Pundit Central

A Courting We Will Go

A Courting We Will Go

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Issue 1 news is that, by winning in federal court and moving against Monica Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr lands on top this week. He’s a serious prosecutor, not the rogue we once thought, admit the pundits. The nuclear standoff between Pakistan and India–Issue 2–frightens just about everyone. Issue 3–the death of a conservative–provokes a flurry of pronouncements on the life and times of Barry Goldwater.

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Starr’s flawless string of legal victories–he has won 11 decisions against the White House so far–legitimizes his investigation in the eyes of many. Bill Clinton is “on the wrong end of a no-hitter,” quips Paul Gigot (PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer). What is more, continues Gigot, the court opinion given midweek–that Bruce Lindsey and Sidney Blumenthal are not protected from testifying–provides specific and independent confirmation that Starr has credible evidence. In light of recent court victories, to argue that Starr is a rogue prosecutor is now to argue that “we have rogue courts too,” says Stuart Taylor (NBC’s Meet the Press). But, adds Al Hunt (CNN’s Capital Gang), we should remember that even if Lindsey and Blumenthal are compelled to testify, it is unlikely the two Über-loyalists will spill very much.

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Most of the commentariat believe that Starr is likely to indict Lewinsky. It’s mostly a move to have Clinton testify under oath, believes Tucker Carlson (CNN’s Late Edition).

Bob Schieffer (CBS’s Face the Nation) and Steve Roberts (Late Edition) both note that recently released court documents unmask White House arguments that legal battles impede Clinton’s official duties. This is in direct and egregious opposition to earlier and more public statements holding that it is business as usual in the Clinton White House.

Robert Novak sums up the common belief quite nicely when he labels Issue 2–nuclear weapons tests in India and Pakistan–“scarier than hell.” The question for the world, says Robert Greenberger (Washington Week in Review), is “How do we put the genie back in the bottle?”

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Who is to blame for the nuclear standoff? Not the U.S. president, since India and Pakistan have been at each other’s throats since “Bill Clinton was in knickers,” says Margaret Carlson (Capital Gang). Novak disagrees: Clinton, George Bush, and Ronald Reagan share equal blame for treating Pakistan shabbily since the end of the war in Afghanistan. And let’s not forget that both the Pakistani and Indian governments are highly volatile and unstable, cautions Hunt.

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The commentariat agrees that Barry Goldwater 1) was a giant in modern political conservatism and 2) was an endearing straight-talker. Pundits are wowed by his basic American-ness: “an American original” (Mark Shields, NewsHour; Tim Russert, Meet the Press); “an honest American” (Shields, Capital Gang); “a genuine American patriot” (Hunt, Capital Gang); “a genuine American hero” (Dan Quayle, Fox News Sunday); and “the Bulworth of his generation” (Clarence Page, ABC’s This Week).

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Even on the heels of his death, a few voices pipe up about his frightening bellicosity (Evan Thomas, Inside Washington; Morton Kondracke, Fox News Sunday). Others note that he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Most legacy talk, however, concerns his influence on the GOP. In Gigot’s mind, he is the “most successful loser” in political history–his failed presidential run defined a conservative agenda that was eventually elected in the person of Ronald Reagan. Haynes Johnson (NewsHour) credits him with bringing the South and Sunbelt into the GOP. Novak goes against the flow to argue that Goldwater retarded the conservative movement by not finding room under his robes for the poor and the religious.

Have You Stopped Beating Your Spokesman? Charles Bakaly, Starr’s new spokesman, gave his inaugural Sunday show appearance to Fox News Sunday, only to have interviewers Tony Snow and Brit Hume run the oldest play in the book on him. Bakaly says “no” to several Snow questions, all of which essentially ask: Have you decided when to deliver a report to Congress? Hume follows by asking whether this means that Starr’s office is committed to eventually delivering a report (thereby indicating that Starr has credible evidence of impeachable malfeasance). Bakaly, looking positively dyspeptic, answers: “Uh. … That’s probably more accurate, without making a definitive statement.” Possibly, Bakaly meant to give the impression that Starr has a good hand without formally stating anything, but more likely it was an unintentional snafu.

Read Chaucer Lately? The entire McLaughlin Group laughs at John McLaughlin’s views on whether the title “intern” qualifies as a de facto double-entendre. He contends that, in common conversation, “intern” can signify something akin to sexual receptacle, ergo no respectable young thing would accept the job title. McLaughlin’s most laughable observation: Delight in double-entendres is a largely contemporary fascination.

Bruce Gottlieb

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