Tim Russert: The False Dilemma

For those of you who are actually interested in straight talk, I would recommend you peruse yesterday’s Obama appearance on Meet the Press. Despite Russert’s incessant and unceasing idiocy, attempting one gotcha after another, to include even engaging in Dowdification of the first order to attempt to portray Obama as a hypocrite, the Senator calmly, rationally, and clearly answered the questions.

It was, in a word, refreshing. I felt like a candidate was actually treating me, the viewer, like an adult with a brain (in my case, this can be a risky assumption at times). My favorite exchange (which illustrates perfectly the sheer stupidity of Russert while demonstrating the endearing honesty of Obama), which I have cut from a larger segment on campaign fund-raising:

MR. RUSSERT: But if you say you don’t take federal lobbyist but you take state lobbyist money…

SEN. OBAMA: Well, Tim…

MR. RUSSERT: …or you take money from people who work for federal lobbying firms, or you take $2 million from people who work on Wall Street or hundreds of thousands of dollars from people who work in pharmaceutical companies, isn’t it just a word game?

SEN. OBAMA: Tim, I mean, this is the problem when you want to try to fix Washington is if you take certain steps to improve the process, then people will say, “Well, it’s not perfect.” Well, of course it’s not perfect. That’s the problem for running for president right now is you’ve got to raise millions of dollars in order to compete. We’ve got more small donors than every other candidate on the Democratic side combined. We have set out admittedly imperfect rules to try to reduce the influence of money in politics. But you are absolutely right. Most of the people that are writing $2300 checks are wealthy people, and that’s one of the problems with our political system. That’s something that I am intent on changing, and I’ve got a track record of actually bringing about change that I believe nobody else has.

Obama clearly believes money in politics is a problem (we can agree to disagree- I say let it all hangout and have immediate public disclosure), and has worked to “fix” this problem, yet what Russert is trying to do is to make him choose- have no chance at be elected because he takes NO money to finance his campaign, or to ackowledge he is a hypocrite.

It is, of course, insulting to anyone who actually listens to what Obama is trying to say, but typical of the sort of drivel that passes as hard questioning on MTP.

At any rate, I am still not inclined to vote for Obama (I am still holding out hope for Dodd), but I thought his performance yesterday was very solid. It is not too often that someone appears on MTP and I have a much higher opinion of them afterwards (Russert’s idiocy seems to sully everyone it touches). This was a rare exception.

24 replies
  1. 1
    Punchy says:

    A Clinton/Obama ticket beats McCain/Jesus 60-40%. Easy.

  2. 2
    Zifnab says:

    Obama clearly believes money in politics is a problem (we can agree to disagree- I say let it all hangout and have immediate public disclosure)

    There’s a paradox in this, John. Because the world is not fair, we are not all created equal, and rich people are much better at hiding money flow than poor people.

    As it stands, every donation above $50(?) needs to have a name attached to it. We already let it all hang out. But when you can throw tens of thousands at a PAC and get everyone in your law firm / brokerage / mega-corp to kick in $2.3k and start some 527 group that falsely alleges Candidate X once raped a baby while serving in Korea, money still wins fights.

    You can take a page from Freakonomics and suggest that people tend to donate to the guys they think are going to win and – correspondingly – a guy who gets lots of campaign donations will be getting a lot of votes. But money shapes the debate. Big Oil’s global warming denier astroturf groups, Tobacco’s hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying fees, FOX News, Jack Abramoff, Walmart, hell – Al Gore and his Inconvenient Truth movie – will tell you what effect a few million in the right pockets will do to your cause.

    The money problem doesn’t go away just because a name is attached to it, and I’m sick of watching elections won or lost in leveraged buyouts. The fact that Dem coffers are getting flooded with campaign contributions gives me faith in another massive Dem victory in ’08. It does not give me faith in the government we end up electing.

    These massive sums getting funneled to candidates are nothing more than bribes. Kickbacks to allow the candidates to enjoy $10,000 suits and $400 haircuts. I don’t know how to disentangle the mess, but if you want responsible government – government that doesn’t invade a 3rd world countries and make massive domestic policy blunders so it can write fat checks to its political cronies in the form of massive government contracts – you’ve got to stop letting politicians get treated as a commodity.

  3. 3
    Gus says:

    We’ll agree to disagree, then. Disclosure only works if average citizens pay attention when the information is disclosed. Since over half of Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court judge for example, I think depending on people to pay attention to things like that is naive. The corrupting influence of money has to get nipped in the bud.

  4. 4
    Jay says:

    I have to agree with Zifnab and Gus. Voters will listen to ads that confirm their preconceived notions no matter who’s paying. People would’ve still believed the Swift Boat ads even if it had said “This message paid for by Bob Perry.”

    No paid pundit will go all in on campaign financing because it pays their bills.

