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Eight Heads In A Duffel Bag


What do you get when you combine the eight Heads from the press panels on this Sunday’s Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday? Not the above, but its intellectual equivalent.

This week’s panels generated neither light nor heat, but simply mild nausea.

Meet the Press It was Big Russ vs. Microscopic Russ when Russ Feingold (D-WI) sat across from Little Tim. Feingold was in fine form, responding sensibly and articulately to almost all of Russert’s questions.

Russert started with the failure of Feingold’s Senate resolution, which called for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within the year. You only got 13 votes, smirked Tim, not even a majority of Senate Dems. Feingold responded that the American people understand that it’s time to leave Iraq, as do the Iraq government and the people of Iraq. The Casey plan for withdrawal, likewise, is similar to the one proposed by Senators Feingold and Kerry. Russert challenged Feingold to state the Senate was out of touch with the country, apparently thinking the senator wouldn’t do so. To his credit, Feingold agreed that his colleagues aren’t listening to the people: "Why don’t we try something different, like listening to the American people?"

Russert also pulled out a Cheney cut-and-run quote which suggested opponents of the invasion think Americans don’t "have the stomach" for an extended occupation. Feingold responded that the Administration led the country to war on false pretenses and then asked, "do we just stay in Iraq so that Cheney and Bush can say that they were right?"  Yes, that’s exactly what we do.

Feingold opposes Iraqi amnesty for those who’ve been involved in killing American troops or other Americans. He repeated his support for censure of Bush on the issue of illegal wiretapping. To Tim’s amazement, Feingold admitted that he thought Bush had more clearly committed impeachable offenses than either Nixon or President Clinton. The Founders weren’t so much interested in hotel break-ins or personal misconduct, but they did want a system different than the one existing under King George III. However, Feingold’s not interested in impeachment, as censure will suffice to inform Bush that he broke the law.

Russert argued that the American people don’t support censure. Feingold reminded Russert that he (Feingold, not Russert) came to Washington to stand up for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Despite Tim’s demand that the Senator inject himself into the Connecticut primary, Feingold refused to endorse Joe Lieberman (WATB-CT). The Senator will support the Democratic nominee whether it’s Lamont or Lieberman. Holy Joe helped Feingold out on campaign finance reform, but Lamont’s positions are much closer to his own on the critical issues.

On a disappointing note, Feingold defended his vote for Chief Justice nominee John Roberts, repeating his position that Roberts was the best nominee we could expect from Bush. That may be true, but it’s not a reason to vote for him.

The roundtable (with "Dean" David Broder, Ron Brownstein, Anne Kornblut and David Gregory) kicked around Democratic politics. Russert read from Broder’s column of Sunday last, in which Holy Joe framed his primary fight as one which will tell whether the Democratic Party "will accept diversity of opinion or is on a kind of crusade or jihad of its own to have everybody toe the line." (Even Tim had trouble spitting out the word "jihad" when reading this slur.) Kornblut, of the NYT, said the Connecticut primary was "not only a challenge for Lieberman, but it’s really a test of if taking a principled stand can work in a Democratic primary." So opposition to war can’t be a principled stand, and those who win Democratic primaries ordinarily are devoid of principled stands.

Brownstein pointed out that, on the question of loyalty, Lieberman gave the finger to the Party by accepting an award from the Republican-infested  Committee on the Present Danger. (No word on whether Joe DiGenova, Ed Meese or Laurie Mylroie handed Joe that glittering prize.)

Russert then turned to 2008 for yet another trip to "The Clinton Marriage – Is It A Legitimate Story?" None of the heads would say it was legitimate, and none would acknowledge that it wasn’t.  Broder groused about how he had gotten "hammered" for writing about the subject.  As no one defended the subject as legit, I guess we won’t be hearing about it any more.

Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer Wolf boasted of an exclusive interview Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan and newly-appointed head of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce. Reports of a Taliban rennaissance are greatly exaggerated, we are told, and the Taliban is not a threat to the Afghan goverment. Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf is like a brother to Karzai. Afghanistan is prospering; Pakistan now imports 1.3 billion USD in Afghan goods annually, as opposed to 25 million USD in the time of the Taliban. That Newsweek story about the scarcity of utilities, high unemployment and widespread official corruption? "Very wrong."

After that relentfull grilling President Karzai, and what seems like seven minutes of commercials (is Anderson Cooper keeping Angelina Jolie honest?), Wolf turns to former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright. Kissinger dozes through most of the interview (Are things going well or poorly in Afghanistan? Dr. K: "Uh, I really can’t judge it very well…."), but Albright makes a few points. Says Secretary Albright in response to a video clip of Bush, if Bush remembered the lessons of September 2001, he should remember that those who attacked the U.S. came from locations other than Iraq. Further, the Administration doesn’t have a plan for Iraq.

Kissinger then revealed his impression that "al Qaeda was trying to create a reign of terror in iraq." He believes that discussions about withdrawal of American troops should be stopped and should take place only after the U.S. gives Iraq time to function. The discussion certainly shouldn’t take place during a political campaign.

