattling United States to a feckless United Nations. Domestically, opponents of unilateral U.S. action appear to have been maneuvered into supporting a course of action that will likely end up with the result they oppose.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, making the rounds of the Sunday shows, seemed more energized and confident than they have in months. "All of us are solidly behind what was in that speech," Powell told host Tim Russert on Meet the Press. Gone were questions about Powell resigning or disarray among the president’s advisors.
Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass, appearing on Face the Nation, tried to make the best of the new landscape. He claimed the president’s speech was a "Victory for those of us who have argued for a multi-lateralist approach."
Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., also made Sunday appearances. All but Graham got off easy with relatively gentle questions about their ambivalence on Iraq. Fox’s Brit Hume badgered Graham, at one point rolling his eyes, shaking his head, and saying in exasperation, "Go ahead [don’t answer my question.]"
The much-ballyhooed debut of George Stephanopolous as sole host of This Week was inauspicious, although an illuminating roundtable tried to salvage it. The Stephanopolous format features new but unimaginative graphics and a "real people" gimmick. At the conclusion of an interview with Condoleezza Rice, Stephanopolous announced that the show would bring in "new voices." He introduced a woman from Kentucky who asked Rice one long-winded question. He did not bring in a "new voice" to ask Sen. Daschle a question.
At the end of the show Stephanopolous announced he would usually offer commentary about the things he thought would be news in the coming week. For his inaugural effort, however, he offered an uninspired tribute to show founder David Brinkley and the two commentators who lost their jobs to make way for him: Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson.
Discussion of the Week
This Week’s roundtable of ABC’s Michele Martin, Washington Post columnist George Will, and Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria was outstanding. Martin pointed out the Democratic opposition to military action against Iraq coalescing around the idea of it being a "distraction" from the war on terror. "It’s morally persuasive and politically effective." Zakaria said memorably, "The war train has left the station. You can get it in six weeks or six months." Will went literary: "A specter is haunting the United Nations."
Stanley Kubrick Said That
"Great countries act like gangsters, small ones like prostitutes, somebody once said that." --David Brooks of The Weekly Standard, on The News Hour.
Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, on Fox News Sunday, saw the move to Qatar by the U.S. forces Central Command, as worrisome to the Saudis. "They don’t want to be left behind." He believes they will grant the U.S. flyover rights for action against Iraq.
War on Terrorism Outrages
Two Capital Gang regulars used the "Outrage of the Week" feature to point out absurdities in the War on Terror. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Bob Novak criticized the response to the Florida joke-turned-terrorist debacle. "Now we know what level orange means."
Former Time columnist Margaret Carlson ridiculed Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who suggested that West Nile virus was tied to terrorist action. "Does he think there are mosquito training camps in Afghanistan? A supply of teeny-tiny night vision goggles for the little buggers?"
The Company He Keeps
"When I go to lunch, it’s with super hawks. When I go to dinner, it’s with super hawks. I take a shower, it’s only super hawks there in the shower." –David Brooks
History’s Solution for Florida
Noting that early American political candidates offered voters alcoholic spirits, yet produced elected officials like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, George Will offered a suggestion to fix Florida’s voting problems: "More whiskey and fewer gadgets."
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.