Sunday Guests Battle Snow, Questions

Neither snow, nor sleet nor freezing rain could stop administration officials from their appointed rounds on the Sunday pundit shows.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge braved the elements to answer anti-war marches, U.N. recalcitrance, and runs on duct tape.

After last week’s bravura performance by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rice was forced to address the series of setbacks that have followed. She stuck gamely to her talking points. The U.N.’s break with the U.S. was part of the “ins and outs of diplomacy. " The U.N. needs to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein and the Security Council’s behavior last week “plays into the hands of Saddam Hussein.” The way to avoid war is “immediate Iraqi compliance” and the way to peace is to let Saddam know that the Security Council “will stand united.”

Meet the Press Tim Russert

Secretary Ridge, appearing on Face the Nation, did not have the luxury of shifting the focus away from administration policy and toward a difficult ally. Pundits skewered the duct tape and plastic suggestions that emanated from his office. “Homeland security is sad,” was syndicated columnist Mark Shields’ take on The News Hour. His colleague, David Brooks of The Weekly Standard, said, “The duct tape thing is a fiasco.”

On Capital Gang, Time’s Margaret Carlson, quipped, “If you looked at the lines at Home Depot, you would say the terrorists have won, because people were certainly altering their lives to follow Tom Ridge's advice, which he said was the result of focus groups.”

Ridge denied that the government had directly paid for “focus groups.” He claimed that the Ad Council had used focus groups for routine research into a campaign the Department of Homeland Security would be running. He maintained that “people extrapolated” the suggestion to seal their homes with plastic and duct tape from a list of emergency materials to keep on hand.

An incredulous Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation, asked Ridge, “If you sealed off your house, wouldn’t you be asphyxiated?”

The terror alert status will remain in code orange because, as Ridge reported, “the same level of threat” remains. “We can’t always predict, but we can always be prepared,” was his best line of the interview.

The Straight Talk Express

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appeared on Face the Nation and fired off several zingers. He respected the world peace protestors right to protest as well as their right to be “unwise and foolish.” He said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., had made a “reckless charge” about the CIA not cooperating with U.N. inspectors. Finally, after saying Germany and France were “rendering themselves irrelevant and making the Security Council irrelevant,” he said the French remind him of “an aging movie actress, still trying to dine out on her looks, but who doesn’t have the face for it.”

Defending Against Daschle

National Review’s Kate O’Beirne, on Capital Gang, tried to defend the administration against criticism of its homeland security policies, especially the lack of funding for first responders:

“Tom Daschle's in such an enviable position. He'll be either accusing them of keeping Americans in the dark or alarming Americans unnecessarily. And the Democrats are clearly laying the groundwork for the next attack. They want to be prepared to say, We told you weren't doing enough.

"They could add another $10 billion to first responders in the event of an attack, and the Democrats will say, 'It should have been 15, should have been 25, should have been 30.'

"It's really a terribly unfair, I think, attempt, with the administration grappling with this unprecedented challenge.”

But David Brooks, on The News Hour, said, “The Democrats are absolutely right to focus on this.”

Unsafe at Any Speed

Margaret Carlson, on Capital Gang: “I live by duct tape since my car is completely held together on the sun roof, and I can tell you it doesn't even keep out the rain, so I don't think it's going to keep out chemical or biological agents.”

One Great Pundit to Another

David Brooks, The News Hour: “Not to sound like Yogi Berra but I completely disagree with half of that.”

Inscrutable Estrada

Pundits were divided on Bush judicial nominee Miguel Estrada, but those opposing him largely used the reasoning of the Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt. He said, on Capital Gang, “He's a guy who wouldn't even express the view of any Supreme Court decision. I mean, at least he could say Dred Scott was a bad decision, it seems to me.”

Lott Wants a Special Screening

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bob Novak took up the cause of the Confederacy on Capital Gang:

”The assault on the Confederate flag has now spread to denigrating traditional Southern heroes, demanding that statues of Confederate leaders be torn down. An antidote to this outrageous political correctness is a new Ted Turner Pictures movie, "Gods and Generals."

Its heroes are Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and lesser men and women of the South. Yes, slavery was their sin, but the film shows them as God-fearing, Bible-reading, defending home and families from foreign invasion.”


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.

Respond to the Writer