Jewish World Review Dec. 30, 2002 / 25 Teves, 5763

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Peripatetic Powell pacifies pundits


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared on every major Sunday talk show to address the gathering storm over North Korea.

On Meet the Press and Face the Nation, the issue seemed to be semantic-is this a crisis? Powell preferred to call it a "matter of great concern" on Meet the Press. Senators Joe Biden (D, DE) and Richard Lugar (R, IN), also on Meet the Press, called it a "crisis,", as did a bellicose Senator Joe Lieberman (D, CT) on Face the Nation. Lieberman suggested that the "military option" be openly on the table, while Powell took pains to insist that military action was just one of many options.

Fox News Sunday and This Week didn't worry about definitions, but the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer, on Fox, was semantically apocalyptic. "This is a crisis of unbelievable proportions. Our hands are tied. They know we can't handle two wars."

This Week host George Stephanopolous asked the toughest question, showing Powell a critical quote from Senator John Kerry. "John Kerry is running for office," Powell noted, then went on to disagree with Kerry while declaring that he respected the Massachusetts Senator. Powell also laid much of the situation at the feet of the Clinton Administration without criticizing them at all.

Powell took great delight in one of his talking points. He noted that the administration has been criticized for being unilateral, "reaching for a gun" instead of using diplomacy. Now relying on diplomacy and multi-lateralism, they are also being criticized.

Fox News Sunday had the best non-North Korea stories, tackling cloning and the possible Democratic strategy of opposing the President for doing too little on homeland security. Assistant Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid (D, NV), pointedly refused to second Senator and presidential contender John Edward (D, NC) claim that "Washington is not doing enough to make Americans feel safe." To Reid, the issue was funding and he appeared to favor campaigning against Bush on economic security.

PROP OF THE WEEK

Senator Joe Biden (D, DE), held up a clear plastic cup of water on Meet the Press and informed viewers that an amount of plutonium equal to the bottom of the circumference of the cup was all that North Korea needed to transfer to al Qaeda for disastrous consequences.

"Plutonium is the stuff that makes those bombs go 'boom,'" he added, helpfully.

PUNDIT LINE-UP CHANGES

Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune filled in for Mark Shields on The News Hour and his performance made Punditwatch long for him to become a permanent replacement. Then National Review's Kate O'Bierne turned in a robotic performance as Shields' replacement as host of Capital Gang, making Punditwatch long for Shields' return-except that Shields was as loose and comfortable as he's ever been just being a guest on a live feed from Austin, Texas. CBS White House correspondent John Roberts filled in capably for Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, getting the same amount of information-and more-from Colin Powell than Tim Russert got in twice the time.

PUNDIT SIT-DOWN COMEDY

Capital Gang brought in aging, inside the beltway comedian Mark Russell for their annual wrap-up edition. Proving they're after a different demographic, This Week's roundtable had comedian Al Franken as a guest. George Will appeared constipated with Franken at the table.

GRAHAM'S PROBLEM, GRAHAM'S OPPORTUNITY

David Brooks of The Weekly Standard, appearing on The News Hour, noted a possible problem Senator Bob Graham (D, FL) might face as a presidential candidate:

People don't like anal retentives for some reason. They're prejudiced against them. Graham keeps voluminous daily diaries. On the plus side, however, Brooks offered this:

Bob Graham has been on the Intelligence Committee, has articulated positions on Hezbollah, knows how to spell Hezbollah, which is more than most Senators do.

RECAP OF THE WEEK

ABC's Michele Martin, on This Week, referring to CEOs, clergy, Trent Lott, summarized 2002:

This was the year the bill for bad behavior came due.

KOREAN SURPRISE?

Ceci Connally of the Washington Post, on Fox:

Someone in the Bush Administration should have been a little more prepared for this.

CHECK IT OUT ON NEW YEAR'S EVE

NPR's Juan Williams, on Fox: I think Dick Clark, the ageless one, may already have been cloned.

DIAGNOSIS

Pundit-Psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer on Fox, commenting on the cloning claims of the Raelian cult:

"These people are off the charts."

CLIFF'S NOTES ON FRIST

David Brooks provided a summary of Senator Bill Frist:

"I brought along his resume, which is 12 pages, Harvard, Princeton, all the awards, all the books, all the journal articles. You get to Page 10 before he mentions he can walk on water. It is an amazing resume. He is an unbelievable guy."

BULLY OF THE WEEK

Juan Williams called him a "bully" and compared North Korea's Kim Jong Il to Mike Tyson and the Harry Potter character Draco Malfoy.

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

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

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© 2002, Will Vehrs