  5. 5
    The Other Steve says:

    yet what Russert is trying to do is to make him choose- have no chance at be elected because he takes NO money to finance his campaign, or to ackowledge he is a hypocrite.

    To a certain degree I don’t mind the russert line of questioning, as long as it’s fair and balanced. that is, he plays the same game with GOP candidates.

    In the end it’s about having an answer… and I think Obama did have an answer, and that’s what makes him a good candidate.

  6. 6
    mrmobi says:

    At any rate, I am still not inclined to vote for Obama (I am still holding out hope for Dodd), but I thought his performance yesterday was very solid.

    I completely agree, John, not that it did his campaign any good by appearing.

    Russert has, by his “gotcha” questioning of every Democratic candidate and his softball questioning of Republicans, pretty much guaranteed that any Democrat appearing on his show is going to have to struggle just to deflect the stream of half-truths, quarter-truths and outright lies coming out of his mouth. I don’t know why they even bother to go on the show, I really don’t.
    I too thought Obama was effective yesterday, and I’m a bit less disappointed in him (even on the Social Security stuff) than I was last week. He seems to be finding a way to differentiate himself from the current leader. I’m still a supporter, and I hope he can at least make it close. I give Dodd no chance at all, but I very much like his positions on the issues.

  7. 7
    ninerdave says:

    To me, it’s not so much about what people say in response to Russert’s questioning….it’s more how they handle him. Compare Obama and Richardson to see what I mean.

    Really what a candidate says on the trail and what they actually do in office are generally two different things.

  8. 8
    Jess says:

    Let me begin by saying that I have no problem with Obama’s statement. But let me continue by saying that it is no more straightforward than Clinton’s explanation of her position on drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. Like Obama, she was saying that we need to deal with the political realities and practical limitations of the situation, and do what we can to improve our options. And yet so many of the same people who are calling her “evasive” or deceitful will no doubt now be praising Obama’s thoughtfulness and refusal to give simplistic answers. (and no, John, I’m not accusing you of this hypocrisy–I know you were critiquing this disconnect as well.)

  9. 9
    MNPundit says:

    Heh, this is Kos’s position as well. You and Satan together.

    And you’re both wrong. Well hey, no one’s perfect.

  10. 10

    I was so incensed at Russert’s outrageous treatment of Chris Dodd, I wrote What’s all trick, no treat? It’s “Meet the Press”.

    It was a Russert tour de force of ambush-type gotcha questions, attempts to make Dodd appear to be a flip-flopper, a dispute of fact in which Russert was wrong, all of it capped with an obvious attempt to not just discredit Dodd, but to humiliate him.

    Russert might or might not be completely possessed by an evil inner neocon Republican, but he’s definitely working off RNC talking points.

    In the face of Russert’s crap barrage, Dodd conducted himself with remarkable self-control and professionalism. I’m not saying he’s my first choice, but he’s a solid choice and would make a fine president.

  11. 11
    Helena Montana says:

    (I am still holding out hope for Dodd)

    Of all the many and multitudinous candidates, I like Dodd best, too, although I would settle for Edwards or Richardson. Can’t stand dishonest Hillary Clinton, especially since she started channeling Karl Rove, and I think Obama is way too slick and way too inexperienced. I am pleased to know, though, that he made a good showing on MTP.

    And John, thank you for watching Russert so I don’t have to.

  12. 12
    chazaroo says:

    Why do people watch timmy the pathetic pimp for the neocons? It is quite similar to fox noise. All you have to do is watch him with a rethug. Totally different treatment. He had largestpieceofshitever cheney on, and cheney said he had no financial interest in haliburton, it was later revealed cheney had millions in stock options, on subseqent shows little timmy’s balls disappeared. What a disgusting example of a pimp.

  13. 13
    Justin says:

    At any rate, I am still not inclined to vote for Obama (I am still holding out hope for Dodd), but I thought his performance yesterday was very solid.

    This speech at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Iowa convinced me. And a friend (who does not follow politics closely) had the same reaction as you, John, but he also told me he intends to vote for Obama.

  14. 14

    That disingenuous rat-bastard Russert should be tortured to death. I am NOT a Hillary fan but much was made of Timmy’s clever attempt to trap HRC into saying something nasty about Bill Clinton at a previous Debate. Timmy took Bill’s quote out of context. Bill employed the Socratic method to offer up the “ticking time bomb” scenario only to refute it. The entire MTP interview is filled with examples of Bill rejecting torture. But here’s Bill employing the Socratic method which Russert is either too stupid to pick up on, OR just chose to ignore when he attempted to trap HRC.
    – – –

    From Meet the Press, 9/24/06:
    MR. RUSSERT: What did you think when Colin Powell said, “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism”?

