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Pundit Pap
for July 31, 2005
Stem Cell Shuffle
Pundits send spin into low earth orbit, dodging the facts as if they were fuel tank debris!
by JJ Balzer, Jane Grice & Scott Johnson

July 31, 2005 -- NEW YORK (apj.us) -- Talk of the CIA leak scandal all but vanished from the Sunday smarmfests. Reports that the former Texas governor plans to further strain relations with allies and not-so-allied nations alike by granting one of Judith "Jailbird" Miller sources, John Bolton, a recess appointment as ambassador (accent on "ass") to the United Nations. There were occasional short comments about the nomination of corporate trial lawyer -- and, as we learned this week, Florida recount villain -- John Roberts to the Supreme Court (on McLaugh-In, Pope John McLaughlin went so far as to predict that Roberts will be Chief Injustice).

But the Sunday shows were dominated by "shuttlemania" -- the return of our shuttle fleet to low Earth orbit -- and Bill Frist's somewhat unexpected, completely calculated decision to back federal funding of stem cell research (much to the chagrin of George the Lesser and Ayatollah al-Dobson).

And the Internet is abuzz this morning with the hilariously inept performance of Rick "The Virginian" Santorum on ABC's This Week as George Stephanopoulos turned what Rick had obviously expected to be a softball spot to pitch his book "It Takes a Fundamentalist Christian Family" into a priceless verbal slugfest that should remove any doubt that Little Ricky's a latter-day Dan Quayle who no longer stands a snowball's chance in Hell of being taken seriously as a Presidential contender.

Here are, as our pal Atrios says, a short synopsis of the "atrocities."

This Week

George Stephanopoulos spent the first segment of This Week interviewing astronauts aboard the space shuttle. How appropriate: the guests in zero gravity, the host with zero gravitas. Steph also interviewed Sen. John Glenn, NASA engineer Don Nelson and Buzz Aldrin. There wasn't much to satisfy our appetite for political red meat -- plenty of talk about shuttle safety and the future of the space program, though.

Then -- arf! arf! -- Rick Santorum! Little "Senator Man-on-dog" Ricky was so overcaffeinated that he was practically shouting and screaming at some points during the interview -- but then, you too would scream if Young Steph had little trouble making you look like the extremist zealot you actually are -- not to mention an unhinged idiot. Here's the whole mess in shorthand:

Rick: A frozen embryo is an "innocent human life" and odds are stem cell research won't help cure much of anything anyway. Let's spend millions looking for non-embryonic stem cells instead!
Steph: James Dobson condemned Frist! It hurts Frist's chances for the '08 nomination -- how much?
Rick: It's problematic. Science trumps superstition. We shouldn't be on the side of ending human life.
Steph: In your new book, you said abortion is murder, and you want a justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.
Rick: We need judicial restraint! They must restrain their own power! Judges are umpires in the baseball game of life!
Steph: If you believe that abortion's a license to kill, don't you support a constitutional amendment banning abortion?
Rick: I like it! Yeah, baby! Go for it!
Steph: But you haven't sponsored such a bill.
Rick: Um, er, well... it's a state's rights issue! Yeah! That's the ticket!
Steph: You equate working mothers with radical misogynist feminists. Name one or two.
Rich: Um, um, um whatsername, Gloria Steinman, uh, and, um, uh, golly, I can't remember her name!

There you have it, folks, Rick "The Virginian" Santorum, a guy who obviously has high political aspirations, was so unprepared to defend his book that the only name he could pull out of his hat was Gloria Steinem, who's more a mainstream liberal than a radical. He doesn't know who or what he is talking about. The interview continued.

Steph: You're painting a picture with a broad brush.
Rick: The elite! The media! Academia!

The media? Didn't Ann Coulter tell you, Ricky? "We (conservatives) have the media now!"

Steph: My wife works and parents.
Rick: It's dictated by Hollywood, academia, the media -- and it's wrong!
Steph: Hillary Clinton wrote a book espousing the importance of community. Lemme hand you a name you can easily tar as a radical feminist: is she a radical feminist?
Rick: Yes -- she said that kids have equal rights to parents.
Steph: Have you discussed this with her?
Rick: Yes, um, well, we've chatted passing in the hall.
Steph: You want a debate with her?
Rich: Sure!
Steph: You said that Boston, a center for liberal culture, is to blame for the Catholic pedophilia scandal. "Ted Kennedy, John Kerry say you have to apologize. Mitt Romney, Republican governor, says basically you don't know what you're talking about.
Do you still stand by that statement?"
Rick: "Look, the statement I made was that the culture influences people's behavior" -- the culture of sexual freedom had a profound impact on everybody. 2002 -- that was the epicenter
Steph: Wrong. I went back and did research. As early as 1994, it was evident that Santa Fe, Chicago, and half a dozen other city had problems.
Rick: Boston, dammit, it's the epicenter! There are other cities with problems, but Boston! I talked to cardinals, I was offended by a church that betrayed me, and the Senators sat by and did nothing!
Steph: 2008 -- you have no intention to run, but you don't want to lock the door.
Rick: I, I, I have no intention of running, but there are always things that happen. I've got six kids!
Steph: You're not running.
Rick: Yeah, no, I simply don't ever lock a door, I'm running for Senate whip.

