Pundits Obsess Over Campaign Finance Reform

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Campaign finance reform was the top issue, and David Broder of the Washington Post was weekend TV’s "Pundit of the Week" without even appearing on a single show.

Broder's Friday column on the subject framed the issue for each of the talk shows. Broder saw parts of the bill being unconstitutional, but he also saw it as giving an advantage to President Bush in 2004 and weakening national parties as soft money moved to the local and state level.

It’s unusual in the competitive world of pundits for one of their own to be singled out. Broder got prominent mentions on The News Hour, Capital Gang, Meet the Press, and Face the Nation. The best mention occurred on The News Hour, where syndicated columnist Mark Shields and David Brooks of The Weekly Standard paid homage to Broder by referring to him by his nickname, "The Dean," as in "the Dean of Washington political reporters." Both then disagreed with him.

Senator Mitch McConnell, R, K.Y., has always been the "go to" guy for anti-campaign finance reform sound bytes and he appeared on Fox News Sunday and Face the Nation. He was much more equivocal than in past appearances and did not clearly spell out whether he would lead a filibuster to either kill or change the House-passed bill. NPR's Juan Williams and the Washington Post’s Ceci Connally were struck by the change in McConnell’s tone during the Fox News Sunday roundtable. They should have listened to Mark Shields, who explained on The News Hour that McConnell was seeking to become Republican whip and now had "other fish to fry."

Most pundits expect that campaign finance reform will pass and will be signed by President Bush. They aren’t exactly ecstatic. Margaret Carlson of Time magazine put it best on Capital Gang: "It's not a whole loaf, but it's a good half loaf. It's not a crust of bread. And it will make a difference."

Some of my favorite moments with the weekend pundits:

Accusation of the Week: "I think you’re accusing a political party of being partisan." Alex Castellanos, Republican consultant, replying to George Stephanopolous’ charge that the GOP was taking advantage of the war, on This Week.

Non-Shermanesque Statement #867: Tim Russert, host of Meet the Press, asked Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.) if he would run for President again. "No, I don’t envision that. I think the President is doing a great job running the country."

Species Survival: For all those who see campaign finance reform as incumbent protection, This Week’s Cokie Roberts observed, "The people who voted for it are endangered incumbents."

Clarifying Ambiguity: Asked about President Bush’s "ambiguous" stance on campaign finance reform, David Brooks noted, tongue-in-cheek, "He forthrightly declared he would sign any law that was good and improved things but not laws that would not improve things."

Bad Fit: Washington Post columnist George Will, appearing on This Week, opposed North Korea’s inclusion in the "Axis of Evil." "Terrorism is becoming a classification that does not classify," he sniffed.

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.