Saddam Hussein's Terrible Week

NPR’s Juan Williams had the “Quip of the Week” on Fox News Sunday: “Two people had terrible weeks this week: Michael Jackson with his interview and Saddam Hussein.”

Thankfully, weekend pundits did not explore Michael Jackson’s difficulties. Instead, they concentrated on Saddam Hussein’s bad week, the result of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations. Mara Liasson of NPR spoke for most pundits when she called his performance “powerful and compelling” during the Fox panel.

There was almost no mention on the Sunday shows of last week’s big story: the loss of the Columbia.

Powell appeared on Meet the Press, Fox, and This Week.  He stood firmly behind his Wednesday comments at the UN.  He also threw cold water on reports of a French-German proposal for enhanced inspections, refused to discuss why the U.S. did not “take out” a suspected al Qaeda camp in northern Iraq, and defended the administration’s team, including controversial remarks by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

More interesting were the reactions of Democrats.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, while conceding on Meet the Press that Powell did a “brilliant job” at the U.N., maintained there was too much of an  “irrational exuberance” for conflict.  She claimed that the battle against al Qaeda and resolving the “crisis” in North Korea was more pressing than Iraq, accusing the administration of a “uni-dimensional foreign policy.” 

When host Tim Russert showed bellicose comments she and President Clinton made against Iraq in 1998, Albright responded, “Things are different after 9-11.”

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., on Fox, also sounded more bellicose in 1998 then he does now, as host Tony Snow and Brit Hume asked him to explain previous positions. Levin ducked the question. He called for the administration to stop viewing the U.N. Security Council as a “stumbling block.”  Even while conceding that inspections were unlikely to succeed absent a cooperative Iraqi government, Levin said they should continue because “there’s a chance they’ll succeed.”

On This Week, host George Stephanopolous interviewed possible Democratic presidential “peace” candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, ahead of Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.  Kucinich called for “Patience towards peace, not impatience towards war.” As he heads for Iowa to gauge support, he promised “a fresh look at foreign policy.”  His message: “War itself should be archaic.”

Biden seemed unimpressed by the reported proposals of the French and Germans. He also seemed to be supportive of the administration’s position, if only because the U.S. was “in a box” by having troops ready to go. Without revealing anything, he said the Administration had a “defensible” rationale for not bombing the suspected terrorist camp in Northern Iraq, although he hinted that he might have come to a different conclusion. Asked by Stephanopolous if he was still thinking of running for President, Biden gave an emphatic “yes.”  After Kucinich, it was not hard to understand why.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice spelled Powell on Face the Nation, where New York Times columnist Tom Friedman shared in the questioning with host Bob Scheiffer.  Friedman, with a series of questions about what would come after war with Iraq, confirmed David Brooks’ comment on The News Hour.  The editor of The Weekly Standard said Powell’s speech had shifted the debate away from “whether” to “how and what’s the endgame.”

One Less Thing to Analyze

Shown a poll that said almost three times as many Americans trusted Colin Powell with Iraq policy as President Bush, Powell told Meet the Press host Tim Russert, “I don’t analyze polls.”

Old Europe Bashing

Tom Friedman, on Face the Nation: “France is increasing the likelihood of war.”

Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, on Fox:  “I’m all in favor of gratuitous hits at France and Germany.”

Passionate Pundits

George Will of the Washington Post and Michel Martin of ABC clashed on This Week over Appeals Court nominee Miguel Estrada. Will urged the Democrats to filibuster Estrada, slyly advising, “Put it on Univision,” the Spanish language network. When Martin claimed Estrada was a product of affirmative action, Will said sharply that he didn’t get 20 points for being Hispanic, he got the highest rating from the American Bar Association.

Card Playing

There was a heated discussion about President Bush’s budget on Capital Gang:

Al Hunt, Wall Street Journal: “If, however, deficits become a symptom, which they are, of an inept and inequitable economic policy of this administration, caviar for the rich, crumbs for the working poor, and then when you point out that undeniable fact, you're accused of class warfare.”

Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times: “You know, Al, I'm glad you played the Karl Marx card.”

Prince of Peace

Tony Snow, on Fox, cited a report that Britain’s Prince Charles favors Islamic robes and reportedly opposes war with Iraq. Snow called him a “Windsor Cat Stevens.”

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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