We skipped the roundtable (the less said about the arrogant Cokie Roberts the better -- she even makes George Will look good) and a brief interview with publicity hound Lee "He's Baaaaaaack" Iacocca.

-- JJ Balzer

Face the Nation

Bob Schieffer put stem cells and the space shuttle program at the top of the FTN agenda this Sunday.

He opened FTN with a question to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) on Sen. Bill Frist's flip-flop on stem cell research (he was against your tax dollars paying for research, now he's for it): has Specter assembled enough votes to override a veto of an extended stem cell research bill by the president? Specter said he is on the way to the two-thords (67) needed -- he estimates 62 are on board as of now, and he thinks it's likely he can get 67 -- but the problem is whether the House will have the votes to override. Sam Brownback (R-18th Century) avoided Schieffer's question about whether he might try to filibuster an override (read: yes, because it's OK to filibuster if you're a Republican), and instead spouted paranoid rhetoric about creating life and feigning outrage about using taxpayer money to "destroy human life" (um, Sam, it's a primitive frozen embryo that is likely to be destined for destruction anyway -- but far be it from Brownback to mention that fact). Brownback said that there are not the votes in the House to override as he continued to equate "creating... embryos... and clones" for "research" (as if that's what those evil biologists are out to do just for some kind of kinky pleasure) with unethical science. (Can you say paranoid fantasies that play to Bible-thumpers?) Specter said that a GOP presidential candidate opposed to stem cells cannot be elected -- and there is no intent to create embryos for research.

Liz Bumiller reminded Brownback that he equated stem cell research to Nazi science. Brownback, who looked a little irritated that anyone from the corporate press would dare bring up a Nazi reference by a good, morally rigorous Republican, tried to "clarify" (read: divert attention from) the matter -- but in essence said that's what he did, and kept wringing his hands about "creating human life for the specific purpose just of research." Bumiller said that the GOP will be seen as being anti-science, and Brownback conceded the point before trying to claim that nothing's been cured with stem cells.

(Of course, if there weren't the restrictions that superstitious moralists have pushed for years, we might have seen it already.)

Brownback kept preaching (quite literally) the "sanctity of human life." (Enough, already! We get the point after parroting the same rhetoric over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over...)

Talk turned to the nomination of John Roberts to "The Supremos" and the Democrats' request for more documentation. Specter proclaimed the trickle of papers "sufficient" before gushing about Roberts' supposed "extraordinary qualifications." Bumiller asked Brownback if Roberts is -- catch this -- "socially conservative enough." Brownback first lamented the short paper trail, then implied that committee hearings will be sufficient to make that determination after praising Roberts' ties to terrific organizations (a nod to hard-right supporters of judicial extremism that he's pleased Roberts is a member of the anti-judiciary, pro-corporatist Federalist Society).

There followed a segment on the space shuttle -- no politics, but one thing that had us smiling was that Mission Commander Eileen Collins got a lot of face time on the Sunday shows. She's got the right mix of military cool and upbeat go-for-it attitude -- it's a shame that most of the Sunday shows aren't geared toward kids, because she's perhaps NASA's best pitch person for a career in science and astronautics.

-- Scott Johnson

Meet the Spin
Or, Spaced-out Pundits and Their Talking Point Payload

July 31, 2005 -- FORT LEE (apj.us) -- Those ever-active hypemeisters at NBC News billed today's MTP as a "special edition... [with] a historic interview from the international space station with the crew of the Shuttle Discovery." Of course, in our area, MTP is the last of the Sunday spinfests, so the occasion didn't seem all that "historic" following the shuttle crew's appearances on Timmy's ABC, FOX and CBS competition. After the astronauts, we were treated to an interview with NASA Administrator Michael Griffin in which Russert seemed gleeful as he dwelled on all sorts of things that might have gone wrong during launch. Russert seemed downright ghoulish at a couple points.

