Sunday, December 19, 2004

This Was the Week That Was

I like George Stephanopoulus. He’s genial without being slick, both intelligent (knows a lot) and smart (knows the game and how to play it). As the host of ABC’s This Week he is almost unfailingly deft and smiling.

That’s why I looked up over my coffee and paper this morning when Stephanopoulus fairly squeaked in astonishment on this follow up to White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, “How can you say the war is won? The insurgents are able to attack at will.”

“Well,” said Card, “they’re not attaching all of the people all of the time.”

And, Mr. Card, may I add that you’re not fooling all of the people much of the time either.

The main attraction in this morning’s Big Top was the panel of regulars Fareed Zakaria and George Will, joined by visitor Richard Perle. A three-ring circus of conservatives, and highly-intellectual ones at that. Were they going to give us their top 10 ultra-wonk reading lists? Their year’s-best recordings of Wagner?

No, as it turns out, they were going to dramatize the fragmentation of the right. Zakaria started, by suggesting Rumsfeld should be held responsible for the string of failures in Iraq. Will reminded us that he had called for Rumsfeld’s resignation in the wake of Abu Graib, but noted, “He’s wealthy and he’s 71. He doesn’t need this job.” There’s a recommendation you can take to the bank.

Perle took issue with Zakaria. Surely many are to blame for the difficulties in Iraq, he said, let’s move on. [Sorry, cons and neo-cons, is taken. You can have]

Zakaria parried every thrust, in a debate Perle called “absurd”. Responsibility for post-war policy in Iraq was given to the Pentagon to a degree unprecedented in the history of American foreign engagements, FZ noted. Nonsense, said Perle, the generals and many others were consulted and were fully on-board.

When Shinseki gave the wrong answer he was cashiered, said Zakaria. Not so, said Perle, he retired to spend more time with his family (or some such standard equivocation). No one from the administration came to his retirement party, said FZ, a message was being sent. Finally Perle could only intone, racist accusation masquerading as condescension, “Fareed, Fareed.”

Had Zakaria been as well-versed in the idiom of the American public school as he is in that of the British Public School (a different animal, entirely) he could have replied, “That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”

While Zakaria lunged and Perle retreated (the Shakespearian stage direction would be, “They fight”), George Will was scooting away so rapidly you could hear his chair scraping across the floor. Lest the dim TV audience miss the point, Will made sure to lean over, pat Perle on the arm and say, “You’re a card-carrying neo-con.”

There was no mistaking the school-yard reference of that gesture: Tag, Perly, you’re it.

But by far the strangest pronouncement of a strange program belonged to Dr. David Graham of the FDA. “I don’t think I would prescribe Bexter or Celebrex to my mother-in-law,” he said.

Saints preserve us, every one.


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