Sunday Show Wrap-Up
Gingrich takes aim at Murtha and Pelosi.
4:06 PM, Feb 18, 2007 • By SONNY BUNCH
IT WAS A PRETTY slow week on the Sunday talks show circuit. Meet the Press featured an interview with Tony Snow--the White House press secretary set about defending the president's proposals as best he could. Trying to combat the notion that the troops would be best served by a hasty withdrawal, Snow told Tim Russert that "the president believes that what you need to do if you support the troops, is to provide the reinforcement for the people who are already on the ground to get the job done and finish the job." He also reminded the anchor (and the American public) exactly what the stakes in Iraq are. "It's a war, things always go wrong. As a matter of fact, it happens in every war. But I'll tell you, you want something to go wrong? Have the United States leave before the job's done in Iraq, and invite al Qaeda--give al Qaeda the biggest recruiting tool of all, which is to say we made the Americans leave. Osama bin Laden cited the American departure from Somalia as the way to recruit and train people for September 11th. We know as a point of fact that, that they see this as a place where they're going to make their stand. It's our determination that it will be their last stand."
Senators Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed were somewhat less optimistic about the future of Iraq. Reed made sure to emphasize his opinion that the surge is not the plan of General Petraeus (who was confirmed unanimously by the Senate). Rather, "this debate is about the president's plan. I think the president's plan is wrong, I think it's been wrong since the beginning." Hagel, who long ago scrapped any desire to win in Iraq, put forth his strategy if he were to be elected commander in chief: "And if I ran for the president, I would put forth a plan as to how do we get out of Iraq, what do we do about the Middle East. I don't think you can talk about Iraq without talking about the composite dynamic of the Middle East. But I'll, I'll [let] you know and that decision and announcement will come within a couple of weeks." Richard Engel, who has spent four years in Iraq, had a relatively rosy outlook on the near future in Iraq. "A year from now?" the NBC news correspondent posited, "I think you'll have the Shiites in control of Baghdad. There's a major power struggle with Shiites coming across from the east, moving into the west. I think they will consolidate that control. And the U.S. forces will have declared victory, and will have been moved out to the Anbar province, and will end up fighting al-Qaeda in Anbar. So you'll have a situation where there will be a more stable, but very Shiite partisan government in control of Baghdad, and the U.S. fighting al-Qaeda in, in western Iraq. So both sides get to declare victory."
This Week featured an interview with Mitt Romney that was, to say the least, not good for the Republican from Massachusetts. During the 30 minute talk, George Stephanopoulos showed him to have a lack of core commitment on the issues that was somewhat stunning. (Less so if you've read Jennifer Rubin's excellent piece in the pages of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.) Instead of giving you the lowdown on each flip and every flop, I'll link to the transcript and let you read for yourself. The summary is pretty simple: On most every issue, from gun control to abortion to gay rights, Romney has taken the stance that most favors his electoral prospects. Running for Massachusetts governor, he was a liberal Republican--now running in a Republican primary for president, he's become a religious conservative.
The roundtable took on the issue of funding for the troop. Fareed Zakaria questioned the Democratic strategy, saying "Congressional control of foreign policy is a blunt instrument. It can only be wielded in this very blunt way. What Murtha and Pelosi are trying to do is to narrow it, to turn it into a scalpel rather than a cudgel. I don't know that it will work." George Will reminded his compatriots that "the cudgel is clearly constitutional, whereas the scalpel may not be, due respect to Justice Katrina [vanden Heuvel] here. . . . We could be heading for a very interesting Constitutional moment here." Justice vanden Heuvel then entered into a neat bit of Orwellian semantics, demanding "George, stop using 'defund' . . . stop the word 'defund.' See, so much of this is language; protect the troops, use the funding to bring them home. I feel so strongly about this."
Fox News Sunday featured an interview with Carl Levin, who spoke on the Senate's recent attempt to rebuke President Bush's Iraq strategy. "We are determined that we are going to change course in Iraq. . . . I don't think there's support to cut off funds, I think that sends the wrong message to our troops; we're going to support our troops, but one way to support them is to find a way out of Iraq earlier rather than later." Newt Gingrich, who appeared on the show after Levin, had this to say about the Democrats' tactics: "There's a difference between offering advice to what we should do, and legislating. . . . if they want to come in and say, we're cutting off all funding, the president has sixty days to leave Iraq, we are prepared to take responsibility, and we are rendering our judgment, that's one thing. That's not what they are doing. They want, what I think is the worst of all worlds: They want the ability to undermine the president, the ability to cripple the defense department, while disclaiming any responsibility. I think this strategy Murtha and Pelosi have been very open about. In the Senate it's not as open, but in the House they've been very open, that they intend to gradually grind down our ability to be effective in Iraq, day by day, week by week, amendment by amendment; I think that's a very destructive way to approach things."
Brit Hume was even less kind to Murtha than Gingrich, saying "It's time that a few things be said about [Murtha]. Even the Washington Post noted that he didn't seemed particularly well informed about what's going on over there, to say the least. Look, this man has tremendous cache among House Democrats, but he is not, this guy is long passed the day when he had anything but the foggiest awareness of what's going on in the world." Bill Kristol bluntly stated what common sense should have pointed out a while back in regards to Iranian interference in Iraq: "If the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are sending deadly devices into Iraq to kill American soldiers, which they are, that seems to be unquestioned, we have a big problem with Iran. . . . Whether they're simply permitting it, or ordering it, we have a big problem."
Face the Nation's roundtable was interesting this week. Doyle McManus gave any gamblers interested in wagering on politics a solid tip, when he told Bob Schieffer "Here's a fascinating little piece of research that I, that I turned up in my reading. If you look at the polls, six times out of the last seven Republican contested races, the early front-runner goes on to win. Democratic races are more chaotic and prone to more changes. So one thing you might want to do is look at your own poll and see who's out ahead right now, and Rudy Giuliani doesn't look like such a bad bet to go all the way through."
Sonny Bunch is assistant editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.