Once might be excused as an aberration. Twice signals a troubling trend.
On Saturday, Julian Phillips - the over-promoted host of Fox & Friends Weekend - downplayed the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. He implied that there was limited cause for concern since Iran has agreed to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to carry out surprise inspections of its nuclear sites with as little as two hours notice.
On Sunday, Phillips was back at it . His guest was Barry Schweid, senior diplomatic correspondent for AP and a Fox News contributor. And once again, Phillips trotted out his pet theory:
"They agreed to protocols with the UN in 2003 for snap inspections in two hours or less. Why are these inspections not enough?"
Like a patient teacher, Schweid explained:
"There are reports of secret facilities, of building 5000 centrifuges ready to be put on platforms [centrifuges are used to enrich uranium. It's not clear whether his reference to platforms suggested they would be mobile and hence harder to detect]. If Iran refuses to let people look at what they're doing and are hiding things, monitoring is not going to do the job."
Phillips is also apparently unaware that just three days ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki threatened to cancel permission for surprise inspections and end other cooperation with the IAEA.
To end the interview, Phillips blurted out as a throwaway:
"Real quickly: military action looming ahead shortly, what do you think?"
Consider Julian's frivolousness. He is invoking the possibility of war in a nuclear-charged situation. Nothing could be graver. Yet he did it "real quickly" as a way to end an interview.
For the record, Schweid's response: "Who am I to know, but no I don't. The president has said this is different from Iraq. We keep hearing diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy, Iran is not Iraq, and you would get almost no support for it anyhow."
Whether this is in the way of partial exculpation of Phillips or further condemnation is hard to say, but I have a theory as to why he does things like trot out the little pet theory he did yesterday and today.
It's not that Phillips necessarily believes that the inspection regime will be sufficient to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. It's that he simply knows so little about the situation, and the factoid about the inspections is the one thing that he has picked up on.
So Phillips cleaves to it as if to a life preserver. It gives him something to mention and helps him portray himself as at least passably knowledgeable on the issue at hand. Sad, really.