It was a Senate Democrat weekend on the Sunday talk shows.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., was lead guest on Meet the Press, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., led Fox News Sunday and Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. opened on This Week.
Most of the conversations were about foreign policy. Biden struck thoughtful, statesman-like notes on Iraq and refused to join Al Gore’s New York Times op-ed criticism of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. He left himself considerable wiggle room to favor or oppose military action against Iraq.
Lieberman commented extensively on breaking news of the homicide bus bombing in Israel, saying, "These Palestinian terrorists, they're not operating alone. They're getting financial and material support from other centers of power in the Arab world, and that has to stop."
In a surprising comment, Lieberman appeared to renew his vow not to run for president if Al Gore is a candidate. He previously had seemed to be backing away from that pledge. Daschle had the toughest interview. Cokie Roberts asked him pointed questions about failing to pass prescription drug legislation and she impatiently brushed aside his efforts to round out his answers with talking point speeches.
None of the senators were anxious to discuss the Senate Ethics Committee's "admonishment" of Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., although Lieberman finally conceded that Torricelli should release documents relating to his case.
Only syndicated columnist Mark Shields and The Weekly Standard’s David Brooks, appearing on The News Hour, bothered to comment on last week’s guest in the hot seat, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.
"I think if there is somebody in this town who has got a bad knock, an unfair knock, it's Paul O'Neill," Shields declared.
Brooks dismissed criticism of O’Neill. "There is nothing a treasury secretary can do, and all this carping that he doesn't say the right things, that he is off traveling with the surviving members of Sha Na Na or some other rock group, when he should be sort of ministering to the markets, it's all phony."
Eyes-Bulging, Veins-Popping Commentary Award
A tie. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, appearing on the Fox News Sunday panel, and Democratic consultant Bob Shrum, appearing on Meet the Press, were both deserving. Fox host Tony Snow let O’Reilly take over the discussion with his bombast, but Meet the Press’s Tim Russert deflated Shrum’s shrill defense of Bill Clinton’s claim that Republicans stopped corporate reform in the mid 90’s. Russert pointed out the number of prominent Democrats who voted against Clinton on the issue.
Imus Asks, Snow Demurs
On Friday, radio host Don Imus repeatedly asked Lieberman if he would call former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to testify on his Enron connections before Lieberman’s Governmental Affairs Committee. Fox’s Tony Snow did not even touch the subject. For the record, Lieberman gave Imus a "maybe."
"The Torch," A New Jersey Kind of Guy
While most pundits criticized Torricelli, two found him to represent the mores of his state:
"There’s a certain what-the-traffic-will-bear quality in New Jersey, and they might not mind reelecting this guy despite his checkered past." — Kate O’Bierne, National Review, on Capital Gang
"He was not elected because he was Mr. Integrity. He is a smart guy. He is a sleazy guy. They voted for him knowing what kind of character he had, so I don't think they will be automatically dismissive of him now." — David Brooks, The News Hour
Only He’s In Good Health
"Senator Lugar is like the pope of the Senate." — Margaret Carlson, Time, on Capital Gang
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bob Novak, appearing on Capital Gang, ostensibly discussing Tom Daschle’s strategy on prescription drug coverage:
"And I am not so sure that we're so blatant and it was so gerrymandered and so jerry-rigged, I should say, and engineered for failure that I think you don't really have to be sophisticated to know that it was the — it was just a set as — it was a setup."
Recycling Award With Oak Leaf Cluster
Apparently, Washington Post columnist George Will is either pressed for time or short on material. In an increasingly frequent move, he recycled an earlier print column for his "The George Will Commentary" segment on This Week. This one was a paean to the Harley Davidson Company and its customers.
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.