Secretary of State Colin Powell made almost as many stops Sunday as he did during his controversial Middle East peace trip.
Powell appeared on five Sunday talk shows, but did it the easy way, setting up in the State Department and doing short remote interviews. The questions were respectful and avoided the tough tone of comments made by pundits on Friday and Saturday nights.
On The News Hour, The Weekly Standard’s David Brooks charged, "Nobody listened to Powell. People rebuffed him at every stop."
"The right wing of the Republican Party is currently acting as Secretary of State and influencing Bush," said Time’s Margaret Carlson on The Capital Gang.
In an unusual expression of doubt about Powell, Al Hunt of The Wall Street Journal said, "It may be that Secretary Powell for all of his enormous popularity doesn't have the negotiating skills of a George Mitchell, of a Henry Kissinger, of a Dick Holbrooke."
Hunt also suggested that the White House might have undercut Powell with the Israelis.
There was not even faint praise for Powell’s trip.
"It would have been worse if he had not gone," said George Stephanopoulos on This Week. Also on This Week, Washington Post columnist George Will called the trip, "A failure worth having because you had to prove it would be a failure."
The best segment of the week on the Middle East was Brit Hume’s interview on Fox News Sunday with Dennis Ross, who served as Middle East envoy for the Clinton administration. There had been a bit of Arafat-leaning revisionism about the failed Camp David peace talks expressed during the week. Ross was unsympathetic toward exculpating Arafat, saying, "Every single one of the ideas that was asked of him he rejected."
Ross said of Arafat, "For him to end the conflict is to end himself." Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post joined Ross in that judgment. On Face the Nation, Hoagland said Arafat wanted his legacy to be "leading his nation through armed struggle and bloodshed."
I’ll Get Back to Them
Cokie Roberts, on This Week, asked Secretary Powell about Bill Clinton’s offer to mediate in the Middle East and Jimmy Carter’s op-ed on the conflict in Sunday’s New York Times. Powell said he speaks to both of them regularly, but saw no role for either at this time.
Ariel Sharon, Man of Peace?
That's about as incredible as saying Arafat is Gandhi. — Al Hunt, Capital Gang
Ariel Sharon is a man of peace? Look at your face! I mean, come on! — Juan Williams to Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday
Depends on the Meaning of Intelligence
You have to wonder...how good the intelligence he is getting is. — Jim Hoagland on Face the Nation, speaking of President Bush.
Tough Gardeners and Wimpy Republicans
Bob Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times, explaining the ANWR drilling defeat in the Senate on Capital Gang:
The environmentalist lobby is really terrific. They intimidate these cheap and pantywaist Republicans with telegrams from the garden clubs and they scare the hell out of them.
Know Your Business
This scandal is about sin, temptation, remedy. I mean, this should be the Catholic Church's core business. They should know how to handle this sort of thing. — David Brooks, The News Hour
Kate O’Bierne of National Review noted the passing of Supreme Court Justice Byron White in her "Outrage of the Week" on Capital Gang:
This football hero, Rhodes Scholar and combat veteran served with distinction, intelligence and honor," Bill Clinton rightly said. The outrage? Justice White dissented on Roe vs. Wade, so this distinguished, gifted lawyer nominated by President Kennedy would never be confirmed by today's Senate Democrats.
Dems’ Poster Child...er...Headliner
Margaret Carlson offered a rare criticism of Democrats on Capital Gang:
Democrats are crossing the cultural fault line once again that makes voters so queasy. With child abuse dominating the news, they've nonetheless chosen to headline their concert this week with Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson, who paid $25 million to the parents of a young boy staying with him at Neverland. Who's next on the Democrat’s list, the Man-Boy Love Association's Chaplain, Father Shanley?
A Little Middle East, A Little MTV
In the continuing effort to be the most hip pundit show around, This Week reviewed the MTV hit series The Osbournes.
"It’s kinda gripping," gushed George Stephanopoulos. "It’s unintelligible," said Cokie Roberts. "Makes Ozzie and Harriet look like Masterpiece Theater," sniffed George Will.
But Are They Reading The Weekly Standard?
I've had American Jews telling me they're now watching Fox News, they've become so conservative.— David Brooks of The Weekly Standard, on The News Hour
Tony Adragna, my boss at Quasipundit, writes:
Last week David Brooks said, [Powell] "hurt our moral clarity," and this week he said that "moral clarity" has returned.
I say that there never was "moral clarity," except in the rhetoric. We've been engaged in the negotiation and quid pro quo of realpolitik with thugs (our "Arab Friends," the Pakistan generals — we even offered the Taliban a pass if they handed over bin Laden!) all along.
In a beautiful irony, Paul Gigot said on CNBC that we shouldn't support the recent coup against a thug in Venezuela — he was a democratically elected thug! You want a lesson on the disconnect between rhetoric and action, just look at Israel's experience with Arafat — the Israelis don't pay any attention to what's being said, and we ought to do the same.
Irma Caiazzo of Orlando, Florida writes:
Do these Arab regimes not have mediators who can condemn the homicide bombers, stop supporting them and agree to act as peacekeepers in the Israeli /Palestinian region? Why us? Why? And for how long?
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.