DIAL "Z" FOR REALITY. Zbigniew Brzezinski absolutely ate Walter Russell Mead's lunch on The NewsHour tonight. Of course, Mead was at quite a disadvantage: it's not easy being an idealist when you're the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mead's biggest problem, though, was that he really didn't have a coherent answer for Brzezinski's critique of Bush's "I Am the World" speech.
"If it was to be taken literally," Brzezinski said, "it would mean an American crusade throughout the entire world." Mead responded by saying that Bush may very well mean what he says (a view that Media Log shares, with considerably less happiness about that prospect than Mead evinced). Mead pointed to remarks by Cheney today that suggest the White House is already gearing up for its next foreign military adventure - this time in Iran, possibly using Israel as a proxy. Brzezinski replied that such an action would be "destabilizing." To say the least.
Brzezinski characterized Bush's speech as a repackaging of his old ideas in new containers. Instead of "fear," Bush is now talking about "freedom." Instead of "terrorism," it's now "tyranny." But when he pronounced Bush's goals as "vacuous," Mead differed.
That led to an exchange over China. What, Brzezinski wanted to know, could Bush possibly do about China and its horrendous human-rights record?
Mead started to say something about how the Bush administration could encourage China's dissidents. Brzezinski, obviously disdainful, cut him off. "We need to deal with the North Korean bomb. We need China for that," he said. End of discussion.
So thoroughly defeated was Mead that, as Margaret Warner tried to close the segment, he got in a shot about Brzezinski's days as Jimmy Carter's national-security adviser, and the criticism that Carter's concern for human rights was sometimes said to be more intense in places like, say, Argentina than in the Soviet Union. Brzezinski responded that the Carter administration managed to do both. And there it ended.
BUSH BY THE NUMBERS. Brian Williams tried out his best perturbed look tonight in noting that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi today vowed to continue fighting Bush's "extremist" agenda. The wingnuts don't flood you with as many e-mails if you signal them that you think the Dems are looney-tunes.
But then Williams had to contend with a tough Bush critique from an unexpected source - NBC Washington-bureau chief Tim Russert, who wondered how Bush would apply his aggressive doctrine to Iran, North Korea, or Cuba. How indeed?
Russert, though, was just warming up. It turned out he had some new poll numbers with some very bad news for our only president. For instance:
- Bush's approval/disapproval rating is 50 percent/44 percent, the worst of any just-re-elected president since Richard Nixon.
- Only 40 percent of respondents say that removing Saddam Hussein was worth it; 52 percent say it wasn't worth it. Among independents, Russert reported, 56 percent say it wasn't worth it.
- Was Bush's victory a mandate to change Society Security? Thirty-three percent say yes; 56 percent say no.
- Just 33 percent say that congressional Democrats should act in a "bipartisan" manner; 57 percent say they should "provide balance" - as in, fight like Nancy Pelosi.
Russert: "The president has to be very, very careful not to overplay his mandate."
So how did Bush ever get re-elected, anyway?