    MR. CLINTON:…If we get a reputation for torturing people, the following bad things are going to happen: We’re as likely going to get bad information is good, just for people to just quit getting beat on; two, we’re likely to create two or three or five enemies for every one we break; and three, we make our own soldiers much more vulnerable to conduct which violates the Geneva Convention. That is, we can’t expect our friends, much less our enemies, to accept the fact that because we’re the good guys, we get to have a different standard of conduct. And most people think the definition of a good guy is someone who voluntarily observes a different standard of conduct, not someone who claims the right to do things others can’t do.

    MR. RUSSERT: Would you outlaw waterboarding and sleep deprivation, loud music, all those kinds of tactics?

    MR. CLINTON: Well, I—here’s what I would do. I would figure out what the, what the generally accepted definitions of the Geneva Convention are, and I would honor them. I would also talk to people who do this kind of work about what is generally most effective, and they will—they’re almost always not advocate of torture, and I wouldn’t do anything that would put our own people at risk.

    Now, the thing that drives—that, that gives the president’s position a little edge is that every one of us can imagine the following scenario: We get lucky, we get the number three guy in al-Qaeda, and we know there’s a big bomb going off in America in three days and we know this guy knows where it is. Don’t we have the right and the responsibility to beat it out of him? But keep in mind, in 99 percent of the interrogations, you don’t know those things.

    Now, it happens like even in the military regulations, in a case like that, they do have the power to use extreme force because there is an imminent threat to the United States, and then to live with the consequences. The president—they could set up a law where the president could make a finding or could guarantee a pardon or could guarantee the submission of that sort of thing ex post facto to the intelligence court, just like we do now with wire taps.

    So I, I DON’T THINK THAT HARD CASE JUSTIFIES THE SWEEPING AUTHORITY FOR WATERBOARDING AND ALL THE OTHER STUFF that was sought in this legislation. And I think, you know, if that circumstance comes up—we all know what we’d do to keep our country from going through another 9/11 if we could. But to—but to claim in advance the right to do this whenever someone takes a notion to engage in conduct that plainly violates the Geneva Convention, that, I think, is a mistake.”

    Timmy took the quote out of context to make it look like Clinton was endorsing torture when he was doing the opposite. Timmy please find Lassie. then go stand in the corner with your Dunce Hat on–you are a hack. Can he just suck on a chicken wing and shut the fuck up?

  15. 15
    Justin says:

    I don’t know what was up with the pro-wrestler introduction, though, but it was funny.

  16. 16

    By the way, good catch. But it really is getting easier as time goes on and you see the patterns in his “interviewing technique.”

  17. 17
    Nancy Irving says:

    Money in politics gave us, among other very bad things, the new bankruptcy bill. I can’t agree that it’s “not a problem.”

  18. 18
    Wonk says:

    The Obama intro was the same intro they used to do for the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan – Three-peat days in the ’90’s.

    Oliver Willis has the video here.

  19. 19
    tofubo says:

    a candidate taking no money from anyone, talk about a losing proposition…


  20. 20
    Mutha says:

    “… what Russert is trying to do is to make him choose- have no chance at be elected because he takes NO money to finance his campaign, or to ackowledge he is a hypocrite”

    There is one more choice… raise money from the people. The people who believe in you so much they are willing to empty their bank accounts, like Dr. Ron Paul.

  21. 21
    Dug Jay says:

    If you folks all thought Obama scored well on Meet the Press, then you pretty much stand alone. He was incoherent, inconsistent and every bit as disingenuous in most of his answers as Hillary.

  22. 22
    Terry says:

    “attempting one gotcha after another,”
    Actually, its pointing out there contradicting statements which change according to the latest polls.
    What is wrong with that? Would you rather not have Russert point out a politicians inconsistents and contradictions?
    And that would be good how?
    If Hillary is so great anyway what are you worried about?

  23. 23
    Col says:

    Dug Jay:

    You’re the first in this entire thread to assert that Obama didn’t perform well on MTP. And yet *we’re* the ones who stand alone? Methinks your logic hat isn’t working today.

  24. 24
    Canaan says:

    The point of Russert’s question was how can you criticize Hillary for taking money from lobbyists when you take money from lobbyists? “I take money but I’m against taking money” is not an answer to that question. (Hillary voted for McCain-Feingold.) I don’t trust politicians, and I see no reason to trust Obama any more than anyone else. I don’t base my vote on the fantasy that Mother Theresa is running for President.

    And it’s not a ‘lesser of two evils’ thing. It’s about being governed by humans instead of angels. Most people I know are corrupt to some degree, and the ‘holier-than-thou’ idealists turn out to be the most dishonest and corrupt.

    I thought Obama sounded like Tom Friedman. And Russert was patronizing him. One thing I will hold against Obama forever (lol) – he caused me to sit through MTP for an hour. I usually avoid Russert like day-old puke.

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