Jewish World Review Dec. 9, 2002 / 4 Teves, 5763
Issues overwhelm pundits
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | So many issues, so little time. The weekend pundit shows covered a wide range of issues that normally might consume an entire program.
Iraq's declaration to the UN, which Senator Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn, called a "12,000 page, 100 pound lie" on Fox News Sunday.
The Friday resignation/firing of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Economic Advisor Larry Lindsey that This Week host George Stephanopolous called "Black Friday."
The victory of Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La, in the Louisiana run-off that Fox's Brit Hume called a "significant win for Democrats" and host Tim Russert used to spark a discussion of race on Meet the Press.
And then there was Al Gore's long-awaited return to Sunday television in an interview on This Week, plus tributes to the late ABC executive Roone Arledge.
On Iraq, pundits differed only on whether the documents would temporarily derail Bush Administration hardliners or would actually work to their advantage, allowing the US military more time to prepare. Pundits from The Weekly Standard, David Brooks on The News Hour and Bill Kristol on Fox, reported that bases in Turkey would be approved by January 15 so that engineering work could begin, meaning an attack could be launched in February.
George Will, on This Week, also mentioned February. "[Iraqis] think they're playing basketball without a shot clock. There is a shot clock. It's in February."
The departure of O'Neill and Lindsey was variously seen as the failure to sell a flawed message or the flawed selling of a good message. Speculation on successors focused on Stephen Friedman of Goldman Sachs as Lindsey's replacement. Friedman's former colleague, Senator Jon Corzine, D-NJ, on Fox, called him "capable," "intellectually disciplined," and "a pragmatist more than an ideologue."
While some criticized losing Republican Louisiana Senate candidate Suzanne Terrell, most credited Senator Mary Landrieu with running a smart campaign on local issues and turning out the African-American vote. Fox host Tony Snow even issued a mea culpa for pundits who had predicted a Terrell win: "The oracles were wrong. A lot of the chin-pulling prognosticators never set foot in Louisiana."
Al Gore's interview with George Stephanopolous on This Week was really two interviews. In the first, a discussion of Iraq, Gore kept Stephanopolous off-balance with tortured hedging and hairsplitting, while sprinkling his answers with criticism of the administration. Straight answers were hard to come by. Gore might or might not support military action to destroy weapons of mass destruction that he knows are there, depending on whether they are discovered.
In the second phase of the interview, on domestic issues, Gore became animated and expansive. He promised a tax plan and a healthcare plan to be revealed in January, even as he maintained he had not yet decided to run. His "single payer" healthcare plan is really a "single mechanism" that will squeeze out middlemen and waste. He denied such a plan a would increase taxes more often that he suggested it "might." Gore would roll back planned upper bracket tax cuts, but he did not join wholeheartedly in the Democratic call for a payroll tax cut or holdiday. He cautioned that Social Security should not be jeopordized, a possible criticism of fellow Democratic aspirant's plans.
" I'm going to miss somebody who's blunt and speaks his mind. That was the rap: he wasn't a 'smoothie.'" --William Safire on Meet the Press
"He was a disaster. He was a lousy administrator." --Bob Novak on Meet the Press
"[He and Lindsey] didn't play well together." --George Will on This Week
"[O'Neill and Lindsey] were smart doctors with no bedside manner." --Fahreed Zakaria on This Week
"I'm still looking for a metaphor." --Michele Martin on This Week
LOUISIANA DOUBLE WHAMMY
NOT A LOTT OF DEFENSE
The Louisiana Senate race and the Lott comments led to a Meet the Press discussion of race in politics. Broder said "Race remains a factor in our national life and it's decisive in the South."
ROONE ARLEDGE, FOX
They are looking for somebody who agrees with the president and they are looking for somebody with political experience which I think rules out Charles Schwab. Ken Lay is available -- but I had to make that joke before Mark did.
THE BUSH ECONOMY
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.