Flush twice... it's a long way to Sally Quinn's place!
Aug. 7, 2005 -- WASHINGTON (apj.us) -- This Sunday, there was plenty of talk about the Iraq mess, the Supreme Court mess (with a big dollop of Catholicism), the use of steroids in professional sports, and -- to our surprise -- the controversial vaccine additive thimerasol.
There was no discussion of:
1) A Newsweek report that hints that Traitorgate special prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald's boss may be replaced by a college pal and Skull and Bones frat brother of George W. Bush. Hoo-boy...
2) Murray Waas's overnight post to The American Prospect revealing that Scooter Libby met with New York Times reporter turned jailbird Judith Miller to discuss -- you guessed it -- Valerie Plame! And after we went to press, the indefatigable Arianna added more to her Judy File.
Here are, to use our man Duncan's favorite term, the atrocities...
At the top of This Week, George Stephanopoulos pumped up the hype, flogging what he depicted as a great big juicy "exclusive" with Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. "Supreme Court nominees don't speak out until there are hearings, and those don't begin until early next month."
So just how did TW get this "exclusive"? Well, it seems the producers got their hot little hands on five-year-old footage from a local Washington political talk show in which Roberts discussed Supreme Court rulings from the 2000 session with a panel of journalists.
First up was school prayer. Roberts explained the ruling: "I think the argument about government-sponsored, government-initiated prayer in schools is over -- but that's not necessarily all that we're talking about. The test, as I see it, is [whether or not] the prayer is genuinely student-initiated, student-led, and it does not look like something the government -- the school district -- is sponsoring. ... The issue is, is this being sponsored by the state?... The history [of the specific case] was that the school appointed a student chaplain, and that student chaplain led the fans in that case in prayer, and when they change that because of concern about constitutionality, the court said no. " Roberts pointedly repeated that student-organized prayer it is not affected by the ruling.
(Hold it -- the school appointed the chaplain. They ARE involved -- a fact conveniently ignored by the Christian Reconstructionist wing of the court.)
Talk turned to a partial birth abortion ruling: Roberts' answer explained the ruling, but also included the caveat that this seems to be the beginning of a string of court rulings that will narrow abortion rights. He was emphatic about the majority rule in 2000 that claimed that "this [particular issue] is a different than [i.e. wider than just] abortion."
Roberts also played down the weakening of Miranda rights as no defeat and "not [as] extreme as you might imagine. " Roberts also seemed satisfied about a so-called First Amendment ruling that allows groups to include or exclude people because of their values.
As this interview had taken place in the year 2000, Roberts was asked about the upcoming presidential battle. Roberts said that the Bush v Gore election (little could anyone have known about the Supremo showdown) would have an effect on the Supreme Court, but also warned that there's no guarantee that the voters will get what they think they're voting for when it comes time to nominate a candidate to the court. (Can you say David Souter?)
The analysis that followed from ABC News correspondents Terry Moran and Linda Douglass was for the most part superfluous, with the exception of Douglass pointing out that Roberts had pretty much said that there is indeed a right to abortion (and even we have to admit that there was enough in Roberts interview from five years ago to get evangelicals, moralists, anti-choice zealots and superstitious faith-based lemmings a little bit worried). Moran said that his contacts in the White House were not aware of this interview from five years ago. (Ha! So much for Karl Rove's genius for covering all the bases when the Chimp-in-Chief is preparing one of his campaigns. Could it be that Unka Karl's a little, well, preoccupied these days?) Douglass said that Roberts comes across as reasonable and reassuring -- and insinuated that Democrats would be concerned that Roberts appears so.
The second segment was taped yesterday in Oak Park, Ill., with George Stephanopoulos interviewing Congressman Dennis Kucinich and two parents of Marines who were among the 20 killed during the last week in Iraq. Kucinich wanted to emphasize the grief and mourning within the community; the parents talked a lot about their son.
The content of the segment was not quite as important as the fundamental fact that ABC put the focus on a family and community so directly and painfully affected by the boondoggle-turned-quagmire known as the Iraq war. The high mucky-mucks at ABC News have seen the polls numbers: a majority of Americans now oppose the war, and more Americans than ever think that George W. Bush is a liar. Had 20 Marines from one community been killed in battle a year ago, it is highly doubtful that any American network news division would have run a segment of this nature on Sunday morning.
The round table? Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts, George Will. And as usual it was a total waste of time -- especially Cokie Roberts' repeated claim that the economy's doing incredibly well (has she been laying into W's stash or what?) -- until talk turned to Bob Novak's bullsh!t blow-up on CNN Thursday. After running the clip of Novak storming off the CNN set, the entire panel laughed out loud -- and believe me, when three of the smuggest Beltway insiders alive today laugh at Bob-ula, you know he's over. Sam said he thinks Novak told Karl Rove and Scooter Libby about Valerie Plame. We can only wonder whether or not Sam bothered to catch up on the latest Traitorgate scuttlebutt, specifically the article posted to The American Prospect last night focusing on the fact that Scooter Libby and Judy Miller met on July 8, 2003 -- two days after Joe Wilson published his column and a few days before Novak outed Plame.
