Iraq and Tuesday’s election results dominated the weekend pundit shows. With so much to talk about and so little time, the pundits decided, with few exceptions, to avoid discussing their failure last week to predict the tide that swept Republicans into control of the Senate.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card made appearances to present the administration’s position on Iraq and the U.N. resolution authorizing weapons inspections. While all three expressed doubts that Saddam Hussein would fully comply, they carefully supported the timetable of the resolution. Card, appearing on Meet the Press, was most hidebound by his talking points, repeating them no matter what the question.
The election results were largely viewed through the prism of a variety of Democratic guests. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., on Fox, and Senator-elect Mark Pryor D-Ark., on Face the Nation, appeared the most centrist, with Pryor pledging support for the president if military action against Iraq is required.
Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., on Meet the Press, gave his usual cautious interview, proudly pointing to fellow Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., bucking the Republican trend.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on This Week, threw caution to the wind and was in full-throttle campaign mode. Prodded by host George Stephanopolous, Kerry outlined a comprehensive brief against Bush and the Republicans. He repeatedly mentioned attack ads against fellow veteran, defeated Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga. He dared Republicans to campaign against him on patriotism, even as he denied that he had decided to run.
One had to wonder where this message-heavy Kerry was during the final weeks of the campaign.
Although the battle for House Minority Leader appears over, with Nancy Pelosi D-Calif., (most conservative pundits would say, D-San Francisco) the assumed winner, quixotic challenger Harold Ford D-Tenn., appeared on This Week and was endorsed in the roundtable by Peter Beinart of The New Republic. Few pundits appeared excited about Pelosi.
Tom Oliphant of the Boston Globe, commenting on the minority leader race for The News Hour, observed, "I must tell you, in the last few days, I haven't met a single person in the United States who cares at all about who wins this fight."
The Old Switcheroo?
On Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asked Senate Majority Leader-to-be Trent Lott, R-Miss., if any Democratic senators might switch to the GOP. "Well, you never know" answered Lott, mysteriously sounding like he might know something.
Russert asked Tom Daschle if he was worried any Democrats might defect. "No, I’m not," Daschle replied. Might a Republican jump to the Democrats? "It happened once before," Daschle answered, mysteriously sounding like he might know something.
Passionate Pundit Award
Michel Martin of ABC News, on This Week, making the case for not subjecting teen killer John Malvo to the death penalty.
Time’s Margaret Carlson made two pointed comments in support of women on Capital Gang:
"We heard John Sununu on ‘Evans and Novak,’ or ‘Hunt and Shields," or whatever the gang without the girls is called, a show I'm going to miss."
"Nice that Harold Ford called Nancy Pelosi ‘endearing.’ How belittling of her. His attempt will go nowhere."
Shown Al Gore’s comment that Democrats need a "major regrouping" after Tuesday’s election, both Tom Daschle and John Kerry politely disagreed.
Asked about the resignation of SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt, Andrew Card said, "Those who were looking to make him unproductive were making him counterproductive."
David Brooks of The Weekly Standard, on The News Hour:
"When you talk to Republicans, as they watch what is happening in the Democratic Party, there's sort of glee. There is some feeling that the Democratic Party is about to go so far left they'll become a minority party. But then when you talk to sophisticated Democrats, they're not that stupid. They may oppose the Bush tax cut but they're going to trade it for another tax cut."
Meet the Press celebrated its 55th anniversary on Sunday. Tim Russert claimed that his show is a "truth detector for viewers."
Bob Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times, who was one of the more accurate pundits in predicting election results, used his "Outrage of the Week" segment on Capital Gang to point to one of his mistakes:
"I'm one of those responsible for this outrage. Politicians and journalists, especially conservatives, who insisted Elizabeth Dole was a poor candidate who might end up losing Jesse Helms' Republican Senate seat in North Carolina. We were wrong. She turned out to be a very good candidate."
They Can Stay Home
From Tony Snow, on Fox News Sunday, discussing voter turnout: "I don’t want ignoramuses to vote."
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.