On North Korea, both guests believe that bilateral talks are not a viable option at this point. Kissinger supports the six-party talks. Albright argues that bilateral talks should have commenced five years ago, but were cut off when Bush came into office. Five years have been wasted and North Korea has become more dangerous. Where, Albright asks, "have we been the past five years while North Korea has become a more dangerous place?" (I assume the question is rhetorical.)

Fox News Sunday was significant for what you didn’t hear about, namely, Chris Wallace’s eagerly-awaited Weapons of Mass Destruction blockbuster. You’ll recall that, last week, Wallace was eagerly grilling Tony Snow for news of a major WMD find. This week, nothing. I guess it was just a rumor from a lunatic.

First up, Senators John Warner (R-VA) and Carl Levin (D-MI).  Warner was evasive on the issue of insurgent amnesty, stating that the Iraqi government would consult with the U.S. on the issue, but that he was reluctant to interfere with Iraqi sovreignty. Levin opposes amnesty for those killing American soldiers.

On the American pull out, Levin said that it was the worst kept secret in D.C. that there will be a reduction in U.S. forces before the November elections. The timing of withdrawal should be a civilian decision, in consultation with the military, but it will be "a political decision by this Administration and [Bush] will claim some kind of progress or victory." On Haditha, Levin rebuffed Wallace’s suggestion that there was a rush to judgment, stating that there was compelling evidence of wrongdoing in military reports, along with strong evidence of a coverup, Warner stressed that the matter is being fully investigated by the military, and will eventually come to Congress for investigation.

In the second segment, Wallace hosted Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY).  Specter claimed he was "close" to an agreement with Abu Gonzales and Bush Justice on having the NSA’s illegal wiretaps "submitted to the FISA court." (It was not clear what Specter meant by this, and Wallace didn’t pursue it.)Specter had no bad words about the Administration’s incredibly expansive and previously undisclosed review of private bank records, stating that people don’t have the same expectation of privacy for their bank records that they do for their phone calls.  (Speak for yourself, Arlen.)

King opined that it was settled law (per a 1976 court case) that the Bush Administration can do anything it wants with your bank records. The little sh*t then demanded that Abu G. and Bush Justice commence a criminal prosecution against the New York Times and its reporters, editors and publishers for bank records story. On what grounds? Well, "No one elected the New York Times to do anything." And "we’re at war" and "they [the Times] brought us Jayson Blair, they’re the ones that gave us Fidel Castro in Cuba." (I hear King really hates the Metropolitan Diary column too.) 

Specter, the respectable face of the Republican Party, said that it was "premature to call for a prosecution of the New York Times."  Give it five months.

The Fox roundtable returned to the bank records story, and Brit Hume and Bill Kristol laced on their steel-toed boots in order to kick Bill Keller in the goolies. Hume stated that many things are matters of public interest — "ball scores, women with their breasts exposed" — but that doesn’t justify their publication in the New York Times. The NYT has a great reserve of credit, Hume said, but it is rapidly spending it and, moreover, it doesn’t deserve it. Kristol seconded King, stating that Abu G. and Bush Justice had "an obligation" to consider prosecution. Reminded that he was in the publishing business himself, Kristol wailed that "I don’t have a right to damage national security."

(Yes, that’s the same Bill Kristol who was calling for a pardon of Scooter Libby last week.)

Notably missing from Fox News Sunday’s discussion of the bank records story were two things: The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, which also published the story.  Fortunately, Frank Rich of the New York Times schooled David "Canadian Schlub" Frum on the subject during a discussion on Reliable Sources with Howie Kurtz:

RICH: Two points. First of all, we’re talking about three newspapers, not one newspaper. One of those newspapers, "The Wall Street Journal", has a very conservative editorial page that supports…

FRUM: So what?

RICH: So why didn’t the president — why didn’t the president ask them to shut it down?

FRUM: I worked with that editorial page. We couldn’t have lunch with people on the news side.

RICH: We know from Howie’s report that the White House did not ask them to step down from the story the way they asked the other two papers. They thought it was fine if it’s in the "Wall Street Journal".

FRUM: I think it’s pretty clear you guys got it first. And the other papers would have deferred to your leadership. I mean, the "Times" does…

RICH: You really think that our competitors would have deferred to what we did?

FRUM: I think what you have here is you have government officials, both active and retired Democrats, going to papers saying, "This is a huge secret. Please do not publish this in the national interest." Then there’s a kind of moral dilemma.

But the grammar of the story, as I see it reported, suggests that information came to the "Times" first. If they had gone to the other two papers and said, we went to the "Times" and they agreed that this would be putting the nation’s safety and security at risk, that would have been…

RICH: As far as I know that — as far as I know, everything you just said is fictional. I’ve seen nowhere that the "Times" necessarily had it first. I got the feeling that news organizations were going neck and neck. What’s your source for that? What’s your source for it?

FRUM: I got — I got — that’s not what I said. I said when I read the grammar in the story…

RICH: What do you mean, read the grammar? Is it code, holding it up to the light with lemon juice?

David’s forgotten everything Conrad Black ever taught him.

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