Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2002 / 18 Teves, 5763


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A Lott to let go before Fristing | Democrats and Democrat-leaning pundits enjoyed the Trent Lott scandal and had difficulty letting go after Lott's resignation as Majority Leader on Friday.

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields started the pundit weekend by raising the Confederate flag issue on The News Hour. The Weekly Standard's David Brooks called Shields' charge that the issue was used in Georgia a "canard."

On Capital Gang, the discussion about Lott erupted into a debate over whether "racism" was a part of the Republican Party. Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal reminded viewers, "Trent Lott is not the only Republican ever to play the race card. "

Bob Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times accused Democrats and fellow Gang members of raising racial issues in order to "intimidate" Republicans into changing their positions on affirmative action and judicial appointments.

Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, charged on This Week that Republicans tried to suppress the black vote in Louisiana's December 7th special election. Senator Hillary Clinton's comments that Republicans had been in engaged in a "constant exploitation of race" and "two Republican Senators were elected on the Confederate flag" were shown on This Week and Fox News Sunday.

"I'm disappointed in her comments," said Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT, on This Week. He called them "race baiting."

"Democrats are wildly overplaying their hand. She needs to be held accountable," thundered The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol on Fox. "Don't hold your breath," muttered Fox host Brit Hume.

Surprisingly, the pundits did not spend much time on Senator Bill Frist, R-Tenn, Majority Leader-designate. David Brooks said of him, "He is perhaps the least cynical member of the Senate. He is a very straightforward and sincere guy. He is also a terrifically sweet and nice guy."

Perhaps pundits are holding their breath as they negotiate to be the first to snag a Frist interview.

David Broder of the Washington Post, appearing on Meet the Press, maintained that Democrats were the losers in the Lott to Frist change. The Republicans showed moral leadership in deposing Lott and "defanged Daschle" with the choice of Frist.

Iraq was discussed briefly, with most pundits agreeing that allies were offended by the Iraqi declaration to the UN, although not enough to use the term "material breach." Newsweek's Fahreed Zakaria said on This Week that they were waiting for "the other shoe to drop" before making that leap, but that the Administration's plan was gaining support.

Finally, This Week introduced Time magazine's "Persons of the Year," three female whistle blowers. "It's hard to believe they were the most important women in the country or the world," sniffed Bill Kristol on Fox.


Most Republican Senators appearing on the weekend talk shows supported the renomination of Charles Pickering for the Federal bench, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatch and Lott's Mississippi colleague, Senator Thad Cochran, R-Miss. They were much more circumspect on the issue of affirmative action, deferring to the White House on which side to take in the pending University of Michigan case before the Supreme Court.


Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer confessed that he fell asleep while watching the Strom Thurmond birthday tribute, so he missed Trent Lott's controversial comments. He was honest enough to admit that he might not have caught their significance.


Robert George of the New York Post, appearing on Meet the Press, credited "Internet journalists and web bloggers" for keeping the Lott story alive. He became, if the not the first, then one of the first pundits to mention "bloggers" on a national Sunday program.


Fox's Brit Hume tried to equate comments by Senator Patti Murray, D-Wash, on Osama bin Laden with Trent Lott's remarks. When Senator Joe Biden, D-Del, and Senator Richard Lugar, R-Ind, did not criticize her to his satisfaction, he compared them to senators who were initially supportive of Lott. Biden did allow that Murray had made "a bad choice of words."


First Lady Laura Bush, appearing on Meet the Press, said of her husband, "I do not like to get advice from him."


FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley was named one of the three Time magazine "Persons of the Year" on Sunday. The night before, a person in Rowley's office was the subject of Time's Margaret Carlson's "Outrage of the Week":

"Guess who got the FBI's award for distinguished performance? Agent Spike Bowman, who denied the Minneapolis office a warrant to search the 20th hijacker Moussaoui's laptop. Guess who didn't get one? Coleen Rowley, who had the goods linking Moussaoui to Osama. She later joked that resistance from Washington was so great there must be a mole from al Qaeda there.

Bowman said there were probably lots of Moussaouis in the phone book. There was only one. And she had trouble linking him to just the precise group that's Bowman thought she should. He gets up to 35 percent of his salary and a signed letter of gratitude from the president."


Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean, appearing on This Week, took credit, along with Al Gore, for President Bush's current Iraq policy, then claimed the US would become a "second tier power" in 10-15 years if Bush's policies are continued.


Al Gore's withdrawal from the '04 campaign was barely mentioned. ABC's Michele Martin noted on This Week that Senator Joe Lieberman, D, CT, went up 11 points in preference polls when Gore withdrew. Of course, she added, "no preference went up 10 points." George Will suggested Florida Senator Bob Graham, D, might enter the race and This Week host George Stephanopolous said Connecticut's other Senator, Chris Dodd, D, might run-if he doesn't challenge Senator Tom Daschle, D-SD, for Senate Minority Leader.


David Brooks also saw Senator Lieberman benefiting from Gore's withdrawal, but he saw a potential trouble spot:

"A lot of Jews suddenly don't want Joe Lieberman at the top of the ticket because we're confronting Arab nations, there's a sense, well, maybe we don't want a Jew at the top. To me, you don't let anti-Semites determine how you run your country."

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

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