Jewish World Review March 24, 2003 / 20 Adar II 5763
Pundits Grapple With Breaking War News
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The Sunday pundits normally look back at events of the past week, providing interpretation and analysis with the benefit of days or hours to prepare before going on camera.
With war in Iraq raging, this weekend's pundit shows became almost indistinguishable from 24/7 coverage as they moved to "expanded" editions. Events that broke as the shows aired were uniformly negative: a friendly fire incident, a soldier being detained for attacking his leadership, fierce pockets of Iraqi resistance, and reports of American taken as POWs and then executed.
There was little evidence of a "long view" on military operations from non-military pundits.
A somber Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was the lead guest on Meet the Press and Face the Nation. He appeared tired, as one would expect of a leader in his position. He only occasionally showed flashes of his combative style and likely did not have as much confirmation on the breaking events as he would have liked, so he appeared terse and almost dismissive at times.
General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the lead guest on Fox News Sunday and This Week. He, too, appeared tired, but maintained his composure well. He likely wished he was back at his command post, gathering details on the latest news from the battlefield rather than responding to questions.
Rumsfeld's interview with Meet the Press host Tim Russert began with photos of Iraqis gathered near the Tigris River, searching for Americans who allegedly parachuted into the city. Russert's questions implied that American troops were having difficulty, but Fox's Brit Hume was heartened by the scene, calling it a "comic opera" that proved, "If Baghdad were being bombed in the way some people have alleged, you wouldn't see this."
Hume, who has pulled long hours of duty as Fox's anchor during war coverage, was easily the most passionate pundit. His comment during the panel discussion that America was conducting the war under a "standard unprecedented in history" led NPR's Mara Liasson to remark,
I think, this administration has accepted the standards to which it is being held and those standards got a lot higher because of the way we got into this war. We don't have wide international backing. We don't have the international backing we sought."
Liasson's comment led the panel to familiar arguments about the nature of the coalition, Bill Clinton's foreign policy, and anti-war protests. Among other declarations, Hume said, "Bill Clinton did the right thing in Kosovo," the anti-war demonstrations are "rooted in demonstrable lies," and European fear of unrivaled American power is "tiresome." The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol saw some foreign criticism as "ludicrous, cartoonish views," while NPR's Juan Williams attempted to place the protests in a positive context.
On Meet the Press, Time's Michael Elliott called the Iraq campaign "hard slugging." Just two days earlier, The Weekly Standard's David Brooks summarized the war this way: "We have the secretary of defense negotiating surrender terms before we even engage the enemy. We have a military that is trying to scare the enemy troops but not kill them." There will likely be more swings of the pendulum before next week's shows.
Quiet Dogs of War
"Tom Daschle is a Friend of Mine"
Changing the Nature of War
Alliteration of the Week
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