Monday, October 16, 2006

# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY MORNING KABUKI ROUND-UP: It was one helluva week on the talk shows. The Bush team spoke in solemn tones of its commitment to diplomacy and avoiding war, while Russert, Schieffer and Stephanopoulos all asked question after question designed to show that the UN is powerless, China is selfish and negotiation with North Korea is pointless.

So what are we to make of these pervasive role reversals? Is everyone a hypocrite? No, that's not fair. Circumstances do matter. The critics can argue that North Korea is far more dangerous than Iraq ever was. The White House can argue that it tried to get the UN to get serious about Iraq, but it wouldn't. Now, they're giving the UN its chance on North Korea.

Personally, I think the administration has the better argument here, but the margin is not enough to win over any of the critics. So let's get down to grades. John Bolton went first on NBC, followed by dueling Minnesota Senate candidates Mark Kennedy and Amy Klobuchar. Condi led off on CBS, followed by John Warner and Sam Nunn. Bolton was number one again on ABC, followed by duelling Tennessee Senate candidates Harold Ford and Bob Corker (who appeared separately).
Bolton on NBC: A-. Where was the monster I've been led to expect? I think he answered every question exactly as Condi would have, and with the same calm resolve. Although he could learn something from her about hairstyles.

Kennedy: B. Relentless but never vicious with his attacks. There was no way to look good when Russert confronted him with some of his very optimistic statements about Iraq, but Kennedy was still pretty candid. In terms of substance, he just had party-line talking points.

Klobuchar: B. Less agressive on both offense and defense. But Klobuchar is sitting on a decisive lead, so she doesn't need to get tough. Could she get tough if she had to? Who knows. In terms of substance, Klobuchar just had partly-line talking points.

Condi: B+. Ahh, the absurd rituals of diplomacy. While negotiating at the UN and with North Korea's neighbors, our Secretary of State must pretend that this approach has a good chance of working. But so far she's running the best diplomatic effort I think anyone could expect. I'll forgive her for having to protect it with this bit of Kabuki.

Warner and Nunn: B+. Reasonable and fair-minded. Long retired, Nunn has no need to play games. And Warner couldn't be bothered.

Bolton on ABC: B. Basically the same performance, but I'll only give him 'A-' to reward him for others' low expectations. What I want to know is whether his observation that North Korea's nuclear test "humiliated" China was carefully planned or if it was a bull-in-the-China shop moment.

Ford: B-. Ford struck me as profoundly manipulative. The only way he could exploit his faith more shamelessly would be to shoot his campaign commercials in a church. Oh wait, he did that.

Corker: B-. His attacks on Ford fell flat and he doesn't seem to have much to offer as a candidate.
I should just note, it was another solid performance for Russert as Senate debate moderator. I think the scrutiny that comes with explicit political showdowns forces moderators to do their best.

See ya next week.
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How you inside the beltway types love using "kabuki" as the word for political theater. I find it, as a word, especially favored by those on the right, especially neos. The Weekly Standard folks use this word all the time. I wonder if "opera" was ever used as much in ages past. Full of wonder I'm also wondering if you've ever seen Kabuki or read the plays by Chikamatsu Monzaemon (getting your Japanese up to speed my take a few years...) or even have the faintest idea what Kabuki is? Are the appearances of the pols on Sunday morning talk shows "Shakespearean?" "operatic?", or just the normal humdrum stuff of pols talking to pundits. Anyway, since I love your site so much, I charge you with ending the trite misuse, or at least the overuse (one has to be realistic), of the word Kabuki by the beltway encircled intelligentsia (and others).
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