Jewish World Review March 10, 2003 / 6 Adar II 5763

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Consumer Reports


Administration heavyweights complete President's press conference


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice hit the talk shows 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, although non-committal, said he thought the US had "a strong chance" of gathering nine votes in the Security Council for a new resolution. On Meet the Press, Powell addressed questions the President avoided at his press conference, such as why public opinion was against the Administration. "War is always unpopular," replied the Secretary. "We are getting the kind of support we need."

Rice faced tougher questioning than Powell in her two appearances. The 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 Secretary of State Jim Baker before the first Gulf War and wanted to know why members of this Bush 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 UN for the vote on a new resolution. Rice said that idea "made no sense." She declined to speculate for Stephanopolous whether the US had nine votes, or what the US would do if Saddam Hussein closed Iraqi airports to block UN 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 Senator George Aiken's Vietnam withdrawal formulation: the US has already won against Saddam.

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's 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 US. He called for bilateral talks with the North Koreans. They had to agree to freeze the nuclear program and the US would agree not to attack.

A CRUSADE?

Amidst recent coverage of President Bush's Christian faith, Tom Friedman's choice of words to describe another UN 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."

UN BASHING

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 UN 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."

KRISTOL CLEAR

Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard, on Fox: "Teddy Kennedy is now the foreign policy leader of the Senate. Democrats are slightly more hostile to the President than the French."

JUAN'S WORRY

NPR's Juan Williams, on Fox: I'm worried about the fact that that some people are willing to demonize anybody who questions this war effort as if they're stupid."

UNHOLY ALLIANCES

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's Journal's Al Hunt in panning President Bush's press conference performance.

HUME ON HELEN

Brit Hume tackled the issue of long-time 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 POLITICAL POSITIONING

After being shown several quotes from the past that seemed to disagree with his current stance, Howard Dean played the McCain card: "I don't often think about the political consequences of what I say."

GREAT MOMENTS IN PUNDITRY

On Capital Gang, speaking of Bill Clinton's deal to debate Bob Dole on CBS's 60 Minutes, Bob Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times uttered one of the most telling self-assessments ever: " Never before has a former president of the United States descended to my level."

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

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02/24/03: Anti-war side makes their case
02/10/03: Pundits review Powell's performance
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01/27/03: Pundits Pass on Preview
01/21/03: Michigan Case Leads Peace Marches
01/13/03: Frist Debuts as Sunday Star
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12/30/02: Peripatetic Powell pacifies pundits
12/23/02: A Lott to let go before Fristing
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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

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© 2002, Will Vehrs