Tuesday, December 12, 2006

# Posted 8:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BELATED SUNDAY ROUND-UP: Let me say right off the bat that I haven't yet read the Baker group's report. That wasn't exactly how I wanted to spend my weekend. Plus, I've started taking Arabic again and had my quarterly exam on Monday, so I had to study over the weekend.

Regardless, my commentary will obviously be somewhat impaired since the dynamic duo of Baker and Hamilton were the featured guests on both Face the Nation and Meet the Press. They were followed by a pair of senators (Levin and Lott) on the former and a roundtable on the latter. Tony Blair was guest #1 on ABC's This Week, also followed by a pair of senators:
Baker & Hamilton on NBC: B. They were dull. I won't judge the report by their performance, but they certainly didn't say anything that struck me as interesting or new. But they also said nothing especially wrong, which you can't say about most guests on the show.

Perhaps the dynamic duo would have come up with something more interesting to say if Russert hadn't asked such tepid, unchallenging questions. Even worse, Russert threw in a couple of pseudo-gotchas. What's a pseudo-gotcha? Well, a real gotcha is when Russert forces you to respond to a persuasive comment from a credible source that directly contradicts or criticizes you. A pseudo-gotcha is when Russert lets you respond to a dumb remark made by someone that nobody likes.

For example, Russert asked Baker & Hamilton to respond to Rush Limbaugh's remark that the report was "stupid" and the New York Post's description of its authors as "surrender monkeys." It was sort of like Russert saying, "Here's what myopic partisans said about your report. Would you like to burnish your credentials as a statesman by gently brushing such criticism aside?"

Roundtable: B+. Perhaps unintentionally, Russert compensated for his soft questioning of Baker& Hamilton by having a panel that was stacked with conservatives. Among them, Eliot Cohen provided the most intelligent criticism of the report. (See Taylor's post for more details, although he didn't think much of Cohen.)

Baker & Hamilton: B. Having Bob Schieffer interact with dull guests is not a recipe for interesting dicussion.

Levin: B. Give him points for consistency. He's still telling us that since there is no military solution to the problem in Iraq, we don't need more boots on the ground. Maybe what Levin means is that there is no American military solution to the problem in Iraq, since I'm pretty sure even Levin recognizes that we have to train a large and effective Iraqi Army.

Levin also got big points in my book for going against the Democratic grain by making a very substantive criticism of the Baker-Hamilton report. What, Levin asks, is the exact connection between the situation in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, on which the report puts so much emphasis? Would the Shi'ites and the Sunnis stop slaughtering one another if a Palestinian state suddenly came into existence?

Blair: B-. Intelligent, reasonable and evasive. Blair is very constrained by the diplomatic imperative not to criticize his most important ally in public.

Biden: B. Even more non-partisan than usual. Still a bit less than interesting.

Gordom Smith: B-. I've never seen this guy doing the talk show circuit before. FYI, he's the Republican from Oregon. Stephanopoulos seems to have invited him on because a speech on the Senate floor describing the administration's Iraq policy as possibly "criminal". But what Smith seems to be saying is that he just thinks that the policy has been very, very bad (not illegal). He sort of wants the troops to come home but sort of favors the McCain proposal to send in tens of thousands more. In short, I'm not really sure what his position is.
Sorry for giving out so many 'B's. It was a pretty dull Sundya morning. See ya in seven.
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion

Gordon Smith, purported Republican, is the greater weathervane of the two pandering opportunistic fence walkers representing our state in the Senate.
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