The conventional wisdom among some pundits is that President Bush hasn't made "the case" for a war against Iraq. But the Sunday shows demonstrated anti-war forces don't make a particularly compelling case, either.
When the questioning gets tough, "peace" advocates change the subject. Someone else in the world is as bad as Saddam, a war will cost too much or a war will spawn new terrorist attacks.
The Hollywood anti-war faction got plenty of face time: Comedienne Janeane Garofalo appeared on Fox News Sunday, while actress Susan Sarandon and actor Mike Farrell were paired off against National Review's Rich Lowry on Face the Nation. Lowry joked he did not have enough Hollywood or TV credits to be in the debate.
Garofalo refused to concede there ever could be a "just war" and claimed sanctions were responsible for "mass murders" in Iraq. Sarandon and Farrell, with a slightly different set of talking points, argued, "Sanctions work, war doesn't."
Anti-war Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, ran into a buzz saw on Meet the Press. Host Tim Russert's first question put Kucinich on the defensive: He voted in October 1998 for the Iraq Liberation Act, a measure calling for regime change, so why was he now against regime change? The congressman claimed weakly he was voting to "continue to use sanctions."
Russert paired Kucinich against Administration Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle. Perle charged Kucinich with advocating a "policy of paralysis, unwilling to put teeth in the legislation he signed."
When asked about the missiles Chief Inspector Hans Blix has asked Iraq to destroy, Kucinich said the U.S. should not go to war over "mere non-compliance."
On Face the Nation, Time's Joe Klein called Kucinich a "buffoon."
In a newsworthy development, the White House appeared to be ratcheting up the campaign to confirm judicial nominee Miguel Estrada. White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a rare appearance on Sunday, appearing on Fox. Asked about the possible political fallout from opposition to Estrada, Gonzales' message was cautious, but unmistakable: "If the Hispanic community thinks Miguel Estrada is being treated differently, it will have political repercussions."
Newly declared presidential candidate Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., made his 39th appearance on Meet the Press. Claiming "I am the epitome of the American dream," he declared Bush "out of touch with the reality of what's going on with working families."
Pundits were suddenly bullish on a Gephardt candidacy, even though Joe Klein said, "Listening to him speak is like walking up the down escalator." Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post, on Fox, said he "isn't quite as boring or predictable" as previously thought. On The News Hour, David Brooks and Mark Shields both praised Gephardt's experience, while Shields and Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal noted his talented staff.
Whose Line Is It, Anyway?
Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer was fulsome in his praise of the excitement presidential candidate Gov. Howard Dean created at the recent DNC meeting when he said, "I am here representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, on Fox, wondered why Dean didn't give proper credit: "That's Wellstone’s line," referring to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.
Pundits were harsh on Dennis Kucinich's change of heart on abortion, moving from a pro-life to pro-chance stance, with David Brooks on The News Hour accusing him of a "sell-out" and Al Hunt on Capital Gang calling his transformation "breathtaking."
Tim Russert asked Kucinich on Meet the Press why he "turned on a dime." Kucinich claimed "years of thinking" had gone into his decision. "The position I'm taking now is an expansion, not a reversal," he explained.
Quip of the Week
Retiring British Ambassador to the United States Sir Christopher Meyer revealed to Capital Gang that Donald Rumsfeld pulled him in after he was tossed from his raft on a Colorado River whitewater trip. The National Review's Kate O'Beirne quipped, "I found myself wondering what Don Rumsfeld would have done had he been whitewater rafting with the French ambassador."
American Culture Conquers the U.N.
Juan Williams of NPR, on Fox, drew an analogy between American culture and countries taking sides in the potential coming conflict with Iraq: "It's like the show Joe Millionaire, where at the end you got to make a choice. You gotta pick one side or the other. What are they going to do ultimately? They're going to go with the United States."
Those Were the Days
Tony Snow, host of Fox, had fun showing a film clip of presidential candidate and former Sen. Carol Mosley-Braun being unable to remember her college major, but promising to "check." While acknowledging that some memories from college might be "foggy," Snow and all members of the Fox panel remembered their majors.
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.