Jewish World Review March 17, 2003 / 13 Adar II 5763


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"Cheney Rations" Issued on Sunday Shows | As President Bush flew off for a final round of diplomacy in the Azores, Vice-President Dick Cheney reprised his rare, but critical role as the Administration's ultimate "go to guy."

Cheney sat for the full hour on Meet the Press and for a shorter stint on Face the Nation. It was his first Sunday appearance since September 8, 2002. His profile has been so low that even jokes about his "undisclosed location" have disappeared.

It's easy to see why Cheney rations his appearances. Granting rare interviews increases the chance that the interviewer will be less confrontational and decrease the amount of material an interviewer has to find inconsistencies. Meet the Press host Tim Russert had to go back to a campaign interview in 2000 to find a Cheney quote regarding the first Gulf War that seemed to conflict with the Administration's current diplomatic strategy.

The Vice-President also has the rare quality of not allowing his facial expression to betray any discomfort with a question, abetted by questioning that is more respectful than that used with lesser officials. He turned aside criticism from former colleague Brent Scowcroft: "He is occasionally wrong and this one those instances." He deftly sidestepped a question about President Bush's "show their cards" formulation for the UN Security Council: "It has a certain appeal."

Little news was made in Cheney's two appearances. "We are in the final stages of diplomacy" and "close to the end of diplomatic efforts," he said, echoing a refrain that pundits have been using for weeks. He predicted any war with Iraq would end "relatively quickly," defining that as "weeks, not months."

Cheney attributed unfavorable world opinion about the US and its diplomacy to "new and unique circumstances." "The rest of the world hasn't come to grips with the post 9/11 world."

Matter-of-factly, Cheney criticized the French by reviewing their diplomatic history on Iraq. He took pains to point out that before President Bush's response to 9/11, there had been "no credible response" to terror attacks. He denied that President Bush was a "cowboy," instead praising the President's "great capability to cut to the heart of the issue."

Asked by Russert why there was no pre-emptive strike planned on North Korea, Cheney answered, "I didn't come to announce any new military ventures or to take any off the table."

Secretary of State Colin Powell made surprise appearances on Fox News Sunday and This Week; he was not scheduled as of Friday. There was little daylight between his position and that of Cheney. In fact, in response to a question by This Week host George Stephanopolous, Powell denied accounts of dissension, saying "we went as a team" to the UN. Powell also denied as "not accurate" reports that he opposed General Tommy Franks' initial war plan.

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, on This Week, did confirm that Spain was not pleased with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's recent comments. After praising Powell and the State Department, she said pointedly, "Some comments from other departments have not helped us."

Friedman's Assessment

Tom Friedman of the New York Times, on Face the Nation, after Cheney's appearance: "Diplomacy is over. The President may address the country as early as tomorrow. This is the biggest shake of the dice by a President in my lifetime. I think we're going in."

Hunt's Assessment

Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal, on Capital Gang: "I still think this administration's ineptitude over the last couple months has been stunning. Somehow around the world there's a moral equivalency with this murderous thug Saddam Hussein."

Tony's Quotes

Fox host Tony Snow displayed two November quotes from French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin that surprisingly seemed to support the current US understanding of UN Resolution 1441. Colin Powell called them "excellent quotes" and Fox panelist Brit Hume called them "deftly chosen."

Bill and Juan, Together at Last

On Fox, a clip of former President Clinton saying, "This war's going to be over in a flash," was shown. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol called the remarks "appalling," "flip and glib," and "totally irresponsible."

NPR's Juan Williams, not normally an ally, said Kristol was "absolutely right on."

A Best Case Iraq Scenario

According to David Brooks of The Weekly Standard, on The News Hour, "If this goes well for the president, he comes back in triumph, the Senate and the House are bowing before him as he walks down the aisle. Anything he mentions passes. He hands out stray pieces of paper and people are signing them."

Let Bygones be Bygones

Should the US allow France to participate in post-war Iraq? "We should stun France by our gratitude," according to Newsweek's Fahreed Zakaria on This Week. On Fox, Sen. John Warner, R-VA, said there should be "no recriminations."

Cheney on Fries

Tim Russert asked Vice-President Cheney, "French fries or freedom fries?" Cheney may have made a political statement by saying, "I stay away from French fries."

Quip of the Week

David Brooks, on The News Hour: "Some Republicans think the UN is just an atrocious institution and then there are others who really hate it."

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

03/10/03: Administration heavyweights complete President's press conference
03/03/03: Anti-War Guests Win 'Most Improved' Award
02/24/03: Anti-war side makes their case
02/10/03: Pundits review Powell's performance
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