Frist Debuts as Sunday Star

Newly elected Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., split his debut as top-drawer Sunday guest with Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday.

The two shows dueled over whether their interview with Frist was an "exclusive" or the "first." Feisty Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow showed side-by-side stills of Frist appearing on each show. Frist wore a red tie on one show and a blue tie on the other.

Frist’s interviews were as different as his ties. Meet the Press host Tim Russert grilled Frist with tough, pointed questions, while Snow was less confrontational. The Republican doctor was confident and self-assured on both shows when discussing the "big picture," but Russert clearly made him uncomfortable with questions on specifics.

Frist demonstrated the most confidence in supporting the president’s call for tax cuts and the elimination of taxes on dividends. Most pundits were skeptical of the president’s plan emerging unscathed by compromise. "I don’t see the numbers for passage," was the verdict of NPR’s Juan Williams, on Fox.

Following Frist on Meet the Press was Democratic presidential contender Al Sharpton. Love him or loathe him, Sharpton does not "play by the rules" of the Sunday shows and provides an entertaining interview. Sharpton challenged Russert’s questions repeatedly and frequently turned questions around to challenge Russert. He also referred to the Meet the Press host as "Brother Russert."

Asked the rationale behind his candidacy, Sharpton said, "The world is one village. I, more than anyone, understand the village."

"Most Improved Show" goes to Face the Nation. Dan Balz of the Washington Post replaced Gloria Borger as host Bob Schieffer’s sidekick. He asked tough questions and worked well with Time’s Joe Klein and Schieffer in a short pundit roundtable.

Klein was easily "Pundit of the Week." He noted that psychology was the major factor in the president’s economic plan and he compared Bush’s strategy to President Clinton’s strategy in 1993. Clinton raised taxes to impress bond markets; Bush is trying to eliminate dividend taxes to impress the stock market.

"Democrats have their blood up," according to Klein. "Bush is attacking on all fronts."

Competing Reviews of the President’s Plan

David Brooks, The Weekly Standard, on The News Hour: "Whether it's going to have any stimulative effect, I doubt it, but it is a good corporate reform. If I could lapse into economic jargon, economic stimulus plans are stupid."

Al Hunt, Wall Street Journal, on Capital Gang: "It's crumbs for about 99 million, and then it's caviar for the very top. This is a bad proposal. I'll tell you who else is incredibly enthusiastic about this is the Bush cabinet. You got to go back to Teapot Dome to find such a fleecing. This time it's legal.

"Adjective Inflation"

Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal, appearing on Fox, characterizing Sen. Tom Daschle’s comment that the president’s economic plan was "obscene."

Youth Should Not Be Served

After a Capital Gang interview with Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the youngest member of Congress, National Review’s Kate O’Beirne had a "mother’s" reaction:

"This nice 29-year-old explains he's been in elected office since he was 23. Now, as the mother of a 23-year-old, and I'd even like to think he's an above-average 23-year-old, that really makes me nervous."

Fairness Watch

Tim Russert’s description of Judge Charles Pickering’s role in a cross burning case was straight out of the Democratic talking points, without the nuances that several print pundits have uncovered. Sen. Frist allowed the mischaracterization to stand. Even Juan Williams, on Fox, acknowledged that Pickering was addressing an inequity in sentencing, not being soft on racism. "Good law, bad politics," is how Williams described the incident.

Another Player

Joe Klein suggested on Face the Nation that Al Sharpton might win the South Carolina presidential primary. Last week, on This Week, ABC’s Michele Martin accused columnist George Will of "playing the race card" for suggesting the same scenario.

Maybe Candidates Shouldn’t Read

Robert Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times attacked the reading choices of Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., in his "Outrage of the Week" on Capital Gang:

"Last Sunday on ABC's This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards to name his favorite book. His answer, The Trial of Socrates by the late radical journalist I.F. Stone. That's incredible! Did Sen. Edwards know that Izzy Stone was a lifelong Soviet apologist? Did he know of evidence that Stone received secret payments from the Kremlin?

"What does this tell us about Johnny Edwards?"

Quip of the Week

Commenting on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s meetings with the North Koreans, Time’s Margaret Carlson had this quip:

"I think we should all sleep better tonight knowing that peace is at hand between New Mexico and North Korea."

Gloomy Assessment of the Week

Brit Hume, on Fox, commenting on the stand-off with North Korea:

"This is what nuclear blackmail looks like and it’s not a pretty sight."

Will Vehrs is an economic developer in Richmond, Va. who turned his lifelong obsession with pundit shows into this web log.  His "Punditwatch" column appears on Tony Adragna's Quasipundit; he recently began writing "Virginia Pundit Watch" for Bacon's Rebellion.

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