Following the space blather, we were treated to a journalist panel: WaPo's obsolete old fart David Broder, John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal's news pages (he's done a better job of staying on top of the CIA leak scandal story than his so-called competition at the NY Times and WaPo), Kate O'Beirne of the Catholic League (billed as a writer for paleocon fishwrap National Journal), and WaPo's impressive Eugene Robinson.

Here are some of the dumbest moments from the roundtable...

• Kate: "I think that recess appointment [of Bolton] -- given the inevitability of the kind of opposition he's faced in the Senate -- could have been made over Memorial Day, could have been made over the Fourth of July." (Translation: If only the Smirk had just appointed him, the public wouldn't now know that he lied about testifying before Patrick Fitzgerald.)

• Broder: "The truth is I think that if you had a secret vote in the United States Senate there would be a very small number of votes at this point for Mr. Bolton, Republican or Democratic. But it is the president's choice. He is the president's ambassador and I don't think that the Democrats will impale themselves on trying to deny the president that right." (And he's right -- they are salivating at the prospect of hanging Bolton around the Chimpanzee-in-Chief's neck like an albatross.)

• Harwood mixed two memes: "There is not very much enthusiasm among Republican senators for John Bolton, and it's a reflection of the difficulty the president is having not just on this nominee but more broadly with Iraq. The majority of Americans DON'T like his handling of Iraq. That's one of the reasons we saw General Casey talk about the potential for troops withdrawals next year. And watch the special election in Ohio's 2nd District on Tuesday to replace Rob Portman. This is a very Republican district, 64 percent for President Bush last November, and an Iraq War veteran, very critical of the president, is running competitively [as a Democrat]. Still an uphill fight for him, but the fact that he has a chance in that district is a trouble sign for Republicans."

• The panel tried to make a pitch of tying Hillary Clinton's fortune in a run for the Democratic presidential nod in '08 to the way she votes on Roberts. Sorry, guys -- it's going to come down to bread-and-butter issues. But nice try -- even if it does betray your desire to tar Clinton as a liberal feminist extremist and danger to our nation's Christian culture.

• We love to bash Broder, but he always comes through with one thought that's worth thinking about, and this time, it was what the issues on which the Democrats should really press Roberts: "I'd ask him, for example, what does he think about what's happening now in some of the states in this country? What does he think is happening in the relationship between the states and the federal government? What does he think about what is happening between the employers and employees of this country? Get some sense about where his sense of social justice may be, what his sense of obligation to the society, and particularly ask him, what does he think the law means to average citizens? What can they expect from the courts? If he wants to talk about predictability, that would be important to know."

• The blather about stem cells was a predictable snoozefest, but when talk turned to the CIA leak scandal. Broder retreated back into the senility that should get him carted off to the Retirement Home for Pundits Who Get It Wrong Most of the Time, as he said in his trademark scolding manner, "David Broder, who should be carted off to the Retirement Home for Pundits Who Get It Wrong Most of the Time, said in his trademark scolding manner that "we need answers from [Special Prosecutor] Fitzgerald." Well, yes, David -- but not until he's done with his investigation, so put a sock in it until then. Broder wrung his hands over the jailing of Judith Miller -- but somehow neglected to mention to viewers that two of Miller's sources were liar and alleged embezzler Ahmed Chalabi, and bully and alleged diplomat John Bolton." Well, yes, David, we need answers -- but not until he's done with his investigation, which includes a good-faith attempt to get Miller to spill her beans through the use of a nice little stint in jail, so put a sock in it until then. And why did you somehow neglect to mention to viewers that two of Miller's sources were liar and alleged embezzler Ahmed Chalabi, and bully and alleged diplomat John Bolton?

• Kate tried to inject doubt into the origin of the leak that is about to bring Karl Rove down (bank on his resignation by the end of October) by claiming the leak may have come from outside the White House, perhaps from another department of the executive branch. She's throwing up covering fire for her old pal Rove -- but failed to back it up with any credible evidence.

• Tim reminded both Broder and O'Beirne that during the faux Whitewater scandal and Lewinsky flap, Republicans were constantly saying, "Let the special prosecutor do his job. Let the prosecution run it's course." O'Beirne replied by claiming that the present administration is cooperating in full with Fitzgerald. (Really? Well, if that's the case, why does it appear that Fitz is looking into -- how can we say this politely -- "inconsistencies" between what some of the Bushling's top playas have said and evidence he has uncovered in the course of the investigation?)

The final MTP "minute" was a replay of a young, fresh-from-orbit John Glenn making an appearance on the show in 1962, talking about the possibility of a catastrophic event during a space mission. He was right -- it did not stop support for the space program.

-- Jane Grice

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