We won't go into much detail about the second segment of MTP, which dealt with the continuing debate over whether or not there is a correlation between the statistically stunning increase in instances of autism and the use of thimerasol, a mercury-based chemical, as a preservative for childhood vaccines. The issue is fascinating, frustrating and heartbreaking.
The first segment was obsessed with Catholicism, as is the wont of Meet the Press under the Russert regime. His guests were Catholic constitutional law Professor Douglas Kmiec and Catholic ex-New York governor Mario Cuomo, with the topic of conversation Catholic Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Naturally, all three were in denial about the possibility that Roberts' Catholicism would influence his rulings.
(Right. And all those years with the Federalist Society will have no effect either. Gimme a break, kids.)
There was a lot of talk, naturally, about the sanctity of life and when it begins -- a gambit by Russert and his producers to all those fundamentalist and Evangelical viewers that yes, really, we Catholics aren't so different from you once you get past the sacraments, that creepy Ratzinger guy, and the weird outfits accessorized with smoking purses! (And before you decide to write those e-mails about Catholic-bashing, you should know that I'm a Catholic -- and my own parish priest used to goof about the purse being on fire, so there!)
In fact, one got the feeling that Tim and his posse were more obsessed with the Church than the Supremos, especially after Mario went on a tear about what next for the right to choose:
"On abortion, here's what we should do. Nobody in this country, Tim--and this is why Catholics are not trying to get a constitutional amendment and why no Republican president has asked for one -- nobody in this country wants to vote for an abortion law that's the same as the Catholic law, which is, 'Even to protect the life of the mother, whether it's a rape, whether it's incest, no matter how horrible, there can never be an abortion, period.' I don't--that has no chance of succeeding. That's why the church is not talking about it. That's why the Republicans are not talking about it. So we all believe, however, at the same time, there are too many abortions. There are too many times when a woman has to make this judgment."
In other words, Cuomo had nothing new to say on the subject. But Cuomo tweaked George the lesser on his latest "weird science" stand while generating a bit of a chill on reproductive rights:
"I think it's important on stem cells, too. The president says life begins at conception. Is that a scientific conclusion? No. His science adviser, John Marburger, says that's a sacred issue, not a scientific one. Let's make it a scientific question. Give it to a task force on life and law like the one we created in New York state, with doctors, with experts, with ethicists, to decide: What does human life mean? It means consciousness. When does that occur? When does viability occur? Roe against Wade says 24 weeks, but that's old, old medical evidence. 1973 is the decision; evidence was from 1950. Why don't you measure that again? If viability is now, let's say, 20 weeks instead of 24, that's a lot of abortions that will be stopped because, as we all know, once it's viable, then you can only have an abortion to save the life of the mother."
Hoo-boy. Mario was really giving a bit too much help to the religio-fetus-fetishist crowd for our particular taste.
FAUX News Sunday
There was nothing much to see over on FAUX News Sunday. The second segment dealt with steroids in baseball -- naturally, this is a far more pressing issue than, say, the treasonous blowing of a CIA NOC's cover by top officials of the White House. At least Chris Wallace made issue one the worsening military situation in Iraq. And guest Joe Biden elicited a look of total incredulity from Wallace when he said that so far no more than 3,000 Iraqi personnel are adequately trained to take on that nation's instability. Dick Lugar, one of the few sane Republicans to be found in Washington these days, sounded more than a bit flustered by the military's difficulty in adjusting to changing insurgent tactics. As we went to press, the wire services were picking up both Lugar's and Biden's comments and making them the biggest headline to come out of the network political talk shows.
Which leads us to the issue of Biden's ubiquity on the Washington bureau blatherfests: is he the only acceptable Democrat to book as a guest? Why do we almost never see Hillary Clinton, or Ted Kennedy, or Russ Feingold, or Tom Harkin? Each of these distinguished senators equals Biden's talent for wielding the Sabbath spin.
Face the Nation
Is Duncan Hunter the dumbest high-profile Republican in the House of Reprehensibles? Here's what he had to say toward the top of FTN in response to Bob Schieffer's question about a week of heavy casualties in contrast to calls to "draw down" the military in Iraq:
"... I think all of us have been thoroughly briefed on that catastrophic bomb that took out those great Marines close to the Syrian border. But we're standing up the Iraqi military. The exit strategy for the United States is to stand up the Iraqi military, hand the ball off to them, hand off this responsibility for defending this country and defending this new government that also is being stood up."
Huh? "Stood up"? "Stand up"? You mean like standing up a date?
More from Duncan:
"And the reports that I have received and the analysis from people, who are pretty tough people and pretty tough critics like Barry McCaffrey, have been to the effect that there is a growing strong core of strength in the Iraqi military, that it's standing and fighting, that it's doing its share of the load when we give it a particular area of operation to protect, to defend.... I think they're going to hold, Bob."
You mean the 3,000 pairs of boots Joe Biden was telling us about? Gee, that's really reassuring, Dunc, ol' boy!