Jewish World Review Feb. 10, 2003 / 8 Adar I, 5763


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Pundits review Powell's performance | "Two people had terrible weeks this week: Michael Jackson with his interview and Saddam Hussein," was NPR's Juan Williams summary on Fox News Sunday.

Thankfully, weekend pundits did not explore Michael Jackson's difficulties. Instead, they concentrated on Saddam Hussein's bad week, the result of Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the UN. Mara Liasson, of NPR, spoke for most pundits when she called his performance "powerful and compelling" during the Fox panel.

There was almost no mention on the Sunday shows of last week's big story: the loss of the Columbia.

Powell appeared on Meet the Press, Fox, and This Week. He stood firmly behind his Wednesday comments at the UN. He also threw cold water on reports of a French-German proposal for enhanced inspections, refused to discuss why the US did not "take out" a suspected al Qaeda camp in Northern Iraq, and defended the Administration's team, including controversial remarks by Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld.

More interesting were the reactions of Democrats.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright,, while conceding on Meet the Press that Powell did a "brilliant job" at the UN, maintained there was too much of an "irrational exuberance" for conflict. She claimed that the battle against al Qaeda and resolving the "crisis" in North Korea was more pressing than Iraq, accusing the Administration of a "unidimensional foreign policy." When host Tim Russert showed her bellicose comments she and President Clinton made against Iraq in 1998, Albright responded, "Things are different after 9-11."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, on Fox, also sounded more bellicose in 1998 then he does now, as host Tony Snow and Brit Hume asked him to explain previous positions. Levin ducked the question. He called for the Administration to stop viewing the UN Security Council as a "stumbling block." Even while conceding that inspections were unlikely to succeed absent a cooperative Iraqi government, Levin said they should continue because, "There's a chance they'll succeed."

On This Week, host George Stephanopolous interviewed possible Democratic presidential "peace" candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, ahead of Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. Kucinich called for "Patience towards peace, not impatience towards war." As he heads for Iowa to gauge support, he promised, "A fresh look at foreign policy. War itself should be archaic."

Biden seemed unimpressed by the reported proposals of the French and Germans. He also seemed to be supportive of the Administration's position, if only because the US was "in a box" by having troops ready to go. Without revealing anything, he said the Administration had a "defensible" rationale for not bombing the suspected terrorist camp in Northern Iraq, although he hinted that he might have come to a different conclusion. Asked by Stephanopolous if he was still thinking of running for President, Biden gave an emphatic "yes." After Kucinich, it was not hard to understand why.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice spelled Powell on Face the Nation, where New York Times columnist Tom Friedman shared in the questioning with host Bob Scheiffer. Friedman, with a series of questions about what would come after war with Iraq, confirmed David Brooks' comment on The News Hour. The editor of The Weekly Standard said Powell's speech had shifted the debate away from "whether" to "how."


Shown a poll that said almost three times as many Americans trusted Colin Powell with Iraq policy as President Bush, Powell told Tim Russert, "I don't analyze polls."


Tom Friedman, on Face the Nation: "France is increasing the likelihood of war."

Charles Krauthammer on Fox: "I'm all in favor of gratuitous hits at France and Germany."


George Will and Michel Martin of ABC clashed on This Week over Appeals Court nominee Miguel Estrada. Will urged the Democrats to filibuster Estrada: "Put it on Univsion." When Martin claimed Estrada was a product of affirmative action, Will said sharply that he didn't get 20 points, he got the highest rating from the American Bar Association.


There was a heated discussion about President Bush's budget on Capital Gang: Al Hunt, Wall Street Journal: "If, however, deficits become a symptom, which they are, of an inept and inequitable economic policy of this administration, caviar for the rich, crumbs for the working poor, and then when you point out that undeniable fact, you're accused of class warfare."

Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times: "You know, Al, I'm glad you played the Karl Marx card."


Saturday's Capital Gang devoted a segment to the Columbia disaster and the future of the space program. Highlights:

Robert Novak: "This is one government program that I like. I don't think we've spent enough money on it in the past. There's so many government programs that are wasteful, but this is, this has romance to it, it has, it has adventure. And it's not -- Margaret, I'm sure you can understand, it isn't like sending a robot into space. And I believe that the mission to Mars is something to look forward to

Al Hunt: Neither Clinton nor Bush viewed the space program as anything but really a trophy. And I think we ought to have that debate, and then we can decide how much money we ought to spend. John Glenncan persuasively tell you of the advantages of, of, of everyone who's gone into space. But Bob, I hate to tell you this, but there's an awful lot of stuff in the future that robots can do.

Margaret Carlson, Time: I'm not sure there can be enough money to send people hurtling through space on a space shuttle that seems to have outlived its usefulness, even, you know, supporters of NASA will, will say that there are better ways to learn about space. And what you learn about from the space shuttle is by sending humans into space, is how to send other humans into space, not to learn that much more about, you know, conquering the heavens. So given, you know, the cutbacks that are, that are going on, the increase and the privatizing may not be enough to ever make the space shuttle as good as it needs to be.


Tony Snow, on Fox, revealed that Britain's Prince Charles wears Arab robes and reportedly opposes war with Iraq. Snow called him a "Windsor Cat Stevens."

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PunditWatch is written by JWR contributor Will Vehrs. Comment by clicking here.

02/03/03: Columbia Freezes Partisan Debates
01/27/03: Pundits Pass on Preview
01/21/03: Michigan Case Leads Peace Marches
01/13/03: Frist Debuts as Sunday Star
01/06/03: Back to the fun and games!
12/30/02: Peripatetic Powell pacifies pundits
12/23/02: A Lott to let go before Fristing
12/16/02: Lott jury and flogging post
12/09/02: Issues overwhelm pundits
12/02/02: Real news and pundit news
11/25/02: In a muddle, Saudis rise to the top


© 2002, Will Vehrs