Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice hit the talk shows Sunday to amplify President Bush’s terse answers at his Thursday night press conference.
When all was said and done, little was added to the president’s words.
Secretary Powell said on Meet the Press that he thought the U.S. had "a strong chance" of gathering nine votes in the Security Council for a new resolution. He addressed questions the president avoided at his press conference, such as why public opinion was against the Bush administration. "War is always unpopular," Powell said. "We are getting the kind of support we need."
Rice faced tougher questioning than Powell in her two appearances. Usually unflappable, Rice almost appeared to bristle at questioning and interruptions by the New York Times’ Tom Friedman on Face the Nation. Friedman proclaimed he had traveled around the world seven times with former Secretary of State Jim Baker before the first Gulf War and wanted to know why members of the current administration had not traveled as widely. Rice replied, "It’s not as if Secretary Powell and others have spent insufficient time with their colleagues."
This Week host George Stephanopolous also aggressively questioned Rice, but did not raise her hackles, even when he demanded to know why heads of state should not travel to the U.N. for the vote on a new resolution. Rice said that idea "made no sense." She declined to speculate for Stephanopolous whether the U.S. had nine votes, or what the U.S. would do if Saddam Hussein closed Iraqi airports to block U.N. weapon inspectors from leaving before hostilities commenced.
Last week, Stephanopolous interviewed the French foreign minister; his guest this week was the Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chretien. Chretien advocated a version of the late Sen. George Aiken’s Vietnam withdrawal formulation: the U.S. has already won against Saddam, so don’t attack.
On The News Hour, The Weekly Standard’s David Brooks declared that there was "legitimate" Democratic criticism of Bush, but no "counter policy." Fox’s Tony Snow claimed that Democratic leaders, with a few exceptions, were ducking the Sunday talk shows and refusing to debate the war publicly.
Into that breach stepped former Vermont Governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean. He was grilled on Iraq and other issues by Tim Russert on Meet the Press, although an inordinate amount of time was spent on the meaning of "unilateral." Dean defended calling the Bush policy unilateral because Tom Friedman had used the word, but conceded it was not completely accurate. Dean’s counter policy appeared to be tripling inspectors, keeping the troops in place, and lowering the rhetoric. He believes Saddam Hussein is contained and noted that the Soviet Union was contained for 50 years.
Dean continued to maintain that North Korea was a greater threat to the U.S. He called for bilateral talks with the North Koreans. His plan: they agree to freeze their nuclear program and the U.S. agrees not to attack.
Amid recent coverage of President Bush’s Christian faith, Tom Friedman’s choice of words to describe another U.N. resolution was fraught with implication: "A ‘come to Jesus’ vote."
Quip of the Week
Joe Klein, Time, on This Week: "It’s a great time to be Guinean."
George Will, Washington Post, on This Week: "The United Nations is not a good idea, badly executed. It’s a bad idea."
Brit Hume, Fox: "The United Nations record is a catalog of complete and utter failure."
Acknowledged Overstatement of the Week
David Brooks on The News Hour: "Suppose the U.S. effort succeeds, the U.N. is tainted permanently. Suppose the U.S. effort fails, unilateral action is tainted permanently. Kofi Annan becomes president of the world. I'm overstating things a little."
In the cats mating with dogs department, Bob Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times and Time’s Margaret Carlson sided with FBI Agent Coleen Rowley on Capital Gang, going against the National Review’s Kate O’Beirne. O’Beirne called Rowley an "idiot" for suggesting David Koresh-type negotiations with Saddam Hussein. Novak also aligned with the Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt in panning President Bush’s press conference performance.
Hume on Helen
Brit Hume tackled the issue of long-time White House correspondent Helen Thomas being denied a front row seat and a question at the president’s press conference. After praising her "sheer indefatigability," Hume said "she is the nutty aunt in the attic."
Great Moments in Punditry
On Capital Gang, speaking of Bill Clinton’s deal to debate Bob Dole on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Bob Novak uttered this classic: "Never before has a former president of the United States descended to my level."
The first debate was more civil than typical Capital Gang encounters, but no more illuminating.
Readers were overwhelmingly critical of the anti-war viewpoint.
Margaret Averitt wrote:
I am making my own "silent" protest against the likes of Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Sheryl Crow, George Clooney and others by no longer purchasing movie tickets or watching TV shows in which these people are a part. If the American people who support our troops do the same silent protest, these people would not have the forum or the money to use their "star-power" clout.
These actors and "others" have no clue! We are sick and tired of these bleeding hearts spitting off their comments. Boycott all of Hollywood, Americans!!!!!
Joe Priode wrote:
Saddam must be laughing just like the leaders of North Vietnam did when Jane Fonda and Joan Baez traveled to North Vietnam. Vietnam used them for politics then and our own people today are repeating the same for Saddam. Jane and Joan are responsible for at least 10,000 of the names on the Vietnam Wall. How many names will these people be responsible for?
G. Birdwell of College Station, Texas, wrote:
I for one am sick and tired of playing this tap dance game with the U.N. and inspectors. Without the U.S., the U.N. would collapse.
Don McCray wrote:
It's time for Americans who support President Bush's strong stance against Iraq to send an equally strong message to the radical leftwing extremists in the entertainment world: "We will not watch your productions, nor will we buy the products or services you shill for." It's time to change the channel on these idiots and to boycott the companies that use them as spokespeople.
Steve Sampson of North Andover, Mass., wrote:
My question is why weren't these people mobilized when Clinton bombed the daylights out of Yugoslavia and Kosovo. Where were they with Bosnia? I have to ask myself, do these people really oppose a war or just a Republican administration? They just seem so disingenuous.
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.