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Fox New Sunday; Amb. Burns, Panel of Experts, And The Gang of Four

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North Korea again, with Nick Burns filling in for Secretary Rice.

Chris Wallace got right to the point; are Russia and China going to back us on sanctions against North Korea? Wallace wanted a yes or no answer.

He didn't get it.

I must say I began to feel sorry for Amb. Burns, stuck explaining an impotent policy that has gone on now, for years, without accomplishing anything, as if that policy was something new and wonderful, that, with enough time and determination, will work to rein in North Korea. There was a real pathos leaching out from that wall of words.

Wallace probed for signs of real progress, Burns declared that there was. But what about President Bush's 2002 SOTU declaration that he would now allow that axis of evil, of which 2/3rds are Iran and North Korea, to have nuclear weapons, and now both are threatening too, and what is the administration's response? Be patient.

More from Burns about diplomacy talking time, so please, be patient.

Not that I felt too sorry for Burns. The entire discussion was hampered by the unwillingness of the SCLM to talk about what really happened to get us to where we are today with North Korea.

That the Clinton engineered 1004 Agreed Framework did work to keep North Korea from refining plutonium from spent fuel rods, that the Repubilcan congress refused to fund the light water reactors which were supposed to be our part of the bargain, that Colin Powell had intended to follow up the Clinton policy, but Bush himself decided it was a better idea to express his contempt for Kim, and a fine idea, when the framework collapsed, and Kim went back to producing plutonium, to simply ignore what was happening, with the encouragement of the John Bolton wing of the administration.

It should be noted that Rice was 100 percent behind the President in all these moves. She deserves the mess she's in the middle of. It's us and the rest of the world who don’t.

But this cannot be discussed because it doesn't fit into the received narrative.

After Burns came a roundtable of "experts," among whom, only one really was - Wendy Sherman, who served in the Clinton state department, and has not only been to North Korea, but dealt directly with Kim. The others were Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R, Chairman of the House Intelligence committee, and James Woolsey, who was in the thick of those experts who backed everything that Bush administration did after 9/11, including invading Iraq.

Both men came on very tough, but when challenged, it all boiled down to the same thing - put pressure on China to get North Korea back to the negotiating table. Hoekstra was particularly pathetic.

Amb. Sherman had to deal with Chris Wallace's attempt to paint the Agreed Framework as just another failed agreement - she did a good job of shooting down those false assumptions. Hoekstra didn't want to get into any of that, assigning blame, which was surprising, given the fact that blame the Clinton's was as much an aspect of the Republican approach to North Korea as was their contempt for what had been accomplished before they came on the scene.

Hard to argue with the fact that no plutonium was made on Clinton's watch, and treble the amount North Korea had in 1994 has been extracted from spent fuel rods on Bush's watch.

Wallace asked Hoekstra about the letter he sent to Bush on the subject of intelligence programs not reported to congress. My frank impression, it's not about anything but a kind of show and tell of congressional Republican independence from an unpopular President.

The usuals were at the roundtable; Wallace started with another Kristol quote highly critical of the administration's timidity in drawing real lines in the sand.

Kristol was happy to take credit for the quote, and he pointed to Burns' whole presentation, all that complexity, patience; Kristol thought while listening to it OhmyGod, we're back with the Clinton administration. One difference Kristol didn't mention, Clinton's appreciation of complexity didn't keep him from taking effective action, and enjoying real success around the world.

Kristol talks a good game, pointing out that Russia and China are thumbing their respective noses at us, and being rewarded for it - Russia, with spent fuel rods, China, by having no real demands made on it. However, when asked for his formula for success, it amounted to the same old thing...China is the key, but we have to put the screws on them. What screws? All the borrowed money we owe them?

Hume was more concerned with defending the administration; after all, those missile tests were duds. Yes, there is a long-term problem, but there is time. Juan Williams thought the problem wasn't one of not paying attention, it was one of being distracted by Iraq.

No one had a real answer on how to deal with North Korea, nothing near as compelling as Ashton Carter or Robert Gullucchi, or Wendy Sherman, for that matter.

Next topic was Lieberman and Lamont - what, Chris Wallace wondered, does it say about the Democratic Party that a Senator of Lieberman's experience, the party's Vice-Presidential candidate in 2000 would have his right to run for re-election being challenged?

Hume could barely contain himself - what it says is that those loony anti-war riff-raff are pulling the party way to the left, and it is a testament to how out of the mainstream the Democrats are becoming that a war as unpopular as Iraq, has nonetheless, become a plus for the President who inaugurated it....?

What Brit meant, or based on what polls remained unclear.

It was left to Juan Williams to remind everyone that it was voters who were giving Lamont the edge, not those who run the party apparatus, all of whom, except for Kerry and Feingold, have supported Lieberman.

In general, I was left with a good feeling about those November elections, from a left/center point of view.

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